Page images
PDF
EPUB

in what other, are we to understand the phrase which his Lordship has undertaken to vindicate? Is there any sense in which it can be vindicated, when addressed to a mixed audience, in which it is more than probable there are many unconverted persons, or in a publication addressed to professing Christians promiscuously, the far greater part of whom have little more of Christianity than the name? To urge on the unconverted the necessity of rendering themselves

worthy of the mediation of Jesus Christ by · holiness of living and an abhorrence of vice," has a direct tendency to delude them. It tends to foster pride and presumption. Pride, because it leads them to self-sufficiency, rather than to “repentance towards God,” and selfabhorrence before him, on account of their mul. tiplied offences. This was not the method our Saviour took in dealing with the unconverted and self-righteous. I said also that such language tends to foster presumption in the unconverted; because it leads them to conclude that they are in a justified state, or converted already. Instead of this they should be alarmed of their danger, until signs of contrition and some unequivocal fruits of repentance are supposed to shew themselves. To urge a profane swearer, a drunkard, a gambler, a fornicator, and the like, many of whom attend public worship, and

M

some of them read a book of fashionable divinity,-toʻrender themselves worthy the me*diation of Jesus Christ by holiness of living, &c.' is an exhortation egregiously misplaced, and calculated to subvert the gospel order. The address would not probably be disliked by the ignorant, the proud, and presumptuous; but for that very reason it is the more likely to delude them, as exciting hopes of success in a way which will never be realized, and which in the common order of the divine procedure, never can be. Even the truly pious, knowing the address to be promiscuous, so as to include the impenitent and pharisaic, would be rather grieved than edified: and the more they knew of themselves, and of the spiritual design of the scriptures, to humble the sinner, to stain the glory of all flesh, to exalt the Saviour “as all in all” in the work of a sinner's acceptance before God, the less could they approve of it in such connexion.

[ocr errors]

§ 7. The phrase to recommend themselves to the favour or, to the mercy of God, in the same promiscuous manner, is equally objectionable, and for the same reasons. They have enough of native pride and of habitual presumption to fancy, that by a few pharisaic endeavours, which to them indeed is a mighty effort, they are sure to obtain the favour of God: Whereas

the axe should be laid to the root of their sin; the aim should be to humble them, to make them feel their unworthiness, their guilt, their exposure to the holy vengeance of God as transgressors; to excite them to

pray

for

mercy, “ to seek the Lord while he may be found, and to call upon him while he is near.”. That * endeavouring to attain perfect obedience,' is every man's indispensable duty, is freely admitted; but to urge this promiscuously on men, because they bear the name of Christians, though full of sinful lusts and passions, is “zeal without knowledge,” because as proposed to them, it is duty misplaced, -as much out of place, as would be the duty of an adult to be baptized, and to partake of the Lord's supper, previous to repentance and faith: for though it is the “indispensable duty” of every man in a Christian country who has not been baptized, to submit to that ordinance; yet to' urge this directly and promiscuously, without insisting on the previous requisites, would be the ready way to profane a divine institution, to multiply hypocrites and pharisees, and to ruin the honour and purity of the Christian church.

8. Habitual transgressors, then, should be alarmed of their danger, by shewing them the error of their ways; reproved, and convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; in

formed of the odious nature and ruinous consequences of sin, and of their own sins particularly; and assured, from the highest authority, that if they repent not, they shall perish, and if they believe not the gospel-record from the heart, they shall be condemned.

While so employed, the preacher, or the practical writer, may hope, that the Holy Spirit by his gracious influence will succeed his humble and faithful efforts. If not, he has delivered his own soul; but if his message have the desired effect, or if he have room to suppose it, he describes the state of such persons, and sets before them the gospel remedy. Like a skilful physician, he adapts his prescription to the nature of the complaint, and the circumstances of the patient. The other method, which prescribes remedies and regimens to all alike, without a proper discrimination of diseases and circumstances, and without observing the symptoms, is empiricism of the most dangerous kind.

$ 9. When there is good reason to conclude that persons are the subjects of “godly sorrow that worketh repentance not to be repented of," let them be instructed in the exercise of faith in Christ as “the end of the law and the

prophets,” as the great ordinance of God for righteousness to every one that believeth with the heart, as way” to the Father, “the truth"

6 the

of the promises and types, and “the lifeeverlasting. “He that has the Son hath life;" the life of righteousness, the life of holiness, and the promise of the life of glory. Let him be clearly instructed, that true faith receives the divine testimony on the authority of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ as the only and allsufficient Saviour from sin, as well as from future misery; that it implies a firm trust and confidence in him as the divine prophet, priest, and king; and an unreserved surrender of the soul and body, in life and death, to his disposal. Let him now be directed to "live by the faith of the Son of God,” who loved him, and gave himself for him ; to walk worthy of so exalted a relation and privilege; to abstain from fleshly lusts, that war against the soul's welfare and comfort, yea, from all appearance of evil; to run the race that is set before him, looking · unto Jesus, and for that purpose to lay aside every weight, and every besetting sin. Let him now be exhorted not to be weary in welldoing, but to maintain the profession of his faith without wavering, holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience; to be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, being assured that his labour, his work of faith and labour of love, shall not be in vain in the Lord. Let him now be reminded of the

« PreviousContinue »