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the presumption of a disobedient hope, and from the misery of a delayed, perhaps an unavailing repentance, and learn, that if you would be saved you must so believe in the Lord Jesus CHRIST, as to obey his commandments. No other proof can you give or will he receive that you do believe in him.
I have given instances in three of his commands only, and these the plainest and most openly distinctive of believers. But they are the three most openly disregarded, and upon pretences which aggravate rather than extenuate the offence. Remember, I beseech you, that himself warns us, that in the great day of eternity many will claim an interest in Christ which he will not acknowledge, and that it is not crying Lord, Lord, but the doing the will of God as revealed in his word, that will entitle to an entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
Thirdly, believing in the LORD Jesus Curist includes perseverance in faith and holiness.
Religion being the improvement of our moral nature, must be progressive in its attainments. The heart may be changed in a moment, but the life must be amended by degrees. The principle on which the whole depends, may be the fruit of a short exercise of the faculties of the soul, but the trial and development of that principle is the business of the subsequent life; and to this, perseverance, that is continuance in a course begun, is just as essential as truth and obedience. For as all the faculties are strengthened by use and exercise, in like manner our spiritual graces are enlarged and confirmed by patient continuance in well doing, until habitual reverence of God, constant regard to his favour, and steadfast preference of his will, become the established temper of the soul.
The trial of the present life, my Christian brethren, is, to determine our fitness for eternal glory; and, as this can be wrought out only by a total change of the desires and affections of the soul, and can be manifested only by fruits of righteousness towards men and of piety towards God, in the conduct of the life-perseverance in obedience to the law of Christ, is the crown of religion. To this duty, and it is spoken of in Scripture only as a duty, we are exhorted and
encouraged by every consideration that can add force to the highest and most glorious interest that a fallen creature can contemplate. Behold I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. But take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you
For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. That we may fall away, therefore, is very possible, and nothing but watchfulness and diligence can keep our loins girt and our lights burning. But the promises of God are more than equal to this danger. To those promises, then, let us look, my brethren, as the anchor of the soul. In the hour of temptation let us hear our heavenly leader's voice, encouraging us to fight the good fight of faith, with the cheering declaration—my grace is sufficient for thee. He that endureth to the end the same shall be saved. That which ye have already, hold fast till I come ; and he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron.
God grant, my brethren, that the blessed expectation may fire our hearts with renewed zeal to win the crown of eternal lifeand that the power of his Holy Spirit may stir up the hearts of all present so to consider what has been said, as forthwith to come to Christ, and learn of him what they must do to be saved.
CHRIST GIVEN TO SAVE.
John iii. 16.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
In this epitome or abridged declaration of the gospel, my brethren, we have our thoughts and meditations directed to the only foundation of Christian faith and hope, in that love of God which prompted him to provide and bring to pass the redemption and salvation of a sin-ruined world. Whether in any, and in how many other ways this might have been effected by infinite wisdom, omnipotent power, and boundless love, must ever be a vain and useless speculation. Sufficient, it would appear, yea, and more than sufficient, in respect to any claim we could possibly have, is it, that we have been in any way cared for; and the gratitude due for such undeserved favour, should chase away every overweening conceit of the wisdom of the world, every high thought which exalts itself against God and the word
of bis grace.
Yet, if we are called on to convince gainsayers, or rather, to give a right direction to the views and inquiries of those who do err, because they know not the Scriptures and the power of God—(for ignorance is the parent of infidelity)—we are not unprovided with facts and arguments to demonstrate the perfect agreement of the means with the end, to show the connexion of the purpose and the plan of our salvation, by the incarnation of the Son of God, and the harmonious union of the high attributes of heaven's justice and dignity with the manifestation of mercy to man, by the sacrifice of the cross. These, though high, holy, and mysterious things, are yet the very life-blood of the religion we profess, and the constant theme of Christian gratitude,
admiration, and praise. Brought down, also, as they are, to the comprehension of our limited and clouded faculties, and bearing upon our present and eternal welfare, there can be no excuse for the neglect of them, or of that improvement of love and mercy thus manifested, which only can deliver us, who are favoured with the gospel, from the double condemnation of sin and rebellion persisted in against light and knowledge, and salvation by the blood of Christ rejected and trampled under foot. Oh! what a fearful thought it is, to reflect on the thousands around whom the light of divine truth and saving mercy shines with the bright effulgence of gospel day, who are yet as unconcerned for the consequences as if this life were all they had to provide for; as careless of the judgment which must pass upon them for these mighty benefits, as if there were neither a heaven or a hell to receive them; and as negligent of the appointed means to reap the fruit of redeeming love, as if God bad no claims upon them as his creatures, and faith and holiness no reward, and sin and unbelief no punishment provided under his righteous government.
My hearers, you cannot escape from the claim which the gospel has upon you. Do what you will, or think as you will, the word spoken unto you must judge you at the last day. Let me, then, prevail with you for attention to the doctrine contained in my text, and for its application to your present condition, that light may enter your minds, and truth prevail against the cruel delusion of meeting death and eternity unprepared for either that truth which sets forth the great and glorious God who has no need of the sinful man, yet interposing the night of his transcendant attributes to redeem his soul, and at the unspeakable price of his only begotten Son, surrendered to humiliation, sufferings, and death, to buy him back from sin and death to holiness and life eternal--that truth which proclaims in my text, the antecedent, unbought love of God the Father Almighty, to a rebellious world, which is proclaimed in the gospel and commanded to be preached to all nations for the obedience of faith-that truth which calls particularly for our attention at this time, when the stated services of the Church fix our meditations on the advent of our Lord, to fulfil the high
and holy purposes of that eternal counsel which he purposed in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, and which is, indeed, the only predestination known to the Scriptures that we can apply to any profitable or comfortable purpose.
In discoursing on this passage of Scripture, therefore, I shall, in the
First place, point out the connexion of the text with the context.
SecondLY, I shall endeavour to explain what is so clearly implied in the text—that but for the coming of Christ man must have perished.
THIRDLY, I shall point out the nature of the salvation thus wrought out for us; and, then,
Conclude with an application of the whole.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
I. First, I am to point out the connexion of the text with the context.
That this particular passage is a part of our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus, is known to all who are acquainted with their Bibles, as it also is known that he therein briefly set forth the whole gospel, with the reason of that particular method in which only the salvation of sinners could be accomplished, consistently with the divine perfections.
God's purpose being, not merely to vindicate his justice by the infliction of the threatened penalty for disobedience, but the farther and more gracious purpose of reclaiming the offender, and restoring him to the favour he had forfeited—therefore, the execution of the sentence could not be on the sinner himself, because this would have involved his immediate death and consequent condemnation. Hence the necessity of a substitute of the same nature, and hence the necessity of the incarnation of the Son of God, when appointed and accepted by the Father, to fulfil this mighty and gracious purpose. The conversation with Nicodemus, therefore, is so directed as to embrace both these particulars—the satisfaction to be made for sin, and the means thereupon and thereby provided for the renewal of the sinner.