Page images
PDF
EPUB

all who would be saved; Christ and the power of his grace are freely offered to all to whom the gospel is preached—but to be obtained men must come to Christ according to the directions of the gospel. They must strive to enter in at the strait gate, by a hearty repentance and forsaking all sin, and to walk in the narrow way of holy obedience to the commands and example of Christ. For the gospel does not act like a charm, nor yet will Christ be found the minister of sin, by owning those who call him Lord, yet do not the things which he says.

And on so weighty a concern as salvation, carelessness and unconcern are nothing short of contempt of God, and if persisted in must be followed by the gnawings of the worm that never dies,by the torments of the fire that never shall be quenched. From this endless misery Christ alone can save you, my dear hearers ; and he can and will save you no otherwise than as he hath openly proclaimed in his word. Awake then, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. There is yet place for repentance; the sparing mercy of God yet waits for you, and that same Jesus who this day tells you, without me ye can do nothing, also proclaims, him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.

But it is not only as the purchaser of a day of reprieve and grace to fallen man, that Jesus Christ is thus all important. He is the finisher as well as the author of our faith and hope. This he represents to us in the verse immediately before my text, by the figure of a vine and its branches. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me the same bringeth forth much fruitfor without me ye can do nothing.

Now though these words were spoken primarily to and of bis apostles, and had an application to them, and yet have to those who come after them in the ministry of the gospel, distinct from what they have to men in general, yet in their plain and obvious meaning they refer to all who claim an interest in the gospel. As Christ is the head of the body, and Christians are every one members in particular, their union with him and abiding in him is just as essential for the supply of spiritual life and motion, as that of the members with the natural body, or of the branches with the vine.

But the entertainment of sin severs this union with Christ, and destroys our abiding in him ; which can no otherwise be restored than by a true and effectual repentance. And as the grace of repentance is obtained for fallen creatures by the undertaking of the Son of God, and is accepted only for his sake, and through faith in him, a consideration of the particulars which must unite to render repentance and faith available to the pardon of sin, will show as was proposed, in the

II. Second place, the absolute importance of the LORD JESUS Christ to the hope of the penitent sinner.

Sin is an offence against Almighty God by the transgression of his positive command, and for which eternal death is announced as the just punishment.

Conviction of sin is the sense of guilt and condetonation thereby incurred, impressed upon the heart by the Holy Ghost.

Repentance is a godly sorrow for sin, wrought in the soul by the same Holy Spirit, and evidenced by forsaking sin and by earnest desire of pardon and reconciliation with God, expressed in fervent and continued prayer and supplication.

But the Holy Ghost, with all his operations in and upon the hearts of men for salvation, is the purchase of the death of Christ. Hence there is neither conviction of sin, nor repentance for sin, nor faith to apprehend its danger, nor deliverance from its condemnation without Christ, without an entire Saviour, the Alpha and the Omega of man's salvation.

What satisfaction can the convinced sinner make to the infinite justice of Almighty God, for those violations of his holy law of which he feels and owns himself guilty ? Repentance is not atonement, nor can amended life, were either of them possible without the grace given us in Christ Jesus, undo past guilt and remove incurred condemnation. Without shedding of blood there is no remission. But the sinner's own blood is demanded by the law, not as an expiation but as a penalty. What resort is there, then, but to him who is exalted a prince and a Saviour to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins ? Where can the

sinner find an atonement but in that blood which was poured out upon the cross, as a propitiation and full satisfaction to the divine justice for the sins of the whole world? This is the only expiation for the guilt of sin worthy for man to offer or for God to accept. It is the only substitute for the sinner's own blood, forfeited to the justice of God; and the revealed atonement to which the Holy Spirit directs the penitent believer, enabling him to apply it to himself personally, as the meritorious ground of his forgiveness and acceptance with God.--Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our LORD JESUS CHRIST.

But not only in what is outward and visible in the regulation of the life, but in the mightier work of renewing the heart and purifying it from the corruptions which sin hath engendered, of transforming the soul to the image of its holy Creator, and of sanctifying the whole creature to God, is it evident that without Christ we can do nothing.

We have no access to the heart, my dear hearers, not even to discern its desperate wickedness and estrangement from God, far less to change its affections and renew its qualities, without light from heaven. This is the work of the great physician of souls, and only by following his prescriptions can its original health be restored. To call off the affections from the perishing vanities of time, to elevate them to holy and heavenly desires, and fix them on God as the chief good is no human work; yet it is set before us as the condition on which eternal life depends. Without Christ, then, my friends, what can we do, without his Holy Spirit to work this mighty change, to create in us a new heart, and renew a right spirit within us, what hope of success? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? O that those who go about to establish their own righteousness, and contract religion to the meagre morality of external decency and decorum of conduct, would but consider this; that the Pharisees of the gospel, who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof, would bring their accommodations of religion to the will of the flesh, to the experience of a new principle wrought in the soul by the Spirit of CHRIST! Then they might see and understand the application of motives to the conduct of moral beings; how the very same actions in different

persons are, nevertheless, in the sight of God, of opposite qualities. He looketh on the heart, my brethren, and can accept nothing from fallen creatures but what springs from the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ, purifying it and working by love. Can a muddy fountain send forth pure water? No, my hearers. How, then, can the unrenewed heart bring forth fruit unto God. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots ? No, my friends, neither can the fallen sinner change his nature or undo his guilt. Come, then, to Jesus Christ, that what without him ye cannot do may by his grace be accomplished. This is the turning point of this great salvation. As none but the sick need the physician, so until we feel that there is no health in us—until we learn the plague of our own hearts, and are savingly convinced of the ruined helplessness of our sinful nature ; there is no form or comeliness in Jesus Christ that we should desire him. We neither understand or feel, that the whole sufficiency of fallen sinners is of God; that from first to last we are saved by grace, and that without Christ we can do nothing.

As the grace and power of our Lord Jesus Christ are thus indispensable to quicken us to repentance and faith, and the virtue of his blood shed for us alone available to procure the pardon of sin, they are no less essential to render all that we subsequently do in the way of duty acceptable to God.

Our repentance and faith, our love and obedience, our prayers and praises, our worship and service, are in themselves imperfect and unworthy of that pure and holy Being in whose sight the heavens are not clean, and who charges even his angels with folly. The very holiest of our duties have in them a seasoning of sin, my brethren, and the most earnest of our endeavours are coupled with infirmity both of purpose and performance. Here, then, we may realize the absolute importance to us of that JESUS, who not only procured a day and means of grace for sinners, but who ever liveth to make intercession for them; to present their prayers and praises before the throne of God; to render their sincere though imperfect services acceptable in the eye of purity and holiness, and as their great High Priest to offer up continually in the presence of God, in behalf of his people, the meritorious righteousness and perfect obedience of his sinless life, the humiliation of his passion, and the atonement of his death, as the ground of their faith and hope of the favour of God and eternal life.

Nor is this all, my brethren. When the life of faith has carried the Christian victorious through the trials of this mortal pilgrimage, the grave, nevertheless, awaits him, and he must receive the wages due to sin in the stroke of death. Here, then, if no where else, if never before, must man perceive and feel bis own impotency, must acknowledge his utmost strength to be but corruption. His prospects all closed, his expectations cut off, his active powers mouldered into dust, what would the hope even of the righteous be worth, but for Jesus Christ? Can human power burst the prison of the grave and recall the dead to life ? No. The voice of the Son of God alone is competent to this Almighty work; and the hour is coming when all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation. This is what gives such an awful impression to the hour of our dissolution, my hearers. This is what gives to the grace and hope of the gospel their infinite value, and to the name of Jesus Christ its high pre-eminence above every name in heaven and on earth. He tasted death for every man, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death. He rose from the dead to give assurance unto all men, that they also should not be holden of death. He ascended up into heaven the first born of many brethren, whither he has gone before to prepare a place for bis faithful followers. And he will come again in the glory of his Father with the retinue of heaven, to sit in judgment on his people and on the world.

Then will be seen the full extent of his power, and then will be felt the full value of that union with him which is now to be obtained on the conditions of the gospel, and including as it does, by the appointment of God, the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption of obedient believers, will constitute their title to a place at his right hand. Then will be realized the deep importance of confessing him before men, both with

« PreviousContinue »