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speak, yea, we sing and greatly rejoice; as it is written, “ In that day I will praise thee ; though thou wast
angry, thine anger is turned away*.” And again, “ The voice of joy and thanksgiving is in the taber“nacles of the righteousf.” “ Let the redeemed of the “ Lord say, that he is good, and his mercy endureth “ for evert."
It is of great importance to examine ourselves by this test, and not to be satisfied with our knowledge of the Gospel, any further than our consciences bear us witness, that it has produced a real, moral change in our tempers, conduct, and pursuits. For there is a knowledge, which is falsely so called. It puffeth up, but edifieth not.
Our Lord's declaration deserves our most serious attention : "For judgment I am come into " this world; that they which see not, may see; and " that they which see, might be made blindß.” It is very possible, yea, very easy, by the help of books, , sermons, and converse, to acquire an orderly and
systematic knowledge of divine truths; it may be learnt thus, like any other branch of human science, and the head be well stored with orthodox sentiments; and there may be an ability to prove and defend them, in a way of argumentation, while the heart is utterly a stranger to their salutary influence. Such characters are too common. None make a greater parade and boast of seeing, than these persons. None are more fatally blinded. They smile, with disdain, when they speak of a self-righteousness founded upon prayers, alms-deeds, and sacraments, but are not aware that they themselves live in the very spirit of the Pharisees|l,
* Psal. cvii. 1, 2.
* Isa, xii. 1.
† Psal. cxvii. 15.
so clearly described, and so expressly condemned, in the New Testament. Their supposed knowledge of the doctrines which they misunderstand and abuse, is the righteousness on which they build their hopes; and trusting to this, they despise all those who are stricter in practice than themselves, as ignorant and legal; and discover almost as great dislike to close and faithful preaching, as they could do to poison. Though the doctrines of the Gospel, when rightly received, are productive of Godliness, it is to be feared, there are people who espouse and plead for them, to quiet their consciences, by furnishing them with excuses for the sins they are unwilling to forsake. It is not surprising, that they who are displeased with the yoke of our Lord's precepts, should seem friendly to the idea of salvation without the works of the law. The notion of the final perseverance of believers, may afford a pillow for those to rest on, who, being at present destitute of all feeling of spiritual life, labour to persuade themselves that they are Christians, because they had some serious thoughts, and made some profession of the truth, many years ago. So, likewise, in what the Scriptures teach, of the total inability of fallen man, they think they have a plea to justify their negligence and sloth, and therefore are not disposed to contradict the testimony. The invitation and command to wait, and watch, and strive, in the ways and means of the Lord's appointment, they evade, as they think, with impunity, by confessing the charge, and saying, I am a poor creature indeed, I can do nothing of myself aright, and therefore to what purpose should I attempt to do any thing? A minister may preach upon these points, in general terms, and obtain their good word. But if he speaks plainly and faithfully to conscience; if he bears testimony not only against dead works, but against a dead faith; against spiritual pride, evil tempers, evil speaking, love of the world, and sinful compliances ; if he insists that the branches of the true vine should bear grapes, and not the same fruit as the bramble; hearers of this stamp will think they do God service by censuring all he can say, as low and legal trash. How awful! that people should be blinded by the very truths which they profess to believe! Yet I fear such cases are too frequent. God grant a delusion of this kind may never be found amongst us!
.“ For if the salt” itself “ should lose its savour, wherewith shall it be saltcd*?" May we come simply to the light, with a desire of seeing more of ourselves, and more of our Saviour; that we may be more humble and spiritual, more afraid of sin, more watchful and successful in striving against it? and, in our whole conversation, more conformable to our glorious Head !
But to return. From what has been offered upon this subject, we may observe, , 1. That true Christianity is friendly to society, and to the common interests of mankind. It is the source of peace, tenderness, benevolence, and every humane temper. It is calculated to sooth the fierce disposition, to enlarge the selfish spirit, and to transform the lion into the lamb. What then must we think of those pretended friends to liberty and free inquiry, whose unhappy zeal is employed to rob us of the only light and balm of life? who, by their misrepresentations and cavils, endeavour to persuade others, though they cannot effectually persuade themselves, that the Gospel, a scheme so wise in its constitution, so salutary in its
Matth. v. 13.
design, so powerful in its effects, is no better than an imposition, the contrivance of superstitious or artful men! Why should they attempt to take away the foundation of our hope, and the spring of our comfort, (if they were able,) when they know they have nothing to substitute in their place! Let us think of them with that compassion which their state calls for ; and pray for them, “if peradventure God will give them re
pentance to the acknowledgment of the truth*.”
2. The change thus wrought is great, marvellous, and, if not so frequent, might be styled miraculous. It is more than education, example, persuasion, or resolution can perform. It is the work of God alone, to open the blind eyes, to change the heart of stone into flesh, and to raise the dead.
This thought should exclude boasting. The happy subjects of this change were no better by nature or practice than others. They have nothing but what they have received. The glory and praise is due to the Lord alone. It should likewise soften their censure of those who are still in a state of alienation from God, or at least prevent the emotions of anger and resentment towards them. They know not what they do. Their danger should excite our pity, and our friendly endeavours to recover them from the error of their
And especially, we should be careful, so to regulate our behaviour, " that if they obey not the word, they may “ without the word be convinced and wont,” by the force of our example. If the Lord be pleased to do that for them which he has done for us, their dislike of us, and their opposition to us, will be quickly at an end; and though they set out after us, they may possibly
* 2 Tim. ii. 25.
t 1 Pet. iii. 1.
make a swifter progress in the Christian life than we have done. Thus, though Saul of Tarsus approached Damascus, as an enemy and a persecutor, when the scales fell from his eyes, he not only immediately joined the disciples, but in a little time became a pattern to them.
That the change is the work of God, should likewise be considered by those, who, from a sense of the greatness of their sins, and the strength of their sinful habits, are ready to sink into despair. Whatever apparent difficulty there may be in your case, it is easy to divine power. “ All things are possible with God*,” and “all “ things,” likewise, “ are possible to him that be" lievethf.” The promises invite you to apply to him who is the Author and Finisher of faith, and who has said for your encouragement, “ Him that cometh unto
me, I will in nowise cast out.”
THE GREAT SHEPHERD.
ISAIAH xl. 11. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the
lambs with his arm, and carry them in his boson; and shall
gently lead those that are with young. It is not easy for those whose habits of life are insensibly formed by the customs, of modern times, to conceive any adequate idea of the pastoral life, as it obtained
* Mark x. 27.
+ Mark ix. 23.