« PreviousContinue »
as the source of his joy, and as the chief antidote against that bane of immortal souls, carnal-mindedness.--Yes, the death of his Lord on a cross, furnished him with pardon of sin, peace of conscience, and an expectation of heaven: suggesting, at the same time, a thousand motives to set his affections on spiritual things; under the influence of which motives his conduct was formed.--Now, as the hope and the joy of this eminent saint were thus connected with spiritual-mindedness, we may safely infer, that all pretensions to glorying in the cross of Christ are delusive, while our hearts are alive to the world. In other words, while secular prospects and enjoyments, while temporal disappointments and afflictions, are the chief sources of our pleasures and sorrows.
By whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world. A sentiment this, which is pregnant with heavenly-mindedness; and an admirable, important saying! There is reason to fear, however, that it is but little understood, and less regarded. Few also, it may be presumed, among whom it obtains regard, can enter into the spirit of it, without feeling themselves keenly convicted of carnality.-Was the apostle treated by the children of this · world as if he had been the vilest miscreant that ever deserved a gibbet? he, in his turn, considered the maxims of their conduct, the objects of their love, and the things in which they gloried, as equally vile. The riches of those in affluence, and the honours of those in power: the pageantries of ambition, and the pleasures of sensuality, had no charms for him. Paul remembered, nor could he forget, that the genuine gospel is the doctrine of Him who was born in a stable, and lived in poverty; who was numbered with enormous villains, and expired on a cross-Of Him who, when he was receiving acclamations of royalty, rode upon an ass; to indicate that his kingdom is not of a secular kind. The apostle, therefore, could not esteem, nay, he could not forbear to detest, the temper, the conduct, and the allurements of a world, so contrary to the doctrine and example of Jesus Christ—a world, that hated his Lord and put him to death a world, that lies in wickedness; and therefore the friendship of it is enmity with God.
Here we behold a disciple of Christ, whose course of behaviour is becoming the gospel, as of heavenly origin: for the predominating dispositions of his heart are manifestly those of a person, who, having heaven in his eye, intends, expects, and makes it his business, by the aids of grace, to arrive at those blissful regions. A man whose heart is thus detached from sensible objects, and thus intent on eterpal felicity, has nothing to hope, nor any thing to: fear, from the world. Not the former; because he considers it as inimical to his true happiness. Not. the latter; because he has nothing esteemed precious, or considered as essential to his happiness, of which it can deprive him,
Nor was this an exalted pitch of heavenly-mind. edness, to which Christians in common are not obliged: for no professor of the glad tidings is warranted to consider himself as indulged, by divine authority, with more liberty to love the world, or to gratify a carṇal turn of heart, than Paul had. For the example and precepts of Christ are as binding on us, as they were upon him, To love riches,
AND CHARACTER honours, power; to imitate, if circumstances will permit, the children of pride and of impiety, in elegance and show; to mingle, when opportunity presents, in the gay circles of polite amusement; and to live in the practice of sensuality, or under the government of immoral tempers; are equally unbecoming the gospel avowed by us, as they would have been in the conduct of Paul. For he who wasLORD, and that which was LAW, to him, are so to us. His apostolic office, his extraordinary gifts, and his uncoinmon spiritual enjoyments, might, perhaps, afford certain motives to holiness, different from any possessed by us; but we have the same gule of moral conduct, and the same example of Christ for our imitation, that he had. We are under the obligation of divine law, to love God with all the force of our natural powers: nor could the holy apostle's delight in God exceed the requisitions of that law
Were the spirit of this admirable saying approved by professors in general, and its influence felt on their hearts, they would not conform to the customs of a world which lies in wickedness, as they frequently do. No; for as all the ensnarements and pleasures of sin arise from things that are in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; so, in proportion as the heart is filled with the cross of Christ, or as the doctrine of the cross is incorporated with their affections; it will induce death and loathsome deformity on those things which had previously been snares and idols, leaving no appearance of beauty, or of desirableness, in them. Were this the experience of professors in common, fondness of dress, and pride
of show; a desire of riches, and a lust of pre-eminence; would be much less apparent than they are, among the avowed followers of Jesus Christ. For it is manifest, by the vanity and self-importance of
some; by the avarice and want of integrity in others; . by the formality in worship, and the earthly-mindedness of multitudes, who hear the gospel, that a conversation becoming it is far from being general, among the professors of Christianity: and, consequently, that real Christians are comparatively very few. It is, however, equally clear, that the doctrine of grace which bringeth salvation, teacheth us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly; righteously, and godly, in this present world: looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Amen. ESSAY III.
EVIDENCES OF FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST, BOTH NEGA,
TIVELY AND POSITIVELY CONSIDERED,
Examine yourselves whether you be in the Faith,
First, negatively. As it would be unwarrantable to affirm, that a full persuasion of interest in Christ enters into the essence of true faith ; so we should be equally far from concluding, that a simple desire to believe is an evidence of believing: or, to use a phrase which, in the account of some, is little short of a theological axiom, That a desire of grace, is grace. For a well-grounded persuasion of interest in Christ is to be considered rather as a happy effect of believing on the Son of God, than as faith itself. Because the gospel does not exhibit Jesus to an awakened sinner, under the notion of his having died for him, in particular; or so as to warrant an immediate conclusion, that Christ and all the blessings of grace are his : but under the consideration of his being a guilty, condemned, perishing creature; that the Lord Redeemer is mighty to save, and the only object of hope for the guilty: that the chief of sinners, the most detestable of human characters, are welcome to him! The first question that should engage the awakened sinner's attention, is not, Did Christ die for me in particular? But, Is he able