« PreviousContinue »
of the human race -- - Who can calculate the benefits accruing from such a change ?] 3. To himself also
[Who ever laboured for God without receiving in his own soul a rich reward b?” “Who ever watered others, and was not himself watered by the Lord c?” The very graces which a man exercises, in winning souls to God, diffuse a sweet serenity, a holy joy, over the whole man, and assimilate him to his Lord and Saviour, and render him meet for the inheritance that is reserved for him. I may add also, his very labour augments for him the weight of glory that is reserved for him in heaven: for God has said, in reference to this very thing, that “every man shall receive according to his own labour d;" and that “ they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars, for ever and evere."
Is not he “wise," then, who engages in such a work as this?]
In addition to all this I must say,
[This is the end which God the Father had in view, when he delegated to his Son the office of redeeming man --This was the end for which our adorable Saviour “left the bosom of the Father," and assumed into union with himself our fallen nature, and led a life of sorrow upon earth, and at last died for us upon the cross. To this he looked forward, as “the joy that was set before him, for the which he endured the cross and despised the shame?" And when he beholds this as the fruit of his sufferings, he is altogether “ satisfied with the travail of his soul & "---- The Holy Spirit also regards this as the end for which he performs his part in the economy of redemption. For what does he “strive with rebellious man h?” For what end does he enlighten, quicken, sanctify the souls of men, or refresh and invigorate them with his heavenly consolations ? All of this is to “glorify Christi,” in the salvation of man. In truth, it is in this work that every person of the Godhead will be glorified to all eternity. What is it that illustrates in harmonious union all the perfections of the Deity?- --What is it that is the one subject of praise and adoration amongst all the heavenly hosts? Is not this the song of all that have been redeemed? “ To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto our God, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever k." Even the angels, that never sinned, add
b Ps. xix. 11.
c ver. 25.
d 1 Cor. iii. 8.
their “Amen to this; and sing their praises unto God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever?.”
Compare with this work, then, “all the labour that is done under the sun," and it is no better than laborious folly. Not he that accumulates to himself wealth or honour, but “ he that winneth souls, is wise."] What, in CONCLUSION, shall I say? What?
1. Let every one seek the salvation of his own soul
[Is it wisdom to win the souls of others? What folly, then, must it be to lose our own ? --- In this labour we have more abundant encouragement. We may seek to save others, and fail in our attempt: but who ever failed, that sought salvation for his own soul? Find, in the annals of the whole world, one who ever looked to Christ in vain? Who ever washed in the fountain of his blood in vain? or for whom did the grace of Christ ever prove inadequate and insufficient? Let the world deride this labour as folly, if they please : they will soon see who it is that is really wise; and will soon condemn themselves, more bitterly than now the most envenomed amongst them condemn the righteous: “We fools accounted their life madness, and their end to be without honour: but now we see how greatly we have erred from the way of truthm." --- Who then is wise among you, let him "give himself wholly” to the concerns of his soul; for “ the wise shall inherit glory; but shame shall be the promotion of fools "."] 2. Let every one seek also the salvation of others
[There are many ways in which this may be done --In particular, let every one attend to his own household. For these, in a more especial manner, is every one responsible --- But in whatever way our exertions are called forth, let us remember that they must be used in a wise, discreet, affectionate manner. We must doubtless declare the whole counsel of God: but, if we would succeed in our labours, we must endeavour to “ win souls” by love, and not drive them away by severity and terror ----]
| Rev. v. 11–13. m Wisd. v. 4–6. Prov. iii. 35.
. Here any particular means may be insisted on, according as the particular occasion may require : for instance, The Ministry - The Visiting of the Sick—The Instructing of Children—The Sending forth of the Holy Scriptures—The Support of Missions, &c. &c.
DCCLXXIX. THE EXCELLENCY OF THE RIGHTEOUS. Prov. xii. 26. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.
MEN in their external appearance are alike; so far at least, that their moral character cannot with any accuracy be determined by it. But God, who searches the heart, sees an immense difference between different men; such a difference as suffices to arrange them all under two great classes—the righteous and the wicked. In the righteous he finds an excellency which he in vain looks for in others; and to point out this superior excellency is my object, in this discourse. But here it is proper to observe, that Solomon does not draw the comparison between a righteous and a notoriously wicked man; but between a righteous man and “his neighbour,” however excellent that neighbour may be : for, if there be in any man a want of positive and inherent righteousness, whatever else he may possess, he must be classed with the wicked : and with such only will my present comparison be instituted.
“ The righteous man, then, is more excellent than his neighbour;" I. In his connexionsA truly righteous man is born of God
[This is frequently and fully declared in the Holy Scriptures --- and though he be the poorest man upon earth, he is entitled to address his God under the endearing name of Father.] He is united to Christ
[He is united to him as a building to the foundation"; as a wife to her husband"; as a branch to the vined; as a member to the body. There is no other union so close and intimate, except that which subsists between God the Father and the Lord Jesus': for he is not only one body with him, but one spirit also 8: for Christ lives in him", and is his very life'.]
a John i. 12. and iji. 5. and 1 John iii. 1. b 1 Pet. ii. 4, 5. c Eph. v. 32. Rev. xxi. 9.
d John xv. 1. e Eph. v. 30. John xvii. 21, 23. 8 1 Cor. vi. 17. h Gal. ii. 20. i Col. iji. 4.
The Holy Ghost also dwells in him
He is a temple of the Holy Ghostk, who abides in him more manifestly and more effectually than in the whole universe besides: and so desirable a residence is his heart accounted by the Holy Spirit, that, in comparison of it, the temple of Solomon itself was held in utter contempt'.]
He is of the same family with all the glorified saints and angels—
[There is but one family, whether in heaven or earth, of which Christ is the headm: and so far is he from being disowned by them, that there is not an angel before the throne that does not account it an honour to wait upon him, and to minister unto him”.]
What does any worldly man possess, that can be compared with this?
[Whose child is he?“ A child of the wicked one°;" as our Lord has said, “ Ye are of your father the devilp.” True it is, that in the last day the holy angels will minister to them also; but it will only be to“ gather them together” from every part of the universe, and to “ bind them up in bundles," and to cast them headlong into the fire of hell 9. Tell me, then, to which of these the superior excellency belongs ?]
Let us trace this, II. In his principles—
The righteous man is altogether under the influence of faith and love
(He looks for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has no hope whatever, but in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. As for any righteousness of his own, he utterly disclaims it. He knows, that if he were judged by the best act he ever performed, he must for ever perish. The way which God himself has provided for the salvation of sinners is that which he affects, and in which he glories: the language of his inmost soul is this, “ God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom (or by which) the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world"."
At the same time that he looks thus to be saved as a sinner, he labours to walk as a saint, and to “ adorn the doctrine of God his Saviour in all things.” Nor is he impelled to this by any slavish fear of punishment: no: “ the love of Christ
* 1 Cor. vi. 19. Isai. lxvi. 1, 2. m Eph. iii. 15. n Heb. i. 14.
o Matt. xiii. 38. 1 John iii. 10. P John viii. 44. 9 Matt. xii. 30. i Gal. vi. 14.
constrains him; because he thus judges, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose agains.” And as he serves his God from love, so is he actuated by the same principle in all his intercourse with men: “ he walks in love, as Christ has loved him;" and he looks upon this as the best fruit of his faith , and as the surest evidence of his acceptance with God.]
How widely different from these are the principles of the wicked!
[Let it be remembered, that I am not speaking of those who indulge in gross wickedness, but of those only who are not positively righteous. Whatever they may possess in respect of outward morality, they are strangers to the true exercise both of faith and love. They do not fully enter into the great mystery of redemption: they feel not their need of such a Saviour as God has provided for them. That God himself should become a man, and die under the load of their sins, and work out a righteousness wherein they may stand accepted before him—they see no occasion for all this: they think they might be saved on easier terms, or, if I may so express it, at a cheaper rate. They cannot see why they should have so inestimable a price paid for them, when their own repentance and reformation might have well sufficed for all the demands which God had upon them. Nor do they feel their need of the Holy Spirit to teach and sanctify them, when their own wisdom and strength were, upon the whole, adequate to their necessities. At all events, if they assent to the Gospel salvation as true, they do not embrace it with their whole hearts, and rejoice in it as that which alone could give them a hope before God. So also in their obedience, all which they do is from constraint, rather than from love: as clearly appears from hence, that they are satisfied, upon the whole, with what they do; whereas, if they felt their obligations to God for the gift of his only Son to die for them, and of his Holy Spirit to renew them, they would feel nothing but dissatisfaction and grief on account of their short-comings and defects. In fact, all their works are done merely in conformity with the customs of the world, and for the purpose of forming a ground for self-estimation, and for the estimation of those around them.
What comparison, then, will these bear with the characters with which they are here contrasted? They are as inferior to the righteous “ as dross is to the purest goldy."]
Let us trace the comparison yet further,
y Jer. vi. 30.