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becoming the children and people of God, than by obtaining mercy, venturing our souls upon Christ, and pleading what he has done and suffered for our present peace and eternal justification. “ In him we have redemption
' through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” Eph. i. 7; · Col. i. 14; through him we are received to the adoption of sons; for his sake we are beloved of God, and heirs of the riches of his grace; in him accepted, and saved from first to last. As he did what we could not, and all he did was for our sakes, it is all ours whenever we receive him into our hearts, as “ of God made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;" 1 Cor. i. 30. But who are they that believe all this, and rejoice in the comfort of it? Not the impenitent; in which I reckon not only the openly dissolute and profane, but all those who never saw the guilt of sin, and their condition in sin. Let them be what they will in other respects, they cannot look out for a remedy till they know their want of it; they cannot pose. sibly fly to Christ as their refuge, till they are convinced that nothing else can relieve them. Not those who will not resign themselves to his teaching and government, or disregard the holiness he requires of us. Whatever pretences they make to faith are groundless, dishonourable to Christ, and a cheat upon themselves. None but those who, having come to him to be washed from their sins in his blood, are as willing to forsake them, think themselves bound to walk by his rule, endeavour, as God shall enable them, to be holy in all manner of conversation, and strike at the root of sin in the heart. So closely does one thing follow another in our salvation by Christ; and if you leave out any part of it, you lose him altogether, for he will not be divided. If you have been brought to faith in him by the knowledge of sin, and a true work of repentance, you will not desire to retain it;
and if you did, you can never think it safe to continue in it, when you see God's vengeance against it, and how severely it was punished in the person of Christ. If you know what he has done and suffered for you, by a faith of the Spirit's working, you will love him; and if you love him, you will study to show it in the way he so earnestly and repeatedly requires of you, by keeping his commandments. That our salvation is Christ's work, and not our own, is the great foundation of our hope, and must never be questioned. But then our own holiness is a necessary part of his salvation; and though we cannot be saved for it, yet if we are not renewed by him to the desire and love of it, here is full proof-against us that nothing is done, and that if we have not the faith which worketh by love, and purifieth the heart, we have none at all. For as sure as we belong to Christ, we are God's workmanship, created in him unto good works, which God hath before ordained," or for which he hath fitted and prepared us, namely, by faith in Christ Jesus, " that we should live in them;" Eph. ii. 10.
If you should ask how faith is wrought in us, whether all at once, by an extraordinary gift, or in a more ordinary way, by a gradual operation of the Spirit, assisting and enlightening our minds in reading, hearing, and meditating on the word? I would answer, that instances of the former kind there are several in Scripture, as Matthew and other apostles, Paul, Cornelius, Lydia, the jailor. And what has been may be, and I believe really is, for reasons best known to God, in every time and place where the Gospel is preached. But then it is a great error, very disquieting to many of the children of God, and must by no means be maintained, that there is no other
way coming to faith but in an instant, with a clear knowledge of the way in which it is brought to us. For, generally speaking, it is not so, but more a work of time, in the
use of means, and in different persons in different degrees. And certain it is, that we receive Christ with all his benefits, when we depend only upon him for peace with God, and walk with him, as all his servants and followers do, in a purpose of obedience. I say, if we hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life which is given us in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, trusting in him as our Mediator and Advocate with God, and conforming to his rule, certain it is that our faith is saving; and we should be great enemies to ourselves if we que»cioned the soundness of it, or entertained the least doubt whether
say that Jesus is the Lord by the Holy Ghost.” And let it be assuredly believed, that “no man can say it but by the Holy Ghost,” 1 Cor. xii. 3; a point which must by no means be forgotten, or lightly passed over, when we are considering how and by what means we become the people of God. For without him we can do nothing, neither understand, nor repent, nor believe, to the saving of the soul; and whatever we do will be a fruitless labour, and of no value in the sight of God, if he is not working at the root of it. He is the gift of the Father and the Son to us, appointed and sent in Christ's stead, to begin, carry on, and complete the work of our redemption. We say in the Nicene Creed, that we believe in him as “ the Author and Giver of life," or the quickener of our spirits to a new state of grace and holiness, in the manner described John, xvi. by reproving and convincing us of sin, revealing Christ to us for righteousness, and judging the prince of this world, that is, the devil, by casting him out of the possession he has gotten in our hearts. By him, therefore, we are brought to repentance, grafted into Christ for all his benefits, live worthy of our high calling, are supported, strengthened, and comforted in every part of our Christian progress, By him taking possession of us, and, as it were, lying
down with us in our graves, we shall be raised from the dead; and if he does not dwell in us, we shall rise indeed by the power of God to condemnation, but not by the Spirit of God to life everlasting. I said before, that he lives and acts in us as he pleases. He came to the apostles at the day of Pentecost visibly and forcibly, as well as others afterwards, whom we read of in Scripture; and he never tied up his hands from acting upon some at all times in a way of extraordinary grace. Nay, it is the way in which he manifests himself to the world from time to time, to keep alive the belief of him, and to the awakening of many souls to seek after his influences, besides those who are the immediate subjects of them; though not to prescribe a method to him, or look for his help exactly in the same way and manner in which it has been vouchsafed to others; for he“ divideth to every man severally as he will,” 1 Cor. xii. 11, and his operations, for the most part, are in secret. He enlightens our understandings, renews our wills and affections, and governs in our souls, in the sanctified use of means, and in the right application of our own reason, as assisted and directed by him. Whatever is done to purpose in religion, he is the doer of it, and our souls can no more be alive unto God without him than the body can live without the soul. But what can it signify to those who never put themselves into his hands, in what way he acts and moves us ? One thing is certain, that they themselves are blind, and, whatever their outward form and appearance is, strangers to his operations. The grace of God they are not made partakers of, and it is well if they do not despise and deride the agency of the Holy Ghost. The “ things of God they receive not;" they are either too obstinate in wickedness to seek after them, or too wise and good in their own conceits to acknowledge their want of them.
We may now, from what has been said, collect the answer to the inquiry proposed under this head, by what means we attain to the state mentioned in the text, and also, how we may assure ourselves that we are in it? I shall give it you in few words; and happy will you be, if your
hearts can bear witness to it.
By Christ, and not by any work or sufficiency of our own, we obtain mercy to become the people of God.
Our trust in him for remission of sins, and acceptance with God, is the faith by which we are saved.
This faith is by a spiritual discernment of our want of Christ for salvation, and of his all-sufficiency to
And, lastly, wherever it is a spiritual work, it begins in repentance, carries us on to holiness, and proves itself to our consciences by the sincerity of our obedience.
Leave out this last, and you have nothing but a dead faith, and miserably deceive yourselves, if you hope well of your state. To keep your peace with God, there must be an unfeigned hearty purpose of obedience; and if there is such a purpose, there will be a progress in it. The wise and well-disposed are too apt to slumber and sleep, and the best may fall by temptation; but if they do not rise again from it, recover their purpose, and return to their duty, they are lost for ever. For the people of God, as sure as they are so, are renewed to the desire and love of holiness,“ show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light” by the purity of their conversation, and esteem it no small part of their happiness under him, that they can serve him with freedom of spirit. St. Peter will not suffer you to deceive yourselves in this matter. He tells you, that “as new-born babes, you must desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” It is the food appointed of God for the preservation and