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could not make our peace with God, if nothing but the blood of Christ could wash out the foul stains of our sin, how great is the pollution of it, how great was our danger, and how certain will be our doom if we continue in it!
May the ever blessed Spirit, who only can, enable you to consider and apply these Gospel arguments for your return to God in love and obedience ! May he make the Lord Jesus precious to us in his whole salvation, and get the victory in us, as Christ has gotten it for us ; that “in all things we may be conquerors through him that loved us,” and prove the truth and excellence of our religion by the purity of our lives! O soul, if God forgiveth all thy sin, let him heal all thy infirmities. If the bowels of God were moved for thee, if the blood of God was shed for thy redemption, if thou art saved beyond thy deserts, and far beyond all thy hopes, be faithful to his word and truth, be faithful to thyself. Now hear the apostle's inference from the doctrine of Christ's victory, and let it come to thee in the name of God. “Be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” It is the call of his love to thy heart, and strictly bound upon thee by his command; it is the way in which all his people walk with him ; it is the proof of thy discipleship; thy reward will be according to thy progress in holiness, and the want of it will give thee up to condemnation, and be the sting of death in thee for ever. The Scripture is so full and plain for a lively, faithful obedience, that whatever disputes there are concerning the ground of our salyation, whether it is by faith or works, or partly one and partly the other, there can be none about the necessity of our returning to God in repentance, and cleaving to him in sincerity for the purification of our hearts. Grace hath abounded to us, and great mercy hath been shown us from the Lord ; but, let us pretend what we will, is never be ; lieved, and cannot possibly be received by us, till we are
persuaded that the recovery of our hearts and wills to God in holiness is a necessary and very precious part of it. You must not think that you are Christians, because you have been baptized, and are called by that name; no, not though you come to church and sacraments : you may do this for credit's sake, and more from form, or custom, than the preparation of the heart, and real desire of spiritual blessings ; but if you would be owned by Christ as his disciples and friends, the knowledge of a sinful, condemned state must bring you to him for salvation from it, with a will to forsake all sin, and live by his rule, as God shall enable you. These are the two great parts of his religion, faith in him as the Saviour, making our peace with God, in opposition to the conceit of any work, merit, or righteousness of our own, and faithful, pure obedience springing from it. • What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” For whoever does, it is at the peril of his soul, and all his hopes. Faith saves all that are saved, but cannot save the lawless and disobedient, because they have none. It is the nature and essence of a true faith to work by love, and keep the commandments; that is, with sincerity of endeavour, all of them in heart, will, and purpose, though none perfectly; and the more it improves in obedience, the quicker it is to spy defects, and always ready to mourn over them. If our faith cannot stand this test, it can stand none. “ If the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, does not teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world;" Tit. ii. 11, 12; if we are not convinced of the necessity of striving against all sin, and endeavouring to perfect holiness in the fear of God; we may be as sure our faith is false as that the Gospel is true.
Let us then first see the exceeding great evil of sin, and the death to which it subjects us, in the glass of
Christ's sufferings, that we may be thankful to God for sending him into the world to save us from it, and show our gratitude to him in the way he requires of us, by returning to our duty, and praying with the heart that his will may be done in earth as it is in heaven. make Christ the strength of our salvation, and he will be our strength for obedience. Let “ the law,” doing its office in condemning us, be “ our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ” for deliverance from it as a covenant, and he will bring us back again to the law, with hearty liking to it as a rule, and with all possible advantage for performance. Know your misery, know your helplessness, think how God loved you, and what Christ has done for you ; get your hearts warmed with a sense of redeeming mercy, and it will be the fire of love in them, constrain you to live to him, and make your obedience a free-will offering to God for Christ's sake. What he said of the woman who anointed his feet, and washed them with her tears, “she loved much, because much was forgiven her,” will be true of every soul which has felt the sting of sin, believes it to be death, comes to Christ for life, and thanks God for his victory. By the help of the same Spirit which convinced it of sin, it will be humble, it will be fearful of offending, it will hold fast its hope, it will go on from strength to strength in the way of holiness, and by the peace of God which rules in it be kept in all good, from all evil.
The Lord grant that we may so “build up ourselves on our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keeping ourselves in the love of God, and looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life,” 'Jude, xx. 21. To whom, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, one blessed God in Trinity, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
But who regardeth the power of thy wrath? for even there
after as a man feareth, so is thy displeasure. Psalm xc. 11.
You are often hearing these words in the course of the Psalms and burial service, and it would be your wisdom to lay them to heart. The displeasure of God! the power of his wrath! who can think of, and believe it, without desiring to avoid it, and using all possible means to secure himself from it? If it is a man like ourselves, we do not willingly provoke his wrath. If it is one who has a right to command us, and power to make us feel the effects of his displeasure, we are cautious of offending him ; especially if we have great obligations to him, and are more particularly bound not to offend and displease him. On all these accounts God is very greatly to be feared; for since he is our Maker, Preserver, and continual Benefactor, requires our obedience, has an unquestionable right to it, and can severely punish in case of disobedience, we should dread nothing so much as to offend him, and desire nothing so much as his favour. But, nevertheless, we know, by woful experience, that this is not the nature and character of man. We see in others, and may feel in ourselves, that the Most High God, notwithstanding the right of his authority, the justice of his government, the greatness of his power, and the countless sum of his benefits, is not thought of in the world with reverence and godly fear. We provoke him daily to his face, and, as it were, bid defiance to him with our sins. “ The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider," Isaiah, i. 3; neither Israel then, nor those who are called Christians now. The sun knoweth his time of rising and setting ; winds and storms obey him ; the sea is bound to its place by a perpetual decree; all the creatures he has made fulfil his word, are subject to his will, and publish his praise by keeping to the order he has established, except men and devils. With them we are associates and confederates in rebellion against him; and, to the shame and reproach of our nature, it is here recorded in the book of truth, that “ God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that the imagination of the thoughts of his heart,” — as he was then fallen, and we are now,—" was only evil continually," Gen. vi. 5. What should be the reason of this dreadful contempt of God? Why do we thus go on from youth to old age, one generation after another, in spite of his sovereign authority, just government, uncontrollable power, and most sacred commands, to set up our own wills against him? It is because men do not, will not know him. Men foolishly and wickedly suppose that the God who made the heavens and the earth is regardless of what passes in the world, or that he is all mercy, and will not punish according to his threatenings. See, I say, whether this thought does not lie at the root of your disobedience, and harden you in an evil way. Whatever you pretend, you do not believe his wrath, and therefore it is no wonder you do not fear it. “ Who," saith the Psalmist,“ regardeth the power of thy wrath ?” meaning that the generality, make but little account of it; but that, notwithstanding, it is exceeding dreadful, and that those who set themselves in earnest to consider and regard it, can hardly come up to the height of it in thought and imagination; " for even, thereafter as a man feareth, so is thy displeasure,” that is, not less than his fears, let them be ever so great. For the transgression of the law of God