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yourselves with lamentations. If you cannot do this with all the joy that you would, do it as well as you
You have many mercies; God demands the tribute of gratitude for them; and whilst you are paying it, your trust in him will be more confirmed, and thanksgiving will excite thankfulness in your heart. In your meditations, confine not yourselves to your own distempered hearts, but dwell much on the ineffable mercy of God; on the unmeasura
! ble compassion of the Saviour ; on the love displayed in redemption; on the perfection of his merits, and of the covenant sealed with his blood; and on the full and free salvation which hath been accomplished, and which is offered to all who do not obstinately refuse it. While you frequently muse on these and similar subjects, your hearts will burn within
will be enabled to rejoice in God. In your conversation, do not accustom yourselves to complaints and lamentations : reserve these for your secret counsellors and friends. To speak of your fears perpetually, will only nourish your melancholy and discourage others : but converse of the love of God; of the riches of grace; of the preciousness of the Saviour. This will animate and enliven you.
5. Be not unacquainted with your own hearts; eramine them, to see the marks of conversion, and to “ make your calling sure” to yourselves. Whilst on the one hand you guard against presumption, on the other, suffer not Satan to blot your evidences; and do not, by a false humility, rob God of the glory due for his renewing grace: instead of at once listening to your fears and doubts, and relinquishing all hope, come to the word and to your consciences, enlightened by the Spirit, and make an impartial examination.
6. But do not confine yourselves to this self-examination; be also engaged in active duties ; many persons remain year after year, looking only at them
, selves, and still uncomfortable. Instead of this, be engaged in active duty, and add grace to grace. The growing and fruitful Christian, will be a comfortable one; a degree of peace and satisfaction will follow every good action; and your graces, acquiring maturity, will shine by their own light.
Do you say, “I have endeavoured to do all this, but I still fear lest I be not interested in the favour of God; I still doubt of the sincerity of my faith and other graces? If so; now, this day, this moment, terminate your doubts by giving yourselves up to Christ. You know not whether you have hitherto been a true believer; but you know that Christ is this moment offered to you; that he is ready to receive, to pardon, and bless you. Consent to the terms of the covenant; accept the offer; and you are certain that
he is yours.
Use these and similar means prayerfully, and in humble dependence upon the Lord; and then, though you have “ sown in tears, you shall reap in joy."
MATTHEW xviii. 7.
Wo unto the world because of offences ! for it must needs
be that offences come ; but wo to that man by whom the offence cometh!
The apostles, to whom these words were addressed, found the fulfilment of them in the whole course of their ministry. Every where they met with opposition to the gospel, sometimes from the schools of the Gentiles, and sometimes from the synagogues of the Jews. When, notwithstanding all opposition, Christian societies were formed by them, new offences rose in the very bosom of these churches, and the apostles saw, with pain, disputes, heresies, divisions; they were witnesses of the apostacy of many, and beheld churches that had received the
gospel with joy corrupted by false teachers. It was to prevent them from being surprised by such events, and to fortify them in such trials, that our Saviour uttered the prediction and denunciation in the text.
But was it only to the apostolic age that Jesus had reference? Is it only to the combination of Jews
and Gentiles against the rising gospel? Is it only, to the Hymenenses, the Ebions, the Cerinthuses, who then troubled the church, that the text is applicable ? No, my brethren; it also is addressed to us, and from it we may derive the most solemn and important instructions.
The word offences, not only in the text, but also in by far the greater number of passages in the New Testament where it occurs, is used to signify those hindrances to piety and inducements to sin which some men lay in the way of others. The original term primarily denotes stumbling blocks, and means, when used in a moral sense, “ whatever actually makes or has a manifest tendency to make men fall, or be remiss in the ways of duty.” Whatever is calculated to lead them into error or vice, to seduce them from the true faith, to weaken in them the fear of God and the love of religion.
In the further consideration of this text, let us,
I. Inquire why " it must needs be that offences come."
II. Examine what are the chief offences against which we should guard.
III. Illustrate the propriety of the double wo denounced by our Saviour.
I. Let us then inquire why " it must needs be that offences,” obstructions in our path to heaven, seductions to sin, occasions of falling, must “come.”
1. Not from any defect or fault in the gospel of the Redeemer. On the contrary, when we consider the beauty and excellence of this system, the love that it breathes, and the charity that it displays, the sublimity of its doctrines, the purity of its precepts, the grandeur of its motives, the sweetness of its consolations, the tenderness of its promises, the majesty
and glory of the prospects that it unveils to us, the firmness of its proofs, and its evident tendency to promote the happiness of individuals and communities; we should at first suppose that none would ever be found who could endeavour to obstruct its progress, or hinder its efficacy.
2. Not that God necessitates men to lay before others these hindrances in the path to heaven, and these encouragements to sin. He is a God who hateth iniquity, and who calls us to holiness. He has given his Son to save us from our sins, and he offers to us the riches of his grace. Yet he foresaw that, notwithstanding this his goodness, unless he continually interposed his almighty power to prevent offences from arising, they must come: and this, no doubt, for reasons infinitely wise, he determined not to do.
3. Why then must“ it needs be that offences come?” A sufficient answer to this question is given in our Saviour's words to Nicodemus: “ Light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” It is the very excellence of the gospel, not any defect in it, that causes men to oppose it, and offences to come. Had it been announced only to angels, to saints, or to men without prejudices or unholy passions, it would never have met with opposition. But it is too pure and spiritual to suit corrupted and carnal man: it forbids indulgences which he loves; it requires duties not conformed to his taste and disposition; it too strongly enforces those obligations to God which he endeavours to forget; it too plainly presents that judgment-bar at which he shudders; it too terribly reveals the wrath of God against all unrighteousness and ungodliness; and it too impressively exhibits to