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PROVING AND HOLDING FAST THE TRUTH.
REV. T. MYERS, A.M.
"Prove all things, hold fast that which is good."-1 THESSALONIANS, v. 21.
THE revelation of our God commends itself as much to the reason, as to the faith of mankind. The Bible-that book whence all ministerial instruction must be derived-was written by men inspired by God to make known his will unto the fallen. The teachings of this Book are addressed to every unit of the teeming myriads who walk this earth. It brings unto them the awful message of their ruin, and the consoling message of their restoration. It brings down to each one of us, from the throne of the Highest, the majestic announcement that we all have souls as well as bodies-that, when we have travelled onwards a few weary years through this ensnaring wilderness, there lies beyond the grave an unseen land, where the righteous of mankind shall enjoy for ever the smile of their Creator, and where the sinners of this earth shall endure for ever the flashings of his wrath.
This revelation of the will of the Highest gives us glimpses of his perfect purity, of his glorious holiness, of his relentless justice, and of his boundless love. It brings us the melancholy history of our former glory, and of our present degradation. We read what man was in the early days of creation's freshness, and what he now is after centuries of rebellion. It shews us both the almightiness of the God we have offended, and the utter hopelessness of our turning aside the sword of his justice. But the revelation which tells us that we cannot atone for sin, or robe ourselves in purity, or win back our crown, brings tidings of an atonement offered, and a righteousness wrought out, and the crown won back, and a free way of access opened up unto the mercy-seat.
And this revelation-thus given unto the sons of men in all its fulness, and in all its freeness-appeals unto them as beings of reason, as well as of feeling. Though the Almighty hath a right to command as he pleases—though he hath ever equipped his special messengers with the sanctions of sign and of wonder, that men might never be deceived in the voice of the speaker-still he hath ever invited them to scrutinize the message; he has urged them to “ things," and to "hold fast that which is good."
And if you ask, brethren, the reason why we are all bound to attend to the words of this Book, then we remind you, that to each of us there is a soul; and that this soul is a guilty and a deathless thing; that while dwelling in its earthly tabernacle, it contracts each hour fresh stains of pollution, and when it hath * Introductory Discourse at the Afternoon Lectureship.
completed its pilgrimage through life," it is appointed for all men once to die and after death the judgment." If the sinners of mankind could put off for ever this appointment to die, and kill the soul with the same weapons which will kill the body-there would be little need of proving what is good for the soul, or of holding it fast. But this judgment after death-this setting up a throne-this gathering before a judge-this passing away of the tribes of the ungodly to destruction-this calling up of the hosts of the righteous to blessedness-it is this which lays hold upon the conscience, and summons our attention to search out what is good.
It is the special duty of us who are appointed as the instructors of souls in God's revelation, to open up before the people among whom we labour the wnole oracles of God; to listen earnestly for the message of the Spirit; and then to give it forth, without pause, without fear, without compromise, and without distortion. We must add nothing to it; we must subtract nothing from it; we must not disguise it, through policy; we must not pare it down, through fearfulness. And yet, on the other hand, it does not become the ministers of the sanctuary to dogmatize with harshness, and thus to force upon mankind any system of doctrines or of duties; but rather to urge each one for himself, by every motive which can stir an accountable being to "prove all things," and then to "hold fast that which is good."
But without further preface we hasten to make that division of our subject, by which, under God's blessing, it may be rendered profitable to you all. We would lay before you, first, some few among the "all things" which may be proved "good; and, secondly, the encouragement to "hold fast" these good things when proved. And may the Lord the Spirit—the only teacher of the faithful-lead us safely away from all error, and guide us securely into all
First, SOME FEW OF THE "GOOD."
(6 ALL THINGS," WHICH MAY BE PROVED
We may, first of all, remark, that it is not our intention this afternoon to offer you any proof that the Bible is the Word of God. Not, indeed, that we shrink from the inquiry into the witnesses, so many and so mighty, wherewith the Almighty hath demonstrated that the Bible is from heaven; but because it would be impossible in a single discourse to treat the subject with the copiousness it demands. We hope to have many future occasions of explaining to you the evidences of our religion, both external and internal. Many, we trust, are satisfied on this point; they can say with David, "The Word of the Lord is tried:" they have tried it in affliction and in health-in the darkness of their sorrow, and in the full brilliancy of their joy: and they have proved it "good," and felt it precious. We must, however, assume this point this afternoon, and pass on to shew, how certain doctrines and certain duties which we deem the very corner-stones of man's salvation, may be proved to be "good," and must be "held fast as precious.
The Lord Almighty, who demands the homage of every being throughout the outspread of creation, has revealed unto us his own character. He is "the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity." He is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity," "righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." He
is “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth ;" but He will not justify the wicked, and will “ by no means clear the guilty." He is “the King, eternal, immortal, invisible"_"the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen nor can see."
He is our Creator, and we have disobeyed him. He is our King, and we have spurned his authority, defied his laws, and joined the traitor bands of the Apostate. We have ruined ourselves through sin, and have neither the will nor the power to return unto His favour. Our first father was a being of purity and holiness. No false bias swayed his will; no dark shadow corded his understanding. His was the image of his Maker in beauty and uprightness. He was free to stand, and free to fall. One test of obedience was given unto him ; but the trial, though apparently trivial, o'er-mastered him at once. and thus, by one fatal act, he tore from his brow the garland of immortality, and twined the night-shade of death around his temples. “ By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” When Adam fell, evil rushed into his soul, and defiled its faculties ; pollution invaded his body, and corroded its energies ; so that he who had been unsullied in spirit, and undecaying in frame, became instantly guilty in God's sight, subject to his curse, and meriting his wrath. And from the guilty parent has sprung a guilty race. We all, like lost sheep, have erred and strayed froin original righteousness : we have wandered far away from the regions of God's favour, and have no energies by which to travel back over the wastes of alienation.
Now these uncompromising statements, as to God's awful justice, and our own utter degradation, may be “ proved” as fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. “ But what need," it may be asked, “ to concern ourselves with these points of divinity ?" Now we undertake to shew, not only that these things may be proved true, but also that they may be proved “ good.”
You and I, brethren, are placed in this region of sin and of wretchedness, as beings of a high and a glorious destiny. While we dwell in the land on this side the Jordan of death, we may, perhaps, be ignorant of the God who made us, and of the woe in store for us : but inasmuch as this Jordan of death must be passed, and then there can be no escaping the stern sword of justice, or the keen glance of vengeance, it is “good” for the soul to prove for itself its state before God; to know the perfect purity of the law which it has broken, and the utter hopelessness of any efforts it can make to purchase forgiveness. It is "good" for the soul to experience the terrors of the law in this life, that it may escape their execution in the next life. It is “good” for the soul to feel and lament the heinousness of its guilt, that it may seek, ere it be too late, the only way of atonement. It is “ good” to know, and to feel thoroughly assured, that the Holy One and the Awful One, is also merciful and gracious; that he has devised a plan by which the guilt of sin may be washed away, and the remission of sins, offered fully and freely to every outcast of mankind.
It may be proved, on the sure warrant of inspiration, that the Father of the human family pitied us in our lost and ruined estate, and hath devised a sure plan for satisfying His own justice, and restoring man to his long-lost image of glory. “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son to die the just for the unjust ; that whosoever believeth on him should not perish
but have everlasting life." This announcement contains the very pith and marrow of the glad tidings of our salvation.
When the world by its wisdom knew not God, in process of time the Creator of the universe-the God who made every living, breathing, moving thingclothed Himself in human nature-submitted to be born of a pure Virgin (thus becoming Son of God and Son of Man)-endured the sufferings of infancy, childhood, youth, and manhood-fulfilled the law in its every tittle-worked and agony out a perfect righteousness-yielded himself to buffeting, and scorn, -atoned by his death for the sins of the whole world-became the curse, the sin-offering which your sins and mine demanded for their expiation-grappled with death, and hell, and Satan-remained awhile in the grave a conqueror at rest—and then sprung up from its cold custody by the might of the indwelling Deity-presented his human nature pure and spotless unto the Father-ascended unto his mediatorial throne; where now he lives, the Advocate of all his pilgrim followers-the Intercessor who will save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by him.
These statements, brethren, in the course of our ministrations among you, it will be our duty to prove point by point. They are far too numerous to be entered on at length this afternoon: at present we will only ask you, Is it not "good," when the soul has just caught a glimpse of its sinful estate, and of the awfulness of its offended Judge, to feel that this Judge has acted as a merciful Father; that he hath pitied it in its ruin, and provided for its rescue? Is it not "good" to feel that our sorrows and our guilt have been borne away by another, all-powerful to atone, all-able to sympathize? Is it not good to feel, that, though poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked, we have an all-prevailing Advocate with the Father, who has reconciled the world unto its God; who shed his blood for every single unit of the tribes of mankind; who hath defeated Satan; and hath thrown wide open the doors of that prison-house wherein Satan chains down the millions of our race?
When we are thoroughly convinced as to these first principles of revelation— the depth of our ruin; the alone method of our restoration; the character, offices, and work of the Mediator; the perfect Godhead and the perfect manhood of this our Surety-the slain, the risen, the crucified, the glorified; when we have listened to the tidings of this full and free redemption, adapted so exactly to the wants of every sin-burdened soul; then must we proceed most diligently to inquire, how we may each individually become partakers of the blessing. It will never advantage me to prove that a Saviour hath died for me, and a pardon is offered me, unless I know how I may seek this Saviour, and apply for this pardon. True, the door of my dungeon may be opened; but unless I Know the way to break my chain, and cast off my prison-clothes, I shall never be admitted among the citizens of the Eternal City.
The Almighty, in his Word, represents ine as by nature a criminal, through breaking his law; and hence, as a prisoner, chained down by his justice. Hence some change must pass upon my feelings, and my affections, and my character, before I can be admitted as a guest at his table. So strongly is the necessity of this change laid down in the Word, that it is called "a second birth❞—a "patting off the old man with its affections and lusts," and " new man created afresh, in righteousness and true holiness."
putting on the
Except a man
be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." By what process, then, is this change to be effected? How is this slave of sin to be transformed into Jehovah's freed-man? After representing the soul as actually dead in trespasses and sins, it cannot be called upon to stir itself in its charl-house, and lay hold by its own palsied strengtn of iite eternai.
Now, the Almighty has not left this part of the economy of grace unprovided for. The same God, who as the Father in Heaven, first loved us in the earliest days of our ruin-who clothed himself in flesh, and as God the Son paid down the ransom, abolished the curse, and won back the heritage of glory—this same God still carries on the work of free grace, and as God the Spirit undertakes the special office of acting on the wills of mankind; of enlightening their blindness; of shewing them their danger, and their refuge; of turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. This Holy Spirit addresses himself to every one who hath an ear. He is come to convince and to reprove the world, to alarm the conscience, to awaken it from its deathsleep, and to become the Converter, the Sanctifier, the Purifier, and the Comforter of the saints.
And while this One God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is thus engaged in rescuing us from death, he demands of each conditions of acceptance. He will not save us in our sins. The Father will not accept us in our polluted state: he will have us cleansed and sanctified before he will admit us into glory. And this cleansing and purifying we must obtain by putting our trust in the Great Atonement. He is exalted to give repentance and remission of sins: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." "Present your bodies," says St. Paul, " a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God," "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." By their fruits ye shall know them." "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
It may be further proved, that though the man must believe, the man repent, and the man work the deeds of love and holiness, yet God must give the faith, and the repentance, and the newness of life: so that from first to last salvation is entirely of free grace. Man is of himself unable to procure, by any merits of his own, the favour of his God: he is justified solely through the merits of his Redeemer. The Spirit unites him to that body of which the Redeemer is the Head: his faith is the instrument on his part by which he becomes united to the source of spiritual life; and his good works are necessary in proof that he does live. All pretensions to being born of God, when no fruits of love to God or man appear, when the world can discern no difference between the daily life of the ungodly and of the professor of godliness, are vain and worthless. Saving, justifying faith, must be a working, practical, and energizing thing and it must work through love: it must establish the law; it must assimilate the mind to the mind of Christ Jesus; it must go forth daily to battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil; and it must, upon the whole, win the mastery over the world; otherwise it is false, and hypocritical, and delusive. And when once the sinner has been so renewed by the Spirit, that he hath put forth his hand, and laid hold on the Rock of ages, then what tears of repentance, what sighs of contrition, what struggles against corruption, will daily be manifest! The newborn energies will grow and flourish; the process of sanctification will be