페이지 이미지

head; and in the character, offices, and actions of "the Man, Christ Jesus," what seest thou but LOVE? It is the devil, my enemy and thine, who causes his slaves to harbour mean or hard thoughts of Me. Behold, I have revealed myself unto thee; I have shown thee what I am; and thou seest in Me, and in Me only, all that is great and good. I found thee in worse than Egyptian bondage; a slave of sin and Satan; and although thou lovedst thy slavery better than liberty itself; thy mind being perfect enmity against me; I caused thee to feel the misery and danger of thy bondage. Though I was unto thee but, as it were, an unknown God, I stirred thee up, by my secret but effectual influence, to pray and cry unto me. Thy cry came up unto me. I knew, I felt thy sorrows. My love and pity towards thee, were, and are still, great, beyond all the power of thy conception. I came with

my strong hand; my arm ruled for me.* I saved thee with an everlasting salvation; and in due time, I made thee to know it. Thou now seest hell subdued; thy soul, set free; thyself, my child; Me, thy reconciled God. Having cast all thy sins into eternal oblivion, I am thy God for ever. I have sworn it; my counsel is immutable;† and whatever thou canst need to bring thee safe to heaven, that I am engaged to give thee. It is impossible, then, that thou shouldst miscarry. I have freed thee from thy tyrants for this very purpose, that thou mayst serve Me, whom to serve is happiness itself. Do thou, then, my adopted child, thus influenced, thus encouraged, thus directed, by Me, thy FATHER, do thou hear my commandments aud do them. The difficulties that will attend thee in the way of obedience, will only attend thee during the short scene of thine earthly pilgrimage. Ere long to obey shall be thine uninterrupted and perfect element of delight to all eternity."

Sweet, paternal voice! "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."

I am well aware, that there are many real believers, led by the Spirit of holiness, who have never heard the Holy Ghost speak to their souls thus emphatically, concerning the CERTAINTY, and PERPETUITY of their happy state. Their doubts respecting the first, can only be removed by the Spirit of adoption: respecting the second, by a more liberal view than they have yet attained, of the blessings of the covenant of grace. To me, it seems most agreeable to the tenour of the Sacred writings, to describe the work of the Spirit of holiness in its best and most advanced state; for thus, unquestionably, that Spirit speaks at all times; Jeremiah xxxii. 40.

Isaiah xl. 10.

† Heb. vi. 17.

though many of the children of God hear him not; or hear him confusedly and partially. Assurance is certainly the natural result of faith; whatever hinders it, is contrary to the new nature in Christ Jesus, and should be resisted by all believers. So long as God's word is true, and Christ's salvation perfect and complete, so long there is a real foundation for assurance as to their safe state, on the part of all who have fled for refuge to the hope set before them; and it is the office of the Comforter to assure their hearts accordingly. Whenever assurance begins to be slighted, or to be described as attainable only by a few; or as not to be expected till after a long course of obedience; it is, I apprehend, a token, that a spiritual declension has already taken place. The truth is, that the very nature of many branches of holiness requires some measure of assurance, in order to the discharge of them; and therefore, since holiness itself, not that which is contrary to it, is the object of our desire; assurance, and not distrust, should be the aim and tendency of our souls; for to be without an assured interest in Christ, must imply some measure of distrust in God; though there be the elements of real faith in the soul. There would seem to be reason to believe, that men's pursuit of assurance, and consequently, their progress in real holiness itself, has been damped by the excessive cautiousness, the affectation of rationality, and the extreme fear of delusion, which some good men have indulged. I hope, then, that I shall not be misunderstood when I assert, that an habitual state of assured peace with God is the most favourable state for the operations of the Spirit of holiness. Upon this idea those operations will now be described. In proportion to the Christian's approach to such a state of assured peace will be his advance in real godliness; and therefore, there will here be sufficient room to stir men up to Christian activity; and to encourage them in it with a prospect of success.

It is remarkable, that the view of the glory of the Godhead (the radical cure of that atheism which is natural to man,) is never so perfectly obtained as under the immediate influences of the Spirit of adoption, and the personal consciousness of the great work of spiritual deliverance.* "They shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke." Under these circumstances it is, that the Christian has the clearest view of his obligation to serve God; of the excellence of the service; and of the real freedom of the soul when engaged in it; and so far is the Scripture from representing assurance of his safe state before God as inimical to the believer's growth Exod. xiv. 31.

† Ezek. xxxiv. 27.

in real holiness, or as an attainment which he is not to regard as belonging to him till after some years of holy obedience, that it describes this assurance as a thing which ought to be attained on a man's first believing in Christ; and as being, previously to a life of holiness, the genuine result of the operation of the Holy Ghost in applying the gospel to his soul. That many believers fall short of this assurance, must be owned as matter of fact; but never let it be owned, save to our shame and discredit; that we may be stirred up to the attainment of it. Let the reader candidly weigh the text, "that He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life," and he will surely perceive, that it must be under these views, that the heart of stone is most effectually taken away, and the heart of flesh given; and that the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer, a living cause of his walking in the statutes of God.+ The subjects of

these heavenly operations are, as I think, generally represented, in this and other similar passages of Scripture, as well assured, that God is even now pacified towards them; that the Lord their God is with them; and that they are his people.

We may observe several motives which will influence the believer's conduct, all naturally deducible from the view which the Preface to the Decalogue gives him of his God, and of his obligations to serve Him.

I. The generous motive of LOVE. The real Christian beholds God as he is; namely as Love: and no man ever did so, but he loved in return. Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image." The Christian, as such, needs not the aid of selfish, or selfrighteous motives of action. Love is the secret spring of his holy walk; and because unregenerate men are unacquainted with this constraining motive, they cannot see how those who are justified by the righteousness of Christ, can be secured from immorality. A little experience of the real love of God would enlighten their understanding in this matter. There is no man, I believe, whose religion is genuine and cordial, who will not acknowledge, that love brought him to that cordial obedience; an obedience to which he never could have been brought merely by the fear of punishment, or the hope of reward; though the subordinate use of these motives must also be acknowledged. How will a common mercenary servant act towards you, compared with your own loving child? He will be obedient with eye-service; but will his affections be interested for you? Would you expect him to sympathize Luke i. 74, 75. + Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. ↑ Ezek. xxxiv. 30.

with you; and to enter into your affairs with delight, beyond the mere formalities of office? You have here a faint illustration of the difference, in spirit and character, between a natural, and a converted person. The former performs some external duties, which he greatly overrates; and from which, his heart being in none of them, he is glad to escape as often as he thinks he can do so with safety. It is only the dread of hell that moves him at all; and a brief distance indeed, will that dread, generally speaking, carry any person in the way of duty. Nay, this fear of the wrath to come is actually a hinderance to the performance of many duties; for it irritates the man's natural enmity against God. Under its influence a secret despondency broods over his soul. hands hang down, and the knees are feeble; and in this, as in all other concerns, the want of confidence and courage is the foe of all activity.


To the Christian, on the other hand, God is already his own reconciled God. The sense of God's love begets love in him; and what will not love do, what will it not suffer, for the beloved object? Hence it is, that while others find nothing but difficulty in the service of God, he who loves, finds matter of cheerfulness and joy, and has his soul winged with zeal invincible. Here I may observe, that in times of extraordinary trial, love alone can support the sufferers. It was love which supported the saints commemorated in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews; and the same powerful principle, in Queen Mary's days, sustained our own martyrs even in the flames. They did more than take joyfully the spoiling of their goods; they gave their bodies to be burned; "knowing in themselves," (in seasons such as these, at least, assurance becomes needful,) " that they had in heaven, a better and an enduring substance."*

II. The knowledge of the Lord his God is effectual to prompt holiness in the believer, seeing that it produces in his soul a filial FEAR. This fear is quite distinct from the fear which hath torment. This last sort of fear has a tendency to excite a spirit of hatred against God; the other results from a knowledge of his infinite excellences; and contains in it a dread of acting in a manner unworthy of his goodness and purity, and of incurring his displeasure. This clogs and hinders obedience; that leads the soul to God. This fears hell itself, and all the horrors of implacable, vindictive wrath; that, the hidings of God's countenance, and the loss of communion with God and the Saviour; but in a manner perfectly consistent with a firm dependence on the salvation of Jesus, and a certain expectation of being kept by the power of God through ↑ Jeremiah xxxii. 40; compared with 1 John iv. 18.

* Heb. x. 34.

[ocr errors]

faith unto salvation." Thus by the joint influence of love and of fear, with a temporary, sensible predominance, sometimes of one, and sometimes of the other, according to the actual circumstances of the soul, the believer is kept in the narrow way of life, even unto the end; balanced and guarded on the right hand and on the left, against selfrighteousness, and against carnal security, not by the doctrinal schemes of men, as if the truths of God's Book needed to be qualified by our art in order to prevent their abuse, but by the Spirit of the Lord working upon his soul. The love of God is the general and leading principle of his conduct. Fear acts in just subserviency; not the slavish fear, than which no greater enemy to real godliness exists; but the filial fear which alone really destroys Antinomianism. This fear will secure his assiduous attention to all the duties which he owes to God, to his neighbour, and to himself, when love is at too low an ebb to produce its proper effects. Nothing is so dreadful to the believer as the sense of the Lord's displeasure; and when, through his abuse of God's mercies or for sovereign reasons, he is kept under a cloud, the remembrance, it may be, of the past horrors of conviction, and a constant view of the evil of sin, conjoin their influence, with the hope of the returning rays of the Sun of righteousness, to keep him in the way of duty. Adorable, indeed, is God's grace in thus preserving those who are His. Filial fear is here an active principle, till, under the returning influence of the Spirit of adoption, LOVE again takes the lead, and, amidst the utmost exertion in the discharge of every duty, cries in the heart, "Abba, Father!"

III. GRATITUDE is a principle which the Preface to the Decalogue enforces very strongly : "I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage;' who redeemed thy soul from the curse of the law, and from the tyranny of Satan; a more dreadful curse than the curse of Egyptian bondage; a more cruel tyranny than the tyranny of Pharaoh. I burst thy bonds, and have brought thee into a state of everlasting freedom, by an everlasting covenant. Pardon, peace, rest, and title to eternal life-things which thine own performances could never have procured for thee-I have given thee freely."

"Save me" thus, " and I shall keep thy testimonies!" answers the redeemed soul. The sense of the unspeakable gift kindles the flame of gratitude. "What reward shall I give unto the Lord for all his benefits?" becomes the language of the heart. Hence the believer is Psalm cxix, 146.

« 이전계속 »