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praved propensities, and the power of habits and temptations. These things will render him weary of attempting to “establish his own righteousness," or to change his own nature. He will now be capable of understanding the words of the apostle : “ By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The publican's prayer, * God be merciful to me a sinner," he will now most cordially adopt ; and the nature, glory, and preciousness of the free salvation revealed in the gospel will be more and more unfolded to his view. Thus he will learn with increasing simplicity to plead the name of Christ in genuine faith; to come to the Father by him, and to rely solely on his righteousness, redemption, and mediation, for acceptance and eternal life.
In this manner the practical student of Scripture, being justified by faith, and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, will make still further progress in the divine life. The convincing and enlightening inAuences of the Holy Spirit, through the instruction of the written word, will continually discover to him defects and defilements in his dispositions and conduct, which he had not before observed. Thus while he presses forward and aspires after nearer and nearer conformity to his perfect rule, repentance, faith, watchfulness, and fervent prayer will become more and more habitual, and as it were natural to him. His heart will grow more humble, and his conscience more tender, his dependence on Christ more simple, and his gratitude for redeeming love more abundant, in proportion to the degree of his sanctification. These things will render him likewise more compassionate, tender, forbearing, and forgiving; more patient and self-denying, and more ready to encounter dangers and difficulties, in promoting the cause of Christ among his fellow-sinners.-And as no absolute perfection can be attained on earth: and such a believer deems all faulty and deformed, which does not come up to the requirement of the holy law, and the spotless example of the Saviour; so no limits can be assigned to his discoveries and progress during his continuance in this world.
This is the character described by the apostle, “ he is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work; and he shall be blessed in his doing." He is made wise unto salvation, and shall “ abound in hope by the power of the Holy Ghost :” he shall find liberty and pleasure in the ways of God; be made useful to society, and a blessing to his connections; and he shall “have an entrance administered unto him abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
No man who duly considers these things, can doubt the practical nature and tendency of the gospel. Christ is our sole foundation : but no one builds on that foundation, except he hear his sayings, and do them. The practical hearer's faith is living; he is a wise man, and this will appear to all the world, when the folly of those who build upon the sand by a dead faith, by hearing and not doing, will be exposed to universal contempt. Alas, my brethren, how numerous are such nominal Christians, “ who call Christ Lord, but do not the things that he says !" But unless the design of the gospel be answered in our hearts and lives, the gospel itself will increase our.condemnation.
Are any of you then sensible that your hearing has hitherto failed to influence your practice? Let me conjure you by the love you bear to your own happiness, not to put off the alarming conviction, by saying, “ go thy way at this time, when I have a convenient opportunity I will call for thee." It is not yet too late. “ Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." But you know not how soon the master of the house may shut to the door ; and then it will be too late to begin to say, “ Lord, Lord, open to us:” for he will silence every plea, and bid you depart as “ workers of iniquity."
But have you, my brethren, begun seriously to practise what you know, and to inquire the will of God that you may do it? Blessed be the Lord for his grace bestowed on you! Go on in this way, my beloved brethren ;
and even the most humiliating discoveries you make of yourselves, will serve to endear the gospel of salvation to you. “ Then shall you know, if you follow on to know the Lord :" “ For the path of the just shineth more and more to the perfect day.” The practice of duty will prepare your hearts for the reception of truth; by removing those prejudices, with which the prevalence of carnal affections closes the understandings of the disobedient : and every accession of spiritual knowledge will have a sanctifying, and comforting effect upon your hearts.
Finally, were we as desirous of having our souls adorned with holiness, as most persons are of decorating the poor dying body; we should certainly make continual discoveries of our remaining uncomeliness, and be thankful for assistance in such researches ; and we should make daily progress in sanctification ; by “ putting off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY, EXPLAINED AND CONTRASTED.
I CORINTHIANE, XII. 13.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity ; these three : but the greatest of these is charity.
The apostle, in this remarkable chapter, shews the Corinthians, that the most splendid and useful of those miraculous powers, which they emulously coveted and ostentatiously displayed, were far inferior in value to sanctifying grace : yea, that when united with the deepest knowledge of divine mysteries, the most self-denying liberality, and the most vehement zeal, they were nothing without charity ; and did not so much as prove the possessor to be a real Christian of the lowest order. He then describes charity, as a man would define gold, by its distinguishing properties, which are the same in a grain as in a ton; but the more a man possesses, and the less alloy is found in the mass, the richer he is. And having shewn that charity would never fail ; whereas miraculous powers would cease, and knowledge itself would be swallowed up and lost in the perfect light of heaven, he adds, “ and now abideth faith, hope, charity; these three: but the greatest of these is charity.”—It is evident, that he meant to sum up, in these three radical graces, the grand essentials of vital Christianity, to which all other holy affections and dispositions may be referred. As the word charity is now used for one peculiar expression of love, which is equivocal and may be counterfeit : it will render our discussion more perspicuous to substitute love in the place of it, it being well known that the original word is generally thus translated. I shall endeavour, therefore,
1. To consider separately and copiously the peculiar nature, exercise, and use of faith, hope, and love.
II. To shew briefly in what respects love is the greatest of the three; and how this agrees with the doctrines of justification and salvation by faith alone.
The subject before us, my brethren, is of the greatest importance, and often fatally misunderstood. Let me then beg a peculiar measure of your attention ; and let us lift up our hearts to the Lord, beseeching him to
open our understandings, that we may understand the Scriptures," and be guided into the knowledge of his holy truth.
I. Let us consider separately and copiously the peculiar nature, exercise, and use of faith, hope, and love.
We begin with faith. That peculiar act of the understanding, by which we avail ourselves of information given us by others, in those things which fall not under our own observation, and which do not admit of proof in a way of reasoning, is called faith or believing. If we credit testimony without sufficient grounds, we are unreasonably credulous: if we refuse to believe testimony which has sufficient grounds of credibility, we are unreasonably incredulous. It is therefore extremely absurd to oppose reason and faith, as if contrary to each other; when in fact faith is the use of reason in a certain way, and in cases which confine us to that peculiar exercise of our rational powers. Believing may be distinguished from reasoning, and in some cases opposed to it: but in opposing faith and reason, the friends of Christianity have given its enemies an advantage, to which they are by no means entitled.
It is evident to all observing men, that the complicated machine of human society is moved, almost exclusively, by that very principle which numbers oppose and deride in speaking on religion. Testimony received and credited directs the determinations of princes and councils, of senates and military commanders, of tribunals and commercial companies, in their most important deliberations: and did they refuse to act, without self-evidence, demonstration, or personal knowledge, all their grand affairs must stagnate. But human testimony, though often fallacious, is deemed credible : they believe, decide, and carry their decisions into execution. In the common concerns of life too, we believe a guide, a physician, a lawyer, and even those who provide our food; and the incredulous sceptic in such cases must be ruined, left to starve, or perish by disease.
But if the testimony of man be great, the testimony of God is greater." The Scripture is “ the sure testimony of God; which giveth wisdom to the simple.” 2 Tim. iii. 15–17. It relates to facts, the certainty of which God hath attested ; to doctrines he hath immediately revealed; to promises and assurances concerning the future, which he hath engaged to accomplish ; and to commands and ordinances which he hath thus enforced with that clearness and authority the case required. All these things are intimately connected with our duty, safety, and felicity; they are made known for our warning, encouragement, and instruction : faith receives the information, and this excites and directs the believer's activity. We may reason soberly and humbly concerning the evidences of revelation, and the meaning of Scripture : but when these points have been ascertained, our reasons are at an end; for either faith receives the testimony of God, or unbelief makes him a liar.
Faith, strictly speaking, is the belief of the truth ;' with the application of it to ourselves, and a perception of its importance, holiness, excellency, and suitableness to our characters and circumstances. It is the gift and operation of God : for many of the truths, revealed in Scripture, are so contrary to our pride, prejudices, and worldly lusts, that no evidence is sufficient to induce our cordial belief of them, till our minds have been prepared by preventing grace. “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." I Cor. ii. 14. True faith should therefore be sought by earnest prayer; and lively gratitude is due to God from those that have been enabled to believe.
Faith appropriates the declarations of Scripture, respecting things past, present, and future; whether they appear dreadful or desirable. The believer credits the testimony of God, concerning his own essential nature and perfections, and the righteousness of his law and govertiment. In the same
manner he obtains information respecting the creation of the world, the entrance of sin and misery,--the fall of man,—the evil and desert of sin,--the deceitfulness and wickedness of the human heart,--the immortality of the soul,—the resurrection of the body,—the future state of judgment,—and an eternal state of happiness or misery. Men may conjecture and dispute on these subjects; but faith, receiving the testimony of God with the teachableness of a child, satisfies the mind and influences the conduct, as if we saw the things believed, with our own eyes. It is therefore impossible, thus to credit these doctrines, and not take warning to “ flee from the wrath to come.” Faith must, in this case, produce fear of the wrath revealed from heaven against our sins; and as it is always accompanied with some feeble discoveries of mercy; it will also in some degree soften and humble the heart to repentance, and excite earnest inquiries after salvation.
But we are especially called upon to believe the testimony of God concerning his Son.
“ This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son: he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” The numerous and decisive declarations of Scripture on this subject, have induced some persons to speak of faith, as exclusively meaning a reception of Christ for salvation : and no doubt this is the grand exercise and use of it. Yet in fact, unless we believe many other truths of God's word, with such application to ourselves, as produces true humiliation of heart, we never can believe in the Son of God in a saving manner. We may assent to the doctrines of grace, and abuse them: but we cannot understand their nature, glory, and suitableness to our case and circumstances.
True faith simply credits the divine record concerning the person of Emmanuel; his essential and eternal deity, and his voluntary incarnation that he might be our Brother and Surety, God manifest in the flesh; his obedience of infinite value, and the atoning sacrifice of his death upon the cross ; his resurrection, ascension, and intercession in the presence of God for us ; his several offices of Prophet, Priest, and King ; and all the various parti, culars, concerning his power, truth, love, fulness of grace, mediatorial au. thority, and future coming to judgment. This belief cannot be separated from a cordial compliance with his invitations, a thankful reception of him in all his characters and offices, an habitual dependence on him for salvation, and a constant application for all the blessings purchased by his sufferings and death. Thus we spiritually “ eat his flesh and drink his blood; which are meat indeed and drink indeed :” and thus 'we feed on him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving.'
“ To you that believe he is precious.” In proportion to the degree of our faith, Christ becomes to us “ the pearl of great price ;” and we grow more and more solicitous, lest we should come short of him and his salvation. This renders us decided in renouncing other confidences, “counting all but loss, that we may win Christ, and be found in him ;” diligently using all the means of grace, observing the directions given us, and making every sacris fice necessary for the securing of this main concern. Joyful hope will ania mate us with most lively gratitude. Advancing knowledge and matured experience will render our dependence more simple ; and receiving continually from the fulness of Christ the supply of all our wants, he will become more and more glorious in our eyes and precious to our hearts; while increasing sanctification, and abundant diligence in the work of the Lord, will enhance our sense of obligation, without in the least deducting from our simplicity of reliance on him as our “ wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."-'We are crucified with Christ; nevertheless we live : yet not we, but Christ liveth in us; and the life that we live in the flesh, we live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.” Gal. ii. 20.
True faith has likewise respect to the exceeding great and precious promises of Scripture. These are sure testimonies of God, ratified by all the engagements of the new covenant, in the blood of the great Mediator; and
the promised blessings belong exclusively to all true believers, though they cannot always perceive their
own title to them. The doctrines and promises of Scripture relate very much to the person, offices, and influences of the Holy Spirit. If then we truly believe these divine testimonies, with application to our own wants, and perceive the value of these life-giving, illuminating, sanctifying, and comforting influences ; we shall certainly apply for them, and depend on them continually. Thus we shall believe in the Holy Ghost, and honour him together with the Father and the Son, as the triune God of our salvation." Faith is likewise the evi. dence of things not seen." It perceives the hand of God, and hears his voice, in all the varied events of providence : it realizes his holy, heartsearching, and gracious presence in all places: it penetrates invisible things; lays heaven and hell open to our view : contemplates the world of good and evil spirits, with which we are surrounded; and looks forward to judgment and eternity, as just at hand. Thus it supplies the want of sight and sense.
“We endure, as seeing him that is invisible.” “ We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” We set God efore us in our daily conduct and conversation: we perceive his special presence with us in his sacred ordinances; we speak to him in prayer and praise; we hear his word of instruction and direction ; we have “ fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ ; we walk with God by faith ;" we stand, we war, we run, we obey, and endure by faith ; believe ing, we rely on God for strength, help, protection, support, and comfort according to his word; and thus are emboldened and enabled to face danger, resist temptation, renounce the world, bear the sharpest sufferings, and persevere in the hardest services to which we can be called. Heb. xi.
It is evident that faith alone can answer these purposes ; and that no other grace of Christianity, however excellent and necessary, can supply its place. Faith alone can appropriate the instructions of Scripture ; form our union with Christ, that we may be “ made the righteousness of God in him;" seek supplies of every blessing from his fulness ; rely on the faithfulness of God for the performance of his promises ; supply the want of sight, and give nearness and certainty to invisible and eternal things. But it is also evident that an assent to certain historical facts, or a set of inactive notions, or a groundless confidence of the divine favour, cannot be the faith of which such things are spoken. For this is a living and operative principle: it calls forth fear, hope, desire, aversion, love, gratitude, and every other affection of the soul, into most vigorous and abiding exercise ; and by their combined or varied energies overcomes the world, the flesh and the devil ; fights a good fight, and obtains a most honourable victory.
We proceed next to consider the peculiar nature, exercise, and use of Hope.
Hope is the expectation of future good, real or supposed. We may behieve and expect what we dread and would escape: we may desire, what we despair of obtaining : but we hope for those things alone, which we desire and in some measure expect. In one form or other it is the chief solace of human life: no man is happy at present; but all hope for happiness, and pursue it according to their different notions. The hope and pursuit af. ford some pleasure, and keep the mind from preying on itself : but disappointment is certain to all who seek happiness in worldly things, whether they be prosperous or unsuccessful in their projects. There is also a reli. gious hope, which is no less delusive, and even more certainly fatal: because the mistake is not discovered till it is too late to make a wiser choice. A warranted hope of happiness in the favour of our God, is, however, secure from disappointment, and ensures present support and everlasting felicity. The apostle exhorts us to “ be ready always to give an answer to every man, that asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us." 1 Pet. iii. 15, 16. But, while almost all we meet avow a hope of being saved, there are very