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I have already faid, that our expectation is from the power and wisdom of God. May we then reasonably expect, and is it our duty to believe, that we shall receive all that we defire, and that is within the reach of divine power and wisdom? These have no bounds at all. We know that nothing is too hard for the Almighty. He doth according to his will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. This suggests to us that there is something more necessary, in order to lay a proper foundation for trust, viz. his goodness, to make our expectation probable, and his promise to make it certain. Even created beings can often do what they will not. This holds particularly with regard to God, whose power is directed in its exercise by his goodness, and limited by his wisdom. His goodness, in general, encourages us to go to him with a peradventure, or who can tell whether he may not be gracious ? But in order to make our trust both distinct and strong, we must go to his promise, “ for “he is faithful and keepeth covenant and truth for ever." Trust then, my brethren, rests ultimately on the promise. It must be precisely commensurate, or of the same extent with the promises. Whoever doubts or calls in question the certainty of what God hath promised, is chargeable with distrust; and whoever expects to receive, in kind or degree, more than he has promised, is so far guilty of prefumption. This is the general rule, and I think it carries fuch evidence with it, that every one must be sensible it is just, who hath heard it with any measure of attention.
But the great difficulty yet remains, which is, to apply this rule to the various cases that occur in the spiritual life, and to tell any particular person what it is his duty firmly to believe, and hope he shall receive from God, and what it would be presumptuous and sinful in him to fix his expectation on This is plainly of the greater importance, that the more particular our trust is, as to the object of desire, it is the more powerful a support to the mind. At the same time it frequently happens, that the more parti. cularly our desires are formed, the foundation of our hope appears the more uncertain and questionable. On this account you may observe, that it is of the greatest moment Vol. II.
to understand the nature and tenor of the promises; or rather, indeed, to explain the foundation of trust, and to explain the nature and tenor of the promises is one and the same thing.
For this end, it may be proper to distinguish the promises of God, as to futurity, into two heads, absolute and conditional. By absolute promises, in this place, I un. derstand only those that are fo in the most unlimited sense, that is to say, revealed as a part of the fixed plan of Providence, suspended on no terms but what all, of every character, may expect will certainly come to pass. Such are the promises after the flood, that summer and winter, feed time and harvest should not fail-the coming of Christ in the flesh at the fulness of time, to the ancient Patriarchs, and to us--the downfall of Antichrist--the preservation of a church on earth, let its enemies be or do what they will—the calling of God's ancient people, the Jews, and the coming of Chrilt to judge the world at the last day. Thele are all called promises in fcripture, and so far as they can be of any use to the people of God, either for direction in duty, or restraint froin fin, or consolation under trial, they are to be depended on, in the inost absolute manner, for they relt upon the certainty of the holy fcriptures, and the truth of the unchangeable God, who“ is
not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he “ Mould repent.”
Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the
voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.
AVING, in a former discourse, opened the charac
ter and state of those who are called upon, and exhorted to trust in the name of the Lord, and entered upon the second thing proposed, which was to explain the duty of trust in God, and to point out its foundation; and having in this view considered the nature of absolute promises—I proceed,
2. To consider the nature and use of conditional pro. mises. These I am obliged, for greater distinctness, to divide into three different heads,-1. There are promises made to persons of such or such a character, or in fach or such a state.—2. There are promises, the performance of which is suspended on our compliance with something previously required, as the condition of obtaining them.3. There are promises, not only suspended on both the preceding terms, but upon the supposition of some cir. cumstances in themselves uncertain, or to us unknown, Let us consider each of these with care and attention.
1. There are promises made to persons of such or fuch a character, or in such or such a state, which are, there. fore, to be applied, and relied on, according as the evi. dence of our being of this character, or in this state, is clear or obfcure. In this I have particularly in view, the blessings of salvation, the pardon of fin, peace with God, the spirit of sanctification, and a right to everlasting life. These all lie in an unbroken chain and inseparable connexion, and might have been more briefly expressed, by an interest in Christ the Saviour, who is the author, source and sum of these blellings; " for all the promises of God “ in him, are yea, and in him amen, to the glory of God
by us.” Let no judicious attentive hearer be surprised or dissatisfied, that I have ranked these among conditional promises, for you may observe that I have expressed myself thus, they are promises made to persons of such or such a character, or in such or such a state. In this, they cer. tainly differ from the promises properly absolute, mentioned above. It is far from my intention to do injury to that fundamental truth, that falvation is by grace. I esteem that doctrine which proceeds upon a self-righteous system, to be contrary to the word of God, and most pernicious to the souls of men. There is nothing at all required in fcripture to be performed by us, as a purchasing or meri. ting condition. Every gracious act of the divine government in our favor, is the fruit of the Redeemer's purchase, and every holy disposition wrought in us, is the effect of his almighty grace. But it is certain, at the same time, that in order to our accepting those blessings, we must be truly and deeply humbled, and see ourselves to be incapable and helpless. We must be unfeignedly willing to re. nounce all claim of merit, and accept of salvation as it is offered in the gospel ; that is, in its full extent, and in the free and sovereign manner of its communication. So far, surely, we must say, the promises of the gospel are conditional, or wholly pervert the word of God. I know of no promises then to the unbelieving and impenitent, unless you call that a promise, that they shall have their portion * in the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone; and that “the smoke of their torment afcendeth up for ever and
Hear it, my dear brethren, it is the needy, thirsty, sensible soul, that is invited to come and find rest. “Ho! “ every one that thirfteth, come ye to the waters; and he " that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come “ buy wine and milk without money and without price. " Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, " and I will give you relt.” If any shall think fit further to say, that the very destination of the vessels of mercy, is of God's sovereign pleasure, that conviction itself is by a day of his power, and that faith which interelis us in Christ's righteousness is his gift ; I agree to the whole, but observe that it is improperly introduced here. No use can possibly be made of the divine decree in the application of the promises. It is inverting the order of things. Can any man say, I trust in the mercy of God, because I have been ordained to everlasting life ? No man can derive comfort from this, till by his effectual calling it is published, and begins to be accomplished; and then he may look back with wonder and gratitude to that everlasting love, by which he was chosen in Christ, before the foundation of the world. Can you judge of the fruit of a tree by looking upon the root ? No, but you judge of the strength and deepness of the root, by the fulness of the fruit, and the vigor and verdure of the branches. From an improper mixture of what belongs to the secret will of God, and what belongs to us, as our duty, much error anci confusion arises.
Now, my brethren, as to the application of these promi. fes of pardon and peace, the humbled finner, the man among us who walketh in darkness and hath no lightwho is burdened with a sense of guilt, and discouraged by the threatenings of the law, the accusations of conscience, and the pure and holy nature of God; who perhaps has all this aggravated by distress and trouble, is called to trust in the name of the Lord, and stay himself upon his God. He is invited to consider and rest on the extent of the call, the immutability of the promise, and the riches of divine grace. If he is so far from pleading any merit in himself, or being dissatisfied with the plan of salvation laid down in the Gospel, that he is making every thing an argument