תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

infancy. In short, we positively declare that we will do them.

Now, the principal thing that naturally presents itself to our consideration, is, that, as we must be sensible of our weak and fallen state, how we shall be able to perform these things, or what means will be requisite for that end. And to this, the words of the catechetical reply are both full and clear, which declare, that it is by God's help, or grace, that we are able to keep this holy covenant, engagement, or condition. It remains only, therefore, that we be provided with a method of procuring that needful help: and this is likewise pointed out to us, in the never-failing direction of praying to God for it; in the assurance of which grace we are supported by this promise of our Lord himself (Matt. vii. 7): Ask, and it shall be given unto you, &c. This help, therefore, we may depend upon not being denied to us, if we heartily pray to God for it, and take care to use it as we ought to do; for it is possible to do despite to the Spirit of grace, and to grieve and resist the Spirit, after we have been blessed with some portion of it. But, to strengthen our faith and hope, and leave us without excuse, if we neglect the appointed means held forth to imperfect creatures, standing continually in need of God's aid and favour, he vouchsafes even to reason with us as to a dependence on the sure gift of his holy Spirit: (Luke, xi. 13): If ye, being evil (saith our blessed Lord himself), know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? But this portion of our Church Catechism proceeds further (as indeed seems very expedient in this part of it), to confirm us in the assurance of receiving this grace of God to enable us to believe and do what is positively incumbent upon us as Christians; and that is, that, by the sacrament of baptism, we are admitted into a stATE OF SALVATION; which properly signifies, in a fuller sense, the privileges or benefits of that covenant of grace, by which salvation is proposed to mankind, and into which God certainly never would have vouchsafed to receive any creature, if thereby he was not secure of whatever is needful on God's part to be bestowed upon it, in order to the attaining salvation through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And, indeed, this is the character given of the state of salvation by the Apostle (Rom. i. 16): The Gospel of Christ (says he) is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth. And, when he exhorts us (Philip. ii. 12, 13) to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, i. e. with a dread of falling short of the work, and an apprehension of the consequent danger; he adds, for our support and conso

[blocks in formation]

lation-For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Or, as we may apply it to this particular portion of my subject, God hath not called you to a state of salvation, without providing you with adequate MEANS to the END. Whatever holy dispositions you find in yourselves, assuredly flow from the influence of his good Spirit; for in us (that is, in the flesh) dwelleth no good thing. Whatever power you find to act up to this inward light, proceedeth from the same merciful hand; for without him we can do nothing. It remains, therefore, only for us to co-operate with these blessed effects of grace; to give all the glory to God; and not to grieve, nor resist the good Spirit that would lead us and help us by slow and sure degrees to victory; since we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us.

And here it may not be unprofitable to some of you, who, perhaps, are not so clear in the meaning and use of scriptural words and terms, to dwell a little on the signification of this word GRACE, which is so continually used in all religious instruction, and which, in truth, is a word of the greatest import to be well understood; for it is no less than the life of our souls, the invigorating principle which brings us from death to life HERE, and is to prepare us for the enjoyment of eternal glory and happiness HEREAFTER, in the kingdom of that holy Being, who now vouchsafes this blessing to his servants, and by which ALONE we can be enabled to please hiin, or qualified to stand in his presence.-Grace, then, my brethren, in the plain acceptation of the word in most languages, signifies favour shown to, or kind acceptance of, any one. This is the first sense in which we apply it, as an act of God's goodness, in receiving us in covenant with him at our baptism. In the further display of God's mercy towards his creatures, it implies a continuance of favourable influence on the human mind, by the secret and mysterious operation of the Spirit of love, or the Holy Ghost, the Comforter; whereby pious thoughts and impressions gain admittance into the mind; from whence also all holy desires, all good coun

sels, and all just works do proceed,” as our excellent Liturgy expresses it; and by which we are strengthened to go through our trial in this life, and comforted and supported under all the conflicts of our pilgrimage.--It may be received likewise (in a religious sense) as an act of pardon grantedforgiveness according to the riches

grace (Eph. i. 7); as, indeed, it is sometimes used in a WORLDLY sense, AN ACT OF GRACE being matter of free privileges or benefits conferred on those who had no right to expect them. And, lastly, it may be understood as God's help, or assistance, to his weak, dependent creatures, to persevere in their duty to him; and so

of his

good

far as, in its effect, it shows a good influence
upon the heart, it may be considered as a Chris-
tian virtue, that ingredient absolutely necessary
to keep men from falling away from all holiness:
in short, that which God in mercy holds out
to all to pray for without ceasing, both as a
gift, and as the reward of using it aright-For
whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he
shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath
not, from him shall be taken away even that
which he hath: that is, whosoever maketh
use of the least portion of the divine grace or
favour, of whatever description that may be
(whether religious talent, opportunity, or means
of improvement), he shall have more, or grace
upon grace; but whosoever is wilfully deaf to
the word, and blind to the light afforded him,
God will withdraw that measure of his grace;
he will leave him to himself, to his own natural
blindness; to have eyes, and not to see; ears, and
not to hear; and reason, without being able to
understand the true way of the Lord: in other
words, a mere unprofitable faculty, as to any
GODLY PURPOSE. And this you will find fully
illustrated by our blessed Lord himself, Matt.
xiii. 13, where he gives this very reason for his
speaking to the people in parables.

The word grace is also used in a very extensive acceptation, as we find it variously employed in numerous texts of Scripture; but for

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« הקודםהמשך »