« הקודםהמשך »
nature and education. Besides his natural abilities, probably not inferior to those of any person then upon the earth, he had all the benefits of learning, studying at the University of Tarsus, afterwards brought up at thc feet of Gamaliel, a person of the greatest account both for knowledge and integrity, that was then in the whole Jewish nation. And he had all the possible advantages of religious cducation, being a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, trained up in the very straitest sect or profession, distinguished from all others by a more cminent strictness. And herciu he had “profited above many” others, " who were bis equals” in years, “ being more abundantly zealous ” of whatever he thought would please God, and “as touching the rightcousness of the law blameless." But it could not be, that he should hereby attain this simplicity and godly sincerity. It was all but lost labour ; in a deep, piercing sense of which he was at length constrained to cry out, “ The things which were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ : Yca, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil. jii. 7,8.)
15. It could not be that ever he should attain to this, but by the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” our Lord; or, “ by the grace of God,”-another expression of nearly the same import. By “the grace of God” is sometimes to be understood that free lore, that unmerited mercy, by which I a sinner, through the merits of Christ, am now reconciled to God. But in this place it rather meals, that power of God the Holy Ghost, which “ worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” As soon as ever the grace of God in the former sense, his pardoning love, is manifested to our souls, the grace of God in the latter sense, the power of his Spirit, takes place therein. And now we can perform, through God, what to man was impossible. Now we can order our conversation aright. We can do all things in the light and power of that love, through Christ which strengtheneth us. We now have “ the testimony of our conscience,” which we could never have by fleshly wisdom, “ that in simplicity and godly sincerity, we have our conversation in the world.”
16. This is properly the ground of a Christian's Joy. We may now therefore readily conceive, how he that hath this testimony in himself rejoiceth evermore. “Aly soul,” may he say, “ doth maguity the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceib in God my Saviour.” I rejoice in hini, who, of his own unmerited love,
of his own free and tender mercy, “hath called me into this state of salvation,” wherein, through his power, I now stand. I rejoice, because his Spirit beareth witness to my spirit, that I am bought with the blood of the Lamb; and that, believing in him, “ I am a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.” I rejoice, because the sense of God's love to me hath, by the same Spirit, wrought in me to love him, and to love for his sake every child of man, every soul that he hath made. I rejoice, because he gives me to feel in myself “thc mind that was in Christ ; ”-Simplicity, a single eye to him, in every motion of my heart; power always to fix the loving eye of my soul on him who “ loved me, and gave himself for me;" to aim at him alone, at his glorious will, in all I think, or speak, or do ;-Purity, desiriqg nothing more but God; “ crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts; ” “setting my affections on things above, not on things of the earth;"—Holiness, a recovery of the image of God, a renewal of soul after his likeness ;''-and godly Sincerity, directing all my words and works, so as to conduce to his glory. In this I likewise rejoice, yea, and will rejoice, because my conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, by the light he continually pours in upon it, that I “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith I am called ;” that I “abstain from all appearance of evil,” fleeing from sin as from the face of a serpent; that as I have opportunity I do all possible good, in every kind, to all men ; that I follow my Lord in all my steps, and do what is acceptable in his sight. I rejoice, because I both see and feel, through the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit, that all my works are wrought in him, yea, and that it is He who worketh all my works in me. I rejoice in seeing through the light of God, wbich shines in my heart, that I have power to walk in his ways, and that through his grace, I turn not therefrom, to the right hand or to the left.
17. Such is the ground and the nature of that Joy, whereby an adult Christian rejoiceth evermore. And from all this we may easily infer, first, That this is not a natural joy. It does not arise from any natural cause : not from any sudden flow of spirits. This may give a transient start of joy; but the Christian rejoiceth always. It cannot be owing to bodily health or ease ; to strength and soundness of constitution ; for it is equally strong in sickness and pain ; yea, perhaps far stronger than before. Many Christians have never experienced any joy, to be compared with that which then filled their soul, when the body was well nigh worn out with pain, or consumed away with pining sickness. Least of all can it be ascribed to outward prosperity, to the favour of men, or plenty of worldly goods ; for then, chiefly, when their faith has been tried as with fire, by all manner of outward afflictions, have the children of God rejoiced in Him, whom unseen they loved even with joy unspeakable. And never surely did men rejoice like those, who were used as “the filth and offscouring of the world ;” who wandered to and fro, being in want of all things; in hunger, in cold, in nakedness; who had trials, not only of “cruel mockings,” but, “ moreover of bonds and in prisonments;” yea, who, at last,“ counted not their lives dear unto themselves, so they might finish their course with joy."
18. From the preceding considerations, we may, secondly, infer, That the joy of a Christian does not arise from any blindness of conscience, from his not being able to discern good from evil. So far from it, that he was an utter stranger to this joy, till the eyes of his understanding were opened; that he knew it not, until he had spiritual senses, fitted to discern spiritual good and evil. And now the eye of his soul waxeth not dim: he was never so sharp-sighted before : he has so quick a perception of the smallest things, as is quite amazing to the natural man. As a mote is visible in the sun-beam, so to him who is walking in the light, in the beams of the uncreated Sun, every mote of sin is visible. Nor does he close the eyes of his conscience any more: that sleep is departed from him. His soul is always broad awake: no more slumber or folding of the hands to rest! He is always standing on the tower, and hcarkening what his Lord will say concerning him; and always rejoicing in this very thing, in “sceing Him that is in visible.”
19. Neither does the joy of a Christian arise, thirdly, from any duluess or callousness of conscience. A kind of joy, it is true, may arise from this, in those whose “ foolish hearts are darkened ; ” whose heart is callous, unfeeling, dull of sense, and, consequently, without spiritual understanding. Because of their seuscless, feeling hearts, they may rejoice even in conmitting sin; and this they may probably call Liberty !-which is indeed mere drunkenness of soul, a fatal numbness of spirit, the stupid insensibility of a searcd conscience. On the contrary, a Christian has the most exquisite sensibility ; such as he could not have conceived before. He never had such a tenderDess of conscience as he has had, since the love of God has reigned in his heart. And this also is his glory and joy, that God hath heard his daily prayer :
“O that my tender soul might ily
The first abhorr'd approach of ill;
The slightest touch of sin to feel." 20. To conclude : Christian Joy is Joy in Obedience; joy in loving God and keeping his commandments : And yet not in keeping them as if we were thereby to fulfil the terms of the Covenant of Works; as if by any works or righteousness of ours, we were to procure pardon and acceptance with God. Not so : we are already pardoned and accepted, through the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. Not as if we were by our own obedience to procure life, life from the death of sin : this also we have already through the grace of God. Us" hath he quickened, who were dead in sins ;” and now we are “ alive to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But we rejoice in walking according to the Covenant of Grace, in holy love and happy obedience. We rejoice in knowing that, “ being justified tbrough his grace," we have “not received that grace of God in vain ;' that God having freely (not for the sake of our willing or running, but through the blood of the Lamb) reconciled us to bimself, we run, in the strength which he hath given us, the way of his commandments. He hath “ girded us with strength unto the war,” and we gladly “fight the good fight of faith.” We rejoice, through Him who liveth in our hearts by faith, to “lay hold of eternal life.” This is our rejoicing, that as our “Father worketh hitherto," so (not by our own might or wisdom, but through the power of his Spirit, freely given in Christ Jesus) we also work the works of God. And may he work in us whatsoever is well-pleasing in his sight! To whom be the praise for ever and ever!
* It may easily be observed, that the preceding Discourse
describes the experience of those that are strong in faith : but hereby those that are weak in faith may be discouraged ; to prevent which the following Discourse may be of use.
ON SIN IN BELIEVERS.
“ If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.”
2 Cor. 1.17.
1. 1. Is there then sin in him that is in Christ ? Does sin remain in one that believes in him ? Is there any sin in them that are born of God, or are they wholly delivered from it ? Let no one imagine this to be a question of mere curiosity; or, that it is of little importance whether it be determined one way or the other. Rather it is a point of the utmost moment to every serious Christian ; the resolving of which very nearly concerns both his present and eternal happiness.
2. And yet I do not know that ever it was controverted in the Primitive Church. Indeed there was no room for disputing concerning it, as all Christians were agreed. And so far as I have ever observed, the whole body of ancient Christians, who have left us any thing in writing, declare with one voice, that even believers in Christ, till they are “ strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,” have need to “ wrestle with flesh and blood,” with a! evil nature, as well as “ with principalities and powers.”
3. And herein our own Church (as indeed in most points) exactly copies after the Primitive ; declaring in ber Ninth Article, “Original sin is the corruption of the nature of every man, whereby man is in his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth contrary to the Spirit. And this infection of mature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated ; whereby the lust of the fleshi, called in Greek Qgovolez ozgxos, is not subject to the law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that beliere, yet this lust hath of itself the nature of siu.”
4. The same testimony is given by all other Churches; not only by the Greek and Romish Church, bui by crery Reformed Church in Europe, of whatever denomination. Indecu somo