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things," seeing ye know He will come and will not tarry, "be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." Why should ye not? Why should one of you be found on the left hand, at his appearing? He willeth not that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance; by repentance, to faith in a bleeding Lord; by faith, to spotless love, to the full image of God renewed in the heart, and producing all holiness of conversation. Can you doubt of this, when you remember, the Judge of all is likewise the Saviour of all? Hath he not bought you with his own blood, that ye might not perish, but have everlasting life? O make proof of his mercy, rather than his justice % of his love, rather than the thunder of his power! He is not far from every one of us: and he is now come, not to condemn, but to save the world. He standeth in the midst! Sinner, doth he not now, even now, knock at the door of thy heart? O that thou rriayest know, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace! O that ye may now give yourselves to Him who gave himself for you, in humble faith, in holy, active, patient love! So shall ye rejoice with exceeding joy in his day, when he cometh in the clouds of heaven!
THE MEANS OF GRACE.
"Ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them." Malaclii iii. 7
1. I. Bur are there any Ordinance.? now, since life and immortality were brought to light by the Gospel? Are there, under the Christian dispensation, any Means ordained of God, as the usual channels of his grace? This question could never have been proposed in the Apostolical Church, unless by one who openly avowed himself to be a heathen; the whole body of Christians being agreed, that Christ had ordained certain outward means, for conveying his grace into the souls of men. Their constant practice set this beyond all dispute; for so long as " all that believed were together, and had all things common," (Acts ii. 44,) "they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the Apostles, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Ver. 42.)
2. But in process of time, when "the love of many waxed cold," some began to mistake the means for the end, and to place religion, rather in doing those outward works, than in a heart renewed after the image of God. They forgot that "the end of" every "commandment is love, out of a pure heart," with "faith unfeigned;" the loving the Lord their God with all their heart, and their neighbour as themselves; and the being purified from pride, anger, and evil desire, by a "faith of the operation of God." Others seemed to imagine, that though religion did not principally consist in these outward means, yet there was something in them wherewith God was well pleased, something that would still make them acceptable in his sight, though they were not exact in the weightier matters of the law, in justice, mercy, and the love of God.
3. 11 is evident, in those w ho abused them thus, thoy did not conduce to the end for which they were ordained: rather, the things which should have been for their health, were to them an occasion of falling. They were so far from receiving any blessing therein, that they only drew down a curse upon their head; so far from growing more heavenly in heart and life, that they were two-fold more the children of hell than before. Others, clearly perceiving that these means did not convey the grace of God to those children of the Devil, began, from this particular case, to draw a general conclusion, That they were not means of conveying the grace of God.
4. Yet the number of those who abused the ordinances of God, was far greater than of those who despised them, till certain men arose, not only of great understanding, (sometimes joined with considerable learning,) but who likewise appeared to be men of love, experimentally acquainted with true, inward religion. Some of these were burning and shining lights, persons famous in their generations, and such as had well deserved of the Church of Christ, for standing in the gap against the overflowings of ungodliness.
It cannot be supposed, that these holy and venerable men intended any more, at first, than to show that outward religion is nothing worth, without the religion of the heart; that "God is a Spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth ;•" that, therefore, external worship is lost labour, without a heart devoted to God; that the outward ordinances of God then profit much, when they advance inward holiness, but, when they advance it not, are unprofitable and void, are lighter than vanity; yea, that when they are used, as it were, in the place of this, they arc an utter abomination to the Lord.
5. "Yet it is not strange, if some of these, being strongly convinced of that horrid profanation of the ordinances of God, which had spread itself over the whole Church, and well nigh driven true religion out of the world,—in their fervent zeal for the glory of God, and the recovery of souls from that fatal delusion,—spake as if outward religion were absolutelynothing, as if it had no place in the religion of Christ. It is not surprising at all, if they should no? always have expressed themselves with sufficient caution; so that unwary hearers might believe they condemned all outward means, as altogether unprofitable, and as not designed of God to be the ordinary chan* ncls of conveying his grace into the souls of men.
Nay, il is not impossible, some of these holy men did, ;n length, themselves fall into this opinion: in particular those who, not by choice, but by the Providence of God, were cut off from all these ordinances; perhaps wandering up and down, having no certain abiding place,or dwelling in dens and caves of the earth. These, experiencing the grace of God in themselves, though they were deprived of all outward means, might infer that the same grace would be given to them who of set purpose abstained from them.
6. And experience shows how easily this notion spreads, and insinuates itself into the minds of men; especially of those who are thoroughly awakened out of the sleep of death, and begin to feci the weight of their sins a burden too heavy to be borne. These are usually impatient of their present state; and, trying every way to escape from it, they arc always ready to catch at any new thing, any new proposal of case or happiness. They have probably tried most outward means, and found no case in them; it may be, more and more of remorse, and fear, and sorrow, and condemnation. It is easy therefore to persuade these, that it is better for them to abstain from all those means. They arc already weary of striving (as it seems) in vain, of labouring in the fire; and arc therefore glad of any pretence to cast aside that wherein their soul has no pleasure, to give over the painful strife, and sink down into an indolent inactivity.
II. 1. In the following Discourse, I propose to examine at large, Whether there are any Means of Grace?
By Means of Grace I understand outward signs, words, or actions, ordained of God, and appointed for this end, to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men, preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace.
I use this expression, Means of Grace, because I know none better; and because it has been generally used in the Christian Church for many ages,—in particular by our own Church, which directs us to bless God both for the means of grace and hope of glory, anil teaches us, that a Sacrament is "an outward sign of inward sracc, and a means whereby we receive the same."
The chief of these Means arc Prayer, whether in secret or with the great congregation; Searching the Scriptures; (which implies reading, hearing, and meditating thereon;) and Receiving the Lord's Supper, eating bread and drinking