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in the great congregation. But here he observes others go up to the table of the Lord. He considers, Christ has said, “Do this !” How is that I do vot? I am too great a sinner. I am not fit. I am not worthy. After struggling with these scruples awhile, he breaks through. And thus he continues in God's way, in hearing, reading, meditating, praying, and partaking of the Lord's Supper, till God, in the manner that pleases him, speaks to his heart, “Thy faith hath saved thee. Go in peace.”
2. By observing this order of God, we may learn what means to recommend to any particular soul. If any of these will reach a stupid, careless sinner, it is probably hearing or conversation. To such therefore, we miglt recommend these, if he has ever any thought about salvation. To one who begins to feel the weight of his sins, not only hearing the Word of God, but reading it 100, and perhaps other serious books, may be a means of deeper conviction. May you not advise bim also, to meditate on what he reads, that it may have its full force upon his heart? Yea, and to speak thereof, and not be ashamed, particularly among those who walk in the same path. When trouble and beariness take hold upon him, should you not then earnestly exhort him to pour out his soul before God; “always to pray and not to faint ;” and when he feels the worthlessness of his own prayers, are you not to work together with God, and remind him of going up into the house of the Lord, and praying with all them that fear him? But if he does this, the dying word of his Lord will soon be brought to his remembrauce; a plain intimation, that this is the time when we should second the motions of the blessed Spirit. And thus may uc lead him, step by step, through all the means which God has ordained; not according to our own will, but just as the Providence and the Spirit of God go before and open the way.
3. Yet, as wc find no command in Holy Hrit for any particular order to be observed herein, so neither do the Providence and the Spirit of God adhere to any without variation; but the means into which different men are led, and in which they find the blessing of God, are varied, transposed, and combined together, a thousand diflerent ways. Yet still our wisdom is to follow the leadings of his Providence and his Spirit; to be guided herein, (more especially as to the means wherein we oursclves seek the grace of God,) partly by his outward Providence, giving us the opportunity of using sometimes one means,
sometimes another; partly by our Experience, which it is whereby his free Spirit is pleased most to work in our heart: And in the mean time, the sure and general rule for all who groan for the salvation of God is this,-Whenever opportunity serves, use all the means which God has ordained; for who knows in which God will meet thee with the grace that bringeth salvation ?
4. As to the manner of using them, whereon indeed it wholly depends whether they shall convey any grace at all to the user; it behoves us, first, Always to retain a lively sense, that God is above all means. Have a care therefore of limiting the Almighty. He doeth whatsoever and whensoever it pleaseth him. He can convey his grace, either in or out of any of the means which he hath appointed. Perhaps he will..“. Who hath known the mind of the Lord ? or who hath been his counsellor?" Look then every moment for his appearing. Be it at the hour you are employed in his ordinances; or before, or after that hour; or when you are bindered therefrom. He is not hindcred; He is always rcady, always ablc, always willing, to save. “It is the Lord, let him do what secmeth him good!”
Secondly: Before you use any means, let it bc deeply impressed on your soul, There is no power in this. It is in itself, a poor, dead, empty thing : separate from God, it is a dry leaf, a shadow. Neither is there any merit in my using this ; nothing intrinsically pleasing to God; nothing whereby I deserve any favour at his hands, no, not a drop of water to cool my tongue. But, because God bids, therefore I do; because he directs me to wait in this way, therefore here I wait for his free mercy, whereof cometh my salvation.
Settle this in your heart, that the opus operatum, the mere work done, profiteth nothing; that there is no power to save, but in the Spirit of God, no merit, but in the Blood of Christ; tbat, consequently, even what God ordains, conveys no grace to the soul, if you trust not in Him alone. On the other hand, he that does truly trust in him, cannot fall short of the grace of God, even though he were cut off from every outward ordinance, though he were shut up in the centre of the earth.
Thirdly: In using all means, seck God alone. In and through every outward thing, look singly to the power of his Spirit, and the merits of his Son. Beware you do not stick in the work itself; if you do, it is all lost labour. Nothing short of God can satisfy your soul. Therefore, eye bin in all, through all, and above all.
Remcnibcr also, to use all means, as means ; as ordained, not for their own sake, but in order to the renewal of your soul iu righteousness and truc holiness. If, therefore, they actually tend to this, well; but if not, they are dung and dross.
Lastly, After you have done any of these, take care how you value yourself thereon : how you congratulate yourself as having done some great thing. This is turning all into poison. Think, 'If God was not there, what does this avail? Have I not been adding sin to sin? How long ? O Lord! save, or I perish! O lay not this sin to my charge!' If God was there, if bis love flowed into your heart, you have forgot, as it were, the outward work. You see, you know, you feel, God is all in all! Be abased! Sink down before him! Give him all the praise. “Let God in all things be gloritied through Christ Jesus.” Let all your boncs cry out, “My song shall be always of the lovingkindness of the Lord: with my mouth will I ever be telling of thiy truth, from one generation to another!”
THE CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART:
ST. MARY'S, OXFORD, BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY,
ON JANUARY 1, 1733.
“ Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in
the letter.” Rom. ii. 29.
1. It is thic melancholy remark of an excellent man, that he who now preaches the most essential duties of Christianity, runs the hazard of being esteemed, by a great part of his hearers, “a setter forth of new doctrines.” Most men have so lived away the substance of that religion, the profession whereof they still retain, that no sooner are any of those truths proposed, which difference the Spirit of Christ from the spirit of the world, than they cry out, “Thou bringest strange things to our ears; we would know what these things mean:"-though he is only preaching to them “ Jesus and the resurrection," with the necessary consequence of it, If Christ be risen, ye ought then to die unto the world, and to live wholly unto God.
2. A hard saying this to the natural man, who is alive unto the world, and dead unto God; and one that he will not readily be persuaded to receive as the truth of God, unless it be so qualified in the interpretation, as to have neither use nor significancy left. He “receiveth not the" words “of the Spirit ofGod," taken in their plain and obvious meaning ; “they are foolishness unto him : neither (indeed] can be know them, because they are spiritually discerned :”-they are perceivable only by that spiritual sense, which in him was never yet awakened ; for want of which he must reject, as idle fancies of men, what are both the wisdom and the power of God.
3. That “ Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter:”-that the distinguishing mark of a true follower of Christ, of one who is in a state of acceptance with God, is not either outivard circumcision, or baptism, or any other outward form, but a right state of soul, a mind and spirit reneired after the image of him that created it ;-is one of those inportant truths that can only be spiritually discerned. And this the Apostle himself intimates in the next words,“Whose praise is not of men, but of God.” As if he had said, • Expect not, whoever thou art, who thus followest thy great Master, thai the world, the men who follow him not, will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant !” know that the cir.. cumcision of the heart, the seal of thy calling, is foolishicss with the world. Be content to wait for thy applause, till the day of thy Lord's appearing. In that day shalt thou have praise of God, in the grcat assembly of men and angels.'
I design, First, particularly to inquire, Wherein this Circumcision of the Heart consists? And, Secondly, to mention some lieflections that naturally arise from such an inquiry.
1. I. I am, first, to inquire wherein that Circumcision of the Heart consists, which will receive the praise of God? In general we may observe, It is that habitual disposition of soul, which, in the Sacred Writings, is termed Holiness; and which directly implies, the being clcansed from sin, “ from all filthijess both of flesh and spirit;” and, by consequence, the being endued with those virtues, which were also in Christ Jesus ; the being so “ renewed in the spirit of our mind,” as to be “perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.”
2. To be more particular: Circuncision of Heart implies Humility, Faith, Hope, and Charity. Humility, a right judgment of ourselves, cleanses our minds from those high conceits of our own perfectious, from that undue opinion of our own abilities and attainments, which are the genuine fruit of a corrupted nature. This entirely cuts off that vain thought, I am rich, and wise, and have need of nothing; and convinces us that we are by nature “wretched, and poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.” It convinces us, that in our best estate we are, of ourselves, all sin and vanity; that confusion, and iguorance, and crror, reign over our understanding; that unreasonable, carthly, sensual, devilish passions usurp authority over our will; in a word, that there is no whole part in our soul, that all the foundations of our nature are out of course.
3. At the same time we are convinced, that we are not