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because tliou art righteous, but because Jesus Christ halfi atoned for thy sins.
Again, if there be any thing good in sincerity, why dost thou expect it before thou hast Faith ?—seeing Faith itself is the only root of whatever is really good and holy.
Above all, how long wilt thou forget, that whatsoever thou dost, or whatsoever thou hast, before thy sins are forgiven ihce, it .avails nothing with God, toward the procuring of thy forgiveness? Yea, and that it must all be cast behind thy back, trampled under foot, made no account of, or thou wilt never find favour in God's sight; because, until then, thou canst not ask it, as a mere sinner, guilty, lost, undone, having nothing to plead, nothing to offer to God, but only the merits of his wcllbcloved Son, who loved thee, and gave himself for thee.
G. To conclude. Whosoever thou art, O man, who hast the sentence of death in thyself, who feelcst thyself a condemned sinner, and hast the wrath of God abiding oil thee: unto thee saith the Lord, not, "Do this,"—perfectly obey all my commands, " and live;" but, " Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." The word of Faith is nigh unto thee: now, at this instant, in the present moment, and in thy present state, sinner as thou art, just as thou art, believe the Gospel; and " 1 will be merciful unto thy unrighteousness, and thy iniquities will I remember no more."
THE WAY TO THE KINGDOM.
"Tfte kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel." Mark i. 15.
These words naturally lead us to consider, first, The Nature of true Religion, here termed by our Lord, "The Kingdom of God;" which, saith he, "is at hand:" and, secondly, The Way thereto, which he points out in those words, " Repent ye, and believe the Gospel."
1. 1. We are, first, to consider the Nature of true Religion, here termed by our Lord, "The Kingdom of God." The same expression the great Apostle uses in his Epistle to the Romans, where he likewise explains his Lord's words, saying, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Rom. xiv. 17.)
2. "The Kingdom of God," or true Religion, " is not meat and drink." It is well known, that not only the unconverted Jews, but great numbers of those who had received the Faith of Christ, were, notwithstanding, "zealous of the law," (Acts xxi. 30,) even the Ceremonial Law of Moses. Whatsoever therefore they found written therein, either concerning meat and drink offerings, or the distinction between clean and unclean meats, they not only observed themselves, but vehemently pressed the same, even on those "among the Gentiles (or Heathens) who were turned to God ;" yea, to such a degree, that some of them taught, wheresoever they came among them, "Except ye be circumcised, and keep the Law, (the whole Ritual Law,) ye cannot be saved." (Acts xv. 1,24.)
3. In opposition to these, the Apostle declares, both here and in many other places, that true Religion does not consist in meat and drink, or in any Ritual Observances; nor, indeed, in any outward thing whatever; in any thing exterior to the heart; the whole substance thereof lying in "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
4. Not in any ouhvard thing; such as forms or ceremonies, even of the most excellent kind. Supposing these to be ever so decent and significant, ever so expressive of inward things: supposing them ever so helpful, not only to the vulgar, whose, thought reaches little farther tliau their sight; bul even to men of understanding, men of stronger capacities, as doubtless they may sometimes be: yea, supposing them, as in I he case of the Jews, to be appointed by Ciod himself; yet even dining the period of time, wherein that appointment remains in force, true Religion does not principally consist therein; nay, strictly speaking, not all. How much more must this hold concerning such Rites and Forms as are only of human appointment! The Religion of Christ rises infinitely higher, and lies immensely deeper, than all these. These arc good in their pln.ee; just so far as they are in fact subservient to true Religion. Ami it were superstition to object against them, while they arc applied only as occasional helps to human weakness. Rut let no man carry them farther. Let no man dream that they have any intrinsic worth; or that religion cannot subsist without them. This were to make them an abomination to the Lord.
5. The nature of religion is so far from consisting in these, in Fornix of worship, or Jlites and Ceremonies, that it docs not properly consist in any outward actions, of what kind soever. Jt is true, a man cannot have any Religion who is guilty of vicious, immoral actions; or who does to others, what he would not they should do unto him, if he were in the same circumstances. And it is also true, that he can have no real Religion, who " knows to do good, and docth it not." Yet may a man both abstain from outward evil, and do good, and still have no religion. Yea, two persons may do the same outward work; suppose, feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked; and, in the mean time, one of these may be truly religious, and the other have no religion at all: for the one may act from the love of God, and the oilier from the love of praise. So manifest it is, that although true religion naturally leads to every good word and work, yet the real nature thereof lies deeper still, even in " the hidden man of the heart."'
6. 1 say of the Heart. For neither docs Religion consist in Orthodoxy, or Ilig/tt Opinions; which, although they arc not properly outward things, are not in the heart, hut the understanding. A man may he orthodox in every point; he may not only espouse right opinions, but zealously defend them against all oppoicrs; he may think justly concerning the incarnation of our Lord, concerning the ever-blessed Trinity, and every other doctrine, contained in the Oracles of God; he may assent to all the three Creeds,—that called the Apostles', the .Vtcffne, and the jithanasian; and yet it is possible he may have no Religion at all, no more than a Jew, Turk, or Pagan. He may be almost as orthodox,—as the Devil; (though indeed, not altogether; for every man errs in something; whereas we cannot well conceive him to hold any erroneous opinion ;) and may, all the while, be as great a stranger as he to the religion of the heart.
/. This alone is Religion, truly so called: this alone is In the sight of God of great price. The Apostle sums it all up in three particulars, "Righteousness, and Peace, and Joy in the Holy Ghost."' And, first, Righteousness. We cannot be at a loss concerning this, if we remember the words of our Lord, describing the two grand branches thereof, on which "hang all the Law and the Prophets:" "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and wilh all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. This is the First and great Commandment," (Mark xii. 30,) the first and great branch of Christian Righteousness. Thou shalt delight thyself in the Lord thy God; thou shalt sock and find all happiness in him. He shall be "thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward," in time, and in eternity. All thy bones shall say, ** Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee!" Thou shalt hear, and fulfil his word, who saith, "My son, give me thy heart." And, having given him thy heart, -thy inmost soul, to reign there without a rival, thou mayest well cry out, in the fulness of thy heart, " I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my strong rock, and my defence; my Saviour, my God, and my might, in whom 1 will trust; my buckler, the horn also of my salvation, and my refuge."
8. And the Second Commandment is like unto this 5 the second great branch of Christian Righteousness is closely and inseparably connected therewith; even "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Thou shalt love,—Thou shalt embrace with the most tender good will, the most earnest and cordial affection, the most inflamed desires of preventing or removing all evil, and of procuring for him every possible good,—Thy neighbour;—that is, not only thy friend, thy kinsman, or thy acquaintance: not only the virtuous, the friendly, him that loves thee, that prevents or returns thy kindness; but every