« ElőzőTovább »
abound in the work of the Lord, while your day lasts. Never let him find you idle, but always busy in doing good. Do not you sleep, as do others; but watch and be sober. God has distinguished you with his grace, above thousands of his eminent servants ; and this lays you under peculiar obligations of duty to him :-Which leads me to add,
H. That the dispensation of the gospel is a day, which good men under former dispensations earnestiy desired a sight of.
The most that they generally knew was, that religion should be much improved, and the world receive great advantage; by some illustrious person that should arise ;-and they desired themselves to share in that improvement and advantage. They had a general persuasion that God was reconcileable ; but, O! to know the person bý whom, and the manner in which this reconciliation was to be brought about! They had many intimations that it was to be brought about by sacrifice, or the offering up the innocent for the guilty ; but they wanted nearer views of this great mystery. They trad ordinances of worship divinely institut ed; but these were so expensive, burdensome, and comparatively carnal, that it is no wonder they looked forward with eager eyes to tlie time of reformation, when a more easy, spiritual and noble method of worship would be introduced : they hoped for happiness beyond the grave, and believed a future state of rewards and punishments; but the sanctions of the dispensations under which they lived, consisted so much in temporal rewards and punishments, as to render those of the world to come less clear and affecting: -No wonder then they longed for gospel day, by which life alone and immortality are brought fully to light, and all doubts and suspicions entirely removed. In short, so much darkness, uncertainty and perplexity, attended many things of great importance, that are now clearly revealed, that it was natural and ünavoidable for every gond man that was concerned to please God; and enjoy his favour, to desire farther satisfaction, and look forward with eager eyes to the rising Sun, which should cast a divine light upon these interesting secrets.
Now this happiness, which they so ardently desired, we enjoy : and shall we make light of it, and neglect to improve our pecu• liar privileges ? How would Abraham have rejoiced to hear what tve hear this day, and sit down at the sacred table, which is now prepared for us! And shall we dare to neglect it, or attend upon it in a languid, careless, irreverent manner!. Abraham would VOL. II.
have willingly exchanged his personal converse with Jehovah, and all his privileges as the patriarch of the Jewish church, for the privilege of the meanest christian among us. And shall not we esteem and improve what he esteemed so very highly, and longed tor so ardently ! Brethren, if we do not all crowd into heaven in a body, it is our own fault in a peculiar degree. Our external advantages for religion are greater than those of Abraham, the friend of God ; than those of Moses, who conversed with him face to face, as a man with his friend ; of David, the man after God's own heart ; and of the many thousands that entered the gates of heaven, before Jesus left it to make his appearance in our world. And did they obtain salvation by a Redeemer so little known, and
of us perish, when he is so clearly revealed to us, and so explicitly proposed to our acceptance ? God forbid! Whatey. er became of sinners in Canaan, or Greece, or Rome, where they had prophets or philosophers, but no Jesus to shew them the path of life, O ! let sinners in Hanover press into the kingdom of heaven. For shame, let them seek salvation, lest Jews and heath, ens, and all the world, rise up in judgment against them. But I observed from the text,
IIL That, good men earnestly desire clear discoveries of Christ and his gospel.
This was not peculiar to Abraham and the Old Testament saints, but it is common to all good men in all ages and countries : and if you belong to their number, this is your disposition. 0! how you long to know more of Jesus, and dive deeper into the mysteries of his gospel! How are you mortified and grieved for your ignorance! And how sweet is every beam of heavenly light, that breaks in upon your minds, and discovers more of the glory of Christ to you, and the wonders of his gospel! This was your end (was it not?) in coming hitherto-day; and for this end you intend to sit down at his table, even that you may see the Lord Jesus in an advantageous point of view by faith, and be more charmed with his glories? Is not this what you desire and long for? Well, for your comfort, I can assure you,
IV. That these desires shall be accomplished.
Abraham desired to see Chrisi's day, and he saw it ; his de. sires were fulfilled. And he was not the only one to whom divine veracity performed its promise, and divine goodness bestowed its bounties. No, the same blessing has been conferred upon
every soul, in every age and country, that, like him, earnestly desired Jesus Christ. This desire pre-supposes a deep sense of our guilt and depravity, and of our inability to make atonement for our sin, or to sanctify our nature, and prepare ourselves for heaven, that region of perfect holiness: and it also implies a general conviction of the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ, and his suitableness to our case. Desires proceeding from such a sense of conviction, are lively and operative, and will set us in action to obtain the thing desired. They are not lazy inactive desires, which persons profess, and yet remain all the day idle, and never exert their utmost strength in earnest endeavours to obtain an interest in Christ, as their supreme good and highest happiness. Such active desires are connected with the promises of eternal veracity, which almighty power will certainly perform. Therefore, fear not, ye that seek Jesus who was crucified. You shall not always pine away with hungry, eager desires and pantings for him, but your utmost wishes shall be accomplished, in the enjoyment of the good you desire. And if ever you have had any experience in this case, I need bardly tell you,
V. That the accomplishment of these desires affords great joy.
Abraham had his desire of seeing Christ's day fulfilled ; and it inspired him with joy : he saw it and was glad. How transporting, to view the glory of God shining in the gospel ! to contemplate the love, the grace, and all-sufficient fulness of Jesus ! to feel the lively emotions of proper affections towards him, and all those heavenly exercises of mind, which attend the sight of Jesus Christ in the gospel! What is heaven, but the day of Christ ; a brighter day indeed, but enlightened by the same sun that shines in the gospel ; the glory of God enlightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. Rev. xxi. 23. Therefore as much as you enjoy of this sacred light, so much of heaven do you enjoy on earth.
And now, to conclude.--You have heard of Jesus Christ, and of the disposition of Abraham, and all good men towards him. But is not this all mystery and unintelligible talk to some of you? You never have experienced any thing like it. And can you ex. pect salvation from a neglected unknown Saviour! Or are you able to save yourselves without him ! Alas ! both are impossible. Therefore, my brethren, this day admit the conviction of your guilt and danger, be thoroughly convinced of your own unworthipess of salvation by natural means, or the guidance of your own wisdom, pray earnestly for spiritual help from above, in and through a glorious and all-powerful Mediator, and never be easy till you get out of darkness into day.
As for the children of light, let them surround the table of their Lord, and there place themselves under the warm enlivening beams of the Sun of righteousness.
THE LAW AND GOSPEL.
'GAL. III. 23.-But before faith came, we were kept under the law,
shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
IN such a time of general deadness and security as this, it may really afford me painful perplexity what subject to choose. Now this and dow that occurs to my mind, and engages my thoughts to pursue it for a while; but after many Auctuations and perplexities, I have at length fixed upon this text, and determined to open to you the nature of lhe Law and Gospel, and your concern with each of them : and I have this encouragement, that this may be styled an Apostolic subject, by way of eminence, and is that very doctrine which did such mighty execution among the Jews and Gentiles, and converted thousands to the faith of Christ, upon the first publication of christianity. The Law and Gospel were the grand topics of St. Paul's preaching, if we inay judge of his sermons by his Epistles; for in his Epistles, particularly those to the Romans and Galatians, he insists at large upon these subjects. These may also properly be called the doctrine of the reformation froni Popery ; for no sooner did that sacred light dawn, than it began immediately to clear up the nature and the difference between the Law and the Gospel, and the condition of mankind as under the one or the other of these constitutions, Luther, in particular, made this the great scope of his preaching and writings; and he wrote an excellent commentary upon this epistle to the Galatians for this very purpose, And who knows but such a subject as this, which has been the ancient weapon for demolishing the kingdom of Satan, and wounding impenitent hearts, may do some execution, through the divine blessing, even when managed by my unskilful hand? Be the event what it will, in the name of the Lord, I would make the attempt.
I shall be the shorter at present, in explaining the text, because the whole of the following discourse will tend to reflect light upon it.
Faith, in my text, and in sundry places in this epistle, seems to have a complex signification ; it signifies the object of faith, revealed in the gospel, or the method of salvation through faith in the righteousness of Christ ; and it also signifies the grace of faith in the soul, or a hearty compliance with this way of salvation, so that this expression, before faith came, refers to the time before the doctrine of faith was revealed in the gospel to the Galatians, and before the grace of faith was wrought in their hearts. Here it may be proper to observe, that the members of the primitive church in general, and particularly that in Galatia, were brought under the gospel dispensation, and embraced the doctrine of the gospel by faith at one and the same time. But they were not like us, educated under the gospel dispensation ; for part of them had been Jews, educated under the Mosaic dispensation, which by way of emilience is frequently called the Law; and, as they were under the legal dispensation, they were generally under the influence of a legal spirit ; that is, they sought for justification by their own works of obedience to that law.
Another part of them had been educated Heathens, and were destitute at once of the revelation of the gospel, and of faith in it. Of this sort the generality of the Galatians had been. And yet St. Paul represents them also as having been under the law, not the Jewish or Mosaic law, which the Gentiles had no concern with, but the law of nature, which is universally binding upon all mankind. And as they were under this law, they were also possessed of a legal spirit ; that is, they sought salvation by their own obedience to it, as the only way which they knew, and which was natural to them. But, when the gospel dispensation was set up in the world, and the doctrine of faith preached to them, they immediately believed, and so were freed from the outward dispensation of the law, and from a legal spirit, at once ; and they heard the doctrine, and received the outward dispensa, tion of the gospel, and savingly believed, " at one and the same time." Hence the apostle speaks of their being delivered froin the dispensation of the law, and from a legal spirit, and of their being brought under the gospel dispensation, and cordially be, lieving the gospel doctrine, in the same language " as one and