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Gospel is known. With this superior light men are still equally vain in their imaginations; and, though they do not pay an outward and formal worship to stocks and stones, they are gross idolaters; for they serve, love, and trust the creature more than the Creator. When there is a difference, it is owing to grace, and grace is acknowledged. Such will readily say, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise.'* Thus all pretence to boasting is effectually excluded; and he that can glory upon good grounds, must glory only in the Lord.
If it should be supposed that this representation of things tends to discourage a diligent and serious inquiry after truth, I answer, when rightly understood, it will have just the contrary effect. What can be more suited to excite diligence, than to point out the method in which it will assuredly be crowned with success? You cannot succeed without the light and assistance of the Holy Spirit ; but if, conscious of this, and aware of your own insufficiency, you will seek his direction and guidance by humble prayer, it shall be afforded you. If you know this, you will certainly be wearied in the end by repeated disappointments; but if you depend upon his teaching and co-operation in the use of the means he has appointed, your knowledge shall advance as the growing light.
III. This method of the divine procedure opens a door of hope to the vilest and the meanest. Let not any be cast down on account of any peculiar incapacity or difficulty in their case. If none but the wise and the learned, the rich, and those who are esteemed well-behaved and virtuous, could be saved; or if these stood in a fairer way for it than others, the greatest part of mankind might give up hope, and sit down in despair at once. But the case is exactly the reverse. It is true, the persons I am speaking of are not the worse for these distinctions, whenever they are sensible how vain and insufficient they are, and betake themselves, as poor, helpless, miserable, blind, and naked, to flee for refuge to the mercy of God in Christ. But, alas ! their supposed qualifications too often harden them to reject the counsel of God against themselves. They think themselves whole, and therefore see not the necessity or value of the physician. You who are sensible you have nothing of your own to trust to, take encouragement; the Lord has suited his Gospel to your circumstances.
1. Are ye poor? The Lord Jesus Christ has sanctified the state of poverty by taking it on himself. He had no where to lay his head. He will not, therefore, despise you on this account.
* Psalm cxv. 1.
Only pray that you may likewise be poor in spirit. He looks through all outward distinctions, and often passes by a palace to make his presence and power known in a mud-walled cottage. Perhaps he appointed this state in mercy to your souls, that you might not be distracted with many things, nor take up with a portion in this world. You cannot be in a lower or more afflicted state than Lazarus, who, while he lay neglected at the rich man's gate, oppressed with want, and full of sores, was a child of God, and the charge of angels.
2. Are you ignorant ? If you cannot read, you miss indeed a considerable advantage which you might derive from the perusal of his good word, and I would wish you to attain it if practicable. If not, give so much more diligent attention to the preaching of the Gospel; entreat others to read the Scripture to you. But especially pray. The Lord can teach you without a book, and make up for every defect. It is very possible for you to attain to know and love God, to love your neighbour, to rejoice in Christ, to keep his precepts, to be content with your station, to live by faith, and to die with comfort, though you cannot distinguish one letter from another. The prophet Isaiah, in the prospect of Gospel times, gives a description of the way of salvation, which is peculiarly suited for your comfort : “ And a higliway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.*
3. Have you been notorious open sinners? Then you are in the less danger of trusting to your own righteousness. And as to the rest, if you are sick of sin, if you sincerely desire to be freed, as well from the power as from the guilt of it, you stand as fair for salvation as the most sober and regular person upon the earth. St. Paul, speaking to those who had been partakers of the saving grace of God, after he had made an enumeration of the blackest sins which man can be guilty of, adds, And such were some of you; bu ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.'t
IV. In this way the salvatiou of believers is sure. If it depended on any thing in man, it might miscarry. Man's boasted wisdom is soon changed. A few hours of a fever, a small blow on the head, may change a wise man into a fool. “But it is of grace, to the end that the promise might be sure to all the seed.'I Adam had a stock of wisdon, yet when he was trusted with his own happiness, he could not preserve it. But the second Adam is all-sufficient. Our dependence is upon him. To those who are babes, he is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and all
*Isa. XXXV. :.
* 1 Cor. vi. 11.
Rom. iv. 16.
that they want. If this concern had been left to the wisdom of man, it is most probable that Christ would have lived and died in vain, without a single real disciple. But now the dispensation of grace is in his hands, we are sure that some will believe in him; and we are, likewise, sure, that those who truly do so shall never be ashamed of their hope.
Now, from what has been said,
1. Inquire what is the temper of your minds with regard to this appointment. Our Lord rejoiced in it as the wise and holy will, the good pleasure of his heavenly Father. If you are displeased at it, is it not a proof that you have not the mind which was in Christ Jesus ? If God wills one thing, and you will another, where must the contention end ? To what purpose, or with what pretence can you use that expression in the Lord's prayer, 'Thy will be done,' when, in effect, your hearts rise with enmity against it? This is one topic from whence we may confirm the declaration of Scripture, that man, by nature, is not only a transgressor of the law, but an enemy, yea, enmity itself, against God.* They may pay some profession of regard to the power that made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and the fountains of water, while they worship they know not what, according to their own vain and dark imaginations. But the attributes and characters of God revealed in Scripture, his holiness, justice, truth, and sovereignty, they cannot bear. They are enemies to the declared strictness of his moral government, and enemies to the methods by which he has proposed to communicate his grace. But he is God, and who can control bim? Who can say unto him, What hast thou done? You must either submit to his golden sceptre in time, or his rod of iron will fall upon you for
2, Does it not appear, from hence, that the doctrine of free sovereign grace is rather an encouragement to awakened and broken-hearted sinners than otherwise ? If you are most unworthy of mercy, and destitute of every plea, should you not be glad to hear that the Lord does not expect worthiness in those whom he saves ; but that he himself bas provided the only plea, which he will accept, and a plea which cannot be over-ruled, the righteousness and meditation of his well-beloved Son ?
* Rom. viij. 7.
OF THE PERSON OF CHRIST.
MATT. xi. 27.
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son
but the Father: neither knoweth any man the Father, sare the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
The two preceding verses have led us to consider grace (if I may so speak) in the unfathomable depths of the sovereign will and good pleasure of God. In this verse, our Lord calls us to the contemplation of his own glorious person, authority, and fulness. In him grace is treasured up, as in a repository for communication, to be dispensed to needy, perishing sin
When an ambassador is deputed from an earthly prince, to transact some concern of great importance, he produces his commission and authority, without which, all he could propose would be little regarded; and those are most honoured and attended to, who are intrusted with full powers, that is, with a liberty to act and
propose as occasions offer, without further instructions, and with full security that the king will ratify and confirm whatever they agree to, in the same manner as if he had done it in his own person. Thus (if we may presume to compare small things with great) our Lord Jesus Christ, the great messenger of the Father's love, before he invites every weary, heavy-laden sinner to come to him, with a gracious assurance that he will receive, and pardon, and save them all, he condescends, in this verse, (as it were) to open his commission, to instruct us in his own personal dignity, and to communicate to us the ample and unlimited authority which he has received from God to treat with rebels. He knows what hearts of unbelief we have ; how greatly an awakened conscience is terrified with guilt ; how busy Satan is to urge us to question either his ability or his willingness to save ; and, therefore, he would leave nothing undone that might encourage us to come to him and find rest for our souls. May his gracious Spirit enable me to speak aright, and so open your hearts to understand what may be said upon this high subject, that we may have joy and peace in believing.
The words contain a threefold declaration.
1. Of his person : 'No man knoweth the Son, but the Father ; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son.'
2. Of his authority : 'All things are delivered to me of my Father.'
3. Of his office : summarily intimated in the expression, 'He in whomsoever the Son will reveal him.'
To treat these points in their proper extent, would be a subject more than equal to the abilities and life of man. ,Much would be left unsaid at last. We cannot order our speech by reason of darkness. This is a theme fit for an angel's tongue; the most exalted angel, or all the angels in heaven, would be unable to comprehend it, for it is infinite, as our text declares. None knows the Son but the Father. Here we are too prone to think highly of our own knowledge ; but when we arrive in yonder world of light, to see him as he is, we shall be ashamed of the highest conceptions we had of him, and of our most laboured attempts to express them, while we were imprisoned in this distant land. Then we shall say, with the queen of Sheba, “Behold, the half, the thousandth part, was not told us.' In the mean time he is pleased to accept our imperfect stammerings, to assist our feeble inquiries, and does not disdain (as he justly might) to hear us take his name upon our polluted lips.
1. The inconceivable dignity of his person is pointed out by two expressions.
1. No man (or, rather, as it might be rendered here, and in many other places, No one, *) knoweth the Son, but the Father.' No one
First. Not the wisest man in a state of nature. Various degrees of knowledge there are amongst the sons of men. There is a great difference between man and man; between one who knows not bis letters, or any thing beyond the bounds of his own village ; and another who has a large acquaintance with arts and sciences, history and languages, and has surveyed the manners and boundaries of many nations. But, with regard to the knowledge of Christ, the philosopher and the shepherd, the king and the beggar, are just upon a level. Of two blind men, one may know many things more than the other ; but with regard to the knowledge of light and colours, they will be both ignorant alike.
Some of you, perhaps, think yourselves wiser than many of your neighbours. But I cannot too often remind you, that is