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if we thus sought the knowledge of Christ! we should soon be guided into all truth: and be made wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.
But while we thus read the scriptures, 2. Let us pray for the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
To unenlightened man the scriptures are “a sealed book;” nor, however learned he may be in other sciences, can he attain the knowledge of Christ, unless the Holy Spirit shine into his heart to give him that knowledge. If we look at a sun-dial, we may understand the use and import of the figures; yet can we not attain a knowledge of the time unless the sun shine upon it. So it is with respect to the word of God: we may understand the general meaning of the words; yet can we not receive its spiritual instructions, unless we have that “unction of the Holy One, whereby we may know all things.” The words of Christ "are spirit and life;" and a spiritual discernment is necessary in order to a just apprehension of their import. St. Paul had studied the scriptures diligently, but could never find Christ in them, till the light shone upon him from heaven, and the scales fell from his eyes. T'he apostles had been instructed by our Lord himself between three and four years; and yet could not enter into the truths which the prophets and Christ him. self had declared, till " he opened their understandings to understand the scriptures.” Nor, with all our advantages, have we any more power to comprehend his truth; for he expressly tells us, that “no man knoweth either the Father or the Son, except the Holy Spirit reveal him unto us. Hence for the attainment of divine knowledge we are directed to combine a dependence on God's Spirit with our own researches: “if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding, if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God; for the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. Let us then not presume to separate what God has thus
e 2 Cor. iv. 6.
1 Cor. ii. 14.
united, but pray with David, “ Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”
There is yet another direction, which it is of infinite importance to attend to, namely,
3. Let us guard against self-righteousness.
There is no evil, that cleaves more closely to our nature than self-righteousness. We are always wanting to be justified by some other way than that proposed in the text. Like Naaman, if some great thing were required of us, we should gladly do it; but when it is said to us, “ Wash and be clean, '“ Believe and be saved,” we turn away in disgust. The very simplicity of this fundamental truth offends us, Were we told that we must work diligently and become godly in order to obtain justification, we should think the direction safe and proper: but the scripture account of the way, of being justified is directly opposite to this: St. Paul says, that “to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness:"i and this appear's so strange that men cannot, and will not admit it. But the apostles themselves could not obtain justification in any other way, than by renouncing all their own righteousness, and by going as ungodly, and perishing sinners unto Christ, that they might be accepted through him alone. This is affirmed by St. Paul himself, who says, “We, who are Jews by nature and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."* Let us then guard against every species and degree of self-righteousness, and look for justification solely through the knowledge of Christ, and by faith in his all-atoning sacrifice.
4. Let us, however, be careful to shew forth our faith by our works.
Because we say, That we are not to work at all with a view to obtcin justification by our works, but that we must accept justification freely as ungodly and perishing sinners, must we be understood to say, That men need not to work at all, but are at liberty to continue ungodly? No, by no means. We maintain the absolute necessity both of diligence and of universal godliness: we only deny to these things the office of justifying the soul. We declare to all, that they must be daily working out their salvation with fear and trembling," and that “faith without works is dead.” Let this then be borne in mind; There is and can be, but one way of a sinner's justification before God, and that is, by the knowledge of Christ, and faith in his name: but this free salvation, so far from giving any licence for sloth and wickedness, is the strongest incentive to holiness, and the greatest possible obligation to good works. Let us then shew forth our faith by our works. In this way we may be justified by our works, even as Abrabam and Rahab were;' that is, we may evince the reality of our faith, and the sincerity of our hearts. Thus shall we assign to faith and works their proper offices, and adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
i Rom. iv. 5.
k Gal. ii. 15, 16. }
| Jam. ii. 21, 25. compared with Rom. iv. 2, 3, 6.
CXCV. THE FRUIT OF CHRIST'S DEATH AND
Isai. liii. 12. Therefore will I divide him a portion with
the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong: because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
IT is at this time, as it has also been in all former ages, an objection frequently urged against the true disciples of Christ, that few, if any, of the wise and noble emibrace their sentiments. When our blessed Lord himself mini. stered on earth, it was asked with scornful triumph, “ Have any of the rulers, and of the Pharisees believed on him?" But, if we confess, with the apostle, that “ not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble are called, we must resolve the difficulty into the sovereign will of God, who has “ chosen the foolish and weak things of the world, to confound the wise and mighty, and the base and contemptible things of the world, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.” There is, however, a period fixed in the divine counsels, when the great and mighty, as well as others, shall be. come obedient to the faith: and to that event the prophet directs our attention in the text. According to the present translation indeed the Lord Jesus is represented as divid. ing the spoil in concert with the great: but it should ra. ther be translated, “I will divide him the great for a portion, and he shall divide the strong for a spoil.”a Agree. ably to this sense of the words, we are led to view him as a victorious monarch, triumphing over all the potentates on earth, and both seizing them for his spoil, and enjoying them for his portion.
In illustrating this passage, it will be proper to consider I. The promise made to Christ.
The conversion of the world to Christ is a frequent subject of prophecy: whole chapters are occupied in describing it: we are told that the power of godliness shall one day pervade all ranks of people " from the least even to the greatest;” and that kings will account it their highest honour to be “the nursing-fathers of the church, and queens her nursing-mothers." This was fulfilled in part in the apostles' days, when many persons of rank and power embraced the truth. But it was yet further accomplished in the time of Constantine, when the Roman empire professed subjection to the gospel; and the religion of Christ became the established religion of the world. Since that time the chief princes of Europe have called themselves by the name of Christ, and wished to be esteemed his followers. It is true in. deed that far the greater part of them have only called him Lord, Lord, while they have had no desire to do the things which he commands: still, however, their very professions of regard to his name are sufficient to
See Vitringa in loc. or Bp. Lowth.
b Isai. xlix. and lx.
shew what we may expect, when God shall make bare his arm, and go forth in the chariots of the everlasting gospel, conquering and to conquer. The time shall come when “ Christ shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth; when all kings shall fall down before him, and all nations shall serve him."
But the terms, in which this promise is expressed deserve a more minute attention. The kingdom of Christ, considered as “ a portion which the Father divides unto him,” is the Father's gift; but, as “a spoil which Christ divides unto himself," it is the fruit of his own conquests. In both these views we must regard the conversion of men to Christ. None, whether high or low, learned or unlearned, ever yield themselves up unfeignedly to him, but in consequence of their having been already given to him by the Father: “ they make not themselves to differ; nor has one, more than another, aught, which he has not received.” “ As none can come unto Christ, except the Father draw them,” so none will come to him, except God have both given them to Christ, and afterwards given to themselves an inclination and desire to be the Lord's. Nor is this a mere speculative truth; it lies at the very root of all religion: we never can be duly humbled till we see ourselves destitute of all will and ability to serve the Lord; and acknowledge from our hearts, that “it is God alone who giveth us either to will or to do” that which is good. Till then, we can never in sincerity refer all the glory of our salvation to God alone: we shall, of necessity, be assuming part of it to ourselves. Our Lord expressly mentions this truth no less than seven times in his intercessory prayer, which he uttered in the presence of his disciples. What greater proof of its importance can be given? And how needful it is for us also to remember it in all our addresses at the throne of grace!
It is further noticed in the text, that the conversion of men is also a fruit of the Redeemer's conquests. As Canaan, though given to Abraham and his posterity, was to
c Ps. lxxii. 8-1l.
and John xvii.