Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

(2.) That a true Christian's struggle is against all sin, every thing which is discovered by him to be sin, of whatever sort it be, whether it be of those which are more gross or more subtile, those that are brought to the light by some external action, or those that are in the soul or spirit only : thus the psalmist : Psalm cxix. 128, “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way." Hence the struggle of the true Christian is against unbelief, the actings and workings of self in the various shapes which it assumes, and against predominant idols. But the struggle of others is confined to the grosser kinds of sin, and is never taken ap against all known sin, but only against some one last or other, which has often at length a respite given to, or rather league concluded with it. A hypocrite gives evidence that the cause of this war is not a natural antipathy, as in the true Christian, but an accidental quarrel.

(3.) The Christian's struggle tends to the mortification and extirpation of sin, the plucking up of it by the roots, the destroying of the tree with its fruit, Gal. v. 24. It tends to no less than the perfection of sanctification, and the utter abolition of sin as the cause of this war. This the new nature lusteth and longeth after, and cannot be satisfied to lay down the sword while there is a Canaanite in the land; and since it is not obtained in this life, the war is continued till death make the sword drop, and victory is obtained : Phil, iii. 13, 14, “ Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The other is not so violent, but strives only to repress certain lusts which are troublesome or dishonourable.

(4.) The Christian's struggle prevails, to the constituting of the babitual course of his life, a holy course. This is the chief strain in which he runs on, although mixed with many slips, John iii. 9, 10; 80 that he has that noble testimony with the apostle, “that with simplicity, and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world,” 2 Cor. i. 12. But the other still lives a life habitually unholy.

(5.) The Christian's struggle is betwixt a new and gracious quality in the will, and the old corrupt inclinations, its neighbours there, whose reign is broken, though their molestation still continuo; Gal. v. 17, “ For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” But the struggle of the hypocrite is betwixt his will and his partially enlightened con

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

science, which takes up the cudgels against the corrupt will, and fights against it with the fire and terror of a holy law; or, at most, between a slight inclination of the will, and the reigning corrupt inclinations. There is farther to be considered,

3. That a person may be in great concern about his state, and yet be but a Christian only in the letter. How is it possible that men living under the clear light of the gospel, can but have some touches of this ? Felix was so troubled with it, that he trembled, Acts xxiv. 25. Simon Magas, Acts viii. 24. Conversion begins here in the work of conviction; but oftentimes it stops here, and goes no farther, Hos. xiii. 13. But I will say more than this : a person may have such an exercise on his spirit about his state, and it may be carried on from one step to another, in so much that, in his own eyes, and the eyes of others, it may be taken for the work of conversion, and yet after all he be a Christian only in the letter, and not in the spirit.-Thus, for instance,

(1.) He may have a law-work on his spirit, and yet may be no true Christian. Had not Pharaoh and Felix deep conviction ? and was not Judas stung and pricked at the heart under the sense of his guilt ? Legal qualms of conscience may fill a man with terrors, sorrow, and anxiety, on account of sin, who notwithstanding is never brought to Christ. The apostle tells us, Gal. iv. 24, that "the law gendereth to bondage.” The covenant of works bringeth forth children; but they are only bond-children, that is, slaves, not sons, in their obedience to God. There are many pangs of conscience in the world, which, though they may be taken for pangs of the new birth, are nothing other than pangs of the second death. The matter lies here : either the wound which the hypocrite gets, is over deep, as is the case when it drives the person to atter despair, as it did Judas, so that he neither closed, nor pretended to close, with Christ; or else it is not deep enough, so that the work is marred, being but superficial; and he is like the person who, without a foundation, built his house upon the sand, and the storm, whenever it arose, swept it away, Luke vi. 48. Betwixt these two extremes, in the middle way, the work is carried on for making a Christian in spirit, and not in the letter only. The case of utter despair is manifest; but to shew that deepness of the soul's wound, which issues in conversion, which is wanting in that which only issues in a person's becoming a Christian in the letter, consider the nature of that wound which is given in the work of grace.

[1.] It brings the soul to be content to part with all sin, and to take Christ on any terms : Hos. xiv. 2, “ Take with you words, and turn to the Lord; say nnto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

us graciously ; so will we render the calves of our lips.” Acts is. 6, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" said Paul, trembling and astonished. The man is content to expose the right-eye sin, that the Lord may pluck it out, and the right hand, that it may be cut off. But the hypocrite, with all his soul-exercise, is never brought this length. There is still some one bias of the heart or other he is never content to have corrected. There is always some idol of jealousy to be spared, some particular or other in Christ's terms of salvation to which he cannot submit, Mark x. 21.

[2.] The wound goes to the root of sin in the soul, namely, the sin of our nature; Jer. iv. 3, 4, “For thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, ye men of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem." He that is only humbled for the sins of a wicked life, and some particular lusts in the heart, which is the utmost of the hypocrite's attainment, in him the serpent's heel may be bruised, but not his head. The sin of our nature is the great reigning sin, and in the work of grace the Lord strikes at that particularly, and makes the soul feel the intolerable weight of it: Rom. vii. 24,“ O wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?" But as long as heart-corruption is untouched, as the man recovers his peace, his sin will recover its strength.

(3.) The wound brings the soul to a sense of its absolute need of Christ, and his whole salvation, for justification and also for sanctification. This is the issue of kindly soul-exercise, namely, that thus a person becomes poor in spirit, which the exercise of the hypocrite never brings him to: Matth. v. 3, “ Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Right soul-exercise carries a man out of himself to Christ for righteousness, roots up his confidence in himself, in his best duties and dispositions, &c., breaks the marriage between him and the law, that he may be married to Christ, without anything whatever to recommend him : Gal. ii. 19, 20, “ For

" I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” He also depends on Christ for sanctification, being persuaded of his utter inability to do any good : Rom. vii. 18, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” And under the sense of this, the soul lies down at the Lord's feet, as in Jer. xxxi. 18, “Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; turn thou me, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God.”

[ocr errors]

:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

6 But

(2.) A person may have a common illumination in the knowledge of Christ, and yet be but a Christian only in the letter: Heb. vi. 4, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, &c., if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance.” They may have such knowledge of Christ in his natures, person and offices, as may enable them even to teach others, and edify them in the knowledge of Christ, and yet be no true Christians themselves. Such were Judas, Demas, and thousands of others in other ages of the Church. Great gifts may be without grace; and there may be much heat, where there is no sanctified warmth. But there is a saying illumination, communicated to all true converts, of which others never partake : John iv. 10, “ Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” And it has these three characters.

(1.) Saving illumination discovers to the soul such a suitableness in the mystery of Christ to the divine perfections and the sinner's case, that the soul heartily falls in with, and acquiesces in the glorious device of salvation by infinite wisdom : 1 Cor. i. 24, unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” They see that there is nothing wanting in it, which is necessary to promote God's honour, or to answer their own miserable case, but that it has a perfect suitableness to both; so that their awakened consciences may find complete rest there; and hence they lay themselves wholly for rest upon it, while the consciences of others, being awakened, and their minds being still blinded, they never go to him only for rest, but at best mix their own righteousness with his, and dare not trust to his righteousness alone.-Saving illumination,

(2.) Discovers such a transcendent glory and excellence in him, as that the soul is made content and determined to part with all for him : Phil. iii. 8, “ Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellence of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” It is a sad, but common question in the hearts, though, it may be, not in the mouths, of unrenewed sinners, Song v. 9, “ What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women ? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us ?" Certain it is, that the most refined hypocrite has always something that to him is dearer than Christ, and which has more of his heart than He has. But the soul enlightened with the light of life, beholds that in him which

.

I

[ocr errors]

darkens all created excellence, as the rising sun makes the stars hide their heads; so that they will part with all lawful, as well as unlawful enjoyments, to win him, Luke xiv. 26.

[3.] Saving illumination discovers such a fulgess in him, that the heart takes up its everlasting rest in him: Psal. lxxiii. 25, “Whom have I in heaven bat thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.” The returning prodigal sees bread enough and to spare in his father's house; and the true convert sees a rest to his heart, as well as for his conscience, in Christ, so that he is brought to be content with him alone, as seeing him to be all in all. But this the hypocrite never comes to; the divided heart must have Christ, and also some lust or other, or else no contentment.

(3.) A person may give a consent to the covenant, and in some sort close with the Lord in his covenant, while, after all, he may be only a Christian in the letter; and thus the work of conversion may seem to be completed, as it would really be if they were sincere in so doing. A hypocrite may expressly and solemnly covenant with God, by word or by writ, and thus engage to be the Lord's. This is evident from the practice of the Israelites : Exod. xiv. 8, “ And all the people answered and said, All that the Lord hath spoken, we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.”—Here we may observe, how full they are in their consent and engagement, “All that the Lord hath spoken, we will do." See also Exod. xx. 19. But mark the Lord's own verdict on this covenanting ; Deut. v. 29, “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and their children for ever!” Not only may all this be classed among the externals of religion, but I shall add, for illustration, that persons may be morally serious in their consent to the covenant, that is, thinking and resolving in the time to do as they say. Moral seriousness is opposed to gross dissimulation, which there was no place for here, Deut. v. 24. Yet it may be where there is no sincerity, Psal. lxxviii. 37. Of the same people it is said, “For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.” Hypocrites, in this case, are like those who, out of mere simplicity, and ignorance of the worth of a thing, offer to buy it; but if they really knew what it could not be sold under, they would never once bid for it.--They may also consent to the covenant out of a real sense of their sin and misery, and a conviction of their need of a Mediator, as in Exod. xx. 19, “ And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” There was the mountain on fire, for a tribunal; the voice of a trumpet, summoning the criminals ; VOL. IX.

2 A

[ocr errors]

.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »