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living three score years? Who told you that you should? It is no other than the enemy of God and man: it is the murderer of souls. Believe him not; he was a liar from the beginning; from the beginning of his rebellion against God. He is eminently a liar in this: for he would not give you life, if he could. Would God permit, he would make sure work, and just now hurry you to his own place. And he cannot give you life, if he would: the breath of man is not in his hands. He is not the disposer of life and death: that power belongs to the Most High. It is possible, indeed, God may, on some occasions, permit him to inflict death. I do not know, but it was an evil angel who smote a hundred four score and five thousand Assyrians in one night: and the fine lines of our poet are as applicable to an evil, as to a good spirit
But though Satan may sometimes inflict death, I know not that he could ever give life. It was one of his most faithful servants, that shrieked out some years ago, "A week's life! a week's life! Thirty thousand pounds for a week's life!" But he could not purchase a day's life. That night, God required his soul of him. And how soon may he require it of you? Are you sure of living three score years? Are you sure of living one year? one week? one day? Oh make haste to live! Surely the man that may die to night, should live to day.
12. So absurd are all the suppositions made by him, who gains the world, and loses his soul. But let us for a moment imagine, that wickedness is happiness; and that he shall certainly live three score years; and still I would ask, "What is he profited," if he gain the whole world for three score years, and then lose his soul eternally?
Can such a choice be made by any that considers what eternity is? Philip Melancthon, the most learned of all the German reformers, gives the following relation: (I pass no judgment upon it, but set it down nearly in his own words :) "When I was at Wirtemburg, as I was walking out one summer evening with several of my fellow students, we heard an uncommon singing, and following the sound, saw a bird of an uncommon figure. One stepping up, asked, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what art thou? It answered, 'I am a damned spirit:' and in vanishing away, pronounced these words, 'Oh eternity, eternity! who can tell the length of eternity!" And how soon would this be the language of him who sold his soul for three score years' pleasure! How soon would he cry out, "Oh eternity, eternity! who can tell the length of eternity!"
13. In how striking a manner is this illustrated by one of the ancient fathers! "Supposing there was a ball of sand as big as the whole earth. Suppose a grain of this to be annihilated in a thousand years: which would be more eligible, to be happy while this ball was wasting away at the rate of one grain in a thousand years, and miserable ever after? or to be miserable while it was wasting away at that proportion, and happy ever after?" A wise man, it is certain, could not pause one moment upon the choice; seeing all that time wherein this ball would be wasting away, bears infinitely less proportion to eternity, than a drop of water to the whole ocean, or a grain of sand to the whole mass. Allow
ing, then, that a life of religion were a life of misery; that a life of wickedness were a life of happiness; and, that a man were assured of enjoying that happiness for the term of three score years; yet what would he be profited, if he were then to be miserable to all eternity?
14. But it has been proved that the case is quite otherwise: that religion is happiness; that wickedness is misery; and that no man is assured of living three score days: and if so, is there any fool, any madman under heaven, who can be compared to him that casts away his own soul, though it were to gain the whole world? For what is the real state of the case? What is the choice which God proposes to his creatures? It is not, "Will you be happy three score years, and then miserable for ever; or will you be miserable three score years, and then happy for ever?" It is not, "Will you have first a temporary heaven, and then hell eternal; or, will you have first a temporary hell, and then heaven eternal ?" But it is simply this, "Will you be miserable three score years, and miserable ever after; or, will you be happy three score years, and happy ever after? Will you have a foretaste of heaven now, and then heaven for ever; or, will you have a foretaste of hell now, and then hell for ever? Will you have two hells or two heavens ?"
15. One would think there needed no great sagacity to answer this question. And this is the very question which I now propose to you in the name of God. Will you be happy here and hereafter; in the world that now is, and in that which is to come? Or will you be miserable here and hereafter; in time and in eternity? What is your choice? Let there be no delay: now take one or the other! I take heaven and earth to record this day, that I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Oh choose life! the life of peace and love now; the life of glory for ever! By the grace of God, now choose that better part, which shall never be taken from you! And having once fixed your choice, never draw back; adhere to it at all events. Go on in the name of the Lord, whom ye have chosen, and in the power of his might! In spite of all opposition, from nature, from the world, from all the powers of darkness, still fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life! And then there is laid up for you a crown, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give you at that day!
SERMON XC.-On working out our own Salvation.
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is GOD that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure," Phil. ii, 12, 13.
1. SOME great truths, as the being and attributes of God, and the difference between moral good and evil, were known, in some measure, to the heathen world. The traces of them are to be found in all nations: so that, in some sense, it may be said to every child of man," He hath showed thee, oh man, what is good; even to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." With this truth he has, in some measure, "enlightened every one that cometh into the world." And hereby they that "have not the law," that have no written law, "are a law unto themselves." They show "the work of the law;" the substance of it, though not the letter; "written in their hearts," by the
same hand which wrote the commandments on the tables of stone: "their conscience also bearing them witness," whether they act suitably thereto or not.
2. But there are two grand heads of doctrine, which contain many truths of the most important nature, of which the most enlightened heathens in the ancient world were totally ignorant; as are also the most intelligent heathens, that are now on the face of the earth; I mean those which relate to the eternal Son of GOD, and the SPIRIT of GOD : to the Son, giving himself to be "a propitiation for the sins of the world ;" and to the Spirit of God, renewing men in that image of God wherein they were created. For after all the pains which ingenious and learned men have taken, (that great man, Chevalier Ramsay in particular,) to find some resemblance of these truths in the immense rubbish of heathen authors, the resemblance is so exceeding faint, as not to be discerned but by a very lively imagination. Beside that, even this resemblance, faint as it was, is only to be found in the discourses of a very few ; and those were the most improved and deeply thinking men, in their several generations; while the innumerable multitudes that surrounded them, were little better for the knowledge of the philosophers; but remained as totally ignorant even of these capital truths, as were the beasts that perish.
3. Certain it is, that these truths were never known to the vulgar, the bulk of mankind, to the generality of men in any nation, till they were brought to light by the gospel. Notwithstanding a spark of knowledge glimmering here and there, the whole earth was covered with darkness till the Sun of righteousness arose and scattered the shades of night. Since this day spring from on high has appeared, a great light hath shined unto those, who, till then, sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. And thousands of them in every age have known, "that God so loved the world as to give his only Son, to the end that whosoever believeth on him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." And being intrusted with the oracles of God, they have known that God hath also given us his Holy Spirit who" worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.'
4. How remarkable are those words of the apostle which precede these? "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God;" the incommunicable nature of God from eternity; "counted it no act of robbery ;" (that is the precise meaning of the word;) no invasion of any other's prerogative: but his own unquestionable right, "to be equal with God." The word implies both the fulness and the supreme height of the Godhead. To which are opposed the two words, he emptied, and he humbled himself. He
emptied himself," of that divine fulness, veiled his fulness from the eyes of men and angels; "taking," and by that very act emptying himself, "the form of a servant; being made in the likeness of man ;" a real man, like other men. "And being found in fashion as a man,” a common man, without any peculiar beauty or excellency; "he humbled himself" to a still greater degree, "becoming obedient" to God, though equal with him, even unto death; yea, the death of the cross:" the greatest instance both of humiliation and obedience.
Having proposed the example of Christ, the apostle exhorts them to secure the salvation which Christ hath purchased for them; "Where
fore, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
In these comprehensive words we may observe,
I. That grand truth which ought never to be out of our remembrance: "It is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.'
II. The improvement we ought to make of it: "Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling."
III. The connection between them: "It is God that worketh in you;" therefore "work out your own salvation."
I. 1. First, we are to observe that great and important truth which ought never to be out of our remembrance : "It is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The meaning of these words may be made more plain, by a small transposition of them. 66 'It is God that of his good pleasure worketh in you both to will and to do." This position of the words, connecting the phrase, of his good pleasure, with the word worketh, removes all imagination of merit from man, and gives God the whole glory of his work. Otherwise we might have had some room for boasting, as if it were our own desert, some goodness in us, or some good thing done by us, which first moved God to work. But this expression cuts off all such vain conceits, and clearly shows, his motive to work lay wholly in himself: in his own mere grace; in his unmerited mercy.
2. It is by this alone he is impelled to work in man both to will and to do. The expression is capable of two interpretations; both of which are unquestionably true. First, to will, may include the whole of inward, to do, the whole of outward religion. And if it be thus understood, it implies, that it is God that worketh both inward and outward holiness. Secondly, to will, may imply every good desire; to do, whatever results therefrom. And then the sentence means, God breathes into us every good desire, and brings every good desire to good effect.
3. The original words to Seλew and to evɛpyaw seem to favour the latter construction: To deλew, which we render to will, plainly including every good desire, whether relating to our tempers, words, or actions; to inward or outward holiness. And to evεpya, which we render to do, manifestly implies all that power from on high, all that energy which works in us every right disposition; and then furnishes us for every good word and work.
4. Nothing can so directly tend to hide pride from man, as a deep, lasting conviction of this. For if we are thoroughly sensible that we have nothing which we have not received, how can we glory as if we had not received it? If we know and feel, that the very first motion of good is from above, as well as the power which conducts it to the end; if it is God that not only infuses every good desire, but that accompanies and follows it, else it vanishes away; then it evidently follows, that "he who glorieth must glory in the Lord."
II. 1. Proceed we now to the second point: if God worketh in you, then work out your own salvation. The original word, rendered, work out, implies the doing a thing thoroughly. Your own; for you yourselves must do this, or it will be left undone for ever. Your own salvation: salvation begins with what is usually termed, (and very properly,) preventing grace; including the first wish to please God; the first
dawn of light concerning his will; and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him. All these imply some tendency towards life; some degree of salvation; the beginning of a deliverance from a blind, unfeeling heart, quite insensible of God and the things of God. Salvation is carried on by convincing grace, usually in Scripture termed, repentance; which brings a larger measure of self knowledge, and a farther deliverance from the heart of stone. Afterwards we experience the proper Christian salvation; whereby, "through grace," we 66 are saved by faith;" consisting of those two grand branches, justification and sanctification. By justification we are saved from the guilt of sin, and restored to the favour of God; by sanctification we are saved from the power and root of sin, and restored to the image of God. All experience, as well as Scripture, show this salvation to be both instantaneous and gradual. It begins the moment we are justified, in the holy, humble, gentle, patient love of God and man. It gradually increases from that moment, as "a grain of mustard seed, which, at first, is the least of all seeds," but afterwards puts forth large branches, and becomes a great tree; till, in another instant, the heart is cleansed from all sin, and filled with pure love to God and man. But even that love increases more and more, till we "grow up in all things into him that is our head;" till we "attain the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
2. But how are we to work out this salvation? The apostle answers, "with fear and trembling." There is another passage of St. Paul, wherein the same expression occurs, which may give light to this: "Servants, obey your masters according to the flesh;"-according to the present state of things, although sensible that in a little time the servant will be free from his master;- "with fear and trembling." This is a proverbial expression, which cannot be understood literally. For what master could bear, much less require, his servant to stand trembling and quaking before him? And the following words utterly exclude this meaning: "In singleness of heart;" with a single eye to the will and providence of God; "not with eye service, as men pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart:" doing whatever they do as the will of God, and, therefore, with their might Eph. vi, 5, &c. It is easy to see that these strong expressions of the apostle clearly imply two things: first, That every thing be done with the utmost earnestness of spirit, and with all care and caution: (perhaps more directly referring to the former word usça poßs, with fear.) Secondly, that it be done with the utmost diligence, speed, punctuality, and exactness; not improbably referring to the latter word, pera τgoμs, with trembling.
3. How easily may we transfer this to the business of life; the working out our own salvation? With the same temper, and in the same manner, that Christian servants serve their masters that are upon earth, let other Christians labour to serve their Master that is in heaven: that is, first with the utmost earnestness of spirit; with all possible care and caution; and, secondly, with the utmost diligence, speed, punctuality, and exactness.
4. But what are the steps which the Scriptures direct us to take, in the working out of our own salvation? The prophet Isaiah gives us a general answer, touching the first steps which we are to take: "Cease