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Therefore stand upon your guard against every one that is not earnestly seeking to save his soul. We have need to keep both our heart and mouth as 66 with a bridle, while the ungodly are in our sight." Their conversation, their spirit, is infectious, and steals upon us unawares, we know not how. 66 Happy is the man that feareth always," in this sense also, lest he should partake of other men's sins. Oh "keep thyself pure!" "Watch and pray, that thou enter not into temptation!"
36. We may learn from hence, lastly, what thankfulness becomes those who have escaped the corruption that is in the world; whom God hath chosen out of the world, to be holy and unblamable. "Who is it that maketh thee to differ ?" "And what hast thou which thou hast not received?" Is it not "God [alone] who worketh in thee both to will and to do of his good pleasure?"" And let those give thanks whom the Lord hath redeemed and delivered from the hand of the enemy." "Let us praise him, that he hath given us to see the deplorable state of all that are round about us, to see the wickedness which overflows the earth, and yet not be borne away by the torrent! We see the general, the almost universal contagion; and yet it cannot approach to hurt us! Thanks be unto him " who hath delivered us from so great a death, and doth still deliver!" And have we not farther ground for thankfulness, yea, and strong consolation, in the blessed hope which God hath given us, that the time is at hand, when righteousness shall be as universal as unrighteousness is now? Allowing that "the whole creation now groaneth together" under the sin of man, our comfort is, it will not always groan: God will arise and maintain his own cause; and the whole creation shall then be delivered both from moral and natural corruption. Sin, and its consequence, pain, shall be no more: holiness and happiness will cover the earth. Then shall all the ends of the world see the salvation of our God; and the whole race of mankind shall know, and love, and serve God, and reign with him for ever and ever!
SERMON LXVII.-The End of Christ's Coming.
"For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,” 1 John iii, 8.
MANY eminent writers, heathen as well as Christian, both in earlier and later ages, have employed their utmost labour and art in painting the beauty of virtue. And the same pains they have taken to describe, in the liveliest colours, the deformity of vice; both of vice in general, and of those particular vices which were most prevalent in their respective ages and countries. With equal care they have placed in a strong light the happiness that attends virtue, and the misery which usually accompanies vice, and always follows it. And it may be acknowledged, that treatises of this kind are not wholly without their use. Probably, hereby, some, on the one hand, have been stirred up to desire and follow after virtue; and some, on the other hand, checked in their career of vice, perhaps reclaimed from it, at least for a season. But the change effected in men by these means is seldom either deep or universal: much less is it durable; in a little space it vanishes away as the morning cloud. Such motives are far too feeble to overcome the nume
berless temptations that surround us. All that can be said of the beauty and advantage of virtue, and the deformity and ill effects of vice, cannot resist, and much less overcome and heal, one irregular appetite or passion.
"All these fences, and their whole array,
2. There is, therefore, an absolute necessity, if ever we would conquer vice, or steadily persevere in the practice of virtue, to have arms of a better kind than these; otherwise we may see what is right, but we cannot attain it. Many of the men of reflection among the very heathens were deeply sensible of this. The language of their heart was that of Medea :
Video meliora, proboque;
How exactly agreeing with the words of the apostle (personating a man convinced of sin, but not yet conquering it:) "The good that I would, I do not; but the evil I would not, that I do." The impotence of the human mind, even the Roman philosopher could discover: "There is in every man," says he, "this weakness;" (he might have said this sore disease ;)" Gloria sitis: thirst for glory. Nature points out the disease; but nature shows us no remedy.`
3. Nor is it strange, that though they sought for a remedy, yet they found none. For they sought it, where it never was and never will be found, namely, in themselves; in reason, and in philosophy: broken reeds, bubbles, smoke! They did not seek it in God, in whom alone it is possible to find it. In God! No; they totally disclaim this; and that in the strongest terms. For although Cicero, one of their oracles, once stumbled upon that strange truth: "Nemo unquam vir magnus sine afflatu divino fuit ;" (there never was any great man who was not divinely inspired;) yet in the very same tract he contradicts himself, and totally overthrows his own assertion, by asking;" Quis pro virtute aut sapientiâ gratias dedit Deis unquam ?" "Who ever returned thanks to God for his virtue or wisdom?" The Roman poet, is, if possible, more express still; who, after mentioning several outward blessings, honestly adds,
Hæc satis est orare Jovem, quæ donat et aufert:
Det vitam, det opes: Æquum mi animum ipse parabo.
We ask of God, what he can give or take;
Life, wealth; but virtuous I myself will make.
4. The best of them either sought virtue partly from God, and partly from themselves; or sought it from those gods who were, indeed, but devils, and so not likely to make their votaries better than themselves. So dim was the light of the wisest of men, till "life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel;" till "the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil."
But what are "the works of the devil," here mentioned? How was "the Son of God manifested," to destroy them? And how, in what manner, and by what steps, does he actually "destroy" them? These three very important points we may consider in their order.
I. And first, What these works of the devil are, we learn from the words preceding and following the text: "We know that he was manifested to take away our sins," verse 5. "Whosoever abideth in him,
sinneth not: whosoever sinneth, seeth him not, neither knoweth him," verse 6. "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil," verse 8. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin," verse 9. From the whole of this it appears, that "the works of the devil, ," here spoken of, are sin, and the
fruits of sin.
2. But since the wisdom of God has now dissipated the clouds which so long covered the earth, and put an end to the childish conjectures of men concerning these things, it may be of use to take a more distinct view of these "works of the devil,” so far as the oracles of God instruct us. It is true, the design of the Holy Spirit was to assist our faith, not gratify our curiosity; and therefore the account he has given, in the first chapters of Genesis, is exceeding short. Nevertheless, it is so clear, that we may learn therefrom whatsoever it concerns us to know.
3. To take the matter from the beginning: "The Lord God [literally, JEHOVAH, the GODS; that is, One and Three] created man in his own image ;"-in his own natural image, as to his better part; that is, a spirit, as God is a spirit; endued with understanding; which, if not the essence, seems to be the most essential property of a spirit. And probably the human spirit, like the angelical, then discerned truth by intuition. Hence he named every creature, as soon as he saw it, according to its inmost nature. Yet his knowledge was limited, as he was a creature: ignorance, therefore, was inseparable from him; but error was not; it does not appear that he was mistaken in any thing. But he was capable of mistaking, of being deceived, although not necessitated to it.
4. He was endued also with a will, with various affections; (which are only the will exerting itself various ways ;) that he might love, desire, and delight in that which is good: otherwise his understanding had been to no purpose. He was likewise endued with liberty; a power of choosing what was good, and refusing what was not so. Without this, both the will and the understanding would have been utterly useless. Indeed, without liberty, man had been so far from being a free agent, that he could have been no agent at all. For every unfree being is purely passive; not active in any degree. Have you a sword in your hand? Does a man, stronger than you, seize your hand, and force you to wound a third person? In this you are no agent, any more than the sword: the hand is as passive as the steel. So in every possible case. He that is not free, is not an agent, but a patient.
5. It seems, therefore, that every spirit in the universe, as such, is endued with understanding, and, in consequence, with a will, and with a measure of liberty; and that these three are inseparably united in every intelligent nature. And observe: liberty necessitated, or overruled, is really no liberty at all. It is a contradiction in terms. It is the same as unfree freedom; that is, downright nonsense.
6. It may be farther observed, (and it is an important observation,) that where there is no liberty, there can be no moral good or evil; no virtue or vice. The fire warms us; yet it is not capable of virtue: it burns us; yet this is no vice. There is no virtue, but where an intelligent being knows, loves, and chooses what is good; nor is there any vice, but where such a being knows, loves, and chooses what is evil.
7. And God created man, not only in his natural, but likewise in his own moral image. He created him not only" in knowledge," but also in righteousness and true holiness. As his understanding was without blemish, perfect in its kind; so were all his affections. They were all set right, and duly exercised on their proper objects. And as a free agent, he steadily chose whatever was good, according to the direction of his understanding. In so doing, he was unspeakably happy; dwelling in God, and God in him; having an uninterrupted fellowship with the Father and the Son, through the eternal Spirit, and the continual testimony of his conscience, that all his ways were good and acceptable to God.
8. Yet his liberty (as was observed before) necessarily included a power of choosing or refusing either good or evil. Indeed it has been doubted, whether man could then choose evil, knowing it to be such. But it cannot be doubted, he might mistake evil for good. He was not infallible; therefore, not impeccable. And this unravels the whole difficulty of the grand question, "Unde malum?" "How came evil into the world?" It came from "Lucifer, son of the morning." It was the work of the devil. "For the devil," saith the apostle, "sinneth from the beginning;" that is, was the first sinner in the universe, the author of sin, the first being who, by the abuse of his liberty, introduced evil into the creation. He,
"Of the first,
If not the first archangel,"
was self-tempted to think too highly of himself. He freely yielded to the temptation; and gave way, first to pride, then to self will. He said, "I will sit upon the sides of the north: I will be like the Most High.' He did not fall alone, but soon drew after him a third part of the stars of heaven; in consequence of which they lost their glory and happiness, and were driven from their former habitation.
9. "Having great wrath," and perhaps envy at the happiness of the creatures whom God had newly created, it is not strange that he should desire and endeavour to deprive them of it. In order to this, he concealed himself in the serpent, who was the most subtle, or intelligent, of all the brute creatures; and, on that account, the least liable to raise suspicion. Indeed some have (not improbably) supposed, that the serpent was then endued with reason and speech. Had not Eve known he was so, would she have admitted any parley with him? Would she not have been frightened rather than deceived? (as the apostle observes she was.) To deceive her, Satan mingled truth with falsehood;— "Hath God said, Ye may not eat of every tree of the garden ?"-and soon after persuaded her to disbelieve God, to suppose his threatening should not be fulfilled. She then lay open to the whole temptation: to "the desire of the flesh;" for the tree was "good for food:" to "the desire of the eyes;" for it was pleasant to the eyes:" and to "the pride of life;" for it was "to be desired to make one wise," and consequently honoured. So unbelief begot pride. She thought herself wiser than God; capable of finding a better way to happiness than God had taught her. It begot self will: she was determined to do her own will, not the will of Him that made her. It begot foolish desires; and completed all by outward sin: "She took of the fruit and did eat."
10. She then " gave to her husband, and he did eat." And in that day, yea, that moment, he died! The life of God was extinguished in his soul. The glory departed from him. He lost the whole moral image of God, righteousness and true holiness. He was unholy; he was unhappy; he was full of sin; full of guilt, and tormenting fears. Being broke off from God, and looking upon him now as an angry Judge," he was afraid." But how was his understanding darkened, to think he could "hide himself from the presence of the Lord, among the trees of the garden!" Thus was his soul utterly dead to God! And in that day his body likewise began to die,-became obnoxious to weakness, sickness, pain; all preparatory to the death of the body, which naturally led to eternal death.
II. Such are "the works of the devil;" sin and its fruits; considered in their order and connection. We are, in the second place, to consider how the Son of God was manifested, in order to destroy them.
1. He was manifested, as the only begotten Son of God, in glory equal with the Father, to the inhabitants of heaven, before and at the foundation of the world. These "morning stars sang together," all these sons of God shouted for joy," when they heard him pronounce, "Let there be light; and there was light;"-when he "spread the north over the empty space," and "stretched out the heavens as a curtain." Indeed it was the universal belief of the ancient church, that God the Father none hath seen, nor can see; that from all eternity he hath dwelt in light unapproachable; and that it is only in and by the Son of his love, that he hath, at any time, revealed himself to his
2. How the Son of God was manifested to our first parents, in paradise, it is not easy to determine. It is generally, and not improbably, supposed, that he appeared to them in the form of a man, and conversed with them face to face. Not that I can at all believe the ingenious dream of Dr. Watts, concerning "the glorious humanity of Christ," which he supposes to have existed before the world began, and to have been endued with, I know not what astonishing powers. Nay, I look upon this to be an exceeding dangerous, yea, mischievous hypothesis; as it quite excludes the force of very many scriptures, which have been hitherto thought to prove the Godhead of the Son. And I am afraid it was the grand means of turning that great man aside from the faith once delivered to the saints;—that is, if he was turned aside; if that beautiful soliloquy be genuine, which is printed among his posthumous works, wherein he so earnestly beseeches the Son of God not to be displeased, "because he cannot believe him to be co-equal and co-eternal with the Father."
3. May we not reasonably believe that it was by similar appearances that he was manifested, in succeeding ages, to Enoch, while he "walked with God;" to Noah, before and after the deluge; to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, on various occasions; and, to mention no more, to Moses? This seems to be the natural meaning of the word; " My servant Moses is faithful in all my house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of Jehovah shall he behold;" namely, the Son of God.
4. But all these were only types of his grand manifestation. It was in the fulness of time, (in just the middle age of the world, as a great