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imperious necessities, pointed by imperfection; that there I have life in the best sense of the word, and here death in the worst sense; there rest, here weariness; there joy, here sorrow; there pleasure, here pain; there crowns, here crosses; in one word, here tribulation, which it is impossible to avoid, there peace which it is impossible to lose these considerations do indeed make me long to be dissolved.
I do assure you I never feared death so much, while under a spirit of bondage, as I now fear a continuance of this suffering embryo kind of life. But, blessed be God, these fears and this impatience to be gone, is not perpetual. I have moments of joy, and hours of happy insensibility.
But whither am I wandering; my design was to talk of our Saviour, and his great salvation, yet self becomes, upon every plan, a monopolizing intruder.
True, my valued friend, since the glorious truths contained in the verse you introduced remain for ever solid, for ever permanent, it is indeed sufficient for us, " to put off the old man, and denying the character of the first Adam, follow after to apprehend (the risen character) that for which also we are apprehended of Christ Jesus." This would in truth be "to attain to the resurrection of the dead," and I think it is hardly possible to deviate from this course, while we see, and feel our perfection in the Redeemer. But did Paul see it, and feel it in him, when he said, “ Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect ?" It appears the Apostle could not have the least idea of personal perfection in the present state, as described by the self righteous, and yet, did he continually see himself complete in that Redeemer, to whom he directed the people?
Ye are not, says the Apostle, under the law, but under grace. By grace ye are saved, and, he adds, in this grace ye stand. Doubtless then, to know more and more of this salvation, is to grow in grace. We first learn we are saved from the damnation due to our past sins, by his death, and immediately look for holiness in ourselves; but, being in grace, we soon grow strong enough to know that He who was our death is also our life, by being our holiness. Thus by little and little we grow into him, in all things, until we are enabled to believe we are wise in his wisdom, righteous in his righteousness, holy in his holiness, strong in his strength, suffering all things in his sufferings, doing all things commanded in the law, in his doings; and from hence we proceed to believe, that he who is our head, is
the head of every man, that He, who by the grace of God tasted death for us, by the same grace tasted death for every man; that he who is our wisdom, is every man's wisdom; that he who is our righteousness, is every man's righteousness, that he who is our sanctification, or holiness, is every man's sanctification or holiness; that he who hath accepted us, hath accepted every man, in the beloved, and that if we have a legal title to that kingdom, which the unrighteous cannot inherit, in consequence of our being righteous in the Lord our righteousness, every man hath the same title; and that as he who gave himself a ransom for all, must be testified in due time, every one, in due time, shall know him, as well as we know him, shall believe in him, and believing in him, shall be saved from all that misery, which is consequent upon a disbelief of these God honouring, man restoring truths.
We know of what the world in general think, when they talk of grace. Nothing is farther from their thoughts than being in grace, or growing in grace. They have, indeed, an idea of grace being in them, and of this grace growing in them, and all the business of the priestly gardener, is, either to sow this very rare seed, or sedulously to attend its cultivation, wherever it may be discovered.
But the north and the south wind blowing on their garden is death to all their flattering expectations. The former kills the sickly plants of human goodness, the latter conveys on its wings the odour of that name which is as ointment poured forth.
There is no sound so terrifying to the advocate for holiness, as the proclamation of the holy One of Israel, nor any thing so galling to the children of pride, who denominate themselves believers, as to be told that God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy on all. I was once preaching in a meeting in the metropolis of New-England, on the parable of the ten virgins. The congregation was very large, and, as is usual throughout this country, very attentive. It happened that among my hearers was a clerical gentleman, of great respectability, and not altogether destitute of candour.
I endeavoured to point out what we were to understand by the kingdom of heaven, why likened to ten virgins, rather than to those five, characterized as wise.
What by the midnight cry ;
What by their slumbering and sleeping together ;
What by their lamps;
What by their vessels with their lamps;
What by their going forth to meet the bridegroom;
What by the oil;
What by the lamps belonging to the foolish virgins going out, &c. &c. and having shewn that the kingdom, was the kingdom spoken of by the prophet Daniel, made up of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, that when darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people, there was in this state of midnight darkness, a voice heard of one crying in the wilderness, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven (the gathering together of all men, united to their head the Shilo) is at hand: and that then both Jew and Gentile, the only existing scriptural distinction of characters, were roused from the state of torpid insensibility in which they had long slumbered, and slept together." I took occasion to observe, that the kingdom of heaven is likened, equally likened, to the foolish as to the wise virgins; that while the bridegroom tarried they all slumbered and slept; that they arose together, trimmed their lamps together, and together went forth to meet the bridegroom. The only discernible difference between these virgins was, the wise had oil in their lamps, but the foolish had none.
If we suppose the wise virgins in the parable figures of the Gentile nations, and for the foolish read the people of the Jews, the exposition becomes easy and natural.
They all slumbered and slept together. They trimmed their lamps, exercised their reasoning powers, and searched the medium through which knowledge is conveyed.
But they, the foolish virgins, had no oil in their vessels, with their lamps they had once, but their lamps were gone out. They once had oil, that is light, but it was gone out.
The word which was once made a light to their feet, and a lantern to their paths, was now made void by their traditions. And is not this literally true, when Christ, who was once known through the medium of the oil which illumed their dark understandings, bowed the heavens and came down, they knew him not. Like persons grouping in the dark, they stumbled over him, as a stumbling stone, or a rock of offence.
But as many as God by his grace turned from darkness to light, giving them oil in their vessels, with their lamps, had light, saw the things which made for their peace: and believing the good report,
entered into rest. While those who were destitute of this oil, this light of life, rather turned to the spiritual agents, who assumed the disposal of genuine wisdom, bargaining with them for the intelligence which they needed.
But on their return, when they essayed to enter into that rest, which they sought, although not according to knowledge, the door was shut.
Yes, and it will remain shut, until the fulness of time, until that auspicious era, when whatsoever was hid shall be made manifest. When the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob, then shall there be no more foolish individuals, but all "shall be taught of God, and all knowing him, who made, and redeemed them, from the least unto the greatest, shall enter into the enjoyment of that, to which the knowledge of God is uniformly introductory.
All the difference between the one and the other, which exists in the present state, is no more than this: the one has oil, light, and the other has none: one is a child of darkness, the other is a child of light; and the sole legitimate purpose of preaching, is to turn the children of men from darkness to light, and in thus doing, from the power of Satan, whose kingdom is a kingdom of darkness, and who has power only in his own kingdom, to the light of life, to the full enjoyment of the true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath
It was not my design in this hasty sketch, to give a specimen of my manner of preaching; indeed I am not able, if I were ever so willing: I never was a writer, I never shall be: I write no notes; I sometimes sketch for my corresponding friends a few of the particulars, which I deliver in public; but they must of necessity be imperfect, and they will be still more so, for accumulating years will weaken the powers of a memory, already rapidly declining. I speak to my audience precisely as I feel, and I believe, in general, I obtain as much information from my labours as those who hear
But my whole design in introducing this particular discourse, was to inform you, that on my concluding my sermon, this clerical gentleman arose, and in a very cool, dispassionate manner, addressed the multitude; affectionately exhorting them, not to suffer themselves to be led away, by the cunning craftiness of men, who lay in wait to deceive. That whatever was the design of the gentleman
to whom they had been attending, he had assuredly taught them wrong, and given a very erroneous view of the scriptures. That the kingdom of heaven was nothing more than the visible church, and that there were among them, some hypocrites who had not true saving grace, and that those would be eternally excluded from heaven, and then, after warmly admonishing the people to beware of false doctrine, and damnable heresies, he resumed his seat.
You will admit it was incumbent upon me to reply, and I confess I was very happy in the opportunity. I expressed obligations to the objector, and gave him credit for candour, and sincerity, and I proceeded to reconsider what I had passed over, and the great Author of my existence, and of my redemption, vouchsafed to bring to recollection, a variety of corroborating proofs, which did not before
He again arose, and his opposition evinced augmenting warmth, until ultimately, he positively affirmed, that no individual quitting this world, in a state of unbelief, could ever know any thing of God hereafter and, he added, "the present state is the only accepted time, this the only day of salvation."
Upon every objection which he advanced, I had great boldness in remarking, and having my Bible in my hand, I turned to a variety of passages, which proclaimed, as plain as language could utter, the good tidings brought to light by that Saviour, for whose honour they were recorded. But, previous to this investigation I took leave to assure the very respectable objector, that he himself did not believe what he had advanced, viz. that no individual of the human race, could ever obtain advantage by the salvation we are blessed with in Christ Jesus, without repentance and faith in the present state. However, he repeatedly declared that such, upon strong conviction, was his firm persuasion.
I asked him, if he really thought all infants, who we know, if called from time to eternity, in their infantile state, can have neither repentance, nor faith, wère sent into everlasting misery?
He seemed confounded, and said he did not, at the moment of making his assertion recur to infants, and besides they could not be supposed to have power to know or to believe.
I requested him to tell me if all of every age were not in this respect infants, seeing it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure?
Again he paused.