« PreviousContinue »
God—I may give him thanks for the blessings either totally disregard the Mosaic law, or he which he is daily dropping on my paths—I may might, from motives of expediency, submit to admire his mercy, and wisdom, and power, and circumcision, and pay some attention to the rebe all the while a child of sin, and an heir of quirements of the law. But if either they of wrath. Our blessed Lord said, “Let not your the circumcision, or they of the uncircumcision, heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe viewed the rites of the Mosaic law as of any also in me.' Merely believing in God, can in avail, on the ground of merit, for salvation, they truth only tend to trouble the heart of a sinful erred from the truth of the gospel, they infringed being. To calm down that trouble, and give on the free grace of God, and they were under peace to such a heart, there must be super- the law and not under grace. added to a belief in God, a belief in Jesus Christ. But moral duties are of as little avail for acTo the man who is out of Christ, God is a very ceptance with God as Mosaic rites. After all terrible God, a consuming fire. And as the that the holiest man ever accomplished, he was devils have no Saviour, but lie for ever unshel- an unprofitable servant; he transgressed or ho tered under the angry eye of God, they tremble came short, and therefore could not be justified ever in dismay, and in apprehension of coming by a law which is perfect, and requires a perfect and increasing sufferings. The difference between obedience. O it is difficult to make mankind them and the sinner who believes in God, but thoroughly sensible of this—to get them to underbelieves not in Christ, is, that they know the stand that saying of the inspired apostle, “In me, position in which they are standing towards God, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.' But and the sinner does not. They know, for they whether men will understand it or not, it is a feel his anger; but the sinner feels not his anger truth—a most important truth. Under the gosyet. They have begun their sufferings, which pel dispensation neither rites, nor names, nor are to increase, and never end; but the sinner is forms, nor professiors, nor duties avail any thing in the deadness of spiritual death, not yet entered towards justification before God. 'In Jesus Christ, on the agonies of death eternal. Hence devils neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncirtremble, whilst sinners believing in God, but cumcision, rejecting Christ, heal their wound slightly, saying, But faith that worketh by loce. This, and *Peace, peace, when there is no peace. May I this alone, availeth unto justification and lifo know God, and may I know him as revealed by eternal.
Is it mine? Let me see. This faith Jesus Christ. And may that God be my God, the is a belief regarding Jesus Christ, and a reliance strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. on him which produces love-love to him—to
his cause—to his people. It contemplates him as the only deliverer from everlasting wrath, the
only procurer of our admittance to the joys of SIXTEENTH Day.--EVENING.
heaven. Hence it leads us to rest on him alone • For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth of our need of him, of his fitness to be our Saviour,
for salvation; and it is founded on a perception any thing, nor uncircumcision ; but faith of his great love to our race, of the danger and which worketh by love,' Gal. v. 6.
misery of that state from which he redeems, and To be in Jesus Christ usually means to be united of the happiness offered through him. And then to him by a living saving faith. But by the ex- it is a working faith: it rouses the believer into pression in Jesus Christ, in this passage, is to be activity. And it worketh by love. Like the understood, “in the dispensation of grace which shoots which spring from a living root, is love Christ established, and of which he is the head.' springing from faith. We have the inspired apostle, then, asserting that How and whereunto does this love work? in this gospel dispensation, it is of no consequence God is its first and chief object. If I possess a to a man's salvation whether he be circumcised faith which worketh by love, I will often think or uncircumcised, neither of these states having of the Father, Christ, and the Spirit; I will ought in itself which can be of any avail as a delight in the law of the Lord; my meditation of meritorious ground of acceptance with God. It my God and Redeemer will be frequent and is true that the Jewish convert, he of the circum- sweet. I will take pleasure in speaking of him cision, after receiving the faith in Christ, might who loved me and gave himself for me, and I will either continue to observe the law of Moses, or find it delightful to commune with a fellow-dishe might not; the Gentile, he of the uncircum-ciple, regarding the loving-kindness of our adorcision, on being converted to Christianity, might l able Redeemer. I will exhibit my gratitude and affectionate devotion to my Lord and Master, by lem, where a violent persecution against the studying to obey all his commandments; by at Christians was raging, Philip, the evangelist, once and most willingly abstaining from every went down to Samaria, and preached the gospel thing that may be displeasing to him, or mar my there. Before he came, Simon Magus had communion with him. I will feel interested in attracted much attention in Samaria by the wonthe prosperity of his kingdom, in the welfare of derful things, apparently amounting to miracles, his people, in the happiness of all his creatures ; which he did. But the miracles which Philip and I will be zealous to promote these by every wrought were evidently so superior to any thing means in my power. O that such a faith as this pretended to be done by Simon, that the Samariwere full surely and manifestly mine!
tans, with one accord, turned from following Ah! if faith that availeth to salvation be only Simon, and gave heed to Philip preaching the such as is described above-a faith which worketh things concerning the kingdom of God, and the by love-how few are there really possessed of name of Jesus Christ. And we are told that it! A dead faith, like that so strongly condemned Simon himself believed Philip's statements. It in the epistle of James, many possess. But a does not appear that Simon understood Philip's working faith, manifesting itself in the various doctrine, or felt its power. He merely believed exercises of love, is a rare thing. There are that the things attested by Philip's miracles must numbers who believe in the divine origin of be true, and he gave himself no farther concern Christianity, who receive its doctrines, and observe about these things than to profess that he believed its ordinances, but whose faith plainly does not them. The miracles were to him objects of far more work by love. Nay, how many praying peo- interest than the truths. He coveted the power ple are there, who, by their words, and their to work the one, far more than a part in the actions, give lamentable evidence that theirs is a other. Hence he offered himself for baptisın, dead faith,—that their light is darkness—that joined the company of the disciples, waited on they are deceivers of their own souls, and not far Philip in hopes that, by witnessing and watching from the woes of destruction from the presence him in the performance of his miracles, and by of the Lord. Sad state! O Lord, through thy receiving instructions from him, he might pergrace, hinder it from being mine.
haps be able to do similar wonders. And afterOrdinances and forms of government in the wards, when he saw that by the prayers and church are certainly appointed by God, and are laying on of hands of the apostles Peter and John, therefore of importance to our salvation. But the Holy Ghost in his miraculous powers was let no man imagine that he is in a state of salva- given to numbers of the Samaritans who believed, tion because he partakes of the one, or adopts the he offered the apostles money if they would comother. Let no man account himself a Christian, municate to him the power of bestowing the merely because he is the member of a church Holy Ghost on whom he would.—What a which has a sound creed, and a scriptural form of remarkable example of profession without pringovernment, and because he attends ordinances. ciple or practice does this wretched man afford! Let him examine himself whether he has a faith What a striking instance of a man baptized on a that worketh by love, and from the result of that profession of his faith, remaining ignorant of his examination, let him decide on his spiritual state. sinfulness, unacquainted with the riches of the
Words cannot express the importance of this grace of God, and thoroughly worldly in his temfaith. My friend, thou must have it if thou art per, feelings, and conduct! to be saved. If thou hast it not, thou perishest Simon believed. We have seen what kind of eternally. Perishest eternally! what a mysteri- belief his was—how he merely believed that the ous, awful thought. Faith in the merits of Jesus things which Philip said were true, without takChrist–faith that worketh by love—if thou hast ing any thought what these things were, or what it, thou art safe; if thou hast it not, if thou never concern he had with them. Alas! many of us obtained it, thou art lost-lost for ever.
have no other than a similar faith. We believe that the Bible is the word of God, and that the
things contained in it are true. But what these SEVENTEENTH DAY.—MORNING.
things are many of us know and care little. We • Then Simon himself believed also: and when he perceive not the personal concern that we have in
was baptized, he continued with Philip, and them. It is not to us a solemn and interesting wondered, beholding the miracles and signs reality that God is willing to bestow on us all which were done,' Acts viii. 13.
Christian graces and spiritual blessings throngh Having little prospect of usefulness at Jerusa- the merits and intercession of Jesus Christ; that we are by nature perishing sinners in need of time. He companied with the disciples. But these graces and blessings. For ought we know his attention was more occupied with the mirathese things may be taught in the Bible, perhaps cles done, than with the doctrines taught-with we believe that they are taught in it, but we the outward accompaniments of the gospel, than have not a knowledge of them, or a belief in with the gospel itself. And how many are there, them, which gives them a power over our hearts, alas! who, having joined themselves to the visiour affections, and our conduct.
ble church, though destitute of saving faith, conAm I such a one? I believe the scriptures to tinue in their profession, yet have more regard be true; do I know what I thus believe? Do I to forms and outward appearances than to the know the truths which the scriptures contain? great realities of the gospel salvation. They Do I perceive the deep concern which I have in admire this preacher, or they pride themselves these truths? And are they exercising a power on waiting on the ministry of that preacher, but over my heart, and my life? Or am I resting never do they honestly ask whether they admire contented with believing little more than the Christ, be waiting on his teaching, be desiring bare fact that the Bible, with all the statements his Spirit, and be growing into his likeness. contained in it, is true, be these statements O what is religion worth unless it be real! Be what they may? Then mine is no better than it mine to be truly joined to Christ, to be united the faith of Simon Magus, and like him I am, to his church, to adorn his doctrine, to maintain despite my faith, yet in the gall of bitterness, his cause, to hold fast my loyalty to him amidst and in the bond of iniquity.
all difficulties, and at length to be made perfect Simon was baptized. The evangelist did not in holiness, and enter into glory. Amen. know the heart of Simon. It is the prerogative of God alone to know the heart. But as Simon professed his faith in Christ, and his belief of the truths which Philip preached, he was received
SEVENTEENTH DAY.-EVENING. into the visible church by the rite of baptism. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; But in as much as Simon in that profaned a
2 Cor. xiii. 5. holy ordinance, and insulted God, by professing to be what he really was not, he added to his sin- How numerous, varied, and delightful are the fulness by pretending to become a Christian, promises given to believers! How terrible the instead of obeying a command of God, or doing portion appointed to them who believe not! To that which was well-pleasing in his sight.—I the class of believers, or to the class of unbehave partaken of holy ordinances. I professed lievers, every individual of us belongs. Were it my belief in Christ, I knew some points of Chris- not wise to try to ascertain to which? Is there tian doctrine, nothing could be brought against any thing half so important as saving faith? Posmy character, the office-bearers of the church did sessed of it we are united to Christ, are heirs of not and could not know my heart, therefore they the promises, and shall go to heaven. Destitute admitted me. But a solemn responsibility rests of it we remain under condemnation, and are with myself. Many who are destitute of true ripening for hell. Shall we make no effort, then, piety are admitted to those ordinances which to know whether or not we are possessed of this are appointed only for Christians. In the pre- saving faith? By many a precept to examine sent state of things this is unavoidable. But ourselves, God intimates that he thinks it of the woe to those who profess to be God's children utmost importance that we attain to this knowwhen they are the devil's! Their profession will ledge. And the possession of it has furnished not shelter them. It will add greatly to their consolation, support, and enjoyment to God's guilt. It will aggravate their condemnation. I people, such as nothing else could have given. have joined myself to Christ under the eye of David said, 'my flesh and my heart faileth, but my fellow-men. Am 1 resting on him by a liv- God is the strength of heart and my portion for ing faith? Let me try not to impose on myself: ever. And Paul says, I have fought a good it would do me no good. On God I cannot fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the impose: and O, even were it possible for me to faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown appear to Him different from what I really am, I of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous would not wish to do it!
Judge, shall give me.' And again, I know Simon continued with Philip and wondered, whom I have believed, and am persuaded that beholding the signs and miracles which were done. he is able to keep that which I have committed The wretched man abode in his profession some to him against that day.'
Thorough self-examination, however, is no tion, but we would have an opinion of it wide of easy matter. To do it strictly and profitably the truth. requires careful and diligent training. To excel If any one who reads this, wishes to form in it is one of the nicest parts of Christian dis- himself to a habit of self-examination which he cipline. To find out the enemy in his most has hitherto neglected, we recommend that every secret lurking places—to detect him in the vari- night before he permits sleep to close his eyelids, ous forms and disguises which he assumes, he should go over the ten commandments of the requires the eye of Christian discernment to be moral law deliberately in their order, and, with both jealous and practised.
some regard to the spirit of them, try by them But the difficulty which Christians experience his conduct throughout the day. This will furin self-examination is, in a great measure, owing nish him with something tangible and definite to their engaging in it seldom, and without due wherewith to examine himself
, for Jesus Christ care and deliberation. When the man in busi- said, “ If ye love me, keep my commandments.” ness allows a long time to pass between one exa- · For this is the love of God, that we keep bis mination of his books and another, be finds con- commandments; and his commandments are not siderable difficulty in ascertaining the real state grievous.' of his affairs, and confusion will inevitably creep But as the heart is deceitful, and the underin. And if believers do not regularly, and at standing darkened by sin, if we wish to succeed short intervals, examine into their spiritual affairs, in the important work of self-examination, we they will most certainly find them get into dis- should put it into the hand of the Holy Spirit
. order. Every day of their lives they should Presenting ourselves before God, who knoweth consider what progress they are making in the all things, we should seek to lay bare our whole spiritual life. Every night they should look back life and soul to him, and our prayer should be, on the occurrences of the day. And besides, Search me, O God, and know my heart; try there ought to be solemn seasons, at longer inter- me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be vals, when they take a view of the great features any evil way in me, and lead me in the way of their character—when looking back on some everlasting.' particular time at which they had made a serious My friend, knowest thou to whose party thou and careful investigation, they compare what belongest? to Christ's or to the devil's? Which they are now with what they were then, and road art thou travelling? the narrow or the compare all with the standard of God's holy broad ? the way to heaven or the way to hell? word. Most suitable seasons of this peculiar and Sayest thou that in truth thou canst not tell solemn kind are those of the dispensation of the much about the matter. But it is time that Lord's supper, when a public profession having thou knewest something certain in regard of it. to be made, there is need that we look well to How far art thou from the end of thy journey? the reality; and when a near approach to God Thou repliest that thou knowest not. But the being granted, we need to consider how we end may be very near. Art thou prepared for are prepared for so awful an intercourse; and that? Art thou ready to enter into eternity, when new blessings being to be proposed to and begin an unchangeable state of being in the us, we ought to bethink us what improvement course of a week, or a month, or a year? Cerwe have made of those which have already been tainly either heaven or hell is to be the end of bestowed.
thy journey. Which of them shall it be? is an The manner as well as the times of self-exa- important question; and a question, remember, mination should have a share of our attention. that shall soon be answered in eternity, even Since the work is difficult yet important, it ought though no answer be sought to it on this side the not to be slothfully performed. We should set grave. My friend, be truly wise: consider what about it deliberately. We should use all care thou art, and whither thou art going, and the and diligence. We should be faithful to our good God give thee grace to know thyself, and souls. It is of no use deceiving ourselves. The Jesus Christ the Saviour. very object of engaging in self-examination is, to ascertain what our spiritual state really is. What would be the use of persuading ourselves that we are something different from what we are? Better no self-examination at all than a careless and unfaithful one. For we would not only have no knowledge of our state after such an examina
EIGHTEENTH Day.-MORNING. be theirs. Thus they are filled with rejoicing. • But he that received the seed into stony places, the
And verily rejoicing is the privilege-shall I not same is he that heareth the word, and anon salvation of Jesus Christ, the gospel-glad tidings,
say the duty of the true believer? For is not the with joy receiveth it: yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while ; for when tri good news? But a rejoicing that has no root is bulation or persecution ariseth because of the dureth, but a joy that has no root shall speedily
not the rejoicing of God's people. Theirs enword, by and by he is offended, Matt. xiii. 20.
be turned into sorrow.
It is like the nosegay 21.
gathered from the garden, beautiful and desirable THERE are summer Christians, who are seen only for a while, but soon becoming withered and in the fair day of prosperity. Like the swallows, worthless. they disappear in the winter the chill winter of The religion of those whom the seed which fell temptation and trial. That which the mere pro- on stony ground represents, 'has no root in itfessor feeds upon abounds in the day of prosper- self, but it dureth for a while. As long as there ity-like the nourishment of the swallow, the are no trials or powerful temptations it remaineth. Aies of summer. Security, honour, profit—when And thus in times of quietness, it may continue, these can be had along with a Christian profes- such as it is, to the end of life. The corn on the sion, Christianity is not a bad thing, even to a stony ground was green and flourishing while the worldling But the flies are all dead in winter. sky was cool. The scanty soil out of which it In the day of adversity and persecution, the grew sufficed so long, to minister to its nourishsecurity, honour, and profit are gone, and there- ment. But soon as the hot mid-day summer sun fore those whose Christianity is fed by them dis- shone out, the soil was parched up, and the blade appear.
languished, withered, and died. So when perseAkin to these, are the persons who are des-cution because of the truth cometh— when comcribed in the parable, by seed which fell on forts must be surrendered, or advantages forestony ground. That seed soon sprung up, gone, or sacrifices made, or sufferings endured, because little earth covered it. Professing Chris- the joy of the stony ground hearers departs, tians of this class are instructed in gospel truth. and the foundation out of which their joy arises They are told of God's marvellous love, of man's is destroyed. Ease, reputation, advantage, are sinfulness and danger, of Christ's death for sinners, desired, and would gladly be taken in connection of faith in Christ, of holiness of character, and of with the gospel. But if that may not be, then the happiness of heaven. These truths make an the gospel is surrendered, and these are clung to. impressions on their minds. They take an in- The joy of the stony ground hearers passes away terest in them. There is something amiable in before the persecutor's frown, and before threatthe general aspect of Christianity. It is desirable ened privations and sufferings. What semblance to have some kind of religion, and why not the of Christian principle existed, disappears before true religion as well as any other, when the world the hope of advantage, or the fear of loss. Ah! happens to be favourable to it. As for the devil, how different the spirit of the apostle of the Genhe would not greatly object, though all men were tiles. “We glory,' he says, “in tribulations.' to make a profession of the gospel, attend on its · The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, sayduties, and have joy in it, provided they came ing that bonds and afflictions abide me. But short of becoming real Christians. But as the none of these things move me, neither count I seed enters only a little way into stony ground, my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish so the word of God enters only a very little way my course with joy, and the ministry which I into the spirit of those of whom we are speaking. have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Their conviction of sin is slight and superficial. gospel of the grace of God.' Yea, doubtless, There is no thorough humbling of the mind-no and I count all things but loss, for the excellency brokenness of the spirit. There is no right per- of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for ception of Christ's beauty and excellency. There whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and is only a perception of something which their own do count them but dung that I may win Christ.' imagination has created, and which they call the The principles and joys of the believer are such beauty and excellency of Christ. They hear of as can endure persecution, and remain firm when the blessings of the gospel-of God's favour, and tried by temptation. Nay the hot sun of perseof all the enjoyments which he bestows on cution but nourishes into vigorous maturity the believers. There arises in them a confidence, true Christian. If the soil be good and deep, that all those blessings of which they hear shall the heat of the sun will invigorate the plant,