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the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."* Oh how earnestly should we pray that such may be our improvement here, and such our blessedness hereafter, through the merits and mediation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
• Rev. vii. 15, 17.
THE BELIEF OF IRRESPECTIVE ELECTION, NOT NECESSARY
TO THE CULTIVATION OF CHRISTIAN HUMILITY.
ROMANS, III. 27. " Where is boasting, then ? it is excluded; by what law? of works? Nay ; but by the law of faith." Corresponding to this passage, which I have selected for the subject of this Discourse, is another in the address of the same great apostle to his Ephesian converts, when he declares to them, “ by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”* Both passages appear to pre-suppose and confirm the same principle, which the apostle lays down as that, by which we are to appreciate all the dispensations of God affecting the eternal interests of man, when he declares, “the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”+ This is the principle, which both vindicates the justice of God, by ascribing the condemnation of the sinner solely to his unrepented offences, which demand from divine justice the punishment due to such incorrigible
guilt, and at the same time ascribes the salvation of the believer, . - not to any merits of his own, for merit he has none to plead, but
to the free mercy of God, bestowing on him eternal life, entirely in consequence of the interposition of Christ the Redeemer. And thus it declares, that the most exalted saint has no ground of boasting, but on the contrary, must for ever acknowledge with deep self-abasement, that he is admitted to his place in heaven, merely as a criminal, exposed to condemnation from the justice, yet pardoned by the mercy of God through Christ, whose follower he has become by faith, and whose propitiation on the cross has alone atoned for all his sins.
* Eph ii. 8, 9.
+ Rom, vi. 23.
As in the entire of the preceding work, I have sincerely intended to maintain these sacred principles, I shall now at its close, endeavour to illustrate their truth and importance, and their connexion with the views I have been led to adopt of the free agency of man, and the conditionality and moral nature of the divine government, as contrasted with the scheme of absolute predestination and unconditional decrees.
In truth, the entire tenor of Scripture (as I have endeavoured in the preceding pages to illustrate it,) condemns cvery feeling, which could lead any human being to boast in any degree of his moral character and attainments, as acceptable to his God by their intrinsic excellence. Scripture condemns it in terms the most decided, and recommends the opposite feelings of moral humiliation and self-abasement, with the strongest energy and emphasis.
Thus, when the psalmist implores the divine pardon for his great offence, he appeals solely to the divine mercy. “ Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness.”* We find no boasting of any previous merit as forming a counterpoise to his recent crimes. He confesses his guilt without attempting palliation or excuse, and throws himself entirely on the mercy of his God. 56 According to the multitude of thy mercies, do away mine offences; for I acknowledge my faults, and my sin is ever befoe me. Against thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight, that thou mightest be justified in thy saying, and clear when thou judgest.”+
Thus also we find in him no assumption of his possessing any inherent power, independent of divine aid, to effect his own reformation. He deplores his guilt and misery, his corruption and depravity; and for the power to escape their destructive effects, he depends solely on the divine benignity, which rejoices to relieve such misery. He looks up to the Lord, “who is full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering, and of great goodness; who will not always be chiding, neither keepeth he his anger for ever.”! On this all-merciful God, the psalmist entirely relies for pardon and peace. He implores his Holy Spirit, ever prompt and effectual to assist the weakness of fallen man, to strengthen the contrite heart against the assaults of temptation, and to
* Psalm, li. 1, 3, 4. + Psalm, ciii, 8, 9.-vide supra, 206. $ Ps. li.(Com. Prayer.)
purify it from the stains of guilt. It is on his God he calls to swash him thoroughly from his wickedness," and cleanse him from his sin ; " for behold,” says he, “ I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”* This avowal did not allude to any circumstance of a peculiar or personal character; for the psalmist was the offspring of lawful marriage, which is declared to be “honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.”+ This humble avowal therefore only attests that important truth, which the Scriptures so plainly declare, that from sinful parents a pure and holy offspring cannot be derived. But this hereditary taint, the Holy Spirit is all-merciful and all-powerful to remove; and on this the psalmist relies for such a blessed change. Make me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me; cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Oh give me the comfort of thy help again, and stablish me with thy free Spirit.”# Thus the psalmist ascribes to the Holy Spirit alone the power of reforming and sanctifying his fallen and depraved nature.
But that Holy Spirit can complete this great work so perfectly, as to communicate sincere goodness and fervent zeal, in the cause of truth and piety. “ I am born in wickedness, (says the psalmist,) and lo, thou requirest truth in the inmost parts, and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly; thou shalt purge me as with hyssop, and I shall be clean; thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow; then shall I teach thy ways unto the wicked, and sinners shall be converted unto thee; thou shalt open my lips, O Lord, and my tongue shall show forth thy praise.”S
Finally, the psalmist deeply felt, and energetically declares, that no formal professions, no adherence to mere rites and ceremonies, no bodily penances however painful, no sacrifices however costly, could atone for sin, or procure pardon and acceptance with God; that no works such as these, which man can perform, and so often boasts of performing, as sufficient proofs of homage and obedience to the Creator, though they imply not any heartfelt piety, or any sincere repentance, could obtain pardon with
• Ps, li. 2, 5.
+ Heb. xiii. 4.
the Supreme Judge. “ Thou, O God, (says the penitent suppliant,) desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it thee; but thou delightest not in burnt-offerings; the sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.”*
I have dwelt the longer on this passage of the inspired psalmist, because it clearly describes the feelings which every human being should entertain of his own unworthiness and guilt in the sight of God, as well as of his total dependence on divine mercy for pardon, and on the Holy Spirit for assistance and sanctification. Let it not be thought that such feelings were peculiar to the penitent David, appropriate only to his particular offence. Oh, no! every human being must confess himself guilty before God;" guilty of omissions of known duty, and violations of express commands. How often is the best man forgetful of his God, inattentive to his word, negligent of his law, in his prayers careless and cold, in his faith wavering and sceptical, in his temper and desires worldly and proud, frequently full of anger and covetousness, and sometimes alas of envy and malignity! And is such a being to boast before that God, who is of purer eyes than to behold and bear iniquity ? Alas! what is man that he should be clean; and he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous ; behold he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight; how much more abominable and filthy is man, who drinketh iniquity like water.”+
Thus, boasting is clearly inconsistent with the relation, which sinful man bears to a pure and holy God; inconsistent with any sense of our own depravity, and of the perfections of our Creator and our Judge. It is, besides, incompatible with any possibility of repentance and reformation; it chills and extinguishes the first spark of piety reviving in the soul. He who believes · himself already good enough, can scarcely be worse than he is, or sink into a more hopeless and incurable state of depravity and irreligion. For he will necessarily repress the checks of conscience, and be deaf to the admonitions of truth. He will not search the divine word for instruction which he believes
. Ps. li. 16, 17.
+ Job, xv. 14–16.