Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

conceived me.' St. Paul concludes from these words of David, .There is none righteous, no, not one;' that not only the Gentiles, but the Jews also, are all under sin, inasmuch as all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, and the way of peace have they not known.' "The Scripture,' saith he, to the Galatians, ' hath concluded all under sin ;' and to the Ephesians, 'We all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise.' "The natural man,' saith the same apostle, 'receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.' The heart,' saith the prophet Jeremy, 'is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?'

From what hath been said it is plain, we are naturally corrupt and wicked, and that God abhors us, as such ; although, considered as his creatures, he hath that compassion for us, which the best of fathers retains for his undutiful and disobedient children.

What we are to expect, if we remain in this state of sin and enmity with God, is easy to conceive; namely, the effects of bis displeasure; and what those are, the Scriptures tell us so plainly, that it must be our own faults, if we are not sufficiently apprised of them, and alarmed at them. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The wicked,' we are told,' shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. The wages of sin is death, not only temporal, but eternal. It is, therefore, a most fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,' after having spent our days in rebellion against a Being infinitely too wise to be imposed on, too just to be biassed, and too powerful to be resisted.

On the other hand, if peace is made between bim and us, and kept on our side, by a due observation of the conditions, we shall then be made meet to be partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light;' we shall then 'sbine in the kingdom of our Father, as the stars, for ever and ever;' then shall we receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him;' then shall we be placed at his right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore ;' and, to make our happiness most perfect, we shall see God in peace, and know him only in the blessed effects of his love, which it is as impossible for us now to conceive, as it will be then to utter.

How then is this peace, of such infinite importance to us, both on account of the miseries it delivers us from, and the happiness it gives us hopes of, to be made ? And what are the terms and conditions, on which it is offered ? Though we should be subjected to all manner of difficulties, as preparatory to peace with God; yet, as there is no standing out, nor remaining in a state of war and rebellion, against him with whom we have to do, it is our business to close with any conditions, though ever so rigorous. But we need not be afraid; for God, whose mercy is equal to his power, knowing of what we are made, hath, of his own free motion and grace, invited us to peace, through a covenant founded in the blood of his Son; which, by the assistance he engages to lend us, it will not only be easy, but after a little struggle with ourselves, extremely pleasant to keep. Our blessed Saviour and Mediator, who hath procured the benefit of this covenant for us by the 'sacrifice of his blood,' hath appointed the sacrament of baptism as the means whereby the contracting parties, God and the new Christian, solemnly plight their promises to each other; and hath likewise made the other sacrament, that of his last supper, the seal which renews and confirms the covenant with every penitent transgressor. In both he communicates the assistance of the Holy Spirit, which helps our infirmities,' and enables us, if we are not shamefully wanting to ourselves, to observe and perform the conditions promised on our part.

As Christ, and all the benefits of his passion, and holy religion, are proposed to us in this covenant; as there is no other way to escape the vengeance threatened, or obtain the blessings promised, in holy Scripture; and as it is by the articles engaged for on our part in this solemn compact, that we must live here, and be judged hereafter; so there is nothing knowable, which we are so much concerned to understand, nothing practicable, which we are so much interested to observe and follow, as this. From no other fountain can we derive any reasonable hopes or fears of considerable consequence to us. Heaven and hell depend

on it; and therefore all our attention ought to be centred in it. All that is to pass between God and us, is to be regulated according to the Christian covenant here, and to be determined by it hereafter.

Since this is truly the case, let us see what it is that God's promises and ours are interchangeably pledged for in this most sacred contract.

We have already seen in general what we are to expect as the fruits of peace with God; namely, eternal life, eternal happiness and glory. Our present assurance of this is represented in various lights by the Scriptures. We are made one with Christ, as he is one with the Father. We are united into one church, or spiritual body, whereof 'he is the head. All together we are the body of Christ, and members in particular.' Thus joined to him, who is by nature the Son of God, we also become, by a new birth in baptism,' the adopted sons or children of God. We have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father ;' and being taken into the family of God, are made his children by faith in Christ Jesus.' The provision made for us is suitable to the grandeur of our new relation ; no less than an eternal kingdom, 'which it is the Father's good pleasure to give us,' as his beloved children, and consequently 'heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; insomuch that being one with him, where he is, there shall we be also,' partakers both of his nature, and of his inheritance in happiness and glory. We need not 'say, since these are the promises of God, that they cannot possibly fail of performance, provided we do our utmost to fulfil the promises made on our part.

But how shall we enter into a covenant of peace with God, since we are by nature at enmity with him, and averse to his laws ? Can we act against our nature? • Can the branch of the wild olive be,' of itself, cut off, and grafted into a good olive tree ?', Or, supposing this covenant once established between God and us, how shall creatures, so naturally wicked, act up to rules so perfectly pure and holy, as no doubt the infinitely holy Being will prescribe? The Son of God, after having appeased his father's wrath against us by the sacrifice of his blood, now calls us as a mediator, pleading with us as with the Father, first, to a

due consideration of our danger in a natural state of enmity with God, and of the blessed fruits proposed by peace with him; secondly, requires in us a firm resolution to exert our utmost powers in performing the articles of that peace; and thirdly, assures us, so far as our own strength is insufficient, of the effectual aids of his Holy Spirit. • The first thing to be done by us in making a covenant of peace with God, is to renounce and declare war with his enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh; between whom and us there had been too close a league, while we were under the influence of a corrupt and disorderly nature. We cannot be at the same time in peace with God and his enemies, because they prescribe two opposite schemes of life. He who does not proclaim war with the devil, and all the irreligious principles, or wicked actions he would tempt us to, such as atheism, blasphemy, profaneness, rebellion, &c. remains still in a state of war and enmity with God. He who does not renounce, and bid defiance to the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, to covetousness, to pride, ambition, &c. which did at first in the devil, and do still both in him, and the unregenerate part of mankind, so directly oppose the divine nature and will, remains in a state of enmity with God. He who does not set his resolution, and arm his heart against the sinful lusts of the flesh, such as intemperance, luxury, malice, anger, and concupiscence, continues still in a state of enmity with God. If we submit ourselves to God, we must resist the devil. If we love God, we must not love the world, neither the things that are in the world; for if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. If we dedicate ourselves to the service of God, as the members of Christ, we must have "crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts;' knowing, that, “if we live after the flesh, we shall die; but, if through the Spirit we do mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live' with God.

The next thing to be done by us, on embracing the covenant of peace with God, is to believe sincerely all that God hath revealed to us in his word, and more especially such articles of faith as relate immediately to God, the object of our worship; and to his will, the rule of our actions. He who knows not the governor in any community, knows not

whom to obey. He who knows not his laws, knows not how to obey. He who knows not the rewards and punishments annexed to those laws, is not likely to obey ; because he knows not the reasons or motives of obedience. Faith in the holy Trinity is necessary; because it is that into which we are baptized, when we enter into the covenant. Faith in the satisfaction made by Christ for our sins is necessary; because on that is founded his office of mediation, whereby the covenant of peace with God was obtained. Faith in his incarnation is necessary; because without a body he could not have made the atonement, nor consequently procured the covenant. Faith in the assistance of the Holy Spirit is necessary; because we know, or ought to know, that, without such assistance, we are not able to keep the covenant. And faith in a judgment to come, and endless rewards and punishments to follow, is necessary, because, if these are not believed in, the laws of God, which we covenant to obey, can have little or no influence on our practice. We see these articles of faith are so closely connected with the covenant, that it is impossible for us to receive it, and disbelieve them. Besides, on these the Scriptures lay the greatest stress; and therefore they demand our closest attention. God pledges his word for their truth ; and therefore we must believe them, These were the principal things which Christ came to do and teach, either personally, or by his Holy Spirit; and he tells us, He that believeth on the Son, hath eternal life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him,' as at first; because he hath not that faith, which is necessary to a covenant of peace with God.

The last thing we are to promise in covenanting with God, is, a strict observance of all his commandments. To refuse this, is to deny his supreme authority ; is to proclaim war with him, and declare ourselves rebels to his government: Without a promise therefore for this purpose, we can neither have peace nor covenant with God.

But such a promise will be highly presumptuous and offensive in the sight of God, if it is not founded on a sincere and deep repentance for all our former transgressions of his laws. For this reason we are commanded to repent,' and then to be baptized ;' and surely it is a strong one; for

« FöregåendeFortsätt »