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we may point out the abuse often made of the words, “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” People often understand by this, as if the law convinced us that we were lost and undone, that we might thus then flee to Christ for pardon, &c. But although it be true, that by the law one may know that one has committed sin, one does yet know nothing of the sinfulness, the offensiveness of sin, in the sight of God. I
may cut my finger, and feel pain, but not think my life in danger, till the physician tells me, it is lockjaw! Again, the “ Thou shalt not commit adultery,” of Moses, 'may be obeyed, and a man, according to the Gospel, may yet be an adulterer; how, then, is by the law “the knowledge of sin,” so as to lead us to Christ?—the knowledge of sin, according to the Gospel? I may know that there is lying a monster near me, and I may have some fear; but it is dark; I see not the monster; and as I do not feel or see it attempt my life, I make no attempt to flee; but a flash of lightning exhibits to me the yawning grave, and I am terrified anew, as if I had before known nothing of my imminent danger. Therefore,
1. It is only by knowing God, as revealed in Christ Jesus, that we know anything of holiness and justice.
2. It is, then, only by the knowledge of the law, as developed in the Gospel, that we know our utter sinfulness.
3. And then it is the Holy Ghost that convinces of sin.
XXVII. On observing the law from motives of policy, we have already said enough; but must yet rescue this often-perverted passage of the apostle, “ And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law,” &c. (1 Cor. ix. 20.) What are we to make a hypocrite of the apostle? What, of Paul, who studiously used such plainness of speech, that the faith of believers should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God;" and who said, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified !” (1 Cor. ii. 1-5) who, “giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed," suffering “afflictions, " “necessities," " distresses," “stripes,” “ imprisonments ; ” chastened by“ tumults,” “ labours,” “ watchings,” “fastings,” &c., and yet walked in
such “pureness,” and “love unfeigned” (2 Cor. vi. 1-10), as to be able to say to “saints,” “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ !” (1 Cor. xi. 1.) The apostle says in the same place, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” What did the apostle, then, become to idolators ? What to the worshippers of Diana ? Did he desire to do no more than insert one article more in their creed? And why did he at Antioch blame Peter, and 56 withstood him to the face,” for policy of this very
kind? Those do not follow the example of the apostle, nor can they understand him, who merely conform to the outward forms of the votaries of human tradition, which is sinful (see the example of Christ, Luke xi. 37–39); but those follow his example, who profess Christ crucified, and nothing else; and, “for Christ's sake,” ca.. say in truth with St. Paul, “ Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.” Or, “Who is weak, and I am not weak ? who is offended, and I burn not?” &c. (2 Cor. xi. 29.)
XXVIII. As a specimen of the practical result of conformity on the one hand, and nonconformity on the other, to the religion of others, I might adduce my own experience. I came twice after brethren who so conformed in all things, while I professed no other principles than those developed above; when, in both cases, the advantage was greatly on my side; but I will not speak of myself. The case of the pious Moravian, Lieberkuhn, however, is a striking instance in point. He spent the greater part of his life in labours of love among the Jews; and exemplified the most zealous devotedness to gain some: but not one soul is on record as having been saved by him: he became a Jew to the Jews in a literal sense ; and this, I believe, accounts for his want of success. People, indeed, ran after him—as they ever will after anything eccentric—but they ran in vain, and he preached in vain.
XXIX. Some persons apologize for want of success in a missionary (which is invariably owing to some notable defect in the man), by abusing the prophetic words of our blessed Saviour, 66 Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain.” (Isa. xlix. 4.) They forget that the power of preaching lies in the cross ; that it is “ Christ crucified,"
which is “the power of God unto salvation ;" that it is the Holy Ghost which reproveth “ the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment;" they forget the words of Christ, “ And 1, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." (John xii. 32.) While there was yet no cross, no Christ crucified, no Holy Ghost given, how could men be converted? But Christ does not, stop there when he says, “I have laboured in vain," &c. He adds, “Yet surely, my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God:” for it was not lost; it was preparatory to that which should immediately follow, so soon as Christ should have “ finished” his work; “when he ascended up on high,” and “ led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." (Eph. iv. 8.) And since that time, the Gospel was never preached in vain, when preached “by pureness...by knowledge,” and " in demonstration of the Spirit and uß power.” (1 Cor. ii. 4.) It thus always was, and ever will be “ To the one,...the savour of death unto death; to the other,... the savour of life unto life:” and where it generates not life, there it brings not death either.
XXX. Some will then point out this and that person, as an exception to this rule; but enough, experience sufficiently proves that the rule generally holds good; and we conclude, where an exception appears to exist, it might be accounted for by a better knowledge of the person, whose case is brought forward in opposition to the word and the promises of God. 66 Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid : yea, let God be true, but every man a liar.” (Rom. iii. 3, 4.)
Let us finally, then, once more remember, that those to whose religious practices we should conform out of policy, are they who, according to the prophetic prediction (Isa. viii. 13—15), take offence only at the grave positives of Christianity, such as: TRINITY !-SON God !- INCARNATION !-CRUCIFIXION ! compared with which the negatives are absolutely nothing, and for which no observances, no policy, in the world, will ever prove the least palliative to them; while we are not at liberty to hold out any palli ıtives, to lessen either the dignity, or “the offence,
of the CROSS !” But “as for me,” I would, with the prophet of old, say to my brethren, with the most unfeigned regard and affection, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord, in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.” (1 Sam. xii. 23.) For “my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” But you again, on the other side, remember ! «be not highminded !” “ For if thou wert cut out of the olive-tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olivetree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive-tree?” They are yet “beloved for the fathers' sakes," "and so all Israel shall be saved." And “what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.” (Rom. ix. X. xi.) If the prophet had lived now-a-days, he might have addressed to you both-yes, both Jews and Christians—these pathetic words of the Lord, “What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain ?" (Jer. ii. 5.) However, there is “a remnant according to the election of grace;” and that remnant lives not among “ Israel after the flesh,” but amongst Christians ; and they are “beloved,” and “accepted in the BELOVED;” and they are “the BRIDE, THE LAMB'S WIFE," “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;” amongst whom may it be our lot to live and rejoice from henceforth and for evermore, unto all eternity, world without end. Amen.
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