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S E R M O N XI.
St. John XV. 5.
-For without me, ye can do nothing.
UR Saviour, in the former part of the
he was the vine, and that they were only branches;-intimating, in what a degree their good fruits, as well as the success of all their endeavours, were to depend upon his nications with them ;-he closes the illustration with the inference from it, in the words of the text,-For without me, ye can do nothing. -In the 11th chapter to the Romans, where the manner is explained in which a christian stands by faith,—there is a like illustration made use of, and probably with an eye to this, -where St. Paul instructs us,--that a good man stands as the branch of a wild olive does, when it is grafted into a good olive tree;
and that is,-it flourishes not through its own virtue, but in virtue of the root,—and such a root as is naturally not its own.
It is very remarkable in that passage,-that the apostle call a bad man a wild olive tree; --not barely a branch, (as in the other case) but a tree, which having a root of its own, supports itself, and stands in its own strength, and brings forth its own fruit.-And so does every bad man in respect of the wild and four fruit of a vicious and corrupt heart.-According to the resemblance,-if the apostle intended it,-he is a tree,-has a root of his own,and fruitfulness, such as it is, with a power to bring it forth without help. But in respect of religion, and the moral improvements of virtue and goodness,—the apostle calls us, and reason tells us, we are no more than a branch; and all our fruitfulness, and all our support, -depend so much upon the influence and communications of God, that without him we can do nothing,-as our Saviour declares in the text. There is scarce any point in our religion wherein men have run into fuch violent extremes as in the senses given to this, and such like declarations in Scripture-of our sufficiency being of God;--fome understanding thein fo, as to leave no meaning at all in them;
others,--too much :the one interpreting the gifts and influences of the Spirit, so as to destroy the truth of all fuch promises and declarations in the gofpel; the other carrying their notions of them fo high, as to destroy the reason of the gofpel itfelf,—and render the christian religion, which consists of sober and consistent doctrines, the most intoxicated,—the most wild and unintelligible inftitution that ever was in the world.
This being premised, I know not how I can more feasonably engage your attention this day, than by a fhort examination of each of these errors ;-in doing which, as I fhall take some pains to reduce both the extremes of them to reason,-it will necessarily lead me, at the fame time, to mark the safe and true doctrine of our church, concerning the promised influences and operations of the spirit of God up. on our hearts;-which, however depreciated through the first mistake,-or boafted of beyond meafure through the second, -muft nevertheless be so limited and understood, -as, on one hand, to make the gospel of Christ confistent with itself,and,' on the other, to make it consistent with reason and common sense.
If we consider the many express declarations, wherein our Saviour tell his followers, before his crucifixion,-That God would send his spirit the comforter amongst them, to supply his place in their hearts ;-and, as in the text,--that without him they could do nothing :-if we conceive them as spoken to his disciples with an immediate view to the emergencies they were under, from their natural incapacities of finishing the great work he had left them, and building upon that large foundation he had laid --without some extraordinary help and guidance to carry them through, no one can dispute that evidence and confirmation which was after given of its truth ; as our Lord's disciples were illiterate men, consequently unskilled in the arts and acquired ways of persuasion.-Unless this want had been supplied,—the first obstacle in their la. bours must have discouraged and put an end