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in truth; and hereby we know, that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him." James ii. 15, 16. 1 John iii. 18, 19. So that love of the brethren, shewn in active kindness, is uniformly required as evidence of our faith in Christ, and love to his name.
These reflections elucidate the following Scriptures also, and are confirmed by them. "Know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead." "The grace of God that bringeth salvation-teacheth us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Titus ii. 11-14.
One most solemn and affecting passage still remains to be considered : "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe." 2 Thess. i. 5-12. We are here expressly informed, that at the day of judgment, all will be condemned who have not known God, and obeyed the gospel; but how many persons of moral character and external respectability will be found in that company! No exceptions, however, are intimated; the saints, even those that believe, will alone stand accepted by the Judge; and all else will be punished with everlasting destruction from his presence.
I shall conclude this part of the subject, with the words which Christ spake to his servant John, "Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.-I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." Rev. xxii. 12-14. But to whom does the title and privilege of the Tree of Life belong? Surely to the true believer, who loves Christ, and keeps his commandments. "Ye are my friends," says he, "if ye do whatsoever I command you."
This view of the subject harmonizes the whole Scripture, and reconciles those parts which seem to be contrary to each other: but when this centre of unity is overlooked, men either " go about to establish their own righteousness," or run into Antinomianism. These two extremes are the Scylla and Charybdis, the fatal rock or dreadful whirlpool of our perilous voyage. I have, therefore, endeavoured to mark out the safe passage between them; and may the Holy Spirit guide us at a distance from these and all other dangers, on the right hand and on the left! We proceed then,
III. To state more explicitly, and shew more precisely, the rules of judgment, as delivered in the sacred oracles.
It is most evident, that the Scripture was intended principally for those who bestow pains to understand it; and this obvious reflection illustrates the propriety of the descriptions there given of the great decisive day: for they certainly relate almost exclusively to those who profess the religion of the Bible. We cannot therefore infer any thing from these descriptions, concerning those who have not been favoured with revelation, or have rejected it though other Scriptures give some light on the subject. The holy law is the unalterable rule of right and wrong, in respect of all men however distinguished; nor is it possible, that God should judge of characters and actions by any other rule; for the law is the exact reflection of his infinite holiness, and he cannot deny himself. He can, however, pardon the guilty, and make allowance for unavoidable disadvantages. They who know not the will of God, and do it not, shall be beaten with few stripes: but they who know and refuse to do his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. Luke xii. 47, 48. It will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and
Gomorrah, than for those who heard the doctrines and saw the miracles of Christ, and did not repent and believe the gospel.
The apostle therefore adds, a few verses after the text, "as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law." They have indeed vio lated the perfect rule of duty: but as they had not the advantage of the written word, they will not be liable to so heavy a condemnation as wicked Jews and Christians: yet, as they acted against the dictates of their own reason and conscience, those remains of the law originally written in the heart, they "will perish without law." For "being a law to themselves," their consciences may indeed excuse some parts of their conduct, but they must condemn others; especially in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ: so that " every mouth will be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God." Rom. iii. 19. All, except idiots, (who scarcely can be thought accountable creatures), know far better than they practice, and might know much more, were not their hearts set against the truth through love of sin. All men must therefore be condemned according to this rule, and the number and aggravation of their crimes, compared with the measure of their advantages, is the standard by which their punishment will be ascertained, by the infinitely righteous Judge.
What the Lord may do in mercy to any of his sinful creatures, it does not become us to inquire, beyond what he hath seen good to reveal: but we have no ground to suppose that any who die without spiritual religion can be happy in another world; and neither Scripture nor history countenance the opinion, that the Lord gives his sanctifying Spirit, where he has not sent some measure of the light of revelation.-We are sure, however, that the state of pagans will be far better than that of wicked Christians so called. While we therefore rejoice in our privileges, we may tremble, lest they should increase our condemnation: and the state of the nations, who still sit in darkness and the shadow of death, should animate our endeavours, and excite our prayers for their conversion.
The apostle adds, " as many as have sinned under the law, shall be judged by the law." The Jews rejected the gospel, and sought justification by the works of the law. Deists discard revelation, and rely on their own moral conduct to recommend them to God; and various descriptions of professed Christians form a complex law of works, out of the religion of the New Testament. But whatever system, men favoured with revelation may adopt, if they put the event of the great decisive day, on their own works, as the ground of their confidence; they will be judged according to the holy law of God, and fall under its awful curse. "Christ is become of none effect to them: they are fallen from grace, and become debtors to do the whole law.” Gal. v. 1-6. The advantages such men enjoy, the crimes they commit, their proud aversion to the humbling salvation of the gospel, and the degree of their enmity and opposition to the truth, will determine the measure of their guilt and punishment, according to the decision of unerring wisdom and infinite justice.
Some observations have already been made on the case of those, who allow the doctrines of Christianity, renounce dependence on their own works, and profess to expect pardon, righteousness, and eternal life, as "the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Such persons, when the Lord shall come, will be judged according to this profession; and if their faith be shewn to have been living and genuine, by its holy fruits, according to the discoveries which have been mentioned, they will, as justified believers, receive the reward of righteousness; and their future glory and felicity will be proportioned to the degree of their grace and obedience of faith. But if their conduct and dispositions have proved that they were not true believers, they will remain under the condemnation of the law, aggravated by their abuse of the gospel; and so have their portion with hypocrites and unbelievers.
IV. Then let us make some particular application of the subject.
In has been before remarked, that "we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ;" and let this reflection sink deep into every heart. Men voluntarily break the laws of their country, but dire compulsion takes place, when they are convicted and executed for their crimes. The young man, rejoicing in his vigour and flow of spirits, may give a loose to his passions; but let him remember, that "for all these things God will bring him into judgment."-You may now forget God, but he will not forget you, or any of your works. You may affront his justice, and despise his mercy: but he will shortly say, "It is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will have no mercy on them." Isaiah xxvii. 11. Now is the day of the Lord's patience, but the day of wrath and perdition of ungodly men approacheth: now he invites you to draw near to his throne of grace: shortly he will summon you to his awful tribunal. "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." "Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many-shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door ;" it will be for ever in vain for those that stand without, to cry, "Lord, Lord, open to us." Now the Saviour pleads with you, in accents of tenderest love;" how long ye simple ones will ye love simplicity, and scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at my reproof, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you." But ere long, he will frown on the impenitent and unbelieving, and say, "Because I called and ye refused, I stretched out my hands and no man regarded; therefore shall ye eat the fruit of your own ways, and be filled with your own devices."-" Oh that men were wise, that they understood these things, that they would consider their latter end." Prov. i. 19-31. Deut. xxxii. 29.
But will any of you, with this solemn season of discovery and decision before your eyes, deliberately put the event of it upon the goodness of your hearts and lives? Is there not in your very soul an involuntary shrinking from so strict and awful a scrutiny? Do you not feel a disposition to say, "enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord?" "If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity, O Lord, who may stand." As you value your immortal souls, do not now insist on any plea, which you feel to be inadmissible in the great day of righteous retribution. Stand not on any distinction between your case and that of your fellow-sinners. Seek above all things an interest in the atonement and righteousness of Christ; and count all but loss that you may win him, and be found in him. Disregard the scorn and reproach of an unbelieving world; anticipating that day, when every eye shall see the despised Redeemer, and his favour be universally allowed of more value than ten thousand worlds." Let every one," however," that nameth the name of Christ, depart from all iniquity." "If we say that we have faith, and have not works, will faith save us," in the day when the Lord shall render unto every man "according to his deeds?" Alas! a dead faith, a presumptuous hope, and an unsound profession, will only increase the anguish and shame of final condemnation.
Even if we be true believers, negligence and loose walking will cloud our evidence, and weaken our warranted confidence: while the greatest possible encouragement is given to all genuine good works, by that very system which excludes boasting, and allows none of our services the least share in our justification before God. "Not a cup of cold water given to a disciple, from love to Christ, shall lose its reward." He will accept every kindness to those whom we look upon as his brethren, even as if we had done it to him in person: and while we forgive injuries, love enemies, deny ourselves, endure hardships, or bear any cross, from love to his name, and desire to adorn and recommend his gospel; he notices our poor services, and will applaud and reward them before men and angels.—Ñay, if he observe that we
form plans and make attempts to promote his cause, and be serviceable to his people; even though he see good to disappoint our endeavours; he will kindly accept the zealous intention, and openly say, "Thou didst well that it was in thine heart." "Let us not therefore be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not:" and " may we all find mercy of the Lord in that day of retribution," and have an abundant entrance into his kingdom of everlasting glory and felicity.
GODLINESS THE ONLY SOURCE OF TRUE HAPPINESS.
1 TIMOTHY, VI. 6.
Godliness with contentment is great gain.
THE desire of gain, in one form or another, is universal: for though no one can seek the true riches for himself, without disinterested love to God and his neighbour: yet love to himself, and thirst after happiness, cannot be extinguished: being essential to our nature as God originally constituted it, and not superinduced by the entrance of sin. If, however, the apostle's compendious maxim were generally believed, how many vain projects would be superseded? What fatigues, dangers, anxieties, envies, contentions, frauds, oppressions, wars, murders, and mischiefs, might be prevented!
The context is worthy of our peculiar attention. The servants in those days were generally slaves; and it frequently happened that Christians were the property of Pagans. Such a condition is commonly thought very wretched, and slaves have seldom escaped cruel usage: yet the apostle elsewhere says, “Art thou called, being a servant? care not for it.”—The Christian slave is Christ's freed man; for, " if the Son make you free, then are you free indeed:" but the ungodly master is in deplorable bondage; "for he that committeth sin, is the servant of sin."
In this view of the subject the apostle says, "Let as many servants, as are under the yoke, count their own masters worthy of all honour: that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed." For if Christian servants behaved less respectfully to their masters than others did, the heathens would blame their religion, as teaching them to violate the duties of their station. "And they," says he "that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit." No doubt the involuntary servitude of those, who have not, by atrocious crimes forfeited their liberty, is inconsistent with the moral law; and if real Christianity should become universal, slavery must be finally abolished. But the apostles were not legislators or civil magistrates: as ministers of religion, they taught men how to act in their several situations as matters then stood: and when rulers embraced the gospel, it was proper they too should be taught their duty, and instructed to apply a legal and regular remedy to the evil. But it would have exceedingly increased the opposition made to the gospel, if the preachers of it had attempted, by their own influence, to subvert the existing system in this respect; or even required Christian masters indiscriminately to liberate their slaves.-Whereas, if they were taught to use them as brethren, the ends of humanity would be effectually answered, as to the individuals concerned, and the example would have the most salutary tendency.
Having stated this matter, the apostle next showed the sources and consequences of the contrary doctrine; exhorted Timothy to withdraw from vain disputers, who "supposed that gain is godliness:" and then subjoined the words of the text, "but godliness with contentment is great gain;" for, says he, "we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith con
In considering the subject, we may,
I. Notice the connection between godliness and contentment.
I. We notice the connection between godliness and contentment, as it is evidently implied in the text.
The word godliness frequently occurs in the writings of the apostles, and must therefore be understood according to the tenor of their doctrine. We must not consider it merely as a proper regulation of our affections and conduct towards God, according to the first table of the moral law; but as implying especially the dispositions and demeanour, suited to a sinner under a dispensation of mercy, and invited to reconciliation with his offended God, through the Mediator of the new covenant.
When this has been duly attended to, it will evidently appear that deep humility and unfeigned repentance constitute an essential part of evangelical godliness: for unless we habitually possess this frame of mind, we cannot sincerely make those confessions and supplications, or present those sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, which are peculiar to Christianity. Now every reflecting man must perceive, that deep humility, accompanied with cheering hope, exceedingly tends to produce contentment. A vast proportion of the impatience and fretfulness of mankind, results from a false estimate of their own merits and consequence. This induces them to consider their trials great, their comforts trifling, the least affront intolerable; and every kind and degree of respect inadequate, except unqualified adulation and submission. But such views of Jehovah and the adoring seraphim, as filled Isaiah with self-abasement; or such apprehensions of the divine majesty, as caused Job to "abhor himself, and repent in dust and ashes," would give them very different views on these subjects. Did they enter into the feelings of the apostle, when he called himself the "chief of sinners," and "less than the least of all saints;" were they ready to own with the centurion, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof;" or with John Baptist, "I am not worthy to loose his shoe-latchet;" a total revolution would take place in all their sentiments and sensations about outward comforts and trials, and the usage they meet with from those around them. The sharpest affliction would then appear light and momentary, compared with their deserts: the meanest provision would be received with lively gratitude; while with the patriarch they confessed, "we are not worthy of the least of all thy mercies:" the most unfavourable situation or disagreeable employment would be deemed better than they have a right to expect and in the greatest injuries or affronts, they would submit to the justice of God, who may correct or punish by whatever instruments he pleases.
Humble thoughts of themselves reconcile men to obscure stations, mean circumstances, and common occupations, as most suited to them: and when they are evidently called to more public services, they enter on them with reluctance and diffidence; except as the lively exercise of faith renders them superior to their apprehensions, and a sense of duty engages them to proceed. Such men are ready to stoop, and in honour to prefer others; they do not complain of being buried in situations, where they are undervalued or neglected. They "think soberly of themselves, and as they ought to think;" and this secures them from manifold disappointments and vexa