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ON GOOD WORKS.
ROMANS VI. 22, 23.
But now being made free from sin, and be
come servants of God, ye bave your fruit unto boliness, and the end everlasting life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of
God is eternal life, through Jesus Cbrist our Lord.
Of all the motives which should ac- SERM. tuate the Christian to lead a good life, that XIV. which ought to be the most efficacious and prevailing, is commonly altogether overlooked and neglected, or else made too much of. To lead a good life, or to endeavour to do so, through the mere hope of future reward, or dread of future
punishment, is acting from a low and mercenary principle in comparison with the motives that should operate upon the true
SERM. Christian, and stimulate him to works of righteousness. Besides, Christianity does really not promise us any thing future as a reward of virtue, strictly so called; not as a recompence for the worthiness of the work, but as proceeding from God's mere bounty. To virtue in all its branches we were bound, long before Christianity prevailed among us. The law of the Lord
written in our hearts would have laid us always under the obligation of strict obedience to it, independent of any promises which the Gospel holds forth. We never were, nor ever shall be, free from this obligation; but how far we are to look for a reward for our obedience, it would well become us to consider. There is a short but very apt parable to this purpose to be found in the Gospel of St. Luke, which, though it may not perhaps strike you at the first hearing, yet I shall not despair of proving to you that it is greatly connected with what I have been saying. "And the
Apostle said unto the Lord, increase our "faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith "as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say
“ unto this sycamine tree, be thou plucked up SERM.
by the root, and be tbou planted in the sea, 66 and it should obey you.
But which of you having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, “ will say unto him by and by, zuben be is " come from the field: go and sit down to “ meat. And will not rather say unto him, “ make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird
thyself, and serve me till I have eaten and drunken, and afterwards thou shalt eat and
drink? Doth be thank that servant because " he did the things that were commanded kim? “ I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye
shall “ have done all those things which are com“ manded you, say, we are unprofitable ser
vants, we have done that which was our
duty to do.” Now this parable sets the matter in the right light. Whatever we may suppose, we have no title to reward for obeying the commandments of God; it is our bounden duty, let what will come of it. The parable indeed cannot set it in its full light, because among ourselves there is always something due to a good and faithful servant; and as he is our fellowcreature, we may owe him even thanks for
SER.M. his care and fidelity, but between God and
us the case is different-God receives nothing from all our services; “ If thou be
righteous,” says Elihu to Job, “ what givest thou bim, or what receiveth be at thy “ band?” Towhich we may add the remark of the holy Psalmist, “ Thy goodness reach“ eth not unto him.” God is above all wants, and therefore in reality in need of no services; but he is supreme above all things, and therefore he may promulgate his laws freely, and require strict obedience. But from what I have been saying, let it not be imagined I am depreciating good worksfar from it. They are not the less amiable for being necessary, but as the case stands with us Christians, we have a nobler hope, than what can arise from any prospect of recompence strictly due to our just deeds. And the text I have chosen may serve to open your eyes to the truth of what I have been urging. In the text, two things are very prominent and noticeable: we are there called the servants of God-death is said to be the wages of sin, but that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ