« AnteriorContinuar »
to inherit eternal life, and when Christ said, Go and sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, he went away sorrowful. He was not willing to part with all. If Christ had bid him sell half, it may be he would have complied with it. He had a great desire to secure salvation. But the apostle Paul did not content himself with wishing. He was resolved, if it were possible, that he would obtain it. And when it was needsul that he should lose worldly good, or when any great suffering was in his way, it was no cause of hesitation to him. He had been in very comfortable and honourable circumstances among the Jews. He had received the best education, that was to be had among them, being brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and was regarded as a very learned young man.
His own nation, the Jews, had a high esteem of him, and he was esteemed for his moral and religious qualifications among them. But when he could not hold the outward benefit of these things and win Christ, he despised them totally, he parted with all his credit and honour. He made nothing of them, that he might win Christ. And instead of being honoured and loved and living in credit, as before among his own nation, he made himself the object of their universal hatred. He lost all, and the Jews hated him, and persecuted him every where. And when great sufferings were in the way, he willingly made himself conformable to Christ's death, that he might have a part in his resurrection. He parted with his honour, his ease, his former friends and former acquaintance, his worldly goods and every thing else, and plunged himself into a state of extreme labour, contempt and suffering; and in this way he sought the kingdom of heaven. He acted in this matter very much as one, that is running a race for some great prize, who makes running his great and only business, till he has reached the end of the race and strains every nerve and sinew, and suffers nothing to divert him, and will not stand to listen to what any one says to him, but presses forward. Or as a man that is engaged in battle, sword in hand, with strong and violent enemies, that seek his life, who exerts himself to his utmost, as for his life. 1 Corinthians ix. 26. “ I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.” When fleshly appetites stood in the way, however importunate they were, he utterly denied them and renounced them; they were no impediment in the way of his thorough pursuit of salvation. He would not be subject to the appetites of his body, but made them subject to his soul. 1 Corinthians ix. 27. “ I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” Probably there never was a soldier, when he bore his part in storming a city, that acted with greater resolution and violence, as it were forcing his way through all that opposed him, than the apostle Paul in seeking the kingdom of heaven. We have not only his own word for it; the history we have of his life, written by Saint Luke, shows the same. Now those, who seek their salvation, ought to follow this example. Persons, who are concerned for their salvation, sometimes inquire what they shall do. Let them do as did the apostle Paul; seek salvation in the way he did, with the like violence and resolution. Those, that make this inquiry, who are somewhat anxious year after year, and complain that they have not obtained any comfort, would do well to ask themselves, wbether they seek salvation in any measure in this way, with that resolution and violence of which he set them an example. Alas, are they not very far indeed from it! Can it in any proper sense be said, that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence at their hands?
Secondly. The apostle did not only thus earnestly seek salvation before his conversion and hope, but afterwards also. What he says in the third chapter of Philippians of his suffering the loss of all things, that he might be found in Christ, and its being the one thing that he did to seek salvation; and also what he says of his so running as not in vain, but as resolving to win the prize of salvation, and keeping under his body that he might not be a castaway ; were long after his conviction, and after he had renounced all hope of his own good estate by nature. If being a convinced sinner excuses a man from seeking salvation any more, or makes it reasonable that he should cease his earnest care and labour for it, certainly the apostle might have been excused, when he had not only already attained true grace, but such eminent degrees of it. To see one of the most eminent saints that ever lived, if not the most eminent of all, so exceedingly engaged in seeking his own salvation, ought for ever 10 put to shame those who are a thousand degrees below him, and are but mere infants to bim, if they have any grace at all; who yet excuse themselves from using any violence after the kingdom of heaven now, because they have attained already, who free themselves from the burden of going on earnestly to seek salvation with this, that they have finished the work, they have obtained a hope. The apostle, as eminent as he was, did not say within himself, “I am converted, and so am sure of salvation. Christ has promised it me; why need I labour any more to secure it? Yea, i am not only converted, but I have obtained great degrees of grace.” But still he is violent afier salvation. He did not keep looking back on the extraordinary discoveries he enjoyed at his first conversion, and the past great experience he had had from time to time. He did not content himself with the thought, that he possessed the most wonderful testimonies of God's favour, and of the love of Christ already that ever any enjoyed, even to his having been caught up to the third heavens ; but he forgot the things that were behind. He acted die is gain.”
as thongh he did not consider that he had yet attained an interest in Christ. Philippians iii. 11, 12, 13, 14. “ If by any means I might attain onto the resurrection of the dead; not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Cbrist Jesus." The apostle still sought that he might win Christ and his righteousness, and attain to his resurrection, not as though he had attained it already, or had already obtained a title to the crown. And this is especially the thing in which he calls on us. to imitate his example in the text. It was not because Paul was at a loss whether he was truly converted or not, that he was still so earnest in seeking salvation. He not only thought that he was converted, and should go to heaven when he died, but he knew and spake particularly about it in this very epistle, in the twentyfirst verse of the first chapter. “For me to live is Christ, but to
And in the foregoing verse he says, “ According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death." The apostle knew that though he was converted, yet there remained a great work that he must do, in order to his salvation. There was a narrow way to eternal glory, through which he must pass, and never could come to heaven in any other way. He knew it was absolutely necessary for him earnestly to seek salvation still ; he knew there was no going to heaven in a slothful way. And therefore he did not seek salvation the less earnestly, for his having hope and assurance, but a great deal more. We nowhere read so much of his earnestness and violence for the kingdom of heaven before he was converted, as afterwards. The apostle's hope was not of a nature to make him slothful; it had a contrary effect. The assurance he had of victory, together with the necessity there was of fighting, engaged him to fight, not as one that beat the air, but as one that wrestled with principalities and powers. Now this example the apostle does especially insist in the text, that we ought to follow. And this should induce all present who think themselves converted, to inquire whether they seek salvation never the less earnestly, because they think it is well with them, and that they are now sure of heaven. Most certainly if the apostle was in the right way of acting, we in this place are generally in the wrong. For nothing is more apparent than that it is not ihus with the generality of professors here, but that it is a common thing after they think they are safe, to be far less diligent and earnest in religion than before.
Thirdly. The apostle did not only diligently seek heaven after he knew he was converted, but was earnestly cautious lest be should be damned; as appears by the passage already cited. " But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Here you see the apostle is very careful lest he should be a castaway, and denies his carnal appetites, and mortifies bis flesh for that reason. He did not say, “ I am safe, I am sure I shall never be lost; why need I take any further care respecting it?" Many think because they suppose themselves converted, and so safe, that they have nothing to do with the awful threatenings of God's word, and those terrible denunciations of damnation that are contained in it. When they hear them, they hear them as things which belong only to others, and not at all to themselves, as though there were no application of what is revealed in the scripture respecting hell, to the godly. And therefore, when they hear awakening sermons about the awful things that God has threatened to the wicked, they do not hear them for themselves, but only for others. But it was not thus with this holy apostle, who certainly was as safe from hell, and as far from a damnable state as any of us. He looked upon himself as still nearly concerned in God's threatenings of eternal damnation, notwithstanding all his hope, and all bis eminent holiness, and therefore gave great diligence, that he might avoid eternal damnation. For he considered that eternal misery was as certainly connected with a wicked life as ever it was, and that it was absolutely necessary that he should still keep under his body, and bring it into subjection, in order that he might not be damned; because indulging the lusts of the body and being damned were most surely connected together. The apostle knew that this conditional proposition was as true concerning him, as ever it was. “If I live wickedly, or do not live in a way of universal obedience to God's commands, I shall certainly be a castaway." This is evident, because the apostle mentions a proposition of this nature concerning himsell in that very chapter where he says, be kept under his body lest he should be a castaway. 1 Corinthians ix. 16. “For thongh I preach the gospel I have nothing to glory of, for necessity is laid upon me; yea, wo is unto me if I preach not the gospel.” What necessity was there upon the aposile to preach the gospel, though God bad commanded him, for he was already converted, and was safe; and if he had neglected to preach the gospel, how could he have perished after he was converted? But yet this conditional proposition was still true; if he did not live a life of obedience to God, wo would be to him ; wo
to bim, if he did not preach the gospel. The connexion still held. It is impossible a man should go any where else than to hell in a way of disobedience to God. And therefore he deemed it necessary for him to preach the gospel on that account, and on the same account he deemed it necessary to keep under his body, lest he should be a castaway. The connexion between a wicked life and
. damnation is so certain, that if a man lives a wicked life, it proves that all his supposed experiences are nothing. If a man at the last day be found a worker of iniquity, nothing else will be inquired of about bim. Let him pretend what he will, Christ will say to him and all others like him, “Depart from me, I know you not, ye that work iniquity." And God has revealed these threatenings and this connexion, not only to deter wicked men, but also godly men from sin. And though God will keep men that are converted from damnation, yet this is the means by which he will keep them from it; viz. he will keep them from a wicked life. And though he will keep them from a wicked life, yet this is one means by which he will keep them from it, viz. by their own caution to avoid damnation, and by his threatenings of damnation if they should live a wicked life. We have another remarkable instance in Job, who was an eminently holy man, yet avoided sin with the utmost care, because he would avoid destruction from God. Job, ch. xxxi. Surely we have as much cause to be cautious, that we do not expose ourselves to destruction from God, as holy Job bad. We have not a greater stock of goodness than he. The apostle directs Christians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians ii. 12. And it is spoken of as the character of a true saint, that he trembles at God's word; Isaiah lxvi. 2, which is to tremble especially at the awful threatenings of it as Job did. Whereas the manner of many now is, whenever they think they are converted, to throw by those threatenings of God's word, as if they had no more to do with them, because they suppose they are converted, and out of danger. Christ gave his disciples, even those of them, that were converted, as well as others, directions to strive for salvation ; because broad was the way that leads to destruction, and men are so apt to walk in that way and be damned. Matthew vii. 13, 14. “ Enter ye in at the straight gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat ; because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be, that find it."
Fourthly. The apostle did not seek salvation by his own righteousness. Though his sufferings were so very great, his labours so exceedingly abundant, yet he never accounted them as righteousness. He trod it under his feet, as utterly insufficient to recommend