« AnteriorContinuar »
let this keep you from envying them, or choosing any of their ways. Let it also have a tendency to make you more desirous of obtaining the honour that cometh from God; if you have that, you have enough; the rest is of no value, and the loss of it no disadvantage.
“ Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake; for their's is the kingdom of heaven."
TIIE OBLIGATIONS OF CONVERSION.
THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
Compared to a Warfare-A Race-A Stewardship-A Pil
All who have obtained “like precious faith” with the first sincere followers of the Lord Jesus, and are made partakers of the grace of God in truth, are greatly blessed. They not only are saved from the pursuits which end in disappointment, vexation, and ruin; but being adopted into the family of God, and made heirs according to the promise of eternal life, they are now happy in the consciousness of the Divine favour, and rejoice in hope of the glory that is to be revealed, as has been sufficiently proved. Whatever names may be appropriated to such persons by those who are ignorant of their motives, or whatever construction may be put on the workings of their religious affections, their situation is infinitely more desirable than that of their conceited or censorious, though incompetent judges. Let such then disregard the frowns or flatteries of others; and, knowing what has been done for them, let them with grateful lips celebrate his praises who has called them to “glory and virtue,” and dedicate themselves entirely to his holy and honourable service. To assist such in their humble and devout walk with God, is my present intention; and, Oh, that it may be done
to his glory, and to the advantage of those for whose sake this attempt is made!
In the former part of this work I have endeavoured to describe the state and condition of the natural man, and the astonishing condescension and mercy of God towards him in the gospel, in enlightening his mind and renovating bis nature. It now remains for me to proceed in considering him as made spiritual by divine grace, in shewing him how he ought to walk and please God, according to his holy will.
I shall begin by observing that whatever advantages may be supposed to arise from conversion, it must be considered rather in the light of the commencement of holy walking with God, than a fixed and settled state, in which there is nothing to be done. While indeed the mind of the grateful believer contemplates with delight the love of God, and tastes the sweetness of the change which has passed upon him, he does not consider this subject so deeply as he will do when brought by various trials and temptations into a state of conflict. When this takes place, he will be taught the absolute necessity of looking to God for that support and direction which the peculiar exigences of his case may require. To shew how correct this sentiment is, I shall en. deavour to describe the nature of the christian life as it is set forth in the oracles of truth. It is there represented to us under the figure of a Warfare-a Racea Service, or Stewardship-and a Pilgrimage.
The renunciation of whatever is contrary to the will of God is binding upon all christians. "Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity;" and every person or thing is to be considered an evil, and ought to be opposed as an enemy, that would hinder us from obeying that sacred injunction; and we must be armed against them. For this purpose we are called upon to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," and to “put on the
whole armour of God”-that we “may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.” The armour we are to take to us, is the girdle of truth-the breastplate of righteousness—the EVANGELICAL shoes--the shield of faith—the helniet of SALVATION-and the sword of the spirit. By which we are to understand, that whoever would conquer his spiritual adversaries must live in the constant exercises of the christian graces of sincerity, justice, watchfulness, faith, hope, and a constant attention to the whole revealed will of God. Being thus prepared, we are called to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, 1 Tim. ii. 3; to war a good warfare, 1 Tim. i. 18; to “fight the good fight of faith;" and by “looking un'o Jesus," the “Captain of our salvation;" we may “lay hold” of that which indeed is worth fighting for, “eternal life.”
The enemies with whom we are to wage war, and overcome, are the powers of darkness, this present evil world, and the corruptions of our nature. If we do not subdue them, they will distress and ruin us for ever.
1. The powers of darkness. Whether we speak of these under the title of one or many, it is much the same; as contending nations call each other the enemy, so we may apply the same term to our infernal foes. Since their fall and exclusion from heaven, they have discovered uvabated malice towards God and his works, especially man; and their constant aim is to dishonour the one, and destroy the other. This is done by a variety of temptations, suggestions, misrepresentations, and snares; some are of a more subtle and insinuating, others of a more painful and distressing kind, according to persons and circumstances, or as he chooses to appear an “angel of light” or “a roaring lion.” By what means they have access to our minds we know not; nor is it an easy matter always to distinguish between their temptations and our own thoughts ; but as their artempts are always to retard our progress in piety, and to turn us aside from the right way, if we are attentive to the workings of our own minds, we shall not be much at a loss to distinguish their wiles and malevolent designs,
They not unfrequently do that by their agents which they themselves are not able to accomplish. Thus we read of “ the synagogue of Satan," and of “the depths of Satan;" by which we are to understand eril-designing men, open or secret persecutors, or propagators of seducing and erroneous doctrines, who prove themselves " the messengers of Satan to buffet us, whose end is to be according to their works."
He had the intolerable assurance to tempt the Son of God himself to doubt his Father's care and kind providence; to act presumptuously, if not to destroy himself, and to set his heart on the vanities of this world, which he boldly promised bim on the astonishing condition of his paying homage to his infernal majesty; and the same, or similar temptations, are still practised upon the christian; and the church may say now, as in former times, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
2. This present evil worid.—To shew how nearly allied the spirit of the carnal world is to Satan, the apostle speaking to the Ephesians concerning their natural estate, says, that they “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit which now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Another apostle informs us that the world lieth in wickedness." What then have the people of God to expect from those who are the friends of the world, and consequently the enemies of God, but opposition? James iv. 4. As they do not know, they cannot approve and love them, but frequently hate them and separate from their company, regarding them as the filth and offscouring of all things, Joho xv. 19, 1 Cor. iv. 13; and at other times laying snares to entangle them, and turn them aside from the path of duty. The christian is therefore in danger of complying with their wishes to shun their reproach, or adopting their maxims and pursuits to avoid singularity; and it is only by exercising faith in the Son of God that will givo us the victory, 1 John v. 4, 5. He