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In the second place, All the other ordinances are means of sanctification. I shall take notice of these two, Prayer, and the Lord's Supper. Prayer, besides its direct tendency to impress the mind with a sense of divine things, to heighten our reverence and esteem for the object of worship, to increase our desire for the blessings which we ask, and our abhorrence of the evils from which we implore deliverance; prayer, besides these effects, which it is morally fitted to produce, has, for its direct object, the obtaining of the communications of grace. It consists, not only of adoration and thanksgiving, but also of petition. It is the application of a sinful creature, conscious of guilt, wants, and wretchedness, to the infinite mercy and beneficence of the Creator; and, as it is authorized by his command, it never fails, when it is presented in the name of the Mediator, to bring down the blessing. Its effect is similar to that produced upon the face of Moses by his intercourse with God. The soul, returning from the sanctuary, shines with spiritual glory. By strength not his own, the Christian overcomes difficulties, repels temptations, and advances with a steady progress in the path of obedience: “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in time of need.". The connexion of the Lord's Supper with the sanctification of the soul is equally manifest. The very emblems which are used, point it out as an institution adapted to the purpose of invigorating the graces of the Christian. As bread and wine furnish nutriment to the body, so the body and blood of Christ, or, in other words, his atonement and its benefits, contribute to the nourishment of the soul. While the ordinance powerfully impresses upon the mind the unspeakable love of Christ and the great evil of sin, and thus excites two principles of mighty efficacy in the purification of the soul,-gratitude to him and abhorrence of it,-it is the medium of communication between the Saviour and his faithful disciples, in whom he works anew by his Spirit, to carry on to perfection the good work which he has begun. Sitting at his table, and partaking of his bounty, they renew their baptismal vows in humble dependence upon his grace, by which only they shall be enabled to perform them. They devote themselves to his service, not from necessity, but from choice; not merely because they are bound to do so, but because they prefer him to every other master. A deep sense of what they have enjoyed, and what they have done, remains. Their faith is more confident; their love is more ardent; their resolution is more firm; their state of mind is more spiritual and heavenly. Like a way-faring man, who has rested and been refreshed at a place of entertainment, and then resumes his journey with renovated vigour, they go from strength to strength, till they appear before God in Zion.” “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.”+
In the third place, The dispensations of Providence are means of sanctification: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”! The apostle makes use of the universal term “all,” to signify that nothing is excluded, and that there is a co-operation of events to promote the spiritual interests of believers. And here we must admire the infinite wisdom and Almighty power of God, who renders subservient to his merciful designs, things which are not only consis dered as evil, but are evil in themselves, have a tendency to evil, and were they not controlled and regulated by his superintending care, would be produc tive of the most injurious effects upon the bodies and the souls, the present and the future well-being of his people. But, as in medical treatment, substances which are nauseous to our senses, substances which, when received into the system, cause in the first instance pain, and substances which are deleterious,
† John vi. 57.
| Rom. viii. 28,
* Heb. iv. 16. Vol. II.-32
are administered in such quantities and with such mixtures, that the ultimate effect is the removal of the disease and the confirmation of health; so it is in the economy of heaven. The oliject aimed at, is the spiritual health of the patient; and this is the result of the bitter draughts which he is compelled to swallow, and of the pain of amputation to which he is sometimes subjected. The Scriptures frequently speak of atlliction as contributing to the progress of holiness : “Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope: and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. You observe the process. Alliction calls into exercise, and strengthens the graces of the Christian, and terminates in the more powerful diffusion of Divine love in the soul, in a more powerful impression of the love of God to us, or a stronger emotion of love on our part to God; by either of which our promptitude and sincerity in serving him will be increased. The sanctifying effeet of affliction is pointed out in many passages of Scripture, and it was experienced by the Psalmist, who says, • Before I was afilicied I went astray, but now I have learned thy law.”+ It is the discipline which our heavenly Father administers to the members of his family, and it is so necessary and so salutary that none of them is exempted. It is a proof of his love, because his design in correcting them is, that they may be partakers of his holiness. How blessed are the fruits of sanctified affliction! They are the fruits of righteousness, and are of far greater value than the most esteemed temporal blessings. They humble the pride of the people of God, awaken their vigilance, make them feel their own weakness, create a stronger abhorrence of sin, and an increasing indifference to earthly things; inspire a meek submission to the will of God, and, leading the thoughts to heaven, stir up longing desires for the peace which awaits them there, and for the pure joys of religion, which are earnests of its felicity. I have confined the illustration to the effects of adversity, but all the dispensations of Providence, under the direction of Divine wisdom and goodness, have the same tendency, and are included in that comprehensive plan of benevolence, which God is carrying on for the final happiness of the objects of his love.
These are the means which God employs in sanctifying his people; but as many who are exposed to their influence manifestly derive no benefit from them, it is evident that their efficacy does not arise from their fitness to the end, but from the operation of the Spirit. Besides the external means, there are certain exercises of the soul itself, which are subservient to the great design, and which, as they are the effects of the Spirit, may be considered as internal means by which the work is carried on. The following things are necessary to the sanctification of a sinner; that he be in a state in which he can partake of divine influences, that those influences be actually communicated -to him, and that his views and feelings be such as shall make holiness the object of his choice, and carry him forward in the practice of it with delight. I shall show you that these pre-requisites are obtained by faith, to which as a secondary cause our sanctification is ascribed.
First, By faith we are united to Christ, and thus are delivered from the curse of the law, which prevented the communications of divine grace to the soul, as we formerly showed. To those who believe, his righteousness is imputed. in consequence of which they are reconciled to God, and are the subjects of his favour. Thus the way is prepared for the restoration of his image. “Wherefore,” says Paul to the Romans, “ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”+ Stript of figures these words signify, that, through the atonement of Christ received by faith, our connexion with the law or covenant of works is dissolved, and being united to him as our living Head, we are enabled to perform those holy duties by which God is glorified. The body of Christ,' is the sacrifice of his body on the cross; our death to the law,' is our redemption from the curse; our marriage to Christ,' is our union to him, and the fruit which we bring forth to God, is the acceptable obedience of the heart and the life.
* Rom. v. 3-5.
† Ps. exis. 67.
1 Rom. vii. 4.
Secondly, By faith we receive sanctifying grace from the fulness of Christ. God has constituted him the source of spiritual influences, and faith the mean by which they are derived from him. Human reason may inquire what peculiar virtue in faith has procured its appointment to this office, and may conceive that other means were better adapted to the end. To us it is sufficient to know the will of God, that his Spirit shall be given to those alone who look to his Son, and trust in him for assistance in the great work of their salvation. When the believer lives, it is Christ who lives in him. He is exhorted to “ be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus,"'* who has said, “ My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”+ Christians are kept in a state of absolute dependence upon him, so that the good qualities which they possess, and the good actions which they perform, are more properly his than theirs. “ Abide in me, and I in you; as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”
Thirdly, Faith produces a state of mind which is itself holy, and tends to the increase of holiness. The reasons and motives which the Scripture employs to promote the study of holiness, have no effect till by means of faith they make an impression upon the conscience and heart. In vain do we contemplate the perfect and attractive example of our Saviour, unless by the medium of this grace a living virtue flow from him into our souls, to transform them into his image. In particular, it is by faith that we obtain a comfortable sense of the love of God; and it is this which enlarges our hearts to run in the way of his commandments. It is the opinion of many, that nothing will so powerfully stimulate us to diligence as a state of uncertainty with respect to the issue, and that our activity would be relaxed by the confident belief that we already enjoy the favour of God. But those who think so, betray ignorance of the gospel plan of sanctification. In the economy of grace, privileges are the foundation of duty. Doubts and fears damp the ardour of the soul, and enervate its exertions. When the mind takes such views of the character of God as create a spirit of bondage, it is disqualified for performing acceptable service to him. The temper in which we do serve him is offensive, because it is founded in disbelief of his word, and the works done under its influence must be rejected as a corrupt thing. He who obeys in the spirit of a slave, will do his duty reluctantly and tremblingly, and is incapable of the zeal, the promptitude, the strenuous efforts, which characterize the man who is born from above. Our obedience to God will not be cheerful and uniform, and continued from year to year amidst discouragements and difficulties, unless we love him; and we cannot love him, unless we have some hope at least, that we are the objects of his love. Hence we perceive how necessary faith is, by which this hope or persuasion is attained. "Never will the exercises of the Christian harmonize more fully with the will of God, never will his desire of holiness be stronger, and his efforts to make progress in it be more vigorous and successful, than when he is looking up to him as his gracious Fa in Christ, contemplating the wonders of his love in redemption, and rejoicing in the present sense of his favour, and in the hope of infinite and ever-enduring
• 2 Tim. ii. 1.
+ 2 Cor. xii. 9.
John xv. 4.
blessedness in the world to come. "Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments."*
There are several other particulars connected with the subject of sanctification, which I would have introduced if time had permitted. I might have shown you that the work is progressive, like the shining light which shineth more and more to the perfect day; that it is sometimes suspended, but never totally destroyed; and that it is completed at death, when the souls of believers are made perfect in holiness. I might have also pointed out its advantages, and its tendency to glorify God, and adorn our profession; but I shall leave these topics to your own meditations.
ON GOOD WORKS.
Good Works, the Fruits of Regeneration - Meaning of this Phrase— Nature of Good Works:
Necessary that they should be Conformable to the Law of God; be Performed from Respect for his Authority, from Love to Him, and with a View to his Glory—Possible only to Believers General Remarks respecting them.
HAVING explained the privilege of sanctification, I proceed to speak of good works, which are the fruits of the change effected by divine grace in the soul. We have already seen, that they are not the condition of justification, which is obtained solely by faith, but that they are not therefore unnecessary, because there are many reasons why a believer should perform them, and many important purposes which they serve. I do not intend to resume these topics, but in this lecture shall confine myself to an illustration of their nature, and some remarks of a general kind.
The phrase, Good Works, is often understood in a sense too limited, and which gives an imperfect view of the effect of supernatural grace, and of the duty of a Christian. If you attend to the manner in which the expression is frequently used, you will find, that it comprehends only a part of the works to which “ believers are created again in Christ Jesus," and that the most important part is omitted. Many seem to have no idea of any good works, but those which are enjoined by the second table of the law; and their morality is summed up in sobriety, justice, and benevolence, of which the principal or sole object is the temporal welfare of our brethren. The great design of Christianity, as they represent it, is to render us temperate, kind, and charitable. It is thus that the natural aversion of the heart to God discovers itself, even when it is professedly inculeating obedience to his law. The duties of which he is the immediate object are overlooked, or treated as of inferior importance. We are not surprised to find this mutilated morality taught by infidels, who are Atheists or not much different, and consider all religion towards God as superfluous and absurd; it being their opinion that it is not by prayers, and praises, and other exercises of piety, that we are to please him, if there is such a Being and he takes any notice of our conduct, but by acting properly in the various relations subsisting between us and our brethren. But it is lamentable, that the
* Ps. cxix. 166.
language of Christian teachers should so often show, that they have studied in the same school. When some of them talk of good works, we hear much of meekness, and candour, and beneficence, and the forgiveness of injuries, but little or nothing of faith, and love to God, and the dedication of the heart to him, and zeal for his glory. It is not a false charge which has been brought against such men, that they preach heathen morality; for it is separated in a great measure from piety, and chiefly consists in the social virtues. When we speak of good works, we understand the words in the most extensive sense, as comprehending the whole duty of man, prescribed in both tables of the law; and we remember the declaration of Him, whom alone we call our Master, that “ to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, is the first and great commandment.”
I would observe farther, that there is often a very incautious way of speaking concerning the relative value of good works. They are not only contrasted with faith to the depreciation of the latter, from ignorance, it may be presumed, of what faith is, of which I know not a more notable specimen than may be found in a well-known paper of the Spectator concerning faith and morality ; * but they are represented as the ultimate end of religion, as the terminating point of its wonderful apparatus of contrivances and means. Thus, other important matters are thrown into the shade. Faith is undervalued; the atonement is overlooked, or regarded only as an expedient for advancing the interests of virtue; nothing is heard of but eternal and immutable morality; and so large a space does it fill in the understandings or imaginations of some men, that all other points of religion dwindle into insignificance, and they adopt the celebrated but senseless maxim, that it matters not what is our creed, if our life is orthodox. The ultimate end of religion is the glory of God in the salvation of sinners; and his glory is manifested not only by their obedience to his law, but by every part of the scheme of redemption; by the process, so far above the ideas and calculations of reason, which has reconciled his justice and mercy, and restored his lost image in the soul of man. But, although it were granted that the object to which the several steps in the plan of redemption are subservient, is the sanctification of our nature, which puts it again into a capacity to serve and enjoy its Creator, we should still object to the extravagant importance which is assigned to good works; for this reason, that by good works, those who speak of them in this manner, principally or exclusively mean the common duties of life; and were they honestly to state their sentiments, it would appear that the design of religion is accomplished, in making us good members of families, good neighbours, and good subjects of the state ; not too strict and scrupulous, however, but attentive to decorum, and free from any gross and habitual vice. But all this might have been effected, without the circuitous method which has been adopted; without the death of a divine Redeemer, and the descent of the heavenly Spirit; by a plain rule of duty, and the operation of natural sentiments and affections. The design of Christianity is nobler and more extensive, namely, to make man holy in heart, as well as in life; to inspire him with the love of God; to give God the supreme place in his affections, that he may love his fellow creatures only in subordination to him, and for his sake; to establish the empire of the Divine will in his conscience, and to secure the prompt and cheerful performance of all the duties, of those which respect God, in the first place, and of those which respect man, in the second. Good works, as commonly understood, are only a branch, and, to speak still more correctly, are only fruits, of the holiness which religion infuses into those who are subject to its influence. The design is to make all things new; to fill the mind with light, and the heart with love; to form beings
* No. 459.