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tempted, is drawn away of his own lust and enticed;" he adds, “ Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning:” Evil is from yourselves, and from yourselves alone: good, and only good, is from God.
Now you cannot but know, that, like our first parents, we are ever ready to exculpate ourselves, and to cast the blame of our sins, either on the tempters that led us to them, or on the propensities which God himself has implanted in us. But in both of these cases we do, in fact, cast the blame on God, as either immediately or remotely the cause of the evils we commit. But beware of all excuses, be they what they may. The fault is all your own, and nothing but humiliation and contrition will become you to the latest hour of your lives
- If ever you perish, you will have none but yourselves to blame.] 2. In a way of self-dependence
[We are ever prone to look for some good in ourselves, instead of seeking all good from God alone. But it is in vain to rely on any wisdom of our own to guide us, or strength of our own to support us, or righteousness of our own to justify
Satan himself may as well look for these things in himself as we: and it is on this account that God has been “ pleased to treasure up in his dear Son a fulness of them, that we may receive them all from him” from day to day, and from hour to hour. Know ye this, that in yourselves " ye are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;” and “ from Christ alone can ye ever receive raiment to cover you, or gold to enrich you, or the eye-salve” that shall administer healing to your organs of vision. “ All your fresh springs must be in God,” even in God alone --] 3. In a way of self-applause
(We are no less prone to take to ourselves credit from what is good, than to shift off from ourselves blame in what is evil. But “if we differ from others or from our former selves, who is it that has made us to differ? or what have we that we have not received from God himself?” As well might the earth boast of its fertility independently of the sun, whose genial rays have called it forth, as we arrogate to ourselves honour on account of any good that we have ever done. If you would see what the earth would be independent of the sun, go to the polar regions in the depth of winter. And, if you would see what you yourselves would be independent of God, go down to that place where God never comes by the operations of his grace, and where the damned spirits are left without controul. If there be any good in you, it is from Christ that you have
received it: for “ without him you could do nothing." If you have attained to any thing more than ordinary, you must say, “ He that hath wrought me to the self-same thing is God." Even if you equalled the Apostle Paul in holiness, you must say, “ By the grace of God I am what I am ;" and in reference to every individual act, “ It was not I, but the grace of God that was with med."] APPLICATION“Do not err then, my beloved brethren”
(Be aware of your tendencies; and remember how to correct them. You never can err in taking shame to yourselves: nor can you ever err in giving glory to God. But if you arrogate any thing to yourselves, you will rob God: and, in robbing him, you will eventually, and to your utter ruin, rob yourselves."]
d 1 Cor. xv. 10.
REGENERATION-ITS AUTHOR, MEANS, AND END. Jam. i. 18. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth,
that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.
THERE is an evil in the world so monstrous and so horrible, that one can scarcely conceive how it should ever be committed; namely, the ascribing unto God our own iniquities, and tracing them to him as their proper author. Yet is this the common refuge of sinners; who, when led captive by their own lusts, excuse themselves by averring, that no criminality can attach to the indulgence of passions which God himself has given them. But St. James protests against this impiety, and declares, that
God tempteth no man; but that every man who yields to temptation, is drawn away and enticed by his own lusta.” Another evil also he sets himself to counteract, namely, the tracing of good to ourselves, as though it originated with us as its proper authors. This, though it does not shock our feelings so much as the former does, yet is of the same nature with it, and no less offensive in the sight of God : for, whilst
ver. 13, 14,
the former sentiment makes God the cause of evil, the latter denies him to be the cause of good. But on this subject also St. James rectifies our views; assuring us, that, as all light proceeds from the sun, so does “every good and perfect gift come down from above, even from God the Father of lights." We may indeed have great changes, as from day to night, or from summer to winter: but these arise from ourselves only; for“ with him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning ;” and, if we have less abundant communications from him at one time than another, it is owing to the change of our position with respect to him, and to our temporary departure from him. If, on the contrary, a spiritual change has taken place in any of us, so that we have been born again, it is because “ he begat us with the word of truth;” and begat us, not on account of any merit in us, but purely “ of his own will,” and “ to the praise of the glory of his own grace.”
In this assertion of the Apostle the whole subject of regeneration or conversion comes before us : and we shall be led to mark, I. The source from whence it flowsIt is not from man
[Man has neither power nor inclination to convert himself truly and thoroughly to God. If only we consider what is said in the Scriptures respecting the extreme weakness of man in relation to every thing that is spiritually good,—that "without Christ he can do nothing ;" that “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost;" and that we are not of ourselves sufficient even to think any thing that is good;" that our sufficiency even for that is of God alone,-how can it be thought that we should be able to “put off the old man and to put on the new," and to "renew ourselves in the spirit of our minds after the image of our God in righteousness and true holiness ?” The very terms in which this change is spoken of, as a resurrection, a new birth, a new creation, clearly import, that it is beyond the power of man to effect it in himself. We need go no further than to the image used in the text itself, to shew the utter absurdity of any such idea. Nor have any others a power to effect it in us : for man can only address himself to our outward senses: he has no access whatever to our hearts; he can therefore never accomplish in
us so great a work, as that of “ giving us a new heart, and renewing a right spirit within us.”
Nor has any man the inclination thus to renew himself. Let us look around, and see what is the state of mankind at large. Are they mourning over their degeneracy and corruption? Are they panting after holiness? Are they using the means which are confessedly within their reach? Are they thankful for every aid they can receive, and for every instruction by which their good desires may be furthered ? If you think they are, take your Bible with you,
and all your neighbours and proffer your assistance to them, and solicit a reciprocal aid from them: act as if you all were shipwrecked, and all were anxious for their own personal welfare, and for the welfare of those around them. Do this, and you will soon see how much inclination men have for a thorough conversion of their souls to God.] It is from God, and from God alone
[This we are not left to determine by any fallible reasonings of our own : it is decided for us by God himself; who, speaking of all who received the Lord Jesus Christ, and thereby received power to become the sons of God, says, " They were born, not of blood (or in consequence of their descent from any particular parents), nor of the will of the flesh (that is, from any good desires of their own), nor of the will of man (that is, from the kind efforts of others), but of God b." It is God alone who makes one to differ from anotherc: it is “ God alone who gives us either to will, or to do q,” what is good: and " He who is the Author, is also the Finishere," of all that can issue in a man's salvation.]
But as God is pleased to use means and instruments in this work, I will proceed to shew, II. The means by which it is effected
It becomes not us to restrict God in the use of means. We know that he frequently makes use of
• John i. 12, 13. c 1 Cor. iv. 7. d Phil. ii. 13.
e Heb. xii. 2. How all this accords with the doctrines of the Church of England, may be seen by referring to our Articles and Liturgy In our Liturgy we thus address the Deity: "O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed.” And the tenth Article runs thus : “ The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will."
THERE are temptations necessarily connected with the Christian life, and which often, through the weakness of our nature, become the occasions of sin : and there are other temptations which are the direct and immediate cause of sin. The former are external; the latter are within a man's own bosom. The former may be referred to God as their author, and be considered as a ground of joy: the latter must be traced to our own wicked hearts; and are proper grounds of the deepest humiliation. This distinction is made in the passage before us. In the foregoing verses the former are spoken ofa; in the text, the latter.
In the words of our text, we notice the origin, the growth, and the issue of sin. We notice, I. Its origin
Many are ready to trace their sin to God himself
[This is done when we say, “ I could not help it:" for then we reflect on our Maker, as not enduing us with strength sufficient for our necessities. It is done also, though not quite so directly, when we ascribe our fall to those who were in some respect accessary to it: for then we blame the providence of God, as before we did his creative power. It was thus that Adam acted, when he imputed his transgression to the influence of his wife, and ultimately to God who gave her to him]
But God neither is, nor can be, the Author of sin
(He may, and does, try men, in order to exercise their graces, and to shew what he has done for their souls. Thus he tempted Abraham, and Job, and Joseph, and many others. But these very instances prove that he did not necessitate, or in any respect influence, them to sin; for they shone the brighter in proportion as they were tried. But he never did, nor ever will, lead any man into sin. And though he is said to have “ hardened Pharaoh's heart," and to have “ moved David to number the people,” he did not either of these things in any other way than by leaving them to themselves.]
ver. 2, 12.
b Gen. iii. 12. c Exod. iv. 21. and 2 Sam. xxiv. 1. with 2 Chron. xxxii. 31.