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pass through the fire tried and purified from dross and corruption. For this purpose has the religion of Christ been instituted amongst us, in order that by enrolling ourselves among its members, and having recourse to its different ordinances of grace, we may be enabled to resist, every sinful propensity, and bid defiance to every attempt of our spiritual enemy. This gracious boon was hinted at by the Almighty immediately after the fall of our first parents, as a consolation to them under the afflictions which they had brought on themselves; and although from various parts of Scripture we may conclude that the whole of mankind have or may, in some measure, have received the benefits of Christ's death, even before the event transpired, yet it was not until after the coming of our Saviour in the flesh that its effects came into full operation; it was not until shortly after the ascension of our Saviour into the abodes of bliss that the Holy Ghost the Comforter descended on the Christian disciples, with whom and for whose protection and assistance it had been promised by our Lord that He should abide alway, even unto the end of the world.
That we stand in need of the aid of the Holy Spirit to help us in the way of righteousness, is abundantly evident from what has been before asserted of the fact of our natural inclination to sin: without this assistance, therefore, it is impossible that we can in any way avert from us the wrath of God, who, in his Inspired Word, has declared that we "are not sufficient of ourselves to think any
thing of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure." And as there are frequent invitations given us in the Inspired Writings to ask and pray for this heavenly aid, in order that we may receive it, we conclude with the Apostle in the text, that "God is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it." Let these considerations, therefore, have a proper effect on our minds, and let them convince us of our own natural weakness and inability, and of the necessity we all have to place our confidence in God, and to thank Him for his unbounded mercy and goodness. Let them teach us that as we certainly have need of the presence of the Holy Spirit, from whom alone "all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works proceed," so we can only ensure this presence by using the means which Christ has pointed out: these evidently are, to ask in earnest and frequent prayer for that of which we stand so much in need; to endeavour, as far as we can, to perform all those good works which are likely to ensure us the favour of Heaven; and to attend to the two sacramental ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, as we are earnestly directed to do by Him who has established them for our benefit and advantage.
It is indeed necessary, that we should rightly understand the words of the Apostle in the text, and not imagine that the assistance of Heaven will be sent
to those who neither deserve it nor avail themselves of the proper means to obtain it. On the contrary, their case will be similar to that of the unprofitable servant spoken of by our Lord, and for their carelessness and inattention they will be deprived of the means of salvation which has previously been in their power, and be suffered to relapse still further in ignorance and sin. It is not, indeed, analogous to any thing with which we are acquainted, that man should remain stationary, without either improving himself or becoming worse: if he advance not he will inevitably recede, and then we know how difficult are the means and how uncertain the chances of his recovery. Like the relapsed demoniac, seven evil spirits will probably return together with the one which had been previously dislodged, and his latter state will be incomparably worse than the first. Let none of us, therefore, as we regard our future welfare, treat religion either lightly or as an affair which concerns us not; but let us be assured that, if we apply it not to our advantage, it will unavoidably tend to our destruction. Let us remember, that though "God is indeed faithful, and will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able;" yet it is only on the condition that we ask him not to lead us into temptation or to deliver us from evil when once thrown in our way; it is only by these means that we shall find a way to escape or become enabled to bear it without submitting to its assaults.
If it be evident, therefore, from the observations
which have been offered on the present subject, that the particular state in which we exist by nature requires that we should be exposed to trials of faith and temptations from the great enemy of our souls; and if it be likewise equally evident that the Almighty, in his infinite mercy towards us, has provided such means as are requisite to enable us to overcome these temptations, though only on condition that we avail ourselves of the proper method to obtain his aid, certainly we shall be wanting in gratitude to Heaven, as well as in zeal for our own welfare, if we neglect to attain so great salvation. It may easily be asserted, that the Almighty might have conducted us to heaven by an easier route than what is pointed out by the precepts of the Gospel; that he might either have planted virtuous inclinations in our nature, or else have inspired us with such heavenly assistance as would have enabled us to resist temptation without any exertion of ourselves, or doing the least violence to our natural wishes. Those persons, however, who make such unwarranted assertions are certainly guided by the false suggestions of human reason, or by their own fallacious ideas of truth. No one will attempt to dispute the state of innocence in which Adam and Eve were created, yet was it necessary, as a test of their obedience, that some temptation should be presented to their view. In like manner, then, as I have before observed, since so great a boon has been granted us as the expiatory sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross, it is but fair and reasonable
that we should shew our gratitude to Heaven by a sacrifice of our own corrupt propensities to a compliance with its commands. Let us, moreover, reflect that one of the chief attributes of the Divinity is justice; and it would ill have comported with this justice, to have pardoned a sinner before he had given some proof of his repentance and amendment by forsaking his past misdeeds and turning unto God. Were this plan to be adopted in human transactions, we are aware that nothing but insecurity to individuals and general disorder could result from it. In the former case, therefore, the objections would be equally great, although perhaps not equally clear to human understanding. The truth indeed is, that while the Almighty in his inscrutable wisdom has displayed the strictest justice in his dealings with mankind, he has in no respect forgotten his divine attribute of mercy, and has, therefore, provided us with all the means and assistance which our weak and sinful nature requires to enable us to enjoy peace on earth and to obtain everlasting happiness in the world to come. In order, therefore, that the justice and mercy of God might be reconciled to each other, temptations have of necessity been cast, and will be cast, in our way; yet hath there no temptation taken us but such as is common and necessary to man: as God is faithful, and will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it."