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you see, may love Christ, for he died to save them, even the REBELLIOUS, even the worst of sinners; for a rebel denotes the foulest mark of natural depravity; it signifies a falling off from due allegiance, and certainly requires a greater share of mercy to be forgiven, than in the case of one not solemnly enlisted to obey. But here a distinction is very proper to be made. In one sepse, we all are sinners; for there is none that strictly doeth good; we are all unprofitable servants. In this light we are all rebels against God, for every Christian hath enlisted under Christ's banner; and all must confess, they have fallen short of their bounden duty. But this is the distinction that demands our notice: whether, as before intimated, we are among the number of the wilful, or of the penitent sinners. It is for the latter Christ hath received gifts, and faith, and grace, and the promise of a glorious crown. The very worst, the most rebellious, have sweet hope held out to them, if they are truly weary of the heavy burden of sin, and will come to Christ for help. The contrite, the broken-hearted, the humble penitent, he will in no wise cast out; though their sins were as red as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow, through the faith that purifies by love. But they must not neglect the day of their visitation: God's Spirit will not always strive with men. They must be alive to the accepted time,
before their feet reach the dark mountains, before death shuts up their day of grace for ever And this brings me to the last observation upon the text. Christ hath not only given us security that he hath destroyed the enemies to which we are in danger of being enslaved, but that the Spirit that is in us, is greater than that which is in the world. He does not only afford the comfort of having received gifts for all, nay, even for the rebellious; but he positively declares in what the essence of these gifts consists—no less than that the Lord God might dwell among them. Here, to the believer, is a remedy that shuts out all despair. Abundantly hath it been proved that Christ is God; and Christ in us, must ever afford a never-failing hope of glory. Christ hath promised that he will never leave nor forsake those that trust in him ; even where two or three are gathered together in his name, there is he in the midst of them. It only remains to furnish you with a short and certain proof, how we may know that we truly belong to him, and when he may be said to dwell among us. In proportion, then, as we partake of his Spirit, we are his: he that hath the Spirit hath Christ, and he that hath not the Spirit, hath not Christ ; for no one can call Jesus Lord, but by the Spirit. Now, in this can no man be mistaken; for the wisdom from above, is known by its fruits. In proportion, therefore, as you feel a hatred to sin, and a love to righteousness; in proportion as you have reformed your past transgressions, and distrust your own strength in future ; in proportion as you rely wholly on the supply of those gifts that alone can work a real change of heart and life; so far have you received of the Spirit of regeneration ; so far have you good ground that you are justified, and that Christ, who is ascended up on high, and is seated on the right hand of all power, has bestowed those gifts upon you, which are the fruits of his meritorious death and sufferings, which are part of the reward of his victory over our spiritual enemies. In short (Gal. v. 22, 23), the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, temperance : against such there is no law. Have you all, or any of these qualities, my brethren ? have you in any good degree crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts? Again, among the ordinary gifts that Christ hath obtained for us, the outward means of obtaining these several graces are to be accounted, such as the blessing of a mild and wise government of the visible church, constituted on the basis of Christ's own pure doctrines; the advantage of a regular ministry to preach those doctrines; and the opportunity of serving God in peace, with liberty of conscience, and in the beauty of holiness, i. e. in a decent, orderly, and apostolical church establishment.
Examine yourselves still further, whether you feel desirous of recovering from your
back slidings.- Are you willing to close with every means of growing better? do you attend God's public worship as frequently as you ought? do you meditate earnestly on what you hear there? do you petition the Lord, in humility of spirit, that what you read or hear, may turn to the mending your lives and saving your souls? do you study God's holy word? If you do not perform these duties as often as you could wish, do you attend to them as often as you can ? do you employ every other means of obtaining divine assistance? do you pray to him in private ? do you shun bad example? do you covet sober and serious company? If you observe these things, you do well; if you sincerely wish to follow after righteousness, the good seed is sown, and may be said to spring. So far as the Spirit beareth witness to these attainments, and any truly religious improvement, so far are ye CHRIST's, so far doth the Lord dwell with you.
But, supposing you in some measure have fallen short of these actual signs of grace;
if duly sensible of your gross omissions, and still sincerely desirous to attain unto righteousness, ye do well; the good work may safely be said to be begun. Though the difficulty of the task alarm you, and you sometimes doubt and faint, pray that you enter not into temptation; cry earnestly, Lord, save me, or I perish; and He that hath begun the good work in you,
will not leave it imperfect. To conclude-never lose sight (my brethren) of those words of Christ that call for the mark of the gifts he ascended to procure for you; they will direct you to the true way; they will keep you in it; they will hold you up, and prevent your falling : for, If ye abide in me, saith Christ, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what you will, , and it shall be done unto you; for herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit : so shall
be my disciples. In truth, there is no other way, no other sure sign that Christ hath obtained good gifts for you, but that you show the effect of them, and that they so far profit you, as to produce fruit in your lives and conversation. Now to God, &c.