« ZurückWeiter »
of his power, we are told, that he made the worlds ; in the mechanism of which, he hath exhibited incomprehensible wisdom and power. By his condescending mercy, he hath repaired and dignified bis own laws, violated by Adam and his fallen posterity. And by the purity of his Spirit, sent abroad into the hearts of his people, he is every moment destroying Satan's dominion of sin and corruption. Surely if the love of God is any where to be contemplated in its fulness, it must be in his trinitarian engagements in Christ Jesus.
In creation, we do well to meditate upon his manifold wonders ; the construction of the earth, the spreading of the heavens, and the formation of man and every living creature, are objects most worthy of our love and amazement; but as the Creator more than the creature, as eternity more than time; so is the unchangeable and spiritual life of man more to be prized than mines of silver and gold! In the Lord's trinity of persons, we have the centre and source of this spiritual life and love. In that covenant only is to be found the first and last cause of all his wonderful acts of love: and as our finite capacities are unable to comprehend, so Jehovah is unwilling to grant us any further explanations of his love, except that which he speaks to his church in the wilderness. “He loved them because he loved them.” Since, then, the Scriptures declare that “ God is love," we must admit that he is the free sovereign disposer of his own holy and heavenly principle; but lest man, vain man, should in any degree deceive himself, or imagine himself to be the progenitor of that which is begotten of God alone, we will attempt scripturally to develop how the love of God is produced in the hearts of his heritage.
The natural man, both the Scriptures and our own experience testify, is “enmity against God;" the “ imaginations of his heart are evil;" or with Jeremiah, he says, “we will walk after our own devices; we will every one do the imaginations of his evil heart.” Also the words of our Saviour give a similar testimony, when he says, “ out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness :” all these evil things come from within. And also in the epistle from which we have selected our text, it is written, “ that the whole world lieth in wickedness.” (1 John v. 19.) What love, we ask, can there be in a soul replete with the grossness of so much sin ? Like Adam, their common father, so all his offspring, through their fall by him,
would fain fly from the sight or contemplation of Him who could dash them all into hell with a glance of his eye, that is like a flame of fire ! What a picture is this of a soul fallen from God! How is the fine gold become dim since man was created in the image of his Maker! “ In the image of God created he him!” Where, think ye, in the soul, in this state, lies the inclination to come into the presence of its Maker, and expose or spread its own garments, bespotted with the sins of filth and hatred ? What desire or ability has a heart, filled with divers lusts, to hold converse with Him, who chargeth his angels with folly, and who has determined that neither “ fornicators, adulterers, nor covetous, shall enter into the kingdom of God;" who has revealed to us, in the purity of the law unveiled in the Gospel, that the conception of the desire is adultery, and that anger with a brother is murder. There can be no desire, and, of consequence, no power in the natural heart, but of God; “ for there is no power,” says St. Paul, “ but of God.” (Rom. xiii. 1.) “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” “ Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ?" so can the natural man, accustomed to evil, do good. If, then, we are not able to think a good thought, much less to do a good action, without the grace of God preventing us, as the 13th Article of our church asserts, we still inquire, How is the love of God produced in the heart? And, previously to giving our answer to this question, be pleased to remember that the word preventing, according to the original, means, in this article, going before; (i. e.) the grace or favour of God must commence the work of salvation upon our souls. Our sincerity, our natural efforts, are not only powerless, but, if done in order that we may merit, or in any way presume to have a share in the justification of ourselves before God, the 13th Article of our church concludes that “ such efforts or works have the nature of sin.”
Again, we appeal to you, through the authority of Scripture and the excellent Articles of our church. How is love to God produced in the soul? We answer, by the grace of God; by the gift of God; for, “ faith, which worketh by love, is the gift of God;” and “ by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” And this work upon the soul, is produced by God the Holy Spirit; “it is the Spirit wbich quickeneth ; the flesh profiteth nothing.” And its usual operation is first to produce a sense or knowledge of sin. Now, a knowledge of sin and misery, every man, to a certain extent, possesses. When disappointment overtakes him, he feels uncomfortable and depressed; when his coru, bis wine, and bis oil, to speak scripturally, do not increase according to his expectation, or the various circumstances of life in which he may be engaged put on an untoward appearance, he is sorrowful ; but this, sirs, is “ the sorrow of the world which worketh death ;" it is not a sorrow for misery as the effect of sin; it is not “ a' godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation." Moreover, the man thus sorrowing may be so moral and correct in his general demeanour, as to recoil at the hearing of an oath, and blush at the indecent and gross vices of the age: a feeling like this may pervade the man, and yet excite in him no lamentation for sin for the sake of a crucified Redeemer. He may assume the appearance of an angel of light, and at the same time, both inwardly and outwardly, be a minister of Satan ; whose virtuous exterior often makes him an adversary much more hostile and dangerous to the free grace of God in Christ than the “ harlot and the publican.” For all the sense he bas, is of his own worth, the dignity of his nature, and the purity of his life and intention, By his general deportment, you may perceive that he is inwardly saying, Stand off; I am holier than thou: I am not as this publican; but a respected, upright, and pure pharisee.