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science in its spirituality and extent, the soul is made willing to submit to the righteousness of God; and yet is induced to purity itself even as God is pure. It was by this means that St. Paul was brought to a right mind;d nor is there any other way of combining diligence in exertion with an humble dependence on the divine favour.]
For the impressing of this duty on our minds, let us consider II. The arguments with which it is enforced
Confining ourselves to the hints suggested in the text, we shall pass by many obvious and important arguments and fix our attention upon 1. The urgency of this duty
[At the proper seasons the husbandman goes forth to plow or sow his ground, knowing that, if his work be neglected till the time for performing it be past, he shall have reason to repent of his neglect in the day of harvest. Let it be remem, bered then, that this is the “ time to seek the Lord.” Are we advanced in years? Surely we have no time to lose. Are we in the early part of life? What time so fit as that of youth, before our habits be fixed, or our conscience seared, or our minds distracted by worldly cares? As for aged persons, their lives must be drawing to a speedy close; or, if protracted for a while, a want of mental energy will unfit their souls for spiritual exertions. And, with respect to those who are in the midst of youth, for aught they know, there may be “but a step between them and death.” If any feel a disposition'to serve the Lord, this is in a peculiar manner the time for them to seek his face. The very desire they feel, is an evidence that God himself is working in them, and ready to reveal himself to them: whereas, if they stifle the motions of his Spirit, they know not that the grace they so despise shall be ever offered them again. Let us then “redeem the time” that is so precious, and improve the season which God has afforded us for this important work.] 2. The certainty of success in it
[The husbandman knows that, if his seed be not watered by seasonable rains, his labour will be wholly lost: yet, notwithstanding he cannot command the showers, he performs his labour, in hope that God will graciously send the former and the latter rain. But we have an absolute promise, that God will prosper our endeavours, and that, “to him who,
f Phil. ii. 13.
d'Rom. vii. 9. & Gen. vi. 3.
. Gal. ii. 19. Rom. vii. 4.
soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward."i Do we want a righteousness to justify us before God? He will clothe us in the unspotted robe of the Redeemer's righteousness. Do we want an inward righteousness to qualify us for the enjoyment of his presence? He will wotk it in us by his good Spirit, and transform us into his own blessed image. Yea, he will “rain down righteousness upon us,” giving us “abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness.?'m Let this then encourage us; for “none ever sought his face in vain.”n] APPLICATION
(Let us begin the first great work, the plowing up of our fallow ground. We need not be told either the necessity or the reasonableness of this work in husbandry: and a very small acquaintance with the corruption and obduracy of an unrenewed heart, will supersede any attempts to evince the same in the cultivation of the soul. Only let it be remembered, that nothing but the law, opened in all its spirituality, and applied in its awful sanctions, can ever effect this work. Let us study it more and more. Let us try ourselves by it. Let us bring our actions, words, and thoughts to it as to a touchstone. Let us use it for the rooting out of all false principles, and base affections. Thus shall our seed be sown to more advantage;o and a glorious harvest await us in the day of the Lord Jesus.P]
i Prov. xi. 18.
k Isaiah Ixi. 10.
1 Ezek. xxxvi. 26. o Jer. iy. 3.
CCCCXLI. OUR RESURRECTION WITH CHRIST A
MOTIVE TO HEAVENLY-MINDEDNESS.
Col. iii. 1. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things
which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
ONE of the most distinguished peculiarities of our religion is, that it suggests entirely new motives to action, The inducements which reason could offer, were weak and inefficient: those alone which Christianity proposes, are capable of restraining the passions of men, and of regulating their conduct.
In the words before us we may see
1. The duty of Christians
We are not forbidden to seek earthly things; for, circumstanced as we are, we must use diligence in our respective callings, to obtain food for the body: but we must seek heavenly things l. In the first place
[We are but too apt to give the preference to earthly things, and to consider religion as a thing of secondary importance. But we are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God:« nor is there any interest whatever, which must not be sacrificed to the welfare of our souls.] 2. With the greatest ardour
[It is by no means sufficient to give religious duties the preference, unless we also engage in them with a disposition of mind suited to their importance. We may begin and end the day with prayer, and manifest a strict regard to the sabbath, and yet never find acceptance with God, because our hearts are not right with him. Our affections must be set on things above, as those of a worldling are on things below: and in our pursuit of them, we must not only seek, but strive.d, We must take heaven by violence, as it were, if we would ever obtain the enjoyment of it.]
To enforce this duty, the apostle suggests, in fet but energetic words, II. Our obligation and encouragement to perform it
1. Our profession of being risen with Christ, obliges us to it
(Christians are risen with their Lord both fæderally, and spiritually; fæderally, in that he is their covenant-head and representative, in and with whom they are circumcised, crucified, dead, buried, risen, and sitting in heavenly places.' They are also risen with him spiritually, in that they have experienced in their souls a change corresponding with that which Christ underwent in his body: they have crucified their old man, are dead to sin," are risen to newness of life, and haye their conversation in heaven.P
Now for persons professing these things (for the apostle's expression in the text does not imply a doubt, but rather posi
a Matt. vi. 33.
b Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33,
c Ver. 2.
tively asserts, that Christianity have experienced these thingsa) for them, I say, to be carnally-minded, would be as flagrant an inconsistency, as if a man should call himself an angel of light, while all his works were deeds of darkness: consequently our very profession binds us in the strongest inanner to live to God.]
2. The consideration of Christ's exaltation to the right hand of God is, moreover, the greatest possible encouragement to fulfil our duty
[" The right hand” of God means the seat of honour and power: and Christ's session there is not mentioned casually, as though it were of no importance to the point in hand: it is specified as an argument of the greatest force; since it is through his appearance there, that we have bope of pardon for our sins, of strength for our duties, of acceptance for our -services, Christ is there as our great advocate, pleading for us the merit of his own blood, obtaining fresh supplies of the Spirit for us, and presenting, together with the incense of his own prevailing intercession, our services to God. What an encouragement then is this to seek the things that are above; since we are assured that we shall not run in vain, or labour in vain! However high we may aspire, we need not fear a disappointment: the more we seek of grace and glory, the higher measures of both we shall obtain.] We cannot forbear to notice from this subject 1. How few real Christians are there in the world!
[If the character of Christians were, that they sought things below, and resembled Christ in his entombed state, truly they would be very numerous in every place: since almost all are swallowed up and buried in earthly cares or pleasures. But a death unto sin, and a living unto God, alas! how rare are these! Yet most assuredly none who do not exemplify these in their daily conversation, are worthy the name of Christians; nor can they ever enjoy the Christian's portion. We must live to Christ in this world, if we would live with him in the world to come.] 2. How blessed are they who are Christians indeed!
[Being risen with Christ, their lives are hid with Christ in God beyond the reach of men or devils. While they are engaged in heavenly pursuits, they may enjoy the security which God has ordained for them. Oppositions indeed, and difficulties they must expect; but Christ will not loose one
1 It is the same as if he had said, “Since ye are," &c.
+ Ver. 3.
member of his mystical body. He derid
u Rom. viii. 33, 34.
CCCCXLII. THE GOOD OLD WAY.
Jer. vi. 16. Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see,
and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk i therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
WHATEVER bears the stamp of antiquity upon it, finds, for the most part, a favourable reception in the world, while innovations are admitted with caution and reserve-The gospel itself is often discarded under the idea that it is new-Even as far back as the days of Jeremiah serious religion was deemed a novelty: but the prophet claimed the people's regard to it, no less from the consideration of its antiquity than of its inherent excellence
To elucidate the words before us we shall enquire I. What is that old and good way here spoken of?
The explanation, which our Lord himself has given of this passage," shews that we are not to confine its import to holiness alone, but must understand it as comprehending 1. A penitential affiance in God
(Christ declares that he himself is “the way," the only way to the Fatherb_To him we must come, trusting in his mediation and intercession, and looking for acceptance through him alone--Now this is certainly the old way, marked out by all the Jewish sacrifices, and trodden by Abel and our first
b John xiv. 6.
a Matt. xi. 28, 29, VOL. IV.