« PreviousContinue »
16 sworn in his wrath we should never enter into his rest!" Let us adore that rich grace, and magnify that infinite mercy, which has not only spared the barren fig-tree until now, though still a cum, berer of the ground, but daily and hourly, with tender care and unwearied diligence, attends, manures, and dresses it, that after all it may bear fruit. And at the same time, let us remember that this patience of God towards us, this kindness to us, and the pains he takes with us, are a standing demonstration, not only of his compassion for us, and concern for our salvation, but likewise of our great and urgent necessities, and our extreme and unavoidable misery, if after all we remain unfruitful, and make him no returns for his favours. “If it bear fruit, well; if not, after that thou shalt cut it down." This leads me to inquire,
II. How WE QUGHT IN REASON, DUTY, AND INTEREST, TO REQUITE THE LORD FOR THESE HIS GIFTS ?.
But, having enlarged so much on the foregoing head, I shall here confine myself to some general INFERENCES, tending to show the influence these favours of God ought to have upon our temper and conduct. Only I must premise, lest any of us should think ourselyes unconcerned in this matter, that those gifts of God's grace which I have mentioned, are more or less conferred upon us all. Nay, I may safely affirm, that we all are, or may be, equally sharers in them. As God, our Creator, has called us all into being, so he has given his Son a ransom for us all; his Gospel has been fully and clearly preached to us all, and his Spirit of grace has visited all our hearts, times without number. And if he has not equally enlightened, sanctified, and comforted all our souls, we must not accuse him of partiality, who is no “respecter of persons," but blame ourselves, who have resisted his divine operations, and obstructed his good work upon our souls, so that we are all equally concerned to inquire what influence these favours of God ought to have upon us, and whether they have it accordingly.
If we ourselves are the creatures of God's power, and have no faculty of soul, no member of body, no qualification or endowment of any kind, absolutely nothing but what we have received from our Creator originally, and for which we depend on him every day, and hour, and moment; surely it ill becomes us to boast of any thing that we have, as though we received it not, or to value ourselves on account of what is not our own, but only lent us for a little time, and to be re-demanded soon, with usury. Certainly, in this view of things, it appears that pride was never made for man; much less, when we add to this the consideration of our departure from GOD, our defection from moral rectitude and order, and our voluntary immersion into sin, and guilt, and misery. If we have ungratefully abused God's inestimable favours, if we have treacherously rebelled against our rightful Sovereign, who is also our most indulgent Father, and bountiful Benefactor, if we have foolishly and basely preferred the vilest and most abject slavery, that of sin and Satan, to the most honourable -and happy service, that of the Parent of all good, and the source of all bliss, which service is indeed perfect freedom; if, in consequence, we have buried ourselves under mountains of guilt, which we could never remove, and plunged ourselves deep into a lake of torment out of which it was impossible we should ever emerge; if we have acted thus, contrary to reason, and duty, and interest, if we have thus foolishly and madly destroyed ourselves, if our state and condition is so deplorable, and that owing to our own fault ;---surely it well becomes us to “ lay our mouths in the dust,” and, covered with shame and self-abasement, to confess “ it is of God's mercy we are not consumed, even because his compassions fail not.” It well becomes us to think meanly of ourselves, and to manifest in the whole of our deportment, the deepest humility and self-abasement of soul; giving God the whole glory of all the good that exists in us, or is done by us, and taking to ourselves the blame of all that is evil! All our thoughts, words, and works, should spring from, and express, the utmost lowliness of mind; and all our inward tempers and outward actions should be clothed with humility. And though God has pitied us in our ruined condition, and so loved us as to give his Son for our redemption ; yet, even on this account, we have no cause to think highly of ourselves, though thus honoured of God, but, on the contrary, to adore the unsearchable riches of Divine grace, which “ deals not with us according to our deserts,” which 6 weighs not our merits but pardons our offences," and humbly to acknowledge we are less than the least of all his mercies ; saying from the heart, “ Not unto us, not unto us, but to thy name be the praise !”
This leads me to a second inference, which we may justly make from what has been advanced ; that the many mercies of God have laid an indispensable obligation upon us unfeignedly and gratefully to praise him. Has he given us our being and our wellbeing ? Has he made and redeemed us? Did he originally create us after his image in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, and, when we had defaced his likeness, and brought ruin and misery upon our souls, did he send his only begotten, his well beloved Son, into our wretched world, to assume our nature, and suffer in our stead a most shameful and excruciating death, in order to our recovery to rectitude and bliss ? Has he dispelled the shades of ignorance and error, wherewith we were encompassed, by the light of his glorious Gospel, and has he sent us a message of
and reconciliation by his ministers, whom he has appointed to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation ? And, to crown all, has he conferred upon us his Holy Spirit to enlighten, sanctify, and comfort us, to insure our title to, and work in us a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light ? Has he done all this for us? And ten thousand times more than we can conceive? Do we owe to him, not only all our comforts, but likewise all our hopes? Then, what returns shall we make him? What shall we render unto the Lord for all the benefits he hath done unto us? Surely we cannot render him less in return for his mercies, than the tribute of our humble and grateful praise. This should ever ascend from the altar of our hearts,
“Praise ardent, cordial, constant, to high heaven.”
Surely we shall join with the holy Apostle, and say, " Thanks be to God for his unspeakable Gift," and with the royal Psalmist when, with a heart swelling with gratitude, he broke out into a divine rapture, and said, “ Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, praise his holy name; bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” And again, “ I will bless the LORD at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD; the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!”
Considering what he has done, and is still doing for us, we ought continually to praise him, and, as the Apostle says, “ in every thing to give thanks ;” in sickness as in health, in pain as in ease, in adversity as in prosperity. In all things, at all times, and in all places, we should unfeignedly bless and magnify the God of our life, who is the one source of all our comforts, and the only foundation of all our hopes. Yes! our every breath should be praise; we should
“ breathe no longer than we breathe
;” and none, -yea
But again; may we not infer from the preceding observations, that it is no less our duty to trust in God, than it is humbly to praise him? The many and wonderful things which he hath done for us, the great and inestimable blessings he hath conferred upon us, utterly unworthy and hell-deserving as we are, leave no room at all to doubt either of his goodness or power; either of his inclination or ability to help and save us. Are we the workmanship of his hands, and objects of his peculiar love and favour? Has he not only called us into existence, and bestowed upon us a thousand temporal and spiritual mercies; but has he likewise not spared even his only begotten Son, but freely delivered him up for us all? “How then," as St. Paul infers, “shall he not with him freely give us all things ?" What will he, what can he withhold from his friends, who did not withhold the Son of his eternal complacency and delight, even from enemies? Well may we conclude that he will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from us,
walk uprightly.” If we “ seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” if we love God, and are “ followers of that which is good,” every thing needful or useful “ shall be added unto
“nothing shall harm us.” On the contrary, every thing “shall work for our good," and our God shall make “his grace sufficient for us,” and supply abundantly our every want, according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." Well then
cast all our care upon him who careth for us," being “ careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, making our requests known unto God!” Well may we “trust in the Lord for ever," who hath done so much for us, and will still do, for with him there is everlasting love, and everlasting strength. Well does it become us to repose ourselves wholly upon him, to leave all our concerns in his hands, and give them up to his management ! Surely we should in reason and duty confide in this God of inexhaustible goodness and boundless power, who hath thus set his love upon us ; for our bodies and souls, for ourselves and our friends, for time and eternity! We should trust in his mercy to forgive our sins, in his Divine Spirit to purify our hearts, in his faithfulness and truth to provide for us the necessaries and conveniences of this life. For he hath said, and confirmed it by a thousand proofs, “ I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Let us then, whatever dangers threaten us, whatever difficulties beset us, whatever enemies attack us, whatever troubles oppress us, put our entire confidence in him, and he will never fail or disappoint us; for who ever trusted in the LORD, and was confounded? Let us rely upon him while
life shall last, and he will be our God and guide unto death, and our portion for ever!
Once more. The loving-kindness of the LORD to us-ward, so wonderfully displayed, so frequently repeated, yea, so variously and incessantly exercised, notwithstanding our ingratitude, obsti
and rebellion, certainly demands returns of love, and lays us under an indispensable obligation to serve and glorify him. O the height and depth, and length and breadth, of that love which called us out of nothing, which raised us to a state of dignity and happiness, little inferior to that of angels! Which pitied us, when fallen; which spread its mantle over us when we were cast out into the open fields wounded, and mangled, weltering in our blood! Which even then passed by, and said unto us, Live! Nay, which exposed its dearest, fairest object, God's eternal Son, to wounds and bruises, torture and death, for our sakes! and, through him, offers us,-instead of guilt and fear, torment and despair,-pardon, hope, joy and glory, now and for ever! 0, what love is this! How deep and unfathomable! How immense and incomprehensible! How mysterious and astonishing ! And shall we suffer no spark of this heavenly fire to fall upon the altar of our hearts, and inflame our desires, and kindle our devotion! Alas for us ! our hearts are made of ice; and though thousands, I will not say, of sparks, but of burning torches, lighted by Divine love, are perpetually cast upon them by almighty goodness, yet are they as constantly extinguished, and we remain cold and frozen still. Ah, how many mercies are daily and hourly heaped upon us, and how much favour and kind. ness is continually shown us, and yet how insensible are we towards our gracious Benefactor, and how negligent to please and obey him! O that the Lord himself would descend, and, with the victorious fire of his infinite goodness, warm often our icy breasts ! O that he would sit upon us as a refiner and purifier of silver, and purify our souls from all the dross of sin and impure desire, and mould us into a new mass of pure metal, fit to be stamped with the image of God! O that we could draw near, and, with unveiled face, gaze upon his glorious love, till we were changed into the same image, from glory to glory,” by its powerful operations ! till the heavenly flame kindled, mounted, and enwrapped our whole soul, and filled us with love, and with God. Then should we “ dwell in love," and in God, and “ God in us !” Then should we perpetually burn for his glory! Then would his mercies constrain us to “present our bodies and souls a living sacrifice,” burning but not consumed, “holy and acceptable to God, which