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mediately in fear for himself, knowing that we are all compassed with the same infirmities, and that he himself may come to want that favour which he refuses to another. If he is told of any unhappy person, whom sin hath destroyed or betrayed, he has reason to bless God, that he himself was not made an example to that man, who is now made an example to him. And let me tell you, that no man can be in a safe condition, but he who thus judges of himself. Where there is great danger, there is no safety but in great fear; therefore the Christian is exhorted to leave mockery and levity to the giddy, thoughtless people of this world, who see not the danger of their own situation; and to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling.
But of all the considerations which occur on our present subject, this is the most alarming; that they, who make sin the object of their mockery, incur the danger of being themselves cast off with scorn by Almighty God in the great day of retribution. There is an hour of distress, when such shall call upon God, and he will not answer; he shall laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh. Can we conceive any thing so dreadful, as to be mocked at by him, who is armed with all the
instruments of vengeance? Of whom it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord. The day is approaching, when we shall each of us be stretched upon our beds in a dying condition: and then the sins of our past life will present themselves to our imagination : so that while the body is sinking with weakness, the mind perhaps shall be overpowered with sorrow and amazement. Then, what will become of the unmerciful ! How shall that tongue dare to ask forgiveness, which delighted in accusation and mockery? How shall those hands be lifted
mercy, which never knew how to spare ?
That we may not fall into this fearful state, let us now provide against it in time : let us be serious to consider the danger of sin ; humble, to confess our own infirmities; charitable, to extenuate and overlook the miscarriages of others : then, instead of fearing the threatenings, we may hope in the promises of God, especially in this ; Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.
NOW ABIDETH FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY, THESE
THREE ; BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS
THESE three virtues support the Christian life, as the elements support the world. No religion but the Christian did ever teach mankind any one of these virtues: they are all peculiar to the Gospel: and so the Apostle intimates by calling them these three; joining them together as the three elements of the Christian system, none of which ever were or could be found in any other. When he compares them, he gives the preference to Charity ; and with good reason ; as you will see, when you
have considered what it is. To describe it in as few words as possible, it signifies the friendship of Christians ; the love we ought to have for the
brethren ; that is, for the church and all its members, for the sake of Christ. It is the virtue which binds Christians to one another upon earth, and shall unite them for ever in heaven : it proves us to be true disciples of Christ in the eyes of the world, and it recommends us to God, because it brings us to a nearer resemblance with himself; for God is love *.
To understand this virtue rightly, we must know whence it proceeds, and how it is to be attained. This may be gathered from the text; where the Apostle hath placed the three great virtues of a Christian in their natural order. The first of them is Faith; the second is Hope; and the last is Charity. Hope arises from Faith, and Charity from Faith and Hope. Where there is no Faith, there can be no Hope ; and where there is neither Faith nor Hope, there can be no Charity.
This is what I shall endeavour to prove in the following discourse; and to correct a common mistake concerning the nature of Charity, so far as the time will permit.
If we enquire into the nature of Faith, we shall find, that it is a kind of Spiritual Sense, without which we cannot receive the Christian
Į John iy, 8.
doctrines, nor believe the promises of God. It is that kind of apprehension, with which we admit things not yet seen : and as the word of God treats chiefly of such things, Faith is the faculty with which we receive the word of God; if we receive it at all. By Faith, says the Apostle, we know that the worlds were framed by the word of God, and that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. We should not so much as know that God created the world, unless he himself had informed us of it: and so weak is human reason without Faith, that some, who pretend to be wiser than all other men, do not believe this after they have been told of it. The general object of our Faith is the word of God, as revealed to us in the scripture ; the more particular object of it is the redemption of man by Jesus Christ, as it includes the whole work of our regeneration and final salvation. Till we admit of this, and of the nature of the
person, both God and man, by whom it is accomplished, we have no Faith. St. John reduces Faith to this single article of receiving the record God hath given of his son.
He that believeth not God, saith he, hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his son : and this is the record, that