Page images

The fountain is open. Now is the time to wash thee white in the blood of the Lamb. Now he stall purge thee as with hyssop, and thou shalt be clean: he shall wash thee, and thou “shalt be whiter than snow." 3. Do not say,

“But I am not contrite enough: I am not sensible enough of my sins.' I know it. I would to God thou wert more sensible of them, more contrite a thousand fold than thou art. But do not stay for this. It may be God will make thee so, not before thou believest, but by believing. It may be, thou wilt not weep much, till thou lovest much, because thou hast had much forgiven. In the mean time, look unto Jesus. Behold, how he loveth thee! What could he have done more for thee which he hath not done?

“ O Lamb of God, was ever pain,

Was ever love like thine !" Look steadily upon him, till he looks on thee, and breaks thy hard heart. Then shall thy head be waters, and thy eyes fountains of tears.

4. Nor yet do thou say, “I must do something more before I come to Christ.” I grant, supposing thy Lord should delay his coming, it were meet and right to wait for his appearing, in doing, so far as thou hast power, whatsoever he hath commanded thee. But there is no necessity for making such a supposition. How knowest thou that he will delay ? Perhaps he will appear, as the day-spring from on high, before the morning light. Oh do not set him a time! Expect him every hour. Now he is nigh! Even at the door! · 5 And to what end wouldst thou wait for more sincerity, before thy sins are blotted out? To make thee more worthy of the grace of God ? Alas, thou art still “ establishing thy own righteousness. He will have mercy, not because thou art worthy of it, but because his compassions fail not; not because thou art righteous, but because Jesus Christ hath atoned for thy sins.

Again, if there be any thing good in sincerity, why dost thou expect it before thou hast faith?—seeing faith itself is the only root of whatever is really good and holy.

Above all, how long wilt thou forget, that whatsoever thou dost, or whatsoever thou hast, before thy sins are forgiven thee, it avails nothing with God, towards the procuring of thy forgiveness ? Yea, and that it must all be cast behind thy back, trampled under foot, made no account of, or thou wilt never find favour in God's sight; because, until then, , thou canst not ask it, as a mere sinner, guilty, lost, undone, having nothing to plead, nothing to offer to God, but oniy the merits of his well beloved Son, who loved thee, and gave himself for thee.

6. To conclude. Whosoever thou art, oh man, who hast the sentence of death in thyself, who feelest thyself a condemned sinner, and hast the wrath of God abiding on thee: unto thee saith the Lord, not,“ Do this,”. -perfectly obey all my commands, "and live;" but, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The word of faith is nigh unto thee: now, at this instant, in the present moment, and in thy present state, sinner as thou art, just as thou art, believe the gospel; and “ I will be merciful unto thy unrighteousness, and thy iniquities will I remember no more."

SERMON VII.- The Way to the Kingdom. “ The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe tho gospel,” Mark i, 15.

[ocr errors]

THESE words naturally lead us to consider, first, The nature of true religion, here termed by our Lord, “the kingdom of God;" which, saith he, “is at hand:” and, secondly, the way thereto, which he points out in those words, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

I. 1. We are, first, to consider the nature of true religion, here termed by our Lord," the kingdom of God.” The same expression the great apostle uses in his epistle to the Romans, where he likewise explains his Lord's words, saying, “ The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Iloly Ghost," Rom. xiv, 17.

2. The kingdom of God,” or true religion, “ is not meat and drink.” It is well known, that not only the unconverted Jews, but great numbers of those who had received the faith of Christ, were, notwithstanding, zealous of the law,” Acts xxi, 20, even the ceremonial law of Moses. Whatsoever therefore they found written therein, either concerning meat and drink offerings, or the distinction between clean and unclean meats, they not only observed themselves, but vehemently pressed the same, even on those“ among the Gentiles (or heathens) who were turned to God;" yea, to such a degree, that some of them taught, wheresoever they came among them, “ Except ye be circumcised, and keep the law, (the whole ritual law,) ye cannot be saved," Acts xv, 1, 24.

3. In opposition to these, the apostle declarés, both here and in many other places, that true religion does not consist in mcat and drink, or in any ritual observances; nor, indeed, in any outward thing whatever ; in any thing exterior to the heart; the whole substance thereof lying in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

4. Not in any outward thing ; such as forms or ceremonies, even of the most excellent kind. Supposing these to be ever so decent and significant, ever so expressive of inward things : supposing them ever so helpful, not only to the vulgar, whose thought reaches little farther than their sight; but even to men of understanding, men of stronger capacities, as doubtless they may sometimes be: yea, supposing them, as in the case of the Jews, to be appointed by God himself; yet even during the period of time wherein that appointment remains in force, true religion does not principally consist therein ; nay, strictly speaking, not all. How much more must this hold concerning such rites and forms as are only of human appointment! The religion of Christ rises infinitely higher, and lies immensely deeper, than all these. These are good in their place; just so far as they are in fact subservient to true religion. And it were superstition to object against them, while they are applied only as occasional helps to human weakness. But let no man carry them farther. Let no man dream that they have any intrinsic worth ; or that religion cannot subsist without them. This were to make them an abomination to the Lord.

5. The nature of religion is so far from consisting in these, in forms of worship, or rites and ceremonies, that it does not properly consist in any outward actions, of what kind soever. It is true, a man cannot

Yet may a

have any religion who is guilty of vicious, immoral actions; or who does to others, what he would not they should do unto him, if he were in the same circumstances. And it is also true, that he can have no real religion, who“ knows to do good, and doeth it not." man both abstain from outward evil, and do good, and still have no religion. Yea, two persons may do the same outward work; suppose, feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked ; and, in the mean time, one of these may be truly religious, and the other have no religion at all : for the one may act from the love of God, and the other from the love of praise. So manifest it is, that although true religion naturally leads to every good word and work, yet the real nature thereof lies deeper still, even in “ the hidden man of the heart."

6. I say of the heart. For neither does religion consist in orthodoxy, or right opinions; which, although they are not properly outward things, are not in the heart, but the understanding. A man may be orthodox in every point; he may not only espouse right opinions, but zealously defend them against all opposers; he may think justly concerning the incarnation of our Lord, concerning the ever blessed Trinity, and every other doctrine, contained in the oracles of God; he may assent to all the three creeds,—that called the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian ; and yet it is possible he may have no religion at all, no more than a Jew, Turk, or Pagan. He may be almost as orthodox, -as the devil; (though indeed, not altogether; for every man errs in something ; whereas we cannot well conceive him to hold any erroneous opinion ;) and may, all the while, be as great a stranger as he to the religion of the heart.

7. This alone is religion, truly so called: this alone is in the sight of God of great price. T'he apostle sums it all up in three particulars, righteousness,


peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” And, first, righteousness. We cannot be at a loss concerning this, if we remember the words of our Lord, describing the two grand branches thereof, on which“ hang all the law and the prophets :" “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. This is the first and great commandment,” Mark xii, 30, the first and great branch of Christian righteous

Thou shalt delight thyself in the Lord thy God; thou shalt seek and find all happiness in him. He shall be “thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward," in time, and in eternity. All thy bones shall

Whom have I ir. heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee!" Thou shalt hear, and fulfil his word, who saith, “My son, give me thy heart.” And, having given him thy heart, thy inmost soul, to reign there without a rival, thou mayest well cry out, in the fulness of thy heart, “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my strong rock, and my defence; my Saviour, my God, and my might, in whom I will trust; my buckler, the horn also of my salvation, and my refuge."


8. And the second commandment is like unto this; the second great branch of Christian righteousness is closely and inseparably connected therewith ; even “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.Thou shalt love,—Thou shalt embrace with the most tender good will, the most earnest and cordial affection, the most inflamed desires of preventing or removing all evil, and of procuring for him every possible


good,—Thy neighbour ;—that is, not only thy friend, thy kinsman, or thy acquaintance: not only the virtuous, the friendly, him that loves thee, that prevents or returns thy kirdness; but every child of man, every human creature, every soul which God hath made; not excepting him whom thou never hast seen in the Aesh, whom thou knowest not, either by face or name; not excepting him whom thou knowest to be evil and unthankful, him that still despitefiilly uses and persecutes thee : him thou shalt love as thyself ; with the same invariable thirst after his happiness in every kind; the same unwearied care to screen him from whatever might grieve or hurt, either his soul or body.

9. Now is not this love "the fulfilling of the law ?” The sum of all Christian righteousness ?—Of all inward righteousness; for it necessarily implies bowels of mercy, humbleness of mind," seeing “ love is not puffed up,") "gentleness, meekness, long suffering : (for love" is not provoked;" but" believeth, hopeth, endureth all things:") and of all outward righteousness; for “love worketh no evil to his neighbour," either by word or deed. It cannot willingly either hurt or grieve any one. And it is zealous of good works. Every lover of mankind, as he hath opportunity,“ doeth good unto all men,” being (without partiality, and without hypocrisy) “full of mercy, and good fruits.

10. But true religion, or a heart right towards God and man, implies happiness, as well as holiness. For it is not only righteousness, but also " peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” What peace? The peace of God, which God only can give, and the world cannot take away; the peace which “passeth all understanding,” all (barely) rational conception; being a supernatural sensation, a divine taste of “the powers

of the world to come;" such as the natural man knoweth not, how wise soever in the things of this world, nor, indeed, can he know it, in his present state, “because it is spiritually discerned.”. It is a peace that banishes all doubt, all painful uncertainty; the Spirit of God bearing witness with the spirit of a Christian, that he is a child of God. And it banishes fear, all such fear as hath torment; the fear of the wrath of God; the fear of hell; the fear of the devil ; and, in particular, the fear of death: he that hath the peace of God, desiring, if it were the will of God,“ to depart, and to be with Christ.”

11. With this peace of God, wherever it is fixed in the soul, there is also "joy in the Holy Ghost;" joy wrought in the heart by the Holy Ghost, by the ever blessed Spirit of God. He it is that worketh in us that calm, humble rejoicing in God, through Christ Jesus,“ by whom we have now received the atonement,” xatanlaynu, the reconciliation with God; and that enables us boldly to confirm the truth of the royal psalmist's declaration,“ blessed is the nian,”(or rather happy,) v107 1UX, “whose unrighteousness is forgiven, and whose sin is covered." He it is that inspires the Christian soul with that even, solid joy, which arises from the testimony of the Spirit that he is a child of God; and that gives him to “ rejoice with joy unspeakable, in hope of the glory of God;" hope both of the glorious image of God, which is in part, and shall be full “ revealed in him;" and of that crown of glory which fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for hiin.

12. This holiness and happiness, joined in one, are sometimes styled, in the inspired writings," the kingdom of God," (as by our Lord in the text,) and sometimes, “the kingdom of heaven. It is termed "the kingdom of God," because it is the immediate fruit of God's reigning in the soul. So soon as ever he takes unto himself his righty power, and sets up his throne in our hearts, they are instantly filled with this

righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” It is called “the kingdom of heaven," because it is (in a degree) heaven opened in the soul. For whosoever they are that experience this, they can aver before angels and men,

“ Everlasting life is won:

Glory is on earth begun :" According to the constant tenor of Scripture, which every where bears record, God “hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son” (reigning in his heart) “ hath life," (even life everlasting,) 1 John v, 11, 12. For “this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,” John xvii, 3. And they, to whom this is given, may confidently address God, though they were in the midst of a fiery furnace,

“ Thee,,Lord, safe shielded by thy power,
Thee, Son of God, Jehovah, we adore ;
In form of man, descending to appear :
To thee be ceaseless hallelujahs given.
Praise, as in heaven thy throne, we offer here;

For where thy presence is display'd, is heaven.” 13. And this kingdom of God, or of heaven, is at hand. As these words were originally spoken, they implied, that the time was then fulfilled, God being “made manisest in the flesh,” when he would set up his kingdom among men, and reign in the hearts of his people. And is not the time now fulfilled ? For, “Lo! (saith he) I am with you always,” you who preach remission of sins in my name, "even unto the end of the world,” Matt. xxviii, 20. Wheresoever, therefore, the gospel of Christ is preached, this his“ kingdom is nigh at hand.” It is not far from every one of you. Ye may this hour enter thereinto, if so be ye hearken to this voice, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

II. 1. This is the way: walk ye in it. And, first, Repent;" that is, know yourselves. This is the first repentance previous to faith ; even conviction, or self knowledge. Awake then, thou that sleepest. Know thyself to be a sinner, and what manner of sinner thou art. Know that corruption of thy inmost nature, whereby thou art very far gone from original righteousness, whereby “the flesh lusteth” always

contrary to the Spirit,” through that "carnal mind” which “is enmity against God,” which “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Know that thou art corrupted in every power, in every faculty of thy soul; that thou art totally corrupted in every one of these, all the foundations being out of course. The eyes of thine understanding are darkened, so that they cannot discern God, or the things of God. The clouds of ignorance and error rest upon thee, and cover thee with the shadow of death. Thou knowest nothing yet as thou oughtest to know, neither God, nor the world, nor thyself. Thy will is no longer the will of God, but is utterly perverse and distorted, averse from all good, from all which God loves, and prone to all evil, to every abomination which God hateth. Thy affections are alienated from God, and scattered abroad over all the earth. All thy passions, both thy desires and aversions thy joys and sorrows thy hopes and fears,

« PreviousContinue »