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every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven.” “If ye know these things, happy are ye, if ye do them.” In both these texts, a reward attends the doing, a promise is annexed to works.
Again, “ whosoever,” says our Saviour, " shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother,” - thus he describes his friends, not even by the intimacy of their intercourse with him, not by the tenderness of their attachment to his person, not by their sorrow on account of his approaching sufferings and separations from them-considered as their familiar companion and associate, but by their obedience to him, as the teacher of morality, as the mouth of heaven, as the public minister of truth and virtue, “ ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.'
In considering the terms of the gospel covenant, there are two errors into which men are liable to fall—the first is, that when they hear so much of the exceedingly great kindness of the offer, they are apt to infer that the condition on which it is made, will not be exacted. Against this error we ought to guard ourselves, most diligently, for it is not only false in its principle, but most pernicious in its application, its application being always to countenance us in some sin, which we will not relinquish.
To prevent us from thus turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, what can be more appropriate than the language of the following prayer :-“ Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people, that they plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The same sentiment is expressed by the church, in her homilies and articles — “ Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith ; insomuch that by them a lively
faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.” 12th Article.
In the accomplishment of man's salvation, there are naturally and properly two essential qualities,--the cause and the condition; the benignity of God, hath made us a most inconceivably advantageous offer, the Scriptures call it “glory, honour, immortality, eternal life,” the greatest virtue that man ever attained, has no pretensions to such a reward ; nor can I mention a branch of duty, which is not liable to be impure in the motive, and imperfect in the execution ; or a moral accomplishment, by which our endeavours can found their hopes of acceptance upon any pretext, but extended mercy, and the efficacy of those means and causes, which have procured it, to be so extended.
But a most kind offer may still be a conditional offer, and if a conditional offer is infinitely kind on the part of the benefactor who makes it, and infinitely beneficial to those to whom it is made, gratitude will render the condition so much the more obligatory, for as an apostle tells us, “ye are
not your own, for ye are bought with a price, therefore he adds, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit which are God's.”
The name of Jesus is not to be to us, like the allah of the Mahometans-a talisman or an amulet, to be worn on the arm as an external badge, merely, and symbol of our profession, and to preserve us from evil, by some mysterious and unintelligible potency, but, it is to be engraven deeply on the heart, and manifest its effects on the life and manners.
It is the grand, essential, practical characteristic of true Christians, that relying on the promises to repenting sinners, of acceptance through a Redeemer, they have renounced and abjured all other masters, and have heartily and unreservedly devoted themselves to God. This is indeed the very thing which baptism daily represents to us; like the father of Hannibal, we bring our infant to the altar, we consecrate him to the service of his proper owner, and vow in his name, eternal hostilities, against all the enemies of his salvation. After the same
manner, Christians are become the sworn enemies of sin, they will hold no parley with it, they will allow it in no shape, they will admit it to no composition. The war which they have denounced against it, is cordial, universal, irreconcilable. But this is not all; it is their determined purpose, to yield themselves without reserve, to the commands of their rightful Sovereign, by bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
A second error, into which we are apt to slide, is, that when we think we have performed the conditions upon which the reward is offered, we attribute our obtaining it solely to our own performances, and not to that which is the beginning, and foundation, and cause of the whole, the kindness, and bounty of the original offer.
This error, though it comes forward with a sober face, is perilous in the extreme, because it dispenses with those principles which are absolutely necessary to form the Christian character, and claims the heavenly inheritance as a debt, which is bestowed upon us by an act of the most unmerited grace.