Page images

Wherever there is a man, the offer of the Gospel is to him, and nothing but the Gospel can meet his wants as man. Yes, the offer is broad, unlimited, universal. "Come unto me," said Jesus, “all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Him that cometh unto me," He said again, “I will in no wise (I will not, - no, I will not) cast out.” “You are not elect," said the adversary to a sorely tried Christian. “Elect,” replied the man of God, “have you seen the Book of God.

Liar, get you hence. I have more than ye ever had-an offer of Christ, and I have taken Him." Acceptance of Christ, offered in the Gospel, makes our calling and election sure. Closing the canon of Revelation, the Spirit of God, by the mouth of John, sends down through all the ages the gloriously free invitation : “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth, say, Come. And let him that is athirst come: and, whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”

II. In the day of conversion, the sinner becomes truly broad" and " free.

The ruin of our race in Paradise consisted in the expulsion of God from the soul. God's inhabitation of man, and man's continued communion with God, were requisite for the preservation of the nobility and magnanimity of him who, by the breath of the Almighty, became a living soul. None but God was the worthy or sufficient object to be loved, if man was to retain, in their full and free exercise, those God-like powers with which he was endowed. But, forsaking the fountain of living waters, every source to which he might betake himself for the reinvigoration of the whole man, was but as a waterless cistern. Putting God away from him, man, who was of heaven, heavenly, became of earth, earthy-his mind narrowed, his heart contracted, his soul enslaved. The wilderness into which he had now to wander, as compared with the Eden wherein he had dwelt, was but a faint representation of that mournful moral change which took place within, when, because he had driven God out of his heart, God, from His presence and Paradise, “drove out the man." Nothing but the return of man to God, and the repossession of man's heart by its rightful Owner, can ever restore him to the perfectness of his beginning, and the felicity of the Paradise he has lost. But this can be attained, praise be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. Through the Father's purpose, the Son's redemption, and the Spirit's operations, man may become a partaker of the Divine nature, and a new creature in Christ Jesus; he may become perfectly like God, and see Him face to face for ever, in a Paradise that shall outlive the destruction of the worlds. In the day of regeneration, God, in overflowing mercy, returns to the tabernacle from which he had been driven out, rekindles the heavenly flame that had been extinguished, moves divinely every capacity of the creature, and guarantees that the converted sinner shall, in due time, “stand forth perfect and complete in all the will of God."

By a variety of metaphors in Scripture, the contracted and abject condition of the sinner is declared, and the enlarging effect of the Gospel believed in, described. The state of the sinner is one of slavery. He has surrendered his independence and freedom; "ye have sold yourselves for nought.” He is the willing servant of him at whose will he is led captive. Gates of brass confine him, iron fetters bind him. But when the day of Christ's power comes, the fetters burst, and the gates fly open, and the emancipated come out into the liberty of God's sons.

“ Because the mighty gates of brass

In pieces he did tear,
By Him in sunder also cut

The bars of iron were." The sinner is in the pit and the miry clay, and like Jeremiah, he sinks in the mire. The Almighty Deliverer comes for his help. He comes, making the clouds His chariot, riding upon the wings of the wind.

“ He took me from a fearful pit,

And from the miry clay,
And on a rock He set my feet,

Establishing my way.
“ He, to a place where liberty

And room was, hath me brought ;
Because He took delight in me,

He my deliverance wrought." Now there is enlargement of heart: now there is free play for the inmost soul; now there is full oppotunity for the utmost stretch of all the capacities; now is there an object apprehended worthy to command the supreme homage of every affection of the heart and every faculty of the mind; now the emancipated breathe the air of heaven, and are freemen in Christ Jesus: “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

"I long," said Payson, “to hand a full cup of happiness to every human being.” “There is room, brother,” said Arnot, “ for the whole kingdom of God within you.” It is at conversion that the full cup of happiness is put to the lips; it is then that, within the believer's soul, there is erected the whole kingdom of God. There is not a part of man's nature unaffected by the change now wrought. All the members are yielded up, as instruments of righteousness unto holiness. As in the perfect infant there are all the parts of a full-grown man; so, in the new-born child of God, there are all the parts of the perfected believer, that spiritual evolution having begun by which the babe of grace is brought to the full stature of a perfect man in Christ. In that God to whom the believer looks, there is sufficient to engage the fullest and the everlasting exercise of every affection and faculty. No fear need be entertained that our utmost efforts shall compass the object of our love ; for never, though we travel for an eternity, can we arrive at the circumference of His being-can we land on the shore of this ocean; for the ocean is immeasurable, and shore there is none. “ Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? The measure thereof is longer than the earth and broader than the sea." Yes, we may love Him“ with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind.” “Every fibre of my soul,” said Rabbi Duncan,"winds itself round the enjoyment of God for ever, with unutterable, sickening, fainting desire.” The whole powers of the new creature may, with all their intensity, engage themselves for ever with the immeasurably broad object of faith-the Only-begotten of the Father, in “whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." And, in proportion to the extent to which the renewed man comprehends the breadth, and depth, and height of the immeasurable love of Christ, does he become "filled with all the fulness of God."

III. In his Sanctification, the Christian goes onward to perfect breadthand freedom.

The growth of the believer “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,” may be regarded in a two-fold character-internal and external. The former is invisible, and, in special, spiritual,—the latter, visible and moral. The former has to do with the inward state,—the latter, with the outward character. Yet there is an inseparable relation between them—the former being absolutely necessary in order to the latter; the latter deriving all its strength from the former. It is those only who have the gracious dispositions and affections of soul upon which, in His sermon on the mount, our Lord pronounces the beatitudes, that are afterwards described as the “salt of the earth,” and “the light of the world.”

When the sinner is turned to God, there is wrought in him every grace. Faith, and joy, and peace, and meekness, and love, and gentleness, and goodness, enter in and take possessionexotics from another soil. They are possessed, but they are not at first in all their fulness. They are but in germ-living germ. Young and tender as yet, they are sure to grow. They will put forth leaves; they will flourish; they will bear fruit yet—all manner of fruit. There has been commenced the renewal of " the whole man after the image of God.” It is of the essence of the grace imparted that it works for perfection. It is like the leaven hid in the meal. It sets the believer upon hating sin in its whole extent, and upon labouring for its extermination. It arouses him to the destruction of every Diabolonian in Mansoul, the city and citadel of his heart. No aim short of the extirpation of sin, root and branch, of being free from it in its every lust, can render him satisfaction. And as strongly will he feel that, with the whole efforts of his soul, he must follow after holi

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

In this internal development, it should be the believer's aim to grow in all the graces—to produce all “ the fruits” of the Spirit. There are graces of a gentler, and graces of a sterner kind. The promise, in Hosea, to repenting Israel seems to hold out this difference—“He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” In gentleness, tenderness, meekness, love, patience, Israel would grow as the lily. In faith, stedfastness, holy resolution, perseverance, witness-bearing for God, Israel would be like Lebanon like the cedars that grasp that mountain's sides more firmly by every blast that sweeps across Lebanon's brow. In the believer's increase there is to be proportion, symmetry, breadth. The tree of righteousness must not stand awry, and it must not flourish and have fruit on one side only. “The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree.” Writing to those who had “obtained precious faith,” Peter enjoins their growth in all graces : “Giving all diligence, add to your faith valour, and to valour knowledge;" and, having added other factors in this heavenly summation, he exhibits the benefits : "If these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful:


Ye shall never fall, for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." The fuller the increase of all graces, the more abundant the entrance into the kingdom. Some believers, through their negligence here, are like the ships that have lived, indeed, amid the storm, but only lived:

“ For I have seen a ship in haven fall,

After the storm had broke both mast and shroud."

But those that give the diligence here commended, bear up amid the billows, and, like some noble vessel, full sail, coming up to the harbour, they have an “abundant entrance ministered them into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

But then this internal spiritual increase will objectify itself in the external character. The growing assimilation of the soul to the divine image will disclose itself by a growing conformity of the outward life to the Divine law. It will lead the believer to guard against and avoid every vice, and to observe all virtue. He will endeavour to apply the law, in its whole breadth, to his character, in its whole breadth; to bring his character, in its whole breadth, into unreserved submission to, and complete harmony with, the law, in its whole breadth ;-for the law is, as it is now increasingly seen to be, holy, and just, and good. Nothing but such perfect conformity with God's “exceeding broad” commandment can satisfy the aspirations of the new heart; and grace within never ceases, as a habit, to prompt to this great attainment. Every such saint will join with the man after God's heart :-“I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way." He will seek to secure complete control of himself. He will master his own spirit, and suppress its ebullitions, that they burst not forth to destroy. He will keep in his mouth, as with a muzzle ; for, if “any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” He will be honest in every transaction of his life, and God-fearing in discharging the duties of his varied relationships. He will, in short, seek to be “holy in all manner of conversation.” “I will receive you and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore,” continues the apostle, “these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.”

« PreviousContinue »