« ZurückWeiter »
expect many stony ground hearers to remain as professors, who would, in more trying days, have openly renounced the faith of Christ.
Accordingly we see those whose hearts have never been softened by grace to receive the Word aright, maintaining a high profession, while they know little or nothing of the power of godliness in sanctifying the soul, purifying the heart, and estranging it from the pomps and vanity of this evil world, and humbling it at the foot of the cross. Hence we see so many proud servants of a crucified Master, so many pretended followers of Him who was despised and rejected of men, walking as men-pleasers, courting the applause of their fellow-sinners, revelling in the intoxicating flatteries of a world which blasphemed him, standing upon the summit of the Cross as it were, as upon a conspicuous pedestal, to receive that fulsome adulation which nothing but wretched ignorance of God could make them desire or accept without shame and loathing.-(See Note.)
St. Paul, to whom the Kingdom of God had come, not in word only, but in power also, says——"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of my Saviour, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
3. Let us consider the effect which the Kingdom of God has upon those to whom it comes not in Word only, but in power also, by which we may try our own spiritual estate, and know whether we have real experience of the vital energy of the Gospel or not. And here let us proceed cautiously, not laying down rules for our guidance such as carnal reason may suggest, or incline to, but such as the Word of Christ, by which and by no other standard, we shall be judged, and even now are judged.
If our state will bear the test of Christ's Word, even now are we founded upon a Rock, and shall weather every storm, but if it will not bear this test now, we are as yet built on a foundation of sand.
What then is the effect produced upon those to whom the Kingdom of God hath come in power ? The Kingdom of God, says the Apostle elsewhere, is “ righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Such is the power of the kingdom upon the soul of the true Christian believer.
There is no power but of God; we have no power in ourselves to help our. selves, none to change our own hearts, or to rise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. But when through grace faith cometh by the Word of God, the Christian receives the promised spirit, and is sealed unto the day of redemption.-It is the office of the Holy Ghost to set up the throne of the Lord Christ in the hearts of his people, so that he who has received Jesus as his Prophet to teach him, and as his Priest to atone for him, acknowledges Christ as his King to reign over him. The Word of truth, though exactly fitted to be the means of accomplishing this saving work, has yet no power in itself to achieve it no more than an axe has power in itself to fell a tree, or an hammer to break in pieces a hard stone. These may be suitable instruments and requisite, but the power is in the arm that wields them effectually. Without the Spirit, we may have religious opinions and notions, yet a really uninfluenced heart; we may possess the form of godliness, but cannot have the renewing power. But the Spirit acts in exact agreement with the Word, the revealed will and truth of God, did he not act in full accordance with the Word, there would be variance in the operations of the Three persons in the Godhead, who working together as Authors of our Salvation are all one in design, and act in concert for one end.
When, therefore, we find a wondrous efficacy ascribed to the written Word, we must always remember that it possesses this only as being in the hand of the Spirit, used as a means. The Word can do nothing of itself, it is but a dead letter until the Spirit breathes life into it, and inakes it become light and life to the believer. He it is who opens the simer's eye. By nature we are blind. The Sun affords no light to the naturally blind, no more does the light of the Word dispel the spiritual darkness of those whose moral faculties are deadened by sin. How necessary, therefore, is it, that we should earnestly and constantly pray for this good Spirit to teach us, and convince us of sin and take of the things of Jesus, and shew them unto us, write all God's laws upon our hearts, and comfort us with that blessed hope and everlasting consolation through grace, which the Gospel of our Salvation affords, and how precious, how worthy of all acceptation is the promise, that God will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him. He will give his Spirit to all that seek him in faith, since for this end Christ died, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Gal. iii. 14)
Every true believer in Christ has remission of sins, and the indwelling of the Spirit. These are covenant mercies conveyed to all who receive baptism rightly. This Spirit of life and sanctification is given to Christ's believing and penitent disciples to abide in them, and such having this unction from the Holy One know all things that are essential to their peace and salvation, know the saving doctrines of the Word after a spiritual manner, are taught them of God.
This is the promise to the Church in Isaiah—"All thy children shall be taught of God," and the effect of this divine teaching will appear in the fruits of grace-love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance and in that pure and undefiled religion which St. James declares to consist in love and holiness ; "to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Of such a character is that righteousness of which the Kingdom of God is composed, concerning which our Lord states--“except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes aud Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
To the life of such spiritual righteousness the Holy Ghost raises the Christian believer from the death of sin, by his Almighty quickening energy. St Paul speaks, and speaks from his own experience,“ of the exceeding greatness of God's power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead." (Ephes. i. 19.)
It is the very power of Christ's resurrection we are treating of, and here let me ask, have you, my friends, had experience of it. If you have, you are, you must needs be, bringing forth the fruits of true holiness to the glory of God through his Son. If you have not yet experienced this power, you are Christians in word alone; you are not one with Christ, nor Christ one with you; you have not his life in you; your religious and charitable actions are merely fruit brought forth unto yourselves, done from false and selfish motives, and with mean and selfish aims; and your talk about the things of God, is but as the noise of a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. If you have risen through the Spirit to this life of righteousness, you are rendering to God the obedience of love in all humility; you are no longer conformed to this world, but like Christ, “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." You have risen with Christ, and your affections are set on things above, not on things upon earth ; you have renounced the honour that cometh from man, and are seeking the honour which cometh from God only. For you there is, through the selfsame Spirit which raised you to a new, divine, and holy life, spiritual joy and peace, those two other qualities of the kingdom which St. Paul associates with righteousness.
The peace of such subjects of Christ's kingdom is a true peace, given them by Christ, as the purchase of his blood and righteousness; the result of that
reconciliation between God and man he effected as Mediator. By faith the Christian lays hold of it, and in his obedience ensures the blessing. And not only is peace, but joy in God, joy in the Holy Ghost, the privilege of the faithful, and humble, and obedient disciple, who in the midst of all his trials, though his heart is often in heaviness through manifold temptations, yet when faith is lively and strong, can rejoice in the Lord, yea, he will rejoice, triumphing over all that oppresses him through the power of Christ's grace. Such is the excellency of this power of God in the earthen vessels of his people that they can testify, that though troubled on every side, they are not distressed ; though perplexed, they are not in despair ; though cast down, they are not destroyed.' Such is the virtue of this power, that they who are endued with it persevere and hold on their way even unto the end ; their lamps of spiritual life and heavenly love, like those of the wise virgins, being constantly supplied with the oil of Divine grace, never go out, but shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day: “ Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation," they know whose they are, because they know whom they are serving---not divers lusts and pleasures, not the god of this world, nor the vanities of this world.
They have put off the old man with his corrupt deeds and deceitful lusts ; and have put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. Therefore, their peace with God passeth all understanding, and they have a spiritual joy within which delights their souls, and relieves the toils and weariness of their heavenward journey through a wilderness of sin and sorrow. This joy arises from the knowledge they have of God in Christ;
the mercy, the love, the fidelity, the longsuffering, and experienced excellence of his covenant goodness towards them, in accordance with the promises of his Word ; accompanied with a firm trust and ever-growing conviction, not taken up at hazard, but founded on the Holy Spirit's work and witness in their souls, that they are of the number of those whom God hath chosen in Christ for salvation; and this sweet assurance, so far from occasioning them to relax their efforts for the great reward, causes them to redouble their exertions, and to strive to abonnd in every Christian grace and virtue, and to give all diligence to make their calling and election sure.
Lastly, let me request you to turn to the 1st chapter of the 1st Epistle to the Thessalonians, and notice what manner of commendation St. Paul gave to the Christians in Thessalonica ; and may God grant us all grace to aspire after such a character.
“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers ; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance."
NOTE.—“We conclude with Professor Blunt's emphatic protest against the fustian which often passes for eloquence, the fruit of a miserable wish to shine, miserable in any man, most miserable in a minister of Christ, in the exercise of his office. With persons like these, as Baxter forcibly puts it, pride goes with them into their study, chooses their subject, and more often still, their language and ornaments. When pride has made the sermon, it ascends with them into the pulpit, and regulates their delivery. The sermon ended, pri de goes home with them, and makes them more eager to know whether they were almired, than whether they have turned sinners from the error of their ways. The preachers of this degraded class are happily few in our Church, and are chiefly located in great towns, where alone the imposture can meet with the reward it seeks. To shame those who can thus turn godliness into a trade, and to open the eyes of their dupes, would be alınost equally hopeless, but let the young minister, who is ambitious in his sermons, rather from error in judgment than corruption of mind, remember in whose name and for what purpose he speaks, and he will rejoice infinitely more when he sees reason to believe that he has made oue con vert, than when he has made a church full of admirers."- Quarterly Review, Oct, 1857.
DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, MARCH 7TH, 1858, BY TIIE
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.—John vi. 44.
“Coming to Christ” is a very common phrase in Holy Scripture. It is used to express those acts of the soul wherein, leaving at once our self-righteousness, and our sins, we fly unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive his righteousness to be our covering, and his blood to be our atonement. Coming to Christ, then, embraces in it repentance, self-negation, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it sums within itself all those things which are the necessary attendants of these great states of heart, such as the belief of the truth, earnestness of prayer to God, the submission of the soul to the precepts of God's gospel, and all those things which accompany the dawn of salvation in the soul. Coming to Christ is just the one essential thing for a sinner's salvation. He that cometh not to Christ, do what he may, or think what he may, is yet in “ the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity.”. Coming to Christ is the very first effect of regeneration. No sooner is the soul quickened than it at once discovers its lost estate, is horrified thereat, looks out for a refuge, and believing Christ to be a suitable one, flies to him and reposes in him. Where there is not this coming to Christ, it is certain that there is as yet no quickening: where there is no quickening, the soul is dead in trespasses and sins, and being dead it cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. We have before us now an announcement very startling, some say very obnoxious. Coming to Christ, though described by some people as being the very easiest thing in all the world, is in our text declared to be a thing utterly and entirely impossible to any man, unless the Father shall draw him to Christ. It shall be our business, then, to enlarge upon this declaration. We doubt not that it will always be offensive to carnal nature, but, nevertheless, the offending of human nature is sometimes the first step towards bringing it to bow itself before God. And if this be the effect of a painful process, we can forget the pain and rejoice in the glorious consequences.
I shall endeavour this morning, first of all, to notice man's inability, wherein it consists. Secondly, the Father's drawings—what these are, and how they are exerted upon the soul. And then I shall conclude by noticing a sweet consolation which may be derived from this seemingly barren and terrible text.
1. First, then, MAN'S INABILITY. The text says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Wherein does this inability lie?
First, it does not lie in any physical defect. If in coming to Christ, moving the body or walking with the feet should be of any assistance, certainly man has all physical power to come to Christ in that sense. I remember to have heard a very foolish Antinomian declare, that he did not believe any man had the power to walk to the house of God unless the Father drew him. Now the man was plainly foolish, because he must have seen that as long as a man was alive and had legs, it was as easy for him to walk to the house of God as to the house of Satan. If coming to Christ includes the utterance of a prayer, man has no physical defect in that respect, if he be not dumb, he can say a prayer as easily as he can utter blasphemy. It is as easy for a man to sing one of the songs of Zion as to sing a profane and libidinous
song. There is no lack of physical power in coming to Christ. All that can be wanted with regard to the bodily strength man most assuredly has, and any part of salvation which consists in that is totally and entirely in the power of man without any assistance from the Spirit of God. Nor, again, does this inability lie in any mental lack. I can believe this Bible to be true just as easily as I can believe any other book to be true. So far as believing on Christ is an act of the mind, I am just as able to believe on Christ as I am able to believe on anybody else. Let his statement be but true, it is idle to tell me I cannot believe it. I can believe the statement that Christ makes as well as I can believe the statement of any other person. There is no deficiency of faculty in the mind : it is as capable of appreciating as a mere mental act the guilt of sin, as it is of appreciating the guilt of assassination. It is just as possible for me to exercise the mental idea of seeking God, as it is to exercise the thought of ambition. I have all the mental strength and power that can possibly be needed, so far as mental power is needed in salvation at all. Nay, there is not any man so ignorant that he can plead a lack of intellect as an excuse for rejecting the gospel. The defect, then, does not lie either in the body, or, what we are bound to call, speaking theologically, the mind. It is not any lack or deficiency there, although it is the vitiation of the mind, the corruption or the ruin of it, which, after all, is the very essence of man's inability.
Permit me to show you wherein this inability of man really does lie. It lies deep in his nature. Through the fall, and through our own sin, the nature of man has become so debased, and depraved, and corrupt, that it is impossible for him to come to Christ without the assistance of God the Holy Spirit. Now, in trying to exhibit how the nature of man thus renders him unable to come to Christ, you must allow me just to take this figure. You see a sheep; how willingly it feeds upon the herbage! You never knew a sheep sigh after carrion; it could not live on lion's food. Now bring me a wolf; and you ask me whether a wolf cannot eat grass, whether it cannot be just as docile and as domesticated as the sheep. I answer, no; because its nature is contrary thereunto. You say, “Well, it has ears and legs; can it not hear the shepherd's voice, and follow him whithersoever he leadeth it?” I answer, certainly; there is no physical cause why it cannot do so, but its nature forbids, and therefore I say it cannot do so. Can it not be tamed? cannot its ferocity be removed ? Probably it may so far be subdued that it may become apparently tame; but there will always be a marked distinction between it and the sheep, because there is a distinction in nature. Now, the reason why man cannot come to Christ, is not because he cannot come, so far as his body or his mere power of mind is concerned, but because his nature is so corrupt that he has neither the will nor the power to come to Christ unless drawn by the Spirit. But let me give you a better illustration. You see a mother with her bábe in her arms. You put a knife into her hand, and tell her to stab that babe to the heart. She replies, and very truthfully, “I cannot.” Now, so far as her bodily power is concerned, she can, if she pleases; there is the knife, and there is the child. The child cannot resist, and she has quite sufficient strength in her hand immediately to stab it to its heart. But she is quite correct when she says she cannot do it. As a mere act of the mind, it is quite possible she might think of such a thing as killing the child, and yet she says she cannot think of such a thing; and she does not say falsely, for her nature as a mother forbids her doing a thing from which her soul revolts. Simply because she is that child's parent she feels she cannot kill it. It is even so with a sinner. Coming to Christ is 80 obnoxious to human nature that, although, so far as physical and mental forces are concerned, (and these have but a very narrow sphere in salvation) men could come if they would: it is strictly correct to say that they cannot and will not unless the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them. Let us enter a little more deeply into the subject, and try to show you wherein this inability of man consists, in its more minute particulars.
1. First, it lies in the obstinacy of the human will. “Oh!" saith the Arminian, “men may be saved if they will." We reply, “My dear sir, we all believe that: but it is just the if they will that is the difficulty. We assert that no man mall come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it-Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;' and as long as that 'ye will not come' stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will." It is strange how people, when talking about free-will, talk of things which they do not at all under