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our humble and thankful admiration? The original and essential riches of the Redeemer, the poverty to which he voluntarily submitted, the character of those for whose sake he became poor, the riches he imparts unto them, and the means by which be doth it; are all so wonderful when separately considered, and kindle such a blaze of glory when combined and brought together, that angels themselves are dazzled with its splendour; and, through all eternity, will contemplate, with increasing wonder and delight, wbat neither they, nor we, shall ever be able fully to comprehend.
You must further be sensible, that this grace of our Lord Jesus Christ doth likewise invite, and should even constrain, our imitation. It was for this purpose that the Apostle introduced it into the subject with which my text is immediately connected. He is recommending love to the brethren, and in particular that instance of charity which consisteth in supplying the wants of the poor; and the argument or motive with which he presseth his ex. hortation, is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for their sake became poor, that they through his poverty might be rich. And here, did your time permit, I might take occasion to show, that the gospel of Christ is so far from relaxing the obligations of those who receive it, to the practice of social duties, that, on the contrary, it strenghens these obligations, and carries the duties themselves to a sublimer height of selfdenial, than the most refined moralist ever thought of, or perhaps would choose to adopt for the measure of his own conduct. I need only quote one passage of Scripture in proof of what I have said, where love to the brethren appears plainly to be raised by gospel-grace even above the standard of the original law itself. The law saith, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” But what
saith the gospel? You may read it, (1 John iii. 16.) “ Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us." To which it is immediately add. ed, as a practical inference, “ We ought." The expression is emphatical, and imports, that it is not left to our choice, but is strictly due as a debt; “ We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." Such is the love that the gospel recommends. From whence it appears, that the purest and most sublime morality flows from faith in Christ as its native source, and will rise in exact proportion to the knowledge of his grace.
But do we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? This question demands a serious and deliberate answer.
It is too evident, that many who bear the title of Christians are grossly ignorant even of the doctrines of grace, and need to be taught “ the first principles of the oracles of God.” But besides these, we have just cause to fear, that not a few are to be found among us, who, though they have acquired a theory of Christian doctrine, and can talk of the great traths of the gospel with propriety and fluency; yet they cannot be said to know that grace whereof they are able to discourse to others.
The knowledge which the Apostle speaks of, is different from that which may be acquired by study, or mere human instruction. It is of a kind altogether peculiar to the real saint: It is produced by the Spirit accompanying the word, taking of the things of Christ, and not only showing them unto him, but writing them upon the “fleshly tables of his heart," and thereby transforming him into the divine image. Let me then ask you, or rather let me entreat you to ask your own hearts, as in the presence of God, Whether or not you ever were convinced of your need of this grace, your
ab. solute need of it, to save you from the wrath to come
Did you ever see yourselves, by the light of God's word, to be wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; under a righteous sentence of condemnation, and unable, as of yourselves, to do any thing that could be effectual for your own recovery?- Under this conviction of your lost and helpless estate by nature, were your eyes opened to see the necessity and suitableness of the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfection of that sacrifice which he offered up to the Father; together with his ability and willingness “to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by bim?” Animated by these spi. ritual discoveries of the Saviour, encouraged by bis kind invitation to come to him, and constrained by the Father's command to believe on his name, did you humbly and thankfully receive him as the “unspeakable gift” of God to men? saying with the apostle Paul, " What things were gain to me, those I counted lost for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: And do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in bim, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is by the faith of Christ, the righteousness, which is of God by faith.” Was this acceptance entire and unreserved; did your heart consent that he should be made of God unto you, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; your prophet to instruct you, and your king to rule over you, as well as your priest to justify you by his blood ? Have you relished, or do you now relish, the sweetness of his grace? Above all, let me ask you, have you felt its power and influence upon your temper and practice? The grace of the gospel is not only the parent of peace and joy, but an effectual principle of holiness in all who partake of it. This was the doc.
trine which Paul delivered to Titus, (Tit. ii. 11. et seq.) 6 The grace of God which bringeth salvation, teacheth us, that denying ungodliness, and worldly lasts, we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly, in this present world.” This is not only the most satisfying evidence, that we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; but so essential an evidence, that where it is wanting, I can read nothing in the whole book of God to supply the defect, or that can be substituted in the place of it. I read of a dead faith,—a presumptuous hope,-a false peace,--and a name to live; but all these are refuges of lies, which ere long shall be “swept" away
66 with the besom of destruction.” Whereas the true faith of the gospel is every where represented, as “ working by love," and " overcoming the world.” ” The hope of the gospel incites all who are possessed of it, " to purify themselves, even as be” whom they hope to enjoy " is pure.”_" The peace of God which passeth all understanding, keeps," or guards “the heart and mind,” and fortifies the believer against the fierce assaults of his spiritual enemies. And it is the distin. guishing privilege of those who “ are not under the law, but under grace,” that “ sio shall not have dominion over them :" “ They have put off the old man with his deed, and have put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." They show, that they live in the Spirit, by walking in the Spirit; and give proof that they are “ risen with Christ,” and “ know him in the power of his resurrection," by “ seeking those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right band of God." These are the words of truth; they are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, and purified seven times. And they are written in such capital letters, and expressed with such plainness and precision, that no sophistry can either darken their meaning or impair their force; unless it be to those unstable souls who are “ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth;" “ who like children are tossed to and fro, and carricd about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." I therefore repeat upon this occasion, what I have often inculcated, and the Scriptures of truth uniformly teach, that the gospel-salvation is a present salvation; and that the Lord Jesus Christ is not only a deliverer from “ wrath to come,” but that, in the mean time, he saves all who trust in bim, from that sin which renders thein obnoxious to wrath; first, by expiating the guilt of it by his death, and next, by breaking the pow. er of it in their hearts, through the operation of that Spirit which is the seal of their adoption, the earnest and first-fruits of their future inheritance.
These are the particulars upon which I would have you to examine yourselves impartially, as those who expect a judgment to come. Some of them are so essential to the character of a Christian, that every one who truly believeth in Christ, must have a consciousness of them in his own mind; for none was ever born into the family of God, without such a conviction of guilt, pollution, and weakness, as rendered the Redeemer both necessary and precious in his esteem. And though the enlightened mind will discover much imperfection, and many humbling blemishes, even in the fairest of those fruits which arc the product of true and saving faith; yet (unless it be in those who are but newly entered into the school of Christ) the effects of his teaching must, in some degree, appear in such gracious fruits as I just now mentioned. And I should betray the trust committed to me,