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it not be a mockery to exhort us | GOD has made provision for that discord; he has silenced those tones that they shall never be heard in the wide spread creation again; he has put our sins away. "Thanks be to GOD who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ;" then we shall be perfect even as he is perfect.
And now, my brethren, while the necessity of this process of mortification of sin continues, so observe how abundant the means are supplied. It is for our strength and our guidance, and our aid in this very work, that all the means of grace are supplied. The means of grace are for the church of God; for the people upon whom the Spirit of GOD has made effectual the manifestation of himself in the Son. The sacraments of Christ's church, the reading of the Scriptures, and secret prayer, meditation, fasting
to that, to the obtaining of which there is an impossibility in the way. But, my brethren, there are two descriptions of impossibilities, one is, in the nature of the case-in any degree of it whatever; the other regards only degrees. If a man were exhorted to climb to the sun, this, indeed, would be to mock his inability, because there is a physical impossibility in his attaining, in the smallest degree, any part of the object; but when a man is exhorted to be holy as Christ is holy, here it is a matter of degree. I can make progress; I may, under the teaching of the Spirit of GOD, make progress; every jot, every tittle of progress is more than a reward for all the effort that it costs. And, further, after all it is but a question of time, for at the last he shall attain to every point to which he is exhorted; for "when we shall see him as he is we shall be like him," and "we shall be satisfied when we rise up in his likeness"-and never before. So that it is no objection to say we are exhorted to perfection. Doubtless the Lord our GOD could not, conformably with his holy love to us, exhort us to less; for nothing is perfect happiness but perfect conformity and love to him. If he had desired us to love him in part, he would have desired us to be partly happy; but when he desires us to love him perfectly, then he desires us to be perfectly happy; and thus he has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son; and to this he is bringing us, to this we are coming, to this we are making progress. And the last stroke shall be, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality; "O death," we shall then sing, "where is thy sting, O grave, where is thy vic-pendence on another. We shall never tory; the sting of death is sin ;"—but the sting is gone; the discord is gone;
why what can that mean? Why should fasting be a Christian duty? Why should Christ take it for granted that his disciples fasted? Nay, is it not strangely inconsistent, that the advocates for holy flesh should yet fast to mortify the flesh? All these ordinances are gracious helps; helps in what? For the mortification of sin. Helps against what? Against unholy flesh; we are engaged in warfare against unholy flesh; and we have got the Spirit working with us, to give us the victory in this warfare; he has made our poor vile bodies temples of the Holy Ghost; he dwells in us, that he may help us to bring the body under subjection, and to shut out every incitement that it supplies of temptation to the mind; and to bring down high thoughts, and all that rises against the knowledge of GOD-bring it into captivity to the cross of Christ, so that we may be brought into a response to the law, and constant de
attempt to sit on the throne, and guide ourselves again; we shall not dare to
take part in that awful atheism, which | vidence also? Are not the movements puts man up to be his own ruler and around our family circles in all the guide; which sets the legislature, ei- | outward circumstances that belong to ther in the state, or in the family, or our friends and ourselves, the movein the church, or in the person of ments of the same hand that has given a man, to give orders independent his Son to die for us on the cross? of GOD: we shall be cured of that And while we think of submitting to for ever. Strive against that. Is not his sovereignty in matters of grace, that in man? Is not that temptation? and are not able to submit in matters Is not that unholiness ministered into of providence, do we not originate a his spirit through the flesh, through shrewd suspicion, that our apparent the part that the devil hath in him? submission, in matters of religion, is Nay, do you not find yourselves, do because of our indifference; and that you not find resistance against that part | our real rebellion, in matters of proof the law of GOD-against his abso- vidence, is because that we are inlute sovereignty? O where is the terested in them? I beseech you use spirit that is quelled into willing sub- the means more earnestly, more dilimission; that when the providence of gently, more faithfully, to bring down our glorious Father moves contrary this reigning rebellion that is in you; to us, when affliction falls upon us, to attune further and completely these when the idols of our families, or of remaining strings of discord; so that our own persons, come to disappoint you may give a response of harmony our ardent expectations; yea, even to the music of God's law. It may when those expectations were, as we be, my friends, that in outward and considered it, in God's service? And great things which can be seen and when God's wise providence comes known of all men-it may be that in to men and disappoint the idol-O you are blameless; you do not offend what murmurings! what secret risings against the chords and key notes of against that providence! what secret the law; but the variations, those tenfeeling that it is very hard! O what der harmonies that follow you into essence of rebellion there is against the details of life. O can ye cut them our Father; as if he had enmity off; can ye resist them, and can you against us in so striking us. And make them recoil, as it were, back how difficult it is to kiss the rod, every again, upon the main string of the Christian can tell. But we have not law? responded harmoniously to his sovereignty; alas, who hath kissed the rod? We have not truly invested him with the crown till we ourselves are in the dust.
Dear brethren, be diligent in the mortification of sin; be diligent in reading; be diligent in retiring meditation; retiring meditation apart even from religious society is indis
My brethren, sin is the transgres-pensable to your growing in the knowsion of the law, and one of the essen-ledge of GOD. I am well aware that tial elements of God's law is, the absolute sovereignty of the lawgiver GOD's sovereignty-not merely as regards grace; for alas there are some advocates of sovereignty in grace, who, as it respects providence, are still openly rebels. Is not He who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ in grace, the Father of us all in pro
religious society is a blessing; I am
It is very delightful that so it should be; but, still, retirement and solitude-secret, personal, meditation alone with God, is absolutely indispensable. There is a secret place in every Christian's heart, with which neither father nor mother, neither brother nor sister, neither husband nor wife nor child, can commune; they can commune with much, and they ought to commune with much, and there ought to be an effort that they may commune with much; but there is a point, after all, where GOD alone communes with a man. Be still and know God; go into your chambers; commune with your own hearts. This is a bustling world; and the bustle of the religious world is a snare; beware of it, my dear brethren.
But, let me entreat you, once more, not to allow your present rising anxieties and secret resolves to be more diligent to evaporate; but follow them up; follow them up in the name of GOD; and be resolute in spending more time with GOD alone. Can ye bear to be alone with God? If your heart be retuned to the music of God's law, if your heart be filled with an anxiety for God's glory, if you rely on his love, and the complete pardon of his Son, O then you will not doubt: but as long as a secret hesitation remains in your minds respecting his love to you-as long as you grudge to allow yourselves to think that his pardon is free; so long as you secretly allow yourselves to imagine, that some preparation is needful on your part to entitle you to that pardon, you will never be satisfied that you have got the pardonyou will never be satisfied that he loves you you will never be happy in being alone with him. O believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the simplest, and it is the deepest word of all believe in the Lord Jesus
Christ; and you will rush into the arms of GOD. You will be happy here in the mortification of sin; and you will be perfectly happy hereafter when you rise in deliverance from sin. This is the last thing; first, there is the discovery of sin; then there is a discovery of the pardon of sin; then there is hatred of sin; then there is the mortification of sin; and, last of all, there is the deliverance from sin.
I would only add on this now-that on his first coming to the cross of Christ, every child of God has deliverance from the guilt of sin; that, by the power of the Holy Spirit within him, testifying of Jesus, he has deliverance from the consciousness of sin; and, in the resurrection of the likeness of Jesus, in the second coming, he will have deliverance from the existence of sin; he will then be brought altogether under the law, altogether out of sin-“ for sin is the transgression of the law." GOD, in mercy to you, my beloved brethren, keep you "steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your labour will not be in vain in the Lord." Look to the truth; look to the cross; let the power of it beam home upon your heart. And be diligent, then, to cultivate a hatred of the discord, and love of the harmony; be diligent in mortifying the remainder of the discord, and in approaching daily nearer and nearer to the perfection of the harmony; waiting for, and hasting unto the coming of the day of GoD; groaning in this tabernacle, being burdened; groaning even with the first fruits of the Spirit within you; waiting for your adoption, to wit the redemption of your body. Then when the Lord shall appear we shall be like him, seeing him as he is; and "he shall change our vile bodies, that they may
THE parable from which this sentence | sion, conveyed in the pleasing form is extracted, cannot but be familiar of parables and similitudes: here to you all. The fruitless fig-tree was condemned to be cut down; the dresser of the vineyard interposes and recommends a trial for another year, concluding with the reasonable suggestion ;—“if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down."
The Holy Scriptures are full of every species of exhortation that can impress the heart of man. They are the oracles of GOD speaking to us in distinct and intelligible terms, the whole drift and current of their argument being the salvation of immortal souls. They bear upon us sometimes by threatenings, sometimes by expostulations; in one place we are accosted in the language of personal appeal, in another by indirect allu
we meet with simple and familiar imagery, there with deeper and more recondite meaning. Hence the most ignorant may gather abundance of obvious instruction-the profoundest scholar may gratify his thirst for knowledge. So that our sacred records are a mine of mental wealth, as they are, also, in their sublimer character, the very message of God to
Our blessed Lord seems, in many instances, to have drawn his similitudes from objects before him, and probably in reply to some unrecorded observations of his companions. Thus where he speaks of himself as the true vine, we may imagine him contemplating a vine of signal richness and beauty, with its wide stretching
scripture, to some product of the vegetable world, is intended to teach us that our growth in holiness is proSudden conversions are
branches and plentiful clusters of
self, and the shooting boughs laden not to be relied on. As the tree does
The vineyard here is the world in general. The fig-tree, which was more highly prized in Palestine than almost any other tree, is the church planted in the midst of the world, as well as each individual member of that church. So that every one before me bears a personal interest in this representation. The lord of the property is GOD Almighty, the vine-dresser is Jesus Christ, the high priest and overseer of his church, the guide and inspector of all who belong to it.
Many profitable reflections are deducible from this portion of Holy Writ.
First, The comparison of religion here, as well as in other passages of
not shoot at once from the soil, so does not the religion of the heart spring up in a moment to perfect exuberance. There must be a commencement, and what period so proper as the present? The seed must be sown, the tender plant must be cherished, the rising tree must be continually examined, that the canker may not corrode it, nor the blight sweep away its blossoms. The proprietor of the vineyard has sent his agent from heaven to superintend the rising produce of his garden. Each plant of promising appearance he visits with peculiar care, and is gladdened by the daily view of its increasing growth and productiveness. He stands by it, and marks it for his own, and trains it up to a glorious and ample maturity; while he fails not at the same time to try each salutary experiment with the less improving members of the plantation, giving time and opportunity for their growth, and culturing them with the same unwearied solicitude.
Secondly, Let me call your attention to an important fact in the circumstances of this parable. A certain time had elapsed, during which fruit had been sought from this favoured tree, and none appeared. "Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this tree, and find none." Brethren, apply the parallel to yourselves. For your admonition it is intended. Year after year the owner had visited this unprofitable tree, still hoping for some favourable appearance. He met however with successive disappointment. I behold before me persons of various ages, who have all had numerous and repeated opportunities of bringing forth