« ZurückWeiter »
ruptions may get the better of your convictions, and from not following up in private what you have heard and felt in public, your good resolutions may wither away, and you may bring no fruit to perfection, and the kingdom of God may never be established within you.
Second subject proposed for our consideration.-THE OFFERING A FEW
EVIDENCES BY WHICH THIS IMPOR
TANT FACT MAY BE ASCERTAINED. In doing so, I shall confine myself to three points, out of many which might be offered if our time allowed. They are these-First, a renewed Another equally common delusion heart-Secondly, a true faith-Thirdby which we may be deluded, is ima-ly, an increasing desire after GoD in Christ Jesus. Where they are found we do not scruple to say that the great work is fully commenced the foundation of the kingdom of grace is established. Heaven and earth shall pass away; but this, from its first stone, laid in weakness and in much trembling, to its head stone, carried up in triumph, shall never pass away, till that which was begun in grace be perfected in glory.
gining that the kingdom of grace is within you, because you forsake some things that are displeasing to GOD. Now we are told even of Herod, that he did many things and heard John gladly, although he was guilty of adultery and murder. In the same manner you may be so affected by the truths of God's word, or the common operations of the Spirit, that you may do many things that God commands you, and hear his word gladly; and you may resolve to give up some particular sins in which you have long and guiltily indulged. We bless GOD if even this be attained; but then be careful that you do not mistake reformation for conversion. You may have exchanged your more flagrant enormities for more secret and less offensive sins in the sight of man, and this is frequently the case; for, although, the love or the power of GOD has no part in the matter, though you may cut off the poisoned streams, the poisoned fountain from which they flow, the evil heart of unbelief, may be uncleansed and unaltered still. The heart of the natural man is Satan's throne; and if that be still untouched, if he be still Lord of the ascendant, the kingdom of GOD is not within you.
First, then, a renewed heart. This evidence the Spirit of GOD fully establishes when he says by the mouth of the Apostle, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new." It is impossible, therefore, for this kingdom of grace to exist in the heart, unless there be this new creation. We do not mean by this to assert, that any new faculties of mind will be implanted, but that there will be a new impulse given to those which you do possess-new motives-new desires-new actions-new conduct. The strings of a harp remain the same, but the tones they produce are various. If then, brethren, you find no change of heart, if old sins still reign, old tempers triumph, old pleasures captivate, and you are as gross and as sensual as ever, and as worldly or even as thoughtless, and as GoD forgetting as you ever were, surely if GoD's word be true, one great and important feature is wanting; surely you will, at least hesitate before you believe that the kingdom of God is within you.
You will see, then, even from these slight hints, how open we are to delusion on this great subject-how easily we are misled-how liable to be deceived; and this particularly in our own case, where the heart, deceitful above measure, is engaged in deceiving us.
This will naturally bring us to the
Secondly; I have mentioned a true
faith as another unquestionable evidence of the establishment of this kingdom. By a true faith, I mean that faith which the Apostle meant when he said, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with GOD." A faith which while it depends solely and entirely upon the one great sacrifice and finished work of our adorable Redeemer for all our salvation, upon his righteousness alone for acceptance, and upon his Spirit for sanctification, has respect to all God's commandments, teaches us to love them because we love GOD, and to love GOD because he first loved us. Such faith, however weak, yea, though it touch but the hem of Christ's garment, such faith is a true faith-a justifying faith-a saving faith-a miraculous faith. Yes, even at this day, such a faith always has, and to the last day always will, work miracles. Not, indeed, by healing us of those temporal afflictions, which GOD, in his mercy, and wisdom, and love, has seen fit to lay upon us; but by removing the mountain of our sins, and casting it into the sea of Christ's cleansing, and healing, and pardoning blood. This is the miracle which a true faith was intended to work, and which a true faith always will work.
The Third evidence which I have mentioned, is that of an increasing desire after GOD in Christ Jesus. If the kingdom of grace be really established within you, you will know something experimentally of that feeling of the prophet Isaiah, "With my soul have I desired thee; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early. The desire of my soul is to thy name and in the remembrance of thee." There will be this love for GOD in Christ Jesus, and this desire for nearer and closer communion with him, which his people have experienced in all ages, and which differs from
public profession of godliness, but that earnest and increasing and secret seeking for him and longing after him; that it does not merely desire Christ for what he has, but what he is; not only for his rewards, but for his holiness and his loveliness. This desire is so great in the heart, where the kingdom of GOD is fully established, that it rests satisfied with nothing short of GOD himself-his approbation-his favour-his presence— his love.
It is also a gradually increasing desire. It does not begin by breaking forth into rhapsody-it does not at once at the commencement of the Christian life, imitate those powerful feelings and those strong expressions, which are the result of deep, and long, and tried experience of the unsearch. able riches of Christ; but it increases gradually, like the sun in the horizon, shining brighter and brighter—desiring more and more-thankful for the least degree of grace which GoD bestows, but not satisfied with the greatest; seeking more love, more holiness, more and more of the presence of Christ, even up to that hour when we shall see him face to face.
Now these, brethren, are clear and convincing, because they are scriptural evidences, wherever they are found to exist, that the kingdom of God is within you. But clear and convincing as they are, there will always be some in every congregation, a class in whom the minister of Christ is most deeply interested, who are unable to distinguish these evidences although they possess them. You then who, although earnestly engaged in seeking after Christ, the one thing needful, often write bitter things against yourselves, attend, and may the Spirit of GOD enable you to profit, while we consider, THE VALUE OF THOSE OBJECTIONS
WHICH THE SOUL OFTEN SUGGESTS
every counterfeit in these important TO YOU WHEN UNDER SPIRITUAL particulars, that it is not merely a
TRIALS AND PAINFUL EXPERIENCES.
You are, perhaps, ready at such times to say, "I fear the kingdom of GOD is not really established within me, because the fallow ground of my heart has never been sufficiently deeply broken up by the law before I was led to Christ. I have never been humbled enough. I have never suffered sufficiently in sorrow and humiliation for sin." GOD forbid that in endeavouring to remove these difficulties we should treat the work of the Lord lightly, or give any countenance to the superficial feelings of religion so common amongst us, void of all depth of root, so certain to wither away. It cannot be too often repeated, that where the work of conversion has been deeply laid in brokenness of heart for sin, there it will be usually found the most clear and decisive. Still would we not be deterred by this belief from speaking comfortably to those who need consolation on this point. I would say to you then, there is no possible measure of contrition or humiliation for sin prescribed by God's word, neither may we prescribe it. It is the truth and the sincerity of your sorrow for sin, at which GOD looks, not at the measure of it. If, then, you are really anxious to know, whether you have been sufficiently humbled for sin, we would reply, Are you so humbled for sin that you are willing to give it up?—are you so humbled for sin that you would not willingly again commit even the most favoured of your sins, if all the world were offered you? The refiner does not ask how long has the gold remained in the furnace; he asks, is the dross purged away?—is the baser metal burnt up? If it be so, then does he require nothing further to convince him that the gold has been sufficiently long in the crucible. So, if in mourning for sin, if your humbling yourselves for sin has, by God's grace, purged away your love for sin, be content on this point, although many
of the children of GOD may have been far more deeply tried, and far more painfully humbled for sin, than yourselves.
Again, this is not an uncommon feeling in the heart of those to whom I am now especially addressing myself. "I fear the kingdom of God is not within me, or I should surely be more strong, and vigorous, and lively, in the Divine life, than I have ever yet been. I am sensible of nothing but weakness. If I look at my prayers, my readings, my meditations, my sacraments, my obediences, all are alike; all are poor, weak, worthless offerings. If I am in trouble or difficulty, my faith immediately fails me; and so unimportant and uninfluential is Divine grace in my heart, that I am often led to doubt its very existence there." These, brethren, are the feelings which mark the bruised reed and the smoking flax, which Christ has promised never to break nor to quench. Do not for a moment imagine that the weakness of grace and the want of grace are synonymous. It is true that you may feel all these symptoms to which I have alluded; and yet it is equally true, that at this very moment you may be among the dearest of GoD's children. A weak faith will save as well as a strong one; the child's hand may put on the garment of salvation as well as the hand of the giant; the youngest of Noah's children was as safe when once within the door of the ark as Noah himself; and the feeble believer who is brought by the Spirit of our GOD, to cast himself, for time and eternity, on the bosom of his Lord, is as safe as the beloved Apostle, who laid his head there during those hours of sorrow which preceded the crucifixion of his Master.
Lastly, this is by no means unusual among those in whose hearts the kingdom of grace has been recently esta blished. "The kingdom of GOD cannot be in my heart, because I find
that the dominion of Satan is still now your shame and your abhorrence strong and powerful within me. I-if those sins which you once volunfeel pride, and worldliness, and covet-tarily wore as a crown upon your head ousness, and evil lusts, and evil you now, involuntarily, carry with you tempers struggling within. If I were as fetters upon your legs, from which, really a child of God, this could not as they hinder you from running in possibly be so." This, again, is a the way of GoD's commandments, you difficult and delicate point to handle. ought ever to strive and pray for to Should we say these are no proofs of be freed. Yes, beloved brethren, if that "carnal mind which is enmity you judge of others as you judge of against GOD," we should contradict yourselves in this matter, that because the word of God. Should we say there are these remains of inbred sin, such sins are in the true believer of no the kingdom of GOD is not within importance, what would become of them, you would be obliged to pluck that distinct declaration of the Apostle some of the holiest saints out of the which admits of no exception, no Bible. reserve, “To be carnally minded is death?" While on the other hand, should we acknowledge that the kingdom of God is not within you, because you suffer from these things, we should be actually at variance with all the recorded experience, and all the daily and hourly testimony of GOD'S people.
What shall we say then, for your comfort and encouragement? We would tell you, that when the kingdom of GOD is established within your heart, the dominion of Satan and of sin is for ever broken, but that it is not utterly cast out, the life of it is prolonged for a season. Doubtless this is permitted by GoD to humble you still further, and to make you prize and value Christ still more; every time you fall into one of your old sins, the effect is that you loathe and abhor it still more entirely.
Now, brethren, has it this effect on you? Then rejoice; it is the evidence of spiritual life; it is, at any rate, a certain proof that you are not spiritually dead. Something is dead; yea, blessed be the GOD, much is dead if those transgressions which were once continual or frequent are now few and far between-if those acts which once were your glory and your boast, are
Be not then cast down by these things, but be equally careful not to rest quietly contented under them. Strive to be perfect, even as your father in Heaven is perfect. A man must not always be a child; the believer must not always be an infant. What God may look upon with pardon and complacency at the commencement of your Christian course, may, and will, excite his displeasure, and weary out his forbearance and patience, if it be continued through years of opportunities of grace and strivings of the Spirit of GOD. Imitate, therefore, the example of the Apostle, "Count not yourselves to have apprehended any thing, but forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those things that are before, press forward to the mark of the prize of the high calling of GoD in Christ Jesus." And may that kingdom of grace, which is now but in its infancy within your heart, grow and strengthen, and flourish, until every faculty of your souls be endued with the power of Christ, and every affection of your heart filled with the love of Christ, and every thought of your mind be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.-Amen.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. J. TOPHAM,
AT ST. ANDREWS, DROITWICH, SEPT.. 2, 1832.
1 Samuel 3, xviii." It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.”
THE calm resignation of Eli to the | families more difficult to be supported, will of GOD has afforded matter of than trouble arising from positive instruction to the suffering children of Adam in every succeeding age of the world, since the publication of the Bible; and the consideration of the words of my text, may at this awful period of Divine visitation, suggest some hints useful and beneficial to us, who are hourly made sensible of the insecurity of mortal existence, and of the necessity there is of being prepared to meet the dangers with which we are encompassed.
In the seasons of health and of strength, when food and raiment, may be provided for the exigencies of a family, without extraordinary toil and anxiety-when the artizan, the merchant, the labourer, and the agriculturist, each rejoice in the produce of their several exertions or capital, and the community partaking of the advantages of the general industry, enjoys prosperity and comforts, mankind are too apt to repose upon the present, and to forget alike the past and the future-to rejoice in the plenitude of their abundance, and to neglect making provision for the changes and chances incident to mortality; and when reverses, diseases, or accidents inseparable from our imperfect condition occur, to show a disposition unworthy the character of the religion they profess to believe, unworthy the faith they pretend to rest their hopes upon.
pain. It would teach us how we should temper our souls with the spirit of resignation, to the appointments and chastisements of heaven. It would instruct us how to walk, in order to obtain present comfort; while at the same time we were securing "the one thing needful." It would point to models of holiness and humility, exemplified in men like ourselves, who now inherit the promises and stand before the throne of GOD. It would make us feel our dependence upon Providence-our feeblenessour short-sightedness-our frailtyour sinfulness. It would generate in our breasts, a love towards GoD and towards man, and render us willing servants, in the household of our heavenly Father, to do the work which he hath given us. Firmly believing, that our conduct, if based upon the doctrines and precepts of the Gospel, will be the criterion, by which our destiny in eternity shall be apportioned, "that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," we would be prepared to meet every event with resignation, whether it might be afflicting or joyous. "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good," would be the language of our hearts; it is the pleasure of heaven that we should suffer, we therefore bow with submission to the decree.
Never, perhaps, in the memory of any pro-person present, was there a time when the truths and consolations of the Bible, were more eagerly sought after, and seized on, than during the month just ended. The monition "Set thine house in order for thou shalt die."
-The religion of the Bible, if