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cious design of God that we should be blessed with a clear manifestation of his love, and that we should be assured that he hath blotted out our transgressions as a cloud and our ini. quities, as a thick cloud : then with Nicodemus we strangely ask,“ how can these things be?” But how vain a question is this, where God is concerned ! can we suppose that infinite wisdom will be at a loss to find out a way to discover himself to his creatures, as reconciled to them through Christ Jesus ! surely no ; we may then with safety conclude, that as he in all ages of the world, hath caused the light of his countenance to shine upon his servants, so that they have been enabled to rejoice in him as the God of their salvation, we hhall be as highly favoured by him as all those worthies who have gone before us have been; and, we also shall see the salvation of God, and fhall experience the riches of his mercy and grace brought into our own souls.
And, as fin hath blinded the understanding and brought guilt upon the conscience, so it hath also defiled ihe whole soul, it hath spread its poisonous nature throughout all the powers and faculties of the mind, and the words of the prophet may be justly applied to every child of man. , "The whole head is fick and the whole heart is faint, from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying fores," and as the apostle observes, the mind as well as the conscience is defiled. How deeply sensible of this truth was the holy Psalmift when he said, .. Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” and he must be an entire stranger to the fate of his own mind, who does not feel the truth of the apostle's words, "The law of God is spiritual, bui I am carnal, fold under fin,", and in how clear a manner does be in that chap. ter explain the nature of original depravity, and shew how frangely it captivates the man and leads him astray from God. "When we were in the flesh (saith the apostle) that is, while we were in our fallen state of mind, the motions of sin which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
In: these words, we may see our own picture, if we can see at all, for have we not found in our own mind, thole motions of fin, as be juftly calls them! a strange propensity of those, evils which are hateful in the light of God, which he hath expressly forbidden, and which would bring ruin and destruction upon us. Solomon with great propriety calls this, the plague, of our own heart, and wben we are made to feel the force of his words, we shall be as desirous 10
be delivered from it, as Paul was when he said, "O wretched män ihat'I am who shall deliver me from the body of this · death.” But the blessed God hath provided a remedy for this disease also. “ I thank God (adds the apostle through Jesus Chrift our Lord, as if he had faid, wretched and misera. ble as I am, by reason of my native depravity, yet I bless God I am not left without hope, for he hath sent his well beloved son to redeem me, out of this bondage of sin and corruption, into the glorious liberty of his children: and in the very next chap:er he triumphs in this glorious deliverance, first by declaring that there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, and secondly, by describing the nature of that liberty into which the christian is brought, saying, " the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. He thews ús that as he was set free from the guilt of sin, being justified freely through faith in Christ Jesus, so he was delivered from the power and dominion of sin, by the sanctifying influences of his holy Spirit.
This faithfúl fervant of God informs us, that he did not rc. ceive the gospel from man, nor was he taught it by man, buc by the revelation of Jesus Christ; as' this was the case, we may conclude, that he had as full an acquaintance with the gospel, and as clear views of the gracious designs of God in sending Chrift into the world, as any one man ever had, or can have: but he had also experienced this same gospel to be, the power of God unto salvation to his own soul, so that he was not only a faithful minister, but a witness of the truth, which he published in the name of the Lord : accordingly, he shews us, that the design of our Lord in finishing the work of our redemption was, “ that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify us as a peculiar people żealous of good works : and he adds in the same Epistle these very remarkable words. “ After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour to. wards mankind appeared. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holý Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Here' the apostle shews us, not only
the nature of gospel salvation, but in what particular way God designs to save us, which is according to his mercy: now his mercy was never so wonderfully displayed towards loft man. kind, as when he gave his well beloved son to die for our re. demption. We then must be saved by experiencing the blessed effects of his mercy, so wondertully displayed in the gift
of Chrift; that is, we must enjoy the benefit of that atonement which he made for sin in our own souls, we muft be freely and fully justified through faith in his name; but this is not obtained by works of righieousness which we have done, for the apostle well knew that we have no works of righteousness to be saved by, but that we are guilty, polluted sinners, who never were in a capacity to do any good work, and therefore must be saved by grace, and by grace alone: and then he informs us, that as we are unholy as well as guilty, we are saved by the washing of regeneration and by the renewing of the Holy Ghost; that is, the God of love purifies our pollut. ed hearts, by the sanctifying influences of his Holy Spirit; that being delivered from the bondage of sin and original core Tuprion, we may serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.
It would be endless to quote all the passages from the writ. ings of this apoftle which speak of the same thing of our being created anew in Cbrift Jesus, of our being dead to sin and alive unto God, of our having put off the old man with his deeds, and our having put on the new man which after God is created anew, in righteousness and true boliness, so that whoever reads the Epifles of this apofle with any degree of attention, must shut his eyes exceeding close, if ihe light does not break in
himn. But left any one thould think we mistake the apostle's meaning, we will again appeal to the Prayer-book : and have we not heard the following remarkable and scriptural exhorta. tion? “ Therefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do at this present and that the rest of our life hereafter may
pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It would be easy to prove that every part of this exhortation is exactly scriptural, as for inftance, let us beseech God to grant us true repentance. “God hath exalted his son Jesus to his own right hand to be a prince and a Saviour to give repentance and remission of sins unto Israel." It is added, and his Holy Spirit, Jesus said unto the people, "If ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children how much more thall my heavenly father give his Holy Spirit to them who ask him." But why must the Holy Spirit be given to us? That those things may please him that we do at this present, that is, that we may worship God acceptably : so saith our Redeemer, "God is a Spirit, and they who worship him muft worship
him in spirit and in truth," and an apoftle exhorts us to pray in the Holy Ghost. It would be easy to shew, were it necessary that the remaining part of the exhortation is equally scriptural. Have we not also offered up this prayer to God? " Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy holy spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord,” and in offering this prayer to God, we only do that which our Lord himself hath taught us, when in obedience to him we say, "Thy kingdom come,” for if we understand the proper meaning of our own prayers, then we pray that that kingdom may come, which our Lord saith must be within us, and which an apostle hath said, "is righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." Whether therefore we search the scriptures, or read the Common.prayer book, we shall be obliged to acknowledge that ne must be born of the Spirit, in order to our entering into the kingdom of God, and that we may be enabled to serve God acceptably, we must experience his sanctifying grace.
Were we to read the writings of all the wise and holy men who ever wrote upon the nature of true religion, we should find they agreed, respeeting the absolute necessity of regene. rating grace or the sanctifying influences of the Spirit of God, in order to our serving him according to his will, they may, and they do differ one from another respecting a variety of lesser matters, and hold very different religious opinions, but in this they all agree, except a man be converted, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
What then is the religion of Jesus Christ? It is the kingdom of God set up in the mind : It is the grace
of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, experienced by us; it is, the Peace of God which passeth all understanding, keeping our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his son Jesus Christ our Lord. In other words, it is the light of God shining in our understanding, so that we are inade, wise unto salvation; wise enough to know our own dearest, and best interests, and to have a proper regard for them, so that we may live as candidates for heaven, and make it the grand business of life to prepare for the eternal world: it is the peace of God in our conscience, arising from a
sense of his love towards us in Christ Jesus, discovered to us in the word, and sealed to us by the spirit of God, so that we are made truly happy; and it is the love of God shed abroad in our
hearts by the holy Ghost given unto us, or the divine naturo communicated to us, so that we are made inwardly and out. wardly holy.
This is the Religion which the Lord himself hath called 11s to experience, in his holy word, and without which, we are dead while we live, having only a form of Godliness, but are destitute of the power.
As the faithful ministers of Christ are authorized to say to the daughter of Zion behold thy Saviour cometh to sanctify and save thee, as above described, so also to declare that bis reward is with him. There is doubtless a reward of grace as well as a reward of glory; that religion is attended with a present reward, will be acknowledged by all who believe the account already given. The whole Book of God bears witness to the same thing, and all that ever tasted that the Lord is gracious, will joyfully confess that the Lord is the rewarder of all them who diligently seek him.
“ Blessed are the people saith (holy David) who know th joyful sound, they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance, in thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted,” and speaking of his own happiness, he says, “ Surely goodness and mercy shall follow nie all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, ” here so large a field opens to our view, that our time will not permit us to travel far into it, but we must conclude this head with the words of an apostle. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy un speakable and full of glory.
If the above be a just account of the experienéc of the children of God, then religion is its own reward, “wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace; and the church of England also speaks nothing but the truth when she declares, that the service of God is perfect freedom,
not be so: if the followers of God, are received into his favour, and are blest with an assurance of his love: if they live under his guardian care and protection, and know that nothing can happen to them by chance, and that all things shall work together for their good: if they are adopted into the family of God, enjoy a peace which passeth all understanding, walk in the light of God's countenance, partake of his grace and holy spirit, and are made heirs of an eternal kingdom : then they must needs be a happy people indeed. In a word, if the Lord hath pleasure in the prosperity of his people, if