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and joy, the offered aids of divine grace-of that grace which " is sufficient for us ;” and to trust im plicitly in that strength, the perfection of which is shewn in our weakness."*
Among the many who pretend to follow Christ, alas, how few are willing thus to deny themselves ! It is hard, they secretly reason, to give up our own judgment, and to make no account of the energies of our own minds. We are not children, to be amused by toys, or frightened by dangers; and we are not sensualists, to be allured by pleasures. Peter reasoned thus, when, in opposition to his Master's express assurances, he exclaimed, Lord, " although all shall be offended, yet will not 1 :" Yea, “ if I should die with thee, I will not deny “thee in any wise.”+ Let his fall convince you that the strongest and sincerest resolutions are not, : of themselves, proof against temptation ; that “ the
way of a man is not in himself: it is not in man " that walketh to direct his steps.”
More deeply to impress on your minds the necessity of thus renouncing your own ability to di. rect, to quicken, and to sanctify you, attentively consider what is enjoined and implied in the following scriptures. 66 Trust in the Lord with all " thine heart; and lean not to thine own under
standing. In all thy ways acknowledge him ; " and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in * thine own eyes."S
As the branch cannot “ bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine;
no more can ye, except ye abide in me. d the vine; ye are the branches." || • 2 Cor. xii. 9.
* Jer. X. 23.
li John xv, 4, 5, it Mark xiv. 29, 31. $ Prov. iii. 5, 7.
I am 6 Ye are
** dead; and your life is bid with Christ in God."* " I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live : “ yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”+
However paradoxical, then, it might be in other matters, in religion it is certain and evident that the stout-hearted are most in danger; and that our safety consists in a sense of our own infirmities, and of the power of our adversaries.
"When we are “ weak, then are we strong :"I
strong in the " Lord, and in the power of his might.”S Wait," therefore, “ upon the Lord, and ye shall renew your " strength.” And when“ the youths shall faint and “ be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,
ye shall mount up with wings, as eagles; ye shall
run, and not be weary ; ye shall walk, and not “ faint."|| In fighting God's battles, in striving against sin and Satan,“ take unto you the whole ar“ mour of God;" all that glorious array of gifts and graces which he freely offers, and which he bountifully confers, by the agency of the Holy Ghost. * Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye
may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, hav"ing your loins girt about with truth, and having .“ on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet " shod with the preparation of the gospel of
peace : .- above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye * shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the .. wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and * the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God: * praying always with all prayer and supplication, • Col. iii. 3. * 2 Cor. xii. 10.
| Isaiah xl. 30, 35. - Gal . 20.
$ Eph. vi 10.
D D D
" in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all 16 perseverance."*
3. The injunction of our text implies the denial, or 'renunciation, of dependence on our own righteousness, for acceptance and justification before God.
Pride may make a sacrifice of worldy ease. and indulgence; but to sacrifice self-dependence and self-righteousness, were to destroy itself. True self-denial lays the axe to the root of the tree, and makes a sacrifice even of pride. It is the subjection of our passions to reason, and of our reason to the laws and appointments of God.
Christ himself, perhaps, did not so frequently, and so explicitly, as his apostles after him, teach the necessity of thus renouncing our own righteousness, and of trusting solely to his merits for our acceptance with God.
But why? Only for the same reason, on account of which the full discovery of many other particulars, respecting his kingdom and salvation, was withheld, till after his resurrection from the dead, and ascension into glory. The work was not yet finished which the Father had given him to do; and the time was not yet come when he was“ no more to speak unto them in proverbs, “ but to shew them plainly of the Father.”+ Yet, in almost all his discourses, we find the utter insufficiency, and, of course, the renunciation, of our own righteousness inculcated, either directly, or by im plication. What inference, for example, is to be drawn from this reply to the young man,
If thos “ wilt enter into life, keep the commandments ?"I
what from his sermon on the mount, in whick Iph. vi. 13, 18.
f Joha xvi, 25. * Matt. xizmat
he unfolds the spiritual nature, and vast extent of the divine law, as reaching not only to actual crimes, but to the first movements of sinful passion, and to the slightest expression of unhallowed sentiment. What but this, that “all have sinned, and come “ short of the glory of God;" and that by their own works," there shall no flesh be justified in his * sight."* The same conclusion may, with equal force, be deduced from his cautionary exhortation to his disciples, “When ye shall have done all " those things which are commanded you, say, We * are unprofitable servants.”+ And while he sweeps away
" the refuges of lies,” he rears an everlasting “ hiding-place."
" Ye believe in God, believe * also in me." “ I am the way, the truth, and the " life: No man cometh unto the Father, but by "me." “ I am the good shepherd : The good shep" herd giveth his life for the sheep.”I He, then, and not our own ability, is to be the great object of our trust. Through him, and not through our own merits, have we access unto the Father. His life, and not our own sorrow or amendment, is the "ransom of our souls.
To all this, however, the natural tendencies of our hearts are strongly opposed. For among them there is none more unquestionable than a disposition to depend on the merit of our own works, not only for human approbation, but for divine favour. The value which we assign to our righteousness, and the self-gratulation with which we contemplate it, arise very much from the idea that it is our own, the effect of our own exertions. He, therefore, who well knew this erring tendency in our nature,
t Lake xvii, 10. Jobin xiv. 1, 6, and . IT,
Rom. m. 20.
and who enjoined the denial of our own will, and qur own strength, has doubtless also, by the precept in the text, forbidden dependence on the merit of our own performances, for regaining the favour of our offended Creator. :: Let us consider, then, what men are apt to plead; and we shall learn what sacrifices, in this respect, it behoves them to make. Scripture describes it, in the case of the Jews; “ being ignotant of God's “ righteousness, they go about to establish their own
righteousness."* Wherever, indeed, men make at all the profession of the gospel, they generally have, in the great concern--the means of a sinner's acceptance with Godsome kind of reference to him whọ" is the end of the law for righteousness, * to every one that believeth.”+ But of what nature, and to what extent, is this reference? Is it an entire and unmixed dependence on the merits of the Redeemer, arising from the relief of his sufficiency, combined with a sense of their own guilt? Or may we not detect, in many, even while they profess to confide in him, a proneness to justify themselves, and an ignorance of the necessity of ? submitting themselves unto the righteousness of
God?! Do they not expect, then, acceptance and eternal hfe, for Christ's sake? They do: But how it is for his sake they cannot tell. Their views are indistinct; their dependence is indeterminate and ill understood ; and what the precise foundation of their hope is, they cannot explain. But if taken closely to task, they will be found to be really de: pending, in one way or other, upon their good deeds or qualities, upon their benevolence, their sincerity, kom. I. 3.
# Ibid. .