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tivelyits-Nor can we doubt of its being the good way, since it foras appointed of God himself, and has been approved by all his saints from the beginning of the world-]
2. A cheerful obedience to him
[Our Lord expressly says, " Take my yoke upon you;" nor can this ever be dispensed with-Though faith in Christ be the way of acceptance with God, yet obedience to him is the only means of manifesting the sincerity of our faith, Hence holiness is by the prophet called, “ The Lord's highway"c_This too is of great antiquity, and must be traced up through prophets and patriarchs to the days of “ righteous Abel"-And it must be acknowledged to be good, since it tends so much to the perfecting of our nature, and to the adorning of our holy religion-]
This however is not a mere speculative point; as we shall see, if we enquire II. What is our duty with respect to it
God having so plainly revealed it to us, it becomes us all · 1. To enquire after it
(We should not go on in a presumptuous confidence that we are right; but should “stand and see," and attentively consider whither we are going—We should“ ask” of those whom God has appointed to be as way-marks to the people, and whose lips should both keep, and dispense, knowledge—Moreover we should search the sacred oracles (which, as a map, delineate our path with infallible precision) comparing with them the various steps we have taken, and noticing with care the footsteps of Christ and his apostles-Not however trusting in our own researches, we should above all implore the teaching and direction of God's holy Spirit, who would bring us back from our wanderings, and “guide our feet into the way of peace"_] 2. To walk in it
[To possess knowledge will be of little service unless it produce a practical effect-Having found the right way we must come into it, renouncing every other path, how pleasant or profitable soever it may have been-Nor must we only get into it, but“ walk therein" continually, neither diverted from it by allurements, nor discouraged in it by any difficultiesWhatever advances we may have made, we are still to prosecute the same path, trusting in Christ as our advocate with
Isaiah xxxv. 8.
God, and rendering to him an uniform and unreserved obedience
Nor will this appear hard to us, if we consider III. The encouragement given us to perform this duty
To those who are out of this way, whatever they may boast, we are sure there is no solid peace: but they who walk in it shall find rest 1. In their way
[Sweet is the rest which a weary and heavy-laden singer finds in Jesus Christ: he sees in his blood a sufficiency of virtue to expiate all his guilt, and to cleanse him from all his sin: he perceives that the foundation of his hope is sure and immovable; and therefore, “having peace in his conscience, he rejoices in hope of the glory of God”- In the way of holy obedience he enjoys, moreover, a present and a great reward: for while he rests from turbulent passions and tormenting fears, he finds, that “ the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever"-] 2. In their end
[If the ungodly have no peace in this world, much less have they in the world to come: but the obedient believer will enjoy perfect rest, when he shall have ceased from his present labours—“There is a rest remaining for the people of God;" and such a rest as neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived: at the instant of their dismission from the body they shall be borne on the wings of angels into the regions of the blest, and lie in the bosom of their Lord to all eternity-] ADDRESS 1. To those who disregard religion
[You indeed may plead long prescription (even from the days of Cain) and general practice too, in favour of your habits: but do you doubt which is the better way? Do you not in your hearts envy those who walk in the good old way; and wish that you were able to live as they live? --If then you would not persist in following a track, which you knew would lead to a place extremely distant from that which you were desirous to reach, attend to the warning now given, and turn unto God in the way marked out for you in his gospel-]
2. To those who seek indeed the paths of religion, but find no rest in them
[There are many who approve of coming to Christ for salvation, but wish to be excused from taking his yoke upon them; while others, on the contrary, would be content to render obedience to his law, if they might be at liberty to de. cline the humiliating method which he has prescribed for their acceptance with God-Others, again, profess to approve of the good old way; but cannot renounce the cares and pleasures of the world which retard their progress in it-No wonder then if such persons find no solid rest: indeed, it is well for them that they do not; since it would only deceive them to their eternal ruin-If we would have rest, either here or hereafter, it must be obtained in the way that has been pointed out; nor can it be obtained in any other to all eternity-]
3. To those who are walking comfortably in the good way
[Be not contented to go to heaven alone; but labour in your respective spheres to bring others along with you-This was the disposition of the church of old;e and should be the desire of all who have an hope towards God-It is scarcely to be conceived how much the exertions of Christians in their several families would extend the benefits of ministerial labours—The public ministration of the word would be far better attended, and incomparably more improved-Since then all are commanded to seek instruction, let all endeavour to communicate it*_So will the good way be more frequented; and more abundant blessings flow down on all who walk in it-]
d John iii. 36. Heb. xii. 14.
e Song i. 4. * If this were the subject of a Sermon for Charity Schools, the propriety of subscribing liberally for the support of such institu. tions might be stated here.
CCCCXLIII. GOD'S ASSISTANCE A MOTIVE TO
Phil. ii. 12, 13. Work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling: for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good
pleasure. THERE is no person, however eminent his attain. ments in religion may be, who does not need to be exhorted and urged to press forward— The Philippians, in the judgment of the apostle, had had “the good work begun in them;" yea, they had “ obeyed the word while
he was with them,” and had made a still greater proficiency since his departure from them: yet he animates them to further exertions, and enforces his exhortation with the strongest arguments—Thus should all Christian ministers "put their people in remembrance of these things, notwithstanding they may already know them, or even be established in the truth”—Let us then receive the apostle's words as addressed to ourselves in particular, while we consider I. The exhortation God commands us to work out our salvation"
[We are not to imagine that salvation is either the reward of our merits, or the effect of our unassisted exertions; for if, as our Lord assures us, “ without him we can do nothing,” it is evident that we are far enough from being able to keep the whole law of God; which yet we must do, if we are to receive heaven on the ground of our own righteousness-Nevertheless we have a work to do, a work of infinite importance, in performing which we are not mere machines, but voluntary agents: and on our performing of that work our salvation dependsa-We must consider our ways, repent of sin, believe the gospel, and devote ourselves to God; not indeed as conceiving ourselves sufficient for these things, but in dependence on that aid, which God will afford to all who seek him in sincerity and truth-)
But we must engage in this work “ with fear and trembling"
[The terms " fear and trembling” do not import a slavish dread and terror, but an holy vigilance and circumspection And there is great need of this in working out our salvationLet us only consider how many lusts we have to mortify, and how many duties to perform; how many temptations we have to withstand, and adversaries to overcome; how prone we are to err, and how many devices Satan uses in order to deceive us; how insufficient we are of ourselves for this great work, and how awful would be the consequences of miscarrying in it; and we shall readily acknowledge that our utmost caution is little enough-St. Paul felt the force of these considerations; and notwithstanding he knew himself to be a chasen vessel unto God, he kept his body under, and brought it into subjection, lest by any means, after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-awayè-]
a See Acts xxvii. 25, 31.
6. This is the meaning of it in every place where it occurs:-see 1 Cor. ii. 3. 2 Cor. vii. 15. and Eph. vi. 5. That it cannot mean slavish fear is evident from Rom. viii. 15. and vii. 6.
That we may all be led to comply with this advice, let us consider II. The argument with which it is enforced
To see the full force of this argument we must view'it 1. As a call on our gratitude
[Having commended the Philippians for their obedience to God, he reminds them, whence it was that they were made to differ from others. They were by nature as destitute of any ability or inclination to serve God as any other people upon earth: but God, of his own good pleasure, and without respect to any thing in them, had given them both to will and to do what was acceptable in his sight--Now this sovereign act of grace laid them under a tenfold obligation to love and serve him: they must be vile indeed, if such love did not constrain them to obedience—Have any of us then been converted by the grace of God, and been “made willing in the day of his power?” Let us 'consider this mercy as the strongest of all motives for yielding up ourselves as living sacrifices, holy, and acceptable to him as our reasonable serviced_Are we “a chosen generation, that had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy?” let us exert ourselves to the utmost to "shew forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light”e —] . 2. As an antidote to our fears
[It is difficult to feel the importance of eternal things, and not give way to secret fears and misgivings, respecting the final success of our present exertions. And indeed, if we were required to work out our salvation by our own strength, we might well yield, not only to fear, but to utter despondency-But the argument urged by the apostle removes our apprehensions by assuring us, that he, who has given us the will, will also give us the power, to obey him-It is not to mock us that God has created in us a disposition to what is good: it is not to abandon us at last that he has hitherto given
grace sufficient for us:” his past favours are an earnest and pledge of others yet to come: he will continue to “strengthen us in our inward man,” and will“ perfect his own strength in our weakness" Let us then acknowlerlge the force of the argument in this view; and, assured that “our strength shall be according to
ci Cor. ix. 27.
d Rom. xii. I. e I Pet ii. 9, 10,