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no invidious, comparisons, when we say, that if the system in which the sovereignty of divine grace is a prominent and characteristical tenet, is to be judged from its fruits, the friend to virtue and piety must at once embrace it.
We recur, then, with additional confidence, to the doctrine of our text, that without Christ we can do nothing. He is the alpha and the omega of our salvation. To him we must be entirely indebted for the pardon of our past sins, and also for the disposition, in which consists the ability, to avoid future sins. It is He who remits our offences for bis own name's sake; and it is He who, by the power of his Spirit, renews and sanctifies our depraved hearts.
The fountain in which alone our moral uncleanness can be washed away, flows with his precious blood. All the holiness that we can ever possess, is derived from the fulness of grace that centres in him. The Spiritual life that believers enjoy, is, in reality, nothing more than Christ living in them. He sits enthroned as a sovereign in the hearts of his people, wielding his sceptre over the entire territory of their souls, communicating to them constant supplies of strength, defending them from the assaults of their enemies, and so governing their thoughts, their feelings, and their conduct, as to render them the willing instruments of advancing at once his glory, and their own immortal interests.
The subject on which we have now been meditating, is calculated to comfort, encourage, and animate Christians. It teaches them, that all their dependence must be upon the grace of Christ, since without him they can do nothing. The first lesson in the school of Jesus, is to learn that he is our salvation and our all. Brethren, you can never be too deeply convinced of the truth, that in yourselves you are weak and insufficient for the performance of any good thing. Just in proportion to your conviction of this truth, will be your attainments in vital piety. “When I am weak,” said one of the holiest of men, “then am I strong." The expression may carry the air of paradox to those who are strangers to the mystery of godliness. But every truly devout person understands its meaning, and feels its force. To him it contains an element of truth, as evident as any in the axioms of mathematics. He can affirm, from lively experience, that it is the persuasion of his own weakness, which braces all the sinews of his strength. As soon as his soul settles in the belief, that without Christ he can do nothing, he has virtually arrived at the conclusion, that with Christ he can do every thing. Diffidence in ourselves is the essential principle of confidence in the help that cometh from on high.
We exhort you, then, Christian brethren, to apply the doctrine of the text to the edification of your souls. Are you in prosperity? Learn that you have nothing which you did not receive, and ascribe all your happiness to the grace of Christ. Are you in adversity? Look up to your divine Lord for consolation and relief. He has promised that his grace shall be sufficient for you, and that he will never leave nor forsake you. Have you reason to trust that you are making daily advances in virtue and piety; becoming more and more ripe for heaven? Remember that you are indebted, for all your attainments, to the favour of Jehovah. Let your reliance on his aid increase, and your progress in the knowledge, the love, and the fear of your Maker, shall be proportionably accelerated. But does your conduct or your heart testify that you have grown remiss in the service of God, and become comparatively indifferent to the things that belong to your everlasting peace? Ah! you have been too confident in your own strength; you have leaned too much on the arm of flesh. Repent, and do your first works. Humble yourselves at the footstool of your offended Sovereign, and never again forget, as you would hope for salvation, that without Christ you can do nothing. In fine, whatever may be your circumstances, the language of our text speaks to you a word in season.
Again, the passage before us is not without its use, when addressed to those who are still in a state of impenitence and unbelief. That there are such in this assembly, we may take for granted, and yet not be uncharitable. Permit us, then, dear hearers, to tell you plainly, though affectionately, that you never can be saved, until you are brought to know and feel that without Christ you can do nothing. This is the very turning point of your conversion. Repentance and faith (the grand conditions of the gospel) are neither more nor less, than a practical conviction of the truth on which we have been expatiating. The sincere penitent, the devout believer, is simply a man who has imbibed the spirit of our present text.
We pray you, then, sinners, at once to submit to the terms of the gospel, and receive Jesus Christ as your only and all-sufficient saviour. Awful must be the consequences of refusing or neglecting to secure an interest in him. We shall not attempt to describe the anguish and despair that await the finally impenitent. But we may ask, in the language of the Bible, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Once more, dear hearers, we say, Come to the Sou of God. Without him you can do nothing. He only can enable you to escape hell, and enter heaven. Accept, without delay, the aid which he proffers. That aid may be obtained to-day: tomorrow may be too late to seek it.
GENESIS XXXIX. 0. (Last Clause.)
“How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"
A religious system, to be perfect, must not only contain a full and correct code of human duties, but must also enforce those duties by the most appropriate and urgent motives. This perfection is exemplified in Christianity. The Bible, besides teaching us how we ought to act in all the various circumstances of our being, further presents us with sufficient reasons why we should act in the particular manner which it points out. And one of the most powerful of those considerations which it urges to deter us from the commission of crime, is exhibited in the passage now before us: “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God!"
These words, as you, no doubt, recollect, are part of the language of Joseph to the wife of Potiphar, when she sought to entice bim to an adulterous act. It may be doubted, whether humanity, in the present state, be capable of more signal virtue, than was displayed by the Hebrew captive on this occasion. Any one who reflects, for a moment, on the circumstances of the temptation to which he was exposed, must be convinced, that he owed the exalted moral triumph which he achieved, to the influence of some motive peculiarly strong and impressive. What this motive was, is learned from our text. He considered, that he could not yield to the illicit desires of the Egyptian female, without doing a great wickedness and sinning against God. Such was the solemn thought that subdued his passions, and nerved his soul for a victory with which no other that historians have recorded, or poets sung, is worthy to be compared.
One important reflection suggested by this passage, is, that all sin is an evil committed against God.
All sin is an evil committed against God. By this language we mean, that it is a violation of his will-a departure from the course which he requires us to pursue. We would not deny, that some sins are more directly offences against the Supreme Being, than others. There is undoubtedly ground for the common distinction of our duties into those which we owe to our Creator, and those which we owe to our fellow men and ourselves. It was on the principle of such a distinction, that the moral law was anciently divided by Him who enacted it, into two tables. Now, if there are two classes of duties, there must be two classes of sins corresponding to the violalations of these duties. Thus, to blaspheme the divine name, or omit the divine worship, is an offence against God; while to covet the possessions, or take away the lives of others, is an offence against our fellow men. Still, however, there is a sense in which every sin may be considered as an offence against the Deity. The crime to which Joseph referred, when he spoke the language of the text, was adultery—a crime, the prohibition of which occurs in the second table of the decalogue. And yet be was persuaded, that he could not commit this crime without sinning against God; and justly, since he knew, that the seventh commandment, no less than the first or the third, had its origin in the authority, and was an expression of the will, of his Maker.
Some eminent doctors in etbics teach, that utility is the foundation of virtue, and, of consequence, that when we