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by others. And spiritual frames and feelings are confided in by a third description. But all this is “going about,” according to Saint Paul's expression, “ to establish their own righteousness; and not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God.” in fact, a species of seeking to be justified by attending to the law of Moses ; by which, as the text asserts, we cannot be justified. I call then upon all such characters to renounce their self-righteous proceedings, as delusive and dangerous in the extreme.
By the deeds of the law,” is the language of inspiration,
“ shall no flesh living be justified.” Turn, therefore, your attention to Him, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Ře. ject all reliance on your former and future imperfect services; and let the perfect righteousness of Jesus be all your foundation and all your hope. Thus will you be in the way of obtaining scriptural consolation ; feel yourselves built upon a rock against which the gates of hell can never prevail ; and by your Redeemer be “justified from alí things, from which ye cannot be justified by the law of Moses."
Shewn to be the Gift of God.
EPHESIANS, CHAPTER II, VERSE 11.
It is the Gift of God.
The condition in which the Ephesians were, before they became interested in the Gospel of Christ was exceedingly deplorable. According to the description given of them in this chapter, they were “dead in trespasses and sins.”—Not dead with respect to their natural, but their spiritual life. Their souls were as destitute of spiritual powers and perceptions, as a dead body is of natural sensations. Nor was this all :-conformity to the world was a conspicuous feature in their character. And while they walked according to the course of this world, they walked under the influence of the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. The service of the world and the service of Satan are inseparable. Satan is the god of this world: all therefore who are in subjection to its spirit and customs, are undoubtedly obeying the Devil. In addition to this subjection
to spiritual death, conformity to the world, and slavery to Satan, the Ephesians “were by nature the children of wrath." this awful state peculiar to them. The Apostle mentions it not merely in allusion to their state; but also to his own, and that of mankind in general. And “ we were by nature,” he observes, the children of wrath, even as others.”
This representation of their deplorable condition, was intended to illustrate the exceeding riches of divine
Hence the Apostle adds, “ But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; by grace ye are saved.” In the verse from whence our text is taken, we learn that we are saved through faith, and that this faith is not of ourselves; but that “it is the gift of God.”
Having on a former occasion shewn that we partake of salvation through believing ; or, to use the language before us, “ are saved through faith,” it seems highly important, that we should know from whence this faith proceeds. Unless we understand this, no right methods can be adopted for obtaining it; we shall be in danger of attaching improper ideas to its importance, and of not ascribing the praise of it to its real author. Our present endeavours therefore are
1. To prove that faith is the gift of God.
II. To improve this important doctrine.
Our own state and character before we partake of faith-the nature of faith itselfthe nature of the covenant of grace—and the positive declarations of scripture, if duly considered, will convince us, I apprehend, that faith is the gift of God.
What are our state and character before we partake of faith? We are not in a state of salvation, for “He that believeth not is condemned already.” Our character is quite contrary to the divine will; for “ whatsoever conduct is not of faith is sin ;” and “ without faith it is impossible to please God.” If however we are not in a state of salvation, nor have any claim to a character which pleases God, we are in our natural state. But in this condition, according to Saint Paul, “we are alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in us." Ignorance and alienation from God are the leading characteristics of our hearts.
" The natural man,” says the same Apostle, “understandeth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned*.” Hence, while we are in our natural condition, the value and importance of eternal concerns are not known by us. Unscriptural ideas of ourselves, andour state before God are indulged. We think ourselves rich and increased in goods and in need of nothing," although we are “poor and miserable and blind and naked.” * Such is our ignorance of the spiritual extent and requirements of God's holy law that we are ready to say, “ All these have I kept from my youth up; when in fact a right knowledge of the subject would constrain us to exclaim, “the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. Our minds are so dark respecting the excellencies of Christ, our total need of him, and his suita ableness to our necessities, that, notwithstanding his unparalleled love in dying for us, we see no form nor comeliness in him ; nor discern any beauty that we should desire him. He is in our esteem, to use the humiliating expression of the Prophet, but “as a root out of a dry ground.” In short, we are so ignorant of the true value of everlasta ing blessings, that the fleeting enjoyments, and momentary advantages of this present world, are more eagerly pursued and more highly prized, than the eternal realities which are at God's right hand. Nay, whether we know it or not, “our natural mind is enmity against God; we love darkness rather than light; and every imagination of our heart is only evil continually,"
2 Corinthians, ch. ii. ver. 14.