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kingdom. In this way St. Paul himself understood the words of our text; for he quotes them exactly in this sense; “ So have I strived,” says he, “ to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation; but as it is written, to whom he was not spoken of, they shall see, and they that have not heard, shall understand.” And indeed, this is a very just description of the gospel; for, the productions of human wisdom were open to the view of kings; but the gospel was far out of their sight; it was “a mystery hid in the bosom of the Father from the foundation of the world.”
This was the weapon which the apostles used in their warfare. They preached Christ in every place: Jesus and the resurrection were their constant theme: and so effec. tual did St. Paul find it for the conversion of men, that “ he determined to know nothing, and to preach nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” The same must be the constant tenor of our ministrations: there is no other subject that we can insist upon with equal effect. Philosophy leaves men as it finds them; it may afford some glimmering light to their minds; but it can never influence their hearts. Nothing can pull down the strong holds of sin, but that which points out a refuge for sin'ners.. . ::" . .
But besides this external mean of conversion there is another no less necessary, the operation of which is altogether internal. Many hear the gospel, and, instead of receiving benefit from it, have only their latent enmity brought forth, and their hearts made more obdurate. To feel its full effect, we must “see and consider it.” There are many things of which we may have but dark and confused views without sustaining any loss; but in our views of the gospel we should be clear. Our minds must be enlightened to see the ends and reasons of Christ's death. To know the fact, that he did suffer, will be of no more use than any other historical knowledge : we must know why he suffered; what necessity there was for his coming in the flesh; what need of his atonement; and what the
virtue of his sacrifice. It is not necessary indeed that we should be able to descant upon these subjects for the in'struction of others; but we must have such a knowledge of them as leads us to renounce every false ground of hope, and to rely on Christ alone for the salvation of our souls. We must so discern their excellence, as to be induced to “ consider” them; to consider the death of Christ as the only sacrifice for sin; and to consider an interest in it, as the only means of salvation.
Thus, in order to our being effectually converted to God, Christ must become our meditation and delight. The height and depth, and length and breadth of his un. searchable love must occupy our minds, and inflame our hearts with love to him. Nor is it in our first conversion only, but in every subsequent period of our lives, that we must thus have respect to his death. In all our approaches to God we must come, pleading the merits of the Redeemer's blood, and trusting only in his all-sufficient atonement. It is this alone that will preserve our souls in peace, or enable us to manifest to others. II. The fruit and evidence of conversion
The hearts of men are the same in all ages; and the effects produced on them by the gospel are the same: the very first fruit and evidence of our conversion by it is, that our “ mouths are shut at, or before the Lord Jesus.” First, with respect to the vindicating of ourselves. Natui. ral men, according to the external advantages they have enjoyed, will acknowledge more or less the depravity of their hearts. But, whatever difference there may be in their outward confessions, there is very little in their inward convictions. All entertain a favourable opinion of themselves: they cannot unfeignedly, and with the full consent of their minds, acknowledge their desert of God's wrath: they have some hidden reserves: they secretly think that God would be unjust if he were to condemn them: they cannot persuade themselves that their iniquities merit so severe a doom. They pretend to hope in God's mercy; but their hope does not really arise from an enlarged view of his mercy, so much as from contracted views of their own sinfulness. But, in conversion, these “high imaginations are cast down." The soul, enlight
ened to behold its own deformity, dares no longer rest on such a sandy foundation. Others may go presumptuously into God's presence, “thanking him that they are not as other men;" but the true convert “ stands afar off," and, with an unfeigned sense of his own unworthiness, “ smites on his breast, and cries for mercy.” Instead of preferring himself before others, he now." prefers others before himself,” and accounts himself “ the very chief of sinners.” Nor, however eminent his attainments af. terwards may be, will he ever exalt himself. Paul indeed, when compelled to assert the dignity of his apostolic of fice, did declare that he was “not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles:" but, to shew how far such declarations were from being either agreeable to himself, or voluntary, he repeatedly called himself “a fool in boasting,” and said, that, after all, “ he was nothing." Thus any other Christian may be necessitated on some occasion to vindicate his own character; but, so far from prid. ing himself in it, he will lothe himself in dust and ashes. crying with the convicted leper, “ Unclean, uncleart:” the habitual frame of his mind will be like that of Job, “Be. hold, I am vile.".. .'
; . Further, the mouth of every true convert will be shut with respect to the raising of objections against the gospel. The doctrine of the cross is foolishness in the eyes of the natural man. To renounce all dependence on our works, and rely wholly on the merits of another, is deem. ed absurd. The way of salvation by faith alone is thought to militate against the interests of morality, and to open a door to all manner of licentiousness. On the other hand, the precepts of the gospel appear too strict; and the holiness and self-denial required by it are judged impracticable, and subversive both of the comforts and duties of social life. But real conversion silences: these objections. When the gospel is “ seen and considered in its true light, Christ is no longer made “azbutt of contradiction:" the glory of God as shining in his face is both seen and admired; and the union of the divine perfections as exhibited in the mystery of redemption is
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deemed the very masterpiece of divine wisdom. The believer finds no disposition to open his mouth against these things, but rather to open it in devoutest praises and thanksgivings. As for the way of salvation by faith alone, how suitable, how delightful does it appear! He is convinced that, if salvation were less free or less complete than the gospel represents it, he must for ever perish, He sees that it is exactly such a salvation as was most fit for God to give, and for man to receive; for that, if it were not altogether of grace, man would have whereof to boast before God; and that, if one sinless work were required of him, he must for ever sit down in utter despair. Nor does he now think the precepts of the gospel too strict: there is not so much as one of them that he would dispense with; not one which he would have relaxed. He would account it an evil, rather than a benefit, to be released from his obligation to obey them. He never now complains, “ How strict are the commandments!” but rather, “How vile am I, that I cannot yield to them a more cordial and unreserved obedience!” And so far is he from condemning those who are most holy and heavenly in their deportment, he wishes that he were like them; and strives to follow them as they follow Christ.
Such are the fruits that are found on all true converts without exception; even “Kings shut their mouths.” They, indeed, from their high station, are less under the controul of human laws, and are ready on that account to suppose themselves less amenable also to the laws of God: but, when the gospel comes with power to their souls, they no longer ask, “Who is Lord over us?” but prostrate themselves before the Saviour with unreserved submission both to his providence and grace. ..
Let us learn then from hence, The evil and danger of . prejudice..
It is difficult to conceive what destruction this evil · principle brings upon the world. Thousands of persons in every place take up exceptions against Christ and his gospel without ever examining for themselves; they even shut their ears against every thing which may be said in vindication of the truth; and thus harden them
selves in their iniquities, till they perish without a remedy. Whence is it that so many have their mouths opened against the followers of Christ, stigmatizing every godly person as an enthusiast or deceiver? Have they searched into, and acquainted themselves with, the real effects of the gospel? And have they been careful to distinguish between the tendency of the gospel itself, and the faults of those who embrace it? No, they have never con. sidered, never seen, perhaps scarcely ever so much as heard, the gospel: they have listened to some vague re. ports; they have gladly entertained every story which could in any wise confirm their aversion to the truth; and then they think they cannot exclaim too bitterly against it. But let us guard against indulging such an unreasonable disposition: let us hear and examine candidly for ourselves: let us consider whether the gospel be not suited to our own particular case: and let us beg of God to open our eyes, and to "give us a right judgment in all things.” If we use not these means of conversion, we shall be utterly inexcusable, before God: but if we use them in dependence upon God, we shall surely be brought at last to the knowledge of the truth, and to the enjoyment of those blessings which it is designed to convey.
Let us further learn from this subject the excellency of ' the gospel.
If we compare the effects of the gospel with those wrought by philosophy, we shall see that the latter never was able to produce any general reformation, while the former, in the space of a few years, triumphed over all the lusts and prejudices of mankind. And, at this hour, the gospel has the same power, wherever it is faithfully preached, and cordially received: there is no lust, how. ever inveterate, which it will not subdue; no enmity, however rooted, which it will not slay; no pride, how. ever stubborn, which it will not humble. The more it is examined, the more it prevails: it needs only to be “ seen and considered;" and it will soon remove every objection, and commend itself with irresistible evidence to the soul. Let us then consider, and reflect upon this glorious subject: let us meditate on it, till our hearts are