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them, and to prove that they are not from the Lord the Spirit shows it to you. The disHoly Spirit. For,
pensation of the truth is in his hand; and 2. The scriptures are the appointed rule without him all the fancied advantages of suand test, by which all our searches and dis- perior capacity, learning, criticism, and books, coveries, all our acquisitions in religious will prove as useless as spectacles to the blind. knowledge, must be tried. If they are in- The great encouragement is, that this infaldeed from God, they will stand this trial, and lible Spirit, so necessary to guide us into the answer to the word as face answers to face way of peace, is promised to all who sincerein a glass, but not otherwise. “To the law ly ask it. This Spirit Jesus is exalted to be and to the testimony: if they speak not ac- stow: and he has said, “Whosoever cometh cording to this word, it is because there is no to me, I will in no wise cast him out." Therelight in them,” Isa. viii. 20. Jf those who fore water your reading with frequent prayer. despise all claims to the influence of the Spi- We proceed to, rit of God, as enthusiasm, had not been fre V. The characters of those persons who quently informed, that we expect, we ac- succeed in their inquiries, and have the things knowledge, no internal revelation, but by the of God savingly revealed to them; they are medium of the word of God, and agreeable to called babes. it, they would be less inexcusable in repeat 1. They are for the most part babes in the ing the charges of folly and infatuation, which world's esteem. They are despised by the they ignorantly fix upon the work of the Spi- wise and prudent for their weak capacities, rit, and all who profess a dependence on it. small attainments
, and their seeming insigTo those who are indeed candid and sincere nificance in common life. But the Lord does inquirers after truth, what has been said up- not overlook any on these accounts. He is on this part of our subject, will, I hope, sug- no respecter of persons. In the blessings of gest the propriety of two directions. From his common providence, those which are more hence learn,
immediately from his own hand, such as air 1st, To set a high value upon the word of and light, health and strength, the faculties of God. All that is necessary to make you wise sight and hearing, &c. he bestows as freely, to salvation is there, and there only. In this and in as great perfection, to the poor as to precious book you may find a direction for the rich, to the ignorant as to the learned. every doubt, a solution of every difficulty, a And thus it is with respect to his grace. promise suited to every circumstance you can Our incapacity is founded in our nature, and be in. There you may be informed of your is common to all, and not in any particular disease by sin, and the reinerly provided by circumstances. He is as ready to save the grace.
You may be instructed to know mean as the noble. Many of the great and yourselves, to know God and Jesus Christ, in wise are offended at this. As they engross the knowledge of whom standeth eternal life. the earth, they would willingly engross heaThe wonders of redeeming love, the glories ven also to themselves. But the Lord has of the Redeemer's person, the happiness of appointed otherwise; and it has been one rethe redeemed people, the power of faith, and proach constantly attending the gospel, that the beauty of holiness, are here represented few but the common people (Mark xii. 37, John to the life. Nothing is wanting to make life vii. 48, 49) have thought it worth their notice. useful and comfortable, death safe and desir 2. They are babes in their own esteem. able, and to bring down something of heaven Not that some are more humble than others upon earth. But this true wisdom can be by nature, and therefore the Lord gives them found no where else. If you wander from a preference on that account, for by nature the scriptures, in pursuit either of present we are all alike, equally destitute of the spall. peace, or future hope, your search will end est good; but the expression teaches us, that in disappointment. This is the fountain of those to whom the Lord is pleased to reveal living waters: if you forsake it, and give the these things, he first empties and humbles, preference to broken cisterns of your own de strips them of all ground of boasting, and vising, they will fail you when you most need brings them to a dependence on himself. The them. Rejoice, therefore, that such a trea- true believer is frequently compared to a little sure is put into your hand: but rejoice with child; and it is easy to trace an instructive trembling. Remember this is not all you resemblance. want: unless God likewise gives you a heart 1st, A child or babe has little knowledge, to use it aright, your privilege will only ag- and its capacity and powers are as yet very gravate your guilt and misery. Therefore feeble. All whose understandings have been remember,
spiritually enlightened will acknowledge 2dly, The necessity of prayer. For though themselves children in this respect. The litthe things of nearest consequence to you are tle they know convinces them of their ignoin the Bible, and you should read it over and rance. They are convinced that their views over, till you commit the whole book to your of things are faint, partial, confused; that memory; yet you will not understand, or their judgments are weak; that if the Lord discern the truth as it is in Jesus, unless the prevents it not, they are very liable to be im
posed on by the subtilty of Satan, and the and prudent in your own sight. You have treachery of their own hearts. They feel good warrant to hope that the Lord, who has that they have not in themselves sufficiency already taught you to depend on himself, will to think a good thought.
show you all that is necessary for you to know. 2dly, A child is teachable. Conscious of But if this is not the case, if you lean to their own ignorance, they listen to all about your own understanding, what wonder is it them, and think every one is qualified to teach that you are still walking in darkness and unthem something. Among men none are certainty ? Will you say, I have read the truly teachable, but those who know they Bible diligently; I have taken no small pains need to be taught. The natural man, if pos- to examine things, to see which of the many sessed of any advantages, thinks every one divisions that obtain among Christians is posneeds his help. The humble christian gives sessed of the truth ; but I am still at a loss : this proof, that the confession he is ready to surely, if the tenets some plead for had been make of his ignorance is genuine, and from in the scriptures, I should have found them his heart, that he is desirous to learn from all. there? I answer, without detracting from He is swift to hear, slow to speak, and open your sagacity or your sincerity, your case is to conviction. Though he will not assent to easily accounted for from the verse which we every thing he hears without proof or exami- are upon, if your inquiries are not conducted nation, yet he is disposed to receive instruc- in a humble dependence upon the Spirit of God. tion, and thankful to those by whom he is Too many instances we could produce of men, profited. He is fearful of being mistaken, who having laboured for years in what seems of giving way to prejudices, and therefore one of the most laudable undertakings, the exgladly improves every means of information. plaining the scriptures for the use of others,
3dly, A child is simple and dependent. He have at last been in a remarkable degree undoes not reason, but implicitly receives what settled themselves; and the only visible fruits he is told by his parents, or those whom he their reading and industry have afforded, have thinks wiser than himself. Such a resigna- been error, invective, and dissatisfaction; so tion, indeed, the believer dares not make of that their labours have been an exemplificahis understanding to any men, however high- tion of the former part of our text, a proof in ly he may esteem them in the main; for he point how entirely the things of God are often has learned from the word of God, not to put hid from the wise and prudent. his trust in man: but this is the desire of the You that are seeking the Lord, and are litrenewed heart, with respect to the teaching tle in your own eyes, rejoice that the dispenof God's word and Spirit. He allows no rea- sation of grace is in his hands. If men had soning or questioning here; nor will he say the disposal of it, you might perhaps have with Nicodemus, How can these things been overlooked. We should have been ready be?" It is enough for him that God has to have accepted the fair-spoken young man said it, and is able to make it good. This is who accosted our Lord with so much outward a happy temper. In this way innumerable respect, and had so much to say in his own difficulties that arise from appearances and behalf; (Mark x. 20;) and probably we should sophisms are avoided; and the mind, by faith, have left the thief upon the cross to perish like steers in safety across the immense ocean of a wretch as he deservedl
. “ But the Lord conjectures and opinions, which disputants seeth not as man seeth," 1 Sam. xvi. 7. “His and reasoners, essaying to do, are sunk and ways are higher than our ways, and his overpowered. It is true, there are various thoughts than our thoughts," Isa. lv. 7, 9. degrees of this simplicity; and in those who Therefore there is encouragement for the possess it in a larger measure, there is a re- meanest and the vilest. He has excluded maining principle of pride and unbelief, which none but those who exclude themselves. costs thein much prayer and many conflicts “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, to subdue. But this, in some degree, is essen now is the day of salvation! Let the wicked tial to the character of those who are taught forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man of God; they desire and endeavour to submit his thoughts, and let him return unto the wholly to his guidance and will in all things. Lord, for he will have mercy upon him, and
Here, then, is a proper topic for self-exa- to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” mination. Let each one ask his heart, Have I this simple, child-like disposition ? If you have, if it is the desire of your soul
SERMON V. to be taught of God, if his word is your rule, if you depend on his Spirit to teach you all THE SOVEREIGNTY OF things, and to lead you as it were by the hand, sensible that, unless you are thus led and Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy guided, you shall certainly go astray; be thankful for this, accept it as a token for
sight.—Matt. xi. 26. good. You were not always so: there was a That the doctrine in the preceding verse ume when you were wise in your own eyes, is true in fact, is sufficiently evident from
common observation. The greatest part of the Lamb: therefore are they before the those whom the world esteems wise and pru- throne." It was then for their sakes, who dent, and all to a man who think themselves should be hereafter found at the right hand so, pay but small regard to the truths of the of God, that “God sent forth his Son, made gospel. They are hid from their eyes, and of a woman, made under the law, to redeem revealed to babes, to those whom they despise them that were under the law, that we might on account of their ignorance and insignifi- receive the adoption of sons." cance. And if a few who are favoured with 2. But besides this, God had another and considerable advantages in point of genius, a still higher end in the work of redemption, education, or rank, do receive the truth in namely, the manifestation of his own glory. the love of it, they have been at least taught It was unspeakable love to us that he providthat they are no better than babes, and are ed the means of salvation at all; and we canglad to count all outward things but loss for not wonder, much less ought we to complain, the excellency of the knowledge of Christ that in justice to himself he appointed such Jesus the Lord.
means, and such a way, as that all the praise If we could give no other reason for this and glory of the contrivance should in the dispensation of grace than that which is as- end redound to himself alone. In order to signed in our text, it ought to be satisfactory, this
, it was necessary that the following and would be so, if it was not for the pride things should be manifested with the fullest of our hearts. Surely that which seems good evidence. in the sight of God, must be holy, and wise, 1st, The greatness of man's depravity, and good in itself. How vain and presump- guilt, and misery; that it was not a small tuous is blinded man, who would dare to re- thing, but a case worthy the interposition of ply against his Maker, to charge his holiness almighty power and infinite grace. with injustice, his wisdom with mistake, his 2dly, The utter insufficiency of man to regoodness with partiality! All their vain ca- lieve himself; that so God might have the vils will be silenced at the great day, when whole honour of his recovery, and we might the secrets of all hearts are opened, and God be for ever debtors to his free undeserved will be justified when he condemns. How- mercy. ever, though we dare not venture too far into 3dly, That whereas there are, to outward the depths of the divine counsels, yet, from appearance, a great variety of characters the light he has afforded us in his word, we among mankind, it was necessary the dismay, in our feeble manner, assert and prove pensation of his grace should be so conducted that his ways are just and equal; and, be- as to show that no case was too hard for his sides the argument of his sovereignty, that power, or too low and miserable for his comso it has pleased him, he has been pleased to passion and condescension. favour us with some of the reasons why it Upon these grounds we may see something has so pleased him. And this is the subject of his wisdom in the methods he has appointI propose to lead your meditations to from ed, and in the subjects of his choice; why it these words. May his spirit assist me, that has seemed good in his sight, to hide these I may not darken counsel by words without things from the wise and prudent, and to reknowledge !
veal them unto babes; for such reasons as Let us begin with inquiring, What might these:-1. To stain the pride of all human be his principal ends in sending his Son into glory; 2. To exclude every pretence of the world, that we might have life through boasting; 3. That there might be a ground him? These, I apprehend, were chiefly two: of hope provided for the vilest and meanest;
1. The redemption and complete salvation and, 4. That the salvation of believers might of all who believe. All mankind are by na- be sure, and not subject to miscarry. ture in the same state of sin and misery. I. In the first place, then, the Lord of But we are told, that at the great day there hosts hath proposed it, “ to stain the pride of will be an unspeakable difference in the cir- all human glory," Isaiah xxiii. 9. How much cumstances between some and others. Many men are disposed to admire their own wis will then stand trembling at his left hand, to dom, learning, and fancied accomplishinents, whom the King shall say, “ Depart.". But is sufficiently obvious. But now the pride those on the right hand will hear those joyful of all this glory is stained, inasmuch as it is words, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, in- proved by experience to be utterly useless in herit the kingdom prepared for you from the the most important concerns.
One man has foundation of the world.” If you ask, To talents to rule a kingdom, but is hiinself a what is this difference primarily owing ? The slave to the vilest lusts and passions. Ananswer is provided : "Jesus loved them, and other has courage to face death in a field of washed them from their sins in his own battle, yet, with regard to religion is a mere blood; he redeemed them out of every na- coward: overawed by the feeble breath of tion, and people, and language; they came the multitude, he is both ashamed and afraid out of great tribulation, and washed their to practise what his conscience convinces robes, and made them white in the blood of him is his duty. Another almost pretends to
count the number of the stars, and to call they became fools, and their disquisitions had them all by their names; yet has no more no other effect than to leave them without exthought of the God that made the heavens cuse. Their practice (as will always be the and the earth, than the beasts that perish. case) was correspondent to their principles; Another delights in books and languages and in the midst of a thousand refinements which few can understand but himself; no- in theory, they were abandoned to the grossthing so false or foolish but he accounts it est and most detestable vices. If it be said, worth his study, if it has but the stamp of an- These had not the light of revelation, we may tiquity to recommend it; only the book of observe the same or similar effects where the God, (though much more ancient than all his gospel is known. With this superior light, fables,) because it may be read in plain En- men are still equally vain in their imaginaglish, is thrown by as unworthy his notice. tions; and though they do not pay an outAnother, who professes to be scripture-wise, ward and formal worship to stocks and stones, perverts the scriptures, and abuses his own they are gross idolators; for they serve, love, reason, to establish the most absurd errors, or and trust the creature more than the Creator. to overturn the plainest truths. Another When there is a difference, it is owing to amuses himself with setting forth the praises grace, and grace is acknowledged. Such will of virtue and morality, while his own conduct readily say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto furnishes a standing proof, either of the weak- us, but unto thy name be the praise," Psalm ness of his scheme, or the insincerity of his cxv. 1. Thus all pretence to boasting is efheart. Time would fail to recount all the fectually excluded; and he that can glory upachievements of these wise and prudent men. on good grounds, must glory only in the Lord. But behold the pride of them all stained ! In If it should be supposed that this reprethe midst of all their acquisitions and inven- sentation of things tends to discourage a dilitions, they are strangers to God, to themselves, gent and serious inquiry after truth, I answer, and to peace; they are without Christ, and When rightly understood, it will have just without hope: those things which alone are the contrary effect. What can be more suitof real importance, are hid from their eyes. ed to excite diligence, than to point out the Here the desperate depravity and deceitful method in which it will assuredly be crowned ness of the heart are manifested, to the glory with success? You cannot succeed without of God; and it is clearly seen, that if he does the light and assistance of the Holy Spirit; but not interpose to save, men are wholly unable if conscious of this, and aware of your own to save themselves.
insufficiency, you will seek his direction and II. To exclude boasting. "Where is boast- guidance by humble prayer, it shall be afing then? It is excluded.” As the apostle forded you. If you know not this, you will speaks in another place, “ If Abraham was certainly be wearied in the end by repeated justified by works, he hath whereof to glory:” disappointments; but if you depend upon his (Rom. iv. 2:) so, if men were saved, either teaching and co-operation in the use of the in whole or in part, by their own wisdom and means he has appointed, your knowledge prudence, they might in the same degree shall advance as the growing light. ascribe the glory and praise to themselves. III. This method of the divine procedure They might say, My own power and wisdom opens a door of hope to the vilest and the gave me this; and thus God would be robbed meanest. Let not any be cast down on acof the honour due to his name. But now this count of any peculiar incapacity or difficulty is prevented. The word of the Lord is, in their case. If none but the wise and the “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, learned, the rich, and those who are esteemed neither let the inighty man zlory in his might; well-behaved and virtuous, could be saved, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but or if these stood in a fairer way for it than let him that glorieth glory in this, that he others, the greatest part of mankind might understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the give up hope, and sit down in despair at once. Lord," Jeremiah ix. 23, 24. For whatever But the case is exactly the reverse. It is outward advantages some may seem to pos- true, the persons I am speaking of are not the sess, as to the things of God, they stand al- worse for these distinctions, whenever they together upon a level with the meanest. are sensible how vain and insufficient they These things cannot be understood by any are, and betake themselves as poor, helpless, sagacity on our parts, but must be revealed miserable, blind, and naked, to flee for refuge by the Father of lights. What could be done to the mercy of God in Christ. But, alas! in this way, you may recollect from St. Paul's their supposed qualifications too often harden representation in the first chapter of his epis- them to reject the counsel of God against tle to the Romans. Many of the Heathens themselves. They think themselves whole, were eminent for wisdom and abilities, and and therefore see not the necessity or value made great proficiency in science; but with of the physician. You who are sensible you regard to the knowledge of God, the result of have nothing of your own to trust to, take all their researches was error, superstition, encouragement; the Lord has suited his gost and idolatry: professing themselves to be wise pel to your circumstances.
1. Are ye poor? The Lord Jesus Christ ( end that the promise might be sure to all the has sanctified the state of poverty by taking seed," Rom. iv. 16. Adam had a stock of it on himself. He had not where to lay his wisdom, yet when he was trusted with his head. He will not therefore despise you on own happiness, he could not preserve it. But this account. Only pray that you may like the second Adam is all-suficient. Our dewise be poor in spirit
. He looks through all pendence is upon him. To those who are outward distinctions, and often passes by a babes, he is wisdom, righteousness, sanctifipalace to make his presence and power known cation, and all that they want. If this conin a mud-walled cottage. Perhaps he ap- cern had been left to the wisdom of man, it pointed this state in mercy to your souls, that is most probable that Christ would have lived you might not be distracted with many things, and died in vain, without a single real discinor take up with a portion in this world. You ple. But now the dispensation of grace is in cannot be in a lower or more afflicted state his hands, we are sure that some will believe than Lazarus, who, while he lay neglected in him; and we are likewise sure, that those at the rich man's gate, oppressed with want, who truly do so shall never be ashamed of and full of sores, was a child of God, and the their hope. charge of angels.
Now, from what has been said, 2. Are you ignorant ? If you cannot read, 1. Inquire what is the temper of your minds you miss indeed a considerable advantage with regard to this appointment. Our Lord which you might derive from the perusal of rejoiced in it as the wise and holy will, the his good word, and I would wish you to attain good pleasure of his heavenly Father. If it if practicable. If not, give so much more you are displeased at it, is it not a proof that diligent attention to the preaching of the gos- you have not the mind which was in Christ pel; entreat others to read the scriptures to Jesus? If God wills one thing, and you will you; but especially pray. The Lord can another, where must the contention end? To teach you without a book, and make up for what purpose, or with what pretence can you every defect. It is very possible for you to use that expression in the Lord's prayer, Thy attain to know and love God, to love your will be done,” when in effect your hearts rise neighbour, to rejoice in Christ, to keep his with enmity against it? This is one topic from precepts, to be content with your station, to whence we may confirm the declaration of live by faith, and to die with comfort, though scripture, that man by nature is not only a you cannot distinguish one letter from ano- transgressor of the law, but an enemy, yea ther. The prophet Isaiah, in the prospect of enmity itself, against God, Rom. viii. 7. They gospel-times, gives a description of the way may pay some profession of regard to the of salvation, which is peculiarly suited for power that made the heavens and the earth your comfort. “And a high way shall be the sea, and the fountains of water, while there, and it shall be called the way of holi- they worship they know not what, according ness; the way-faring men, though fools, shall to their own vain and dark imaginations not err therein," Isa. xxxv. 8.
But the attributes and characters of God re3. Have you been notorious, open sinners? vealed in scripture, his holiness, justice, truth, Then you are in the less danger of trusting and sovereignty, they cannot bear. They to your own righteousness. And as to the are enemies to the declared strictness of his rest, if you are sick of sin, if you sincerely moral government, and enemies to the me desire to be freed, as well from the power thods by which he has proposed to communias from the guilt of it, you stand as fair for cate his grace. But he is God, and who can salvation as the most sober and regular per- control him? Who can say unto him, What son upon the earth. St. Paul, speaking to hast thou done? You must either submit to those who had been partakers of the saving his golden sceptre in time, or his rod of ina grace of God, after he had made an enumera- will fall upon you for ever. tion of the blackest sins which man can be 2. Does it not appear from hence, that the guilty of, adds, “And such were some of you; doctrine of free sovereign grace is rather but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but an encouragement to awakened and broken ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Je-hearted sinners than otherwise? If you are sus, and by the Spirit of our God," 1 Cor. most unworthy of mercy, and destitute of vi. 11.
every plea, should you not be glad to hear, IV. In this way the salvation of believers that the Lord does not expect worthiness in is sure. If it depended on any thing in man, those whom he saves, but that he himself has it might miscarry. Man's boasted wisdom is provided the only plea which he will accept soon changed. A few hours of a fever, a and a plea which cannot be overruled, the small blow on the head, may change a wise righteousness and mediation of his well-beman into a fool. “But it is of grace, to the loved Son ?