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another? Our blessed Lord said to Martha, when her mind
Hence when we know the absolute necessity of obtaining an interest in Christ, of experiencing redemption in his blood, the forgiveness of our past offences: We cannot be satisfied
till we are blest with a clear sense of the love of God towards us, and feel that he is reconciled to us, through the Son of his love. Reason itself will tell us, that it would be the height of folly to leave a matter of such astonishing importance in a state of suspense, in a state of doubtful uncertainty; but should make it as sure as we can.
As it appears to us to have been the design of our blessed Redeemer, in laying down his life, to procure pardon and peace
us, it is the design of God to bring us into his favour, to bless us with a sense of his love, that we may say with David, “The Lord is my salvation.” To stop short of che enjoyment of this blessing, would only be to cry, “ Peace, peace" to ourselves, before God has spoken peace to us. But as it would be extremely dangerous to do this, so it is certain we need not do it, seeing the Lord calleth us to enjoy the, knowledge of salvation, by the remission of sins; to enjoy his peace in our conscience, and his love in our hearts: Yea, we are called to walk in the light of his countenance, and to rejoice in him, as the God of our salvation. This is the one thing needful, for every child of man: It is that one thing, without which we can have no solid peace, no substantial happiness, in the present world; and this must be our experience, before we can join with David, in the words of the text.
But let a person be assured of his interest in Christ, his adoption into the family of God, and of his right and title to eternal life; and there is still a one thing needful, which he is called of God to follow after. For we shall find there is a one thing needful belonging to every stage in the christian life; and our spiritual prosperity very much depends upon our knowing what this is, and accordingly following after it. It is for want of knowing this, that very many, even among the children of God, make little or no proficiency in religion: They have not the proper object in view; they are not pursuing the prize of their high calling.
That our souls may prosper, and the holy will of God may be fully accomplished in us, it is absolutely necessary that we should know what his will concerning us is, and what he calleth us to follow after. Only let a person be brought into the marvellous light and glorious liberty of the sons of God, and the one thing needful for him will be, to be established in the love of God, to be rooted and grounded therein. And to this end it will be found indispensably necessary, to follow after the abiding or constant witness of the Holy Spirit.
We know by experience, that it generally happens, after we are brought into the favour of God, we are subject to inuch evil reasoning: Many painful doutts and distressing fears arise in our minds, and by this means satan, our grand enemy, not only greatly perplexes us, but often robs us of the comfort and peace which the Lord had graciously given us; and many there are who continue subject to these doubts and tears all the days of their life. But we need not make this mistake; we may rise above every thing of the kind, and may enjoy a clear and a continual sense of the love of God towards us; but we must experience the abiding witness of the Spirit of God in our own minds. That this is the will of God concerning us is evident: “ The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit that we are the children of God." And again: We have not received the spirit which is of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which are freely given to us of God.” This was the experience of the ancient saints and servants of the Lord; and I iake it for granted, (notwithstanding that foolish opinion of many people, that all extraordinary things are ceased,) that whatsoever blessing the Lord mercifully bestowed upon his children, in the primitive days, he will bestow upon us likewise.
We also may enjoy the abiding witness of the Holy Spirit. But what is this witness? Is it not the voice of God, heard by the believing soul, speaking peace unto him, clearly and strongly assuring him of God's love towards him, in such a manner as words cannot express. So saith our Lord; “My sheep hear my voice.” And again, “ My sheep know my voice; they know not the voice of a stranger, but will fly from him.” May we not also understand thereby, the Holy Spirit distinctly and clearly shining upon his own work in the mind; that we may perceive, the blessings which we have received at the hand of God, and are so fully satisfied of the reality of our experience, that we can doubt no more.
But how may we gain this inestimable blessing? By fol. lowing hard after it, as the one thing needful, the particular blessing which the Lord calleth us to enjoy; making it the prize at which we should continually aim; the blessing for which we constantly pray, and looking for the enjoyment of it, as the free gift of God, through Jesus Christ, and therefore to be obtained by faith, as we have received every other blessing at the hand of our gracious God: And if we thus fol. low after, we Mall attain both this, and every degree of grace promised in the Gospel.
Let a person be brought, to enjoy the abiding witness of the Spirit
, and there is still a one thing needful set before him in the Gospel, which he is called to pursue; namely, the
full renewal of his soul in righteousness; the entire sanctifi. cation of his body, soul, and spirit. And that this is the will of God concerning us will appear, if we consider his end and design in sending Christ, our Redeemer, into this world. The Apostle informs us, that "he was given for us; that he mighe redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Again he tells us, that “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water, by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such a thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish.” It will be difficult to find words within the whole compass of human language, more clear, strong, and expressive of a full and entire change of heart, than these words are; and how any one can get over them, so as to deny the blessed truth which they contain, is truly astonishing. In consequence of his wonderful love to his church, our Lord gave himself for it, with this express design; a design every way worthy of an infinitely wise and gracious God, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it, by the washing of water," that is, by the purifying influences of the Spirit, which he intended should accompany his preached word: Yea, and to sanctify his church, and every member of it, in so high a degree, that there shall not be a spot of guilt, or a wrinkle of original depravity, left in the mind, no, nor any such thing as a spot or wrinkle: So complete shall the change be, throughout all the powers and faculties of the soul, that it shall be holy and with. out blemish. · The design of our Lord was, that he might destroy the works of the devil, and restore us both to the favour and the image of God.
We learn the same thing, from the design of God, in causing this everlasting Gospel to be preached. This no doubt was, that the death of Christ might prove effectual to our complete salvation: so that we may enjoy all the blessings purchased for us thereby. Accordingly the same Apostle tells us, that " he gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
Is it not clear, from these remarkably expressive words, that the design of God in the ministry of the Gospel is, to
save us to the uttermost? We are here told, that the great Head of the Church the Lord Jesus Christ, gave some apostles and some prophets: And he continues to give a variety of spiritual gifts to his ministers, with this gracious design, “ for the perfecting of the saints; for fully accomplishing the whole work of grace in the minds of the children of God. The Lord discovers all the exceeding riches of his grace to his servants, that in their ministry they may lead the people to the full enjoyment of that sacred treasure, so shall they be made perfect in love. And it is well worthy our serious consideration, that it is here said, He; the Lord himself gave these gifts. Do we not learn from this, as well as from
part of the word of God, that in all ages he hath always called, sent forth, and qualified for their work, his own ministers?. It does not appear from the Bible, that he ever committed this power to any number of men, to choose, much less to make ministers for him. This being considered, is it not strange, that from the beginning hitherto, almost every religious body of people have constantly been endeavouring not only to choose, but to make ministers for themselves. And is it not greatly owing to this fatal mistake, that the life and power of religion has so soon dwindled away among them? Does it not also appear, that the Lord always qualifies his servants for their work? “When he ascended up on high, he received gifts for men;" and when he sends any one to labour in his vineyard, will he send him before he has qualified him for his work? No wise man would act thus, how much less the infinitely wise and blessed God? He will certainly give suitable gifts to all those whom he sends; he will communicate to them wisdom from above, and power from on high; that they may
be workmen in his house, who shall have no cause to
be ashamed. May we not, with the greatest safety, conclude, that he who pretends to be a minister of Christ, but has neither the gift of praver, nor preaching, was never designed of God for that work? He must be considered as having run before he was sent of God, and therefore cannot expect to be a blessing to the people. That mechanic is a disgrace to his master, with whom he has served an apprenticeship, who when his time is expired, has not learned his trade: But how do these men dishonour the Lord Jesus Christ, who would have us believe that they are his ministers, and yet are totally unqualified for their work! A lawyer at the bar, by a due improvement of his natural powers, can plead the cause of his