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degree, to the neglect of the gospel? Having assented to a system of doctrines, we fancy we know almost the whole that is to be known upon this subject, and have nothing more to do, but to hold them fast against the errors of the times, and take heed that we do not dishonour them by an inconsistency of conduct. Hence, what is called Religious Conversation, seldom turns upon the gospel, unless any part of it be called in question; but either upon our own want of spirituality, or the pleasures that we have formerly experienced; or, perhaps, upon the talents of this or that popular preacher.
When a company of Christians meet together, and feel a wish for improving conversation, let one of them take a Bible and rcad; and, as he reads, let him frequently pause, and let' any one that can, make a remark, or ask a serious question, so as, upon the whole, to promote the understanding of what is read. This would draw off the attention from less profitable things ; and the blessing of the Lord attending it, would, ere we are aware, produce those holy pleasures which, while pouring over our own barrenness, we shall sigh after in vain.
"To comfort the primitive Christians, who, as well as we, were "in bcaviness, through manifold temptations,” Peter took no other course than to declare unto thein the glorious truths of the gospel, and the vast advantages which they had over all others of former ages, in possessing the knowledge of them. Three things in particular he holds up to their consideration :1. That the prophets were to us ministering servants; unto theinsclves, but to us they did minister things which are now reported.” They sowed, that we might reap.- 9. That the things which they foretold, and which we possess, were the objects of their most intense research. « Of which salvarion, the prophets have enquired and searched diligently; searching what, and what manner of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, did signify, when it testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow."3. That such is the excellence and glory of the gospel, as not only to be the study of prophets, but of angels : “ Which things the angels desire to look into."
It is generally supposed, I believe, that the phrase look into *, alludes to the cherubiins which were placed bending over the Mercy-seat, and looking, as it were, with intenseness at it.
Thus Mary stooped, and looked into the sepulchre, in hope of discovering her Lord; and thus believers are described as booking into the perfect law of liberty, or the gospel of Christ.
In former ages, the angels employed their capacious powers on other themes. At first, the display of the divine perfections in creation, furnished them with matter for praise and gladness. « The morning - stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy.” Afterwards, the providence of Cod, in the
* Tagaruttw, to bend, or stoop,
EVANGELICAL TRUTH. government of the world, enlarged their mental boundary. One cried up another, saying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory!" But since the coming of the Son of God in our nature, and the laying down of his life, they appear to have been so engaged in this subject, as to be comparatively indifferent to every other. In other works of God, they had seen sometimes one perfection glorified, and sometimes another; but here all unite their beams, and form one general blaze. These are the things, therefore, which now they desire to look into."
The powers of angels are far superior to those of men. Their means of instruction also, and long experience of divine things, must render them far more capable of understanding the gospel than we. Yet with all their advantages and discoveries, such is the fulness of the subject, that they are at an infinite distance from coinprehending it: all that is said of them is, that they “ desire to look into it.”
Angels were doubtless acquainted with the general design of salvation, from its first discovery to man; but the particular way in which it should be accomplished, appears to have been, in a great measure, hidden from them. It was a way so much above what any creature would have expected, that though there were hints of it under the Old Testament, and some very plain intimations, yet it was far from being clearly comprehended. The prophets, as we have seen, did not fully understand their own prophecies; but diligently searched into the meaning of thein :-- neither did the apostles, with all their advantages, prior to the event:- neither did evil angels, with all their subtilty; for if Satan had known that, from the death of Christ, his cause would receive so deadly a wound, it is scarcely conceivable that he would have stirred up Juvias and the Jewish rulers to accomplish it. He appears to have entertained a kind of forlorn hope, that by getting him put to death in the most ignominious form, and by the only religious nation upon earth, he should be able to stamp everlasting infamy upon his naine, and that all after-generations would be ashained to own him. The disappointment and unexpected shock that he and his adherents met with on this occasion, seems plainly intimated by our Saviour's having “ spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly, triuinphing over them on his cross :" and though the holy angels might be supposed to understand much more than fallen ones, yet were they not equal to this subject till events made it inanijest. Hence it is said, “ from the beginning of the world, to have been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent, that now unto the principalities and powers it might be known by the church; that is, by the redeinption of the church, the manifold wisdom of God.” When the event transpired, therefore, it was like a flood of light bursting forth upon ihein. The resurrection of Christ filled all Heaven with transport. Hence, perhaps, we may account for the question of the angel to Mary,“ Woman, why weepest thou ?" 9. d.“ Did you but know all, you would not weep! It is not yours to weep now, but your adversaries!"
The cross of Christ, instead of issuing in disgrace, is followed with glory. His friends learned to glory in it; yea, and to glory in nothing else: and well they might. It was glori
ous to see the powers of darkness stripped naked, as it were, to 'their shame; - 10 see Satan foiled by the woman's seed, and bis schemes exposed to the derision of the universe ; o see him taken in his own net, and falling into the pit that himself had digged. It was glorious to contemplate the numerous and important bearings of this one great event! By this, the divine displeasure against sin is manifested in stronger language than if the world had been made a sacrifice :-by this, a way is opened for the consistent exercise of mercy to the chief of sinners :-by a believing view of this, peace arises in the mind, and, at the same time, purity in the heart :- for this he is crowned with glory and honour in the Heavens, principalities and powers being made subject to him. This is the only hope of a Jost world, the only medium of acceptance with God, and the only admissible plea in our approaches before him. This it is that will put every grace in exercise in this world, and impart all the happiness in that to come, of which created minds are susceptible.
These are a few of the bearings of the doctrine of the cross. Is it any wonder that angels should desire to look into it? Rather, is it not matter of wonder and shame that we who are more inmediately interested in it than they, should be so far behind ? How is it that we should be the last to bring back the King, who are his bone and his flesh? Our Redeemer took not upon
him the nature of angels; yet they love him, and the gospel of salvation by him; and wherefore? They love God, and therefore rejoice in every thing that glorifies him in the highest:— they love men, and therefore rejoice in that which brings peace on earth, and good will to them :- they rejoice in every instance of the prosperity of Christ's kingdom, and in being themselves made subject in him. Hlad we but their love with our interest, we should not only emulate, but exceed their higliest praise. While they, in innumerable myriads, were saying, with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glors, and blessing,” ve should not only say, " Amen,” but add, “Thou art worthy; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nuuon!”
I have ever had such awful apprehensions of the Cure of souls, that I durst not (though often solicited) undert ake it ever since I knew my own heart. I have found myself plagued to death with watching over it :-what must it be to watch over two or three thousand ! ~ Who is sufficient for this?” I feel myself as unfit for it, as to have the government of the world upon my shoulders; but being appointed to this church, not only without any seeking, but also against my will, -- and having an undoubted call from God, therefore my sufficiency for the work being of God, I dare not stand out. I have been forced to say, • Here I am ; send me!-and although he has enabled me to depend upon him for to do his will, both in me and by me, yet I find the flesh resisting, and putting forth a multitude of doubts and fears, in order to discourage me; besides this, I have an enemy whom I do not wish to make my friend, and who hates me with a perfect hatred; but I make the Lord my strength, and go to battle in the power of his might, and I am sure all will be well while I ain kept humble. ( pray that I may be a good soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ; but, above all, ask for me humility: an hunble man can come to uo harm; he will be ever trusting in the Lord, because he finds nothing in hinself to trust in ; while he gives grcat glory to God, by trusting much in hini. God gives him great grace, and this grace is to keep alive an abiding sense of what he is in himself, to shev him his ignorance and helplessness, to open to him daily more of the mystery of iniquity, to discover to him the stirrings of corruption which others feel not, and make him sensible of these, even in duties and ordinances, that he may loathe himself and his very best works. These are the fruits of true grace; and he that is under the teachings of the Holy Ghost, will abound in them a the more God dves in the heart, the more he humbles it. The great design of his grace is to bring the proud sinner low, and then to keep him low. When he has brought us low, we do not like to be kept there; we want to get up again: our foolish desire is, that he may do something in us, for which we may have a good opinion of ourselves; and so, with this thought, we are apt to wish, Othat I was more holy! O that I conid pray better! O that I was more spiritual in duties ! O that I was thankful enough! If you could come to the true motive of these wishes (specious as they appear) you would find them spring from the secret workings of a proud, self-righteous spirit : take off their cloak of holiness, and their meaning is this :-“I wish God would give me something for which I might be pleased with myself."-If this was the case, would not the eye be turned inward
to Jesus; and so far as self is inade something, Christ is made nothing.' You may depend upon this as one of the surest axioms. in divinity :-“Whatsoever it be that makes you pleased with yourself, that is not true grace; and whatsoever makes you displeased with yourself, is not true grace, unless it bring you hum- . ble to Christ, and make you put more trust in him.” The Lord teach
you these things practically! I have learned thein by long experience ;-though I know but little, yet I am getting on in Christ's school, and hope soon to be in the lowest foriņ, for there we learn most and fastest: we there depend entirely on the teaching of our divine Master, who reveals his secrets to none but babes. A new-born babe absolutely depends on the care of its parents; so must we depend on God, on Christ our Prophet and Teacher; and when we are brought thus humble, he will then make known to us what he hideth from the wise and prudent. I would therefore wish you the humblest man on earth, and not only that you might know most, but love most: he that feels bis sins and miseries, his vileness and unprofitableness, with the deepest loathings of them, is in the fittest way to lure Christ. If he is an experienced believer, the feelings of these sins and miseries will make Christ more precious; the more he finds of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the more he will trust in Christ's righteousness; and the more misery he knows, the more he desiles salvation : all will make Jesus more dear and lovely. His own vileness sets forth Christ's grace; his unworthiness, the worthiness of the Lamb, the sufficiency of Jesus, who is all in all. When you are going to measure Christ's high grace, do not get upon a mountain, but go down into a valley ;-lower still; --to the belly of Hell, from which Jonah cried; from thence see the height of Jesus's grace, and from thence see how lovely he is. When the Spirit of Jesus is humbling you, shewing you your deceitful wicked heart, laying open your ruined nature in all its abominable workings, has not this often discouraged you, my friend ? and, instead of loving Christ more, and trusting hiin more, did it not weaken your trust and lessen your love and thereby you counteracted the gracious purposes of Jesus Christ. May he teach you better! that every future sense of sin may greatly endear to you that Lamb of God, whose blood cleanseth from all sin! Depend upon it, that only is the true hunbling for sin, which makes his blood more precious ;-be faithful to your own heart;-stop here a moment ;-look back and read what, from one thing to another, I have written to yon; and examine if you do not begin to fear for the interest of duty and holy obedience. If the more I fecl sin, I may trust the more, and love Christ the more, what place is left for obeying ? Is not that your thought? to which I answer, The humblest man not only knows most and loves most, but also obeys most. Is not grace the principle of gospel obedience ? and does not God give grace to the humble? grace to do all things, grace to suffer all