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our lips, giving thanks to his name.”* When the fruits were dedicated, the grant was irrevocable. The right to them passed fully and for ever from the offerer, so as to make it impossible for him ever to resume them again. Thus, when we have dedicated ourselves to God, the act is irrevocable; we must never pretend the least right in ourselves any more; we are to consider ourselves entirely the Lord's.
2. This “ being a certain firstfruits of his creatures," denotes the superior honour and dignity which it is the gracious design of God to put upon christians. The firstfruits presented to God were not only required to be of the best, but they derived a preeminence above all others, from the very circumstance of their being dedicated to God; they were employed to a nobler use. Grace dignifies and exalts in a similar manner its possessor: “ The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour;" af however obscure in station, and however beclouded and depressed by the meanness of his external condition, he is one of the excellent of the earth. His employment is that of " a king and a priest unto God.”. In reflecting some rays of his image, in advancing the honour, and sustaining the cause of the blessed God, he is infinitely more honourably occupied than the votaries of the world, or the servants of sin. His calling is “high and heavenly.” He is associated with Jesus and
* Heb. xii. 15. | Rev. i. 6.
† Prov. xii. 26. § Heb. iii. 1.
the holy angels in sacred ministries, his pursuits are of a permanent and eternal nature.
If we consider the principles, also, which actuate good men and form the basis of their character, we shall perceive a greatness and elevation to which the world is an entire stranger. Is there nothing more noble in taking a wide prospect, and in looking at “the things which are unseen and eternal,"* than in being absorbed in transitory concerns ? Is not that a higher species of wisdom which calculates upon the interests and advantage which lie concealed from eyes of flesh in the depths of eternity, than that which contents itself with securing perishing riches ?
Is it not incomparably more noble and more worthy of an immortal creature to be “ providing for himself bags that wax not old,” “ a treasure in the heavens that fadeth not,”+ than in searching for “filthy lucre ?"| Is there not more true dignity in the patience that waits with composure to be happy, than in the childish eagerness which catches at every momentary gratification? Is it not more magnanimous to conquer than submit to the world ? to tread the world under our feet than to be enslaved by it ? to be able to exercise that self-command over our sensual affections which secures the pleasures of innocence and the approbation of conscience, than to be the victim of unbridled passions ? to rule our own spirit, than to be the sport of its tyrannical disorder ? to rise
* 2 Cor. iv. 18. + Luke xii. 33. 1 Tim. iii. 3.
above a sense of injury so as to forgive our enemies, rather than to be tormented with malice and revenge? He must be insensible to reason, who is at a loss how to answer these interrogatories; and to answer them in the affirmative is to attest the superior dignity of the christian character, to acknowledge that christians are “ a sort of firstfruits of the creatures.”
They are so at present with all the imperfections which attach to their state and their character; but they will be incomparably more so, when they shall be assembled around the throne, and it shall be declared of them ;-“ These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth : these were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and the Lamb."*
3. The representation of christians as a certain firstfruits of the creatures, implies the accession of the future harvest: they are a pledge only of what is to follow : their dedication to God as the firstfruits is a preparation for the universal prevalence of religion, the universal sanctification of the creatures.
I. Let us adore God for having planted in the breast a principle of true religion.
II. Let us be ambitious of exemplifying the excellence and dignity of our christian calling.
* Rev. xiv. 4.
III. As an important means of this, let us study the gospel, and endeavour to gain a deeper and more extensive acquaintance with the word of truth. *
ON SPIRITUAL DEATH.
Eph. ii. 1.And you hath he quickened, who were dead in tres
passes and sins.
The power of God was most illustriously displayed in raising Christ from the dead; but there is another operation of divine power which bears a great resemblance to this, of which every individual believer is the subject. It is the prayer of the apostle, in the latter part of the preceding chapter, that the Ephesians might have an increasing experience of the effects of that power which is exerted towards “ them that believe, according to the working of his mighty power;" and what particular effect of divine power he had in immediate contemplation, he informs us in the first part of the ensuing chapter: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” He had not merely raised Christ from the dead, but he had wrought a similar deliverance for the Ephesians, by imparting spiritual life to those who had been dead in trespasses and sins.
* Preached 7th of March, 1811, at the Wednesday evening lecture.
In treating of these words, I shall first inquire to what extent this representation of a death in trespasses and sins is to be applied, and to what description of persons it belongs. Secondly, I shall endeavour to shew its import:and, thirdly, make a few remarks on the wretched state of those who may justly be affirmed to be dead in trespasses and sins.
May the Lord the Spirit apply the awful truths we shall have occasion to unfold, with power to the conscience!
I. Are those expressions, “ dead in trespasses and sins," to be understood as applicable only, or chiefly, to heathens ? or to such in christian countries as have run very remarkable lengths in wickedness? or are they applicable to the state of the unconverted universally? The heathen, say some, were exceedingly corrupt and wicked, totally enslaved to idols, “ without hope and without God in the world.” It was in consideration of this their remarkable alienation from God, and extreme corruption of manners, the apostle was led to employ such phrases; which are by no means to be applied to men educated in the light of christianity, although they may not yet be in a state of salvation. Whether the representation applies to heathens only, or to those in a christian country, who for their enormous sins may be justly compared to heathens; or whether they are to be applied to unconverted sinners universally, will perhaps sufficiently appear from the following considerations.