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“ believed not the truth, but had pleasure in un. “ righteousness."” “Unto you,” saith our Lord to his enquiring disciples, “it is given to know “the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto “ them that are without, all these things are done “in parables; that seeing they may see and not “perceive, and hearing they may hear and not “ understand, lest at any time they should be con“ verted, and their sins should be forgiven them." --My brethren, let us pray for a humble teacliable spirit, which will avail us far more in understapding the Scriptures to the good of our own souls, than all the acuteness and learning in the world. In proportion as we possess this temper, and really love truth and holiness, we shall escape these dangers, and perceive more and more the consistency of the word of God.
But as this disposition is imperfect, and counteracted by remaining prejudice, in the best of men; so none of us perceive all that consistency which really subsists in divine revelation.—A satisfactory discovery, however, of the harmony of Scripture is doubtless a good test of the degree in which we really understand divine things : and ever since the Bible became my peculiar study, this discovery has been my invariable object. No arguments could induce my assent even to the doctrine of
?Thess. ii, 10—12. * Is. vi. 9, 10 Matt. xiii. 11-15. Mark iv. 11, 12. Luke viii,
. 9, 10. John, xii. 40, 41. Acts, xxviii. 25—27,
justification by faith in Christ, alone, till I was satisfied of its perfect agreement with the honour of the divine law, and the indispensable necessity of personal holiness, and fruitfulness in good works, which I was sure were every where insisted on in the sacred volume. In like manner my objections to the doctrines of personal election and final perseverance were insuperable, till I was fully satisfied of their consistency with exhortations, warnings, invitations, and persuasions on the minister's part; and diligence, watchfulness, and strenuous exertions on that of the people; which are far more spoken of in Scripture, than these doctrines are.
In order to state, with clearness and fulness, the result of my enquiries on this mysterious and controverted subject, I have chosen a very copious text, but neither intend to enter particularly into minute explanation, nor to confine myself closely to it; but, according to a very simple plan and method, to advert to a variety of other scriptures, as we proceed with the subject. I shall therefore take occasion from the text to observe,
I. That Christ came down from heaven to execute the Father's commission.
II. That this commission hath a special reference to those, whom the Father hath given him.
III. That all these, and none else, will come to Christ.
IV. That he will most certainly receive all who do come to him.
V. That his commission reaches to the infallible and everlasting salvation of the body and soul of every one, who is thus given to him, and comes to him; or who sees him, be. lieves in him, and depends on him for salvation.
VI. That all these observations are perfectly consistent with many things which some professed Calvinists object to, and which many Arminians suppose inconsistent with our doctrines. This will naturally lead me to close with a brief application. And may God the Spirit open all our understandings and hearts to understand and receive bis truth; and bless this design to the edification and establishment of many souls, and the promoting of true godliness within us and around us.
I. CHRIST CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN TO EXECUTE THE Father's COMMISSION. “I came “ down from heaven, not to do mine own will, ç but the will of him that sent me."
It might have been supposed that this expression, “ I caine down from heaven,” would create considerable difficulty to such as look upon Christ as a mere man, who never was in heaven before his ascension: but criticism in the hands of an ingenious man is a magick wand, and nothing can stand before it! It is, however, greatly to be wished, that these modes of interpretation had been conceded, as a kind of monopoly, to the Socinians, and had never disgraced the writings of those who call Jesus their Lord and God, and profess to trust in him alone for salvation. Oh, when will men shew due reverence to the oracles of God, and suppose that the Holy Spirit dictates proper language, which need not be tortured from its plain meaning in the defence of truth, whatever the credit of a party may require!
We, however, profess to believe, that “ being in " the form of God, he thought it not robbery to “ be equal with God: yet he made himself of no “ reputation, and took upon him the form of a “servant, and was made in the likeness of man.” Originally he was no servant, and therefore no creature; for all holy creatures must be the servants of God: but he condescended to assume that character along with human nature. In this character he acted on earth, and will act in heaven till the day of judgment, by commission, and according to instructions. “ He came not to do his " own will, but the will of him that sent him;" in
which he not only is our Saviour, but “ hath left “ us an example that we should follow his steps.”
We must not, however, suppose that there is the least opposition betwixt the vill of the Father and that of the Son. He appeared on earth as man; and by this language he intimated that he acted not by human partiality, but according to the counsel of God. It is likewise an accommodation to our infirmities, and serves to obviate our mis. apprehensions.
But what is the general purport of this commission? Let us hear the word of God: “ This is “ a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, “ that Jesus Christ came into the world to save “sinners.” “God so loved the world, that he “ gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever be“lieveth in him should not perish, but have ever“ lasting life. For God sent not his Son into the “ world to condemn the world, but that the world “ through him might be saved.” “ His blood is “ the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours “ only but for the sins of the whole world'.” Had the writers of the Scriptures been as scrupulously careful, to prevent even the appearance of deviating from systematical consistency, as many moderns are, they would never have thus expressed themselves.- I dare not, however, adopt any of the above-mentioned arts of criticism to narrow the obvious sense of these and similar texts: and as I
John iii. 16–20. 1 Tim. i. 15. 1 John ii. 1,2.