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pecially with a body of fin in their own hearts. The power that preserves them from perishing, in fuch circumitances, is entirely fupernatural.
The doctrine of divine conservation affords encouragement to the children of God, when labouring under a sense of guilt that threatens to overwhelm them, or when they may be apt to conclude that fin is about to regain its empire in their hearts. Those who never felt the arrows of the Almighty, or who still continue strangers to the dreadful power of fin in the foul, may depreciate this doctrine as at best unprofitable. But it cannot be viewed in this light by any who know what is meant by “ a wounded fpirit, or who have been “ tofled with tempest.” In such a situation, a believing view of the eternity and immutability of divine love, of its sovereignty as overlooking our continued unworthiness, can alone give relief. Hither also must we turn our eye for comfort, when fin rages and threatens to destroy. This is the confolation that God himself exhibits : « Sin fhall not have dominion over
you ; for ye are-under grace.--He that hath
begun a good work, will perform it unto the “ day of Jesus Christ.”
We may also learn, that although the believer is fecured in a state of grace, no room is left for the indulgence of carnal security, no encouragement is given to continue in fin. Many decry this doctrine, as if it were adverse to the interests of holiness. The contrary is clear from the history of God's ancient people. Even while he
proclaimed the eternity of his love, he denounced the severest judgments as the punishment of apostacy; and when they actually departed from him, he fulfilled his threatenings. " He deli“ vered his strength into captivity, and his glory “ into the enemies hand.” God would not break his covenant with David, notwithstanding his! great trespass in the matter of Uriah. But did the divine conduct afford any encouragement to him, or to any believer, to fin? Was not David informed, that therefore the sword should never depart from his house : and was not this threatening awfully verified in succeeding generations ?
In a similar manner does he deal with the people of his love, when they provoke him by their iniquities. He withdraws from them the light of his countenance, suffers them to be led into captivity for a time by the power of their lusts, and to lose the persuasion of his covenant-love. They are tried, it may be, ever after with darknets as to their eternal state. The Almighty, perhaps, gives a command to his terrors to “ fet " themselves in array” against them. Or, they are buffeted by Satan, by means of the most horrid temptations. Or, he chaftens them outwardly by severe bodily afflictions, by great temporal calamities, affecting their substance or reputation; by removing their dearest earthly comforts, “ the desire of their eyes.” Can these things be viewed as no check to fin ? Is the foul of a Christian cast in such a mould, that nothing
but the fear of cternal perdition can prevail with him ?
Notwithstanding the declarations of the perpetuity of God's love to his ancient people, they had no encouragement to expect the renewed evidences of this love, unless they returned to him from whom they had revolted k. Such is his conduct towards his spiritual Israel. The LORD still says; “ I will go and return to my place, “ till they acknowledge their iniquity.” Ac. cording to the divine testimony, they have no reason to expect deliverance from judgments, or the renewed manifestations of his love, without turning from their evil ways.
We may add to these considerations, that when there appeared any thing like true repentance among God's ancient people, it always especially proceeded from a sense of his love. The great argument, which he employed to enforce, not merely the firit precept, but the whole law, is founded on the principle of gratitude ; and the very fame which he still renders effectual with his children: “ I am the LORD thy God, “ which have brought thee out of the land of
Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou “ Thalt have no other gods before me. Thou “ shalt not bow down,” &c. The feverest judgments with which they were visited, never brought them back to a sense of duty. When a fincere or general reformation took place, they were
principally k Deut. xxx. 1.--- 3. ; 1 Kings viii. 31.-54.
principally affected by a discovery of federal love! This is a proof, among many others, that the doctrine we have illustrated, instead of being an encouragement to fin, can alone prove a proper incitement to duty. It is thus in the experience of the children of God. When they feel the rod only, they are “ as a bullock unac“ customed to the yoke.” But the love of Christ, when shed abroad in their hearts, especially when manifested in its glorious fovereignty and immutability, constraineth them.
This doctrine, in a word, supplies us with confolation under the greatest adversities. The LORD often severely afflicted that nation, or that family, which he had chosen. But he did it in love. This was designed for our instruction. How severely foever we may be afliicted, let us not for this reafon call in question the love of God. Still he faith to us ; “ I will never, never “ leave thee. My love will I not take from him. “When thou paffelt through the waters, I will “ be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall “ not overflow thee: when thou walkest through “ the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall " the flames kindle on thee. For I am the LORD
thy God, the holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.”' We may be fully assured, that even our afflictions, instead of tending to our destruction, are meant in fubserviency to our salvation ; that they :
“ work together for good ;"—that " when we are
1 2 Chron. xx. *. -9. ; *xx. 6.9.; Ezra is. 8, 9. 13. 15. ; Neh. is. 7. 31.; Lan. š. 4. 9. 15. 18.
judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we
through fire and through water ; but thou