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inen are naturally defiled. “ The Lord looked down from heaven to see if there were any that did understand, and seek him;" but, “ they are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy, there is none that doeth good, no not one." Hence, they must be changed; or, in the language of the Bible, be “ born of the Spirit,” or they “cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” Real Christians feel this. They know, that he who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, must shine into their hearts, and give them the light of the knowledge of his glory, in the face of Jesus Christ. Hence they see,
IV. The reality of another truth which God has revealed, “ In me is thine help. I, even I, am Jehovah, and beside me there is no Savior.” In days of impenitence and unbelief they may have sought help from others; but they never found it. They never found it till they felt, and that deeply, that it must come from God: and when they did find it, they were the first to cry, * Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory.” God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” • By grace are we saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.” We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” “ Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Hence they see,
V. The reality of another truth which God lias revealed: "Other foundation can no man lay (that is, for the immortal hopes of men), than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." This is doubted by many, and by some is denied. Some trust to works; the goodness of God, out of Christ; and some hope to be saved, because they think themselves of too much importance to perish. But these are all refuges of lies; and however long Christians, in days of their impenitence, may have trusted to them, and however firmly they may have thought such hopes to stand ; they have all been swept away. The commandment has come, sin has revived, and they have died ; and they found no hope of life, till Christ was revealed to them as “ the hope of glory.” And thus he was “all their salvation, and all their desire.” They see now with perfect clearness, that " other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
VI. God has revealed, that “whosoever believeth on Christ, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” This truth, it may be, once they did not believe. Their sins were so many and so great, so long continued and so aggravated, that they may have thought, when they first saw their sins, that God could not, even for Christ's sake, ever forgive them. But then they had no “unction from the Holy One,” as to the infinite worthiness of the Lord Jesus Christ. But when that glory from Calvary burst forth upon them, with a brightness that put out the sun, they saw that “God could be just, and the justifier of every one that believeth.” And as they gazed upon the length, and the breadth, and the height of that amazing love, which passeth knowledge, they felt that he would do it; and believing, they found rest to their souls. This prepared them,
VII. To feel another truth that God has revealed, “ Unto you that believe, he (Christ) is precious.” To others he may be like “ a root out of a dry ground," having "no form or comeliness why they should desire him.” He may even be set at nought, with the vain inquiry, “What is thy Beloved more than another ?" But “ unto you that believe, he is precious.” Real Christians all know this. The Holy Ghost has given them such a view of his infinite excellence, loveliness, and glory, that he is to them, “ the chief among ten thousand; altogether lovely.” They need not now, that any man should teach them that Jesus Christ is precious ; the same anointing teacheth them. They know it. It comes home with divine power to their hearts. They see in him “ the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” and love him with a love that is stronger than death. Hence,
VIII. They feel the reality of another truth that God has revealed; “Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price;" and their hearts echo their duty : “Glorify God in your body and spirit, which are his.” Hence you see them, in seasons of trial, not counting even life dear to them ; but counting all things but loss, that they might win Christ, and be found of him in peace. And in doing this they experience the truth, not of one, or a few, but of many divine declarations. “ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you;” and “ the peace of God passeth all understanding." “ If a man love me, my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” “ The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; more to be desired are they ti in gold, yea, than much fine gold; and in keeping them there is great reward.” In short, the whole Bible becomes to such persons the testimony of God; which is therefore believed; and to a great extent is illustrated and confirmed by their own experience. And when these truths are known by experience, they have a reality, a fulness, and a power, of which, before, the persons had no conception.
The man who frels the heat of fire has a very different conception from the man who only hears about it; or reads concerning it; or only stands at a distance and looks at it. His conceptions are cold; and when shivering under the blasts of winter, they do him no good. He may have read about fire, he may have seen it, may have disputed about its properties, and may have thought, perhaps, that he was acquainted with it. But when he comes near, and receives its genial warmth, and still nearer, and feels its penetrating heat, it has a reality, it has a pungency, of which before he had no conception. “My word,” saith God, “is a fire, and a hammer; it breaketh the rock in pieces.” The man who feels it, has a totally different conception from the man who only hears about it, or reads concerning it, or reasons and disputes about it. The conceptions of the latter are cold and heartless; and leave him dead in sin. The momentous truths of the Bible may appear to him like fables : may pass by him unheeded; and leave upon his heart no permanent impression. While to the real Christian, who has been taught them by “ an unction from the Holy One,” and who receives them in love, they have a reality, and they have a fulness and power, which stamp upon the Bible, and upon his heart, the impress of God.
In view of this subject, I remark,
1. That true religion begins with experience. It is experience, however, not of any thing enthusiastic, delusive, or uncertain, but of the reality and power of those truths which God has revealed. And this experience gives them a kind of knowledge of those truths, as to their reality, efficacy, and importance, which before they did not have. Some men doubt whether there is any such religious experience. The reason is, they have never felt it. The same general reasons lead some men to doubt the truths of the Bible; they have never felt them. Yet the Bible is true; and let a man feel its saving efficacy, and he will know that religious experience is a reality; a momentous and glorious reality. “ If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” But we learn from this subject,
2. That this peculiar kind of knowledge which real Christians have, is taught them, not merely by men, but by the Holy Ghost. It is not a knowledge which they gain merely by seeing, or hearing, or thinking. They do not obtain this knowledge in any way merely by the unaided efforts of their own minds. These are all means, and must be used; but it is the Holy One who imparts this knowledge to men. Flesh and blood merely do not reveal it; nor does any sinful or finite spirit; but the Holy Ghost. It is by “an unction from the Holy One” that they receive this knowledge.
This is doubted by some; not, however, by those who receive the truth. They know things, which, they are perfectly convinced, they never should have known, had not the Holy Ghost taught them. The deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the human heart; its enmity against God; its guilt in disobeying him; the necessity of being born again ; that there is no hope for sinners but in the Lord Jesus Christ; and that none to whom he is revealed can be saved except they believe on him ; his infinite fulness, divine excellence, and beauty and loveliness as a Savior; the blessedness of believing on him, trusting in him, and obeying his commands,--are truths which all real Christians know; but which they are deeply sensible that they never should have known, had not the Holy Ghost taught them. The teaching of the Holy Ghost is attended with a twofold effect, it gives to those who receive it an experimental knowledge of divine truth; attended with a permanent conviction that this knowledge is from God. Hence,
3. We see the reason why they will not, for any opposite errors, renounce those truths, a knowledge of which the Holy Ghost has given. The apostle took this for granted. “ Had they been of us,” said he, (had they been real Christians, who had “an unction from the Holy One,") " they would have continued with us." How could he say that ? Simply from the fact, that real Christians, who have been taught by the Holy Ghost the truths of the gospel, in their own experience, will not renounce them. The reason he gives is, “ Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." They have been taught these truths, sent down from heaven, by the Holy Ghost. They find them in the Bible. They find them illustrated in their own experience. They find them to accord with their condition as sinners, and to meet all their wants.
These things cannot be said of the opposite sentiments. Real Christians cannot find them in the Bible. They do not describe their true condition as sinners; they do not meet their wants. To remove this difficulty, you may try to show them that they have no such wants as they suppose; that they have been among the enthusiastic, and are deluded. And upon this subject you may reason with great learning and acuteness; but their wants are not matters of mere speculation, but of feeling.
A man before you is starving; and you feed him on the east wind. He tells you that it does not satisfy him; that he wants food. You try to show him that he has no such want; that he has been among hungry men, and is deluded. You reason with great learning and acuteness; and, if he is not a learned man, he may not find it easy to answer you. But his wants are matters not of reasoning, though there is good reason for them; they are matters of feeling. And when a man feels pain, you cannot convince him that he has none. What he wants is ease; not proof that he has no pain. On that point he has proof enough ; and proof which will for ever convince him; all your reasoning and efforts to the contrary notwithstanding.
A man is in agony under the pangs of conscious guilt in not having believed on the Savior. What he needs is pardon ; not proof that he has no guilt ; on that point he has proof enough; and proof which will carry overwhelming and eternal conviction to his mind; though all the rest of creation should doubt it.
Suppose you undertake to prove to real Christians, that they have never had a carnal mind, or that the carnal mind is not enmity against God. How can you make them believe it? What revelation has God given to men, but the Bible ? and where in the Bible is it written that when God looked down from heaven to see if there were any that did understand and seek him, he found that there were some that had not the carnal mind, or that the carnal mind is not enmity against God? And how can you make this accord with their experience! They were ten, twenty, perhaps fifty years, supremely devoted to themselves and the world. How can you show them that they were all this time not at enmity with God? Not from the Bible; this declares, “ They have rebelled against me.” Not from their own feelings; these cry, “Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great.” Now, if all other men should declare that they never had carnal minds, or that the carnal mind is not enmity to God, Christians will not believe it: they know it to be false.
Try, if you will, to make them believe that they do not deserve to perish ; and that if they should perish with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power, God would be unjust; and in their view
you contradict the Bible; and you contradict also their own feelings, and that knowledge of themselves which the Holy Ghost hath given them.
Try to make them believe that they do not need the special influences of the Holy Ghost; and when they are quaking in fearful apprehension under conscious guilt, crying, Who will take away the heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh ? or who shall deliver us from the body of this death? direct them to themselves, or to creatures, as their only hope ; and you only mock their anguish.
“ Miserable comforters are ye all.” But when they hear a voice from the throne, saying, “I will take away the heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh; and from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you;" and experience the truth of these declarations, they cry, “ Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Take another of those errors which stand opposed to the gospel of Christ. Try to show real Christians, that although " in the beginning was the Word, Blessing
and the Word was with God,” yet, that the Word was not God; and how can you make them believe this? Would God, say they, reveal to man a falsehood? and “when he bringeth his first-begotten into the world, command all the angels of heaven to worship" a creature ? Could all things, “whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers," be created by, and for, a creature? and could the treasures of everlasting kindness and grace at an infinite expense be opened upon a guilty world, that all men should honor a creature, even as they honor the Father ? And when they feel that they have, according to the divine declaration, destroyed themselves, that in God alone is their help; when they hear him say, “I am Jehovah, and beside me there is no Savior;" how can you, by presenting a Savior who is only a creature, meet their wants? And when Christ comes in fulfilment of his own promise, and manifests himself to them, and takes up his abode with them; when he manifests himself to ten thousand thousands of them, in thousands of different places ; and when, wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, he is in the midst of them, and at the same time is in heaven adored by unnumbered millions; and when their own hearts respond to the heavenly song, and honor, glory and power, be unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever;" how can you make them believe that he is only a creature? How can you make it accord with the Bible ? with that knowledge of Christ which the Holy Ghost has given them; which is life eternal ; and which will lead them, wherever they are, through the whole period of their existence, to “ walk in his steps ?" No, it is not possible for the human mind to conceive of a system of errors which real Christians will find in the Bible; which will accord with their experience; which will describe their condition as sinners; and will meet their wants. This is peculiar to the gospel, the glorious gospel of the ever-blessed God our Savior. Real Christians know this; and for this reason they will not renounce it; but will hold it fast, whatever it may cost them, and whatever may be the consequence, even unto the end ; contending earnestly for “ the faith once delivered to the saints;" and following them, * who, through faith and patience, now inherit the promises.”
This inflexible firmness, this persevering adherence to sacred truth, which real Christians manifest, notwithstanding all the improvements which men imagine they have made, is thought by some to result from ignorance. They hold, it is said, to that old way, because they do not know any better. And it is a fact that they do not know any better. And so long as they continue to have “ an unction from the Holy One,” they never will. But, though they trust to the wisdom of Another, yet they know something; and something, too, which is “ hid from many wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes." Others, however, do not think that they hold to this old way because they are ignorant, but because they are bigoted. They have, say some, been taught it, and they never will renounce what they have been taught. They have been taught it. This is what the apostle declares ; but who was their teacher ? Let the apostle answer. “ Ye have an unction from the Holy One.” He was their teacher; and they will not give up what he has taught them.
Two things are peculiar to the Holy Ghost as a teacher ; his disciples will believe him; and what he teaches them they will never renounce; though they should be tempted, or sawn asunder, or slain with the sword; or have to wander about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, destitute, afflicted, and tormented, on arcount of their faith, yet they will not renounce it.