« PreviousContinue »
establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” And this is spoken of as fatal to the Pharisees, in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, which Christ spake to them in order to reprove them for trusting in themselves that they were righteous. The design of the parable is to shew them, that the very publicans shall be justified, rather than they ; as appears by the reflection Cbrist makes upon it, Luke xviii. 14. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified ratber than the other;" that is, this and not the other. The fatal tendency of it might also be proved from its inconsistence with the nature of justifying faith, and with the nature of that humiliation that the scripture often speaks of as absolutely necessary to salvation; but these scriptures are so express, that it is needless to bring any further arguments.
How far a wonderful and mysterious agency of God's Spirit may so influence some men's hearts, that their practice in this regard may be contrary to their own principles, so that they shall not trust in their own righteousness, though they profess that men are justified by their own righteousness-or how far they may believe the doctrine of justification by men's own righteousness in general, and yet not believe it in a particular application of it to themselves--or how far that error which they may have been led into by education, or cunning sophistry of others, may yet be indeed contrary to the prevailing disposition of their hearts, and contrary to their practice.—Or how far some may seem to maintain a doctrine contrary to this gospel-doctrine of justification, that really do not, but only express themselves differently from others; or seem to oppose it through their misunderstanding of our expressions, or we of theirs, when indeed our real sentiments are the same in the main or may seem to differ more than they do, by using terms that are without a precisely fixed and determinate meaning—or to be wide in their sentiments from this doctrine, for want of a distinct understanding of it; whose hearts, at the same time, entirely agree with it, and if once it was clearly explained to their understandings, would immediately close with it, and embrace it: How far these things may be, I will not determine; but am fully persuaded that great allowances are to be made on these and such like accounts, in innumerable instances; though it is manifest, from what has been said, that the teaching and propagating contrary doctrines and schemes, is of a pernicious and fatal tendency.
PRESSING INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
LUKE XVI. 16.
The law and the prophets were until John : since that time
the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
In these words two things may be observed; First, Wherein the work and office of John the Baptist consisted, viz. in preaching the kingdom of God, to prepare the way for its introduction to succeed the law and the prophets. By the law and the prophets, in the text, seems to be intended the ancient dispensation under the Old Testament, which was received from Moses and the prophets. These are said to be until John; not that the revelations given by them are out of use since that time, but that the state of the church, founded and regulated under God by them, the dispensation of which they were the ministers, and wherein the church depended mainly on light received from them, fully continued till John. He first began to introduce the New Testament dispensation, or gospel state of the church; which, with its glorious, spiritual, and eternal privileges and blessings, is often called the kingdom of heaven, or kingdom of God. John the Baptist preached, that the kingdom of God was at hand. “Repent,” says he,“ for the kingdom of heaven is at band :"_“ Since that time," says Christ," the kingdom of God is preached.” John the Baptist first began to preach it; and then, after him, Christ and his disciples preached the same. Thus Christ preached, Matth. iv. 17. « From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So the disciples were directed to preach, Matth. x. 7. 6 And, as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was not Jobn the Baptist,
' but Christ, that fully brought in, and actually established this kingdom of God; but he, as Christ's forerunner to prepare his way before him, did the first thing that was done towards introducing it. The old dispensation was abolished, and the new brought in by degrees; as the night gradually ceases, and gives place to the increasing day which succeeds in its room. First the day-star rises; next follows the light of the sun itself, but dimly reflected, in the dawning of the day; but this light increases and shines more and more, and the stars that served for light during the foregoing night, gradually go out, and their light ceases, as being now needless ; till at length the sun rises, and enlightens the world by bis own direct light, which increases as he ascends higher above the horizon, till the day-star itself gradually disappears; agreeable to what John says of himself, John iii. 3). " He must increase, but I must decrease." John was the forerunner of Christ, and harbinger of the gospel-day ; much as the morning-star is the forerunner of the sun. He had the most honourable office of any of the prophets; the other propbets foretold Christ to come, he revealed him as already come, and had the honour to be that servant who should come immediately before him, and actually introduce him, and even to be the instrument concerned in his solemn inauguration, as he was in baptizing bim. He was the greatest of the prophets that came before Christ, as the morning-star is the brightest of all the stars, Matth. xi. 11. He came to prepare men's hearts to receive that kingdom of God which Christ was about more fully to reveal and erect. Luke i. 17. “ To make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Secondly, We may observe wherein bis success appeared, viz. in that since he began his ministry, every man pressed into that kingdom of God which he preached. The greatness of his success appeared in two things :
1. In the generalness of it, with regard to the subject, or the persons in whom the success appeared ; every man. Here is a term of universality; but it is not to be taken as universal with regard to individuals, but kinds; as such universal terms are often used in scripture. When John preached, there was an extraordinary pouring out of the Spirit of God that attended his preaching. An uncommon awakening, and concern for salvation, appeared on the minds of all sorts of persons; and even in the most unlikely persons, and those from whom such a thing might least be expected; as the Pharisees, who were exceeding proud, and self-sufficient, and conceited of their own wisdom and righteousness, and looked on themselves fit to be teachers of others, and used to scorn to be taught; and the Sadducces, who were a kind of infidels, that denied any resurrection, angel, or spirit, or any future state. So that John himself seems to be surprised to see them come to him, under such concern for their salvation; as in Matt. iii. 7. - But wlien he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ?" And be. sides these, the publicans, wbo were some of the most infa. mous sort of men, came to him, inquiring what they should do to be saved. And the soldiers, who were doubtless a very profane, loose, and profligate sort of persons, made the same inquiry, Luke iii, 12. and 14. “ Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what sball we do?"
2. His success appeared in the manner in which bis hearers sought the kingdom of God; they pressed into it. It is elsewhere set forth by their being violent for the kingdom of heaven, and taking it by force. Matt. xi. 12. “ From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”
The DOCTRINE that I observe from the words is this. “ It concerns every one that would obtain the kingdom of God, to be pressing into it.” In discoursing on this subject, I would,
First, Shew what is that way of seeking salvation that seems to be pointed forth in the expression of pressing into the kingdom of God.
Secondly, Give the reasons why it concerns every one that would obtain the kingdom of God, to seek it in this way. And then make application.
I. I would shew what manner of seeking salvation seems to be denoted by “ pressing into the kingdom of God.”
1. This expression denotes strength of desire. Men in general, who live under the light of the gospel, and are not Atheists, desire the kingdom of God; that is, they desire to go to beaven rather than to hell. Most of them indeed are not much concerned about it; but on the contrary, live a secure and careless life. And some who are many degrees above these, being under some degrees of the awakenings of God's Spirit, yet are not pressing into the kingdom of God. But they that may be said to be truly so, have strong desires to get out of a natural condition, and to get an interest in Christ. They have such a conviction of the misery of their present state, and of the extreme necessity of obtaining a better, that their minds are as it were possessed with, and wrapped up in concern about it. To obtain salvation is desired by them above all things in the world; this concern is so great that it very much shuts out other concerns. They used before to have the stream of their desires alter other things, or, it may be, bad their concern divided between this and them; but when they come to answer the expression in the text, of pressing into the kingdom of God, this concern prevails above all others;
; it lays other things low, and does in a manner engross the care of the mind. This seeking eternal life should not only be one concern that our souls are taken up about with other things; but salvation should be sought as the one thing needful, Luke x. 42. And as the one thing that is desired, Psalm xxvii. 4.
2. Pressing into the kingdom of heaven, denotes earnestness and firmness of resolution. There should be strength of resolution accompanying strength of desire, as it was in the Psalmist, in the place just now referred to; “ one thing have I desired, and that will I seek after.” In order to a thorough engagedness of the mind in this affair, both these must meet together. Besides desire after salvation, there should be an earnest resolution in persons to pursue this good as much as lies in their power; to do all that in the use of their utmost strength they are able to do, in an attendance on every duty, and resisting and militating against all manner of sin, and to continue in such a pursuit.
There are two things needful in a person, in order to these strong resolutions; there must be a sense of the great importance and necessity of the mercy sought, and there must also be a sense of opportunity to obtain it, or the encouragement there is to seek it. The strength of resolution depends on the sense which God gives to the heart of these things. Persons without such a sense, may seem to themselves to take
up resolutions; they may, as it were, force a promise to themselves, and say within themselves, “ I will seek as long as I live, I will not give up till I obtain,” when they do but deceive themselves. Their hearts are not in it; neither do they indeed take up any such resolution as they seem to themselves to do. It is the resolution of the mouth more than of the heart; their hearts are not strongly bent to fulfil what their mouth says. The firmness of resolution lies in the fulness of the disposition of the heart to do what is resolved to be done. Those who are pressing into the kingdom of God, have a disposition of heart to do every thing that is required, and that lies in their power to do, and to continue in it. They have not only earnestness, but steadiness of resolution : They do not seek with a wavering unsteady heart, by turns or fits, being off and on; but it is the constant bent of the soul, if possible, to obtain the kingdom of God.
3. By pressing into the kingdom of God is signified