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in truth, the word of God, "which effectually worketh also in you that believe." And thus, to view the subject more separately and in parts, we read of the work of faith, the labour of love, and the patience of hope.
Observe the subjects of divine grace. This principle distinguishes them from others; and is capable of producing a holy singularity. If you have only the form of godliness, there will be no practical difference between you and others: if servants-you will be as idle, as gossiping, as regardless of the property of your employers as others: if wives-you will be as unsubmissive: if husbands-as tyrannical: if tradesmen as grasping and over-reaching as others. But if you have the power-you will resemble good Nehemiah. The former governors, says he, were chargeable to the people, and did so and SO- "But so did not I, because of the fear of God." Piety would not suffer him to act like them. And if you are under the influence of it, you will not in your various relations and circumstances be borne down by the errors and vices around you: but you will be able to act uprightly: you will be kept from consulting custom, and be constrained to listen to conscience: you will not be permitted to sin as do others, or "sleep as do others. -You will not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." A dead fish can swim with the stream, but a live one can swim against
Yea, this principle distinguishes the man from himself. Thus, under the influence of it, the drunkard becomes sober: the swearer learns to
fear an oath, and the liar a lie. He that stole, steals no more, but labours. The churl becomes liberal, and the niggard, bountiful-and it cannot be otherwise. If the man have been moral before, he continues to avoid the same vices, to perform the same duties, and to attend the same means of grace as before-but from very different motives, and in a very different manner.He has now also much more to engage his attention. His regard is no longer confined to externals only, but he is taken up with the hidden man of the heart; and prays with David, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Hence, spring exercises, to which he was once a stranger; and he feels himself engaged in a warfare, which often perplexes him, and leads him to exclaim, "If I am his, why am I thus?"
Behold, then, the life of the real Christian, and trace the operation of the power of godliness there.
It appears with regard to the ordinances of divine worship. Others, who have only the form, come without expectation, and prayer, and return without reflection, and concern: they are satisfied with their attendance-but he is not.He is anxious to derive spiritual advantage from it: he enters the closet before he approaches the temple, and his language is, "O that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to his seat! O that I may be of the circumcision who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh!"
It appears, with regard to the dissipations of the world. He voluntarily resigns those amusements, in which he once placed so much of his
happiness: and he returns no more to them.And why? If he were mindful of the country from whence he came, he has opportunity to return;" he is surrounded with the same allurements as others-why then does he not engage in these diversions again?-Because he has found something infinitely more noble, and more satisfying. And a greater good has power to abolish the impressions of a less. When the sun arises, the stars disappear. And the grapes of Eshcol, cause us to forget the leeks and onions of Egypt.
You may see it in the mortification of sin. He denies himself; he crucifies the flesh, with the affections and lusts; he plucks out a right eye, and cuts off a right hand.
You may see it in what he is willing to sacrifice, and to suffer. Read history: read the book of martyrs; read the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews-and see what the force of this powerful principle can accomplish. There you see an Abraham at the command of God, leaving his own country, and his father's house, and going out, not knowing whither he went:" and in obedience to the same authority, when tried, offering up Isaac; his son, his only son; "of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called." There you see a "Moses, when come to years, refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. And
what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jepthae; of David also, and Samuel and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens, women received their dead raised to life again; and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trial of cruel mockings and Scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth."
But we are not called to such scenes as these. Blessed be God, you are not. "But every Christian," says Luther, "is a piece of a martyr;" yea, says the apostle, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. There is the same malignity in human nature, against vital religion as formerly, and it will operate as far as it is permitted by circumstances. And when religion is vital, it will enable a man to abide the test; and resolve to go forward, notwithstanding the ridicule of infidels, the sneers of worldlings, and the reproaches of relations and friends. And this requires a degree of the same grace as martyrdom.
The vigour of this principle, appears also in
other sufferings. How many are there at this moment, enduring a variety of grief in private, whose names will never be published in history, but who, in the eye of God, are greater than the admired heroes of the age. They act nobly, without the prospect, or the desire of notice, or of fame: they breathe no revenge towards instruments: they neither charge God foolishly, nor unkindly in any of the disappointments and afflictions which have befallen them: they are strangers to impatience, and repining; and all you hear is, "I mourn, but I do not murmur. I pray, but I do not prescribe. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord. I have more reason for thankfulness, than complaint. I know not what he is doing with me -but he knoweth the way that I take. Whether the trial be removed or continued, increased or diminished, it is with him to determine-so it should be and so it shall be. Behold, here I am, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him."
Yea, we have seen and heard the saints joyful in glory, and shouting aloud upon their dying beds; raised above the fear of the king of terrors himself, and exulting, "O death, where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory! The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be unto God that giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Surely, therefore, in the religion of the blessed Jesus, there is an excellency, an efficacy-a power.
But this power, derived from a divine influence, and distinguishing the Christian from others, and from himself this power, which enlivens him in ordinances, raises him above the world, subdues his corruptions, and supports and comforts him in