« AnteriorContinuar »
in these things, which are but of little moment. In other things, you will endeavor to need as little pardon as possible.
When sinners are impressed with the conviction, that it would be dangerous for them to indulge their favorite inclinations, they may entertain temporary wishes, and form resolutions, which they hope will be permanent, to renounce them.
c If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord my God. If my journey displease thee, I will get me back again." So said Balaam. But is this really the voice of Balaam, the son of Beor ? Is not this thy voice, holy David ? It has indeed a wonderful resemblance to the voice of David. “I will speak of thy commandments before kings, and I will not be ashamed. I was upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.” How then shall we distinguish between the voice of Balaam and the voice of David ? Balaam told the king that he would not depart a single inch from the path of duty. But his will to walk in thať path was like the wish of a man, whose life is endangered by a mortisied limb, to have it cut off. He is unwilling to lose any member of his body, but he is more unwilling to die. Balaam loved “the wages of unrighteousness,” but this love was mightily counteracted by his wish to“ die the deatá of the righteous.” It was, at certain times, so pow. erfully restrained, that it might appear to himself to be extinguished. But it soon recovered its vigor, and dictated that accursed counsel to Balak, by which the children of Israel were ensnared in the matter of Baal Peor. But David's desire to be free from sin, was like the desire which every man feels to be freed from mortal sickness. He hated sin, and loved holiness. “I will speak of thy testimonies to kings.” Why? Not only because he feared the eternal King far above all earthly princes, but because he loved God and his law above all things on the earth, Psal. cxix. 46,--48. Self love excites men to avoid every thing that they apprehend to be hurtful to themselves, and a prudent self love will dispose men carefully to avoid the most pleasant poisons. Love to God disposes the saints to hate every thing that is offensive to him. Men therefore, without saving grace, may hate sin, not as sin, not as a thing hateful and offensive to God, but as a thing destructive to themselves. And they may love the duties of holiness, not from any pleasure they take in holiness, for true holiness is their aversion, but because they wish to be happy; and therefore the necessary means of this happiness must be valued by them on account of their supposed benci cial tendency, though otherwise unpleasant.
What has been said about religious affections in unconverted persons may, perhaps, appear strange to some of you, because you have often heard that desire of grace is grace, and that genuine religion is to be discerned among the greatest part of Christians, rather by their desires and endeavors than by their attainments. This mark of grace is founded upon the Scripture. “Bles sed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness,” Matt. v. 6. “ Have respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and of thy servants that desire to fear thy name,” Neh. i, 11. But we may err by misapplying Scripture, as well as by disregarding it.-Love to the brethren is a distinguishing character of saints, according to many passages of the Bible; and yet forinalists may deceive themselves, by thinking that they love the brethren, when they either do not love them at all, or do not love them with that genuine regard which is due to them as the children of God, and partakers of the divine nature. John, who takes pleasure in expatiating on this distinguishing character of true religion, thought it necessary to guard us against mistakes in applying it, by telling us what is the true character of that love which distinguishes the saints. “Hereby we know that we love the children of God, if we love God and keep his commandments.” That love to the brethren is the only true Christian love, which originates in that love to God whereby we are disposed to keep his commandments. The same thing may be observed of those desires of grace which distinguish the true saint from the formalist. Then are our hungerings and thirstings after righteousness sincere, when we value righteousness above all its attendant felicities. Then are our desires to fear the name of God genuine, when the desire of our souls is to God's name, and to the remembrance of him, above every thing on earth or in heaven. · Psal. Ixxiii. 25, 26.
“ They delight to know my name," says God of a wicked generation of men spoken of by Isaiah, chap. Iviii. “they ask of me the ordinances of justice, they take delight in approaching to God," The original word for delight in this passage, Isa. Iviii. 3, is the same that is used Neh. i. 11. concerning the temper of the genuine servants of God, who desire to fear thy name.” Holy desires are a certain evidence of grace, but there may be religious desires and delight where sin reigns. The stony ground hearers, Matt. xiii.“ heard the word with joy,” and yet they brought forth no fruit to perfection,
2. Our text speaks not only of willing, but likewise of running, in the ways of religion, without any happy effect.
Although we ought not to expect per. fection of holiness in this life, and may war
rantably class ourselves in the number of saints while sin works and dwells in us, yet we should carefully guard against self deception in applying to ourselves the character of real saints, spoken of in the Bible, without understanding what they are. It has been already observed, that there are desires to be religious, which will not prove that we are holy; and one character often given of those desires which may be considered as marks of holiness, is, that they are attended with suitable effects. But it must be remembered, that there may be very considerable effects produced by religious affections where there is no true holiness. The stony ground hearers brought forth no fruit to perfection, but the seed that was sown sprung up pleasantly for a time. It promised abundance of fruit, although it produced nothing that was pleasing to God.
The men of whom we formerly spoke from Isaiah, chap. lviii. not only delighted to know God's ways, but asked of him the ordinances of justice, and observed fast days. Ezekiel's graceless hearers came before him as God's people cometh and heard him with pleasure, though their heart went after their covetousness. John's hearers came from great distances, not only to hear, but to be baptized, although the smaller part of them only was converted. The hearers of Christ run after him when he left them, and some