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2nd. Nor are you only to avoid slothfulness. You must follow the example of the ancient saints in the exercise of "faith.” You must learn to repose the most unbounded confidence in the sufficiency, of what Christ has done to save you, and to trust him without any reserve with the saving of your
hearts reason thus: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life. I believe in him; I trust in him; I venture my whole interest upon him; therefore, I shall be saved. Why need I any longer doubt? Why need I any longer fear? I believe in Jesus and I shall be saved. His word cannot fail. Yes, surely I shall be saved." Nor is there any necessity for the faith of any one to be so weak as not to be able to apply this all to your own case; and thus rejoice in “the full assurance of hope.”
3d. And finally, like the ancient saints you must have “patience. Though your success and enjoyment in spiritual things may not be of that kind, or to that high degree which you may expect or desire, learn to be content and grateful that it is your privilege at all to venture upon Jesus. Though in this life the grief of your external circumstances may even counterbalance the joy of your most exalted piety; yet live in the patient expectation of that blest and flowery land, “where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” And whilst you are satisfied with the meanest place in the kingdom of God, still make it your constant aim and aspiration to reach the very highest standard of christian excellence and enjoyment.
And may the Lord whom we profess to serve enlighten our minds, inflame our zeal, increase our faith, and confirm our hopes; and to his great name shall be all the praise for ever and ever. Amen.
THE IMMUTABILITY OF THE DIVINE PURPOSE.
Heb. vi. 13—20. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear
by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained ihe promise. For men verily swear by the greater : and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein Ğod, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath : That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold npon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
By referring to the preceding verses you will find, that the apostle had just expressed the desire, and modestly enjoined upon his readers, that they should be diligent, persevering, believing, and patient in hope. In the text he presents a few other considerations, which if properly entertained, must infallibly promote them in these very graces. The most prominent particular, and the one to which I will here call your attention, is, that God has unchangeably purposed to save all men who receive the religion of Jesus Christ, and faithfully follow him to the end of this life.
Whether this purpose was formed in reference only to certain individuals, and that irrespective of any foreseen compliance on their part with Gospel terms, has not been clearly revealed in the Scriptures, nor is it important that it should be. The devotion of men to the dogmatical sayings of party leaders on this point, instead of an humble confinement of their articles of belief, to what is plainly laid down in the Bible, has filled the christian world with much unpleasant and hurtful controversy. It would certainly remove the occasion of many an angry feeling, and much error in theology, if if we would all learn to look upon this question as among the secret things of God, and with which we have nothing at present to do. I am persuaded that it is enough for all the purposes of our probation, and enough to satisfy any devout heart whilst we but “see through a glass darkly” to know, that it is the immutable counsel of God, if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, to save us with an
everlasting salvation. And by way of assurance that such is his purpose, we have the sacredness of his promise, and the solemnity of his oath.
A promise when made by a competent individual, is an inviolable engagement to perform certain things. It is a matter to which all our conceptions and feelings of honor and justice combine in assigning a peculiar sacredness. We look upon a promise as an unreserved commitment of all a man is and has in favor of the fulfillment of what he promises. When it is made by the Almighty, we are to understand it as an engagement of all the perfections of his nature for the performance of the thing mentioned. It is to be rated as unfailing as he is immutable.
We have then in the first place all the assurance and force of the Divine promise, that we shall be saved if we believe. This is the great burden of God's gracious declarations to the world in whatever form, or on whatever occasion they were made. To Abraham he promised to be a God and to his seed after him, and to give unto him and his spiritual children an everlasting posses. sion. In the time of Ezekiel he declared, “ when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right, restore the pledge, give again that he hath stolen, and walk in the statutes of life without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.” Christ Jesus, who was “God manifest in the flesh," in the days of his incarnation gave utterance to the gracious words, “ He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” And after he had fulfilled the purpose
of his visit to our world and was about to take his departure, among his last precious words were these: “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." These “exceeding great and precious promises” relative to the salvation of believers are scattered all over the sacred pages in abundance as to their number, clear as to their expression, and furnishing to the world the joyful assurance, that it is the immutable purpose of God to redeem and glorify the repenting sinner.
But in the next place, “God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel confirmed
it with an oath.” An oath is the solemn confirmation of a statement by an appeal to a higher object. It differs from a promise in this, that whilst a promise only pledges the honor and interest of the individual making it, an oath pledges the qualities of something higher and more worthy of consideration. The force of an oath.is to be estimated according to the character of the object to which it appeals. If it be taken by anything finite, and that thing fails, the obligation of course passes away with that failure, at least so far as the oath made it.. Hence says Paul, “men verily swear by the greater.” In all our civil and ecclesiastical regulations of this matter, the appeal is always made to the eternal and omniscient God. And a statement thus attested is the most conclusive recognized by our laws, or of which we can form any conception. It is the end of all strife." Jehovah it is true, bad no one superior to himself to whom to appeal in attestation of his purpose. But an appeal to his own existence and veracity is a matter so solemn as forever to make his promise sure. Some of the Rabbins represent Moses as addressing the Deity thus: “Lord of all the world, if thou hadst sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by the heavens and the earth, then I should have said, As the heavens and the earth shall pass away, so may thy oath pass away. But now thou has sworn unto them by Thy great Name, which liveth, and endureth for ever, and for ever and ever: therefore thy oath shall endure for ever, and for cver and ever." " Because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself;" he appealed to the immutable perfections of his own nature, and to the eternity of his own existence, and thus confirmed unto us the immutability of his purpose to save those who keep his covenant.
These then are the stwo immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie.” They furnish a double pledge of all that God is and has for the fulfillment of his part in the work of our salvation. He has been so good and condescending as to present himself to the believer in a light in which he cannot but be faithful in the performance of his promise. He is omniscient, and hence cannot forget it. He is omnipotent; there is no authority or power in the universe which he does not control. There can then be no question of his ability to perform it. He is true, heaven and earth shall rather pass away than one jot or tittle of his word remain unfulfilled. He is good and cannot therefore trifle with the
everlasting interests of his creatures. He is eternal, and his promise can no more fail than his being itself can cease. is altogether sure and immutable.
Time may intervene before its accomplishment, and a great length of time. In fact, the very nature of a promise implies futurity as to the performance of the thing promised. Were there no intervention of time between its utterance and its fulfillment, it would be the simple execution of an action without any promise in the case.
And though time may elapse, and hundreds of centuries pass away without bringing the performance of the contract; it does not in the least relieve the obligation assumed, or affect the certainty of its fulfillment. Many ages passed after the first promise of a Messiah was made in the garden of Eden, and hundreds and thousands of patriarchal worthies looked anxiously and prayed ferrently for his coming. Yet he came not until 4000 years with all their new developments and changes had gone, and then all was fulfilled in the very letter. Time works no changes on the Deity. His plans and bis purposes are always the same. He saw the end of all things from the beginning, nor can time bring to light any emergencies for which a full and exact calculation has not been made. No outbreaking malice of hell—no subtle machinations of the great arch adversary-nọ sudden changes in the character or movements of earthly dominion can surprise him, or cause the least modification in his doings. The policy of God is a unit, and it applies to all places and all time. There is not a fact in the history of a past eternity, and there is not an occurrence which will take place in the eternity to come, which is not taken into the account of its framework. No interventions of time can work the least alteration in it. Every new development seems rather to accommodate itself to God, than to demand a new exercise of his wisdom to meet it. And hence no matter though millions of ages pass away before we find our redemption completed, if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we shall still be saved.
All the probabilities, nay to human eyes all the possibilities of the case may lie against Jehovah's arm and interpose to defeat his purpose ; and yet it shall be accomplished. His plans are too deep to be defeated by created sagacity, and his arm is too mighty to be cramped by external circumstances. It is his usual policy to suffer things to go on to such a crisis as to induce men to despair, but