Ralph Erskine Archive

Ralph Erskine

SERMON XIV


 

SELF‑CONCEIT INCIDENT TO A MULTITUDE OF PROFESSORS; OR, THE IMAGINARY PURE GENERATION FOUND NOT WASHED FROM THEIR POLLUTION.

The Nature and Excellency of Purity Opened

[The Seventh Sermon on this Text]

“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” Proverbs 30:2.

 

If we knew what a pure and holy God we have to do with, our own impurity would be hateful to us. “God is of purer eyes than he can behold iniquity:” we are of such impure eyes that we cannot behold his purity. Yea, though our eyes were purer than they are; yet God is so perfect, that we cannot see his perfection; even as the sun is so bright, that we cannot see the brightness of it. But, as the stronger the eye, the better the sight will it get of the sun; so, the purer the soul is, the more clearly will it see the holiness and purity of God; “Blessed are the pure, for they shall see God!” O! what is the reason that God is so little seen, and is so far out of sight, with the generation? Why, the generation is impure and defiled: and what aggravates the matter prodigiously, is, they do not know so much: “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”

We have already made a very copious improvement of this subject, the excellency of gospel-purity: it only remains now, that we conclude the subject, with a particular address to the conscience.

The seventh use, therefore, that we make of the doctrine, is for exhortation and direction: Is it so, as has been said. That gospel-purity is so excellent a thing? Then let me exhort you, in the words of the prophet, “Wash you, make you clean,” (Isa. 1:16). O seek to be washed and purified from your filthiness. Seek to be partakers of this gospel-purity and holiness. I have already preached several sermons upon this one doctrine; and they may not only be as many witnesses, that the doctrine we inculcate, is a doctrine according to godliness, tending to advance holiness, and not to encourage licentiousness, let reproachers say what they will; but they may be so many witnesses against a polluted generation, that neither are washed from their filthiness, nor have any desire to be washed, but are filthy still.

Let me now exhort both the wicked to seek after purity, and the godly to seek after more of it. As we have already insisted so long upon the applicatory part, I shall put both these together, for gaining of time. And to enforce the exhortation, we shall, 1. Ad­duce some motives. 2. Offer some directions.

1st, By way of motive to the study of purity, consider, that this gospel-purity eminently tends to the following things. 1. The glory of God. 2. The honor of Christ. 3. The credit of the gospel. 4. The good of both ourselves and others.

[1.] This gospel-purity and holiness eminently tends to the glory of God. And it cannot fail to do so, in regard God himself is holy: holiness is an essential quality of his nature; impurity is the very reverse thereof: sin is that abominable thing which his soul hates. The more impurity that there is in the world, the more is God dishonored; but the more purity and holiness, the more is he glorified. As impurity is an open dishonor done to God; so external purity is a glorifying of God before the world: therefore says our Lord, “Hereby is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit.”—And he positively enjoins, that we should make our light so to shine before men, that they seeing our good works, may glorify our heavenly Father.

Further, this gospel-purity tends to the glory of God, in as much as it is the end of our election; for he hath chosen us in him, that we should be holy, and without blame. He hath called us hereunto: for, he hath not called us unto uncleanness, but holiness. It is agreeable to his will; for, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” It is the livery in which his servants serve him; for they serve him in the beauty of holiness. It is obedi­ence to his commands, because it is written, “Be ye holy, for I am holy:” and again, “Be ye perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” It is the badge and spot of his children; for, holiness becometh his house forever.

In these, and many other respects, gospel-purity tends to the promotion of God’s glory. Why, in one word, the great and ultimate end of gospel-purity, is just this, That whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. And this is one of the marks and characteristics, whereby it is distinguished from the finest painted hypocrisy.

But, perhaps, some may be ready to say, How shall I know, if the glory of God be my great end, in my purity and holiness, and all that I do?

I confess, this is the great question that determines the controversy between two great competitors, the one a pretender, the other a lawful sovereign, viz. whether self, or the great Jehovah, be the God to whom the devotion of our purity is paid: whether God or self be our ultimate end. I shall offer a few thoughts in answer to the question.

1. The man that entirely acts for the glory of God, in the study of purity, he can trample upon his own happiness, when it comes in competition with the glory of God: he sees this to be of more worth than a thousand heavens; and therefore, the self-denied believer, before the glory of God should suffer, would in a manner, venture his all, though the venture would never be to his loss. “Blot me out of thy book,” says Moses. “Let me be accursed,” saith Paul. Why, the thing that prompted them to this, was zeal for the glory of God.

2. If the glory of God be your great end, in the study of holiness, and all you do, all your duties, then your desire will be to wait on the Lord in time of absence, as well as in times of presence. Out of the depths will you cry unto God: and out of the belly of hell will you look again to his holy temple. “I will wait upon the Lord that hideth himself from the house of Jacob, and will look for him,” (Isa. 8:17). When self hath no encouragement in its hand, even then to glorify God, be waiting on him obediently, evidences that the glory of God is the end aimed at: even when the soul is content to live by faith, when sense is gone.

3. When one hath God’s glory for his end, in the study of holiness, then the more assurance he hath of the love of God in Christ, the more earnest is he in the pursuit of purity and holiness. As he grows in God’s favor, so will he grow in likeness to God. Assurance will not make him slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. It is otherwise with the selfish hypocrite; his false assurance weakens his hand, and slackens his diligence in duty; because he thinks his state secure he takes his nap. Why, so far the glory of God is not his end, but self‑love. Something of this may take place indeed in the believer: but I speak of the natural fruit of his assurance; and especially the more clear it is, the more earnest will he be in pursuit of holiness, and the more diligent in the Lord’s work, knowing that his labor shall not be in vain in the Lord.

4. If the glory of God be your great end, in seeking after gospel-purity, then you will have a constant conflict with self: you will find self creeping in, and intruding itself into all duties; into your prayers, hearing, reading, praising, communicating, &e. It will be a burden to you: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?—The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these two contrary the one to the other.” —O therefore study holiness, seek after gospel-purity, because it so much tends to the glory of God.

[2.] Consider, for motive, to seek after this gospel-purity, that it greatly tends to the honour of Christ. —Christ’s errand into the world was to save sinners from their impurity and sin: He came to seek and save that which was lost; and to finish transgression, and make an end of sin. He shed his precious blood, to be a laver for washing away all filthiness of the flesh and spirit; for, his blood cleanseth from all sin: and he suffered without the gate, that he might sanctify the people. The more purity and holiness that abounds in the world, the more doth Christ see of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied. The more impurity that prevails the more is his blood trampled upon; but the more purity that takes place, the more is the virtue and efficacy of his blood manifested: and conse­quently he is the more honored. The impure person is a dis­honor to Christ; but the holy man bears a resemblance to him, and so puts honour upon him.

Further, That gospel-purity, wherever it takes place, tends mightily to the honor of Christ, will appear if we consider the following particulars.

1. This gospel-purity is just an imitation of Christ as an example; for, “He gave us an example, that we should follow his steps.” It is an answering of the design of that copy, pattern, and example which he set before us: it is a following of the Lamb whithersoever he goeth; a cleaving to him in tribulation and adversity, as well as in prosperity.

2. Because it flows from love to Christ, and an high estimation of him: I say, this purity flows from love to him. And those who love this purity, however unholy they see themselves to be, they love him the better, on account of the holy pattern he has given them; the better, that he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners. It is a good sign of some gospel holiness, when the soul can say he loves God because he is a holy God; and loves Christ, because he is a holy Christ. This purity flows from an high estimation of Christ, whatever those who have it may lose for his sake, and for cleaving to his truth, cause, and way, in pursuit thereof. It is a good sign of gospel-purity, when a man is losing his honor, credit, riches, wealth, and outward advantages for Christ, and yet retains an high esteem of him; such a man is selling all for Christ, the pearl of great price; and esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. He hath the glory and honour of Christ in view, and wants to promote it.

3. This gospel-purity tends to the honour of Christ, because in the study and pursuit of it, the soul desires nothing more than perfect conformity to him, and full enjoyment of him. The breathings of the soul, under the influences of this gospel-purity, are, “O to have that which is in part done away! O to be like unto him in humility, patience, zeal, and unblamableness! O to be like him in holiness, and to see him as he is!”

4. This purity tends to the honour of Christ, because all the believer’s efforts in prosecution of it are in a dependence on Christ’s strength: “We are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God. When I am weak, then am I strong. I can do all things, through Christ strengthening me.” And so the believer subscribes, with heart and hand, to the truth of these blessed words, that proceeded out of his mouth, “For without me ye can do nothing,” (John 15:5). And to that precious promise, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in thy weakness,” (2 Cor. 12:6).

5. This purity tends to Christ’s honor, because that in prosecution thereof, and the duties that advance it, nothing short of Christ himself will satisfy the believer. The man can distinguish between Christ in a duty, and liberty, or a frame in duty; between Christ in prayer, and a frame in prayer. The hypocrite, if he gets the frame, there he rests content, without any other Christ: but the believer, though he loves a good frame, and desires liberty and duty, as the chariot in which Christ is conveyed to his soul, yet he will not satisfy himself with the chariot, if Christ be not therein. “O, says he, it is not a frame only, but Christ that I am seeking, and Christ that I must have! Give me Christ, or else I die!” To be content with any enjoyment, temporal or spiritual, without Christ, is selfish, and derogating from the glory of Christ, which is the ultimate end.

6. This gospel-purity tends to the honor of Christ, inasmuch as the students of holiness wrap all their holy duties in the robe of his perfect righteousness. They see and are persuaded that their most holy duties cannot justify them before a holy God; and therefore they cast all their tears, prayers, and duties into the ocean of Christ’s infinite merit; and there they dye them red in the precious blood of the Lamb, that they may fly up to heaven with acceptance, in pillars of smoke, perfumed with the sweet odor of his sacrifice unto the death.

Many other things might here be added to enforce this motive such as, the predestinated conformity of the subjects of this sanctity to Christ, (Rom. 8:29); the sameness of mind in them that was in Christ, (Phil. 2:5); with other particulars: but we insist not. Let this motive have weight with you to study purity, that it tends so much to the honour of Christ.

[3.] Consider, by way of motive, that as purity greatly tends to the glory of God, and the honour of Christ, so also to the credit of the gospel. Impurity brings a reproach on religion; and an unholy professor is a discredit to the Christian name. Nothing can bring a greater reproach upon the gospel of Christ than the immoral lives of its professors. The very end and design of the gospel is to promote holiness and sanctification; and when purity and holiness does not take place, it is an evidence the gospel is doing little good; and those who profess it is a discredit unto it. The gospel revelation of the grace of God was designed to teach men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly. And it ought to be the study of all who hear it, to evidence, by their holy deportment, that it hath come to them, not in word only, but in demonstration of the spirit, and with power. Hereby the professors of the gospel will be a credit thereto.

Further, That purity will tend to the credit of the gospel, will be evident, if it is considered that this evangelical purity is, 1. The purity of such as are in a gospel state. 2. Purity that flows from gospel principles. 3. Purity that is influenced by gospel motives. 4. Purity that is directed to a gospel end.

1. This holiness and purity is for the credit of the gospel, inasmuch as it is the purity of such only as are in a gospel state. For, as it is only a good tree that brings forth good fruit; so, none but the true believer, that is in a good state, can bring forth the fruits of true holiness. By a gospel state, I understand a spiritual state, a state of union to Christ, a justified state, an adopted state, a renewed state: without this, no right sanctity, no evangelical purity.

2. It is purity that flows from gospel principles. The proud legalist’s sanctity flows from legal principles, the principles of his own inherent strength, self‑sufficiency, and the like: but gospel-purity flows from gospel principles. The believer’s holy duties are performed in the strength of gospel grace, promised grace: the strength of Christ laid hold on by faith: “Having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” (2 Cor. 7:1).

3. This purity is influenced by gospel motives. The greatest gospel motive of the believer’s holiness, is the will of God in Christ, and the love of God in Christ. The will of God in Christ, through whom the will of God is conveyed, he being the channel of divine authority: whereas, the legalist’s motive to holiness is the will of an absolute God, God considered as Creator, out of Christ as Redeemer. The love of God in Christ, and the believer’s love to a God in Christ, is also the great gospel motive to holiness, and not slavish fear of the threatenings and of hell, nor the mercenary hopes of heaven and happiness, which are the motives that legalists are acted by.

4. This gospel-purity is directed to a gospel end. The believer’s end in this purity is not to obtain life, to procure pardon, and merit the enjoyment of God: but to evidence his gratitude to that God who hath provided all these valuable blessings freely to him. The end of this purity is not to satisfy conscience, appease wrath, or the like: but to glorify a God in Christ, and express our thankfulness to him for Christ, his unspeakable gift, and all spiritual blessings in and with him.

From these, and the like considerations, it is evident that this purity is for the credit of the gospel. Let them, therefore, have their proper weight with you, to excite you to press after holiness, and to be actual students of gospel-purity.

[4.] In order to excite to the study of holiness and purity, let it be considered that it greatly tends both to our own good, and that of others.

1. Consider how much this purity and holiness tends to your own good and advantage, in order to influence you to be students of it. A variety of particulars might here be taken notice of; but we shall study brevity.—Consider, that the more of this evangelical purity you have, the more will God give to you; for, “The Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,” (Ps. 84:11). The more of this purity, the more joy and comfort will you have. It will make you walk to heaven comfortably. In the path of holiness you will still see more and more of the love of God; which will make your souls to rejoice, and you to walk in the fear of the Lord with cheerfulness: For they that walk in the fear of the Lord, walk in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, (Acts 9:1).—The more gospel-purity, the more intimate acquaintance with God’s secrets; for, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant,” (Ps. 25:14).—The more evangelical purity, the more pleasure and delight will you take in the duties of religion, and the more acceptable will your services be to God: “He will purify the sons of Levi; then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant to the Lord,” (Mal. 3:3,4).—The more of purity, the more boldness and courage will you have in the work and cause of God; for the righteous is bold as a lion. It will inflame your soul against sin, and for God. It will make you trample on temptations to sin; saying, with Joseph, “How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” —It will contemn and despise all dangers, rather than stain your purity by sinful compliances: as Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, the three children, and many others did.—In a word, the more of this gospel-purity you have, the more fellowship with God here, and the meeter for enjoyment of him hereafter; for, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” and life, “for they shall see God,” (Matt. 5:8). Let these particulars have their proper influence upon you, to press you on to further and higher degrees of this evangelical purity and holiness.

2. In order to excite you to the study of purity, consider likewise the tendency it hath to the good and advantage of others. Why, the more gospel-purity, the greater stock you have; and the richer of this grace you are, the more will it tend to the benefit of your friends and acquaintances, and to your neighbors around you; as your holy work may induce you to the practice of it. The more holy you are, and the richer of gospel-purity, the greater influence will your holiness have, in making the wicked stand in awe to sin, and keeping them back from dishonoring God; nay, exciting them to a profession of religion, and something of the practice of duty. You see what influence this way the sanctity of holiness of godly Joshua, and his co‑temporary elders, had upon the children of Israel, (Judges 2:7). And what influence Jehoiadah’s sanctity had upon Joash, king of Judah, (2 Chron. 24:2).—Nay, further, consider that eminency of purity is sometimes a blessed mean to recommend the ways of God and religion to such as are strangers thereto: “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or, how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (1 Cor. 8:16; see 1 Pet. 3:1,2).—Besides, eminency in gospel-purity tends to ward off judgments, or protract them from falling on persons and places where the godly live: accordingly, the Lord declares to Abraham, that, if there was found in Sodom but ten righteous persons, he would not destroy it for their sake, (Gen. 38:32). Nay, the amazing conflagration was not kindled upon Sodom, so long as righteous Lot lingered in it: “Haste thee,” says the angel to Lot, “Haste thee thither [namely, to Zoar], for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither,” (Gen. 19:22). And presently, upon Lot’s departure out of it, the flames of hell from heaven began to burn upon the cities of the plain; as you see in the following verses. Sometimes this gospel-purity tends to draw down blessings on persons and places where the godly live: accordingly, we find that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house, [viz., Potipliar,] and all that he had, both in the house, and in the field, for Joseph’s sake, (Gen. 39:5). Nay, Pharaoh’s family, court, and all the land of Egypt were blessed for Joseph’s sake; for while wasting famine spread devastation among the surrounding nations, there was plenty in the land of Egypt. Were not temporal strokes averted, and blessings, for a time, bestowed on Babylon, while the captives of Zion were in it? And, therefore, the prophet exhorts them to seek the peace of the city, and to pray to the Lord for it, (Jer. 29:7). A candle, you know, enlightens a room; but the sun enlightens a world: so, the more eminent you are in purity, and holiness, the brighter doth your lamp burn, and the more extensive doth the light thereof shine. John the Baptist was eminent in holiness: and hence we have that testimony of our Lord concerning him, namely, that he was a burning and a shining light, (John 5:35). And that concerning the disciples, “Ye are the lights of the world,” (Matt. 5:14). That is, would our Lord say, not only by your doctrine, as ministers; but by your purity and holiness, as Christians and saints. Nor is it to disciples only, but to all, that our divine teacher comes from God and addresses himself in that interesting admonition,—“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” (v. 16). Nay, what if I should say, that by your purity and holiness, you may increase the joy of men and angels in heaven; and, if so, the greater degree of this purity you attain, the greater tendency it will have this way. Why, this holiness and purity tends to, and, through the blessing of God, is a mean of the conversion of sinners from the error and evil of their way, (Jam. 5:19,20). And the conversion or repentance of one sinner, or one lost sheep, affords joy in heaven to the inhabitants of the celestial mansions, (Luke 15:7‑10).

From all which it is evident what tendency this evangelical purity hath to the good of others; and that the higher measure thereof you have, the greater tendency it will have this way. Let this motive, therefore, serve to excite you to press after further and higher degrees thereof.

2dly, We proposed to conclude this use of exhortation by giving some directions. We might here, 1. Offer you some general directions how to attain this gospel-purity. 2. Some more particular directions how to maintain it.

[l.] The general directions we offer for attaining this gospel-purity, are these following.

1. If you would attain this gospel-purity, O labor to be sensible of your absolute impotency, weakness, and inability for the duties of religion: be convinced of your natural impotency, and moral impotency; be persuaded that you are altogether without strength; and that, if God would give you a heaven, a paradise, a Christ for one thought, you would not command it; no: “Of ourselves, as ourselves,” says the apostle, “even though converted, we cannot think anything,” (2 Cor. 3:5). I warrant you, Paul was a better philosopher than many now‑a‑days, pretending to great things: no doubt he knew that the soul was ever thinking; and yet, saith he, One thought I cannot command; I cannot bring it forth till the almighty grace of God do it. Let people talk of man’s power as they will, and lay aside the Bible, which is full of argument to the contrary; I am sure, if they have any experience under heaven, they will find they want power to perform many thousand duties which God hath called them to practice. The Arminians are so far convinced of this, that they are driven to several shifts; and talk of a remote power, and not an immediate power, to some things. It is plain that man, by nature, is without strength; and it is express scripture, “Without me ye can do nothing,” (John 15:5). It is said to the disciples already in a state of grace, that without him ye, can do nothing; much more may it be said of all the unconverted. Be sensible of this then, that you cannot believe, you cannot repent, you cannot pray, you cannot mortify sin of yourselves. And this impotency is not only a mere want of power, but a want of will; it is a cursed moral impotency, a willful impotency.

2. Seek regeneration. If you be not good trees, you cannot bring forth good fruit: if you be not converted, if you be not united to Christ, if you be not born again, if you have not the habit of grace, you cannot bring forth good fruit: you must be united to the Son of God, and derive strength from him. The foundation of gospel-purity must be laid in union to Christ, and a new nature: for they that are in the flesh cannot please God. It is true, that one knows himself to be in a state of nature, is not to neglect duty and means; such as reading, praying, hearing the word preached, and the like, which God calls all unto: but let none content themselves with these performances, without a new nature; for, as sure as God lives, this way of doing will never bring you to heaven: “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3). Therefore cry, “Lord, create in me a clean heart; and renew a right spirit within me,” (Ps. 51:10).

3. Make and keep friendship with the Holy Ghost, if you would attain this gospel-purity: he is not only called Holy because of his essential holiness; for thus the Father is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the Holy Spirit: but he is called Holy also for his office; because it is his special work to make people holy. Be at friendship with the Holy Ghost: do not quench him; do not grieve him; do not resist him; do not rebel against him; do not withstand him in his motions, &c. Beware, lest by these, or any such means, the Holy Ghost and you be set at odds. O sirs, should you not live near him who can make you holy?

[2.] The particular directions I would offer, especially with respect to the maintaining of this gospel-purity, I shall sum up in these two generals: 1. Rightly to use the rule of gospel-purity. 2. Diligently to ply the means thereof.

Direction 1. In order to the maintaining of gospel-purity, rightly use the rule of it. The rule of it is the Law. If it is asked, How are we to use this rule? We might reply, You are to use it fairly and evangelically.

(1.) You are to use this rule fairly. If the law do its proper work upon you, sirs, it will drive you to the gospel as a remedy; and if the gospel deal savingly with you, it will lead you to the law as a rule: but many misplace this rule, and do not use it fairly.

1. Some judge of themselves by the half of the law, and not by the whole; they love one part of the law, but not another; and they are sure to look to that part of the law, that they think makes for them and overlook that part that makes against them: but this is not fair dealing; for people are to judge themselves by the whole of it. It was the false mother that was for dividing the child: so, the false Christian is for dividing the part of the law from another.

2. Some again, judge themselves by the outside of the law, and not the inside thereof; by the letter, and not by the spirit of it. This was the error of the man who said, “All these things have I done from my youth up.” He did not consider the inside and spirituality of the law, otherwise he would have cried out, with David, “I have seen an end of all perfection; but thy commandment is exceeding broad:” it reaches the thoughts of the heart, as well as the actions of the life. And therefore, ye do not use it fairly, unless you make use of the inside as well as the outside; both sides of the law.

3. Some again they bring down this rule to their practice, but will not bring up their practice to the rule; and these do not use the rule fairly: thus many make God’s law to justify their corrupt practices and sins. They, if we may be allowed the expression, make a nose-wax of the law, and mould it to their own corrupt fancy.

4. Others again, they justify themselves before they apply the rule, but do not apply the rule before they justify themselves. They have a good opinion of themselves; they are determined already about their state, before they come to the rule; they are settled on their lees, and so cannot believe a word that the law says against them, because they justify themselves before they apply the rule. This is not a fair using of the law: let us use it fairly, and look on it, not as many do, as a fountain of justification, but as the rule of action. And this leads me,

(2.) To the other particular, viz. to use the rule of gospel-purity evangelically. It may possibly be asked, How shall we use the rule evangelically? To this we reply, in the following particulars,

1. If you would use the law in a gospel manner, attempt not obedience to it in your strength. Under the covenant of works, indeed, we were to obey by the strength of inherent grace: But now we are called to lay hold on Christ, as our strength; and to obey by the strength of derived grace assisting us.

2. If you would use the law in a gospel manner seek not peace by your obedience and sanctity; when you have done all you can, even through grace, you must go out of your own obedience to the obedience of another for peace. Believers themselves are oftentimes tickled with their own performances, even though they profess to abhor justification by works.

3. If you would use the law in a gospel manner, let not the duty the law requires, or the discovery the law makes, hinder you to embrace the offer that the gospel makes. The gospel offers Christ as a husband; the law saith, Thou art a black sinner an unfit match for such a husband. The gospel offer is, that you buy the eye‑salve, white raiment and tried gold. The law tells thee, thou hast nothing to buy with. Now, you use the law evangelically, when you say, Black as I am, I embrace the offer of such a husband; he can make me beautiful through his comeliness. Poor as I am, I embrace the offer of his eye‑salve. There is riches enough in Christ for me; and I see he invites me to buy without money, and without price, and to take the water of life freely.

4. If you would use the law evangelically, then look not on the law as a fountain of justification, nor yet as the fountain of strength, but only as the standard of duty; and therefore you will use it in a gospel manner, if you make a constant journey between Christ and the law; looking to him for righteousness and strength, who is the fountain of both: righteousness, for your acceptance: and strength, for your assistance, in every piece of obedience to the law. Here is the short road to glory: the law forces the man to Christ, to be sheltered by him; and Christ sends him back again to the law to be ruled by it; and the man, in using this rule, looks to Christ in the gospel, for righteousness and strength. In a word, let the main stress be laid upon the gospel, especially when you are brought to an extremity; when there seems to be a contrariety between the law and the gospel. When the law says, “Thy hope is perished from the Lord:” and the gospel with, “There is hope in Israel, concerning thee;” and shows the ground of hope to be in Christ, as the Lord our righteousness and strength: it is safest, in this case, to hearken most to the voice of the gospel; for there is a possibility of salvation this way, but not the other. Though you should have no more, but a maybe ye shall be hid; venture upon the maybe, upon the peradventure which the gospel affords: for, hope is a duty, but despair is a sin: the one honors God, the other dishonors him.

Direct. 2. Our next direction is, diligently to ply the means of this gospel-purity. We shall offer a few of many that might be mentioned, and so close.

1. One mean is, to live by faith on the Son of God, by deriving continual supplies of grace and strength from him, saying, with David, “I will go in the strength of the Lord, making mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only,” (Ps. 71:16). Plead, by faith, the promise of sanctification; that having these promises, you may cleanse yourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.

2. Another mean is, to set the Lord always before you, and set a watch over yourself. This was David’s resolution; “I said, I will take heed to my ways.” Security will betray you into the hands of enemies; but, “Blessed is the servant whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching.”

3. Another mean is, to take care of discharging the sacred duties that he calls you to. The scripture gives great encouragement to this: “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” The more that a man minds divine ordinances in secret, private and public, in obedience to God’s command, and dependence on God’s promise, the more strength shall he receive to conquer his spiritual enemies, and discharge his spiritual work. God could preserve your bodies without food; but he will not, when he affords ordinary means: so, God could preserve your souls without ordinances; but he will not, when he gives opportunity to enjoy them. Let me say to you, as Jacob to the patriarchs, “Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt; get you down thither and buy, that you may live and not die.” So, behold you have heard that there is spiritual food in the gospel; our Joseph has his granary full of corn, go you thither daily by sacred duties, that you may live and not die; for, in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And particularly,

4. Another mean is, Give yourselves unto prayer: the praying Christian is readily the holy Christian. Pray, with David, “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes: Thy Spirit is good, lead me to the land of uprightness.” By daily prayer in secret, and in your families, you may get daily incomes for helping you to this gospel-purity.

5. Another mean is, O set about subduing your predominant sins, through grace; for sin doth greatly mar your sanctity. Cast the Jonah overhead; throw the Jezebel over the window; and stone the Achan to death; and, for this end, call in the aid and assistance of the Spirit of God; for, “If ye through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

6. In a word, Labor to live under a constant sense of your own spiritual wants, and of the defects of grace and holiness; and a sense of Christ’s fulness: the persuasion hereof will induce you to come and receive out of his fulness, grace for grace.—If these means of gospel-purity are diligently used, it is more than probable you shall be successful.

Now, go home: and this evening cry to the Lord, that he would help you to reduce the preaching into practice. Mind the good man’s saying, who, coming from sermon, was asked, If all was done. He fetched a deep sigh, and said, All was said, but all was not done. Our preaching is not practice, your hearing is not practice; these are only certain means unto gospel practice. What is your coming to church on the Lord’s day? It is like servants coming to their master in the first morning of the week, and saying, “Now, tell us what shall be our week’s work, what shall we do this day, and the next day, till the next week come?” You should come thus to Christ to get your orders; for, if you rest merely in the hearing, you confound the means with the end, and overturn the nature of things.

What do you mean, sirs? Why stand you here all the day idle? Some of you have done nothing for God, nothing for your souls, for the generation, since you came into the world. Perhaps you have treasured up a cursed conquest for your children, or for your wife; and God may blast it when you are in the grave, and may punish your children for your sin; your children on earth, and you in hell, at the same time, and for the same sin. What have you done for God? what have you done for the church of God? what have you done for advancing holiness in your place? and the interest of Christ in your station? Many of you have done nothing; some of you have done something, but it is little; and some of you will neither do nor let do; you hinder others in the way of religion and holiness.

O see to it, man, woman! You are no friends to Christ; nay, you are enemies to him, if you have nothing of this gospel-purity that I have been speaking of. O pray, pray that the Lord may bless to you what hath been said on this subject, for directing you to, and promoting you in true gospel holiness, and may the Lord hear your requests, and fulfill your desires; and to his great name be all the praise.

 

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