Chapter 5. Practical Improvement of the Subject.
1. What has been said on this subject may serve to
convince us—that the evangelical system is a righteous and an equitable one.
It has been objected against it, that while faith in Jesus Christ
is so much insisted on as a point of distinction between the godly and the
wicked, and the grand criterion by which the states of men will be finally
determined; that we denigrate the holiness and justice of God—as if he paid
no regard to their moral characters.
It will be found at last, that the real cause of men's
rejection of gospel truth, is, a rooted aversion to that purity of heart and
conduct which the gospel requires. "This is the condemnation, that light is
come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their
deeds were evil. For everyone that does evil hates the light, lest his deeds
should be reproved." This is a plain account why so many continue in
unbelief—an account which cannot be controverted. Sinners are obstinately
attached to wicked habits; they stumble at the Word, being disobedient; this
is the grand reason assigned for their infidelity. On this ground, if they
are not happily brought to repentance, the sentence of condemnation will be
pronounced against them at last; and the equity of it will be acknowledged
by angels, and the whole assembled world.
On the other hand, while the true Christian is justified
freely by Divine grace, he is, at the same time, renewed in the spirit of
his mind. In consequence of this, a total change of conduct takes place; old
things pass away, behold, all things become new. To him who believes, Jesus
is precious; this is evidently proved by the whole of his behavior, both
towards God and man. And at the last day, though he will be far from
offering any claim of merit—yet his works will be taken notice of, as the
fruits of his faith, and as evidences of the sincerity of his
love. His holy practice will then be a public and undeniable testimony, that
God has saved him in a way perfectly consistent with that love of
righteousness, which is essential to his nature.
2. We hence see how necessary it is, that men should be
thoroughly convinced of their absolute need of such a Savior as Jesus is.
He is precious to none but those who know that they are absolutely undone
without him. To you who believe, he is precious; but no man believes in him
without a sense of need. Sufficient proof of this has already been
Sinner, you have violated the holy, just, and righteous
law of God—your Maker and Sovereign. That law condemns you for ten thousand
transgressions committed against it. Look into the records of your own
conscience. Consider what you have done from your infancy to the present
moment. Remember that your sins expose you to the wrath of the Almighty, and
render you deserving of everlasting punishment: for the wages of sin is
death. You are every moment in danger of eternal destruction. Your condition
is miserable. God is strictly just; and to impenitent sinners, he is a
consuming fire. In yourself, you are utterly helpless. Nothing you can do
will be of any avail for your relief. Be deeply sensible of your undone
condition, your absolute misery—and know that there is no help, no salvation
for you—but in Christ. Without this conviction, you will remain in a state
of indifference towards him. You will never fly to him for refuge, as the
only hope set before you; you will never sincerely believe in him,
nor love him. You will never put a proper value on his atoning
sacrifice, as that which alone delivers from the wrath to come, procures
pardon, peace with God, and everlasting salvation.
Consider these things with all seriousness, and without a
moment's delay. Life and death are set before you—life, if you sincerely
believe in the Savior; death, if you disregard him. Consider the case of a
malefactor, condemned to die for the violation of the laws of his country.
The sentence is passed upon him, and the day approaches for the execution of
it. His state is dreadful, his danger is great—but not to be compared with
yours. O that you may be deeply and abidingly convinced of your perilous
situation! On this conviction your safety depends!
3. It will appear, from what has been advanced, that the
number of those to whom Christ is precious—is but small.
The grossly ignorant have no regard for him, because they know not
his worth. Those who are notoriously erroneous do not love him; for
those who do not believe and receive the truth of Christ, do not love him.
"If any man loves me, he will keep my words;" by his words we are to
understand the doctrines which he taught, as well as his precepts and
commands. The openly wicked and profane can surely pretend to no
regard for Christ. They are justly characterized as haters of God.
"His citizens hated him, and said—We will not have this man to reign over
us." All those who persecute the godly are confessedly excluded; for
how can they love the Head—who persecute the members of the body? To the
covetous and worldly-minded, Christ is not precious; for they
love the world, and "if any man loves the world—the love of the Father is
not in him." Those who are under the dominion of sin do not sincerely
love Jesus; for the dominion of sin consists principally in the love of it,
and, by consequence, in a willing subjection to it. Therefore, the
prevailing love of sin is inconsistent with the love of Christ. All mere
formal professors of religion, and all self-righteous people
stand excluded in this inquiry. They have confidence in the flesh, and
therefore reject the sure foundation laid in Zion.
When all these different classes of mankind are set
aside—the number left will be but small. Multitudes are either grossly
ignorant, enemies to the truth, openly profane, persecutors of the godly,
lovers of the world, under the dominion of sin, or such as make an empty
profession of religion, and go about to establish their own righteousness.
Hence, those to whom Christ is precious, are but few. "Enter through the
narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to
destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the
road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
4. Let every man beware of concluding himself a believer
in Christ, upon slight and insufficient grounds. The primitive
societies of God's people, in all probability, had fewer mere nominal
Christians among them, than the churches of Jesus Christ generally have at
the present day. There were not many, who, from their infancy, were trained
up in the ways of religion and godliness. So that the danger of deception
is, in some respects greater now, than it was in the days of the apostles;
since it is the common custom among us, to make a sort of external
profession of Christianity.
But let us remember, that the true believer embraces the
truths of God in his understanding, and acquiesces in them with his
whole heart; his meditation is fixed on the attributes of God, and
the loveliness, worth, and excellency of his Son Jesus Christ; he sets the
Lord before him, and steadily aims at a conformity to his will, to his
image, and to his example; and he experiences the powerful efficacy of the
divine Word—to establish him in virtue and holiness. I cannot be a true
disciple of Jesus, unless he teaches me by his grace, renews me by his
Spirit, washes me by his blood, and forms my heart to obey his commands, and
imitate his meekness, humility, zeal and love. I must submit to his
authority without hesitation, and be ready to reduce to practice, the
knowledge I have of his truths and ways. True faith transforms the whole
man. It delivers the sinner from the tyranny of his passions—and purifies
both the heart and life.
5. As it is life eternal to know Jesus Christ—so it is
death eternal to be ignorant of him. The knowledge of him is not
only necessary to all the graces, to all the duties, and to all the comforts
of Christianity—but it is necessary to the very existence of Christianity.
Those who know not Jesus Christ—know not the way of peace—and if they die in
that state, their end will be eternally miserable.
If you have not that knowledge of Jesus Christ which is
attended with sincere love to him—you lie under the most dreadful sentence
of condemnation. "If any man loves not the Lord Jesus Christ—let him be
anathema, maranatha;" that is, let him be accursed when the Lord shall come.
Will he, at his coming, annul this dreadful denunciation? No! he will
descend from heaven, in flaming fire, to take vengeance on those who don't
know God, and who don't obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Consider
this, O you who have no sincere regard for the precious Redeemer. Where will
you hide your guilty, your defenseless head, when he appears? It will, by
and bye, be said, "The great day of his wrath is come—and who shall be able
6. Consider, my dear fellow-sinner, that as Jesus Christ
is the Former of all things, you were made by him, and therefore you
ought to love him. He has endowed you with a rational and an
immortal soul, a soul capable of knowing and of loving him—and will you
withhold that love from him which he so justly demands? Perhaps you are a
professor of religion—yet if Christ is not precious to you, your profession
is unprofitable. In that divine book called the Bible, you have the history
of his life, his sufferings, and his death; you have a clear display of his
dignify, his glory, his power to save, and his infinite and unbounded love
to sinners. Can you read all this—and not love him?
Can you love those inferior objects, in which there are
slight degrees of excellence—and can you not love Jesus Christ, who is
altogether lovely, and the sum of all excellence and perfection? Do you
respect those on whom God has conferred some measure of honor, authority and
power—and do you not love Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of Glory, and to
whom all power and authority in both heaven and earth are given? Do you
respect a fellow-creature possessed of wisdom and learning—and do you not
love Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge? Do you esteem a man who is liberal, generous, or bountiful—and
have you no love for him, who gives us all things richly to enjoy, and who
by giving his life a ransom for our souls, has become the Author of eternal
salvation, with all its glorious blessings and privileges? You profess to
have a sincere value for your friends, who have shown you many acts of
kindness—and will you not love the Friend of sinners? Remember his words;
"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his
friends." He alone can rescue you from eternal destruction; he alone can
bestow upon you pardon, righteousness, peace and everlasting felicity. Shall
such a friend have no place in your heart?
Do you love liberty? and can you be indifferent towards
him, whose office is to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of
the prison to those who are bound? There is no deliverance from the
condemnation of the hand of justice, the tyranny of Satan, the dominion of
sin, and the power of death and the grave—but by him. Do you love peace and
pleasure; and can you disregard the Prince of peace, who reconciles sinners
to God, by the blood of his cross, and gives true peace of conscience,
together with joy unspeakable and full of glory?
There is everything in Christ to encourage poor sinners
to apply to him, to look for salvation in his name, and to inspire their
hearts with love to his person. There are motives and arguments of every
kind to excite you to choose him for your Savior, your friend, and your
portion. You are guilty—his blood cleanses from all sin. You are
miserable—he is rich in mercy. You are helpless—he is mighty to save. You
are impoverished—his riches are unsearchable. His treasures of grace are
inexhaustible. Approach unto him, be not afraid of a disappointment; he has
assured you he will in no wise cast you out.
There is an inexhaustible fullness in Him, answerable to
all your necessities, be they ever so many, or ever so great. He is the
ever-flowing, the over-flowing fountain of living waters. He is able to do
exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think. It has pleased
the Father, that in Him all fullness should dwell. Indeed, we have all
received grace after grace from His fullness. His kindness and mercy are
unbounded. If the kindness of men has a tendency to win your hearts--how
much more should the infinite love of Jesus constrain you to love Him? He is
the only-begotten Son, the most dearly-beloved of the Father. He is worthy
of the Father's love, who says of him, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am
well pleased." Surely then, it is reasonable, it is highly proper that he
should be the object of your love.
7. Let those who regard the comfort, the peace and the
prosperity of their own souls, apply themselves to the study of Jesus
Christ, and daily aspire after more knowledge of him. All that is
excellent, all that is desirable, all that is comforting
is concentrated in him. He is fairer than the children of men, the chief
among ten thousands, and altogether lovely! O how unspeakably, how
infinitely precious! It is eternal life to know him. No knowledge so
enlivening, so cheering, so comforting—as the knowledge of Christ. It is
ever new, ever fresh in excellency, to those who aspire after it.
If we desire to be conformed to his blessed image, we
should labor to have our thoughts as much as possible, employed in
contemplating his excellency; that we may be able to comprehend with all
saints, what is the length and breadth, the depth and height of the love of
Christ, which passes knowledge. This is the way to increase in holiness and
in happiness; or, to use the more emphatic language of the apostle, to "be
filled with all the fullness of God." For "while we with open face behold,
as in a looking-glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same
image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
It is not probable that Jesus Christ should be very
precious to those who are not acquainted with the glorious perfections of
his person, his transcendent worth, and surpassing excellency. Love is
founded in knowledge. When we have suitable discoveries of his glory, our
wills are inclined and determined to make choice of him, as our Savior, and
our all-sufficient portion. Love to Jesus is maintained and continued in its
warmth and fervor—by frequent meditation on His adorable person, His dying
love, and His infinite excellence and preciousness. If we lose sight of His
ineffable glories—our attachment to Him, as the spring of our
happiness--will be weakened, and the fervency of our love for Him will be
No motions of the soul are so sweet and delightful—as
those which are directed to the Fountain of happiness. The outgoings of the
heart after Christ are pleasant, especially when he is pleased to manifest
himself unto us, as he does not to the world. There is a mixture of heavenly
comfort in the love we feel to so worthy an object; "Though you have not
seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe
in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy!"
8. If Jesus Christ is so superlatively precious in
himself, we have reason to be ashamed that we love him no more.
Alas! how languid are our affections towards him who is altogether
lovely, and how easily are our hearts captivated with vanity and trifles!
This is matter of humiliation, grief, and sorrow. It is remarked in the life
of John Mollius, an eminent disciple of Jesus, that he was sometimes
observed to be in heaviness, and to weep bitterly; when his friends inquired
into the cause of his trouble, his usual answer was, 'O! it grieves me, that
I cannot bring this heart of mine to love Jesus Christ more fervently.'
Is not our love to the Redeemer very small, in comparison
with that to which some of his followers have attained? Have not thousands
of martyrs joyfully endured the most cruel pains and tortures—for the love
which they bore to him? O what blessed lives did the primitive disciples of
Christ live! What divine satisfaction, what heavenly splendor, what
convincing power attended their practice, while their whole souls, with all
their affections, were devoted to their Redeemer, and engaged in the affairs
of his kingdom! They lived on earth—as the heirs of heaven ought to
May we not justly be ashamed that we have this precious
Savior so little in our thoughts? Forgetful of him, our thoughts
range abroad on a thousand subjects to little profit, nay, often to our
hurt! If we examine our thoughts for one day, how few of them have been
employed upon him who should be our highest love, and nearest to our hearts!
Is not this matter of lamentation? Is it not a sad indication of the
indifference of our minds towards him? A warm and fervent love would bring
him often to our remembrance. We should say with the Psalmist, "In the
multitude of my thoughts within me, your comforts delight my soul." Or, as
he says in another place, "My meditation of him shall be sweet; I will be
glad in the Lord." Can they rejoice in the Lord always—who very rarely think
of him? "Where your treasure is, there will your hearts be also." Every man
thinks much on that which is highest in his esteem, and dearest to his
affections. This is a fact, the truth of which, cannot be called in
question. But if we judge of our regard for Christ by this rule, what reason
have we for deep humiliation before him! What slender proof do we give that
he is precious to us! How low, how faint and feeble is our love for him!
Thought being the immediate attendant of love,
where love is strong and fervent—it powerfully engages the mind to habitual
musing on the beloved object. And therefore when the Psalmist says, "O how
love I your law," he adds, "it is my meditation all the day."
Is it possible that we should spend any day of our lives
without thinking on what Jesus Christ has done for us? His astonishing love,
in becoming incarnate, sojourning more than thirty years in this wretched
and miserable world, as a man of sorrows, for our sakes; his fulfilling all
righteousness for us; his enduring the contradiction of sinners against
himself; and his laying down his life in our stead—are subjects of
contemplation upon which our minds should perpetually revolve.
We should think on what he is now doing for us in heaven;
for he is gone there to prepare a place for our accommodation, and he ever
lives to make intercession for us. He tells us he will never forget
us—and shall we perpetually forget him? Hear what he says, "Can a mother
forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has
borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved
you on the palms of my hands!"
It is a proof that our love to the Redeemer is but small,
when our tongues are rarely employed in speaking of him. We all know,
that the subject which lies nearest our hearts, will frequently slide upon
our tongues, and employ our discourse. The man of pleasure talks much
of his carnal delights; and the man of business, of the affairs of
commerce. "He who is of the earth, speaks of the earth; for out of the
abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." The man of news talks
perpetually about that in which he most delights. And have we nothing to say
about him who rescues our souls from everlasting destruction, and gives us a
lively hope of full felicity in heaven!
Have we not reason to be ashamed of our negligence,
as to the private exercises of devotion? How little time do we
spend in those exercises, and how little pleasure do we often take in them!
Alas! I fear our closets bear witness against us, concerning the deficiency
of our love to Jesus Christ. Did we love him with a fervent affection—we
would often retire from the world, that we might converse with him, and pour
out our hearts before him. A slight performance of the duties of the closet,
is a certain indication that our love to the Redeemer is but small.
Conscience! discharge your office; testify against the negligent reader—how
greatly deficient he is in his love, in this one instance. Tell him of the
greatness of the Savior's love, what he has done, what he has suffered on
his account—and what poor returns of affection are made to him. Tell the
negligent professor how inattentive he is to the Redeemer's example in this
particular. Tell him what poor, what lifeless, what slight devotions he pays
to that loving Savior, who has promised such great things to those who seek
him with their whole hearts!
Have we not reason to be ashamed, that we are so prone to
faint in the day of adversity, and to shrink back when we are called
upon to take up our cross in following Christ? Had we fervent love to him,
we would, with courage and fortitude, endure great afflictions and trials,
which lie in our way to the everlasting enjoyment of him. It has induced
many to glory in tribulation, to rejoice that they were counted worthy to
suffer shame for the name of Jesus, to take joyfully the confiscation of
their goods, and to esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than all
the treasures which this world can afford. Under the influence of this—a
dungeon has been accounted a paradise; a prison a palace; and death the gate
of life! Some have embraced the stake to which they were bound, and welcomed
the flames by which were to be consumed to ashes. If we therefore faint in
our day of adversity, which scarcely deserves to be mentioned, in
comparison with what many have endured—it is an indication that our strength
9. Let your knowledge, your faith, and your
love—influence your practice. Show to the world around you, that
Jesus is indeed precious to you, in a constant endeavor to glorify him, by a
life of meekness and holiness, a life unspotted and divine. Nothing
convinces like facts. Let the powerful operation of the Redeemer's
love upon your hearts, be seen in all your interaction with others;
and upon every occasion, let it be made manifest, that you neither have
believed nor run in vain. The pure faith of a Christian, illustrated by
works of grace and righteousness, supported under innumerable difficulties
and temptations, and carried on to a death of triumph and joy—is a proof of
the truth and reality of the religion of Jesus, which most effectually puts
to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
Christ has in some sense, entrusted his honor to his
followers. They profess to be his friends, and his advocates on earth. Hence
they should be particularly cautious and watchful, lest his worthy name be
blasphemed through their misconduct. You will best vindicate his honor, and
set forth his preciousness—by a holy, humble, and heavenly life. See that
you walk worthy of him, unto all well-pleasing. Thus you will adorn the
doctrine of God your Savior in all things, and make manifest the virtues of
him who has called you to his eternal kingdom and glory. Let those who have
their eyes upon you, see that Christ is precious to your soul—by your zeal
for his honor, your activity in promoting his interest, your readiness to
deny yourselves on all occasions for his sake, your steady adherence to him
in all conditions, and your constancy in the use of all those means wherein
you may expect to enjoy communion with him.
10. Those to whom Jesus is precious have a happy lot,
whatever their circumstances may be, as to the present life. God,
in his Providence, has put a vast variety into the conditions of men.
Some are rich, and some are poor—while others enjoy a desirable medium
between the two extremes. Some are placed in the most eminent stations;
others live in obscurity, and are, comparatively, of little use to society.
It is no dishonor for the followers of Christ to be poor in this world.
Their Divine Master had nowhere to lay his head. But a sincere attachment to
the Redeemer, ennobles and dignifies the soul. None in this world are so
great, and so honorable, as those who love him. They cleave to him who is
infinitely worthy of their warmest affection, and who can and will make them
completely happy! "Delight yourself in the Lord—and he shall give you the
desire of your heart." Others cleave to objects which are unworthy of the
ardours of an immortal soul. They debase themselves, and will one day be
ashamed of their pursuits. But neither the hope, nor the love of true
Christians, shall ever make them ashamed. Amidst poverty, amidst
afflictions, troubles and outward distresses—they have a refuge at hand,
sufficient to support them, to defend them, and to afford them everlasting
They now delight to contemplate the Redeemer's
excellency, and they will confess hereafter, when they see him face to face,
and are partakers of his glory—that, while on earth, they knew nothing
comparatively of his preciousness and worth. They will then all unite in
that everlasting song, "Salvation to OUR GOD, who sits upon the throne, and
to THE LAMB forever and ever!" Amen.