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punishment is not incompatible with unfeigned love to God, and the most sincere desire to please and enjoy him forever.*
Though the Christian may do something towards determining his submission, by presenting to his mind evils which may never exist ; yet the more common and more scriptural way to ascertain the genu. ineness and degree of his submission, is by attentively observing the frame of his mind under those evils by which it pleases God he should be actually tried.
It could not have been as well ascertained before. hand, that Aaron had a submissive spirit, as when, under that sore bereavement, which is recorded in the tenth chapter of Leviticus, he held his peace.
Eli gave great evidence of holy submission by say. ing, “ It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good," at the very time when he was told of judgments, which were coming on his house, great enough to make both the ears of every one that heard them to tingle. The evils that were sent upon Job were purposely designed to manifest the goodness of his character; and his patience under them proved that his religion was not selfish. The afflictions, with which God visits his church in this world, are all designed to try and im. prove the character of its members. In some periods its afflictions have been peculiarly severe and trying. The people of God who live in the present day, are not required to determine their character, so much by presenting to their imagination the fiery trials of former periods, when bloody persecutions prevailed, as by examining the manner in which they endure the evils that are actually sent upon them. Nor is any individual required so much to decide on the genuineness of his submission, by endeavoring to imagine how he should bear the trials of another man, as by seeing how he bears his own. “ Blessed is the man that endureth temptation ; for when he is tried he shall receive a crown of life.” The temptation he endures, that is, bears in a right manner, is that which Providence brings upon him for the purpose of trying him. Now, though the trials of men are vari. ous, as to their degrees of severity, may we not conclude, that every man who endures his own, with a patient submissive spirit, will meet the divine approbation and receive the crown of life?
It was shown in the outset of this work, that all real religion was truth in doctrine, experience, or practice: and is not such a frame of heart, as that which has been described under this Article, the truth in experience? Is it not right that creatures who have departed from God, should return and become cordially reconciled to him? And ought they not to be reconciled to God, even if they are not convin. ced that it will result in their own salvation ? Is it not reasonable that we should submit to God in every thing, since it is his right to govern, and he alone is qualified for the task ? An unreconciled frame of heart can have no agreement with those moral axioms, called doc. trines of truth. The holy scriptures are all in favor of the sweetest
* The superiority of the apostle's disinterestedness has, I have no doubt, (if I may judge of the feelings of others by my own,) presented a much greater difficulty in the way of a literal interpretation of this passage, than any apprehension that such an interpretation would make bim appear indifferent concerning, either his conformity to the moral image of Christ, or his enjoyment of his favor.
reconciliation, and the most unconditional submission. None can pretend that they say a word in favor of rebellious feelings in any creature in the universe. But the truth of this Article will appear to greater advantage while we proceed to compare it with the foregoing parts of our system.
The harmony between this and the two Articles of experience, which have been considered, is very apparent. How manifestly it accords with the one which immediately precedes it, for as soon as we have a heart to exercise complacency in holy characters, we must be prepared to submit to a holy God. But all that submission which
be. fore such complacency, is either a forced matter, or a deception; it is of no worth.
Submission is in harmony with benevolence as well as complacency. Selfishness is the very ground work of insubmission. While self is the ultimate end of action, it wants the reins of government in its own hands : but no sooner is this ultimate end relinquished, than the reins are cheerfully resigned into His hands whose right it is to rule.
The harmony between this branch of the experimental system and the doctrines, is also very apparent. Let us, with the spirit of recon. ciliation to God, go back and review that chain of doctrines which we have contemplated, and I trust it will prepare us to accede to them all. In the first we are presented with a God of unbounded greatness and holiness. To such a great, holy and good Being, we now submit. In the second we contemplate him as the Creator and Disposer of all things: and now, as his creatures, we bow down before him, acknow. ledging ourselves to be the work of his hands and pensioners on his bounty. We sensibly feel, that all we are, and all we possess, belong to him ; that while petitioning is our privilege, it does not become us to dictate, or to say unto God, What doest thou? In the third we are led to view him as sustaining another important relation to us, viz. that of Moral Governor or Supreme King. Submission bows to his sceptre as both rightful and right. It contemplates him as being nei. ther a usurper nor a despot. In view of the moral government of God, the subdued rebel is sincere in saying, Let it be eternal; let it be over me; let it be over all !
This Article of experimental religion is in harmony with the fourth of the doctrinal series. There we saw intelligent creatures, without any justifiable cause, revolting from the government of God; and here we see a part of them coming back, fully prepared to condemn that revolt, both in its commencement and continuance. In the fifth Article we see a glorious provision made to bring about the reconciliation of men to God, and in such a way that nothing is done to encourage future revolts. And the present Article shows us the contemplated reconcil. iation as actually effected : for every true convert submits to Him who is set King on the holy hill of Zion. Through a want of reconciliation to God, the free offer exhibited in the sixth Article, was, according to the seventh, obstinately rejected. But that renewing of the Holy
Ghost, described in the eighth, accounts for the wonderful phenome. non, that this once obstinate rebel is now lying submissively before the throne. Nor will a subdued rebel be disposed to object against the ninth Article, which represents his recovery from obstinate rebel. lion, to be wholly of grace-even sovereign grace : nor against the tenth, which supposes the Lord's choice of him as a vessel of mercy, was not built on his good works foreseen: nor against the eleventh, which represents his justification to be alike gracious with his elec. tion and effectual calling. True reconciliation must certainly rejoice to see its own continuance secured, according to the tenor of the twelfth Article. Reconciliation, when contrasted with rebellion, as it will be done by the resurrection of the just and the unjust, the decisions of the last day, and the rewards of the future state, according to the doctrine of the thirteenth Article, will appear most excellent and desirable. And those who are privileged with being on the right hand of the Judge, and with a place in his everlasting kingdom, will still have need of the grace of submission, to prevent their being rendered unhappy by witnessing the utter ruin and everlasting misery of so many of their fellow creatures ; among whom there may be many of their dear relatives and friends.
Submission, in Christian experience, harmonizes with the last of the doctrinal Articles, viz, that which exhibits the counsel and agency of God as extending to all creatures and events. Towards this Arti. cle the carnal mind feels an uncommon degree of opposition; and yet to the renewed mind it is often the source of the sweetest comfort. If our hearts have been enlarged with universal good will, and we have become, in truth, reconciled to God, how can we but be pleased with a doctrine, which represents him as extending his counsels and agency to all the great and minute concerns of the universe ? If our sub. mission does not harmonize with a doctrine, which is so necessary to secure the most perfect display of divine glory, and the best good of the dependent universe, have we not reason to doubt whether it be the work of the Holy Spirit; whether it be based on that love which is without dissimulation ?
1. There is, perhaps, at the present period of the church, no one way in which sinners are more in danger of being deceived, than by a false submission. When one part of experimental religion is un. sound, I know the other parts can none of them be sound. When therefore I speak of sinners, as more exposed to be deceived by false submission than by other false experiences, I mean to say, there is peculiar danger that the deception will begin here. They, whose religion commences under some alarming providence, are in more than common danger of yielding a forced submission. The psalmist says to God, « Through the greatness of thy power shall thine ene. mies submit themselves unto thee.” The margin reads lie, instead of submit. Ps. Ixvi. 3. There can be no doubt that many of God's ene. mies have, in view of the greatness of his power, rather than of the
holiness of his nature or the righteousness of his demands, submitted themselves to him ; that is, they have pretended to do it.
Let preaching be much in the strain of alarm, without a due pro. portion of doctrinal instruction; and at the same time, let the obliga. tion of submission be vehemently urged, without being accompanied with any clear exhibition of its holy and disinterested nature, and there is much reason to fear that a forced, instead of a cordial, sub. mission, will be the result. The obligation to submit, and to submit immediately, can not be placed too high ; but if the submission incul. cated, or that which we appear to be satisfied with, be devoid of holy love, which is the root of the whole matter, its being done immediately will not procure its acceptance with God who trieth the hearts.
2. We are led to remark, that in a world where so many adverse events are occurring, the grace of submission, or resignation to the divine will, is one for the exercise of which the Christian has very frequent occasion. And it is a grace which he can exercise no far. ther than he has confidence in God's plans and operations. To be truly resigned under afflictions, the Christian must believe that God has a plan; and that it embraces all events, and is executed in the most perfect manner. Were he to adopt the sentiment, that God included in his plan some events, while others had no connection with it; that some events could be traced up to His agency, while others took place, in which it had no concern; where is there anything solid furnished by such a sentiment on which to build the grace of submission ? That man whom the scriptures exhibit as an eminent pattern of a patient, submissive spirit, entertained such sentiments of the all-controlling agency of the Most High, that he made no dig. tinction between the evils which he suffered by the fire and the wind, and those which were inflicted by the hostile bands of the Sabeans and Chaldeans. Overlooking the instruments, he viewed his whole affliction and bereavement as coming from one and the same hand : “The Lord hath taken away.” Such were manifestly the sentiments which led David to submit to injury and insult from the hand and tongue of Shimei : “ Let him alone, let him curse ; for the Lord hath bidden him.”
Submission to evil coming directly from wicked hands, is based on this firm belief; that the counsel and agency of the great and holy God are to be as fully acknowledged, as if he did every thing by his own immediate operation, without employing instruments of any kind; and that his counsel and agency are to be none the less ac. knowledged, when the instruments are such as have a design, than when they are incapable of it; nor any less in case they are malicious, than when they are benevolent. Faith looks beyond the instruments, to that omnipotent Being, who makes and uses them all, according to his holy pleasure. Through their folly it looks up to His wisdom, and through their wickedness to His holiness; resting satisfied that He is wise in all his counsels and holy in all his works. In view of this universal and entire control which the Almighty has over all instru. ments, our submission can be universal and entire. But so far as there is any doubt entertained concerning the truth of the doctrine, on which it rests for its support, submission itself must be imperfect.
If we do not believe that the Most High does his whole will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, by all kinds of instruments, unholy as well as holy, our belief does not lay a foun. dation broad enough, to build on it that universal and perfect submis. sion which is required of us, and which it must be our happiness to exercise.
REPENTANCE IS INDISPENSABLE TO THE RELIGION OF A PARDONED SINNER.
In the religion of angels repentance has no place, for they have never sinned. Not only all their actions, but all the desires of their hearts have been perfectly conformed to the will of their Creator.Since they can look back on no deviation from the most perfect rec. titude, there is in their case no call for such an exercise as repentance. But in the religion of man, who is “ a transgressor from the womb,” repentance must needs have a distinguished place. The word of God says much on this subject. It often describes the nature, fruits, and necessity of this grace of the Spirit. The Old Testament prophets inculcated repentance. The forerunner of Christ made this his prominent theme. Christ himself preached it much; and in this he was imitated by his apostles, whose ministry is thus described by one of the evangelists : “ And they went out, and preached that men should repent.” Mark vi. 12. All the teachers whom God commis. sioned, under the former and latter dispensations, unite in urging men to repentance ; also in declaring the impossibility of their being saved without it. The prophets taught that men must repent and turn from all their transgressions, else iniquity would be their ruin. Christ told his hearers, indiscriminately, that except they repented, they should all perish. The apostles made the same representation. They said, “ Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” None of the inspired writers ever give us the least encouragement of forgive. ness, except we repent. See Ez. xvii. 30. Luke xiii. 5. Acts üi. 19.
But all repentance is not of a saving nature; there is a kind which is spurious. The scripture therefore distinguishes that which is gen. uine by calling it “repentance unto life,” “ repentance unto salvation,” and "repentance not to be repented of';" intimating that there is a repentance which is not unto life, not unto salvation, but which need. eth to be repented of. It is my desire to be enabled, in this Article, to give a description of that repentance which has the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. Its most prominent features will be exhibited, which may serve to help us to distinguish it from all that is spurious.