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not the least countenance from the doctrine of the church wherein they live, but are continually under her severe reprehensions and reproofs, and are not suffered to live quietly in their sins; so that if they perish, it is purely their own fault and folly.
To conclude this matter, it is a very difficult task for men to persuade themselves to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, though they are rightly principled, and convinced of the necessity of so doing. What a case then are they in, whose very principles lead them to a vicious life; whose very minds, understandings, and notions of things, are corrupted; who are not yet convinced of the necessity of a holy life! If the light within thee be darkness, saith our blessed Lord, how great is that darkness ! Matt. vi. 23. It is impossible for men of such ill principles to live well, unless either their understandings be so weak, as not to discern their eonsequences, (and then their weakness is their happiness,) or else a very strong inclination to virtue, and a mighty grace in them, conquer and overcome the venom and poison of them.
Wherefore, my dear brethren, let no man deceive you with vain words, but hearken to the word of God, which tells you, that you must not expect to reap in mercy, unless you sow to yourselves in
, righteousness. Let never either Jesuit or fanatic persuade you to the contrary. Fix and settle in your minds such plain texts of Scripture as these : Except ye repent, ye shall all perish. Luke xiii. 3. Follow peace and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Heb. xü. 14. God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who
by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, &c. but glory, honour, and peace, to every one that worketh good. For there is no re
. spect of persons with God. Rom. ii..6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Fix, I say, and settle these and such like places of holy Scripture in your minds and memories, and let no sophistry of men or devils ever baffle or dissuade you from so plain a truth. · Nay, let not your own hearts deceive you, as they will be apt to do, either by causing you to divert your thoughts from these express declarations of God's will, or to seek out shifts and evasions to elude them. But often call to mind, meditate, and think on these Scriptures, Let them continually haunt your souls, (if I may so speak,) and never suffer you to be at rest, till you have resolved upon a holy life, and engaged yourselves in it. And then happy, thrice happy shall you be; and after you have sown to yourselves in righteousness, a glorious harvest shall you reap from the mercy of God. And this leads me to the second observation from my text, which I shall briefly despatch, and so conclude.
Observ. 2. When we have sown in righteousness, that is, done righteous works, we must not plead any merit of our own in having so done; but must look for the reward of our righteousness only from the free grace and mercy of God.
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy. The reward of the righteous man is every where in Scripture pronounced to be a reward of grace and mercy. The words of the second commandment are observable, shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments. They that love God and keep his commandments, all the reward they can hope for is, that God should shew mercy unto them. And there is a great deal of congruity, though they seem strange, in the words of David, Psalm lxii. 12. Unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy : for thou renderest to every man according to his work. That God rendereth to every man, that is, every righteous man, according to his work, is an act of his mercy. Nehemiah, chap. xiii. reckons up many great and noble works that he had done for the honour and service of God; but that you may see he boasted not in all this, that he had no conceit of any merit in himself, observe how humbly towards the conclusion of the chapter he supplicates for mercy, and such mercy, as whereby God would spare him, that is, not punish him. Ver. 22. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. He counts it greatness of mercy to be spared by God, after all his great good works. In like manner St. Paul, after he had mentioned the frequent acts of charity that Onesiphorus had exercised towards him, prays that God would reward them, in this style ; The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day. 2 Tim. i. 16, 17, 18.
There are two reasons suggested in the text itself, that utterly destroy all conceit of the merit of our righteousness.
1. By our righteousness we give nothing to God; he reaps no advantage from it to himself. "If we sow in righteousness, we sow to ourselves, and the harvest
of this righteousness we ourselves reap. Sow to your- . sebes, reap ye. My goodness, saith the Psalmist, extends not to thee, but to the saints that are in the earth, Psalm xvi. 2, 3. As if he had said, I may and will do good to thy saints, but I can do no good to thee; for I receive all the good I have, or do, from thee. Indeed if we are wicked, we hurt not God, but ourselves; and if we are righteous, the benefit is to ourselves, and not to him. Whatsoever we crawling worms do here on earth, God sits still upon the • circle of the heavens, the same perfect, unchangeable, blessed, and happy God for ever and ever. Only he is pleased out of his infinite condescension to look down from heaven, upon those little things we do here out of a hearty desire to glorify him; and in his abundant mercy he will plentifully reward them. We may challenge all who lay such stress upon merit, to answer St. Paul's question, Who hath first given to him, that is, God, and it shall be recompensed to him again? Rom. xi. 35.
2. The other reason against all merit of our good works, suggested in the very text, is this : there is no just proportion between our works of righteousness, and the reward of them. Our good works are but a few seeds; but the reward is a harvest. Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy. The words in the Hebrew are emphatical
, reap 70 lephi chesed, according to the measure of mercy. For lephi and kephi are in Scripture used to signify the measure or proportion of a thing. Thus Exod. xvi. 21. Every man gathered you o lephi o kelo,
s according to the measure of his eating. The sense therefore is : He that sows in righteousness shall reap and receive his reward, not according to the small
proportion of the seeds of righteousness that he hath sown, but according to the measure of the divine mercy and goodness, which useth superabundantly to remunerate man's slender performances. And accordingly the learned Drusius thus paraphraseth the words; in, or according to, mercy; benigna, ac pleniore mensura, quam seminastis, “in a bountiful and “ “ fuller measure than you have sown.” As in a good and plentiful year, the harvest or crop that is reaped vastly exceeds the seed sown, every grain yielding many more; so and much more it is here. What poor slender seeds of righteousness do we sow! But O the vast crop and harvest of glory that shall, through the mercy of God, spring and rise out of those seeds! It shall be so great, that when we come to reap it, we ourselves shall stand amazed at it.
To conclude therefore: he that hath sown the seeds of righteousness most plentifully, must look for his harvest of glory only from the mercy of God. He that is richest in good works, must sue for heaven in the quality of a poor worthless creature, that needs infinite mercy to bring him thither; mercy to pardon his sins antecedent to his good works; mercy to forgive the sins and defects in his works; mercy to advance his works (being, though supposed never so perfect, yet finite and temporary) to the possibility of attaining an infinite and endless reward. He must confess with St. Paul, that eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ, Rom. vi. 23. That it is the rich purchase of Christ's most precious blood, by which alone a covenant of eternal life was established upon the gracious condition of faith working by love; that it was the grace of the divine Spirit promised in the same covenant, that prevented