« PreviousContinue »
grace calls them effectually. Why, like the Ethiopians, they were sitting in darkness, and in the region and shadow of death. Yea, not only they that want the gospel altogether, but they that have it, and do not believe it, do not improve the means of grace and salvation, are compared to the Ethiopians, Amos ix. 7: “ Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel ? saith the Lord ;” no better than heathens and barbarians. ,
2dly, See hence the efficacy and power of the gospel, when accompanied with the Spirit of God. Why, it, as it were, washes and changes the Ethiopian; it makes the sinner, who was stretching out his hands to strange gods, to stocks and stones, to stretch out his hand to the only living and true God. It changes the nature of the sinner, and' “ turns him from darkness unto light and from the power of Satan unto God," Acts xxvi. 18.
3dly, See hence that God had an ancient kindness for the Gentile nations, and that he had a mind to erect a church among them under the New Testament. Why, here is a prediction of it; Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God." God's design of love to us Gentiles broke out, immediately after the flood, in the prophecy of Noah, “God shall enlarge Japhet, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem;" and in the words of dying Jacob, Gen. xlix. 10, that, upon the coming of Shiloh, unto him should the gathering of the people be. He is given to be “a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and for salvation unto all the ends of the earth.” “He is set, up for an ensign to the nations; to him shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious." O what manner of praise is it, that this, and the like ancient prophecies, are now fulfilled, and that our lot is cast in the days of the New Testament, in which the tabernacle of God is set up among the Gentiles, who were " aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” during the whole. Old Testament dispensation, and that even these isles of the sea are made to wait for his law; and that, this day, we have opportunity of keeping the solemn feast of his supper ! O let us stretch out our hands unto God in a way of praise and thanksgiving; and let “songs be heard from the ends of the earth, even glory,”. glory to Jesus Christ " the righteous,” Is. xxiv. 16.
4thly, See from this text and doctrine, that the door of faith and salvation stands wide open to all sorts of sinners, even though they shall be as black as Ethiopians, through their lying among the pots of sin, yet the grace of the gospel casts a favourable look towards you, as you see, ver. 13, of this psalm where my text dies, "Though ye have lien among the pots, yet (if ye stretch out the hand of faith to a God in
Christ) shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.” See, to this purpose, Is
. i. 18; Jer. iii. 1. And, therefore, let no sinner give way to despairing thoughts, as if the grace and call of the gospel did not concern them: for sinners of all sorts and sizes are called, and have been actually brought to Christ, who "came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance," Matth. ix. 13.
5thly, See from this doctrine the folly and wickedness of the sin of unbelief, which is a drawing back the hand from God, instead of a stretching it out to him. Hence unbelievers are said to stop the ear, and pull away the shoulder, Zech. vii. 2; “ and say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty that we should serve him ?" Job xxi. 14. O how many such are there who sit under the drop of the gospel ! Sirs, remember that God will resent such treatment, Prov. i. 24-27: “Because I have called, and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I will also laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh, when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you." The Ethiopians will rise in judgment against all such.
6thly, See from this doctrine how the covenant of peace and friendship is established betwixt God and the guilty sinner, in the day of conversion; why, God's hand is stretched out all the day long, in the dispensation of the gospel, beseeching rebellious sinners to be reconciled to him, through the death and blood of his Son, by which his justice is satisfied, 2 Cor. v. 19, compared with Is. Ixv. 2. Now, in the day of conversion, the sinner, like Ethiopia, stretches out his hand to God. He casts a way the weapons of war against God, and submits to the offers of peace and reconciliation made in the gospel; he gives the hand to the Lord, as the expression is, 2 Chron. xxx. 8; where good King Hezekiah, proclaiming the passover to Judah and Israel, exhorts them to yield themselves unto the Lord. The word in the original is, “Give the hand to the Lord.” So that, when a sinner believes in Christ, he, as it were, strikes hands with the Lord, upon the footing of the great sacrifice of atonement. And this I take to be the meaning of that word, Psal. I. 5: "Gather my saints together unto me, even those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice," alluding to the ancient custom of cutting the sacrifice in two parts, and passing between the parts of it, in making covenants between man and man. Gen, xv. 10, 17,
7thly, See from this doctrine, in what the essence either of personal or national covenanting with God does consist. Why, it just lies in following the example of Ethiopia, which stretched out the hand to God, in a way of faith and solemn profession, that the God of Christ shall be their God, and that the Father of Christ shall be their Father; and that in the “strength of the grace that is in Jesus," promised in a new covenant of grace, they will cleave to him by a personal holy walk and conversation; and that, through grace, they will cleave to the doctrine, discipline, worship, and government, that he has appointed in his house, in his holy oracles. It must be a strange kind of a spirit, that either sets his people on edge against such covenants, or turns them to be indifferent about the public work and cause of Christ, as if it were not worth the contending for, or suffering for; when God commands us to " contend for the faith delivered to the saints," Jude 3, and to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,” Gal. v. 1. It appears evidently to be a plot of hell, for burying a testimony for our solemn covenants, and for the reformation of Scotland, and for our encouraging judicatories to go on in their course of backsliding from the Lord, and his work and way.
Sthly, See hence what is the proper duty of all, but especially of every one that is come up to keep the Lord's passover, even like Ethiopia, to stretch out the hand to a God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, by the death and blood of his eternal Son. O, is there any soul in all this company, that will draw back the hand from receiving the Christ of God, his unspeakable gift? He and his righteousness, and whole salvation, is brought to our hand, that
you may receive him, as your own property, for ever. You stand absolutely in need of bim; for, without him, you are undone. But I cannot stand at present upon motives.
Object. 1. “ You bid me stretch out my hand to God, in op: der to receive bis unspeakable gift: but, alas, I have nothing in my hand, no good to commend me to God.”
Ans. Faith, when it comes to receive Christ, is the beggar's hand, which comes not to give, but to get Christ, and all with him for nothing, Is. Iv. 1: " Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price.” Rev. xxii. 17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come: and let him that heareth, say,
Come: and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Object. 2. “My hands are so black with sin, the abominable thing that God hates, that I am ashamed and confounded when I think of stretching out the hand to Christ.
Ans. That moment you lay hold on
Lju are in ye are justified, ye are sanctified in
caware Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Peter's hearers had, Acts ii. 23, and were reeking with the blood of Chri life and salvation is tendered to them t apostle, ver. 38: “Repent, and be bapti in the name of Jesus Christ, for the re
IUT sins; and ye
shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost: for the promise is to you, and to your children.”
Object. 3. “My hand is quite withered and impotent, I cannot stretch out my hand, as you bid me.”
Ans. If you imagine that it is I only, or any minister, that bids you stretch out the hand of your soul to God, you quite mistake it; no, it is God himself that bids you stretch out the hand to him, and therefore, out with the withered hand as it is, make the effort, as the poor man did, you read of in the gospel, and it shall be restored; for he gives power who commands.
Object. 4. “My heart draws back my hand; when I would do good, evil is present with me; so that, “how to perform that which is good I find not.""
Ans. If this complaint flow from a conviction of the sin of ‘unbelief, and the prevalence of a body of sin, it is no bad symptom; for we find the apostle Paul, Rom. vii., has the same complaint concerning himself: and therefore, poor soul, be not discouraged, for he who is the “* Author and Finisher of faith, will strengthen thy weak hands, and confirm thy feeble knees."
THE KINGDOM OF GOD WITHIN THE SOUL OF MAN.
For behold the kingdom of God is within you.-LUKE XVII. 21.
THE FIRST SERMON ON THIS TEXT.
The occasion of these words may be gathered from ver. 20: where you see a question proposed by the Pharisees,
7thly, se kingdom of heaven should come! They had of perfounded notion of a temporal kingdom to be reared Why
up Mhe Messiah; that he would relieve their nation from the Xoman yoke, promote the grandeur of their Sanhedrim, make the members of it his peers and princes, his countrymen his life-guard, and all the nations of the world their vassals and tributaries. This, I say, was the carnal notion they framed in their minds of the kingdom of the Messiah; and they are anxious to know when that happy time would commence. To this question of theirs Christ answers, ver. 20, 21; where. he industriously evades their curiosity, as to the time of the Messiah's kingdom, and makes it his business to rectify their mistaken notion, respecting the nature of it; and for this end he acquaints them,
1st, That the kingdom of the Messiah would have a silent entrance, without worldly pomp and splendour, which was but little regarded by God. And his kingdom cometh not with observation," or outward show and pageantry, as the word in the original may be rendered. When Messiah the Prince comes into the world, men shall not, like the Athenian newsmongers, be saying of himn, Lo, he is here! or Lo, he is there! As when a prince is going with his court from place to place, through bis territories, he is in every body's mouth, and they are ready to make it their talk, The king and his court is in this, or that, or the other place.' Christ lets the Pharisees know, that they were but feeding themselves with mere fancies and delusions, while they imagined such things concerning the Messiah and his kingdom.
2dly, He lets them know, that the Messiah's empire and government was to be principally established in the heart and soul, where no prince but himself can reign, For behold the kingdom of God is within you. Where two or three things are to be considered:
1. The designation given to the Messiah's kingdom: It is called the kingdom of God. Christ, essentially considered, is God co-equal and co-eternal with his father, and as he and the Father are the same in substance, equal in power
and glory,* so they have one and the same kingdom, which “ ruleth over all." 'As Mediator, he is his Father's Viceroy; and his great business in this world was to reduce sinners of Adam's family to their allegiance to God, from which they had fallen, by the subtlety of Satan, the god of this world, who had drawn them into a confederacy with himself against God.
2. We have the seat of this kingdom of God; it is within you. In the margin it reads, “ The kingdom of God is among
* Şborter Catechism, quest. 6th.