Section 6. The LOVE of Christ is precious to those who believe.
This is the most powerful inducement which can be
proposed to us—to excite our ardent affections towards the gracious
Redeemer. Neither the reasonings of philosophers, the persuasions of
orators, nor even the displays of divine goodness in the works of creation
and providence, will answer this end—if our hearts are armored against the
attractions of a Savior's love. Can we contemplate the agonies he
endured for us, and thus place ourselves under the beams of his unparalleled
love, and not feel in our melting hearts some returns of affection and
regard for him!
The apostle John speaks very justly, when he says, "We
loved him—because he first loved us." And another apostle makes use of very
strong terms when treating on the same subject, "The love of Christ," says
he, "constrains us." The love of Jesus was most strongly manifested in his
dying for us. What can be expected to attract our love—if this does not? He
himself speaks of it as that which should be efficacious in winning the
hearts of men; "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men
Those who are indifferent to the compassion of the dying
Redeemer, lose the strongest motive to love and obedience. They are acting
the part of the foolish Galatians, who were carried away from this glorious
subject, by a kind of infatuation. "O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched
you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has
been evidently set forth, crucified among you." O how desirable is it to be
enabled constantly to behold him by faith—as crucified for us! Surely we
should never forget, that, when he might have left us to perish—such was his
love, he died—that we might live, he endured the greatest agonies—that he
might snatch us from the jaws of eternal destruction, and open to us the
gates of everlasting peace and felicity! Well may such a Savior be precious
to us! Surely those who love him most, have reason still to be grieved—that
they do not love him more.
He has loved us—so as to ransom us with his blood! He
ransoms us from a voluntary bondage; from the most vile and miserable
captivity; a captivity from which nothing but Almighty grace could have set
us free! Could we have made any pretense to merit, the case would have been
different. But since we were totally unworthy, entirely helpless, wretched
and undone—human vanity is forever silenced, and all boasting eternally
excluded. It was the good pleasure of him who saves us—to love us freely.
It is this love of Christ for His people—which tunes the
harps of heaven, and affords the glorified saints, a never-failing subject
of harmony and praise! On this theme, they fix their meditations. They
admire the glorious mystery of the victorious cross—and sing the wonders of
This love is celebrated by them with peculiar praises;
"And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open
its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for
God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them
to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.' Then I looked and heard the
voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand
times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and
the elders. In a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and
praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the
earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on
the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever
and ever!'" Revelation 5:9-13
What is most wonderful of all, is that Jesus should show
such love as this for sinful men—men who were the enemies of
God. "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still
sinners, Christ died for us. When we were God's enemies, we were
reconciled to him through the death of his Son. You see, at just the right
time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly."
His love to them was dying love—and in this, the
greatness of it most of all appears. When in his agony he sweat great drops
of blood falling down to the ground—it was for enemies! The shame and
spitting to which he meekly submitted, the torments inflicted on his body,
and the inexpressible sorrows which overwhelmed his soul—were all endured
for enemies—to save them from ruin, and to exalt them to eternal glory and
felicity! It was for them, that he submitted to have the arrows of Divine
vengeance spent upon him—which occasioned his bloody sweat, and his solemn
outcry upon the cross, "My God, my God—why have you forsaken me!" His body
was torn—and his heart was broken—for his enemies!
Probably, through violent fermentation, the crimson fluid
became a mixture of blood and water, partly issuing from the pores of his
body in the garden, and partly flowing from his side, when pierced by the
spear; "Forthwith there came out blood and water." He endured all this for
the honor of Divine justice, and to take away the dishonor which we have
done to God by our sins, and so to commend or set forth his love to us, in
the most striking manner possible.
Oh! for this love, let rocks and hills
Their lasting silence break,
And all harmonious human tongues
The Savior's praises speak!
He suffered from the hand of Divine justice—as if his
sins had been infinite, though he was holy, harmless, and undefiled. The
reason was, "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Therefore he
was stricken, smitten and afflicted by God." It was for our transgressions,
that he was wounded; it was for our iniquities, that he was bruised. Our
peace is procured by his chastisement; and our healing by his
stripes. If such a Savior is not precious to us—nothing can equal our
ingratitude. He died for those who spilt his blood, and who mocked him in
the midst of his severest agonies, as is evident from his intercession for
them; "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." O loving
Savior! it is fit and right that every knee in heaven and earth should bow
to you, and that every angel, and every saint should love you, and adore you
forever!—O my soul,
Survey the wondrous cure,
And at each step let higher wonders rise.
Pardon for infinite offence! And pardon
Through means which speak its value infinite!
A pardon bought with blood! With blood divine!
With blood divine of Him I made my foe!
Persisted to provoke! Though wooed and awed,
Blessed and chastised, a flagrant rebel still!
Nor I alone! A rebel universe!
My species up in arms!—Not one exempt!
Yet for the foulest of the foul—he dies!
The gracious manifestations of his love to our souls
are exceedingly precious. "There are many that say, Who will show us any
good? Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon us! This will put
gladness into our hearts—more than the increase of corn, or wine, or oil.
Your favor is life, yes, your loving-kindness is better than life itself!"
"O blessed Jesus, your love is wonderful! It is the
admiration of angels, the joy and song of glorified saints. The experimental
sense of it on earth, sweetens the bitterness of life, and disarms death of
all its terrors! It was love which moved you to bow the heavens, to come
down and sojourn on earth, to humble yourself, to take on you the form of a
servant, and become obedient onto death, even the death of the cross. You
pitied me in my lost estate. You sought and found me—when I sought you not.
You spoke peace to me in the day of my distress, when the clouds of guilt
and darkness hung heavy on my soul—and I was brought to the borders of
despair. You have borne with all my weakness, corrected my mistakes,
restored me from my wanderings, and healed my backslidings. May your
loving-kindness be ever before my eyes, to induce me to walk in your truth.
May it be the daily theme of my meditations, and the constant joy of my
"When I am favored with the light of your countenance,
and the comfortable sense of your love—my soul is filled and satisfied. All
the glittering glories of this world are then darkened, and turned into
deformity. They are but broken cisterns—but you are the fountain of living
waters. The streams of creature enjoyments, are shallow and deceitful
as a brook—but you are the full ocean of never-failing delight and
"To your love I must ascribe my whole salvation; and
through all the ages of a blissful eternity—I shall proclaim the wonders of
redeeming love, and tell to listening angels what your love has done for my
soul. Unto him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
and made us kings and priests to God—to him be glory and dominion forever
and ever! Amen."
Section 7. Christ's THRONE of GRACE is precious, to those
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with
confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our
time of need." Hebrews 4:16.
The men of the world are totally ignorant of that
delightful fellowship, which is carried on between Christians and their
exalted and interceding Savior—what petitions they daily present
before his throne, and what gracious answers they receive from him.
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are
ever open to their cries. Whoever else may overlook or disappoint them—he
will not. When their spirits are overwhelmed within them—he knows their
path. When human means and efforts fail, when everything looks dark before
them, when their way seems to be shut up on every side, and they are brought
to the lowest ebb—still they have welcome access to the Divine throne, where
they may tell all their needs, and unbosom all their cares and sorrows, with
the certain hope of obtaining mercy, and finding grace to help in the time
Prayer is not only a duty—but an inestimable privilege!
The condescension of God is wonderful, in bending his gracious ear to sinful
worms. When the heart of a Christian is under a proper influence—he finds a
greater pleasure in approaching the Divine throne, than in anything this
world can afford. He obtains more light, strength, comfort and refreshment,
by one hour's converse with God—than he could do by any other means!
The prophet Daniel fully showed how precious the throne
of grace was to him, since neither the prohibition of the king, nor the
threatened horrors of the den of lions—could prevail with him to omit one
opportunity of approaching it.
What an unspeakable privilege it is—to have liberty of
access to God! To have his permission, nay, his invitation
and command—to come boldly to his throne of grace, and to call him
our Father in Christ! Amidst surrounding dangers, snares and temptations, we
may fly to him as our refuge, and lift up our hearts to him in fervent and
earnest prayer. To him we may tell all our inmost cares—and open all our
griefs. His ears are always attentive to our requests, and the gales of his
blessed Spirit will dispel the gloom in which we are involved, and breathe
internal peace and fragrance on our souls.
In the exercises of private devotion, we may
nourish and express all the holy affections of our souls, with the greatest
freedom. We may say a thousand things to our heavenly Father in secret—which
would not be proper in public devotion. We may pour out our souls
before him, in the strongest and most pathetic sentiments of holy desire,
and divine delight. We may tell him all the disquietudes of our consciences,
the secret anguish and shame of our hearts—because of those offences which
are known to him alone. We may sigh deeply, and pour out the tear of
penitence into his bosom. We may tell him how intense our desires are—to
experience more of his love, and to be conformed to his image. We may
rejoice in his sight with divine exultation and holy triumph, in the
prospect of being shortly with him in the heavenly world.
Let the favorites of an earthly prince value themselves
on being permitted to hold converse with their sovereign; I would ever
esteem it a privilege infinitely superior, to have free and welcome access
to the King of kings!
Section 8. The DOCTRINE of Christ is precious, to those who believe.
The truths of the gospel reveal a method of salvation
every way honorable to God and his righteous government; and every way
suitable to our necessities. The ground, the substance, and the spirit of
the glad tidings sent from heaven to a lost world are, that Jesus
Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. The apostle Paul was
determined, as a minister, to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him
crucified. This theme, and the truths connected with it, engrossed all his
thoughts. He dwelt so much upon these subjects, that it might appear as if
he knew nothing else; and as if nothing else were, comparatively speaking,
worthy of his attention.
When our Lord, after his resurrection, honored his
disciples with his company in their journey to Emmaus, he began at Moses and
all the prophets, and expounded to them in all the Scriptures—the things
concerning himself. Did they hear the Divine truths he advanced with
indifference? Far from it! These truths were precious to their souls, as
appears from their own animated expressions; "Did not our hearts burn within
us, while he talked with us by the way, and opened to us the Scriptures?"
The Word of Christ in general, is precious to
those who believe. As the coin of Caesar bore his image and superscription,
so the Divine Word bears the image of Christ, and consequently must be dear
to those who love him. They revere that sacred injunction, "Let the Word of
Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, that you may be able also to
admonish one another."
David, the king of Israel made while living, this public
declaration, and left it, when he died, to be observed by all succeeding
generations—that the Word of God was better to him than thousands of
gold and silver; that it was sweeter to him than honey, and the
honeycomb; and that it was his meditation all the day. If he tasted so much
sweetness in the least valuable part of the Divine Word, how much
richer is the feast to us in these latter days! Since the gospel
is now added to the law; the Lord has put his final hand to the work,
has "sealed up the sum—and rendered it full of wisdom and perfect in
The divine Redeemer cannot, in this world, be seen face
to face. This is the felicity of the heavenly state. But in his holy
Word, as in a looking-glass, we behold his glory. The lineaments of his
beauty are here drawn by a divine pencil. The Bible must consequently be a
precious book, in the estimation of every Christian.
This inestimable book unfolds to us the path of peace,
the way of eternal salvation. We here learn, how the guilty may be pardoned,
in perfect consistency with the honor of infinite holiness. We here learn,
how God can be just, and the justifier of the ungodly, who, in themselves
deserve everlasting condemnation. We are indebted to this sacred volume for
all the light that ever chased the glooms of doubts, or cheered the bosom of
despondency; for all that gives confidence to faith, energy to hope, ardency
to love, or fervor to devotion; for whatever can tranquilize the mind in
life, or administer consolation at the last hour. We have here the doctrine
which is according to godliness; we have here the words of everlasting life!
The volume of my Father's grace
Does all my grief assuage;
Here I behold my Savior's face,
Almost in every page!
The general design of this divine book is, to establish
the soul in believing the testimony, which God has given concerning his son
Jesus Christ; to direct it in doing his will, and to comfort it in all the
sufferings and afflictions attendant on the present state. The sacred volume
therefore insists much on faith, obedience, and patience. The first,
faith—is certainly the ground-work of the other two.
Holy men of God, whose sentiments and experiences are
here left upon record, have given us the most magnificent eulogies of this
Word. They represent it as a source of felicity. They tell us—that it
converts and restores the soul; that it gives wisdom to the
simple; that it is more to be desired than the richest treasures, or the
sweetest enjoyments which this world can afford; that it is adapted to
instruct, to correct, to comfort, and to render the man of God perfect. They
assure us, that these are not mere fancies, destitute of sense and truth;
the inspired witnesses unitedly testify, that they themselves have known the
power of the divine Word by their own experience; that when they have made
it the subject of their attentive meditation, they have been "satisfied as
with marrow and fatness, and have rejoiced in it more than those who find
To expatiate on the several doctrines contained in the
Bible, and to point out the preciousness of each, is not my present design.
It may suffice to say, that they all center in Christ Jesus—and are all
valuable in the estimation of his people, on that account. Does this
precious book speak of the love of God—the source of all good to man?
It is in Christ Jesus. Does it unfold the ancient counsels of infinite
wisdom and grace? They are the eternal purposes of the Father in
Christ Jesus our Lord. Does it speak of redemption? It is by his
blood. Does it speak of justification? It is through his
righteousness. Does it speak of conversion? We are called by his
grace. Does it speak of regeneration? We are quickened together with
Christ. Does it speak of adoption? We are the children of God—by
faith in Jesus Christ. Does it speak of perseverance? Because he
lives—we shall live also. Does it speak of eternal glory? It is the
gift of God—through our Lord Jesus Christ.
How divinely excellent are these sacred truths! With what
sovereign efficacy do they operate upon the mind and heart, when
accompanied by the agency of the blessed Spirit! How powerfully do they
awaken repentance, and melt the soul into holy sorrow! In what an
illustrious light do they represent the majesty and the grace of the blessed
God; and how do they command our humble adoration! How do they display the
wonders of his wisdom, and the riches of his mercy in Christ
Jesus—to produce faith, and attract desire and love! What a blessed
foundation do they lay for an infinite eternity of devout meditations,
suited to every case!
These divine truths relieve the soul, under every
distress; that by the patience and comfort of the Scriptures, we may have
hope towards God. The believer lives on the divine variety of beneficial and
transporting objects set before him in the sacred pages. Here he finds the
fountains of life set open—every stream flowing with holiness and
consolation. It is his prevailing desire, that all his affections may be
under the command and influence of the divine Word—that while it affords him
intense delight, it may animate him to active zeal in the practice of
everything which it enjoins—teaching him to deny ungodliness and worldly
lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world,
while he looks for the blessed hope, in that world which is to come.
A certain martyr, who was condemned to die for his
inviolable adherence to the doctrines of Scripture, gave this expressive
testimony, in his last moments, of his regard for that divine book. Being
arrived at the stake, and having composed himself for suffering, he took his
final leave of all below, in these affecting words, 'Farewell sun and moon!
Farewell all the beauties of creation, and all the comforts of life!
Farewell my honored friends! Farewell my beloved relations! And farewell
you—precious book of God!'
Section 9. The PROMISES of Christ are precious, to those
These shall stand in force, though heaven and earth shall
pass away. Length of time cannot diminish their efficacy, nor alter what the
mouth of the Lord has spoken. The sun may fail to rise, and men expect its
returning light in vain—but the promises of everlasting truth cannot be
broken. "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my
kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace
be removed, says the Lord who has mercy on you." The course of nature may be
reversed, and all be chaos again; but the promises of God cannot fail for
evermore, since he who made them is immutable, and cannot by any change
deceive the hopes of those who trust in him. It is impossible that he should
promise anything that it is beyond his ability to perform. He is not as a
man, that he should lie, nor as the son of man that he should repent. Has he
said, I will surely do you good—and shall he not do it? Has he spoken, and
shall he not accomplish the thing which has gone out of his lips!
Our fathers trusted in him—and were not confounded; they
relied on his faithful Word—and were delivered. All the succeeding
generations of his people, from the beginning of time, have placed their
confidence in what he has spoken, and none could ever charge him, either
with lack of compassion, or breach of truth.
"He has given unto us exceeding great and precious
promises; that by these you may be partakers of the Divine nature,
having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." They are
great, as being made by the Most High God, the Possessor of heaven and
earth. God's promises treat of the greatest things that language can
express, or thought conceive; deliverance from sin, all its consequences;
the bestowment of all grace, and of everlasting glory hereafter. "Eye has
not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man—the
things which God has prepared for those who love him."
The promises are precious in their origin—the free
and sovereign grace of God. The promises are precious in their nature—as
they contain the most precious things. The promises are precious in their
suitableness to our case, and to all our needs. The promises are
precious in their efficacy upon our souls—to subdue our fears, to
support our faith, to calm our disquietudes, to elevate our hopes, to afford
us comfort in all our sorrows, and to transform us into the Divine likeness;
for by these promises we are made partakers of the Divine nature.
Section 10. The LAWS of Christ are precious to those who believe.
The laws of his mouth are better than thousands of gold
and silver. To be under these divine restraints, is the sweetest liberty.
A practical regard to the commands of Christ is the best
evidence that he is precious to us. It is very remarkable with what emphasis
he himself speaks on this head, how much he insists upon this one article,
and how often he repeats it. "If you love me—keep my commandments. If a man
loves me—he will keep my words. He who loves me not, keeps not my sayings.
Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit—so shall you be my
disciples. You are my friends—if you do whatever I command you."
A holy conformity to the Divine will, is as much the end
of all that God does for his people—as fruit is the end of all that the
farmer does about his field or his vineyard. Regard for Christ then is best
shown—by obedience to his will. "He who has my commandments, and keeps
them—he it is that loves me." We have the commands of our divine Master—but
do we keep them? If you know these things—happy are you if you do
them. He who is our Redeemer, is also our Lord and
Governor. If we have a sincere attachment to him—we shall be subject to
his authority, and take care to please him. Above all other things—we shall
be afraid of displeasing and offending him. Our obedience to him will be
hearty and sincere, constant and impartial. Our
miscarriages will fill us with disquietude and sorrow. The genuine language
of our hearts will be, "O that my ways were directed to keep your statutes!
Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all your
commandments." One of the disciples of Jesus says, "His commandments are not
grievous;" another, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man."
Our regard for his laws is shown, not only in the
sincerity—but in the willingness and cheerfulness of our
obedience. Reluctance to his service is inexcusable; weariness and dullness
in his service is shameful. Our obedience should be universal and
constant. We should be steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the
work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labor is not in vain in the
We are commanded to love the Author of our being with all
our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength. To love him with all
our mind—is to have the highest esteem of him, in our judgment, as
the most excellent and the best of beings, and as our only all-sufficient
good. To love him with all our soul—is to choose him for our eternal
portion, to give up ourselves to him as our Lord and Ruler, and to receive
him as our God, and our reconciled Father, according to the discoveries of
his grace in Christ Jesus. And to love him with all our strength—is
to worship him with holy diligence, and, according to the utmost of our
capacity and power to do his will, and promote his honor in the world.
The mere flashes of sudden passion, in a devout moment,
without a supreme and settled esteem of God in the mind, and a careful and
active obedience to his commands, are of little consequence. The hearers who
received the Word, like seed which fell on stony ground, are said to receive
it with joy; but their devotion and religion were only a sudden blaze, which
quickly expired. They endured but for a while. On the other hand,
those who receive the seed into good ground, are they, who having heard the
Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
"Lord, let my obedience to your commands be universal;
my whole being subject to your whole will, and that continually and
perseveringly, even to the end of life. Let obedience have its root in my
heart, that it may not wither like grass which has no deepness of
earth—but be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, bringing forth
fruit in due season. Let my obedience arise from a holy reverence of
you, the great Lawgiver; a reverence tempered with love and gratitude. I
shall then account none of your commands either grievous or unimportant—but
esteem them all to be right and precious. Under the influence of the
great truths I profess to believe, may the vices of my mind, and the
disorders of my life be effectually subdued and corrected, that in
righteousness and holiness I may walk before you, in the land of the living.
Engrave your law on the fleshly tablet of my heart, that I may love it
exceedingly; then my constant study and endeavor will be to exhibit a copy
of it in the various actions of my life. Then shall I not be ashamed when I
have respect unto all your commandments; in keeping of them there is great
Section 11. The WAYS of Christ are precious to those who believe.
When we are enabled, in sincerity, to make choice of our
Lord Jesus Christ, as our prophet, our priest, and our king—we feel the
force of our obligations to him, we see the beauty and honor of his service,
and are convinced that nothing is worthy, in any sense, to stand in
competition with it. And in proportion as he is precious to us—his ways and
his service will be pleasant; so that we shall do the will of God from the
Those whom our Lord Jesus Christ has purified unto
himself, as a people for his very own possession—are zealous for good works.
They give up themselves to his service, and make it their principal business
to please him, and to live to him. Their Christian course is compared to
those exercises in which men exert their strength, and that with the
greatest earnestness and eagerness; particularly running, wrestling, and
Where love to Jesus reigns in the heart—it will induce a
man to act in a manner suitable to it. Supreme love, as an excellent writer
has observed, governs all the active train of human passions, and leads
them, in sweet captivity, to cheerful obedience. And as the inward
affections will be thus engaged towards the Redeemer, the outward powers
will be employed in corresponding exercises. The way in which we are to show
that Jesus is precious to us, is by walking in his truth, and fulfilling
every present duty with delight. It is then that we find the ways of wisdom,
to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths to be paths of peace. Love to
Jesus Christ induces us to account every duty a privilege, and to esteem the
service of our Divine Master perfect freedom.
There is nothing in the ways of religion which ought to
be deemed burdensome. To walk in them with fervor and spirituality of mind,
and with regularity, integrity, and circumspection, has a tendency to make
us calm, easy, and happy. The yoke of Christ is an easy yoke—not a galling
yoke. The more we wear it, the easier and the pleasanter it is. We should
esteem the worship of God as the most needful part of our daily business,
and the most delightful part of our daily comforts. His laws are the
dictates of the highest wisdom and goodness. It befits us to rejoice that we
are under his government, and to serve him with the greatest cheerfulness.
The consolations which come from Jesus, are only to be
experienced in the ways of piety, and the paths of holiness. And these are
no fantastic delusions—but substantial and divine delights; joys with which
a stranger cannot understand. They serve to enlarge the mind, and give it a
more elevated turn, while it derives its sovereign supports from the source
of all excellency and perfection, and rests on nothing unworthy the dignity
of an immortal soul, on nothing beneath him who is the Fountain of boundless
and immortal felicity.
The life of the negligent and loose professor of
Christianity, seems to be a perpetual struggle to reconcile impossibilities;
it is an endeavor to unite what God has forever separated: peace—and sin;
unchristian practices—and Christian comforts; a quiet conscience—and a
disorderly life; a heart full of the cares and concerns of the present
world—and a well-grounded and cheerful expectation of the happiness of the
next. An attempt to unite these is as vain, as an endeavor to put asunder
what God has joined together.
If Christ is precious to us, we shall have a high value,
a sincere regard for those ways in which he has promised his presence with
his people. We shall be ready to say with those of ancient times, "O Lord,
we love to obey your laws; our heart's desire is to glorify your name."
Section 12. The PEOPLE of Christ are precious, to those who believe.
So dear are the followers of Christ to those who
believe—that they are ready and willing to treat such as brethren; to
show kindness and good-will to them on all occasions; and though they are
poor and despised in the world—to esteem them as the excellent in the earth,
because of their conformity and relation to Christ. We make it manifest that
we have a sincere affection to such, when we reveal a pitiful and tender
spirit towards them in calamity, when we are ready to bear their burdens,
and willing to spend part of our substance, and to suffer many
inconveniences in our worldly interests, in order to promote their welfare
in soul and body.
Consider the example of the apostle Paul. All his
epistles abound with expressions of a pledge and overflowing affection to
the followers of Christ. He expresses his ardent love to them, by calling
them dearly beloved and longed for. He would have them to know
the abundant love which he had towards them. He says, "We were as gentle
among you as a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We cared so
much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of
God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us."
The apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was
indulged with the sweetest familiarity with him, and even permitted to lean
on his bosom, says more concerning love to the brethren than any
other apostle. To collect all that he writes on this subject, would be to
transcribe a considerable part of his epistles. His addresses to the
children of God are exceedingly tender and endearing, breathing out nothing
but the most fervent love. This sweet and holy affection had full possession
of his heart, and the expressions of it flowed freely and abundantly from
his lips and his pen. He proposes the serious inquiry, "Jesus Christ laid
down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no
pity on him—how can the love of God be in him?" He considers love to the
brethren as that by which we may know that we are passed from death unto
If we do not love our brethren whom we have seen—how can
we love God whom we have not seen? All Christ's disciples bear his image; if
the original is precious to us, we shall have some regard for the
picture, however imperfect it may be in the present state.
The love we are to manifest to the brethren is different,
as a writer well observes, from that universal benevolence which we
owe to men in general, and to the regard we have for our natural relations
in particular. It is an injunction given by our Lord Jesus to his disciples
in a special manner, "A new commandment I give unto you—that you love one
another." Sometimes it is connected with the command to believe in Jesus; to
signify unto us, that without faith in him we are incapable of loving his
followers in a proper manner. "This is his commandment, That we should
believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one
another, as he gave us commandment." The love intended, is a love to those
who know the truth—for the truth's sake, which dwells in them. It is far
from being confined to any particular party or denomination of Christians,
the objects of it are—all of every name, place, or nation, who give evidence
of their being saints, and faithful brethren in Christ Jesus.
The motive or reason enforcing this love
is, the regard which the Redeemer has to his followers, "As I have loved
you, see that you also love one another." To impress this injunction the
more, he repeats it, "This is my commandment, that you love one another, as
I have loved you." And he shows in what manner he had loved them, in the
words immediately following: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man
lay down his life for his friends." Jesus did more than this, he laid
down his life for enemies. But as he is here speaking of love to one
another, as friends and brethren, he enforces his injunction by this
instance of his love towards them, considered as his friends.
The apostle John, taking up the idea suggested by his
divine Master, says, "Hereby we perceive the love of Christ, because he laid
down his life for us." He also draws the same inference from it which his
Master did, with particular application to himself, and to those whom he
addresses: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one
another—we ought (if called to it) to lay down our lives for the brethren."
This is a new motive to brotherly love. A motive peculiar to the gospel; a
motive which, in a special manner, respects the friends of Christ, for whom
he had so high a degree of regard as to lay down his life in their stead. In
the passage cited above, it is supposed, that these friends of Christ
believe the great doctrine of atonement, and that, as such—they should be
influenced by it to that mutual affection which is required of them, by
him who ransomed them with his blood.
Obedience to this command of our adorable Savior, is the
grand evidence of our being his true followers; "By this shall all men know
that you are my disciples—if you have love to one another." Hence it is
evident, that the love intended is not a hidden principle in the mind,
which does not reveal itself in outward acts of kindness. It must mean an
attachment so sincere, so fervent, as to be attended with effects
which all men can see; a love which is operative and beneficial; a love in
deed and in truth, producing such fruits in all the behavior of Christians
towards one another, as will, in a striking and convincing manner,
distinguish them from all the world besides, and mark them out to all
observers, as the disciples of a living Savior.
Nor is this love intended only to produce a conviction in
others, that the subjects of it belong to Christ; it is also to be the
evidence of the same thing in their own consciences. "We know that we have
passed from death unto life—because we love the brethren. He who does not
love his brother, abides in death. My little children (for such you are to
resemble in true simplicity of heart) let us not love in word, neither in
tongue only—but in deed and truth. And hereby we know that we are of the
truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our hearts condemn us
(of being destitute of this love) God is greater than our heart, and knows
all things. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us—then have we confidence
Obedience to this new commandment of brotherly love, is
of such importance in the religion of Jesus, that it is evident from the
divine Word, there is no real Christianity without it; since it is not only
represented as the visible distinction between Christ's disciples and the
men of the world—as the great evidence of our being born of God, and having
a right knowledge of him; of his dwelling in us, and of our dwelling in him,
as the apostle John shows. But it is one of the principal evidences of what
is now under our immediate consideration; namely, of our regard to Christ
himself, or of his being precious to us. "Everyone who believes that Jesus
is the Christ is a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his
children, too. If we love one another, his love is perfected in us." As if
it had been said, 'The objects of his love, who bear his holy image, are
daily before our eyes, that we may have an opportunity of testifying our
love to him, by showing kindness to them for his sake. If therefore we love
one another, our love to the unseen Redeemer produces its proper effect, and
is proved to be true and sincere.' Without this operative principle of
brotherly affection, in vain do we pretend, either that Christ has the
chief place in our hearts, or that we are savingly interested in his love to
This is that love concerning which the apostle Paul
writes so largely to the Corinthian church. He shows its excellence above
the most useful and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and declares, that
though a man, who is destitute of it, should give all his goods to feed the
poor, and his body to be burned—that it would profit him nothing. He
describes this love, as being directly opposite to every malignant passion
and disposition; to pride, selfishness, evil-surmising, and envy. He shows
that it is kind, bountiful, and beneficent; engaging the followers of
Christ, in every prudent and possible way, to serve one another. He
intimates, that in the present, imperfect state, it is requisite to use much
self-denial in maintaining and manifesting this love, and that it requires
the exercise of humility, patience, meekness, and long-suffering, in
enduring all trying things, and bearing one another's burdens. But as on the
one hand—love does not rejoice in iniquity, so as to bear with a brother in
any gross error, or in any practice contrary to the gospel—but is solicitous
to restore such a one, in the spirit of meekness. So, on the other hand, it,
rejoices in the saving truth of Christ, which so gloriously manifests his
love to men. The truth of the gospel is one of the first objects of a
believer's delight, and his love to the brethren is just in proportion as he
perceives the truth to dwell in them, in its power and efficacy; for he
loves them "for the truth's sake, which dwells in them."
This love, when compared with faith and hope, is said to
be greater than either of them, and that on two accounts. In the first place
it excels them in duration—for when faith and hope shall have issued in the
sight and enjoyment of their respective objects, then love will be made
perfect, and it will prevail and reign forever in the regions of unfading
felicity. And in the second place, love may be considered as superior to
faith and hope, even in the present state, because, in its nature, it is the
very image of God. It is one of the principal things wherein the child of
grace resembles his heavenly Father, and is conformed to his likeness; for
"God is love." It is that in which the believer most imitates the Lord Jesus
Christ, in the peculiarly endearing part of his character, his love to men.
"Be followers of God as dear as children. And walk in love, just as Christ
has loved us, and given himself for us."
To set this article in the most striking point of light
imaginable, we are expressly taught, that by this love to the saints,
Christ will, when he comes to judge the world at the last day, distinguish
his own people from all others. Let the reader attentively consider the
account given by the supreme Judge himself, of what will be the process of
that solemn day, in the twenty-fifth chapter of the evangelist Matthew. They
on the left hand will be condemned, as having given no proof of attachment
to Christ, by showing regard to his followers. "Then the King will say to
those on the right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the
Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry,
and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger,
and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I
was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. I
assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and
sisters—you were doing it to me!"
How important then is this evidence of the preciousness
of Christ to our souls! How careful should we be to cultivate brotherly love
both in ourselves and others! "Above all things put on love, which is the
bond of perfectness." Love is the sweetest, the most effectual, the most
perfect, and the most lasting bond, that ever united the hearts of men
Section 13. The INTERESTS of Christ are precious, to those who believe.
It is not enough for a man to talk in high strains of the
melting and moving of his affections to the Redeemer, to tell of the inward
experiences he has had, at certain periods, of love to him, how his heart
was drawn out to him at this or the other time—when, in the general course
of his life, he is indifferent to the cause of Christ, and unwilling to lay
out himself for the promoting of his kingdom among men. We are to make it
manifest that Christ is precious to us—by constant endeavors to advance his
cause and interest in the world.
Transient elevations of mind may easily produce words
of affection and kindness; but words are cheap, and religion is
more easily expressed in lofty professions than in actions. A practical,
steady, and persevering regard for Jesus Christ, is a costly and laborious
thing. It requires much self-denial and vigorous exertions in our daily
walk. Men are much more easily brought to talk about the Savior of
sinners, than to live to him.
We find the true spirit of Christianity, as has been
observed on the other occasion, fully exemplified in the apostle Paul. He
did not satisfy himself with those strong and ardent expressions of love to
Christ, with which his epistles everywhere abound; he exerted himself
to the utmost of his power in promoting the interest of the Redeemer.
He expected nothing in so doing—but poverty, contempt and
hardship. He was so poor, that he was frequently under the necessity of
working with his own hands for a morsel of bread. He cheerfully submitted to
hunger and nakedness, stripes and imprisonment; he was content to be counted
the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things, amidst his
unwearied attempts to glorify his divine Master, in the conversion of
sinners, and the edification of those who had believed through grace. He had
established the kingdom of Christ in Asia; he had brought many of the
inhabitants of Macedonia and Achaia to subjection to the gospel; he had
erected the standard of divine truth in Arabia; yet he purposed in the
Spirit to go to Spain, and then to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been
there, I must also see Rome." The universe at large is but just sufficient
to be the field of his vigorous exertions in the good cause. He included in
the plan of his apostolic labors, the metropolis and the boundaries of the
known world. (Hervey.)
In this way did this exalted and heavenly man make it
manifest that Christ was precious to him. And are there left to us no
opportunities of proving the sincerity of our attachment to him? The same
spirit which actuated this noble champion, should actuate us, according to
our capacity and ability, in the more contracted sphere in which God's
providence has fixed us.
A period will certainly commence, when the kingdom of
Christ shall prevail far and wide; the earth shall be full of the knowledge
of the Lord, as the waters cover the seas. All the ends of the earth shall
see his salvation. Princes shall be subject to the Redeemer's scepter, and
Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God. The fullness of the
Gentiles shall come in, and all Israel be saved. Our Lord has taught us to
pray that his kingdom may come; and those who know the Lord should not keep
silence; they should continue to present their ardent petitions to him, and
give him no rest, until he establishes his church through the nations, and
make her a praise in the earth.
If four hundred million of our fellow-men are yet
involved in heathenish darkness, worshiping and bowing to stocks and stones,
the works of their own hands, the love of Christ should constrain us to
exert ourselves in the promotion of such means as are most likely to bring
them to the knowledge of the true God, and of his Son Jesus Christ. We
should not satisfy ourselves barely with praying for this event. The
appointed methods are to be tried, for the accomplishment of it, in a
dependence on God, and under the guidance of his merciful providence. The
gospel is ordained to be preached to every creature, that its sound may go
out through all the earth, and its words to the ends of the world.
Many awful events have taken place in Europe, of late
years, and what will be the outcome of present commotions, it is impossible
for such short-sighted creatures as we are to determine. Our Lord has put a
check on our too curious inquiries into futurity, by saying, "It is not for
you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own
power." Amidst the desolations of war, and the daring efforts of infidelity
and irreligion, we have seen the zeal of professing Christians, of various
denominations, revived, respecting the advancement of Christ's kingdom, both
at home and abroad. It is pleasing to hear of the efforts made in different
parts of this nation, to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power
of Satan unto God, by publishing the gospel, and causing it to be published
in towns, villages, and neighborhoods, where it was not known. Societies are
formed for the support of itinerant preachers. May the Lord of the harvest
send forth laborers, and graciously succeed the pious endeavors of all those
who are engaged in this good work.
Multitudes among us are likewise deeply and earnestly
concerned for the heathen nations, that they might be brought to see the
light of life. Liberal contributions are made in different places, for the
support of missionaries. Many individuals have been made willing to leave
their dearest relations, to give up all worldly prospects, to put their
lives in their hands, and to encounter all the hazards and dangers to which
they may be exposed, in transporting themselves to the most distant parts of
the earth, in order to spread abroad the savor of the knowledge of Christ
among the benighted nations. The expense attending these undertakings must
of course be considerable; he, therefore, to whom the cause of the Redeemer
is precious, has a fair opportunity of manifesting his regard for it, by
contributing according to his ability, for the promotion of it.
It is well known that the efforts of men will not be
successful, without the displays of Almighty Power; but this is no reason
why the means which infinite wisdom has ordained, should not be tried; and
since the hearts of so many pious people of different persuasions, and in
places far distant from one another, are, at this period, affected in the
same way, there is reason to hope that a Divine hand is in the work, and
consequently, that the outcome will, in due time, be favorable.
Reader, is the interest of Christ precious to you? Let me
then ask, What have you contributed, in the way above-mentioned, towards the
promoting of it? Poverty is commonly pleaded in such cases, as an excuse.
But it is of no avail in the sight of God, since, if his Word be true—to
give is the way to get—and to scatter, the way to increase. The poor widow,
who cast her two mites into the treasury, in the account of God, cast in
more than all the rest. That Jesus whom we profess to love, has said, "Give,
and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together,
and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use,
it will be measured back to you." "If there be first a willing mind, it is
accepted, according to that a man has, and not according to that he has
Section 14. The DAY and HOUSE of Christ are precious to those who believe.
For the illustration of this, let the reader attentively
observe the spirit and import of the following passages: "One thing have I
desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after—that I may dwell in the
house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple. As the deer pants after the water-brooks—so
pants my soul after you, O God; my soul thirsts for God, for the living God:
when shall I come and appear before God! My soul thirsts for you, my flesh
longs for you, in a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water—to see
your power and your glory, as I have seen you in the sanctuary. How amiable
are your tabernacles, O Lord Almighty! my soul longs, yes, even faints for
the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."
The pious man, sensible of the diseases of his soul, waits with eagerness
and constancy at the pool of divine ordinances for relief, in humble
expectation that he who heals the needy and the helpless with his mercy,
will look upon him, and heal him.
The day which is to be spent in converse and communion
with God, in the public and private exercises of devotion, must needs be
precious to those who love Jesus. It is the Lord's day. The hours of it are
all his own, to be employed in his immediate service. On this day we attend
upon him in his ordinances, we sing his praise, we hear the words of
everlasting life, and we pay our vows to God in the presence of his people.
Surely, a day in his courts—is better than a thousand spent elsewhere; and
we should rather choose to be doorkeepers in the house of God—than to dwell
in the tents of wickedness. Hear what he says to us by his holy prophet. "If
you turn away your foot from (profaning) the Sabbath, from doing your
pleasure on my holy day; and shall call the Sabbath a DELIGHT; the Holy of
the Lord, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor
finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words—then shall you
delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride upon the high
places of the earth (to rise above this transitory world, and live a
heavenly life) and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father; for the
mouth of the Lord has spoken it."
The several parts of public worship to be observed on his
holy day, are suited to work upon our senses, and, by that means, to awaken
pious affections within us. In singing the praises of God, solemnly calling
upon his name, and hearing the blessed gospel—we find a variety of holy
desires, hopes and joys excited, and our spiritual interests greatly
On this day we sometimes approach to the Lord's table,
and enjoy that precious ordinance which is wisely and graciously designed to
revive in our minds the remembrance of him who gave his life a ransom for
our souls. This institution is happily contrived to represent, in a lively
and striking manner, the love, the sufferings, and the death of our blessed
Redeemer, together with the benefits which we derive from them. When we
unite in this solemnity, all the springs of pious affection should be let
loose, while we contemplate the dying agonies of the Prince of Peace. We
should feel the sweet meltings of godly sorrow, and the warmest exertions of
gratitude, love and joy.
The Lord's day, and the worship of his house are
precious, as they are emblematical of that happy state and world, where
congregations ne'er break up, and sabbaths have no end.
It is in the worship and service of God, that we are, by
degrees, prepared for the enjoyments and employments of heaven. How
glorious will that change be—when we are called from these earthly courts,
to join the general assembly and church of the first-born! Here we
are attended with much frailty, infirmity and sin; we are sometimes so
oppressed with a consciousness of our own vileness, that we are ashamed to
lift up our faces towards heaven. But there, the pure in heart shall
see God without confusion. Here we abide not in his tabernacles—but
go and come, as visitants. There we will dwell as inhabitants
forever. And if the ordinances of God's house are the joy of our hearts in
this world, if a day in his courts be preferable to a thousand spent
elsewhere—what will be the worship and the enjoyments of heaven!
Section 15. The BENEFITS of Christ are precious to those who believe.
To be raised from a state of death in sin—to a divine and
spiritual life; to be brought out of darkness—into marvelous light; to be
delivered from guilt and condemnation; to be justified freely by the riches
of grace, displayed in the redemption which is by Jesus Christ; to have
welcome access to God; to be treated by him as his adopted children; and to
be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life—these are some of the
benefits which we receive by Jesus Christ! These benefits result from his
mediation, and hang clustering on his cross! And as they are of infinite
value in themselves, they must be precious to those who believe. While the
Christian contemplates these favors, he is often ready to say with the
Psalmist, "What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me!"
These are benefits which will extend their duration and
happy effects through eternity. In the bestowment of them, the God of all
grace raises us from the dust and the dunghill—to set us among princes, even
among the princes of his people. They are blessings worthy of him who
bestows them, and sufficient to exalt the riches of his abounding grace, to
the admiration of all the multitudes of heaven, and of redeemed men on
earth. These are the things into which the angels desire to look. They will
furnish matter of admiration, joy, gratitude and delight—to the redeemed,
forever and ever.
How they are affected with them, and how precious they
are in their estimation in this world, may be learned from their own
language: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Let
all that is within me bless his holy name. Who forgives all your sins, and
heals all your diseases. Who redeems your life from destruction, and crowns
you with loving kindness and tender mercies. Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in
heavenly places in Christ; according as he has chosen us in him before the
foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him
in love. Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us—that we
should be called the sons of God! It does not yet appear what we shall be;
but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall
see him as he is.
In the day of his glorious appearance, he will receive us
with acclamation of joy and triumph, into his own palace in the new
Jerusalem, where we shall have the bright vision of his face, and be made
partakers of such exalted felicity as it cannot now enter into our hearts to
conceive. There are no benefits like those which our divine Redeemer
bestows; there are none to be compared with them! How precious are your
thoughts and designs of love unto me, O God, how great is the sum of them!
Section 16. The CHASTISEMENTS of Christ are precious to those who believe.
The believer's love to Jesus Christ, not only continues
under the rod of correction—but is quickened and increased by it.
Thus it is distinguished from that pretended love, which exists only in
times of prosperity. The afflicted Christian is enabled to consider, that
whom the Lord loves—he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives;
and that he afflicts us not for his own pleasure—but for our profit—to make
us partakers of his holiness.
The Lord can so manifest himself to his afflicted people,
and cause his goodness to pass before them in such a manner, that the
season of affliction shall be to them a season of great consolation.
He is to them—a fountain of life, of strength, of grace and comfort in the
afflictive hour, and of his fullness they receive, as their necessities
require. The men of the world are totally ignorant of these Divine supports.
As they have no guide in the time of prosperity—but are carried along with
the stream towards the gulf of perdition; and in adversity they have no
resource—but must feel all the bitterness of affliction, without finding
Divine support under it, or deriving spiritual advantage from it.
The Lord Jesus Christ is a sun to enlighten and cheer his
afflicted followers, and a shield to defend them. He is a hiding-place from
the storm, a covert from the tempest, and as the shadow of a great rock in a
All the afflictions of God's people are designed, under
his gracious management—to test, to make manifest, and to exercise those
graces and virtues which he has implanted in them. Though afflictions in
themselves are not joyous but grievous, nevertheless they yield the
peaceable fruits of righteousness in those who are exercised thereby.
Afflictions serve to quicken the spirit of devotion in us; and to rouse us
from that formality and indifference which frequently attend a long course
of ease and prosperity. We are constrained to seek God with sincerity and
fervor, when his chastening hand is upon us, since we then feel our absolute
need of that help and deliverance which he alone can give us.
When the loss of a temporal enjoyment casts us into
excessive despondency and dejection—it is evident that what we have lost was
the object of our inordinate love. The most innocent attachments cease to be
innocent, when they press too strongly upon us. To cleave to any created
object, and to look for happiness from it—is to make an idol of it—and set
it up in God's throne. Should this object be a friend, a brother, a wife, or
a child—the idolatry is still odious in the eyes of that God, to whom we owe
our chief affection. Our warmest passions, our most fervent love, desires,
hopes, and confidences—should always have God for their object. The perfect
felicity of the saints, in the life to come, will consist in the enjoyment
of God! and it is his pleasure that their present happiness should not
center in any of the good things of this life. Losses and disappointments,
are the trials of our faith, our patience, and our obedience. When we are in
the midst of prosperity, it is difficult to know whether it is a love
for the Benefactor, or only for the benefits which attaches us
to religion. It is in the midst of adversity—that our piety is put to
the trial. Affliction is the godly man's shining moment.
Afflictions serve most effectually—to convince us of the
vanity of all that this world can afford; to remind us that this is not our
rest; and to stir up our desires and hopes respecting our everlasting home.
They produce in us a spirit of sympathy towards our companions in
tribulation. They give occasion for the exercise of patience, meekness,
submission, and resignation. Were it not for the wholesome and necessary
discipline of affliction—these excellent virtues would lie dormant. They
serve to convince us more deeply of our own weakness and insufficiency, and
to endear the person, the grace, the promises, and the salvation of our
Redeemer, more and more to our hearts. Thus we are taught to esteem his very
chastisements as precious, on account of the benefits we derive from them;
even as Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the
treasures of Egypt; and the apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy
to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. "We also rejoice in our afflictions,
because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces
proven character, and proven character produces hope." Romans 5:3-4
An eminent writer says, 'Love to God is not only
continued in a Christian, under the rod of correction—but it is inflamed, or
increased; contrary to that false love which exists only in prosperity,
and is quite extinct in adversity. For false love in religion flows
only from temporal interest, and is dependent on sinful self-love. But true
love to God regards his glory and our salvation—two things which can never
be separated; because God has united them so, that they constitute the very
essence of religion. Whenever, then, it pleases God to chastise us—these two
great interests, his glory and our salvation, present themselves before our
eyes. And whether we consider chastisements as the fruits of our own sins,
which have offended God; or as paternal strokes, to establish us in
holiness, they always serve to promote our love to God. Add to these,
that, when a believer sees his God frown—he cannot but fear, in some sense,
that his wrath will go farther. Hence these expressions of the Psalmist,
"Forsake me not, O Lord; O my God, be not far from me!" When he is
apprehensive that God will forsake him, he stretches forth the arms of
his love towards him, he weeps on his bosom, he follows the example of
the two disciples with respect to their Divine Master—they constrained him,
saying, Abide with us!'
Afflictions are not to punish—but to purify the believing
soul. They are not in wrath—but in mercy. Amidst the distresses and miseries
of life, it is a felicity to belong to Christ, without whose permission or
appointment, no evil can befall us! He only permits afflictions for our
good, and knows by experience, what it is to suffer them. His kind hand
will speedily put a end to all the pains we feel—when we have derived
from them all the good which he intends to do for us, by them.
An ungodly man, in affliction, is like a ship at sea in a
storm—without pilot, without anchor, without cable, chart, or compass, or
even the most distant view of the haven of rest and safety. It is far
otherwise with the afflicted believer. The stormy winds and raging waves of
the ocean, in all their fury, beat upon his little bark, and he sometimes
cries, "All your waves and your billows are gone over me; my strength and my
hope from the Lord have perished!" But in this distress he is still
supported, when he is enabled to reflect, that his God and Father sits upon
the floods, and rules the raging of the sea; that all the waves thereof are
at his direction, and though they seem to threaten his ruin, they shall
answer the purposes of his final safety, by bringing him nearer and nearer
to the haven where he would be. He has much satisfaction from a review of
his chart and compass; he perceives that he is in a right course, though for
the present—the sea is rough and stormy. His anchor is good, his
pilot is able and skillful; he confides in him who sits at the helm,
with the greatest security, and, at some seasons, the wished-for port of
peace and rest appears in view. He then rejoices in prospect of the triumph
which will attend his safe arrival, when he shall ride into the harbor,
amidst the acclamations of those who are waiting to receive him—to partake
of their unmingled joy, and live in eternal repose!
How many, how suitable, how sovereign are the supports
our heavenly Father affords to his afflicted children! They make the
affliction, which in itself would seem heavy and tedious, appear to be
light, and but for a moment. It is happier to be in the
furnace of affliction with these supports—than to be in the highest
prosperity without them. Blessed with the hopes and comforts of Christ, the
true Christian would prefer the lot of Lazarus, with all the poverty and
distress which he endured—to that of the rich man, who, amidst all the
splendor and affluence which this world could afford, lived a life of
alienation from God, and destitute of the sovereign supports which can be
only enjoyed, by those who love and fear him.
Section 17. The EXAMPLE of Christ is precious, to those who believe.
Among all the advocates for morality which ancient
or modern times have furnished, we cannot find one complete pattern of
purity. But in Jesus we have a perfect example; an example which has the
force of a law, and contains the strongest inducement to holiness. We see,
in our Divine Leader, the several precepts of God's Word drawn out in living
characters. We behold them reduced to practice, and represented to the life,
in the whole of his conduct towards God and man. We see one in our nature,
amidst all the assaults of temptation, amidst all the opposition
which malignity could invent, and all the allurements of this
guilty world, behaving in a manner exactly agreeable to the dictates of the
Divine law, and leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps. And
surely it must be delightful, not only to contemplate his character—but, to
the utmost of our power, to imitate the most perfect pattern which ever was
exhibited. It must be desirable, by constant and strenuous exertions,
according to our measure, to endeavor to trace the steps of his lovely feet.
"He who says he abides in him, ought himself also to walk even as he
It is impossible to contemplate the character of Jesus,
with serious and devout attention—and not be charmed with it. We see in him
all the human passions in the highest perfection. His joys were
grave, his griefs were just; his gentleness and his
severity, his holiness and his humanity, were in perfect harmony with
each other. He manifested great tenderness, and genuine affection, and
sensibility to human woe—on all occasions.
As he did no sin—so, on the other hand, every shining
virtue was exemplified in him to highest degree. His lowliness and meekness;
his contempt of the world; his heavenly temper; his love to the Father, and
zeal for his honor; his activity and diligence in doing good; his submission
to the Father's will; his patience amidst the heaviest and severest
sufferings; his constancy in the exercises of retired devotion; and his
praying for his enemies who spilt his blood—can never be sufficiently
The command of Christ is our rule—but his life
is the copy which he has set us. If you would walk holily, you must not
only endeavor to do what Christ commands—but labor to do the work as
he did it. Let the various actions of your lives be performed in a holy
imitation of him. Thus you will represent Christ on earth, and hold him
forth to all that see you.
Set Christ in his holy example before you, as the painter
would the person whose picture he intends to draw. This is a pleasant and
efficacious way of maintaining the power of holiness.
When you are tempted to any vanity, set the blessed
Redeemer before you, consider his example, and ask yourself, "How would
Jesus—my Lord and Master have acted in such a case? Would he have spent his
time upon such trifles? Would he have spoken such and such; or
done this or the other thing, which I am solicited to do? And shall I
give way to that which would be a manifest deviation from his example? God
Let me imitate his example and goodness, now he is seated
on his throne of glory. Has he pardoned my sins? Let me learn to forgive
my offending fellow-creatures. Has he had patience with me, and borne
with my manners from year to year? Let me strive to exercise patience
towards ungrateful men. Does he scatter his favors abroad and communicate
felicity to his creatures? Let me imitate him in being ready to distribute.
Is he continually mindful of me—are his cares for my welfare and salvation
incessant? Let me be concerned for the present and everlasting well-being of
others, who are united to me by the ties of nature, of society, and of
Mark his unwearied activity through the whole of
his life in this world. He who laid the foundations of the earth, and by his
excellent wisdom made the heavens, who shakes the system he has made, and
the pillars thereof tremble; who seals up the stars, and speaks to the sun,
and it shines not! He has fixed a mark of honor upon industry and
diligence, being employed in the humble occupation of a carpenter, before he
entered on his public ministry. The Jews said of him, "Is not this the
O Christians, fix your eyes intensely on the great
exemplar! Thus you will, through Divine grace, daily grow in love with
meekness, patience, and lowliness of heart. Can you grow angry and impatient
at trifles, when you view the Son of God enduring such vile treatment
against himself, without the least complaint? Can you repine under any
affliction, though ever so severe, when you consider, how it pleased the
Father to bruise the Son of his love, while he, with divine submission said,
"O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me, except I drink it—may your
will be done!"
The more I contemplate His lovely character, while He
sojourned on earth--the more I am delighted with it. To have the same mind
in me which was in Christ Jesus, and to tread in His steps--should be my
constant aim. Those who are received by Him to the possession of everlasting
felicity in heaven—have humbly traced His footsteps upon earth. Of them it
is said, "These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes!" They are
forevermore led by Him, even in the celestial world--to the enjoyment of
ever-new delights and pleasures!
"Blessed Savior, may your holy example be ever before my
eyes, in its most illustrious and transforming light! O that all the devout
affections which reigned in your heart when you sojourned with men upon
earth—might also, in some measure, reign in my heart. O that I could copy
out the wonders of your zeal for the honor of your Father, and of
your love and compassion for the sinful and miserable sons of
men. Your holy affections were engaged in every act of worship, with
divine ardor and fervency. I am ashamed to think of the coldness, the
dullness, and the formality of my prayers and praises. O let the sacred fire
of true devotion be kindled in my bosom. Melt down my hard and
unfeeling heart, and mold my spirit after your likeness. Inflame my whole
soul with love to you—as a happy preparative for the enjoyment of your
presence in glory!"