James Smith, 1859
There needs to be a dead stop in almost every one's course, for we have all gone astray, and have turned every one to his own way. Man's way is the opposite to God's, so that instead of walking with God, he walks away from God. Man's whole life, while in an unconverted state, is spent in getting as far from God as possible; and if God comes near to him, he says, "Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of your ways!"
Up to a given point, therefore, we were all opposed to
God, and endeavored to shun him in every possible way. Saving grace has
stopped some of us, and brought us to a better mind. It turned us completely
around, so that we begin . . .
to desire — what we had once shunned;
to love — what we had once hated;
to choose — what we had once rejected;
and to enjoy — what we had once loathed.
Then, we looked back on the past with deep regret, and said, "Henceforth, by the grace of God — I must be a new man, walking by a new rule, and aiming at a new end!"
Nor are we satisfied to say, "henceforth" once — but frequently in our pilgrimage, we have to pause, reflect, regret the past, and look forward, and say, "henceforth!" I will just illustrate this, by a few passages from God's holy Word.
Naaman the Syrian was an idolater, and worshiped in the temple Rimmon. But being a leper, he came into the land of Israel to obtain a cure. The prophet healed him, and taught him some very humbling lessons. He came to a dead stop, made a request to the prophet, and said, "Your servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offerings nor sacrifice, unto other gods — but only unto the Lord." 1 Kings 5:17. He renounces idolatry, and engages henceforth to worship the true God alone.
Just so, with the sinner who is taught of God: he had worshiped and served the creature rather than, the Creator; he had served divers lusts and pleasures — but now he will worship God in Christ alone, and consecrate his life and all its powers, to the service of the Most High God alone.
The apostle, speaking to baptized believers at Rome, and referring to their deliverance from the law, their union to Christ, and of the crucifixion of the old man with Christ, tells them that the design of the whole was, "that henceforth, we should not serve sin." Romans 6:6. Henceforth, sin is not to be our master, we are not to live in it, indulge it, or obey its promptings in our flesh. Henceforth, Jesus is to be our example, his holy life our pattern, his pure precepts our rule, and his honor and glory the end of every action. Whatever we do in word or deed — we are to do all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Henceforth, we are Christ's men, Christ's subjects, Christ's soldier's, Christ's servants; and are solemnly bound to live for him, who lived and died for us.
So also, when writing to the Ephesians, be no more strangers and foreigners — but fellow citizens of the saints, and of the household of God. As united together, to form one body, under Christ, their glorious head; from whom they receive nourishment, in order that they may grow up into him, and increase with all the increase of God. He testifies to them in the Lord's name and by the Lord's authority, and says, "I insist on it in the Lord — that henceforth you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking." Ephesians 4:17. Once they were among them — and like them; but now they are Christians — and therefore they are not to do as others do, walk as others walk, or be as others are. They are expected to be a peculiar people, to shine as lights in the world, and to set a pattern to all around them. They are not henceforth to live after the flesh, or mix themselves up with the ungodly — but to come out from among them, and be separate.
David, having given a very brief outline of his own
experience, exhorts the Lord's people to be hopeful; even as on other
occasions, he exhorts himself. Hence he says, "Let Israel hope in the Lord
from henceforth and forever." Psalm 131:3. Let not the Lord's people
be dubious or doubtful; let them not be timid or fearful — but let them hope
in the Lord henceforth. The Lord has appeared for them so often, has
wrought for them so wondrously, has pledged himself so sacredly; that
instead of listening to temptation, instead of yielding to unbelief, instead
of doubting or fearing — they should hope in the Lord. They should expect
him to . . .
sympathize with them,
listen to them,
appear for them,
and deliver them.
Hoping in God — honors him. Hoping in God — gives us strength and courage. Hoping in God — confounds Satan. Therefore, we should, after so much mercy shown to us, after so many favors conferred on us, after such solemn promises made to us — we should henceforth hope in the Lord.
How precious were the words of the Lord Jesus to his disciples, and they ought to be equally precious to us, "Henceforth, I call you not servants — but I have called you friends." John 15:15
Friends! What — the friends of Jesus! Yes!
And does He love us as His friends? Yes!
And does He treat us as His friends? Yes!
And does He expect us to walk with Him, and converse with Him, and confide in Him as His friends? Yes!
Precious Lord Jesus, how astonishing is Your love!
How vast is Your condescension!
How amazing is Your grace!
To call such insignificant worms, such ungrateful sinners, such utterly unworthy creatures — Your friends!
Henceforth, from the time we believe in his dear name — from the time we give up ourselves to him — from the time we make his will our law, and his precepts our rule, henceforth, he calls us friends!
Henceforth, Jesus . . .
treats us as His friends,
walks with us as His friends,
communes with us as His friends, and
will take us to dwell in Heaven with Him forever as His friends!
O my soul, never, never, indulge one hard thought of Jesus — never, never for one moment withdraw your affections from Jesus — never, never think much of doing or suffering anything for Jesus — for from henceforth Jesus will call you his friend, and treat you as his friend at all times, in all places, and before all worlds!
And how striking is the language of Paul, when speaking of the effect of the love of Jesus on himself, and of the effect it should have on others, he writes, "The love of Christ constrains us! And he died for all, that those who live should henceforth no longer live for themselves — but for him who died for them and was raised again!" 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Beloved, if Jesus gave his life for us — then ought we
not to give our ransomed lives to him? If he stooped to perform the most
arduous services, to endure the most dreadful sufferings, to suffer the most
painful and shameful death for us — then ought we not to consult his will,
aim at his glory, and be prepared to do or to suffer anything for him? Yes,
after we are brought to know what Jesus did for us, how Jesus loved us — we
should be prepared henceforth to live to him, to live for him, and to live
for him alone. Yes, yes, henceforth, we should live by faith on him, in
union with him, and entirely devoted to him. We should . . .
hate sin — because he hates it;
withdraw from the world — because he has withdrawn from it;
oppose Satan — because he is his enemy;
and be ready to do anything, and everything which will exalt, extol, and honor, his dear name"
Once more, let us aim, and endeavor by all means to come into the happy state, and to enjoy the blessed experience, and to live the holy life, which primitive Christians did: which enabled the Apostle to say, "None of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself. For whether we live — we live unto the Lord; and whether we die — we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die — we are the Lord's!" Then shall we be prepared to say, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give unto me at that day, and not to me only — but unto also all those who love his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7,8.
Sweet and blessed prospect, a crown — a crown of righteousness — a crown of righteousness given by the righteous judge at his glorious appearing!
Shall we not henceforth worship God only — avoid and abstain from the service of sin — from walking as poor worldlings walk, in the vanity of their minds — hoping evermore in the Lord — enjoying the friendship of the Lord Jesus — living to him who died for us and rose again — that we may look forward with joy, and anticipate the coming of the righteous judge, to crown us and glorify us with himself forever!
Blessed be the day, in which divine grace stopped us in our mad career; brought us to worship the Lord; to hope in his mercy; to be reconciled to his sovereignty and government — so that we should not serve sin, live the rest of our time in the flesh to the will of man, walk as other Gentiles walk, or live unto ourselves; but be united to Jesus, draw all our supplies from Jesus, that we may grow up into Jesus, reflect the image of Jesus, and at length be crowned by Jesus, and dwell with him in his glorious kingdom forever and ever! Blessed, blessed forever be the Lord, for his free and sovereign grace!