By what various names does the Lord describe his people in the Holy Scriptures! How important is the practical instruction to be derived from these divinely-appointed titles! Each of them has a distinct meaning. Each of them leads to a distinct line of practical meditation. Each of them presents a distinct view of human duty. Perhaps we can learn our peculiar duties as the servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, in no way more clearly than by contemplating the names which he has been pleased to give us in his word. We shall know what we are, and what we ought to be, by faithfully considering what the Lord is pleased to call us. This is my present purpose. May the gracious Lord himself guide and teach us by his Holy Spirit!
Every different name or title by which a Christian is described, leads to a particular practical obligation. I wish to consider some of the practical and personal thoughts and conclusions which flow from each. The object of such meditation is to aid us in walking worthy of our high vocation, and to encourage us to perfect holiness in the fear of God. No object could be more important. If God shall be pleased to bless us in this, no greater blessing can be bestowed. Thus shall we be made able to glorify the Savior on earth--to confess him in the world--to honor him among men--to walk in the light and joy of his countenance--to be ready for his appearing--to stand before him without fear.
Let us make these a daily meditation. Let us use them for a constant guide. Let the present series of thoughts be made a help to lay out and prepare others for ourselves, in the same method. Thus shall we acquire the habit of heavenly conversation, and cultivate that spiritual mind which is life and peace. Our meditations of our glorious Lord shall be sweet. And in the multitude of our thoughts within us, his comforts shall delight our soul.
"What manner of people ought you to be?" 2 Peter 3:11
A most important question! When God proposes it to me, I ought seriously to consider it. I will consider it as presented to myself--I will try to apply it thoroughly to myself. How appropriate it is! How much there is contained in it! It speaks to me as a servant of Christ--as in the world, though not of the world. It arrays before me all my privileges, opportunities, and responsibilities. It reminds me how elevated is my position, how great are my advantages, how solemn and impressive is the prospect of my account. It is the voice of God which speaks in it, from whom all my privileges are derived, and to whom my account is to be given. If I am faithful and sincere in my use of it, and my thoughts upon it, and my efforts arising out of it, he will help me--he will forgive me--he will accept me, through the riches of a Savior's grace and merit.
What manner of person ought I to be? That must depend,
1. Upon WHO I am.
The same deportment and conduct does not become all alike, nor belong alike to all. The same great principles of love to God, and faith in God, and submission to God, must belong to all creatures whom he has made. But particular and different duties grow out of these principles. What is proper for one, may not be proper for another. The question is then, Who am I? My conduct must be adapted to my condition. The claims upon me must be regulated by the character which I bear. Am I guilty or innocent in myself? Am I holy or unholy before God? Am I solitary and private, or public and responsible in my relations to man? Am I living only in the present, or have I a life hereafter also? If I am a sinner, guilty but pardoned--redeemed--called to be a saint--brought into peace and communion with God in Christ--having the Spirit of God to dwell in me, and to lead me--then, what manner of person ought I to be? To know this, let me consider the names and titles, by which it has pleased God to describe me.
It must depend,
2. Upon WHERE I am. The same deportment does not become all stations. I cannot be the same manner of person in every place alike. If I am at home, or abroad--if I am alone, or in company--if I am with friends, or with enemies--a different line of conduct may become me, and may be expected of me. The same great principles of truth and duty must govern me everywhere. But new occasions for their exercise call for different exhibitions and displays of them. How important is it for me to consider where I am! What eyes are upon me? Who is watching me? And with what mind and feelings?
I am in the midst of temptations; in a world in which there is but little that harmonizes with my spiritual character or growth. I am encompassed with difficulties and besetting sins. If there are many who sympathize with me, there are many also who oppose me. I am in a season of trial, and every part of my life is a part of my trial; I am in a journey, and my home is before me; I am in a warfare, and my Master's eye is upon me. Then what manner of person ought I to be? Can I be careless upon the subject? or feel that it is not important for me to consider it?
It must depend,
3. Upon WHAT I have to do. Am I at my own disposal? Or do I belong to another? Have I full control over myself, or have I important obligations to discharge to others? If my time and talents, and means and powers, are all my own, I have the right to do with them as I please. But if they have all been bestowed upon me, then for what purpose were they given? May I eat and drink, and follow my own gratification, and feel no responsibility for my days of self-indulgence? Or have I a obligation to discharge, a mission to fulfill? For what end have I been sent into the world? The question must much depend upon this.
I have no right to be an idle person, if God has given me a special work to accomplish. I cannot yield to levity and trifling, if I have grave and serious duties to fulfill. I cannot make temporal things my object, if I have eternal results dependent upon them to secure. I must therefore reflect upon the great work which is given me to do. Consider the undertaking and employment Divinely appointed, and in which I am engaged by God's command, and try to fulfill the work confided to me faithfully. But if I am a messenger, a servant, an agent of the glorious Lord who made me and redeemed me, and have a season in which I must finish my work, and then be called to give my account of this work, then what manner of person ought I to be?
It must depend,
4. Upon the ADVANTAGES I enjoy. These must decide my responsibility, and measure my obligations. To whom much is given, from them will much be required. The same course of conduct cannot be expected from the ignorant and the intelligent--or the rich and the poor--or the Christian and the heathen alike. If I am richly endowed with benefits, I am in proportion responsible. If I have received a clear description and knowledge of my duty, l cannot be sheltered by the excuse of lack of knowledge. The poor Pagan, or the wretched victims of human neglect in Christian lands, will stand upon their own ground. They will receive much mercy in the estimation of their life. But I have heard the gospel. I have clearly known its truth. I have been made acquainted with its commands. I well know the advantages of obedience to them. I cannot be deceived by the pleas of indifference or unbelief. I have every opportunity and means to obey the will of God, and to glorify his name. Then what manner of person ought I to be?
It must depend,
5. Upon the RESULTS of the whole. Has my conduct any connection with the future? Are there any issues hereafter that must depend upon it? This is a most important consideration. If I am living only for my earthly day, or if I have another state of account and recompense, which is to be decided by this--my course may be justly very different. Ah! if I am really hastening forward to a day of judgment--if I am to meet an hour, when every thought of my heart shall be exposed, and according to my character here, my eternity is to be--if my future everlasting experience is to be inseparably connected with my present course, and decided by it; then, what manner of person ought I to be? What earnestness and watchfulness becomes me! How anxious ought I to be to be found acceptable in the end! It is a serious thing, it may be a fearful thing, to fall into the hands of the living God. There will be no discharge in that war. Let me lay it solemnly to heart; and while I have opportunity, prepare to meet my God.
Eternity! tremendous word
To souls unpardoned and abhorred;
But oh, if God and heaven be mine,
How sweet the accents--how divine!