The Gospel of JOHN

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries


MDXCIV

Divinity of Christ

John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

WHAT astonishing majesty and dignity are displayed in these brief but comprehensive words! The other Evangelists commence their histories at the period of our Savior's incarnation: but John carries us back to eternity itself; and informs us, not only what Christ did and suffered, but who he was. He calls him by a very peculiar name; "The Word;" and, in other places, "The Word of Life;" "The Word of God." This name, as applicable to the Messiah, was not altogether unknown to the Jews: and it seems peculiarly proper to the Son, because it is by the Son that God has in all ages revealed his mind to man. And perhaps this very explanation of the term was intended to be conveyed to us by John, when he says, within a few verses after my text, "No man has seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of his Father, he has declared him."

But, without dwelling upon matters of conjecture, let us consider,

I. The testimony here given to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The beloved Apostle, speaking of the Lord Jesus, here declares,

1. His eternal existence.

"In the beginning was the Word," even before the creature existed, either in Heaven or on earth: and from him every created being derived its existence. So Paul also informs us: "By him were all things created that are in Heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things; and by him all things consist." Though he was born into the world in time, yet in his divine nature he existed from eternity: "He was the same yesterday, today, and forever," "His goings-forth were of old from everlasting," "He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last."

2. His distinct personality.

From all eternity "he was with God;" "having a glory with him before the worlds were made;" and having a perfect participation of all that the Father possessed, whether of wisdom and knowledge, or of authority and power. This appears from the council held, as it were, between the Father and the Son, respecting the formation of man; and man's consequent expulsion from Paradise; and the confounding of the projects of man's apostate race by changing their language at Babel. Hence the Lord Jesus is said to have "come forth from God," even "from his bosom," where had been his everlasting abode. The importance of this truth is marked by the repetition of it by John, in the words following my text, "The same was in the beginning with God."

3. His proper deity.

"The Word was God," even "the mighty God," "the great Gods," "God over all, blessed forever." "He was in the form of God; and thought it no robbery to be equal with God;" and was therefore rightly "named Emmanuel, God with us;" and is with truth declared to be "God manifest in the fleshy."

Now, that this is not a mere speculative subject, I will proceed to show, by pointing out,

II. The deep interest we have in it.

On the very face of the question, "Whether our Savior be God, or only a created being?" it cannot fail of appearing a subject of extreme importance. Know, then, that Christ is truly God, as well as man: and on this truth depends,

1. The efficacy of all that he did and suffered for us on earth.

Had he been only a creature, he could only have done what was his duty to do; and therefore he could have merited nothing at the hands of God: or, at all events, could have merited only for himself. But being God, his whole undertaking was gratuitous; there was no obligation lying upon him, to do anything, or suffer anything, for us. What he did and suffered, therefore, may well be put to our account; more especially since it was so concerted between him and his Father, when he undertook to redeem our ruined race. His sufferings, though only for a season, may well be regarded as equivalent to the eternal sufferings of man; and his obedience to the law be justly considered as if all mankind had obeyed it. On both the one and the other his Deity stamps an infinite value; so that, "he having been made sin for us, we may well be made the righteousness of God in him."

2. The efficacy of all that he is yet doing for us in Heaven.

There is our adorable Savior seated at the right hand of God; and all judgment is committed to him, that he may complete for his people the work which he began on earth. He is appointed "Head over all things to the Church." But supposing him to be a mere creature, how can he attend to all at once, and supply the necessities of all, in every quarter of the universe, at the same instant of time? But there is no room for such a question as that, seeing he is the omnipresent, omniscient, Almighty God. "Our help is, indeed, laid upon One that is mighty," upon One that is Almighty, "in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." We need not fear, therefore, however great our necessities; but be fully assured, that "he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him."

Behold then, brethren,

1. How inconceivably great is the condescension of our God!

I wonder not at the unbelief of those who call in question the Divinity of Christ: for if it were not so fully revealed, as that it is impossible for a truly enlightened man to doubt it, I should be ready to doubt it myself; so inconceivable does it appear, that God should become a man, and make himself the surety and substitute of his own rebellious creatures. But he is God, and therefore can do it: he is God, and therefore cannot be judged by the finite capacity of man. In doing what he has done, he has acted like himself. He is God, and therefore I believe all that he has done for sinful man. Though himself eternal, he has been born in time: though eternally with God, he has come down and tabernacled with man: though himself the true and Living God, he has become a man, yes, and died for man upon the cross. I believe it, because he has revealed it. I believe it, because nothing less than this would have been adequate to my necessities. And were this not true, I should most gladly take my portion forever under rocks and mountains.

2. What unbounded consolation has he provided for sinful man!

This doctrine meets my every want. I have guilt, which nothing less than "the blood of God" can wash away. I have corruptions, which none but the Spirit of God can subdue and mortify. I have wants, which none but the all-sufficient God can supply. But, having Jehovah for my friend, my surety, my righteousness, my all, I fear nothing. I hope in him; and believe in him; and glory in him; and make him "all my salvation and all my desire." Trusting in him, I will defy all my enemies: and, "believing in him," I will anticipate in my soul all the glory and blessedness of Heaven.

 

 

MDXCV

Christ the Only True Light

John 1:9. That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world.

AS in the material world there is but one source of light to all the heavenly bodies; so in the spiritual world there is one Sun of Righteousness, that lights every man that comes into the world. There are other lights: John himself was a burning and a shining light. But he, and all the rest, shined with a borrowed luster. Christ is the only true source both of light and life; as John has told us; and as I propose in the present discourse to show.

I. He was the only true light previous to his incarnation.

As being the Creator of all things, it was He who said, "Let there be light, and there was light." As the Former both of angels and men, he gave to each their intellectual and moral powers. Men, the lower order of beings, he endued with reason and conscience; distinguishing them by these faculties from the brute creation, which possess only that which we call instinct. When man had fallen, and lost, to a considerable degree, the faculties with which he had been invested, the Lord Jesus, agreeably to the covenant he had entered into with the Father, undertook to restore to man such a measure of light as his necessities required. This he did,

1. By the republication of his law.

It was the Son of God who led his people out of Egypt through the wilderness: for that people, by their murmurings, we are told, "tempted Christ." The law, therefore, both moral and ceremonial, we suppose to have been given by him. At all events, we are sure that they were, each of them in its place, rays emanating from him; "he being the end of both," the end to which each looked, and the end by which both were fulfilled. The moral was "a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith," and the ceremonial shadowed him forth, in all his offices.

2. By a long train of prophecies.

It was "by the Spirit of Christ" that all the prophets spoke, from the very beginning. And thus, with progressive clearness, was the mind of God revealed, relative to the restoration of fallen man. Whatever was made known respecting the Father and his eternal councils, it was all declared by the Lord Jesus Christ. No information on these inscrutable subjects ever proceeded from any other quarter: all the light that was in the world emanated from Christ alone; and was confined to his chosen people. All the rest of the world were left in the grossest darkness that can be imagined.

Moreover,

II. He was the only true light, also, during his sojourning on earth.

So he himself repeatedly and strongly affirms—He explained the law, which had been obscured and corrupted by the false glosses of the Scribes and Pharisees—and made himself known, in the plainest terms, as the only Savior of the world: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes unto the Father but by me." Nor was he less a light by his example, "showing, in the whole of his deportment, how men ought to walk and to please God," even "by following his steps," and "walking as he walked." Hence he cautioned the people of that day: "Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he who walks in darkness knows not where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light."

I add, that,

III. He is the only true light at this day.

"God, in covenant, gave him to be a light to the Gentiles;" "to bring the blind by a way that they knew not, and to lead them in paths which they had not known; to make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." And all this he does at this moment, even as Paul has testified respecting him. What other source of light has any man but the written word, which our blessed Lord has inspired? or what other teacher has any man but his Holy Spirit, which Christ has promised, "to guide us into all truth?" The heathen philosophers, so far from adding one ray of light to the Scriptures of truth, have only "darkened counsel by words without knowledge." "The truth of God has been foolishness to them;" and "their wisdom has been altogether foolishness in the sight of God." Indeed, as the blind cannot see even the meridian sun, so "neither can the natural man, by any faculties of his own, discern the things of the Spirit." "The eyes of our understanding must be opened by the Spirit of God, before we can be fully brought out of darkness into the marvelous light of his Gospel." As "the Day-spring from on high has visited the world, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide their feet into the way of peace;" so must "the Day-star arise in our hearts," before we shall have any just discernment of "the things which have been freely given to us of God.'

Inquire then, I pray you,

1. What light you have received from the Lord Jesus Christ.

I ask not what proficiency you have attained in worldly knowledge; for that, however excellent, can never save the soul. But I ask, "Has God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, shined in your heart, to give you the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?"—This is saving knowledge: this alone can save you. And this can be obtained from none but the Lord Jesus Christ, whose office it is to "open the blind eyes," and to "make you wise unto salvation by faith in him." To every one among you, then, I say, "Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light."

2. How far you are reflecting around you the light you have received.

This is done by all the planets, moving in their orbits: and this must be done by all who profess to receive their light from Christ. All must "be as stars in his hands," all must "reflect his virtues," and, though it must of necessity be, that "one star should differ from another star in glory," yet "must all shine as lights in a dark world;" and, in all who are truly and savingly enlightened, "their light will shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day." Let it he seen then, my brethren, by your life and conversation, "whose you are, and whom you serve." Let Christ be your pattern in all things: endeavor to "walk in the light, as he is in the light," so shall you be found "children of the light and of the day," and "Christ shall be glorified in you," both in this world and in the world to come.

 

MDXCVI

Benefit of Receiving Christ

John 1:10–12. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.

THE blessings which administer to our worldly interest or bodily comfort, are equally welcomed by persons of all ranks and conditions: but those which have relation only to our spiritual good, are despised by many, and desired by very few. The light of the sun is not less prized by one than by another: all are sensible of its benefits, and value it accordingly. But "the Sun of Righteousness has arisen upon us," and the benighted world regards him not: "he shines in the darkness, and the darkness apprehends him not." Some however there are, who rejoice in his advent: and as they only have learned to appreciate his worth, they only shall enjoy the full benefits he confers.

The words of the Evangelist will lead us to show,

I. The contempt poured on Christ by the unbelieving world.

What was said of him in that day is equally true in this:

1. His own creatures "do not know him."

It was Christ who formed the universe: "the world was made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made." He has moreover "been in the world" from the very beginning, "upholding it by his power," and ordering everything in it by his superintending providence. Yet, before his incarnation, he was not known; neither yet now is he known as the Creator and Governor of the world. His name indeed is known: but he is considered only as a great prophet. The generality of those who doctrinally maintain his proper Deity, never practically realize the thought, that "by him all things exist."

2. His own people "do not receive him."

The Jews were called "Christ's own," because he had separated them from all other people, brought them out of Egypt, led them through the wilderness, and derived his human nature from the stock of Abraham, their father. Their very country was called "Emmanuel's land. But we are his in a still more appropriate sense; because he has bought us with his blood; and we have been baptized into his name; and profess ourselves his followers. Yet we "do not really receive him," any more than the Jews themselves did. We do not receive him in the character which he bears in the Holy Scriptures—We do not receive him for the ends and purposes for which he came.

Alas! what contempt is this which we pour upon him! We can shudder at the indignities offered him by the Jews; but we ourselves are no less criminal than the people who crucified and slew him: they through ignorance apprehended and executed him as a malefactor: we, with our eyes open, cry, "Hail, Master!" and betray him.

But that we may not continue to treat him thus, let us consider,

II. The honor he confers on those who believe in him.

A "receiving of Christ," and a "believing in him," are represented in the text as of precisely the same import. It is superfluous therefore to add anything more in explanation of the terms. The benefits accruing from faith are the objects which next demand our attention. Unspeakable is the honor of becoming a child of God: yet to every one that believes in him, our blessed Lord gives,

1. To bear this relation to God.

"To the Jews belonged the adoption," as far as related to the external privileges of it. But we, on believing, "are made partakers of the Divine nature." We become the children of God as well by regeneration as adoption: yes, faith is at once the means, and the evidence, of our sonship with God. There is no interval of time left for us to give proofs of our sincerity, before God will acknowledge us as his: but the instant we believe in Christ, we are "sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty."

2. To enjoy the privileges of this relation.

The children of a stranger are not noticed by us, while our own children are admitted freely into our presence, and are the objects of our tenderest solicitude, our unremitted attention. We feed them, we clothe them, we protect them, we provide every thing for them that is suited to our circumstances, and that will contribute to their welfare. In all these respects believers find God a Father to them. They can go into his presence, "crying, Abba, Father!" and obtain from him whatever is necessary either for their support or comfort.

3. To possess an inheritance worthy of that relation.

Parents account it a duty to provide for the future maintenance of their children, and not merely for their present subsistence. With this view they lay up fortunes for them, which they are to inherit after the decease of their parents. Similar to this is the provision made for those who believe in Christ. They are "begotten again to an inheritance that is incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading." "Being sons, they are heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." Nor shall they merely divide their Father's inheritance among them; but every one of them shall enjoy the whole, and have his happiness enlarged, rather than diminished, by the communication of it to others.

Learn then from hence,

1. The folly of unbelievers.

One would suppose, that, in calling them to believe in Jesus Christ, we urged them to make the greatest sacrifices, and to resign everything that could conduce to their happiness. But, on the contrary, we only invite them to "receive;" to receive "the greatest gift" which God himself is able to bestow: to receive Him, in whom they will find all that they can possibly desire. We require them to surrender nothing but what will make them miserable; and to receive nothing which will not make them happy. How unreasonable does their conduct appear when viewed in this light! If we were to offer them bags of gold, we should find them willing enough to accept as many as we could bestow. But when we exhort them to accept Him who is of more value than ten thousand worlds, they turn a deaf ear to our most importunate entreaties. See, you unbelievers, see your extreme folly! and remember, that the day is coming, when that rejection of Christ, in which you now glory, will become the ground of your bitterest lamentation.

2. The unspeakable benefit of faith.

There are many things which put a considerable difference between one man and another. The influence of wealth and dignity exalts some far above the level of their fellow-creatures. The acquisition of knowledge and wisdom has no less effect in elevating the characters and conditions of men. But all the distinctions in the universe do not avail to dignify a man so much as faith. Faith brings Christ into the soul, and puts the poorest of men into the possession of "unsearchable riches." Faith makes him, from a child of the devil, a child of God; from an heir of misery, an heir of glory. Faith elevates him from death to life, from infamy to honor, from Hell to Heaven. "Faith, even though it be small as a grain of mustard-seed," produces all these wonderful effects. Cultivate then, my brethren, this divine principle. Labor to have it in more continued exercise. Let Christ, the greatest object of faith, be more and more precious to your soul. Thus shall you be really the most distinguished characters on earth, and before long "inherit the kingdom prepared for you by your heavenly Father."

 

MDXCVII

Christians Born of God

John 1:13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

IT is obvious, that there is at this day, even as there was in the days of Christ himself, a most essential difference between persons enjoying the same privileges and making the same professions. All the Jews professed themselves to be the people of the Lord; and Christ came to them, as bearing that relation to him. But they did not all receive him. The great majority of the Jewish nation rejected him: as it is said, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not: but to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name." Now, whence arose the difference between those widely-different persons? or from whence arises a similar difference among ourselves? The answer is given us in the words of my text: from whence I shall take occasion to show,

I. To whom Believers are indebted for all that they possess.

This is marked with very peculiar precision:

It is not from any creature whatever that they receive one spiritual blessing.

It is "not from blood," or from natural descent, that they obtain anything. Ishmael was as much the child of Abraham as Isaac was; and Esau was the son of Isaac as much as Jacob: but their descent from holy parents was of no avail to transmit to them the grace of God. So, in after-ages, we are told, that "all were not Israel who were of Israel; neither because all were the seed of Abraham were they all children; that is, they who were the children of the flesh were not therefore the children of God; the children of promise alone being counted for the seed." So neither at this day does holiness flow in the blood of any person; nor can we become the Lord's people by virtue of our descent from the holiest of men.

"Nor is it of the will of the flesh," or by virtue of any power inherent in us, that we are made the Lord's people. All are equally "dead in trespasses and sins;" "nor can any man quicken his own soul."

"Nor is it of the will of man," or by any efforts of our friends, that we are made holy. We may adopt any person, whom we will, into our own family; but we cannot bring him into the family of God. Samuel, David, Hezekiah, would never have left their own children to perish, if they could, by any efforts of their own, have saved them: nor would Paul, who "had continual heaviness and sorrow in his heart for his brethren's sake," have failed to communicate to them effectual aid, if he had had it at his own disposal.

It is "of God alone" that any true Believer "is born."

"From God alone comes every good and perfect gift." If saving grace be imparted to any of us, it is owing to the exercise of his sovereign will, and the operation of his effectual grace. To this the whole Scriptures bear witness. "Of his own will begets he us with the word of truth." From all eternity did he select the objects of his choice, predestinating them to the adoption of children; that to all eternity they may be "to the praise of the glory of his graced." All this is altogether irrespective of any works of theirs, past, present, or future. In a word, that is true which the Apostle so strongly states in the Epistle to the Romans, and in such perfect conformity with the words of my text: "God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and has compassion on whom he will have compassion. So, then, it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy."

This being, for the most part, an unpalatable truth, I will not leave it until I have established it beyond the possibility of doubt.

Behold the persecuting Saul; and trace, in all its steps, the conversion of his soul. Read the account of it in the ninth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. "Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the Disciples of the Lord, went unto the high-priest, and desired of him (he was altogether a volunteer in this matter) letters to Damascus (a foreign country, not under the government of Judah), to the synagogues; that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, (such was his humanity!) he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." I ask, Could any one of his party be further off from conversion than he? "But, as he journeyed, he came near to Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from Heaven. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecute you me? And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what will you have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told you what you must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man." To him a man named Ananias was then sent by God himself, in these memorable words: "Go your way to him; for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." Thus was he converted; the only one of all the party, as far as we know—he, the most embittered of them all, the ringleader of them all, the most unlikely of all. What a comment was this on the words of my text! and what an example of the truth contained in them! The Apostle, speaking of it to the Galatians, puts this very construction upon it all: "It pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen." Now precisely thus it is with every one that is brought to the faith of Christ: he is born, "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Nor is there one upon the face of the whole earth who must not say, "By the grace of God I am what I am."

Trusting that the point we have been endeavoring to establish is fully conceded to us, we will proceed to show,

II. What encouragement we derive from that all-important consideration.

Unspeakably encouraging are these two thoughts connected with it:

1. All Believers have the same God to go unto for all that they can stand in need of.

Had their divine life originated from man, either from themselves or others, they must have looked to man to carry it forward. But who that knows the weakness and mutability of man must not have trembled for them? The friend, by whose kind attentions they had been converted, is absent on a journey, or is dead, and his help can no more be obtained. Or the good dispositions which they themselves put forth, and by virtue of which they were brought to God, have been over-powered by temptation, and are no longer at their command. They feel a hardness of heart which they cannot remove, and a distraction of mind which they cannot fix. What then is to be done? The water has failed them, not in the channel merely, but at the fountain-head. But let them reflect on God as the alone source of all that they have possessed, and then they will have this rich consolation in the midst of all their trouble and perplexity: 'Who is it that has brought me hitherto? and what did He find in me as an inducement to him to magnify his grace in me? He saw nothing in me but sin: he loved me only because he would love me: he consulted nothing but his own sovereign will: he chose me, and not I him: and apprehended me, before he was apprehended by me. Then to him will I look: in him will I hope: to him will I apply. If "he was found of me when I sought him not, and made known to me when I inquired not after him," I may hope he will not turn his back upon me when I seek him; nor turn a deaf ear to me when I call upon him. My only ground of fear is, either that he is not able, or that he is not willing, to afford me the support which I stand in need of. But of his ability how can I doubt, when I reflect on what he has already done for me, in quickening me when dead, and bringing me thus far on my journey heaven-ward? Nor can I doubt of his willingness to help me, since the very first motions of my heart towards him were the gift of his sovereign grace, who "gave me both to will and to do of his good pleasure." ' Surely these thoughts must afford unspeakable encouragement to the believer, under all the trials to which he can ever be exposed; while, on the contrary, if he had only a created power whereon to rely, he must on many occasions sink into utter despondency.

2. The mercies they have received are to them a pledge of future blessings.

This necessarily arises from the thought of God's electing love. For, why did he ever choose us? Was it to abandon us again? Why did he ever quicken us? Was it to give us over to death again? Why did he ever translate us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son? Was it that we might ultimately perish with an accumulated weight of condemnation? He has told us, that the gift of "his Holy Spirit is an earnest of our heavenly inheritance." Now, an earnest is a part of a payment, and a pledge that the remainder shall in due time be paid: and, consequently, the work of grace already wrought in the hearts of his people is a pledge that he will carry on and perfect it within them. For "he is a God that changes not; and therefore we neither are, nor shall be, consumed." "His gifts and calling are without repentance or change of mind, on his part." "Whom he loves, he loves to the end." And the consideration of this is a rich consolation to his believing people; as he has said: God, "willing more abundantly to show unto his people the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it with an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us." Hence the believer may be confident that "God will not cast him off;" but that, whatever he may have to contend with, "nothing shall ever be permitted to separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

But that this subject may not be made an occasion of any undue confidence,

1. Let us inquire whether we have ever experienced this great change.

It is evident there is a change to be experienced, which no created power can effect. Now then, I ask, Has any such change taken place in you? Think again: It is a change that depends not on your descent from Christian parents; a change which no endeavors of friends can ever accomplish, and which no efforts of your own can ever merit or effect: it is a new creation; and a work of God alone, as much as the creation of the universe itself. Perhaps you will say, 'Tell me more distinctly wherein this change consists.' I will do so. It is "a receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ" as the gift of God to your souls; and "a believing in him" as your "all in all." To these is "the privilege of becoming the sons of God" assigned; and to these alone. If, then, you are "born of God," these marks must, of necessity, be found in you. You have felt your need of a Savior; you have cried to God for mercy with your whole hearts: and you have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as "all your salvation and all your desire." Examine into this matter, my beloved brethren. Here is the precise point of difference between the children of God and the children of the wicked one. Those who are born of the flesh only, may be moral and externally religious: but the child of God lives altogether by faith on the Son of God, receiving all blessings out of his fullness, and improving them all for his glory. This is a new birth: and were you as moral as Nicodemus himself, you must experience it, at the peril of your souls; and, except you be thus born from above, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God. I pray you, brethren, settle this well in your minds: for to those only who stand in this relation to their God is there "any inheritance among the saints in light."

2. Let us endeavor to manifest it, by a suitable life and conversation.

God had one only dear Son, whom he sent down from Heaven to sojourn upon earth. And the Scripture fully informs us what dispositions he exercised, and what conduct he pursued. And every one who is born of God will follow his steps, and "walk as he walked." He will "no longer walk according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience." He will be no longer of the world, any more than Jesus Christ was of the world. He will rise above it. He will be crucified unto it; and regard it as a crucified object, that has no longer any charms for him, or any power over him. His tempers, too, will be mortified and subdued. He will have the meekness and gentleness of Christ in his whole deportment: and, if he be not able perfectly to attain the measure that was in Christ Jesus, he will aspire after it, and be satisfied with nothing less. In a word, he will not live unto himself, but unto God, making it "his meat and his drink to do the will of his Savior and Redeemer." Now, then, brethren, this is the way in which you will live, if you are sons of God. "You will shine as lights in a dark world;" and "your light will shine brighter and brighter to the perfect day." Once attain this conformity to your Savior's image, and you will need no one to tell you whence it came, or by whose power it has been wrought. You will readily give all the glory to your God; and ascribe on earth, as you will to all eternity ascribe in Heaven, salvation to Him who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.

 

MDXCVIII

Incarnation and Character of Christ

John 1:14. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

IN treating on divine subjects, the mind should be impressed with holy awe: whenever we approach them, we should apply to ourselves the injunction given to Moses, and "pull off our shoes as standing upon holy ground." But of all subjects, that of the incarnation of our blessed Lord should be contemplated with the profoundest reverence. It has heights and depths, which even the heavenly intelligences themselves are unable to explore. "They are ever looking into it;" and to all eternity will behold in it fresh wonders to admire. But "great as is this mystery of Godliness, God manifest in the flesh," it cannot for one moment be questioned by any one who believes the Scriptures. The Evangelists, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, declare it; while, as "eye-witnesses of his Majesty," they attest it. Let us then with all humility of mind proceed to the consideration of the Apostle's testimony in our text; wherein we notice both the incarnation and the character of Christ.

I. The incarnation of Christ.

The person here said to be made flesh, is "the Word," and it is manifest, that the Apostle speaks, as knowing that the persons to whom he spoke were familiar with the terms he used. It does not appear probable that the Jews should borrow the term Logos (here translated "the Word," and elsewhere translated "Wisdom,") from the Platonists; or that the Apostle would adopt it from them. We rather suppose that the Jews, and consequently the Apostle also, received the term from the Scriptures themselves: for the Psalmist says, "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made," and Solomon, in the Book of Proverbs, speaks of "Wisdom" in almost the same terms as the Apostle uses in reference to "the Word." At all events, we know from the whole preceding context, as also from the text itself, that the Logos or "the Word" is no other than "the only-begotten Son of God." We know that he subsisted from all eternity; that he was personally distinct from God the Father; that, nevertheless, he was truly and properly God; and, finally that, so far from being himself a creature, he was the Creator of all things, without any limitation or exception.

This divine Person (the Second Person in the ever-adorable Trinity,) "was made flesh;" that is, he assumed our nature with all its sinless infirmities; and "was made in all things like unto us, sin only excepted"—In that state of humiliation he sojourned upon earth, as once he dwelt with his people in the wilderness; his Deity being veiled by human flesh, as formerly it had been by the Shechinah, the bright cloud, which, as the symbol of his presence, dwelt in the tabernacle first, and afterwards in the temple.

We stop not to enlarge upon this stupendous mystery; wishing rather to shorten our discussion, that we may have the more room for a practical improvement of it.

The Apostle, as we might well expect, after mentioning the incarnation of Christ, proceeds to notice,

II. His character.

In the primary sense of the passage, the terms "full of grace and truth" refer to the official character of Christ. He came to introduce a dispensation very different from that which had hitherto existed. The law which Moses had given to the Israelites "was a ministration of death and condemnation," and though the ceremonial law had held forth hopes of pardon and acceptance, yet it consisted merely in ritual observances, which in themselves were of no value, and which could never take away sin. But Jesus Christ came to proclaim pardon and peace to all; and was himself the substance, of which all the rites of Moses were only types and shadows. View the types of every description; and there was not one which had not its accomplishment in him: view the prophecies; all of which were fulfilled in him: and at the same time all the curses denounced by the moral law are turned into blessings, to all them who embrace his Gospel. Hence he is justly said to be "full of grace and truth."

But we may not improperly include under these words the personal character of Christ. While all his instructions exactly accorded with the mind and will of God, his life was wholly without spot or blemish: he was "full of truth;" and "in him was no sin," "no deceit" whatever.

As to the "grace" that was in him, listen only to any of his discourses; hear his gracious invitations even to the chief of sinners; see him conversing with publicans and harlots, and allowing them to have the freest access to him; behold him "going about doing good," healing all who came to him, even hundreds and thousands in a day, and proclaiming to all of them the glad tidings of a free and full salvation: and then say whether he was not also full of grace, even like an overflowing fountain, "out of whose fullness all that believed on him might receive?"

If we needed any express testimony respecting his character, we have it from those "whose ears heard, whose eyes saw, and whose hands handled this Word of life," "they beheld his glory, as the glory of the only-begotten of the Father," they beheld it in his miracles ("by which he manifested forth his glory"); they beheld it in his transfiguration; in the audible attestations which he repeatedly received from Heaven; in the perfections of wisdom, power, holiness, etc. which he displayed; and finally in his resurrection, and glorious ascension to the right hand of God: they beheld him in all these things, shining as "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person," veiled as his Godhead was from common eyes, they beheld in him a radiance, altogether suited to his august character.

That we may not entertain these thoughts in a merely speculative manner, we would entreat you to "suffer a word of exhortation."

1. Inquire wherefore Christ became incarnate.

When we hear of such an astonishing event, methinks we should naturally inquire into the reasons of it. Surely there was some occasion for it; nay, we cannot conceive that it should take place without some urgent necessity. What then was that necessity? It was this. The whole human race were become guilty before God, and were no more able to restore themselves to the Divine favor than the fallen angels were. Is any one disposed to doubt this truth? let him tell us then, why God's co-equal, co-eternal Son became incarnate. In vain will he seek for a reason, except (where Paul found it) in the lost state of man: "If one died for all, then were all dead"—Know you then, beloved, every one of you, that you are, in yourselves, lost and hell-deserving sinners; and that, if ever you be saved at all, it must be by the blood and righteousness of your incarnate God.

2. Endeavor to obtain clearer views of his character.

Though there are days expressly set apart for the consideration of the most important things relating to Christ, his formation in the womb, his nativity, his circumcision, his death, his resurrection, and ascension, yet few, very few, are in the habit of directing their attention to him. Instead of "counting all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of him," they scarcely think of him at all, or desire to receive any instruction respecting him. Hence that supineness which we behold on every side—But how different would be the state of men, if they once saw his glory, and had just views of his "grace and truth!" What "a gathering of the people to him" would there then be! How would they "flock to him as the doves to their windows!"—O that God would take the veil from our hearts—And that we might so "behold his glory, as to be changed by it into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of our God!"

3. Seek after a closer union with him.

We may all be said to be united with him in some respect, because "we are partakers of flesh and blood, and he likewise has taken part of the same. But it is not his union with our nature that will save us, but our union with him; not his being one flesh with us, but our being "one spirit with him." We must exercise faith on him; and by means of that faith be united to him as branches to the vine, or as members to the head—Without this, we can never hope to receive out of his fullness those blessings which we stand in need of—Let none of you then imagine that you have any interest in his salvation, until you are brought daily to live a life of faith upon him, and, through the influences of his Spirit, to devote yourselves unreservedly to his service.

4. Aspire after that which was the great end of his coming.

We are constantly reminded that he came into the world, that they who believe in him might become sons of God, and enjoy everlasting life—Shall we then be indifferent about that which brought him down from Heaven? How shall we bear the sight of him in the day of judgment, when we shall behold him in the very same body which he assumed on earth? How will that stupendous effort of his love reproach and confound us! How shall we even wish that we had been permitted to perish like the fallen angels, instead of being left to contract that more aggravated guilt of sinning against a God in our own nature, and rejecting the salvation which he died to purchase for us! If we could suppose the Savior now capable of weeping, as once he did over the impenitent Jerusalem, methinks he must be now weeping over many of us, to see how his love has been disregarded by us, and that the only effect of it is to aggravate our condemnation. Let us awake from this fatal stupor; let us follow him in our hearts to those realms of glory where he now dwells; and strive incessantly for the attainment of that kingdom, where we shall be with him and like him forever.

 

MDXCIX

The Believer's Interest in Christ's Fullness

John 1:16. Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.

THE sacred writers never seem to be afraid lest they should exalt Christ too much, or ascribe to him a glory which did not properly belong to him. John in particular evinces a desire to magnify him as much as possible, and sets forth his perfect equality with the Father in as strong and perspicuous terms as language would afford. In the chapter before us he declares that Christ was not only co-existent with God before the world, but that he himself was God, the sole Creator of the universe; and in the words we have just read, he represents him as the only source of all good.

That we also may be led to glorify his name, we shall show,

I. What is that fullness spoken of in the text.

Jesus Christ has in himself all the fullness of the Godhead. But this cannot be the fullness of which the Apostle speaks, because the Godhead is absolutely incommunicable to the creature. There is another fullness, which, according to the Father's appointment, dwells in him as our Mediator, namely, a fullness of everything which his redeemed people can stand in need of.

Are we immersed in darkness, and sitting in the shadow of death? He is "the light of the world; and whoever follows him shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Are we inexpressibly guilty, and incapable of working out a righteousness for ourselves? He is "Jehovah our Righteousnesses," and "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."—Are we so depraved as to be "altogether filthy and abominable," and "insufficient of ourselves even to think a good thought?" He has within himself a fountain of grace to "cleanse us from our filthiness," and to purify us unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Are we exposed to severe afflictions and manifold temptations? In him is boundless compassion to sympathize with us, and irresistible power to support and support us. Thus has he in himself a fullness of light to instruct, of merit to justify, of grace to renew, of compassion to pity, and of power to save us, even "to the very uttermost" of all our wants.

This fullness, however, is not the same with that which resides in his believing people.

There is a fullness with which believers are filled, even "all the fullness of God." But theirs is widely different from his. Theirs is limited, being only "according to the measure of the gift of Christ;" but his is unbounded; "the Father gives not the Spirit by measure unto him;" "he has the residue of the Spirit," dwelling and abiding in him. Theirs moreover is derived from him as its proper source and fountain; but his is essentially inherent in him: "in him was life" originally: "as the Father has life in himself, even so has he given to the Son to have life in himself." Theirs is for themselves alone; they have not any to communicate to others: His is for the use and benefit of his Church: he possesses it, that, being Head over all, he may impart out of it, and "fill all things with it." Theirs is perishable: though they be filled with it now, even as a house with light from the meridian sun, they would be destitute of it in an instant, if the communications of Heaven were intercepted or withheld: but his is immutable and eternal: he is "the same yesterday, today, and forever."

That our inquiries about this fullness are not merely speculative, will appear, while we show,

II. What interest believers have in it.

Every believer receives out of the fullness that is in Christ.

To state the precise mode in which Jesus communicates his blessings to the soul, is impossible; nor while we remain strangers to so many things in nature, must we wonder, if there be some things in the dispensations of Grace which we cannot fully comprehend. But the illustrations, with which the Scripture furnishes us, are sufficiently clear for any purposes of useful instruction. Christ is represented as a vine, of which we are the branches; and as a Head, to which we are united as the members. Now, as between these a vital union and constant communication are necessary, in order to the support of animal or vegetative life; so is it by constant, though invisible, supplies of grace from Christ that the believer is enabled to maintain his spiritual life and vigor.

He receives from Christ "grace for grace."

The terms "grace for grace" are variously interpreted; nor is it easy to ascertain which of the different senses is the true one. Some explain it of "the substantial grace of the Gospel," which all, both Jews and Gentiles, receive; "instead of the shadowy grace that was contained in the legal dispensation," others understand it as importing "grace upon grace," administered in copious and successive portions: others again think it means, "grace answerable to the grace that is in Christ Jesus;" and others, "grace for grace sake." Without determining which of these interpretations we should exclusively retain, we may observe, in reference to them all, that all those blessings which believers under the law enjoyed by means of types and ceremonies, we have conveyed to us in a fuller measure, and by the more simple channel of the written word: "Christ came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly." Nor is there any intermission to the communications which we receive from Christ; they flow, like the waves of the sea, in constant succession and the richest abundance: whatever we have received, it will always be found true, that "he gives more grace." His aim in bestowing on us such "abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness," is, that he may transform us into his own likeness. And this is the effect which he produces: as a parent begets a child in his own likeness, or a seal stamps its own image on the wax impressed by it, so does the Lord Jesus communicate to us the very graces that there are in him, until we are "changed into his image from glory to glory." All this he does purely "of his own good pleasure," and for the honor of his Father's name. He sees not anything in us which can merit such unspeakable favors; "he is gracious because he will be gracious, and has compassion because he will have compassion." Nor must we forget that this is the privilege of "all," the Apostles themselves could draw from no other fountain; and it is alike open to all who will go to it."

Inferences.

1. How glorious is Christ in himself, and how suited to our necessities!

We admire the sun in the firmament because it pours out its blessings upon so many at once: but that can enlighten only half the globe at one time. Not so the glorious Person of whose fullness we speak: if every person in the whole creation should call upon him at the same moment, he would have no occasion to defer an answer to the request of any; he is all eye to see, all ear to hear, all hand to relieve; in the very same instant he could replenish all, out of his own inexhaustible, undiminished fullness. Who then can hesitate a moment to pronounce him "God over all, blessed forever?" And is not this exactly such a Savior as we need? Are not we all emptiness and poverty, all weakness and misery? Is that description exaggerated which represents us as "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked?" Let us adore our God for giving us such a Savior: and let us "live continually by faith on the Son of God," making him our "wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our complete redemption."

2. How highly privileged are all true believers!

The believer may survey all the fullness that there is in Christ, and claim it all as his own. All which Christ possesses in himself, all which he can do on earth, and all which he can bestow in Heaven, is the portion of every the weakest saint, according to the measure of the grace that is in him, and according to the capacity which he has for receiving more grace. Every vessel of the sanctuary, from "the smallest cups to the largest flagons," shall be filled: if any be straitened in the blessings they receive, they are "straitened in themselves, and not in him." Blessed, thrice blessed are all that "hang upon him!" But can the text be applied to all this assembly? Can we say respecting you, without exception, "Out of his fullness have we all received?" Would to God we could! Would to God that the graces, which were in Christ, were so conspicuous in you all, and were poured out upon you in such an abundant measure, that there might be no room to doubt of your union with him! But let this matter be no longer in suspense: let us all go to the Fountain-head, and "draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation," let us "aspire after the blessedness of God's chosen, that we may rejoice forever in the gladness of his nation, and glory with his inheritance."

 

MDC

The Manifestation Which Christ has Given of the Father

John 1:18. No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.

THE knowledge of God is the great source of blessings to mankind, but the heathen world were altogether ignorant of him, nor were the Jews themselves fully instructed concerning him: to make a full revelation of him to the world was a part of that work which was reserved for Christ himself; and this office he performed, to the unspeakable comfort of his Church and people The Evangelist unites his testimony with that of John the Baptist in confirmation of this truth.

We shall inquire,

I. What Christ has declared of the Father.

God himself is invisible to the eye of sense: even Moses was permitted to see only his back parts. But Christ had a peculiar relation to the Father as "his only-begotten Son;" and a most intimate acquaintance with him, as being from all eternity, and at that very hour, "in his bosom." He has made known the Father to us, and declared,

1. His nature.

Mankind had gross conceptions of the Deity as a material Being: but Christ has assured us of his perfect Spirituality. Nor was the Unity of God clearly ascertained among the Gentiles: but Christ has left no room for doubt upon this subject. He has, moreover, revealed to us a Trinity of persons in the Godhead. He has affirmed in the plainest terms his own Oneness with the Father. He has spoken of the Holy Spirit as co-existing with himself and with the Father, and has joined the Three together as equal in authority and honor. Thus has he enabled us by faith to "see him who is invisible."

2. His perfections.

God had long since proclaimed his own name to Moses; but Christ has afforded us more abundant discoveries of all his attributes. He has clearly shown us that his goodness is unbounded, his sovereignty is uncontrolled, his power is irresistible, his justice is inflexible, his mercy is infinite, and his truth is inviolable. There is not anything relating to his Father, the knowledge of which could be at all serviceable to us, that he has not revealed.

He did not however merely utter these things like the prophets of old:

II. How he declared him.

Christ had formerly spoken of God in and by the prophets; but now he declared the Father in a different manner:

1. By exhibiting a perfect pattern of him.

He was himself an exact resemblance of the Father, and in his conduct exhibited every perfection of the Deity. Hence a sight of him was, in fact, a sight of the Father himself.

2. By making known his counsels.

Much of the Father's counsels had lain hid from the foundation of the world, or had been very imperfectly revealed. Christ opened them to his hearers as they were able to bear them. He made known God's intention to admit the Gentiles into his Church, and assured us that the most abandoned of mankind should be cordially received the very instant he returned to God; but that none of whatever character could be saved, unless they sought acceptance with God through his mediation. Thus by these declarations he has enabled us to attain a more perfect knowledge of the Father's mind and will.

3. By exerting a secret energy on the minds of men.

No man could know the Father unless Christ revealed him inwardly by his Spirit, as well as outwardly by the word. His very Disciples understood not until he opened their eyes: nor can we attain to a true knowledge of God in any other way. The "word must come to us in power and in the Holy Spirit," or it will come in vain; but, when applied by his Spirit, it shall teach us plainly of the Father.

Inferences.

1. How glorious a person must Christ be!

The description given of him shows his superiority above every created being: He is not the Son of God by creation, as the angels are, nor by regeneration and adoption, as men; but by an inexplicable generation, his "Only-begotten;" and, as well in his incarnate as in his pre-existent state, was continually "in the bosom of the Father." Nor was any other worthy to reveal the Father to us. Let us then entertain just conceptions of his worth and dignity, and manifest our delight in him as the saints in Heaven do.

2. How precious ought the Scriptures to be to us!

Job and David had but a small portion of the Scriptures in their hands: yet did they value them above everything in the world. How much more should we, who possess the sacred oracles entire! In these is recorded everything that Christ has declared; and by these we may be made wise unto salvation. Let us then search them with diligence, and treasure them up in our hearts; nor let a day pass without our digging into those invaluable mines.

3. How inexcusable are they who are ignorant of God!

It is to our shame that many of us are still ignorant of God: we have not that knowledge of him that produces correspondent affections towards him. But what excuse can we offer in extenuation of our guilt? Has not Christ declared the Father in order that we might know him? And is he not willing also to reveal him in us by his powerful energy on our souls? Some, doubtless, are more guilty than others in proportion as they have possessed means of instruction; but all will find the consequences of their ignorance most tremendous. Let all begin then to inquire after God with their whole hearts, nor rest until they have attained that knowledge of him which is life eternal.

MDCI

Christ the Lamb of God

John 1:29. Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.

IN the general estimation of the world, they are reputed great who bear sway over their fellow-creatures, and are surrounded with pomp and splendor. But, with God, men are accounted great according as they possess a knowledge of his ways, and advance the ends of his government. Hence we are told by our Lord himself that John the Baptist, a plain rustic man, clothed with coarse clothing of camel's hair, and a leathern belt, and subsisting on the spontaneous produce of the wilderness, was the greatest of all men that had ever been born. And what was it that so exalted him, not only above all the monarchs of the mightiest empires, but above Abraham, or Moses, or David, or any other of the prophets? It was this: they had seen Christ only at a distance, and spoken of him only in dark prophecies; but he beheld him personally; and, having discovered him by an infallible sign from Heaven, pointed him out to others as that very Lamb of God, who should take away the sin of the world. Through the goodness of God, we may be as much exalted above him, as he was above others, if we behold Jesus in the character which is here assigned him; because the completion of his sacrificial work, together with the more perfect revelation of it, which we have in the New Testament, enables us to enter far more deeply into the mystery of redemption, and more fully to comply with the ends and designs of God in it. To forward therefore your truest advancement, we shall,

I. Illustrate the character of our Lord as it is here described.

Under the law there were lambs offered every morning and evening in sacrifice to God; and it is to these, and not to the Paschal Lamb, that John refers. They were to be of the first year, and without blemish: and by the continual offering up of them God was pacified, as it were, so that his wrath did not break forth to destroy his people on account of their daily transgressions. Such a lamb was Christ: he was the Lamb, whom all the others typified. He was truly without spot or blemish; and was offered on the altar of his cross, not merely for the good, but in the stead, of sinners. He was really a propitiatory sacrifice, inasmuch as he bore in his own body the curse due to sine, and expiated all its guilt. As there was no variation of the daily sacrifices, but only a repetition of the same, so his one offering of himself is the sole cause of our acceptance with God: nor need that to be repeated, because the virtue of it extends from the beginning to the end of time; "he is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Nor is it the sin of one nation only that he takes away, but the sin of the whole world. He was eminently the Lamb of God, having been chosen to that office by God, and being accepted by him on our behalf in the discharge of it: He was "an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor."

II. Call more particularly your attention to him.

1. Let the careless sinner "behold" him.

It is but too evident that they, who live in the neglect of God and their own souls, know little of the evil and malignity of sin. But let such persons view the Son of God leaving the bosom of his Father, and assuming our nature to atone for sin: let them go to Gethsemane and behold him bathed in a bloody sweat through the agonies of his soul: let them follow him to Calvary, and hear him crying in the depths of dereliction, "My God, my God! why have you forsaken me?" Let them view him expiring under the curse and condemnation of the law; and then let them judge, whether sin be so light and venial an evil as they imagine? Let them bethink themselves, "if such things were done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" Let them behold him whom they have pierced, yes, whom they are daily crucifying afresh, and mourn. Let them know that what he suffered was for them; and that, if they be only willing to humble themselves for their iniquities, the benefits of his death shall extend to them. O that we might all so behold him, as to experience the efficacy of his blood in the removal of our sins!

2. Let the self-righteous moralist "behold" him.

How strange is it that any one, who bears the name of Christ, should expect salvation by the works of the law! Why should that Lamb of God have come down from Heaven to expiate our guilt, if sin could have been taken away by means of any repentance or righteousness of ours? What truth could there be in the Baptist's assertion, if pardon were to be obtained in any other way than through the sacrifice of Christ? Yes, for what end could so many thousands of lambs have bled upon the altar, but to show, that "without shedding of blood there could be no remission;" and consequently, to lead the attention of all to that Lamb of God, that should in due time be offered on the cross? Let such indignity then be no longer shown to the Savior of the world: but, as it is his office to take away our sin, let us renounce all self-righteous hopes, and trust entirely in his all-atoning sacrifice.

3. Let the mourning penitent "behold" him.

No sight under Heaven can be so welcome to a contrite soul as a sight of Jesus dying in the place of sinners: for, can we suppose, that he was appointed of God to make atonement for us, and that he executed his commission by dying on the cross, and that, after all, he is unable or unwilling to take away our sin? Was he designed to be a "atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world," and is there such malignity in the sins of any individual, that there is not a sufficiency in his blood to atone for them? Let us put away such disparaging thoughts of this Lamb of God: let us view him as infinite both in power and grace: let us listen to his encouraging invitation, "Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth," and let us, whatever be our state, trust in him, as "able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him."

4. Let the professor of godliness "behold" him.

Well may you rejoice in the sufficiency of your Savior's merits; well may you glory in the security which his blood affords you. But remember, it is not the guilt of sin only that he removes, but the power of it also: and the experience of the latter is our only evidence that we have experienced the former. "To redeem us from the love and practice of iniquity, and to purify us unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works," was no less the intent of his death, than to deliver us from condemnation." While therefore we behold the Lamb of God as the ground of our hope, let us also behold him as a pattern for our imitation. Let us follow his steps in all meekness and patience, in all purity and holiness: and let us convince the world that faith in Christ, so far from relaxing our zeal for good works, is the strongest incentive to the performance of them.

MDCII

Sight of Jesus, a Source of Joy

John 1:45. Philip finds Nathanael, and says unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

A GENERAL expectation of the Messiah prevailed in Israel at the time of our Savior's advent: and when his forerunner, John the Baptist, was sent, very wonderful were the effects produced by his ministry. Though he did no miracle, yet he excited the attention of the whole Jewish nation. The sanctity of his character, and the power of his words, soon gained him the name of a prophet: and, as there had been no prophet in Israel for the space of about four hundred years, his labors were hailed as a return of God's love to his people; and persons of all ranks and orders flocked to him, and submitted to his baptism. Many began to suppose that he was the Messiah himself. That, however, he disclaimed: but he avowed himself to be the person spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah eight hundred years before, as sent of God to make known the Messiah, who was already come. Accordingly, he pointed out the Lord Jesus Christ to them, as "the Lamb of God that should take away the sin of the world." This testimony of his, supported by the visible descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Lord Jesus at his baptism, gained credit with some. We do not read that Jesus had yet awhile wrought any miracle: but there was in his appearance what seemed amply sufficient to justify John's testimony respecting him; and those who were introduced to the knowledge of him were very desirous to impart to others the benefit they had received. The first to whom the discovery of the Messiah was made, was Andrew; and he immediately communicated the glad tidings to his brother Peter. The next to whom Jesus made himself known was Philip: and he also, like Andrew, sought some friend to whom to impart this joyful intelligence; and, on finding Nathanael, endeavored to make him a partaker of his joy, saying, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

That you, also, may be partakers of the same joy, I will show,

I. How amply the Lord Jesus Christ is described in the writings of the Old Testament.

We may notice it,

1. More generally in the writings of Moses.

At the very beginning of the world, even while man was yet in Paradise, Moses informs, that the Messiah was foretold, as "the seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent's head," and deliver men, though not without grievous sufferings to himself, from the fatal effects of Adam's transgression. He, at a period far distant from that, announces the Savior as a descendant of Abraham; and as one "in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed. Afterwards, he comes more fully to declare both the time of his advent, and the character he should sustain. He informs us that this Almighty Shiloh should come into the world before the power vested in the tribe of Judah should have departed from it. All the other scribes should long since have been reduced to a dependence on foreigners: but Judah's dominion should remain, and not be utterly destroyed, until the Messiah should have appeared in the world. Moreover, he should come as a prophet; as "a prophet like unto Moses;" uniting in himself the offices of a Legislator, an Instructor, a Mediator, a Governor, a Savior.

Thus fully did Moses speak of him, independently of all the types which most accurately and minutely delineated the whole of his work and office.

2. More particularly, in the writings of the prophets.

Nothing can be conceived more ample or minute than the descriptions given of the Messiah in the prophetic writings. The family from which he should spring was restricted to that of David. Yet he should not be born in a way of natural generation, but of a pure Virgin. The place of his birth was distinctly foretold: it should be Bethlehem: and not the Bethlehem in the land of Naphtali, but Bethlehem Ephratah in the land of Judah. The time also was fixed; for he must come while the second temple was yet standing. In his appearance, however, he should be so mean, that it should raise many doubts among his followers, and prove a stumbling-block to many: he should be "as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he should have no form nor loveliness in the eyes of those who beheld him, nor any beauty for which he should be desired." In consequence of his having none of the attractions of carnal men, he should be despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: men should hide their faces from him, as one despised and held in no esteem." The end of his coming was also very fully declared: he should come to "bear the sins of many," "to be wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was to be upon him; and by his stripes we were to be healed." The mode in which he should conduct himself under all these trials, was also made known: "He should be led as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so should he not so much as open his mouth." The manner in which he should be put to death was to be by crucifixion; though that was not a Jewish, but a Roman punishment. And yet he should be exempted from that which was a customary attendant on it—the breaking of his legs: for, though pierced in his hands, his feet, his side, "not a bone of him was to be broken." Time would fail me to speak of the incidents which were foretold relative to his treatment while yet upon the cross, the insults they offered him, the giving him vinegar to drink, the casting lots on his vestures, their putting him to death between two malefactors; or the mode of his interment in the tomb of a rich man, though in his death he was numbered with the most abject of the human race:—I will pass over these things, and only mention his resurrection, with the precise time it should take place, even the third day, before his body should have seen corruption; and his ascension, also, to the highest heavens; and his sending down of the Holy Spirit, to testify of him, and to qualify his Disciples for the work of propagating his Gospel, and establishing his kingdom in the world. Let all these things be considered; and you will say, there was such a body of evidence relating to the Messiahship of Jesus, as, in any considerate mind, must preclude a possibility of doubt.

The joy expressed at the finding of Jesus will lead me to show,

II. What an acquisition He is to all who can truly say, "We have found him—"

A distant prospect of him, from the remotest ages, had been a ground of very exalted joy.

We cannot doubt but that our first parents rejoiced much in the promise given them relative to "the seed of the woman;" and that Abel also felt rich consolation in his soul, while offering up a firstling of his flock, in token of his dependence on him. But in the case of Abraham we are not left to conjecture: we know infallibly, that he did foresee the day of Christ; and that, in the prospect of it, he greatly rejoiced. Indeed the designation given him by the prophet, as "the Desire of all Nations," clearly shows in what light he was regarded by those who had any insight into his proper character.

At the time of his advent, and during his sojourning on earth, the discovery of him was deemed a subject of self-congratulation.

As announced by the angelic choir to the shepherds, we behold him in this view: "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people: for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." And how his Virgin Mother gloried in him, you well know: "My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." In truth, all who waited for his coming, looked for him as "the Consolation of Israel." The delight expressed by Andrew and Philip, on their introduction to him, has been already noticed: and we cannot doubt but that all his Apostles, who so willingly left their all to follow him, found in him an ample compensation for all that they had lost. In truth, the experience of Zaccheus must have pervaded multitudes, while they listened to his words of grace, and felt, in their bodies and in their souls, the mighty working of his power.

The joy of his servants, after the publication of his Gospel, was yet greater, in proportion to the clearer discoveries which they had of his transcendent excellence.

Behold the thousands on the day of Pentecost! What a change was wrought on them by the revelation of Christ to their souls! In the morning, their hearts were as full of all malignity as that of Satan himself: in the evening, you find them "eating their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, blessing and praising God." The people of Samaria, the Ethiopian Eunuch, the Jailor and his family, all, as soon as they heard of him, found the sure accompaniment of faith in him. And what shall I say of the Apostle Paul? No man ever had so much of his own to glory in as he: yet did he account it all but loss for Christ; yes, he counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord."

And is there any difference in the experience of his servants at this day?

None at all. I will appeal to all who know him. I will ask, Whether, in their estimation, he do not fully answer to "the treasure hid in a field;" and to "the pearl of great price," which every one who finds, will sell all that he has to purchase? What, though we behold him not with our bodily eyes, is our joy the less on that account? No, for "though we see him not, we love him: yes, though now we see him not, yet, believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; receiving even now the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls."

In conclusion, I would beg to ask two questions:

1. Have you attained this happiness yourselves?

The Lord Jesus Christ has been fully made known among you, and "has even been set forth, as it were, crucified before your eyes." Observe on what slight evidence of his Messiahship his first Disciples rejoiced. Neither he, nor John his Forerunner, had wrought any miracle: yet, because the Holy Spirit had descended in a visible shape upon him at his baptism, both John and others believed on him. They, moreover, could have but very indistinct views of his character; and yet they rejoiced in him. How strong, then, should be your faith, and how exalted your joy, now that you have a full discovery of his glory; a discovery, which not even the angels in Heaven enjoyed, until it was given to them through the medium of the Christian Church! Surely you have cause to be ashamed, if, amidst all your privileges, you remain ignorant of the Savior's love, or strangers to the salvation which he has obtained for you.

2. Are you endeavoring to impart it to others?

You find not any in the days of old, who, having found the Savior themselves, did not endeavor to make him known to others. It is indeed impossible to feel our need of him, and to be experimentally acquainted with the blessedness of his salvation, and not to labor, according to our ability, to make others partakers of our joy. I know full well, that a zeal for his glory, and for the salvation of our fellow-men, will entail upon us a considerable measure of reproach, as enthusiastic, and "righteous overmuch." But why should we regard such a contemptible imputation as that? It is remarkable, that Philip was under a mistake, when he announced Jesus as "of Nazareth;" for he was not of Nazareth, but of Bethlehem. Yet because Philip supposed him to be of Nazareth, where he was not born, but had only sojourned, he willingly proclaimed his Master as of that place, notwithstanding the obloquy universally attached to it. So let us never be ashamed of Christ, because of the odium that attaches to a profession of his name. We should not indeed, by ignorance and inadvertence, put a stumbling-block in the way of any: but, if despised for the sake of Christ, we should welcome the shame, and rejoice that we are counted worthy to bear it. No consideration whatever should intimidate us: but, having found "Christ precious to our own souls," we should "confess him openly before all," and commend him to all around us, as "all our salvation, and all our desire."

 

MDCIII

Evil, and Cure, of Prejudice

John 1:46. Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip says unto him, Come and see.

KNOWLEDGE is not given to any man for himself alone. As "a light is not put under a bed or under a bushel, but is set on a candlestick, that it may give light to those who are in the house;" so knowledge is imparted by God, in order that it may be rendered subservient to the good of those who are in intellectual or spiritual darkness. The example of those who were first called to attend upon our Lord is worthy of imitation in this respect. Andrew, having been directed to Christ by John the Baptist, and having been convinced, by personal fellowship with Jesus, that he was indeed the Messiah, "he finds his own brother Simon, and says to him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus." The next day, Philip, who was of the same city as Andrew and Peter, was called to follow Christ: and "he, also, finding Nathanael, said to him, We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." In the mind of Nathanael, however, there existed a prejudice against Nazareth, as being the last place from whence a person of so exalted a character would ever proceed: and therefore he asked, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" It is generally supposed that this prejudice was called forth by Philip speaking of Jesus as belonging to Nazareth; when it was known that the Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem. But, had that been the case, I conceive that the answer would rather have been, "Can the Messiah come out of Nazareth?" and not, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" For, though Bethlehem was to give birth to the Messiah, it was not the only city from whence any good could proceed. I rather imagine, therefore, that it was to the general bad character of Nazareth that Nathanael referred; intimating, that, so far from giving birth to the Messiah, it was scarcely possible that any good whatever should proceed from it. This prejudice was not altogether without foundation; for Nazareth was deservedly infamous even in Galilee, the whole province of which was considered as less honorable than any other part of Judea. The conduct of the Nazarenes, both at the first opening of our Lord's ministry there, and on a subsequent occasion, clearly showed, that they were a blind and wicked people. Yet that was no reason why nothing good should come forth from thence. And, if this prejudice had not been corrected, it might have terminated in a continued ignorance of Christ, and a consequent lost of his salvation.

Let me then, from this history, show you,

I. The evil of prejudice.

Prejudice is deeply rooted in the heart of fallen man: and it is productive of most injurious effects,

1. To those who are the objects of it.

Prejudice has always some ground. It may indeed be founded on error, as well as on truth: but the very existence of it supposes that the person exercising it beholds, in his own opinion at least, something blame-worthy in him who is the object of it: and it usually operates most forcibly in those who have taken the least pains to ascertain the truth. Nicodemus no sooner heard of the Lord Jesus as belonging to Nazareth, than he concluded, from that very circumstance, that he could not be the true Messiah: and he even appealed to Philip, whether any good thing could come out of Nazareth; insinuating, that on so plain a point, there could not be any reasonable doubt: "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Now here was extreme injustice done to the people of that city: for though the majority of them might be worthless, there might be some as estimable characters as any in Israel. But it is in this way that prejudice condemns both things and persons in the mass. Nations will entertain these very notions respecting each other; so that the belonging to a rival nation shall be sufficient to make a person our enemy, though we are utter strangers to his character. The same malignant principle operates also very strongly between different societies belonging to the same nation. As, in Catholic countries, rival orders of men hate each other; so even in this Protestant land, where greater liberality might be expected to prevail, churchmen and dissenters are ready to question whether almost any measure of truth or piety be in the party to which they are opposed. It is scarcely necessary to say how strongly this unhallowed disposition prevails against individuals. A man may have embraced sentiments which are deemed strict and precise; and may, in conformity to them, be living a more holy, mortified, and self-denying life than others around him; and this shall be quite sufficient to render him odious and contemptible to all around him. From that moment, every one shall feel himself at liberty to speak evil of him; and nobody shall dare to defend him. All he says, and all he does, shall be an occasion of offence. John Baptist, because he was of secluded and mortified habits, was said "to have a devil," and our blessed Lord, because he was of more "easy and social habits," was called "a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber." And so, if we be truly religious, it will be done to us: whether we "pipe or mourn," we shall find no sympathy, but be alike objects of condemnation; everything being viewed through the medium of prejudice, and therefore deemed extravagant and absurd. Every one who will follow the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity shall surely find that he has this cross to bear: he shall be despised, and hated, and "have all manner of evil spoken against him falsely, for Christ's sake. In truth, the real Christian does not live under the same laws as others; nor must he expect that measure of protection that is accorded to other men. He may be traduced, insulted, injured by all: and no one will take his part: while, if he were to act, in one single instance, towards others, as every one feels at liberty to act towards him, the mouths of all would be opened against him, and a fire would be kindled which would not readily be extinguished: so true is that saying of the prophet Isaiah, "He who departs from evil, makes himself a prey."

2. To those who indulge it.

Prejudice blinds the mind to truth, and utterly indisposes us for the reception of it. A person under its influence can see no good in him whom it condemns, and will listen to nothing that shall tend to the vindication of his character. We have a remarkable illustration of this, in the conduct of the people of Ephesus. When they perceived that the preaching of the Apostle Paul was likely to lessen the veneration of many for the goddess whom they worshiped, they set the whole city in an uproar: and when a person, named Alexander, stood forth to vindicate him, the people, as soon as they saw that he was a Jew, instead of listening to a single word that he had to say, all, for the space of about two hours, cried out, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" Thus they shut out all means of conviction, and kindled in their own breasts the keenest resentments against those who sought only to make known unto them the way of life and salvation. In the common affairs of life, men act not thus. Our blessed Lord placed this matter in its true light, in answer to those who in the same perverse way rejected him: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say there will be rain, and it comes to pass. And when the south wind blows, you say there will be heat: and it is so. You hypocrites, you can discern the face of the earth, and of the heavens; and how is it that you discern not this time?" The truth is, that if prejudice once blind the eyes, nothing whatever will suffice to remove it: and men will rather ascribe the miracles of our Lord to Satanic influence, than acknowledge the plain and obvious inference that should be deduced from them. Thus, while this hateful disposition vents itself against the most deserving objects, it inflicts the deadliest wound on him who indulges it; inasmuch as it calls forth into activity all his basest passions, and shuts up his soul in impenetrable darkness.

Happily for Nathanael, he had a friend, who, if not able to satisfy all his doubts, was capable of giving him such advice, as, if duly followed, would issue in the removal of them.

In this advice of Philip we shall see,

II. The remedy of it.

Inquiry is the obvious remedy to be applied, in all cases. To all then, who are under the influence of prejudice, I would say, "Come and see."

1. To the profane Atheist.

I will grant that your prejudices are not wholly destitute of some plausible grounds whereon to stand. There are in the world many things which seem calculated to impress the mind with an idea that there is no controlling Providence, to protect the good, and to punish the workers of iniquity. It does appear strange that the ungodly should be permitted so to triumph, and that the righteous should be so exposed to their malignity. But, while I grant that these things may prove a stumbling-block to the inconsiderate, I must say, that, on a closer inspection, there will be found such evidence of a Divine agency in the world as will be abundantly sufficient to remove all doubts upon the subject. If we look at the earth, we cannot conceive that it came into existence by a fortuitous concussion of atoms: nor, if we survey the heavenly bodies, and trace them in their various courses, can we imagine, that they are left to themselves, without any one to uphold them in their orbits. If we behold a watch, or any other complicated machine, we never suppose that it made itself, or that it needs not the superintendence of an intelligent agent to regulate its motions. How much less, then, can we contemplate the infinitely diversified objects of the whole creation, all preserved in their order for thousands of years, and not confess a creating power, and a superintending Providence? Only let any man "come and see," and his doubts will vanish, like the mist before the noon-day sun.

2. To the proud infidel.

You, too, have specious reasons for disbelieving the Holy Scriptures. There are in the sacred volume many things which you cannot comprehend. But is this a just ground for denying its divine authority? Are there not truths in human sciences which surpass your comprehension? Why, then, may you not expect to find such in a revelation from God? Look at the evidences of our holy religion: see whether the prophecies, so numerous, so minute, so incapable of being accomplished by any collusion or confederacy whatever, do not determine, beyond a possibility of doubt, that they were inspired by an omniscient and Almighty God. Mark the miracles, too, by which the doctrines both of the Old and New Testament were confirmed; and say whether they do not, of necessity, commend themselves as of divine origin. Only "come and see" with a candid mind, and you shall be fully satisfied that the Scriptures are indeed the word of God.

3. To the self-justifying moralist.

You persuade yourself, that because we deny to works the office of justifying the soul before God, we discourage the performance of them; and that, consequently, the doctrine which we preach, of salvation by faith alone, cannot be true. But your conclusions are erroneous altogether. If you will but examine for yourselves, you shall find, that no other way of salvation than that which the Gospel has proclaimed is suited to fallen man; nor will any other be found worthy of Almighty God. His justice must be honored, as well as his mercy; and it is only by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ that its demands are, or can be, satisfied. And as to the performance of good works, respecting which you are so jealous, look and see whether any person, from the foundation of the world, ever exhibited a brighter pattern of morality than Paul; who yet said, "I desire to be found in Christ, not having my own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ." Only be candid in your examination of this point, and it shall force itself upon your mind with an evidence that is irresistible.

4. The licentious worldling.

'How can that be a source of happiness, which would rob me of all that T have ever delighted in, and constrain me to mortify my flesh; and, after all, would subject me to the contempt and hatred of all my friends?' This appears to you a difficulty that cannot be removed. But I would say to you also, "Come, and see," try what religion will really do for you: see whether its ways be not ways of pleasantness and peace: see whether there be not a more refined pleasure arising from self-denial for the Lord's sake, than in all the self-indulgence that you ever experienced. Come, and see what happiness there is in communion with God, in the testimony of a good conscience, and in a prospect of a blessed immortality. I will venture to affirm, that if you give the experiment a fair trial, you shall find incomparably greater happiness in God than you ever found in the gratifications of sense.

Learn then, from this subject, how to act,

1. In reference to your own prejudices.

Every man living is more or less influenced by this principle. Piety itself will not altogether exempt us from it. Nathanael was "an Israelite indeed;" yet, though "without deceit," he was not without prejudice: and therefore it becomes us all to be open to conviction, and to be willing to have our prejudices removed: we should never decline using the means of information that are open to us; but should be intent only on ascertaining the truth. Whether our prejudice refer to persons or things, we should find a real delight in having our views rectified, and should spare no pains to acquire a more perfect way.

In this point of view, the Bible Society has rendered most important services to the Church of Christ. It has brought together multitudes who were once, through the force of prejudice, alienated from each other; and has diffused among them a principle of mutual love. And if we were to cultivate more of a friendly spirit with those of the Jewish nation, it is highly probable that our mutual animosities would be soon abated, and that an easier way might be opened for them into the fold of Christ. At all events, on our own part, prejudice should cease; and on every subject, and towards every man, our minds should be unbiased, and our souls be intent only on rectitude and truth. We should "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good."

2. In reference to the prejudices of others.

Be not offended if you see in others the infirmities which you feel in yourselves. Be careful, too, not to irritate or despise those who labor under them: but, with kindness and gentleness, endeavor to guide them to the knowledge of the truth.

In this respect, as in all others, our blessed Lord must be our example: "Learn of me," says he; "for I am meek and lowly in heart;" that is, I can bear with your ignorance, and be content to administer instruction in a way suited to your capacity. Philip's conduct, too, was worthy of imitation: for, though fully convinced himself, he did not begin to argue and dispute with Nathanael, but invited him rather to examine and judge for himself. Thus we also should act: we should adopt such methods of instruction and persuasion as are most likely to remove the veil that is on our brother's heart; and should labor, not so much for the establishment of our own dogmas, as for the best interests of his soul. And, if we find any persons disposed to hold fast their delusions, we should "in meekness instruct them, if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth."

 

MDCIV

An Israelite Indeed

John 1:47. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and says of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!

IT is comfortable to reflect, that there are many whose hearts are upright before God, while, from a variety of circumstances, they are unknown to the world. Nathanael was not yet evangelized; nor had he attained that eminence in the divine life whereby he was afterwards distinguished: yet was he among the Lord's "hidden ones," and justly entitled to the encomium passed upon him in the text. We shall,

I. Consider the character of Nathanael.

If ever the character of any human being deserved particular attention, surely that must, which was drawn by our Lord himself. Let us notice,

1. The terms in which our Lord's testimony is expressed.

The whole body of the Jews were called Israelites as being descended from Jacob, to whom the name of Israel was given by God himself. But we are taught to distinguish between those who were "Israelites after the flesh," and those who were Israelites in a higher and more appropriate sense; fur "all were not Israel who were of Israel," those only who partook of Jacob's spirit, were numbered among his spiritual seed: and hence it was that Nathanael, being a heavenly-minded man, and an earnest wrestler with God in prayer, was called "an Israelite indeed." But Jacob was represented as "a plain man," in opposition to his brother Esau, who was "a cunning man," and though on two occasions his conduct was far from corresponding with this character, yet, on the whole, he was a person of guileless simplicity: and it is in reference to this that Nathanael is further said to be, a man "in whom was no deceit."

2. The facts by which that testimony is confirmed.

The first evidence which we have of Nathanael's integrity, is his openness to conviction. He labored under the prejudices which obtained through the whole of his nation, and thought that nothing good could proceed from Galilee: but when invited by Philip to "come and see" for himself, he instantly complied, in order that he might form a right judgment respecting the momentous question that was then agitated, the Messiahship of Jesus. Such candor uniformly characterizes the true Israelite.

The next thing we notice in him is, his readiness to follow his convictions. What were the particular circumstances that had taken place under the fig-tree, whether Nathanael had been adverting to Jacob's vision, or had been praying for divine instruction relative to the expected Messiah, or indeed what had been the precise workings of his mind, it is not possible for us to say: but Jesus intimated to him that he knew all that had passed there, and had approved the workings of his mind. This declaration, accompanied with a decided testimony respecting his character, convinced Nathanael that he was the true Messiah; and drew from him an unequivocal acknowledgment of his divine mission. Such a readiness to receive the truth is a further ingredient of guileless integrity.

We have yet another proof of his sincerity in his determination to approve himself to God at all events. He could not but know that the prejudices he had imbibed, were common to the whole nation; and that to become an open follower of Jesus would expose him to much obloquy and contempt. But he would not confer with flesh and blood: having found the truth, he embraced it boldly; and from that moment became a stated attendant on his Lord. This, above all, displayed the uprightness of his soul: and this decided conduct, this prosecuting of his duty without any fear of consequences, is the surest test of radical and unalloyed integrity.

If our Lord's testimony stood in need of confirmation, we could not wish for more ample proof of its truth than arises from the facts that are here adduced.

After such a delineation of Nathanael's character, we may well,

II. Commend it to your imitation.

It is not to gratify our curiosity, but to edify our souls, that so many bright examples are set before us in the Scriptures. Paul exhorts us not only to be followers of him, but to "mark those who walk after his example." That you may be induced to imitate the example now set before you, consider,

1. The excellence of such a character.

The righteous is deservedly said to be "more excellent than his neighbor." To compare a guileless person with one that is sensual or profane, would be to compare "light with darkness, and Christ with Belial." Let us therefore institute the comparison rather between a true Israelite, and the most moral and specious of those who retain any allowed deceit: and then the superiority of a Nathanael will appear in its true light: the hypocrite may have clearer views of divine truth, and appear in many respects to greater advantage before men, but he is radically a lover of sin, and a vassal of the wicked one; while the guileless person is transformed into the divine image, and is a friend, a favorite, a child of God.

Shall not this consideration operate upon us? Can we need any other inducement to imitate the glorious character before us?

2. The importance of attaining it.

The time is shortly coming when all of us must appear in the presence of Christ: and, as he discerned the character of Nathanael so as to pronounce upon it with infallible certainty, so does he now weigh our spirits, as in a perfect balance, in order that he may give to every man his proper portion of censure or applause. Of those who were truly upright he will say, 'Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom was no deceit: I saw him under the fig-tree; I heard his groans; I saw his wrestlings with God in prayer; I treasured up his tears in my vial; and I testify before all, that his heart was right with God.' But of those who harbored any secret iniquity he will say, 'Behold a man that was called an Israelite, but he was in reality a dissembler with God: he had "a name to live, but he was really dead," I saw him under the fig-tree; I marked the secret lusts which he harbored in his heart, and the allowed neglects of which he was habitually guilty: he would follow his convictions, and devote himself to me as far as his ease, his honor, and his interests would permit, but no further: and therefore, on account of his secret reserves, and his allowed deceit, he must take his portion with the hypocrites and unbelievers.'

Who can reflect on the consequences of that decision, and not desire so to live that Jesus may bear a favorable testimony on his behalf?

Address.

1. Those who do not so much as profess to be true Israelites.

You boast perhaps that, whatever you are, you are not hypocrites: but, though you make no profession of religion before men, the very calling of yourselves Christians implies that you acknowledge yourselves bound to follow the steps of your Divine Master. Compare then your conduct with your obligations, and think what your doom must be in the day that he shall judge the world.

2. Those who are Israelites, but not in truth.

If it were as easy to deceive God as it is to maintain a blameless appearance before man, we should be less anxious about your eternal interests. But the Lord Jesus searches the heart and tries the reins; and will adjudge men to happiness or misery, according to the real state of their souls. We are told that he who commits sin is of the devil; and, that whoever is born of God sins not. This must certainly imply, that if we have any allowed deceit, we are not true Israelites, nor can we have our portion with them. O lay to this to heart; and seek "that you may be found of God in peace, without spot and blameless,"

3. Those who are Israelites indeed.

The ungodly world may brand you with the name of hypocrites and deceivers; but the Lord Jesus looks upon you with pleasure and delight, and will now in your hearing, as it were, and before long in their hearing also, bear testimony to your integrity, to the unspeakable comfort of your souls. O be careful to keep a conscience void of offence both towards God and towards man. Remember that, as your comfort depends on the preservation of your integrity, so does his honor. The ungodly may do what they will, and no reflections are cast upon religion: but if an Israelite do anything unworthy of his profession, the Gospel itself, yes, and the Lord Jesus Christ also, is condemned for it. Cut off occasion then from those who seek occasion to calumniate the way of truth; that while you have the comfort of your integrity, God may be glorified by it, and his enemies be put to silence.

MDCV

The Water Turned into Wine

John 2:11. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his Disciples believed on him.

AFTER thirty years of privacy, the time was come for our Lord to enter on his public ministrations. He had received both visible and audible testimony from Heaven, and had been pointed out by his forerunner, John the Baptist, as "the Lamb of. God, that should take away the sin of the world." Now at a marriage feast he begins in a private and unostentatious way that series of miracles to which he afterwards appealed as incontrovertible proofs of his Divine mission. Who the parties were, whose nuptials were here celebrated, we know not: but, from the peculiar interest which the mother of Jesus took in accommodating the guests, we think it highly probable, that they were some friends or relatives of her own. But, however that might be, our blessed Lord made that feast the occasion of working his first public miracle, and thereby of manifesting forth his glory.

The two points for our consideration are,

I. The manifestation which our Lord here gave of his glory.

He, by a miraculous power, turned water into wine.

It is probable, that, when it was known that Jesus was to be at the feast, more guests came than had in the first instance been expected. Hence, after a time, the wine which had been provided, was exhausted. On this account the mother of Jesus intimated to him, that this would be a good occasion for exercising that miraculous power which she knew him to possess. But this was a liberty which she was not authorized to take: and therefore our Lord gently and respectfully reproved it; saying, "Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour is not yet come." From the direction which she immediately gave to the servants, it is evident that she did not consider the answer as a refusal, but only as an intimation that the time and manner of displaying his own glory must be left altogether to him. (We may here observe, by the way, that, if she was reproved for offering him advice when he was on earth, what shall we think of the Papists, who pray to her to issue her commands to him, now that he is on his throne in Heaven?) At the season he saw fit, he ordered the servants to fill with water six large water-pots, which had been placed there with a view to some purifications or ceremonial ablutions, and they were immediately "filled to the brim." He then ordered the servants to draw out from those vessels, and to carry the cup to the governor of the feast. The governor, unconscious of the miracle that had been wrought (which, however, the servants who had drawn the water knew), commended highly the superior flavor of this wine, and thus unintentionally proclaimed the miracle to the whole company. It was a miracle that did not admit of any doubt: for the vessels, being all filled to the brim, did not admit of any wine being mixed with it: and all the servants were vouchers for the miracle, and witnesses that no collusion had been practiced.

By this miracle he manifested forth his glory.

By it he demonstrated his sufficiency for the work he had undertaken: for after that act of omnipotence and love, what was there that he either could not, or would not, effect in behalf of those who trusted in him? Whatever might be their wants for the body, he could supply them in an instant; or, whatever might be their necessities for their souls, he could make ample provision for them in the hour of need. And if in this instance he had wrought a miracle to give them what might easily have been dispensed with, what would he not do for them which was essential to their well-being either in time or in eternity? He might indeed withhold for a season, what they, through impatience, were too eager to obtain: but he would grant to all his believing people whatever should be needful for them, only reserving to himself the times and the seasons of imparting his blessings, together with the manner and the measure which his own wisdom should see most conducive to their welfare.

Such being the manifestation which he here gave of his glory, let us notice,

II. The effect produced by it on the minds of his Disciples.

Nathanael had been convinced by one proof of Christ's omniscience, and exclaimed, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Thus this one miracle, which displayed his omnipotence, was sufficient to confirm and establish the faith of his Disciples: "He manifested forth his glory; and his Disciples believed on him," that is, they were filled with a deeper conviction of his Messiahship; they were stirred up to place a more entire affiance in him as their Savior; and they were quickened to surrender up themselves more fully and unreservedly to his service. This was right; this was what the occasion called for, and what the miracle which they had seen, fully justified.

Now then this is the effect that should be produced on our minds:

1. We should receive him as the true Messiah.

We cannot wish for clearer evidence than that which the miracles of our Lord afford us. Our blessed Lord appeals to them as decisive and incontrovertible proofs of his divine mission, and consequently of the truth of all that he spoke, and of the efficacy of all that he either did or suffered for the redemption of the world. Let no doubt then ever rest on your minds in relation to this matter: but say with Peter, "We believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God."

2. We should place full affiance in him under that character.

"Our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our complete redemption," should be sought in him alone. We should see "all fullness of spiritual blessings treasured up in him for us," and we should "receive them daily out of his fullness," even "as a branch receives its sap from the vine," or a member of our body its energies from the head. "The life which we now live in the flesh we should live altogether by faith on the Son of God, as having loved us and given himself for us." The whole world should be to us as nothing in comparison of him; and we should "determine to know nothing," either as an object of confidence or as a ground of glorying, "but Jesus Christ and him crucified."

3. We should surrender up ourselves entirely and unreservedly to his service.

This is what all his Disciples did. Matthew left his receipt of custom, and Peter and John their nets, and all his followers their respective vocations, to follow him, and consecrate themselves to him. And this is what we also must do: we must "deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily for him, and forsake all for him;" "not counting even life itself of any value," if it may be sacrificed for him, and to the honor of his name. This is what the whole of his mediatorial work calls for at our hands; and this is no more than "a reasonable service" for every one of his redeemed to render to him.

From a larger view of what passed on that occasion,

I would yet further suggest two useful hints:

1. It is our privilege to seek, and to enjoy, the presence of the Lord Jesus in our social meetings.

Religion is far from encouraging a morose seclusion from society, or from prohibiting even occasional festivities, provided they be conducted with prudence and sobriety. Doubtless what we call conviviality may easily be carried to excess: but I conceive that the very circumstance of our Lord's working his first miracle at a wedding feast, and of his supplying of more wine for the use of the guests during the remainder of the feast, was intended to mark the difference between the dispensation which he introduced, and that which his was intended to supersede; the Jewish dispensation consisting mainly of restraints, ("touch not, taste not, handle not;") but Christianity "giving us all things richly to enjoy." But, that our liberty may not be turned into licentiousness, we should always invite the Lord Jesus Christ, if I may so say, to be a guest with us: for he has promised to "come unto us, and to sup with us, and to manifest himself unto us as he does not unto the world." And need I say how sweet our feasts will then be? Who that has ever enjoyed Christian society in a truly Christian way, has not found an infinite distance between the conviviality of the ungodly world and the refined enjoyment of heavenly converse? The very best of worldly fellowship is but "as the crackling of thorns under a pot," where the blaze that brightens the scene for a few minutes, soon expires in offensive smoke. But, where the Lord Jesus Christ vouchsafes his presence, the savor of the feast still abides upon the soul, and affords reiterated gratification in the recollection of it. Such seasons, however long since enjoyed, will afford us comfort even in a dying hour; so truly is it found on all occasions, that our blessed Savior gives us the best wine last. Let Jesus be present at our feasts, and there will be in them neither levity nor excess; but our very festivities, instead of contributing to sensuality, shall be made to administer to the good of our souls.

2. If we will leave our concerns to his disposal, he will surely glorify himself at last.

If at any time our necessities be at all urgent, we are too apt to dictate to our Lord as to the time and manner of our relief. But such presumption, whoever may be guilty of it, will surely meet with a rebuke. It is sufficient for us to know that Jesus is both able and willing to supply our every want, and that he has pledged himself, that "they who seek him shall want no manner of thing that is good." Who has not already on many occasions found, that his own impatient desires, if gratified at the time, would have proved injurious to him, and that the very delay of which he once complained, has proved of most essential service to his soul? Let us then habitually commit our concerns to our all-wise and all-gracious Lord, and look to him to glorify himself in his own time and way. Then shall we have reason, before long, to say, "He has done all things well;" and shall find at the last, that our very straits have contributed to his honor and our own eternal good.

 

MDCVI

Buyers and Sellers Driven Out

John 2:17. And his Disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of your house has eaten me up.

WE are apt to think that we receive no benefit from what we read or hear, unless it produce an immediate effect upon us: but the word, like seed, often springs up long after it has been sown. God often brings it to our minds by some great and singular occurrence: and then we see a beauty and importance in it which we never saw before. The Apostles themselves forgot many things which were spoken to them by our Lord, until the Holy Spirit brought them to their remembrance. They had often heard the Psalms read in their synagogues; but probably never reflected on the passage before us, until our Lord's conduct suggested it to their minds, and cast the true light upon it.

We shall consider,

I. The circumstances which brought these words to their remembrance.

Our Lord, for the first time after his entrance on his public character, went up to Jerusalem at the Passover. There he found that the temple of God was scandalously profaned; and he immediately set himself to rectify the abuses that were there tolerated.

The outer court of the temple was appropriated to the use of the Gentiles: but many of the Jews had rendered it a place of merchandise. There they exposed for sale the cattle that were proper to be offered in sacrifice, and stationed themselves with tables of money for the accommodation of the strangers who might want to exchange their foreign coin. Thus they insulted the Gentiles and greatly dishonored God. To correct this evil, our Lord exerted his divine authority. He drove out the cattle, and ordered the doves to be removed. He overturned the tables of money, and commanded all the traders to depart; nor did any of the people dare to oppose his sovereign command.

This act of his could not fail of attracting universal notice:

It discovered,

1. His holy indignation against sin.

Such a profanation of the temple was indeed a grievous sin: nor could his righteous soul behold it without the utmost abhorrence. His anger was justly excited by the indignity offered to his Father. To have felt it less, would have been a crime; and to have refrained from manifesting it, a mark of cowardice. We indeed are not called to manifest our displeasure in the same authoritative way; but we should never behold sin but with pain and grief; nor can our indignation be ever sinful, provided it be directed against sin as its object, and be felt only in proportion to the malignity of the offence committed. We can never err, if we follow the example of those eminent saints.

2. His courageous zeal for God.

The priests themselves were accessary to the dishonor done to God: if they did not encourage it for gain, they at least promoted it by connivance. Thus they, no less than the traders, were interested in maintaining the abuse, and, no doubt, would be forward to uphold it with all their power; but Jesus feared not the face of men, though all should combine against him. He resolutely determined to suppress these gross abominations, and, without any regard to consequences, set himself to perform his duty. Thus should we move undaunted in the way of duty; nor ever be deterred from it by the dictates of carnal policy.

3. A miraculous power over the minds of men.

What but this could prevent their rising against him? He detected their hypocrisy, reproved their impiety, mortified their pride, opposed their interests, and loaded them with disgrace. He did this singly, unarmed, unsupported, and in opposition to the existing authorities: yet, behold, they were all constrained to yield submission to his will. We cannot doubt but that he miraculously overawed their minds: nor was this a less exertion of omnipotence than any other of the miracles which he wrought.

The sight of these things particularly affected his immediate followers, and brought to their recollection a portion of Scripture which they had never before noticed,

II. The words themselves.

The words were justly quoted in reference to Christ.

In their primary sense indeed they had their accomplishment in David. David elsewhere expresses in very strong terms his zeal for God: nor can we forget how he manifested it when he danced before the ark. But David confessedly personates the Messiah: some parts are applicable to himself, and some to Christ, alone. The words before us may very properly be applied to both; indeed the strength of the terms would almost lead us to confine them to Christ. His holy soul was inflamed with incessant zeal for God's honor; nor did he ever suffer one opportunity of promoting his glory to pass unimproved. The occasion now before us called forth the strongest exertions of his zeal, and manifested the full accomplishment of this prophecy in his person.

They are also replete with useful instruction to us.

They reprove the shameful want of zeal among his followers.

God is greatly dishonored by men on every side: his name is blasphemed, his word despised, his authority rejected. Does it become his people to behold these things with indifference? Should they not resemble Paul when he beheld the idolaters at Athens? Should they not imitate John, and adopt the words of Jeremiah? Should they not reprove sin in others as well as abstain from it themselves? But how miserably defective are even good people in this particular! How often do fear or shame restrain them from bearing their testimony for God! Alas! what a sad contrast does our conduct form with that of our Lord! Have we not reason then to be ashamed, and mourn for our neglect? But many, so far from rebuking sin in others, indulge it in themselves: even in the very house of God they harbor worldly and carnal thoughts; nor are at all concerned to have their hearts purified from vile affections. Surely this cannot but be most offensive to the heart-searching God. Let us remember the solemn caution given us by the Apostle. With respect to others, let us never presume to use the petulant language of Cain—, but rather endeavor to obey the injunction which God has given us—; and, with respect to ourselves, let us seek in all things that conformity to Christ which is required of us.

They afford us a proper example for our imitation.

Phinehas of old was called to execute the judgment he inflicted on Zimri. Thus Jesus, as the Prophet of the Most High, was called to vindicate God's honor. In the same manner we should do whatever our place and station require: we must not all take on ourselves the office of magistrates, or assume the authority which does not belong to our situation and circumstances. Our zeal must be regulated by the word of God. It must be in a good cause; and in support of truth and virtue: it must be pure; and free from bigotry, ostentation, or wrath: it must be discreet, not precipitating us into unfitting conduct: it must be proportioned, in a measure, to the occasion that excites it; and it must be uniform, opposing sin in ourselves, as much as in others. Such a zeal as this cannot be too vigorously maintained. An intemperate zeal will injure the cause it attempts to serve; but that which is duly tempered with meekness and wisdom, will be productive of much good. Let us then check the unhallowed zeal that would call fire from Heaven, and cherish that which is meek, humble, pious and benevolent. Thus shall we approve ourselves to be God's peculiar people; and, while we please our God, shall be a blessing to all around us.

 

MDCVII

The Resurrection, a Proof of Christ's Messiahship

John 2:18, 19. Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign show you unto us, seeing that you do these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

THE work of reformation usually involves in difficulties those who undertake it. They who are the objects of it, however justly reproved, are sure to take offence, and to condemn the zeal which censures them. No one can doubt but that the turning of God's House into a place of merchandise was a very shameful practice; or, that to suppress it was highly commendable: yet, when our blessed Lord exerted his authority to check this abuse, the people, instead of applauding his zeal, expressed great dissatisfaction, and demanded of him, what right he had to interfere in that matter. The very awe which was impressed on all their minds, whereby they were constrained to yield to the rebukes of a poor man unsupported by any human, authority, might have convinced them, that a power more than human existed in the person of the Lord Jesus: and, if they had taken occasion to make inquiries respecting him in a becoming spirit, he would no doubt have given them all reasonable satisfaction: but, as their demands arose from mere petulance, he declined satisfying them by any fresh miracle, and referred them to an event yet distant, which, when accomplished, should be a perfect answer to every inquiry.

To place this matter in a just point of view, we shall show,

I. To what event our Lord referred.

The occasion on which the words were spoken, will reflect considerable light on the words themselves. It was common with our Lord to make the things which were immediately before him subservient to his purpose of conveying spiritual instruction: and this he did on the present occasion. He had purged the temple from the abuses to which it had been exposed. The act itself, all things considered, was miraculous. A miracle was required of him to prove his right to exercise such authority: but he, not choosing to gratify this unreasonable demand, told the Jews, that, as they had defiled the material temple, so they would destroy the temple of his body: and that, as he had purged the one, so he would in three days rebuild and restore the other: and that this latter miracle would abundantly vindicate his claim to the authority he used.

In this figurative prediction he intimated,

1. That his own body was typically represented by the temple.

Both were formed, the one by man, and the other by God himself, as a residence for the Deity; and in both God given to dwell: in the one symbolically, by a visible cloud; in the other really, personally, bodily, even in all his fullness.

2. That they would in due time destroy it.

His words are not to be construed as a command or advice, but simply as a prediction. He knew what they would do: he knew "what his heavenly Father had determined before to be done," he knew what he had undertaken both to do and suffer for us: and he frequently, from his very first entrance on his ministry to the close of it, foretold the precise manner of his death, together with the various circumstances which should accompany it.

3. That he, by his own power, would raise it up again in three days.

"He had power to lay down his life, and power to take it again," and he declared that he would put forth this power to the confusion of all his enemies. He fixed the time of his resurrection, agreeably to the predictions of the prophets concerning it; a time amply sufficient for ascertaining the reality of his death, though not sufficient for his body to contract any corruption. On the accomplishment of this prophecy he rested all his pretensions to the Messiahship; and by it he would prove, that "he was indeed the very Christ."

The accomplishment of this event need not at this time to be insisted on: it is more to our purpose to show,

II. How it proved his Divine authority.

We are told that Christ "was declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead." If it be asked, How did his resurrection prove his Messiahship? we answer,

1. No impostor would rest his pretensions on such an appeal as this.

An impostor would rather confirm his authority by an appeal to something which he might accomplish in his life-time, in order that his credit might be raised, and his hands be strengthened for the furtherance of his designs. At all events, he would not found his hopes of success on a matter so entirely out of the reach of all human power, where the failure might be so easily, so speedily, so demonstrably ascertained: to do this would be to counteract all his own wishes, and to expose himself and his adherents to utter contempt. Such conduct would be perfect madness: and therefore we cannot suppose that our blessed Lord, who on all occasions manifested such consummate wisdom, could have pursued it. Had he been an impostor, he would at least have selected some other test, more within the bounds of credibility, and less open to detection.

2. Supposing such an appeal made in support of an imposture, God would never work a miracle to sanction and confirm it.

That God has permitted wonderful things to be wrought by liars and impostors, is certain: but he has at the same time afforded means for discovering the imposture; or rather, he has permitted those very wonders for the purpose of manifesting his own superior power, and confirmed thereby the faith of his people, while his enemies were hardened in their own willful delusions. But in raising up Jesus from the dead, he has not only given us no contrary testimony to counteract the impression, but has left us no room for doubt. This must have been done by himself alone: none but an Almighty power could effect it. On this one point the whole weight of our Lord's pretensions rested. Our Lord was willing to be thought an impostor, if this miracle were not wrought in his favor. What shall we say then? If God knew him to be an impostor, he himself interposed to give weight and efficacy to his imposture: he interposed to deceive his own people, and to blind the eyes of those who were most desirous to serve him aright. But can this be true? Can we for a moment admit the thought? The inference then is clear and undeniable; that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.

But it is not in speculative truths that we should rest. We proceed therefore to inquire,

III. What practical instruction is to be gathered from it.

In this part of our subject, we shall limit our observations to the event as it stands connected with the occasion on which it was foretold. We have before seen that it was referred to in confirmation of the authority which our Lord had exerted. It shows us therefore,

1. That God is indignant with those who pollute his temple.

It is common to imagine, that the frequenting of the house of God at certain seasons must of necessity be a service pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God. But can our bodily presence there be pleasing to him, if our hearts be altogether occupied with the world? If our farms and our merchandise, our lusts and our pleasures, fill our minds, what will it profit us to bow our knees, or to repeat our forms of prayer? It is not thus that we are to worship God: "we are to worship him in spirit and in truth;" and our external services, while destitute of spiritual affections, are gross hypocrisy: and we, in presenting such services, are no better than those whom our Lord accused of turning his Father's House into a house of merchandise.

But it is not from the outward temple only that evil should be expelled: our hearts are "the temples of the Holy Spirit," and are therefore, at the peril of our souls, to be preserved pure: "If any man defile the temple of God," says the Apostle, "him shall God destroy." What reason have we all to tremble at this solemn declaration! Consider, brethren, what grievous abominations have been harbored there! what a mass of filthiness, "filthiness both of flesh and spirit," has God seen in us! what pride, envy, malice, wrath! what worldliness! what sensuality! alas! alas! "It is indeed of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, even because his compassions fail not." We may plead custom, and a variety of other excuses, just as they did who defiled the material temple: but if our hearts be not now purged by the grace of God, it is in vain to hope that he will ever make them his residence in a future world. Let us then beg of him to drive out every hateful disposition: and, whatever scourge he may see fit to use for this purpose, let us never wish to be delivered from the pains it may inflict, until we have fully experienced its sanctified effects.

2. That whatever pollutes his temple shall yield to the almighty power of Christ.

When we see the extreme depravity of our hearts, and compare it with the purity of God's holy law, we are ready to say, that it is impossible for us ever to become what God requires. But he who exerted such power over the minds of those who "made the temple a den of thieves;" who could literally have destroyed the temple and built it again in three days; and did actually raise to life again his own "crucified body;" He, I say, can easily effect the renovation of our hearts: with him all things are possible: whatever difficulties we may have to surmount, "his grace is sufficient for us"—We need only look to his Apostles, "who were men of like passions with us," and we may see what he can do for us. "It was by the grace of God that they were what they. were," and God is still the same as in the days of old; "his arm is not shortened that it cannot save; nor is his ear heavy that it cannot hear"—It is to carry on his work in our hearts that Jesus is risen: "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Let us then pray that we may know him in the "power of his resurrection," and "be sanctified wholly;" and that "our whole spirit, soul, and body, may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." "Faithful is He who has called us, who also will do it."

 

MDCVIII

The Nature and Necessity of Regeneration

John 3:3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

AS there is an essential distinction between divine and human knowledge, so is there a very great difference in the ways by which each of them is to be obtained; the one being attainable only by rational investigation, the other only by faith. Reason indeed must judge whether such or such things be revealed; but when that point is clearly ascertained, faith must receive the truth simply on the authority of God; and that too, no less when it lies beyond the sphere of our reason, than when it may easily be comprehended by it. The manner in which revealed truths are inculcated seems to imply this; for the prophets enforced their declarations, not with arguments, but with, "Thus says the Lord," and our Savior, with an authority which none but himself ever presumed to exercise, and which strongly marked his equality with the Father, disdained to use any other confirmation than that of his own assertion: this appears, as in numberless other passages, so particularly in his conversation with Nicodemus; when, instructing him in the mysterious doctrine of regeneration, he required a full assent to it upon the testimony of his own word. May we bow to his authority, while we consider,

I. The nature of regeneration.

The mistakes which very generally obtain respecting this subject being first rectified, the truth will be more clearly seen.

Many suppose that baptism is the same with regeneration.

In the early ages of Christianity these terms were often used as synonymous, because it was taken for granted that none but truly regenerate persons would submit to a rite which engaged them to separate themselves from an ungodly world, and exposed them to the most imminent peril of their lives. But there is a wide difference between the two; regeneration being absolutely necessary to salvation, while baptism, as in the case of the dying thief, may under some circumstances be dispensed with. Besides, it was doubtless the great design of our Lord and his Apostles to regenerate and convert men: but were they so intent on administering the rite of baptism? Our Lord, we are told, "baptized no man;" and it is said of Paul, that "God sent him not to baptize;" yes, he himself "thanks God that he had baptized none but Crispus and Gaius," but if he had regenerated none other, would he have thought that a proper ground for thanksgiving? Again, if baptism and regeneration be the same thing, we may use them altogether as synonymous terms: now it is said that "Whoever is born of God overcomes the world," and that "he neither does sin nor can sin, because he is born of God." But if we should say the same of all that are baptized, would not the worldly and sinful lives of many flatly contradict us? It appears then from the superior importance of regeneration, from the design of Christ and his Apostles respecting it, and from the properties ascribed to it in Scripture, that it neither is, nor can be, the same with baptism. Baptism is an outward work of man upon the body; regeneration is an inward work of God upon the soul.

Others think that regeneration imports no more than an outward reformation, or at most, a partial change of the inward man.

But can we conceive that, when a ruler of the Jews came to our Lord, acknowledging him to be a teacher sent from God, and desiring to be instructed in those things which he was come to reveal, our Lord would tell him that wicked men could not be saved without reforming their lives? Did Nicodemus need such information as that? Or, if this was all that our Lord meant, would this teacher in Israel have been so astonished at it? And would not our Lord have instantly rectified his misapprehension, and shown him that there was no cause for astonishment? Can we imagine that our Lord would have confirmed the mistake, by representing this doctrine as an incomprehensible mystery, which man can no more fathom, than he can ascertain the hidden causes, or mark the exact boundaries, of the wind? Yes, would he have left this man so bewildered, saying, How can these things be! if he had meant no more than, that a wicked man must reform his life? Nor is it less evident that regeneration does not consist in a partial change even of the inward man. To what purpose should we boast of having experienced the illumination of Balaam, the humiliation of Ahab, the confession of Judas, the faith of Simon Magus, the confidence of the unbelieving Jews, the attention of Ezekiel's auditors, the reformation of Herod, or (what perhaps includes all these together) the promising appearance of the stony-ground hearers, if, like them, we rest in any partial change? Surely, if our righteousness exceed not theirs, we cannot hope that we shall be happier than they in our final doom.

In opposition to all such erroneous notions, the Scripture itself defines regeneration to be "a new creation, wherein old things pass away, and all things become new."

The author of this work is the Holy Spirit, who by a supernatural agency renews our inward man, and makes us partakers of a divine nature. Our faculties indeed remain the same as they were before; but there is a new direction given to them all. Our understanding is enlightened, so that we behold ourselves, and Christ, and the world, yes, everything else too, in a very different light from what we ever did before—Our will is changed, so that instead of following, or even desiring to follow, our own way, we surrender up ourselves altogether to God's government, saying most sincerely, Not my will, but your be done—Our affections also are exercised in a very different manner from what they were before, so that, instead of being called forth principally by the things of time and sense, they are set upon things spiritual and eternal—We say not that this change is perfect in any man, (for there still are sad remains of the old and corrupt nature even in the best of men; the leprosy is never wholly removed until the walls be taken down.) But the change is universal in all the faculties, and progressive throughout our lives: nor can it be effected by any efforts of man, or by any other power than that of God.

As the Scriptures give this extensive view of regeneration, so they fully declare,

II. The necessity of it.

"The kingdom of God" sometimes imports the kingdom of grace on earth, and sometimes the kingdom of glory in Heaven. Indeed both are one and the same kingdom, subject to the same Head, composed of the same members, and governed by the same laws: grace is glory begun; glory is grace consummated. But for the purpose of illustrating our subject, we observe that, without regeneration,

1. We cannot enter into God's kingdom of grace.

There are many duties to be performed, and many privileges to be enjoyed, by the subjects of God's spiritual kingdom, which an unregenerate man can neither perform nor enjoy. Who can doubt whether it be our duty to "repent in dust and ashes," to "live by faith on the Son of God," or to "crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts?" But can an unregenerate man do these things? We acknowledge that he may restrain in many respects his outward conduct; but can he root out from his heart the love of the world, and the love of sin? Can he truly loath and abhor himself as well for the unhallowed corruptions of his heart, as for the grosser transgressions of his life? As well may he attempt to create a world as to effect these things by any power of his own. Again; it is the Christian's privilege to enjoy that "peace of God which passes all understanding," to "abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit," and to be transported with that "joy which is unspeakable and full of glory." But can an unregenerate man possess that peace, when his iniquities are not forgiven? Can he look forward with delight to the coming of the day of Christ, when all his desires and pursuits terminate in this lower world? Can he be so elevated with holy joy, when there is nothing in his state which does not rather call for rivers of tears? But if any one doubt what answer he must return to these questions, let him go to his chamber, and see whether he be competent to form his mind to these sublime employments; and he will soon find that no power but that which created our souls at first, can form them anew after the Divine image.

2. We cannot enter into the kingdom of glory.

There is a fitness for the heavenly inheritance, which every one must attain, before he can enjoy the felicity of the saints in light. As, on earth, no occupation can afford us pleasure, if we have not an inward taste and relish for it, so, in Heaven, we must have dispositions suited to the state of those above. But where is this disposition to be obtained, if not in this life? Can it be thought that there shall be "repentance in the grave," and that we shall become regenerate in a future state? Shall he, who never supremely loved his God, become at once inflamed with devout affection towards him? Shall not he, who never was renewed after the Divine image, rather behold with dread and horror the holiness of God, and tremble at the sight of that Lamb, whose dying love he despised, and whose blood he trampled under foot? Shall he, who never sought one hour's communion with God in secret, delight to have no other employment to all eternity? No; "as the tree falls, so it lies;" "he that was unjust will be unjust still; and he who was filthy will be filthy still." As there is this reason on the part of man, so is there a still more cogent reason on the part of God. God has declared, with repeated and most solemn asseverations, that "except a man be born again, he shall never enter into his kingdom." And has he spoken thus merely to alarm us? "Is he a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent?" Will he dishonor himself to favor us? Will he violate the rights of justice, holiness, and truth, in order to save those, who, to their dying hour, rejected and despised his offered mercy? If all the world tell you that you shall be admitted into Heaven, believe them not: for the Judge of quick and dead has with the strongest possible asseverations declared, you never shall. Let us not then deceive ourselves with such vain hopes: for they can terminate in nothing but disappointment and ruin.

Address.

1. The unregenerate.

You cannot surely be at a loss to know your real state, if you will examine candidly whether you have ever experienced such a change in your views, desires, and pursuits, as has been before described? O, let every one put home to his conscience this question, Am I born again? And know that neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision will avail you anything, but a new creation. You must be born again, or perish.

2. The regenerate.

Peter, writing to such persons under the severest persecution, begins his Epistle with congratulations: and Paul bids us under the heaviest calamities to be thankful for renewing grace. Do you then bless God in every state, and "show forth the virtues of him who has called you to his kingdom and glory"—Let your renovation be progressive; and never think that you have attained anything as long as anything remains to be attained.

 

MDCIX

The Brazen Serpent a type of Christ

John 3:14, 15. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

A MORE instructive portion of Scripture than this before us we cannot easily find. The conversation of our Lord with Nicodemus was intended to lead him to the knowledge of salvation: and, being directed to a person of his rank, and high attainments in morality, it will serve as a model for our instructions to the greatest and best of men. The first point which our Lord insisted on was the necessity of a new birth: for, whatever our attainments be, it is impossible for us to enter into Heaven until this has taken place in our souls; since we brought nothing into the world with us but what is carnal; and we must possess a spiritual nature, before we can be capable of enjoying a spiritual kingdom. But besides this, it is necessary also that we be interested in his atoning sacrifice: for, having once contracted guilt, we must be purged from that guilt, before we can be admitted into the Divine presence: and there is nothing but his atoning sacrifice that can avail for this. Hence our Lord, after showing Nicodemus that he must experience a change of nature by means of a new and heavenly birth, tells him, that he must prepare to see the Messiah crucified for the sins of men, and must look to him for the healing of his soul as the dying Israelites did to the brazen serpent for the healing of the wounds inflicted by the fiery serpents in the wilderness.

The parallel which our Lord here draws between the brazen serpent and himself, represents that as the type, and himself as the antitype: and, that we may fully understand it, I will trace the resemblance,

I. In the occasion on which the type was instituted.

The Israelites were dying of the wounds received from the fiery flying serpents.

They had provoked God by their murmuring and rebellion—and to punish them God had sent fiery serpents which they could in no wise avoid, and whose bite was mortal. To heal themselves was beyond their power. Multitudes died: and many, finding that they must die, unless God should graciously interpose for them, entreated Moses to intercede for them: and in answer to his intercession God appointed that a brazen serpent should be erected, and that by looking to it they should be healed.

Similar to this was our state when God gave his Son to be nailed upon the cross.

Through the agency of that old serpent the devil, sin had entered the world, and inflicted a deadly wound on every child of man. To heal ourselves was impossible. Death, eternal death, awaited us. And, as the only means of averting it, God, in tender mercy, sent his only dear Son into the world to die for us, and to save all who would look unto him for salvation.

But if there was in this respect a great resemblance between the occasions that existed for the erection of the serpent, and the exaltation of our blessed Lord upon the cross, there was also a material difference between them; the one being in answer to the prayers of men, the other being given unsolicited and unsought: the one also being appointed as a mere arbitrary ordinance, that had no suitableness to the end proposed; the other being appointed to make satisfaction for the sins of men, and to merit in our behalf the Divine favor.

In both cases, however, the occasion was the same: death was inflicted as the punishment of sin; and the remedy, the only remedy, against it, in either case, was to look to the object, proposed by God, and lifted up by man, for our relief.

But let us contemplate the type yet more particularly,

II. In the end of its appointment.

The serpent was erected that all who were bitten might look unto it and live.

An assurance was given to Moses, that all who looked to the brazen serpent should live. And so it proved, in fact. Not one who directed his eyes to it, died. However desperate his wounds might be, or however distant he might be from the object, so as scarcely to have any clear view of it at all, yet, instantly on looking to it he was healed.

And does not the crucifixion of our Lord ensure the same benefit to those who look unto him.

It matters not how long, or how grievously, any man may have sinned, provided he look truly and humbly to the Lord Jesus Christ as dying for him. As for the brazen serpent, it had no suitableness whatever to the end proposed. It was a mere arbitrary appointment of the Deity: and was available in that view alone. But the Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross under the guilt of all our sins, and offered a full and perfect satisfaction for them to Divine justice. True, indeed, to the judgment of carnal reason, that also appears "foolishness;" but it was in reality the most stupendous effort of "divine power and wisdom;" and it has in itself a proper suitableness and sufficiency for the salvation of all who trust in it. We may therefore safely assure every child of man, that, if he believe in Jesus, "he shall never perish, but shall have eternal life." Nor shall the conferring of this benefit be delayed. The sight of the brazen serpent healed instantly the dying Israelite: and so shall a sight of Jesus instantly remove the guilt of all our sins, and infuse into our souls a new and heavenly life. Nor shall the blessing ever terminate. The benefit that accrued to those who looked to the brazen serpent lasted but for a time: but that which the believer in Jesus shall receive, shall endure forever and ever.

Address.

1. Those who feel not their need of such a remedy.

Such persons existed in the camp of Israel: but where shall one be found in our camp? Where is there one whose whole man is not impregnated with the venom of sin? If you feel it not, that only shows that your wounds are the more deep and deadly: but know assuredly, that, unless you be brought to a sense of your perishing condition, your doom is sealed; and in a little time you will perish forever.

2. Those who would substitute some other remedy in the place of Christ.

What would have become of any man who should have persisted in devising some mode of healing himself, instead of looking to the brazen serpent? He must of necessity have died. And no other fate awaits you, if you will be substituting your own works, whether in whole or in part, in the place of Christ. Every other hope must be utterly renounced, and Christ alone be made the one object of your affiance.

3. Those who desire the healing of their souls.

Make the Israelites a pattern for yourselves. When they felt in themselves that they were dying, they sought after God through Moses their mediator; and confessed their sins, and implored mercy, and thankfully availed themselves of the offered benefit, seeking it humbly in God's appointed way. Thus then do you also: seek your God through the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only mediator between God and man; and with deep contrition implore mercy at his hands: then direct your eyes to the cross on which the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for you; and doubt not but that you shall be made monuments of his grace and mercy to all eternity. Let no doubt about his sufficiency or your own worthiness keep you from him: for he "is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him;" and "whoever" believes in him shall assuredly be saved."

4. Those who doubt whether this mode of healing will not encourage sin.

Such doubts were entertained in the Apostle's days: but he spurned at the idea with holy indignation: "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid." What think you? Would an Israelite have taken one of the fiery serpents to his bosom, because he had been healed of his wounds, and because the same means of healing were yet open to him? How much less would one who has felt the bitterness of sin, cherish it any longer in his bosom, because he has obtained deliverance from its guilt and condemnation? When he reflects that nothing but the crucifixion of the Son of God could heal him, will he think lightly of his sins? Will he not rather "look on him whom his sins have pierced, and mourn, and be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born?" Truly this is the proper effect of faith in Christ, who, if he redeem us from guilt and condemnation, will also "purify us unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works."

 

MDCX

The Love of God in Giving His Son for Man

John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

THE doctrine of our reconciliation with God through the death of his Son, is calculated to impress our minds with a deep sense of the love of Christ in undertaking for us; but, if not cautiously stated, it may give us very erroneous conceptions respecting the Father. If, for instance, we imagine that the Father needed the mediation of his Son to render him propitious, then we must ascribe all the glory of our salvation to the Son, and consider the Father merely as acquiescing in the Son's wishes, and showing mercy to us for his sake. But the whole plan of our salvation originated with the Father: the very gift of a Savior was the fruit of the Father's love; and therefore, in contemplating the wonders of Redemption, we must trace them to their proper source, the love of God the Father.

To this view of things we are led by the text; in elucidating which, we shall not form any particular arrangement, but simply take the several expressions contained in it, and use them as so many mirrors to reflect light upon one central point, the love of God the Father in sending his only-begotten Son to die for us.

Consider then, first, the Giver.

If man confer a benefit upon his fellow-creature, we are not surprised; because there is no man so elevated, but he may need the assistance of his inferiors; nor is there any man so depressed, but he may, at some period or other, have it in his power to requite a kindness. But "God" is totally independent of us; "our goodness extends not to him;" "it is no profit to him that we are righteous," he would have been equally happy and glorious, though no creature had ever been formed; and he would remain so, if every creature in the universe were annihilated. How wonderful, then, was it, that he should condescend to look on us; yes, that he should take such an interest in our affairs, as to supply, at a most incalculable price, our pressing necessities! Even in this first view of his love we are lost with wonder.

But our admiration will be greatly increased, if we reflect upon the gift.

It was his Son, "his only-begotten Son," whom he given to give. It was not a creature; no, not the first of all created beings, but his co-equal, co-eternal Son; who from eternity had been in his bosom, and "daily his delight." A less gift than that would not have sufficed for our relief: and a greater, God himself was not able to bestow. In comparison of this, ten thousand angels would have been as nothing; yes, all the hosts of Heaven would not have been more than a grain of sand is in comparison of the universe. Yet God, seeing our wants, "sent his own Son to be a atoning sacrifice for our sins." What manner of love was this! How "incomprehensible are its breadth and length, and depth and height!"

Additional luster will be reflected on this mystery, if we consider the manner in which he bestowed this gift.

He waited not to be solicited: indeed no creature could have asked for such a favor: the thought could not have entered into the mind of any created intelligence; nor, if it had occurred, could he have presumed to utter it. But God needed no suggestion from his creatures: his love prevented their requests; it even provided for their wants before those wants existed, yes, before the creatures themselves had any being. He himself is love; and the exercise of mercy is his delight. He neither had, nor could have, any inducement from without: all his motives were found within his own bosom: the displaying of his own unbounded love was a sufficient reason for his utmost exertions: he showed mercy for mercy sake; and "gave," because it was the joy of his soul to give.

But how will this stupendous love be heightened in our esteem, if we take into consideration the persons on whom this gift was bestowed!

It was not given to angels, though angels needed it as much as we. This was a mercy reserved for fallen man, even for "the world" that lies in wickedness. To form an estimate of the world, let us look around us, and see to what an awful extent iniquity abounds: or, if we would have our judgment still more according to truth, let us look within our own hearts, and see what horrible abominations are harbored there. We know nothing of others, but by their words and actions: but we have a juster criterion within our own bosoms: we may search into our own thoughts and desires; we may discern the base mixture that there is in all our motives and principles of action: in short, we may see such "a world of iniquity" within us, as may well constrain us to say, with David, "My heart shows me the wickedness of the ungodly, that there is no fear of God before his eyes," yes, in our own hearts there is an epitome of all the evil that is in the world: and, if we know anything of ourselves, we shall stand amazed that God should look upon such a world as this, and give his only dear Son to save those who so richly merited his hottest indignation.

We cannot do justice to this subject, if we do not further notice God's ultimate design in bestowing this precious gift upon us.

We must, but for this marvelous effort of divine love, have perished in our sins. Having resembled the fallen angels in their sin, we must have resembled them also in their misery. But "God would not that we should perish." Notwithstanding the greatness and universality of our guilt, he would not that we should suffer according to our desert; and therefore he interposed for our deliverance. But this was not all. He desired to restore us to our forfeited inheritance, and to bring us to the possession of "everlasting life." It was not enough for him to save us from perishing; he must also renovate us after his own image, and make us partakers of his own glory. What stupendous love was this! That he should ever think of receiving such hateful creatures into his presence; that he should lay a plan for the exalting of them to thrones and kingdoms in Heaven; and that he should even give his only-begotten Son out of his bosom to effect it! How infinitely does this surpass all the comprehension of men or angels!

The condition which he has imposed for our participation of these benefits, yet further illustrates and magnifies his love.

Suppose God had said, "Find me fifty righteous, or forty, or thirty, or twenty, or only ten, and for their sakes I will pardon and save all the rest," we must have perished, because among the whole human, race there is "not one righteous, no, not one."

Suppose that, instead of this, he had said, "I will give my Son to die for your past offences, and will bring you back to a state of probation; whereby, if you fall not again from your righteousness, you shall be saved," the offer had been exceeding kind and gracious; but we should not long have reaped any solid advantage from it: we should soon have broken the covenant again, and been involved in the same misery as before.

Suppose God had said, "I foresee that a renewal of your former covenant would be to no purpose; and therefore my Son shall work out a righteousness for you; and I require nothing of you, but to add to that a righteousness of your own, that the two righteousnesses together may form a joint ground of your acceptance with me," alas! we should have been in as deplorable a state as ever; for we never have done, nor ever can do, one single act, which, if weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, will not be found wanting.

But suppose God yet further to lower his demands, and to say, "I will give you a complete salvation through the blood and righteousness of my dear Son; and I will require nothing of you, but only to render yourselves worthy of it;" still had our state been altogether hopeless; for we can no more render ourselves worthy of such a mercy, that we can create a world.

This was well known to God; and therefore he proposed none of these things: he requires only that we should believe in his Son, and accept freely what he so freely offers. It is true, that, if even this depended on ourselves, we should perish: because without the grace of God we cannot exercise saving faith: but still this is the condition, which alone is suited to our helpless state; because it implies a total renunciation of all merit or strength in ourselves, and leads us to Christ, that we may find our all in him. O how does this enhance the love of God! And in what bright colors does that love appear, when viewed in the light which so many mirrors reflect upon it!

If anything can add to the luster with which his love already shines, it is the extent in which the offers of these benefits are made.

There is not a human being upon earth, who shall not be a partaker of all these benefits, if only he believe in Christ. There is no limitation, no exception: God gave his Son, that "whoever" believes in him should not perish. Past sins, however numerous or heinous, are no bar to our acceptance with God, if only we accept his mercy on the terms on which it is offered. This is the uniform testimony of Holy Writ—O let us magnify God for his mercy; and be telling of the wonders of his love from day to day!

Inferences.

1. How aggravated must be the condemnation of them that reject the Gospel!

Our Lord says, "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." Let this sink down into our ears: for, if such love cannot melt us into contrition, and such goodness bring us to repentance, we may well expect a most accumulated weight of vengeance at the hands of an offended God.

2. How groundless are the fears of many who embrace the truth!

Many sincere Christians are troubled in mind; some on account of their temporal wants, and others on account of their spiritual necessities. But "if God has delivered up his own Son for us, will he not with him also freely give us all things?" And "if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." These are unanswerable arguments; and they should compose our minds under trials, of whatever kind.

3. How deeply should we all be affected by the love of God!

Pungent indeed is that question, "What could I have done more for my vineyard, that I have not done?" The more we consider how God has loved the world, the more we shall see, that he has indeed done all for us that he could do, consistently with our free agency, and his own honor. And when he has so loved the world, are we at liberty to forget him? Does such love call for no return? or are we to requite it only by increased impiety? O let every one of us say, "What shall I render to the Lord?" And let his love to us constrain us to devote ourselves unreservedly to him.

 

MDCXI

The End for which God Sent His Son

John 3:17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

AN expectation generally prevailed among the Jews that their Messiah would interpose on behalf of their nation alone, and bring all other kingdoms into subjection to them. Our Lord took frequent occasions to rectify this mistake, and to show, that he was to be the Savior, not of one people only, but of the whole world. In this discourse with Nicodemus, he introduces this important subject in such a way as to inform his mind, without shocking his prejudices. Having explained to him the nature and necessity of regeneration, and shown him, by reference to a well-known type, the way of salvation, he declares, that the whole world, Gentiles as well as Jews, were to participate the benefits of his coming; and that God, in sending him into the world, had as much respect to the welfare of the benighted heathens as of his chosen and peculiar people. To elucidate the words before us, we shall show,

I. That, supposing God to send his Son into the world, it was far more probable that he should send him to condemn the world than to save it.

That God should ever send his Son into the world at all is such a mystery as must forever fill the whole universe with amazement. But supposing him to make known his determination to do so, the probability certainly was that it should be for our destruction rather than our salvation.

1. Consider what was the state of the world at the time he did send his Son.

Had he seen the greater part of mankind lamenting their fall, wishing earnestly that some way could be devised for their recovery, and struggling, but with unsuccessful efforts, to get free from sin, we might have supposed that God would exercise mercy towards us, and open a way for our restoration through the sacrifice of his Son. But when the whole mass of mankind were up in arms against him, when not one of the whole human race (except a few whose hearts he himself had touched) desired reconciliation with him; yes, when all were utterly averse from it, and desired nothing so much as to live in sin with impunity, and wished for no better Heaven than the unrestrained indulgence of their lusts; for what end could God send his Son, but to execute upon them the vengeance they deserved?

2. Consider for what end God had before sent messengers from Heaven.

God had on some remarkable occasions commissioned angels to perform his will: and though, when sent to some highly-favored individuals, they were messengers of mercy, yet, when sent to the avowed enemies of God, they were, for the most part, ministers of wrath to execute the most signal vengeance. Who can contemplate Sodom and the cities of the plain; who can call to mind the Egyptian first-born; who can survey one hundred and eighty-five thousand soldiers lying dead in the Assyrian camp; and not tremble at the thought of a messenger being sent from Heaven? Suppose then we should hear that God was about to send his own Son from Heaven to execute his will with respect to the whole world, and especially such a world as this; what would any one imagine, but that, as it was not a particular city or nation that God was about to punish, but a whole world, he had determined to employ his own Son; and that the judgments he was about to inflict, would be great in proportion to the power and dignity of the executioner? As for conceiving the idea that he should send his Son to save the world, it would not so much as enter into the mind of any created being.

3. Consider that God certainly foreknew the way in which the world would treat his Son.

If God had not certainly foreknown all future events, he might perhaps have reasoned thus: 'I have sent to that wretched world my servants the prophets, and instead of attending to them they have persecuted them even unto death: but if I should send them my Son, surely they would reverence him; they would not dare to lift up a finger against him; they would be so struck with wonder at my condescension and love, that they would return instantly to their allegiance. Rather therefore than they should perish, I will send them my Son to save them.' But God knew that instead of reverencing his Son, they would no sooner see him, than they would exclaim, "This is the heir; come let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours." He knew full well that, however manifest the credentials of his Son, and however indisputable the evidences of his divine mission, they would not believe in him, but would cast him out of the vineyard and slay him. What then must we suppose God would say on such an occasion? Surely he would speak to this effect: 'If I could hope that they would reverence my Son, I would overlook all the injuries done to my prophets, and would even send my Son for their salvation: but I know they would all thirst for his blood; they would pluck me from my throne if they were able; and, if I should put my Son into their power, they would load him with all manner of indignities, and put him to the most ignominious death: shall I then, foreseeing these things as I do, put him into their power? No, that were unworthy of my majesty, and degrading to my Son. I may possibly send my Son; but, if I do, it shall not be to save the world, but to condemn them according to their desert.'

These considerations fully evince the improbability that God should ever use the mediation of his Son in a way of mercy towards us. Yet we must add,

II. That, notwithstanding it was so improbable, God did really send his Son, not to condemn, but to save the world.

The frequency with which we hear of this stupendous mystery, prevents the surprise which the declaration of it must otherwise excite. But, whatever the ignorance of scoffers, and the pride of infidels may suggest, be it known to all, that God did send his Son,

1. To expiate sin.

God knew that it was impossible for man to atone for sin—Yet it was also impossible that sin could be forgiven, unless an adequate atonement were offered to the Divine Majesty—What was to be done? The angels, even if they were willing, were not able to undertake our cause. There was but one, even in Heaven, that was competent to the mighty task of appeasing incensed Majesty, and of satisfying offended justice: there was none but Jesus, the best-beloved of the Father, who from eternity had lain in his bosom. And would the Father give him? Yes; "He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all." "He prepared him a body," and "sent him to be a atoning sacrifice , not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world"—What amazing love! Eternity will not suffice to explore and celebrate this stupendous mystery.

2. To work out a righteousness for us.

Mankind were as unable to provide for themselves a righteousness wherein they might stand before God, as they were to make an atonement for their past offences—But, behold, God would not leave us destitute; he gave his Son to fulfill the law which we had broken, and, "to bring in an everlasting righteousness," "which should be unto all and upon all them that believe"—The name given him on this very account is, "The Lord our Righteousness." Clothed in his unspotted robe, the vilest of returning prodigals may stand perfect and complete in the presence of their God—Every one of them may say, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength."

3. To exalt us to glory.

It was not only to begin, but to carry on and perfect our salvation, that the Father sent his Son into the world. He is to be both "the author and the finisher of our faith"—Having delivered our souls from the guilt of sin, and from the powers of darkness, he will raise up our bodies also from the grave, and exalt us to sit upon his throne for evermore—Never will he cease from his work, until he has fully and finally accomplished it on behalf of his people—How wonderful is this! Surely it almost exceeds belief: that, instead of condemning the world, God should send his Son to save it, to save it by laying down his own life a ransom for us, and by managing all the concerns of every one of his elect until he shall have finally established them in the possession of their heavenly inheritance! Hear, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth: yes, let all the choirs of Heaven make it the everlasting subject of their highest praises.

Address.

1. Those who are regardless of their own salvation.

Alas! how little effect do the wonders of redemption produce on the world at large! But what an aggravation of their guilt will it be to have poured contempt upon the Son of God! Surely God's greatest mercy will prove their heaviest curse. The very devils will have more to say on their own behalf than they. Satan himself may say, "I never had salvation offered me; I never sinned against redeeming love." But careless sinners are daily "trampling under foot the Son of God," who lived and died to save them. O lay this to heart, and seek an interest in him who alone can deliver you from the wrath to come.

2. Those who are ready to doubt whether they ever can be saved.

Many such there are in the Church of Christ—But did God send his Son to execute a work which he was not able to perform? or has Jesus discovered any backwardness to fulfill his engagements?—Let not any be afraid: for if a whole world is to be saved by him, he cannot but have a sufficiency to supply all our wants, provided we commit ourselves entirely to him.

3. Those who are enjoying salvation.

While you are reaping the blessed fruits of the Father's love, surely you will often say, what shall I render to the Lord? If he gave up his dear Son for my salvation, shall not I give up a bosom lust for his glory?—Think how much you are indebted to him; and endeavor to glorify him with your body and your spirit which are his.

 

MDCXII

Men's Hatred of the Light

John 3:19–21. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he who does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

IT appears strange to many, that the everlasting happiness or misery of the soul should be made to depend on the exercise of faith. The declaration of our Lord, That "he who believes shall be saved, and he who believes not shall be damned," is regarded by them as a "hard saying;" they see no proportion between the work and the reward on the one hand, or between the offence and the punishment on the other. In the words before us we have a solution of the difficulty. We are taught that faith and unbelief are not mere operations of the mind, but exercises of the heart; the one proceeding from a love to what is good; the other from a radical attachment to evil. Our blessed Lord had repeatedly inculcated the necessity of believing in him, in order to a participation of his offered benefits. He had also represented unbelievers as "already condemned," even like criminals reserved for execution. To obviate any objection which might arise in the mind of Nicodemus in relation to the apparent severity of this sentence, he proceeded to show the true ground of it, namely, That, in their rejection of him, men are actuated by an invincible love of sin, and by a consequent hatred of the light which is sent to turn them from sin.

In opening the words of our text, we shall show,

I. What is that light which is come into the world.

Christ is called "The light of the world," "The true light," "The Day-star," and "The Sun of righteousness that arises with healing in his wings." But,

It is the Gospel which is here said to have "come into the world."

The glad tidings of salvation were now published by Christ himself; and both the manner in which that salvation was to be effected, and the manner in which it was to be received, were clearly revealed. Our blessed Lord had in this very discourse with Nicodemus declared, that "the Son of Man was to be lifted up upon the cross, as the serpent had been in the wilderness," in order that all who were dying of the wounds of sin might look to him and be healed. He had repeated again and again this important truth, on which the salvation of our fallen race depends. This mystery had from eternity been hid in the bosom of the Father; but now it was made fully manifest. This "light was now come into the world."

The Gospel, in this view of it, is fitly designated under the metaphor of "light."

Light is that, without which no one thing can be discerned aright. And how ignorant are we, until the light of the Gospel shines in our hearts! We know nothing of ourselves, of God, of Christ, or of the way to Heaven. We cannot even appreciate the value of the soul, the importance of time, the emptiness of earthly vanities. We may indeed give our assent to the statements which we hear made upon these subjects; but we cannot have an experimental and abiding sense, even of the most obvious truths, until our minds are enlightened by the Gospel of Christ.

Light causes all other things to be seen in their true colors. Thus does also the Gospel: in setting forth the Son of God as dying for our sins, it shows us the malignity of sin; the justice of God which required such an atonement for it; and, above all, the wonderful love of God in giving us his only dear Son, in order that we might have peace through the blood of his cross.

Light carries its own evidence along with it. Thus does also that glorious Gospel of which we are speaking: it is so peculiarly suited to the necessities of man, and at the same time so commensurate with his wants; it is so calculated to display and magnify all the perfections of the Deity, and is in every respect so worthy of its Divine Author; that it commends itself to us instantly as of heavenly origin, the very masterpiece of Divine wisdom.

One would imagine that such light should be universally welcomed: but since this is not the case, we shall proceed to show,

II. Whence it is that men reject it.

It is but too evident, that, as in former ages, so now also, men reject the light. But whence does this arise? It is not because they have any sufficient reason to reject it.

If there were anything in the Gospel that rendered it unworthy of men's regard, they would have some excuse for rejecting it. But,

They cannot say that it is inapplicable in its nature.—We will appeal to the world, and ask, What is there, that guilty and helpless sinners would desire? Would they wish for a Savior? Would they be glad that the whole work of salvation should be committed into his hands? Would they be especially desirous that nothing should be required of them, but to receive with gratitude, and improve with diligence, what the Savior offers them? In short, would they be glad of a free and full salvation? This is precisely such a salvation as is provided for them in the Gospel.

They cannot say that it is inadequate in its provisions.—If the Gospel brought salvation to those only who were possessed of some amiable qualities, or to those who had committed only a certain number of offences; if it made any limitation or exception whatever in its offers of mercy; if it provided pardon, but not strength, or grace to begin our course, but not grace to persevere; if, in short, it omitted any one thing which any sinner in the universe could need, then some persons might say, 'It is not commensurate with my necessities.' But we defy the imagination of man to conceive any case which the Gospel cannot reach, or any want which it cannot satisfy.

They cannot say that it is unreasonable in its demands.—It does indeed require an unreserved surrender of ourselves to God: and on this account it appears to many to be strict and severe. But let any one examine all its prohibitions and all its commands, and he will find them all amounting in fact to these two; "Do yourself no harm;" and, "Seek to be as happy as your heart can wish." If there be anything in the Gospel which bears a different aspect, it is owing entirely to our ignorance of its real import. The more thoroughly the Gospel is understood, the more worthy of acceptance will it invariably appear.

The only true reason is, that they "hate the light."

Until men are truly converted to God, "their deeds are universally evil;" yes "every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts is evil, only evil, continually." Now the Gospel is a light which shows their deeds in their proper colors.

It reproves their ways.—They have been "calling good evil, and evil good; and putting bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." In reference to these things, it undeceives them. It declares plainly, that they who do such things as they have done, and perhaps have accounted innocent, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ii mortifies their pride.—It not only shows them that they are obnoxious to the wrath of God, but that they are incapable of averting his displeasure by anything which they themselves can do. It brings down the proud Pharisee, and places him on a level with publicans and harlots. It requires every man to acknowledge himself a debtor to divine grace for every good thing that he either has or hopes for. All this is extremely humiliating to our proud nature.

It inculcates duties which they are unwilling to perform.—Humility and self-denial, renunciation of the world and devotedness to God, enduring of shame and glorying in the cross; these, and many other duties, it enjoins, which to our carnal and corrupt nature are hateful in the extreme: yet the Gospel inculcates them with a strictness not to be lowered, a plainness not to be misinterpreted, and an authority not to be withstood.

These, these are the grounds on which the Gospel is rejected. If it would admit of persons following their own ways, or of their accommodating its precepts to their own views or interests, they would give it a favorable reception. But as it requires all to be cast into the very mold which it has formed, and will tolerate not the smallest willful deviation from its rules, it is, and must be, odious in the eyes of the ungodly: "they love darkness rather than it; nor will they come to it, lest their deeds should be reproved."

A just view of these things will prepare us for contemplating,

III. Their guilt and danger in rejecting it.

Doubtless every kind of sin will be a ground of "condemnation." But men's hatred of the light is that which chiefly, and above all other things,

1. Aggravates their guilt.

The Gospel is a most wonderful provision for the salvation of fallen man. It is the brightest display of Divine wisdom, and the most stupendous effort of Divine goodness. The rejection of this therefore, especially as proceeding from a hatred of it, argues such a state of mind as no words can adequately express. The malignity of such a disposition rises in proportion to the excellence of the Gospel itself. We presume not to weigh the comparative guilt of men and devils, because the Scriptures have not given us sufficient grounds whereon to institute such a comparison: but the guilt of those who reject the Gospel far exceeds that of the heathen world: the wickedness of Tyre and Sidon, yes, of Sodom and Gomorrah, was not equal to that of the unbelieving Jews: nor was the guilt of those Jews, who rejected only the warnings of the prophets, comparable to that of those who despised the ministry of our Lord. In like manner, they who live under the meridian light of the Gospel in this day will have still more, if possible, to answer for, than the hearers of Christ himself; because his work and offices are now more fully exhibited, and more generally acknowledged. And in the day of judgment the Gospel will be as a millstone round the neck of those who rejected it: not having been a savor of life unto their salvation, it will be a savor of death unto their more aggravated condemnation.

2. Insures their punishment.

If men did not hate the Gospel itself, there would be some hope that they might in due time embrace it, and be converted by it. If they would even come to the light in order that the true quality of their works might be made manifest, then we might hope that they would be convinced of their wickedness, and be constrained to flee from the wrath to come. But when they dispute against the truth, and rack their invention in order to find out objections against it; when they indulge all manner of prejudices against the Gospel; when they withdraw themselves from the ministry of those who faithfully preach it, and say, as it were, to their minister, "Prophesy unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits;" what hope can there be of such persons? Their hearts are so hardened, that it is scarcely possible to make any impression upon them: if a ray of light do shine into their minds, they will endeavor to extinguish it as soon as possible; they will go to business, to pleasure, to company, yes, to intoxication itself, in order to stifle the voice of conscience, and to recover their former delusive peace. Alas! they are not only perishing of a fatal disorder, but they reject with disdain the only remedy that can do them good: they therefore must die, because they persist in drinking of the poisonous cup that is in their hands, and dash from their lips the only antidote and cure.

Application.

In so saying, you reprove us.

Behold! we declare unto you, that light, even the glorious light of the Gospel of Christ, is now come into the world.

You lovers of darkness, reject not this blessed Gospel. Little can sin contribute to your happiness, even while you are most capable of tasting its pleasures: but what it can do for you in a dying hour, or in the day of judgment, it is needless for me to say. Let it not then keep you from coming to the light. Surely it is better that "your deeds should be reproved," while you have opportunity to amend them, than that you should continue in them until you experience their bitter consequences. You would not travel in the dark when you could enjoy the light of day, or refuse the assistance of a guide that would lead you into the path which you professed to seek. Only then act for your souls as you would do in your temporal concerns, and all shall yet be well. Believe in Christ, and you shall yet be saved by him; as well from the commission of sin, as from the condemnation due to it.

You who profess to love the light, be careful to "walk as children of the light." Bring everything to the touchstone of God's word. Try your spirit and temper, as well as your words and actions by this test. See whether you take the precepts of Christ as your rule, and his example as your pattern. For the sake of the world too, as well as for your own comfort, you should come continually to the light. If you would conciliate their regard for the Gospel, or remove their prejudice from yourselves, you should "make your works manifest that they are wrought in God." You should let your light shine before men, that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father that is in Heaven.

 

MDCXIII

Conversion of Souls a Ground of Joy

John 3:29, 30. He who has the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.

OF all the passions in the human breast, there is none more hateful than envy. When suffered to reign without control, there is not anything which it will not perpetrate. The rage of Cain, the conspiracy of Joseph's brethren, the implacable enmity of the Jewish priests against the Lord Jesus Christ, clearly show to what cruelties it will impel those who are under its dominion. Doubtless in those who have the smallest degree of piety, this malignant principle is weakened, and in a measure subdued: but it is not eradicated: it is one of those corruptions, which, by varying their appearances, retain possession of us under the semblance of good: nor, until we have made very considerable advances in the divine life, are we able fully and effectually to guard against its deceitful workings. We are assured that Joshua was truly pious; yet from an envious zeal for his Master's honor he was desirous of silencing those who by divine inspiration prophesied in the camp. The Disciples of our Lord were actuated by no better principle, when they forbad a person to cast out devils in his name, because he did not follow with them. The complaint which John's disciples also made to him respecting the multitudes who submitted to the baptism of Jesus, originated in the same feeling. Some Jews had taken occasion, from Jesus re-baptizing the disciples of John, to represent John and Jesus as "opposing each other; and, from the difficulties of determining which of the two was right, they maintained, that it was better to adhere to the washings appointed by Moses, than to comply with the rites which these rival innovators were introducing. The disciples of John, fearing that their Master's credit would suffer, and his influence be subverted, come to him to complain of Jesus for usurping an authority that did not belong to him, and for undermining the authority of John, from whom, in fact, he had, as they thought, derived his influence. In answer to this complaint, John reminds them, that the very testimony which he had borne to Jesus, was sufficient to show them their error: for he had from the beginning represented his own office as a short and temporary one, which was to cease, as soon as the attention of men should be turned to Him, whose forerunner he was: and consequently, that the accomplishment of this great object should be to them a source, not of pain and grief, but of gratitude and thanksgiving. This idea he illustrates by the similitude of a bridegroom delighting in his bride, and thereby exciting in his friends, not an envious repining, but a sympathetic joy. As for the diminution of his own influence, this, he tells them, was agreeable to the very design of his coming; and, like a star which had served its purpose in the night, he was contented to be eclipsed, now that the Sun of Righteousness had risen to illumine the world.

From this general view of our text, we observe,

I. That the conversion of souls to Christ is a ground of joy.

The success of a bridegroom who has obtained possession of his bride, is usually deemed a ground of joyful congratulation. Now the conversion of a soul to Christ is fitly represented under this similitude. The Scripture often speaks of him as the Husband of his people, and of the Church as his bride. To mark this correspondence, is needless: indeed, it is better to take it in a general view, than to attempt to trace it in particulars. Suffice it to say, that the metaphor is just; that all who are truly converted give up themselves to Christ, and are thereby made partakers of all that he possesses.

Contemplate now what a ground of joy this is,

1. To the believer.

Consider from what a state he is taken: how mean by nature! how vile by practice!—Consider to what a state he is raised: to what exalted honor! to what immense wealth! to what unspeakable felicity!—Has not such an one good reason to rejoice?

2. To the heavenly Bridegroom.

We know that, strictly speaking, he is not capable of having his happiness increased by anything that we can do: he is altogether independent, and self-sufficient. Nevertheless, the Scriptures speak of him as still affected with joy and sorrow, just as he was in the days of his flesh. In conformity then with them, let us think, what must be his feelings, when he sees the blessed ends of his incarnation and death accomplished!—To convert and save sinners was the end of all that he did and suffered for us; and when he beholds them converted to himself, "he sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied." To illustrate this idea, he gives us a variety of parables; yes, he condescends to use by the prophet the very similitude in the text, in order to express the satisfaction of his soul in such events.

3. To the Bridegroom's friend.

As the friends both of the bride and bridegroom are often accessary to their union, and rejoice when they see the wishes of all the parties accomplished, so the friends of Christ, his ministers especially, exert themselves to bring sinners unto him. It is for this they labor, for this they pray; yes, for this they live, and for this they are content to die. Their one object is, that sinners may be born to God, and be united to Christ in the bonds of an everlasting covenant. In the pursuit of this, their labors, their anxieties, their sufferings are great—Can they then do otherwise than rejoice, when they see that they have not "labored in vain or run in vain?" If they "travail, as it were, in birth, while they stand in doubt," must they not rejoice, when their doubts are all dispelled? See how Paul rejoiced in the conversion of men: and such are the feelings of every minister, in proportion as he is animated with Christian zeal and love.

While the Baptist thus disinterestedly declares that the conversion of sinners to Christ was to him a source of joy, he predicts,

II. That it shall advance in despite of every obstacle.

Those who are the instruments of diffusing the knowledge of Christ must wax and wane: however distinguished they may be for a time, they must soon "decrease." But Christ, and his interests, must "increase."

He must increase,

1. In the estimation of his chosen people.

The envy of some, and the malignity of others, will be exerted to damp the ardor of our affections, and to shake our fidelity towards him: and, where a profession of regard for him has been lightly taken up, the enemies of Christ will succeed in drawing us from our allegiance to him. But, if we "have received the grace of God in truth," we shall never yield to their solicitations: and, "if any go out from us, it is because they were not of us: for, if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us." The true Spouse of Christ may be tried and tempted; but she will never renounce her connection with him, or be unfaithful to her engagements. The more she is assaulted from without or from within, the more she will flee to him for support: and her experience of his kindness will endear him to her ever more and more; so that her love to him will be more ardent, her affiance in him more uniform, and her adherence to him more determined. Never will he be more dear to her, than when she has suffered the loss of all things for him. The language of her heart will be, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of you," and "all other things will be counted but dross and dung in comparison of the knowledge of him." In short, she will "grow in grace, as she grows in the knowledge" of her Divine Husband.

2. In the estimation of the world at large.

The Baptist's words were soon verified: for, in the space of a few years, the knowledge and love of Christ were diffused throughout all the Roman empire. But his influence is yet only in its commencement. There is a time coming when it will extend to the remotest corners of the earth: "All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall do him service." "All shall know him, from the least unto the greatest;" and "all the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of our Lord"—"Then shall his Wife have made herself ready, and the marriage of the Lamb shall come: and blessed indeed will they be who shall then be called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." This is "the increase" which we assuredly look for; and of it there shall be no end."

Address.

1. Those who profess to desire an union with Christ.

Happy they who feel a desire after him!—But there must be in every one of us a fitness for him, before he will acknowledge us as his. Let not this however be misunderstood. There cannot be in us anything that can deserve his love, nor any tiling that shall induce him to set his love upon us: we have not a good thought or desire which has not been first of all given us by him. But still, if we would be his in deed and in truth, we must have our desires supremely fixed on him, and every adulterous affection mortified. It is not a divided heart that he will accept: we must give ourselves wholly to him; or he will never admit us into the relation of his Spouse. See what holy jealousy Paul manifested on this head; and with what tender concern he urged the consideration of this subject on his Corinthian converts—So, beloved, we would urge it upon you. Deceive not your own souls. In forming human connections, we may impose upon one another: but we can never impose on him: and if we would be acknowledged by him as his bride, we must present ourselves to him as a chaste virgin, with a determination to be his, even his alone.

2. Those who profess to be actually united to him.

It is scarcely needful to say, that you must endeavor to "walk worthy of your high calling." If you profess to stand in such a relation to the Lord Jesus Christ, "what manner of persons ought you to be in all manner of conversation and godliness!" See then that you live in a state of constant communion with him, and of entire dependence on him—Be zealous for his honor, and studious to bring forth the fruits of righteousness to his praise and glory.

Endeavor also to commend him unto others. There is no room for jealousy here. The light of his countenance, like the light of the sun, will not be the less enjoyed by you because it is imparted to others: on the contrary, the more successful you are in bringing others into a participation of his benefits, the more will your own souls overflow with joy. And the very weakest among us, that is really the Bridegroom's friend, shall find that he does not testify of Christ in vain: however incapable he may feel himself to recommend the Savior to others, he shall see some fruit of his labor, and have reason to say, with John, "This my joy is fulfilled."

MDCXIV

The Necessity of Faith in Christ

John 3:36. He who believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he who believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.

A FAITHFUL minister will find many occasions of rectifying the views and dispositions of his hearers; nor will he fail to improve the opportunities that occur of leading them to a more intimate acquaintance with their Lord. Some of the followers of John the Baptist having heard of the popularity of Jesus, were envious of his success, and jealous for the honor of their own teacher. But this holy man answered their complaints with much wisdom and humility; and having, in the strongest terms, given his testimony to the Divine mission of Jesus, he confirmed his word with the solemn declaration which we have just read. This record contains the sum and substance of the Gospel. It sets before us,

I. The one condition of our salvation.

We do not mean to say that there is anything to be done, whereby we are to earn or merit Heaven (in this respect our salvation has no conditions except those which were performed by Christ) but that,

We must believe in Christ in order to obtain salvation.

The duty here enjoined is not so easy as men generally suppose. If it merely imported a consent to the truth of Christianity, it might then be performed without any difficulty or self-denial. But to "believe on the Son of God" is, to believe, that he is the only, and the all-sufficient, Savior of our ruined race. If we do not feel our need of him; if we be not convinced that we can never obtain salvation by any works of our own; if we do not make earnest application to him at a throne of grace; and if we do not trust altogether in his blood and righteousness, we cannot believe aright. This, and nothing less than this, is the condition of our acceptance with God.

Nor is there any other condition so suitable as this.

We may be ready to think that the performance of good works were a much fitter condition than faith. But if salvation were by works, no flesh living could be saved; because no man ever has kept, or ever can keep, the whole law of God. Nor should we be at all more safe, if sincere obedience were the term of our acceptance; because as no man has perfectly fulfilled the law, so no man has done all that he might have done; in many instances we might have mortified our sinful dispositions more, and approved ourselves more diligent in the discharge of our duty. Besides, if we were saved by any works of our own, we should have whereof to glory, and might ascribe, even in Heaven itself, the honor to ourselves. Whereas the appointment of salvation by faith secures happiness to the most unworthy, if really penitent; and necessitates all to give the glory of their salvation to God alone.

The Baptist having thus made known the condition of our acceptance with God, proceeds to declare,

II. The state of those who comply with it.

About this, which might have been thought a dubious point, no doubt whatever is expressed. The believer has,

1. A title to eternal life.

There is not any title whatever to an earthly inheritance so secure as that which the believer has to Heaven. He has the promise of Jehovah. He has a covenant sealed with Emmanuel's blood, and confirmed with the oath of God himself—and, provided he can appeal to God respecting his sincere reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ, he may put in his claim even at the bar of judgment, and demand, if we may so speak, all the glory of Heaven as his unalienable inheritance. God has said, "He who believes shall be saved;" and if we only prove our performance of the condition, we need never doubt the fulfillment of God's promise.

2. The beginning and earnest of it in his soul.

The life which a believer has in his soul is of the same kind with that which he shall possess forever. He has the same reconciliation with God, the same delight in him, and the same sense of his favor. The Spirit of God that is within him is often called "an earnest" of his inheritance; because that Spirit, in his enlightening, sanctifying, and comforting influences, is a foretaste of Heaven, and a pledge, that the soul possessed of it shall in due time enjoy all the glory and felicity of the heavenly world. He has only to wait the appointed hour, and his abode shall be in the presence of his God, where nothing that can trouble or defile him shall ever enter. Say, brethren, could an angel from Heaven announce to you more joyful tidings than these?

But it is not thus with all. Widely different is,

III. The state of those who do not comply with it.

Here we may observe the same strength of assertion as in the former case. The text positively affirms, that

They shall not enter into Heaven.

Unbelievers often seem as confident of obtaining eternal happiness as if all the promises of God had been made to them in particular. But they will be awfully disappointed as soon as ever they enter into the invisible world. "They will knock at the gate of Heaven, crying, Lord, Lord, open to us: but he will answer them, Depart from me, I never knew you." A flaming sword will prohibit their entrance into Paradise, and an impassable gulf be fixed between them and the celestial spirits. This is the declaration of God, nor can it ever be reversed.

They shall be made eternal monuments of God's wrath.

They will not be persuaded that God is angry with them; and because they feel not his judgments now, they think they never shall. But God even now is filled with wrath against them; and they are preserved only as condemned criminals in a dungeon, until the hour appointed for their execution shall arrive. God's eye is ever upon them, not for good, but for evil. He views them as guilty of the most flagrant disobedience. He regards them as despisers both of his majesty, and of his mercy. He is incensed against them for "trampling under foot his dear Son, and doing despite to his Spirit." And soon the wrath, which even now "abides on them," "shall come upon them to the uttermost."

Application.

Let all inquire seriously whether they do indeed believe—Let those, who have not hitherto come to Christ as lost and perishing sinners, guard against those workings of self-righteousness which would keep them from him—And let "those who have believed be careful to maintain good works."

 

MDCXV

Christ a Fountain of Living Water

John 4:10. Jesus answered and said unto her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.

OUR blessed Savior, though "Lord of all," was a man like unto us in all things, sin only excepted: he hungered, he thirsted, he was weary. He put forth his Almighty power to heal the maladies of others; but would not exercise it for the exempting of himself from human infirmities. In journeying from Judea to Galilee, he was overcome with weariness; and was necessitated to ask, from a woman of Samaria, who was come to the well by which he was sitting, a draught of water to quench his thirst. I conceive that, from the beginning, his object in addressing her was more to impart good to her, than to obtain relief to himself: for, instead of noticing, as he might well have done, her backwardness to comply with his request, he lost not a moment in revealing himself to her, as the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

From his address to her, we shall take occasion to consider,

I. The characters under which our Lord here presents himself to our view:

1. He first speaks of himself as "the great Gift of God" to mankind.

Such indeed he was. In comparison of Him, all other gifts are as nothing; nothing, in respect of internal worth; and nothing, in respect of the benefits accruing from them. He is no other than "Jehovah's Fellow." Yet to such a degree did God love the world, that he gave Him, even his only-begotten Son, to become a man for us. Nor was it to instruct us only that God sent his Son, but to save us; to save us by bearing our iniquities in his own body on the cross; and by working out a righteousness, whereby we might be justified, and find acceptance with him. No other gift that God was able to bestow was of equal value with this, or could have effected this great end. Well, therefore, may all other gifts vanish from our sight before him, as the stars are eclipsed by the noon-day sun: and well may He, by way of eminence, be called "The gift of God."

2. The Fountain of all good.

Little did this woman think who it was that thus addressed her. He appeared to be a mere man, needing a little water to quench his thirst: but he was indeed "the fountain of living waters," the one only source of good to a ruined world. By "living water" we understand all the blessings of salvation; "all fullness" of which is treasured up in him at this moment: and "out of his fullness may every sinner in the universe receive."

Our Savior's address to her yet further shows us,

II. The benefits which will accrue to us from the knowledge of him.

If once we get a just view of his character,

1. We shall surely apply to him for his benefits.

If temporal blessings, however great in value, were spread before us, we might conceive of their being beheld with indifference: a conviction of their emptiness might well raise our minds above them, so that we would not condescend even to ask for a participation of them. But can all the blessings of grace and glory be contemplated with indifference? Can we behold an inexhaustible treasure of them laid up expressly for us, and not desire them? No, it would be impossible.; especially if we knew that they were all to be obtained by asking. To every creature under Heaven may our Lord justly say, "If you knew what I have to bestow, you would ask of me." We may as well suppose Hell to be opened to our view, without calling forth a desire to escape it; and Heaven, without creating a desire to obtain it; as imagine a view of Christ, under the foregoing characters, to be disclosed to the soul, and no desire to be excited there for the enjoyment of his blessings.

2. We shall infallibly be made partakers of them.

Not even the Samaritan woman, stranger as she was, and profligate, should have solicited his favor without obtaining it: much less shall any person now be suffered to seek his face in vain. He says to all, "Ask, and you shall have; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Nor would he have us straitened in our requests: his promise to the trembling suppliant is, "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." Nothing would be too great for him to give, if only we sought him in humility and faith. Pardon, peace, holiness, and glory, should all be poured into our souls in rich abundance; yes, "his Spirit, which he would give us, should be within us a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life."

Know then, all of you,

1. That the Lord Jesus Christ is here present with you.

We see him not corporeally, as the Samaritan woman did: nevertheless, he is spiritually present with us, as he has said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world;" and, if you will seek communion with him, you shall not be disappointed of your hope. He is, in reality, the same as ever he was. Still is he the great gift of God to man. Still is he the fountain of all spiritual good. Still does he complain of our forgetfulness of him, and declare he will impart out of his fullness to every inquiring soul. He put the Samaritan woman upon asking of him; saying, in fact, "Ask of me." So says he now to every one of us, "Ask of me, and I will give you living water."

2. That you, no less than the poor Samaritan, need the blessings which he offers.

Which of you needs them not? Which of you can find any other fountain from whence to quench your thirst? Which of you will not one day bitterly lament that you lost the present opportunity? I pray you, then, avail yourselves of your Lord's present condescension and grace; and let your souls take of him, and live forever.

 

MDCXVI

The Living Water

John 4:14. Whoever drinks of the wafer that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

OUR Lord invites us to learn of him. To encourage us, he declares that he is meek and Jowly in heart. Never was this disposition more displayed than in his conversation with the Samaritan woman. She was of the most abandoned character; yet he condescended to instruct her. And, when she slighted his offered mercies, endeavored to recommend them to her more favorable acceptance. We shall consider,

I. What is that water which Christ will give.

The woman understood our Lord only in a literal sense. But in his words there was a mystical meaning. By the water which he offered her, he meant the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is often represented in the Scriptures under the figure of water. It is he of whom the prophet Isaiah speaks when he says, that God will pour out water upon thirsty souls. Ezekiel also explains himself as referring to him, when he promises to the Church, in Jehovah's name, that clean water should be sprinkled on them to cleanse them from their pollutions. We are taught by God himself to put this interpretation on similar expressions used by our blessed Lord. By the help of these passages we ascertain beyond a doubt the import of that before us.

This water he had full authority to give.

Jesus had not received the Spirit by measure only, like other prophets: he had the residue of the Spirit abiding in him; yes, he had all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily. As mediator he was commissioned and empowered to bestow this Spirit. Hence he frequently arrogated to himself this power. He actually exerted it while he continued upon earth; and in a more abundant measure after his exaltation to Heaven. The effusion of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost is expressly ascribed to him. Hence we may understand why the Holy Spirit is so emphatically called the Spirit of Christ.

To excite her desire after it, he proceeded to set before her,

II. The properties it possesses.

Contrasting it with that which he had solicited at her hands, he told her it was,

1. Satisfying in its nature.

Water from an earthly spring will quench the thirst only for a short time; nor will it at all allay our appetite another things. The men of this world are insatiable in their desire after the vanities of time and sense. The more they have of pleasure, riches, or honor, the more they want. But a draught of this living water will satisfy the soul: of this heavenly spring indeed, all who have once tasted, will wish to drink again; yes, they will pant after it as the deer after the water-brooks. But their desire of earthly things will be greatly abated. The consolations of the Spirit will be regarded by them as the only satisfying portion: they will make everything else appear insipid, as the beholding of the meridian sun will obscure in their eyes the splendor of all inferior objects.

2. Heavenly in its tendency.

The supplies of water in "a well" are constant and uniform: so the Spirit operates in the heart of man. There will indeed be seasons when his operations will be less manifest: but he will always reside in us as a principle of life: he will excite holy and heavenly affections in our breasts: he will keep Heaven itself in our view: and the one aim of all his motions will be to lead us to everlasting life: nor, if we cherish his motions, will he fail of bringing us to the possession of its.

Inferences.

1. How glorious a person must Christ be!

The Holy Spirit is God equal with the Father: yet Christ has power to send him into our hearts. He can as easily bestow him on us, as we can give a cup of water from a spring. Even though the whole world should ask him, he could impart the Spirit to all of them at the same instant. Let us then entertain worthy thoughts of him, and look to him for constant supplies of this living water.

2. How earnest should we be in our application for this heavenly gift!

The worldly man is indefatigable in his pursuit of earthly vanities: but which of them can be compared with this living water? Which of them can give us life? or satisfy the soul? or bring us to glory? O that we might thirst after this, and this alone! Then would the invitations of Christ be precious to our souls, and we should speedily receive his promised blessings.

3. How dead ought we to be to all earthly things!

Our Lord represents all who have received his Spirit as thirsting no more. Hence we can have no evidence that we have drunk of the living waters, but in proportion as our thirst for other things is abated. Let those, who profess to have the Spirit dwelling in them, consider this. The Scriptures that confirm this truth are numberless. May God impress them deeply on our hearts! Let the world then be crucified unto us, and us unto the world: and if we would indeed be found partakers of Christ, let us both live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit.

 

MDCXVII

Salvation is of the Jews

John 4:22. Salvation is of the Jews.

THIS is part of the answer of our blessed Lord to the Samaritan woman. He had taken occasion, from an observation of hers, to show her that he was well acquainted with the most secret history of her past life; and not from report merely, but from his own omniscient mind, from which nothing could be hid. He had told her, that "she had had five husbands;" (all of whom, it is probable, had put her away for her adulteries;) and that "the person with whom she was now living was not her husband." She, wishing to get rid of so painful a subject, proposed a question relative to a controversy which then existed between the Samaritans and the Jews, as to the place where God was to be worshiped. Our Lord, satisfied with having discovered to her his character as a prophet of the Most High, graciously waved the prosecution of a subject which was so painful to her, and turned his attention to that which she had submitted to him. In reply to her question, he informed her, that the time was coming when all distinctions of places should be lost; so far, at least, as related to acceptable worship: for that all, of whatever place or country, who should worship God in spirit and in truth, should be accepted of him. At the same time he informed her that the question itself must be determined in favor of the Jews. The Samaritans, indeed, had much to say in their own behalf, and in support of the cause which they maintained. They could say, that on Mount Gerizim, for the sanctity of which they pleaded, Abraham himself had built an altar, as had Jacob also; (for Shechem, where he built it, was so close to Mount Gerizim, that a man's voice might be distinctly heard from the one to the other:) and that, consequently, that place had a prior claim to Zion, on which no altar had been raised, until many hundred years had elapsed. They could also with truth affirm, that Moses himself, under the special direction of Jehovah, had commanded, that all the congregations of Israel, as soon as they should gain possession of the Promised Land, should assemble round Mount Gerizim; and that from thence the blessings of Jehovah should be pronounced, while his curses should be declared from Mount Ebal, which was near to it. They could also appeal to the Jewish Scriptures, that Joshua and all Israel had actually complied with this command; and had thereby sanctified that mountain in a more especial manner, and marked it out as the place which God had chosen for his more peculiar worship in all future ages.

But, in answer to all this, our Lord informed her, that the Samaritans "knew not whom they worshiped." Though they occupied the land of Israel, they were not Israelites, but foreigners, whom the king of Assyria had sent to occupy the land, when he carried captive the ten tribes of Israel. Nor did they, in reality, know the true God: for it was only in consequence of the judgments which God had inflicted on them for their idolatries, by sending lions to devour them, that they had ever thought of worshiping him at all. To avert his displeasure, they had desired that a Jewish priest might be sent back to the land, to instruct them how to worship Jehovah; but, at the same time, they retained their own idolatries; thus "fearing the Lord, and serving other Gods." The Jews, on the contrary, worshiped Jehovah alone; (for never after the Babylonish captivity did they return to idolatry;) and they possessed that revelation of God's will, through the knowledge of which alone any human being could be saved: "You worship you know not what: we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews."

Thus was the controversy determined in favor of the Jews. But that being no longer of any consequence to the Church, we forbear to notice it any further; and shall fix our attention on that general declaration, which is still of as great importance as ever, that "salvation is of the Jews."

It is of them originally, as derived from them; and it is of them instrumentally, as communicated altogether by them.

I. It is of the Jews, as being originally derived from them.

The way of salvation has been one and the same, from the very moment that the promise was given in Paradise, that "the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head." But, having been only traditionally handed down, it was but very imperfectly known, even in the family of Abraham; and by the world at large it was almost, if not entirely, forgotten. But it pleased God, when he brought out from their bondage in Egypt the descendants of Abraham, to give them a written revelation of his will, and to make known to them the way of salvation, not only in its great leading article, the sacrifice of Christ, but in many minute particulars, as we shall see by an investigation of their Ceremonial Law.

The Jewish religion, so far as the way of salvation was concerned, was founded altogether on sacrifice. No person could approach unto God without a sacrifice: but by means of sacrifices specially appointed, every one might hope to obtain forgiveness of sin, and acceptance with his reconciled God. For this end there were sacrifices offered every morning and every evening throughout the year; and on the Sabbath-day they were doubled: but on the great day of annual atonement they were multiplied, with the most significant rites that can be imagined. The high priest was to take the blood of the sacrifices, and to carry it within the veil, and to sprinkle it upon the Mercy-seat, and before the Mercy-seat, in token that the hopes of all Israel were founded upon the sacrifices thus offered as an atonement for their sins. After that was done, he was to offer incense, and then to come out and bless the people.

But, as has been observed, there were many peculiar ordinances appointed for their instruction, as to the more minute points to be attended to in this great work. On some occasions, the offenders themselves were to lay their hands upon the head of their sacrifices: on some, the blood of the sacrifices was to be sprinkled on the offerers: on some the blood was to be sprinkled, mixed with water. And the efficacy of all these offerings was pre-eminently marked in the ordinance of the scape-goat. One goat having been killed, and its blood carried within the veil, another goat, called the scape-goat, which had been chosen by lot for this purpose, was brought forth, and had all the sins of all the Children of Israel laid upon it by the hands of the High Priest; and it was then led, with all the guilt of Israel upon its head, into the wilderness, never more to be seen by man; that so all the people might see that their iniquities were taken away, and that the punishment due to them should not be inflicted.

Now, all this was designed to shadow forth to that people the way of salvation. And, in truth, to those who had any spiritual discernment, salvation was exhibited with a clearness quite sufficient for the circumstances under which the people were. They were children; and were to be taught like children, by types and shadows: and all who looked through those types to the sacrifice which they shadowed forth, were saved as effectually as we are by looking back upon the offering which has now been once offered upon Calvary.

In all this was Christianity depicted. On what are the hopes of Christians founded, but on sacrifice, even the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ? Except through his atoning blood, not a creature in the universe can ever come to God. In presenting that offering, he himself was the Priest, as well as the victim: and having offered himself up to God upon the cross, he rose from the dead, and went with his own blood within the veil, there to present it before the Mercy-seat: and on that he founds his all-prevailing intercession.

But, let us come to a few particulars, and we shall see how the light beams upon us from every part of the Jewish Scriptures. We have said, that, on some occasions, the offender laid his hands upon the head of his offering, just as Aaron did on the scape-goat, when he confessed over him all the sins of all the Children of Israel. And this teaches us, that it is not sufficient for us that the Lord Jesus Christ has been offered for our sins: we must go to him: we must confess over him, as it were, our sins: and we must by faith transfer to him our guilt, and declare before God, that we have no hope whatever but in his atoning blood. It has been said also, that on some occasions, the offerer was sprinkled with the blood of his offering: and this, also, must we do; taking, as it were, the bunch of hyssop in our hands, and dipping it in the Redeemer's blood, and sprinkling our own souls with it, as the only possible means of purging our consciences from guilt, and of bringing us into a state of peace with God. It is in reference to this that we are said to "have come to the blood of sprinkling, which speaks better things than that of Abel." The sacrifice of Abel received, indeed, a sweet token of God's favorable acceptance; but the blood of our sacrifice washes all our sins away, and gives us a title to an everlasting inheritance.

It has been observed, that, on some occasions, the blood was mixed with water, and then sprinkled on the offerer. This shows us, that we must have the Holy Spirit also poured out upon us: according as it is said, "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you." The Lord Jesus Christ, we are told, "came not by water only, but by water and blood," and this very mystery was intimated at the time of our Savior's crucifixion, when the soldier pierced our Savior's side, and forthwith came, in two distinguishable streams, blood and water: the one to cleanse us from the guilt of sin; the other, from its power: according as it is written, "You are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

We might prosecute this subject in a great variety of particulars, and show in all of them the correspondence between the salvation shadowed forth by the law, and that exhibited by the Gospel. But we wish to keep the subject as simple as possible, and not to perplex it by too great a variety. There is, however, one point which it is of great importance to mention. It will be remembered, that, when Moses was about to make the tabernacle, a very strict and solemn command was given him, (the injunction is repeatedly mentioned in the Pentateuch,) "See you make all things according to the pattern shown to you in the mount." The same injunction was given to David, also, when he was desirous to build the temple. And Paul very particularly notices the former, as of vast importance. But whence was it that such stress was laid on this apparently unimportant matter? It was from hence: The law was given to shadow forth the Gospel: and it was to be the model to which the whole edifice of Christianity was to be conformed, in every the minutest particular. Now, if there was any one thing added to the tabernacle, or omitted in it, or altered in any respect, it would not be a perfect representation of Christianity. But the two were to correspond with each other, as the impression with the seal: and if there were anything in the tabernacle superfluous or defective, the correspondence would be lost, and God would be greatly dishonored. But the necessary care was taken: Moses was faithful in all his house as a Servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after: and the same fidelity has Christ shown as a Son, whose house are we, if we "hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of our hope firm unto the end."

Thus it appears that we have received salvation originally from the Jews; to whom, in every particular, it was first revealed. But we go on to observe, 2dly, That we have also received it instrumentally from them, in that it has been altogether communicated to us through their ministrations.

It was first preached to us by Moses and the prophets. We had known nothing of a Messiah, if they had not pointed him out. We have already seen how much we are indebted to Moses for his writings: which make known to us the very first prophecy of a Savior; and show us how Abel, and Noah, and Abraham, found acceptance with God. To him we owe it, that the model shown to him in the mount was so carefully copied, that there is not so much as a pin in his tabernacle which has not its corresponding article in the Christian Edifice. From him we have such a view of Christianity as the Gospel itself can scarcely be said to afford. Doubtless, until the ceremonies prescribed by him had the true light reflected on them, they were very obscure: but now that they have been explained to us from above, we see the Gospel embodied, as it were, and made visible even to the eye of sense. Who that contemplates one goat offered in sacrifice to God, and the other bearing away all the sins of all the people of Israel that had been laid upon his head, does not see, before his very face, what the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is daily effecting for all that believe in him? Even the moral law itself, which Moses also has recorded, has the very same tendency, and, in the ears of all who understand it, proclaims the utter impossibility of being saved, except by the sacrifice that should in due time be offered; insomuch that Paul calls it "a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ." All the prophets concur with him in the very same testimony; and proclaim with one voice, that "there is no remission of sins but by blood;" and that "there is no other name given under Heaven whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ." We are told, that "to him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins." Ask we of Isaiah? His testimony is, "He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his stripes we are healed." To the same effect speaks also the Prophet Daniel: "Messiah shall be cut off; but not for himself." "He shall make an end of sin, and make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness." And Joel points him out, as "that Lord, on whom whoever shall call, shall be saved."

The last and greatest of all the prophets was John the Baptist: and he pointed out the very Savior himself in these emphatic words; "Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world!" Here we see the union of the law and of the Gospel to be precisely such as we have represented it. The lamb was at that very time offered every morning and evening in sacrifice to God for the sins of Israel; and here was Jesus pointed out as the Lamb that should take away, not the sins of one people only, but of the whole world.

And what was the testimony borne by our Lord himself? Did he not declare, that He was come to "give his life a ransom for many?" Did He not, when he administered the sacramental cup to his Disciples, say, "This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins?"

But what said his Apostles, when the time was come for the full disclosure of the great mystery of Redemption? They with one voice declare, that "he died the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God;" that we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins; and that "all who believe in him are justified from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses." In the Epistle to the Hebrews the parallel between the law and the Gospel is distinctly drawn; so that nothing is left to fancy or conjecture; but all is declared on infallible authority to have been accomplished in him, to the unspeakable advantage of our souls; since, "if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh, much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge our conscience from dead works to serve the Living God."

And to whom are we indebted for all this knowledge? To Jews, from first to last: to Jewish prophets and to Jewish Apostles: yes, the very Savior himself who effected this salvation, and to whom they all bare witness; he himself proclaimed it; he himself displayed its power while he yet hanged on the cross; and after his resurrection he gave this commission to his Disciples, "Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized, shall be saved: and he who believes not, shall be damned."

Now, what of all these things can we learn from the philosophers of Greece and Rome? No more than from the beasts themselves. It was hidden from them altogether. If we want to know what kind of a Savior was to come, we must learn it from Jews. If we would know what ground there is to believe that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies; to Jews we must go, to obtain the desired information. If we would learn how we are to come to the Savior, and to obtain acceptance through him; we must sit at the feet of Jews, and receive instruction from their lips. We have not a hope that is not founded on their word; nor can a ray of consolation shine into our souls, that is not emitted from their writings. We do not sufficiently consider this: but we ought never to forget how greatly we are indebted to the Jews: since, whether in its primary structure or its subsequent conveyance, our "salvation is altogether of them;" of them originally, of them instrumentally, of them exclusively: so that not a soul among us shall ever go forth from this devoted land to the mountains of eternal bliss, but as instructed, instigated, and assisted by a Jew.

From this subject we cannot but learn our duty in two important respects: first, to seek this salvation for ourselves; and next, to exert ourselves in order to impart this salvation to those from whom we have received it.

First, then, let us seek this salvation for ourselves.

It cannot be that Almighty God should have done so much for our salvation, and we be at liberty to neglect it. The Apostle's question is full of awful and impressive energy, "How shall you escape, if you neglect so great salvation?" Surely, if God has given his only dear Son to be a sacrifice for sin; if, in order to prepare the world for the reception of him, he shadowed forth all his work and offices with such precision, that it should be impossible for any considerate mind not to see and understand the way of salvation; if Prophets and Apostles, for such a series of ages, bare witness to him at the peril of their lives, in order that we might know him, and be partakers of his benefits; does it become us to despise it all, as if it were no better than a cunningly-devised fable 2 Surely, we must see that it is our bounden duty to flee for refuge to this hope that is set before us. We must remember what the very term "Salvation" implies: it implies, that we are lost: for if in ourselves we be not lost, we cannot need a Savior. But we are lost, every one of us; for we are sinners, condemned by God's righteous law; and "the wrath of God abides on us." I fear it will appear harsh to say, that we are in this respect on a footing with the fallen angels, even with "the spirits that are already in the prison" of Hell. But, if I say the truth before God, this is the only difference between them and us: they are lost beyond redemption; whereas we, though lost, have salvation offered to us: but, if we neglect this salvation, we shall perish, under a load of guilt beyond all expression aggravated, and under a punishment beyond all conception terrible. Whatever may have been the guilt of the fallen angels, from this, at least, they are free; they have never poured contempt on a redeeming God, never rejected a offered salvation: but these are the sins that will be charged on us, if we embrace not the salvation which is revealed to us in the Gospel.

I say, then, to every soul before me, seek this salvation which the Jews have brought unto you: seek it simply, mixing nothing with it, but relying altogether on the atoning blood of Christ, "who, though he knew no sin, was made sin for you, that you, who had no righteousness, might be made the righteousness of God in him." And seek it humbly, confessing over the Lord Jesus Christ your every sin, and transferring it by faith to his sacred head. In point of dependence, you must renounce your most righteous acts as much as your vilest sins; and you must look to his blood to cleanse you from the iniquity even of your holiest things. Seek it constantly too: it was every day in the year that the offerings for sin were made: and every day and hour must you look to your great Sacrifice, if you would have it available for your eternal good. Seek it, moreover, unreservedly. Neglect not the water, any more than the blood. It will be a fatal mistake to think of ever being saved by the sacrifice of Christ, if you be not renewed and sanctified by his Spirit. These two are inseparably joined by God himself; and it will be at the peril of your souls, if ever you attempt to put them asunder. Lastly, I would say, seek it to the full extent of your necessities. I have purposely deferred until now all mention of the sacrifices that were appointed for the sins of ignorance. They are particularly stated in the fourth chapter of the Book of Leviticus. There you will see, that, if a man had ever so ignorantly and unintentionally contracted defilement, (say, by the touching of a bone or a grave, or anything that had been previously touched by one unclean,) he must bring his offering, as soon as ever he discovered that he had transgressed: and, if he should refuse to bring his appointed offering, he must be cut off from the Lord's people, as a despiser of the law, and a rebel against his God. Thus must we do, even for the slightest inadvertence or defect. And if, from an idea that our offence has been light and venial, we hope to remove its guilt by any other means than the blood of Christ, we shall surely perish. If we had never violated God's holy law but once, and that only by an inadvertent thought, there remains for us but one way of salvation, one only door of hope: and, if we will not enter at that door, and walk in that way, "there remains nothing for us but a certain fearful looking-for of wrath and fiery indignation to consume us." I say then, again, to every soul among you, seek for salvation in Christ alone. There was but one brazen serpent erected in the camp of Israel: and there is but one Savior appointed for the whole world. "There is no other way unto the Father but by Him," but "those who come to God in his Son's name, he will in no wise cast out."

Next, let us exert ourselves to impart this salvation to those from whom we have received it. I appeal to all: if we are so indebted to the Jewish people of former ages, should we not endeavor, in some respect, to requite them by showing kindness to their descendants? and if we are constrained to say that "salvation is of the Jews," should we not, now that the Jews themselves are ignorant of that salvation, endeavor to impart to them the light which we enjoy, and constrain them, in their turn, to say, "Salvation is of the Christians?" For, surely, if it be of them in its commencement, it is, and ought to be, of us in its progress and consummation. And I would ask, is it not a scandal to the whole Christian world, that they should have so long and so shamefully neglected those to whose ancestors they are so greatly indebted? It was never God's design that we should "hide our candle under a bushel," and conceal it from the very persons who have put it into our hands. On the contrary, Paul expressly says, that as we have been benefitted by their unbelief, so we should strive to benefit them by our faith: "As we in times past have not believed God, but have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; so have these also now not believed, that through our mercy they also may obtain mercy." While, therefore, we withhold from them the instruction which God has qualified us to impart, we defeat the very designs of God himself, and may well have required at our hands the blood of all who perish through our neglect.

If we would know in what way we ought to exert ourselves for them, we need only inquire how they exerted themselves for us. Behold the Prophets and Apostles, in the different ages in which they lived: which of them all, with the exception of the Prophet Jonah, did not engage in his work with zeal, and execute it with fidelity? Of all the Apostles, there was but one who did not actually seal the truth with his blood; as John also was willing to do, if he had been called to it. And all the first Christian converts, when driven from Jerusalem, "went everywhere preaching the word," happy if by any means they might impart to us benighted heathens the salvation which they had found. Should not, then, some measure, at least, of that zeal be shown by us? Should not their souls be precious in our eyes, as ours were in theirs? It is a shame to us that we think so lightly of this matter; and that we, who ought to take the lead in everything that is good and great, are so backward to exert ourselves in this holy cause. I well know that sloth and indifference will furnish us with reasons enough for delay: but I would ask, what reason has any man for neglecting this duty, which might not have been urged with still greater force by the Jews for a neglect of us? The attempt to convert the Jews might have been deemed visionary a few years ago: but shall it be judged visionary now? I say, without fear of contradiction, that the efforts which have been made within these few years have produced a great effect, if not in numerous conversions, yet at least in that which must precede conversion; and which conversion may reasonably, in many instances, be expected to follow; I mean, the conviction of their minds of the truth of Christianity. I do say, that this effect is seen, felt, and acknowledged by the Jews themselves: and if the periodical publications which are issued forth on this subject were perused, the truth of this assertion would most abundantly appear. Permit me, then, to call the attention of this assembly to this momentous subject; and to press on all who hear me this day, to "come to the help of the Lord against the mighty," even against the mighty prejudices of the Jewish people, and the no less formidable indifference of the Christian world. A good example here would be felt throughout the land, and would tend not a little to diffuse, both among Jews at home and Jews abroad, the light which we possess, and the salvation we enjoy. I ask, is that true which our Lord has spoken, "If you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sins?" If this be true, then are that whole people perishing by millions. And shall we suffer them thus to "perish for lack of knowledge?" God forbid. If any of us know what salvation is, we ought to impart it to others. We feel this obligation in some measure to the heathen, to whom we are not at all indebted; and yet overlook it in reference to the Jews, from whom we have received all the light and knowledge we possess. This ought not so to be: this should not continue one hour longer: we ought all to rise, as one man, to repair, as far as possible, our past neglect, and to fulfill our duties to God and man. But, if we will still continue to hide our talent in a napkin, know all of you, that you shall be called into judgment for it, and that the doom of the unprofitable servant must await you. But "let me hope better things, though I thus speak, even things that accompany salvation." I thank God that some at least have awaked to the calls of justice and of mercy; of justice to God, who has entrusted them with their talents; and of mercy to the Jews, who so greatly need their improvement of them. And I pray God that this spirit may abound more and more; and that they who embark in this good cause may soon have the happiness to see that "they have not labored in vain, nor run in vain."

 

MDCXVIII

The Worship Which God Requires

John 4:24. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

BRETHREN, you are all upon the brink of eternity. You are all sinners. As sinners, you stand in need of mercy at the hands of God: and God is willing to bestow mercy upon every one of you, without exception. But he must be inquired of, in order that he may do this for you: and he must be inquired of, not in a cold and formal manner, but in sincerity of heart; for "He is a Spirit; and all who worship him, must," as my text informs you, "worship him in spirit and in truth."

Let this declaration sink down into your ears; and let it operate strongly on your minds, while we contemplate it;

I. As an answer to a particular inquiry.

Our Lord was conversing with a woman of Samaria, and had shown to her that he was perfectly acquainted with all the evils she had committed in her former life, and with those in the indulgence of which she was still living. She, not wishing to hear anything further upon a subject so painful to her mind, sought to turn the conversation into another channel; and for that purpose inquired what his sentiments were on a point that was at issue between the Jews and the Samaritans, namely, whether God was to be worshiped at Jerusalem, or at Mount Gerizim in Samaria? Our Lord, in reply to her question, tells her, that the time was now come, when the Father was no longer to be worshiped in any one place more than another; but that in every place under Heaven, those, and those only, should have access to him, who "worshiped him in spirit and in truth."

This directly met the inquiry which had been made.

Until that time "bodily exercise" had certainly prevailed in the services of God's people, whose access to him was chiefly in the use of prescribed forms, which were shadowy and typical, and were confined to one city, and to one particular building in that city. The directions which God had given in relation to this matter, even before his people came into possession of the promised land, were very specific: "Unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall you seek, and thither shall you come; and thither you shall bring your burnt-offerings, etc. etc. and there you shall eat before the Lord your God." At the time when the temple of Solomon was consecrated, the people were instructed, that, if they should go out to battle, or be carried captives to a foreign land, they must turn towards that place, when they made their supplications to the Lord for help or mercy: and an intimation was given, that, even if they should "return to God with all their heart and all their soul," it would not suffice, unless they also "directed their prayers towards that place." From hence, as well as from the examples of their holiest prophets, they were led to suppose, that no prayer would be accepted, but such as should be offered in that precise manner. There was indeed under that very dispensation ample evidence that that conclusion was erroneous: for God had said, "The Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembles at my word." Still, however, this matter was not generally understood, until our blessed Lord proclaimed, that Jehovah was a Spirit, and therefore not confined to any place, but pervading all space, and accessible to all who desired to draw near unto him. He no longer now was to be approached with mere bodily service, or in carnal ordinances, but "in spirit," as opposed to the one, and "in truth," as opposed to the other: and they who so approached to him should never be permitted to "seek his face in vain."

In this view it is of importance to us also.

We are apt to lay an undue stress on externals; and to imagine, that a peculiar measure of acceptance is to be found at the table of the Lord, more than at any other time or place. (Let me not be here misunderstood, as though I would undervalue the ordinance of the Lord's Supper: for it is our bounden duty to commemorate our Lord's death in that ordinance; and from a spiritual and believing participation of the bread and wine, we may undoubtedly expect the richest benefits.) But from a mere formal attendance on that ordinance we receive no more good, than from a similar attendance on the common services of the Church. It is to the heart alone that God looks: if that be not right towards him, no service whatever can be "acceptable in his sight," but, if that be under the influence of penitence and faith, its offerings, under whatever circumstances they be presented, shall surely come up with acceptance before him.

That this truth may be more fully brought before you, I shall consider the text,

II. As an instruction suited to all times and circumstances.

The thing which God expects, is, that there be a correspondence between the feelings of our heart, and the offerings of our lips.

If, for instance, we confess our sins before him, it is not sufficient that our words be humble; our spirit must be humble too, and a holy penitential sorrow must fill our hearts. If we present our petitions before him, it is not sufficient that we ask for such things as are good and desirable, but we must feel an ardent desire after them in our souls, and plead for them with an importunity suited to the importance of them. So also, if we return thanks to God, we must not rest in unmeaning compliments, but adore and magnify our God from our inmost souls. If there he not this correspondence between our feelings and our words, what "truth" is there in us? Our services are no better than a solemn mockery, that must offend, rather than please, the Majesty of Heaven.

Such sincerity the very nature of God requires.

"He is a Spirit," that pervades all space. He is equally present with all his creatures; nor is there a thought in the heart of any person in the universe, that is not "naked and open before him." Were he able to behold our actions only, he might be pleased with our services, though unaccompanied with any devout affection: but when "he searches the heart, and tries the reins," and "weighs" with infallible accuracy "our very spirits," how can he listen to our heartless addresses with any satisfaction? Truly such prayers must be, as he declares they are, an utter "abomination unto him." When some under the Jewish dispensation brought to him "the blind, and the lame, and the sick, for sacrifice," he appealed to them, "Whether it was not evil?" "Go," says he, "offer these now unto your Governor; will he be pleased with you, or accept your persons?" What then must he say to those who think to impose upon him by prayers which proceed "from the lips only, while the heart is far from him?" Assuredly he will say, "Bring no more such vain oblations," you hypocrites, for "in vain do you worship me," "your most solemn services are an iniquity" which I utterly abhor, and "I am weary to bear them."

Unite with me then, while I make your prayers a subject of strict inquiry.

It is to be feared that many of you, who would yet wish to be thought good Christians, live without even the form of prayer. Look back only to this very morning; look back to the past week; look back throughout your whole lives; and see, whether you have ever spent one single hour in secret prayer to God? Ah! does not conscience condemn the greater part of you? Have not many of you, as far as prayer is concerned, lived rather like brute beasts, than as rational and immortal beings?—Or, supposing you have kept up a form of prayer, has it not been a mere form? You who teach your children to repeat some form of prayer in your presence, know very well that theirs is not prayer: and what is yours better than theirs? Your heavenly Father, in whose presence you read or repeat your forms, knows how to estimate them, while they are offered without any suitable emotions. The way for you to judge of them is this: set before your eyes a person perishing in the sea, and supplicating deliverance from his perils; and then compare your feelings with his. His feelings you can easily conceive: and if yours have no correspondence with them, no such sense of danger, no such desire of help, no such thankfulness for the efforts used in your behalf, you have yet to learn the nature of prayer, and yet to begin that work, without which you must perish in your sins.

But let me not conclude without adding a few words of encouragement.

It is not improbable that some may be ready to write bitter things against themselves, because they find sot fluency in prayer. But it is not by our fluency in utterance that God judges of our prayers, but by the humility of our minds, and the fervor of our desires. A sigh, or groan, proceeding from a broken and contrite heart, is of more value in his sight, than the richest effusions of eloquence that ever proceeded from the lips of man. Never was there a more acceptable prayer offered by mortal man than that of the Publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" Take courage then, you who are dejected because you find not such utterance as you could wish. "God knows the mind of the Spirit," and it is in sighs and groans chiefly that "his Spirit makes intercession in us." Only let there be a sincerity of heart before him, and. your very breathings shall be heard, and descend in blessings on your souls; for "he seeks such to worship him," and will fulfill the desire of them that so approach him. If only you "look to him, you shall be lightened;" and if you hope in him, you shall assuredly be made partakers of his kingdom and glory.".

MDCXIX

Conviction of Sin, a Preparative for Salvation

John 4:29. Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

LITTLE do we know what a day or an hour may bring forth. It was probably owing to an unexpected temptation that this Samaritan woman fell into the sin which led to that vicious and abandoned course which she afterwards pursued. And to what the world in general would call a most accidental circumstance, she was indebted for the salvation of her soul. It happened, as we say, that the Lord Jesus Christ came to relieve his weariness and thirst at Jacob's well, where she also had come to draw water. There, contrary to what might have been expected, the Savior entered into conversation with her, and brought conviction to her mind, and revealed himself to her as the promised Messiah; and made her, who had been an occasion of evil to many, to become to many the means of their salvation: for, on being interrupted in her conversation by his Disciples, who had gone into the adjacent city to purchase food, she herself went into the city, and said to all whom she met, "Come, and see a man who told me all things that ever I did! Is not this the Christ?"

In considering this address of hers to her fellow-citizens, I shall take occasion to show,

I. The power of God's word to produce conviction.

Our Lord had told her what were undoubtedly the most remarkable occurrences of her life, that "she had had five husbands, and that the man with whom she was now living was not her husband." This brought all her former life so strongly to her recollection, that it seemed as if he had "told her all things that she had ever done." And this is no uncommon effect of God's word upon the mind and conscience; as Paul has told us: "If all in a Church prophesy, (that is, preach,) and there come in one that believes not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth." It then appeared, and frequently does also at this hour, that a preacher may be led to touch on some points so forcibly and circumstantially, as to seem as if he had been actually made acquainted with the secret history of one or other of his hearers, and were intentionally developing to his audience the history of that particular individual. Now, whence is this? I think it may be well accounted for, by considering what the Spirit of God effects, when he applies any single word with power to the soul.

1. He "opens the eyes of the understanding."

A man that is blind cannot see anything: but when his eyes are opened, he sees all the things that are before him, and within the reach of his visual organs. Thus it is when God is pleased to give us a spiritual discernment: we do not see this or that particular sin only, but our entire defection from God, and our whole life, as one continued course of rebellion against him.

2. He discloses to us the inmost recesses of the soul.

The soul of man may fitly be compared to the chambers of imagery in Ezekiel's vision. All is transacting there in secret; and nothing is known but to God himself; until God directs his servant to a hole in the wall, by which a variety of things may be discerned. Now, thus it is that the Spirit of God opens sometimes a hole, and sometimes even a window or a door, by means of which the interior of the soul is made manifest, and the sinner is enabled to see things of which he had before a very indistinct idea. We may conceive a painted sepulcher, beautiful to behold by those who see only its exterior. But, when it is laid open, and all its foul contents are exposed to view, it is too loathsome an object to look upon without the utmost disgust and abhorrence. It would not be necessary to take an accurate survey of the offensive object in all its parts: a person would readily say, 'I have seen it all.' And so, when God gives to a man a sight of his chief corruptions, it appears as if every transaction of his life had been made to pass before him.

3. He awakens conscience to a discharge of its proper office.

Conscience, in an unawakened man, neglects its duty altogether. It ought to observe and weigh our every act, and to report to us its true character, even as it appears before God himself. But, when the Spirit of God awakens it by the word, it estimates aright our whole character, and without flattery makes us known to ourselves. It exerts itself then with authority: it makes the whole life pass before it in review: it sits in the throne of judgment: it speaks in the name of God himself: it passes sentence even on the most secret actions of our lives; it takes into its account all attendant circumstances of aggravation; and anticipates the judgment of the last day.

Thus we may account for the impression made on the mind of this Samaritan, and the report she gave on leaving the Savior's presence. Though everything that she had ever done had not been distinctly told her, it appeared as if it had; and the effect upon her mind was the same as if it had.

But, that the power of God's word may yet more clearly appear, let us proceed to notice,

II. The effect of conviction, when produced.

Mark the effect of it on her: you see in her,

1. A desire to receive instruction.

Man in his natural state has no wish for instruction in the things that relate to God. He is satisfied with his own crude notions, and is averse to have them tried by the standard of Holy Writ. "He hates the light, and will not come to it, lest his deeds should be reproved." But when the Spirit of God has fixed conviction on the mind, a man will be glad to know the truth: his very first inquiry will be, "What must I do to be saved?" Thus the woman, thinking that that was true which Jesus had said to her respecting his Messiahship, and that his perfect knowledge of her secret history was an evidence of it, was desirous that her fellow-citizens should give her their judgment concerning it: "Come, and see a man that told me all things that ever I did! Is not this the Christ?" She thought them competent to judge, and took for granted that they would give her their unbiased opinion upon this momentous question: and though it was but too probable that the notoriety of her character would bring upon her some cutting reflections, she cared not for it, if only she might obtain satisfaction to her mind. It is particularly noticed, that "she left her water-pot behind her!" and this she did, not merely that she might not be detained; (for the detention could at the utmost have only been a few minutes;) but probably forgetting for the time her earthly business, through the ardor of her mind in the pursuit of heavenly knowledge. And thus it is that every awakened soul will act. It will desire knowledge: it will pursue it at the risk of all the obloquy which may attach to a desire after it: and it will postpone all earthly things, to the acquisition of it.

2. A candor in our inquiries after it.

Where the heart is unaffected, incredulity and scepticism usually take the lead; and a greater degree of evidence than the subject well admits of, is required. But, where a person feels his guilt as a sinner, and his utter incapacity to save himself, he will feel a predisposition to receive the truth. He will not with skeptical indifference say, "Is this the Christ?" but, with a wish that his pretensions to that character may be found true, "Is not this the Christ?" It may be said, that here was an undue bias. But I deny that it was an undue bias. In a matter which is itself indifferent, we may be indifferent: but in a matter which concerns the glory of God and the salvation of the whole world, indifference would be highly criminal. The misery of man is seen, felt, acknowledged. Here purports to be a revelation from Heaven, and a Savior sent us by Almighty God for the redemption of man. This is not to be a matter of speculative inquiry. It should be examined with a desire that it may be true. The precise state of mind which every person should experience, is that which was experienced by the man whose eyes the Lord Jesus Christ had opened. The Lord Jesus asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of God?" The man answered, not coolly and indifferently, "Who is he?" but, with becoming anxiety, "Who is he, that I may believe on him?" Though credulity is not good, neither, on the other hand, is incredulity: there is a just medium between the two, a readiness to believe on sufficient evidence. The readiness of the other Disciples to believe in Jesus was commended, while the incredulity of Thomas was blamed. And this shows us the precise state of mind which deep conviction generates; a candor in our inquiries after truth, with an sincere desire to embrace it the very instant it is fairly laid before us with a weight of evidence sufficient to sustain it.

3. A wish that others also may be partakers of it.

It was not from a mere desire to ask their judgment that the Samaritan woman went into the city, but with a hope that her fellow-citizens might participate in the blessings which she had experienced in her soul. This is clear: for they themselves said, that they had believed because of her word: so that she had not been a mere inquirer, but a preacher also. And this is the invariable effect of deep conviction on the mind; it will stir up the person to make others acquainted with the same important truths as have been useful to his own soul. No truly enlightened person will keep his discoveries to himself. He will say to his friends and neighbors, "Come, and see." This is declared by our Lord in various parables: and, in confirmation of it, the Church, in most appropriate and expressive language, says, "Draw me; and we will run after you." Draw me, and I will never be content to come alone: I will draw all I can along with me.

We have hitherto noticed only the acts of this woman. But we should not entirely overlook her person and character, which may well supply us with our concluding observations.

Observe, then,

1. How unbounded is the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have seen how his word wrought conviction on her soul; and eventually imparted salvation to her, and to others by her means. But we have not sufficiently considered either who she was, An alien and a hostile Samaritan; or what she was, Even such an abandoned wretch, that it was a shame even to be seen speaking to her. Yet to this woman did our Lord reveal himself more fully and plainly than he had done to any one of his Disciples. How sweetly encouraging is this fact! Who that considers this, can despair? Or, rather, who does not here see an intimation of the grace that should afterwards be shown to the Gentiles, and of the mercy that should be exercised towards the chief of sinners? Know, then, that no past iniquities shall be any bar to your acceptance with him, if only you will humble yourselves before him, and believe in him, as the Christ, the Savior of the world.

2. What encouragement we all have to exert ourselves for him.

It was but little that she knew: and little could be expected from any testimony of hers. Yet, what she spoke sank down into the ears of all that heard it, and was rendered instrumental to the bringing of them to Christ. Let none then say, "I am ignorant: I am sinful: I, as a female, am unauthorized to speak." Though every one is not authorized to preach, every one, in his own proper circle, is bound to declare what God has done for his soul: and if every one would exert himself as this woman did, especially in bringing others to the means of grace, that they may hear for themselves, we should see conversions far more numerous, and blessings far more widely diffused through the world. The lepers of Samaria, when they found plenty in the deserted camp of the Syrians, said, They did not well to keep the glad tidings to themselves. And can we, after having found salvation, do well in keeping it to ourselves? No, we should invite others to participate the blessings we enjoy; and, being converted ourselves, should do all in our power to strengthen and to save our brethren.

 

MDCXX

Christ's Diligence in Serving God

John 4:34. Jesus says unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

OUR blessed Lord, throughout his whole life, was the most illustrious pattern of condescension to man and of fidelity to God. Both these dispositions were eminently displayed in the history before us. Notwithstanding he was already exhausted with a long and fatiguing journey, he had been laboring for the salvation of a most abandoned adulteress: and when urged to intermit his exertions for a little while in order to recruit his strength by some necessary refreshment, he declared, that food was not so delightful to a famished body, as the prosecuting of the great ends of his ministry was to his soul.

From his words we shall take occasion to,

I. Consider our Lord's example.

Jesus, in his human and mediatorial capacity, was the Father's servant. And the work assigned him was, to reveal in a more perfect manner the will of God, and to save mankind by his own obedience unto death.

In this work he engaged,

1. With fervent affection.

Nothing could exceed the delight with which he undertook the arduous task: nothing the zeal with which he accomplished it. Whether we view his private addresses to God, or his public ministrations among men, we shall see that in him was that prophecy accomplished, "The zeal of your house has eaten me up."

2. With indefatigable diligence.

From the commencement of his ministry to the end of it not a day was unemployed. Frequently, after having labored all the day, he spent the night in prayer, and resumed his labors with the returning light. Like the sun in the firmament, he proceeded in one steady course through all the cities, towns, and villages; nor ever ceased from his work, until he could say, "It is finished."

3. With undaunted resolution.

What "continual opposition" did he endure! He was truly "a sign spoken against," or a butt of contradiction. There was not anything however perverse, scandalous, or contemptuous, but his ears were assailed with it from day to day. From the very first discourse he uttered until the hour of his crucifixion, his enemies never ceased to seek his life. Yet did he persevere in the face of every danger, and at last complete his obedience, by surrendering up his life upon the cross.

That we may profit from this great example, we will,

II. Propose it for your imitation.

We also have a work to do for God.

Our work is great; but O! how different from that which was committed to our Lord! We have not to satisfy the demands of justice, or to endure the wrath due to sin: blessed be God! that was the Redeemer's, work; and it has been finished by him on our behalf. The work which we have to do is to believe in Christ, and, from a sense of his love to us, to devote ourselves unreservedly to his service.

Let us then engage in it,

1. Heartily.

"Whatever our hand finds to do, we should do it with all our might." A lukewarm service is unacceptable, yes, hateful to God. Let us then first labor to know the will of God, and then endeavor to do it with our whole hearts. Let us be "fervent in spirit, while we serve the Lord."

2. Uniformly.

It is not an occasional act of zeal that will please God, but a steady conscientious, uniform discharge of our duty. Our spirit, alas! is often faint; and even, when "the spirit is willing, our flesh is weak." But we must counteract our sloth, and "give all diligence to make our calling and election sure."

3. Courageously.

We shall surely meet with reproach and persecution, if we set ourselves in earnest to serve the Lord. But let us "remember him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself." Woe be to us if we draw back through the fear of man. We must hate, not only father and mother, but even our own life also, if we would be Christ's Disciples. Let us then "take up our cross daily" after Christ's example, and "suffer with him, in order that we may be also glorified together."

Address.

1. Those who are unconcerned about the work of God.

Has not God appointed you a work to do; and ought you not to have begun it long ago? Is it expedient to leave it to a dying hour? What if you should die before it is finished? O, begin instantly; for the "night comes, wherein no man can work."

2. Those who do his work deceitfully.

God has pronounced such persons accursed, no less than if they did nothing for him. His service must be your "meat" and drink; the joy of your souls, and the business of your lives. See then that you "approve yourselves to God as servants that need not be ashamed."

3. Those who are in a measure conformed to their Savior's image.

Bless your God, who has thus far enabled you to serve him. But O! think how much you fall short of your heavenly pattern! Forget then what is behind, and press forward for that which is before you: so shall you in due season "rest from your labors," and be welcomed as good and faithful servants to the joy of your Lord.

 

MDCXXI

The Happy State of the Church

John 4:35, 36. Say not you, There are yet four months, and then comes harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields: for they are white already to harvest. And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit unto life eternal: that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.

AMAZING was the condescension of our blessed Lord. No one was too mean or too vile for him to notice with his favorable regards. His enemies cast this as a reflection on his character, that he was "a friend of publicans and sinners." The woman with whom he had been conversing was certainly of as abandoned a caste as can well be conceived: but the result of his conversation with her was most extraordinary: for, through her, a vast multitude flocked to hear him, and that, too, with a readiness of mind to receive his instructions, insomuch that they appeared like "a field of corn white already to harvest."

This expression of our Lord respecting them will properly lead us to consider,

I. The prospects opening around us.

The times in which we live are perhaps as remarkable as any since the apostolic age. Though religion has been on the increase in this nation for half a century, yet it is within these twenty years that the spread of it has become so remarkable, as to attract the notice of all who are in the least observant of what relates to the kingdom of God. Before that time, it might have been said, "There are yet four months to the harvest," and any prospect of reaping a harvest of immortal souls is distant: but now we may say, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." Observe what the state of things is,

1. Abroad.

Was there ever such a cooperation seen, as that which now exists throughout almost the whole of Christendom, for the diffusion of the Holy Scriptures, and for the translation of them into all the different languages of the world? A few years ago such a combination of zeal in the interests of religion would have been thought to be scarcely within the regions of possibility—The multitude of missions, too, which are now established in every quarter of the globe, are no less worthy of our especial notice—A field laden with the ripened produce of the earth scarcely differs more from that which is lying fallow, than the face of Christendom does in these respects from its aspect at any period during the last two hundred years.

2. At home.

Here it comes more within our own more immediate observation. See the societies formed throughout the land for every benevolent purpose, and especially for whatever may advance the kingdom of Christ on earth; such as, for the education of children, the circulation of the Bible, the support of missions, etc. etc. It is a remarkable fact, that whereas fifteen years ago the whole amount of annual subscriptions for such purposes did not amount to more than 50,000l., they now exceed 500,000l. Together with this, true piety also has increased to avast extent—We may well therefore regard our whole country as "a field, that is white already to harvest."

Let us now extend our views to,

II. The encouragement we have to make a suitable improvement of them.

All should labor, to the utmost of their power, to advance the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom. And to this we have equal encouragement,

1. In the event of good success.

The work of God is here compared to a harvest, which a successful preacher may be said to reap. A man who reaps his field considers himself well repaid for his labor, because he lays up in his barns wealth which will support him through the year. But how much better is the Christian Minister repaid! for he "gathers fruit unto life eternal." What he reaps, will be laid up in the granary of Heaven, and will itself endure through eternal ages; yes, and endure also as "his joy and crown of rejoicing" for evermore. Were he to gather but one sheaf of corn, he would be richly recompensed for a whole life of labor: but if his efforts be crowned with a larger measure of success, he will have proportionable ground for joy and gratitude to all eternity.

2. In the event of ill success.

The man who sows his field may be disappointed in a variety of ways: an untoward season may destroy his crop; or an invading enemy deprive him of it; or death may arrest him before it is reaped. But the spiritual "sower shall rejoice together with the reaper," and have "his own reward according to his own labor." "The Lord of the harvest will not suffer any one of his laborers to work for nothing. In the very work itself he shall find a rich reward; and "though Israel be not gathered, yet shall he who sought their welfare be glorious before the Lord." Hosea prophesied for seventy years, and Isaiah fifty; and both of them had reason to complain, "Who has believed our report?" But are they therefore without a recompense? No, What "they sowed, we reap: they labored, and we have entered into their labors." And, as they shall participate our joy, so shall we the joy of those who shall reap what we have sown.

Let us then,

1. Be on our watch, to do all the good we can.

Our blessed Lord was sitting weary by a well-side: yet, when an opportunity afforded itself of instructing the Samaritan woman, he embraced it, accounting it "his meat to do the will of him that sent him." And who would have thought that such effects should flow from that single conversation? So it may be with us. We make many attempts apparently in vain: but who can tell what one single act of benevolence may produce? Let the occasion before us encourage us to "be instant in season and out of season," and to "sow both early and late, not knowing which shall prosper," or what blessings may result from an individual effort.

2. Increase our labors as opportunities for labor are increased.

"The field for labor is the world." Heretofore but small portions of it have been open to us; but now men are calling to us from every quarter of the globe, "Come over, and help us!" Let us then extend our labors far and wide: yes, let us make it "our very meat to do the will of God;" having a constant appetite for it, and accounting every day as lost, in which we have not done somewhat for the souls of men. Let the nature of the harvest animate us. Think of immortal souls; and, whether reaped by us or not, yet if reaped by others, at whatever distance of time, in consequence of what we have sowed, reckoned to us as "our joy and crown!" Let us, I say, gird up our loins to this good work; and we shall surely "rejoice, in the day of Christ, that we have not labored in vain, or run in vain."

 

MDCXXII

Conversion of the Samaritans

John 4:41, 42. And many more believed because of his own word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of your saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.

THE conversion of the Gentiles was not an object of our Lord's personal ministrations: "he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Yet there were some particular occasions whereon he testified his regard for them, and gave them pledges of that mercy which was afterwards to be displayed towards them by the ministry of his Apostles. Of this we have an instance in the passage before us. He not only declared his Messiahship to the Samaritan woman whom he met at Jacob's well, but spent two days with the Samaritans in the city of Sychar, and converted numbers of them to the obedience of faith. From the testimony which she gave of him, they entertained high thoughts of his character; but from a personal acquaintance with him they were convinced that he was the Savior of the world. This is the account which they themselves gave of their own experience: and from it we shall take occasion to,

I. Distinguish between the kinds of faith here mentioned.

We ought to seek clear views of religion in general, but especially of its fundamental points. Now there is no subject more important, nor any about which more mistaken notions are entertained, than the nature of saving faith. But the distinction is here drawn for us with great accuracy.

The faith which the Samaritans first exercised was founded on mere report.

The woman had testified to them that Jesus had told 1 the secrets of her heart, even such as could be known only to the Most High God: and had appealed to them whether this was not a convincing evidence that he was the long-expected Messiah. Her argument was plain and conclusive: and, as she had no motive for deceiving them, they believed her report of him, and acknowledged the justness of her conclusion.

We do not mean to disparage this kind of faith: it was good as far as it went; and it was productive of solid benefit to the persons who possessed it, inasmuch as it removed all their prejudices, and disposed them to form a more accurate judgment for themselves. But still we cannot regard this faith in any other light than as a speculative assent, grounded upon human testimony. It seems to have been not unlike to that which is so common among ourselves, which arises from a view of the evidences of our religion. We see that all the ancient types and prophecies were fulfilled in Christ, and that most unquestionable miracles were wrought by him and his Apostles in confirmation of his word; and therefore we say that he is, and must be, the Messiah. Yet those who are most versed in this kind of reasoning, are not always suitably affected with it: their knowledge of Christianity is, in many cases, merely speculative, residing in their heads, but never descending into their hearts, nor influencing their lives. We cannot therefore consider this as a saving faith: being unproductive of good works, it is dead; and, if carried no further, will leave the possessor of it in the state of those unhappy spirits, of whom it is said, "They believe, and tremble."

The faith to which they afterwards attained, was founded on their own experience.

During the two days that our blessed Lord stayed among them, they heard him discourse on the things relating to his kingdom. They perceived that "he spoke as never man spoke;" and "his word was with power." As it had before probed the heart of the woman at the well, so it searched their hearts, and disclosed to them all their hidden abominations. It showed them, that they themselves were lost, yes, that the whole world also was in a perishing condition; and that He was sent of God on purpose to deliver them. From the correspondence which they saw between the character he sustained and the necessities they felt, they were assured "that he was the Christ, the Savior of the world," and they determined to rely on him, as their Savior, and their Redeemer.

Now this was saving faith: it brought them fully to Christ for the ends for which he was sent into the world: "With their hearts they believed on him unto righteousness: and with their mouths they made confession unto salvation." This faith was very different from that which they first exercised: it was more distinct, more assured, more influential: they had more full and complete views of the objects of Christ's mission—they "had within themselves a witness" of the suitableness and sufficiency of his salvation—and they instantly became his open and avowed Disciples, in spite of all their former prejudices, and the prejudices of all around them.

Certainly we must look for good works as fruits and evidences of this faith: but this faith, supposing it to be sincere, will assuredly issue in salvation.

We proceed to notice,

II. The importance of making this distinction.

Two facts will serve to illustrate this:

1. For want of distinguishing aright, many sincere persons are distressed.

The nature of saving faith has, as might well be expected, been a subject of controversy in the Christian world: and it is to be lamented, that, while some have placed the standard too low, others have raised it too high. A full assurance of our own personal acceptance with God has been supposed by many to be an essential part of true faith: and hence multitudes who have really "fled to Christ for refuge as to the hope set before them," are disquieted from day to day, because they do not feel in themselves that assurance. But God does not require us to believe more than he himself has revealed: and where has he revealed that any particular individual among us is in a state of salvation? or where has he said that the belief of our own personal interest in Christ is necessary in order to our obtaining an interest in him? Indeed, such a declaration would be absurd: it would be a contradiction in terms: it would require us to believe that a thing does exist, in order that it may exist; which is as absurd, as to believe that we are well, in order that we may be well; or that we are in Heaven, in order that we may be in Heaven. A thing must exist, before we can know that it exists; and therefore the knowledge of our acceptance with God cannot precede that acceptance; much less can it be necessary in order to our acceptance with him. As for straining metaphorical expressions in order to found doctrines upon them, it is injudicious in the extreme. It is far better to examine what that faith was, which was exercised by the saints of old, and which they found effectual to their salvation: and if we do that, we shall always find, that the faith by which they were saved, was a faith of affiance, and not that which is generally (but improperly) called a faith of assurance. Assurance is necessary, so far as it relates to Christ's ability and willingness to save us; but it is not necessary in relation to our own personal acceptance with him: this is desirable, no doubt, and a great source of comfort to the person who possesses it: but they who do not possess it, may yet be in a state of salvation, and enjoy much consolation in the hope that they shall not finally be cast out.

Is there any one then among us under such circumstances; let him be of good courage, and in humble confidence cast himself upon the mercy of a reconciled God, If he perish at the foot of the cross, he will be the first that ever perished there.

2. For want of distinguishing at all, many insincere persons are ruined.

The generality of persons seem to have no idea of any faith beyond that of a mere assent to certain propositions: and, if they have never set themselves to oppose Christianity, they take for granted that they are believers. They were born in a Christian land, and have been educated in the Christian faith, and therefore they suppose that all is well. If they are licentious in their conduct, they will allow perhaps that they are deficient in their morals; yet they never suspect that they are materially wrong in their faith. But let them look around, and see what is the fruit of such faith as they possess: do they find it productive of any such effects as resulted from the faith of the first Christians? No, it leaves the possessors of it under the influence of the world, the flesh, and the devil, as much as the heathens themselves. How then can this be saving faith, of which it is said, It "purifies the heart," and "overcomes the world?" Yet under this delusion the generality of Christians both live and die—Is it not important then that they should be told, that "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh?" Surely, whatever such persons may imagine, if ever they be brought to a saving knowledge of Christ, they will say, Now we believe in Christ, not because we have been told by our Parents that Christianity is true, but because we have heard him ourselves speaking to us in his word, and have felt that he is exactly such a Savior as our necessities require.

Address.

1. Let us not deceive ourselves by resting in a spurious and inefficient faith.

Paul exhorts us to "examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith." And truly, when we see what little influence our faith has had upon us in times past, we may well suspect that it has not been of a right kind—If we continue in our delusion any longer, our error may soon be past a remedy.

2. If enlightened ourselves, let us endeavor to enlighten others.

Some may say, The vileness of my character, or the weakness of my capacity, render it unfit for me to attempt the instruction of others. But, if we only consider what honor God put upon this vile adulteress, in making her the instrument of drawing multitudes to Christ, we shall see that no one need be discouraged. An angel could be no more to us than what God made him: and God is pleased to use the weakest instruments, in order that "the excellency of the power may appear to be of him." Let us therefore, each in his place and station, "declare what the Lord has done for our souls;" and invite others to "come and taste how gracious the Lord is."

 

MDCXXIII

The Nobleman's Son Cured

John 4:49–51. The nobleman says unto him, Sir, come down before my child die. Jesus says unto him, Go your way; your son lives. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Your son lives.

IF the rebukes of God be in one view tokens of his displeasure, they certainly in another view are expressions of his regard, and have frequently been forerunners of peculiar mercy. The Canaanite woman was frowned upon, as it were, by our Lord, as utterly unworthy to taste the children's bread; yet was immediately afterwards admitted to a participation of it. Thus the nobleman, who now addressed him, received a reprimand for his backwardness to believe; but was nevertheless favored instantly with an answer suited to his wish.

The circumstances related in the text lead us to observe,

I. That weak and strong faith differ widely in their effects.

This is particularly discoverable in the history before us.

The nobleman's faith, though weak, induced him to take a considerable journey that he might find Jesus, and brought him to apply to Jesus with much humility and respect. Yet he could not refrain from limiting the power of Jesus, and prescribing to him the time and manner in which his request should be granted. And because his petition was not granted at first, he grew impatient, and intimated his apprehensions, that, if the relief were not instantly afforded, it would soon be too late even for Jesus himself to interfere. But when his faith was strengthened by the word and Spirit of Christ, the tumult in his mind subsided, the irritation yielded to composure, and his apprehensions were banished by a firm expectation that the promised blessing should be given. Though he saw no change with his eyes, yet he doubted not but that a change had taken place; and he left it to Jesus to accomplish his own word in his own way.

Such are the various effects produced in us also by a similar cause.

The weakest faith, if truly sincere, will bring us to Jesus with reverence and humility; and will make us urgent with him to bestow upon us his benefits. Nor shall we regard any trouble in seeking him, provided we at last obtain the desired blessings: but if our "hope be deferred, it will make our heart sick." We shall become impatient, if the pardon which we seek be not instantly sealed upon our consciences, or the victory we solicit be suspended for a while in dubious conflict. We shall be ready to dictate to Jesus both the time and manner of his interference, and to limit his powers according to our own narrow apprehensions of them. When our faith is strengthened, we shall rest more simply on his declarations and promises. We shall not, like Zachariah, want a sign to confirm them, or, like Rebekah, use sinful means of hastening their accomplishment. We shall be willing to let him work in his own way. Though we see not his word yet accomplished, nor know in what way it shall be fulfilled, yet we shall be satisfied, and content to wait until he shall clear up to us what is dark and intricate. Our expectation will be patient, and our confidence in him assured. Like Abraham, we shall not stagger at his promises, but give him the glory of his faithfulness and omnipotence.

Nor does God fail to distinguish these different degrees of faith by different tokens of his approbation. This will appear while we observe,

II. The more we exercise faith, the more evidence of its efficacy and acceptance will God grant unto us.

The experience of the nobleman well illustrates this truth.

His faith while it was yet weak, prevailed for the obtaining of the mercy he desired. Jesus kindly overlooked his impatience, and granted him even more than he had asked. This was a rich reward of faith. But when the nobleman returned home in full expectation of finding everything true which Jesus had declared, his faith received a yet stronger confirmation from the account which the servants gave him; and the more minutely he inquired into the circumstances of his son's recovery, the more fully was he convinced that it had been effected by the invisible agency of the Lord Jesus. By this was his faith yet more abundantly confirmed, insomuch that both he and all his family became Disciples of Jesus.

The same may be traced in the experience of all believers.

The smallest degree of true faith will surely bring them the pardon of their sins, and whatever is absolutely needful for their salvation. "If their faith be only as a grain of mustard-seed, it shall remove mountains," but, if they be strong in faith, they shall see the glory of God in a far more conspicuous manner. They may not indeed immediately see God, as it were, in the act of working; but they shall see frequent reason to exclaim, "What has God wrought!" When they come to compare events with the promises of God, they will be constrained to acknowledge and adore his good providence. They will see how indebted they have been to his gracious interposition for many deliverances from danger, supports in trouble, and victories in their spiritual warfare. They may indeed, like Joshua himself, be so stumbled for a moment by some dark dispensation, that they shall almost doubt whether they have not been under a delusion. But like him, they shall be enabled to look back for a series of years, to recount the mercies of the Lord, and to bear testimony to his unalterable truth and faithfulness. Upon a review of their lives, they shall have as clear evidences of a divine interposition in their favor, as if they had seen a miracle wrought before their eyes. Nor shall they hesitate to declare with the holy Apostle, "He who has wrought us to the self-same thing is God."

To improve this subject, we would suggest some suitable advice.

1. Let all personal or domestic troubles lead us to Jesus.

"We are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." None are exempt from it in this valley of tears. The nobleman is as much exposed to it as the beggar; but God sends it for good. He sends us adversity that we may be led to consideration; and many have found cause to bless him for their troubles. Many must say, "Before I was afflicted I went astray;" "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." "Hear then the rod, and him that has appointed it." Its voice to us is, "Seek you the Lord while he maybe found;" "turn you, turn you, why will you die." Improve afflictions thus, and you will be thankful for them to all eternity. What a mercy in the issue did the sickness of the nobleman's son prove both to the nobleman and all his family! And most assuredly, if your troubles should prove the means of bringing you to an acquaintance with Jesus, and an experience of his grace, you will never regret the means by which the mercy was conferred upon you.

2. Let us never prescribe to Jesus, or limit the power of his grace.

The Lord knows best how to deal with his people. He went to the Centurion's house because he was both humble and believing; but refused to go to the nobleman's, that he might more effectually correct his pride and unbelief. Thus he may pursue various methods with us; but he will act in all things with consummate wisdom. He will "abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence." Let us then commit ourselves to him, saying, when you will, and what you will, and as you will. In this way we shall have our minds composed, and our thoughts established. And though he may lead us, as he did the Israelites, by a very tedious and circuitous path, yet we shall find at last that it was the "right way."

3. Let every fresh discovery of his mercy make us more solicitous to bring others to him.

The nobleman doubtless related to his family all that Jesus had spoken to him; and was instrumental in bringing all his family to believe in him. And shall not we make this improvement of his mercies given to us? Shall we not exhort those, over whom we have influence, to trust in his word? Surely if we express a concern for their bodily welfare, we should be no less solicitous for the salvation of their souls. And if we have found the benefit of believing in him ourselves, we should labor that all around us may be partakers of that benefit. By telling of his goodness we shall pay him that tribute which he expects at our hands, and anticipate that employment in which we hope to be occupied to all eternity.

 

MDCXXIV

The Man Healed at the Pool of Bethesda

John 5:14. Afterward Jesus finds him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, you are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto you.

MOST men will make good resolutions in a season of affliction; but few carry them into execution when they have obtained deliverance. They, however, to whom troubles are sanctified will remember the vows that are upon them. They will repair as soon as possible, not to houses of dissipation or amusement, but to "the temple" of God; and, while others are only hardened by their mercies, these will be favored with fresh manifestations of God's love. The man whom our Lord addressed in the text, experienced this. When he was returning thanks for the cure he had received in his body, Jesus instructed him for the good of his soul. We shall consider,

I. The mercy given to him.

Bethesda was a pool that possessed very singular qualities.

The name Bethesda signifies a house of mercy. The pool so called had the property of healing all manner of disorders: its healing operations, however, were confined to certain seasons; they depended also on the agency of a superior power, and were limited to the first person that went into it after its waters were agitated by an angel. Multitudes of diseased persons constantly attended there; and five porches were built for their accommodation. When that healing power was first given to it cannot be ascertained; probably God had but a few years before endued it with those qualities, in order to prepare the people for their Messiah, and to typify his works.

In the porches around this pool an impotent man had long waited in vain.

He had labored under an infirmity thirty-eight years, and had long attended there in hopes of a cure; but he had no friend to help him with sufficient speed; nor had the people charity enough to let him take his turn. Every one consulted his own good in preference to his; and thus his efforts were daily frustrated, and his hopes continually deferred.

But Jesus seeing him, wrought a miracle in his favor.

Jesus needed no solicitations to excite his pity. Though unasked, he offered the man effectual relief. Little indeed did the man understand the import of our Lord's question; but Jesus uttered the irresistible command, and instantly was health restored to this diseased man; yes, he, who but the moment before could not get into the pool for want of help, now easily took up his bed and walked: nor was he intimidated by those who accused him of violating the Sabbath. He rightly judged that the person who had power to heal him thus miraculously, had also authority to direct his conduct.

For a short season the man knew not the name of his benefactor, but soon after enjoyed an interview with him in the temple. On this occasion the Evangelist relates,

II. The admonition given him.

It was sin which had brought this infirmity upon him.

God often punishes transgressors even in this life. This was extremely common under the Jewish economy; nor are there wanting instances under the Christian dispensation. If we could dive into the secrets of the Most High, it is probable we should trace many of our troubles to sin as their proper source.

Nevertheless this did not preclude the exercise of mercy towards him.

Jesus was full of compassion even to the most unworthy. He often selected such to be the chief objects of his mercy. Indeed, the displaying of his sovereignty, and grace, is a principal end of all his dispensations.

But he solemnly cautioned him against sin in future.

Though Jesus pities sinners, he abhors their sin; nor will he accept the persons of those who live in it. He reminded the man of the deliverance he had experienced, and guarded him against the cause of his past calamities. This admonition too he enforced with a most weighty argument. The years of misery that the cripple had endured were nothing in comparison of hell-torments: these will hereafter be the recompense of sin; nor will any feel them so bitterly as backsliders and apostates.

To make a right improvement of these events; we must yet further consider,

III. The instruction to be derived from both.

1. To us divine ordinances are what the pool of Bethesda was to the Jews.

Here, my brethren, is healing for every disorder of the soul—But the waters have no healing virtue in themselves: "If Paul plant, or Apollos water, it is God alone that can give the increase"—But Jesus is present here, as he has said, "Wherever two or three are met together, there am I in the midst of them." And his address to every individual among us is, "Will you be made whole?" Nor should any one have reason to complain that others run away with the blessing, provided that he himself were really desirous to obtain it. It is not the most active, but the most humble, that shall succeed here. O that we were all as sensible of our wants, and as anxious to obtain relief, as were the people that frequented that pool! Truly, not one should depart without obtaining the desired benefit. Dear brethren, you are too apt to be satisfied with attending upon ordinances, and to think that the mere attendance is sufficient, though you reap no solid benefit from them. But it is not in this way that you can hope to receive any blessing from the Lord. You must be sensible of your urgent and pressing wants: you must come to God's house, expecting to receive benefit to your souls: you must implore of him to give effect to his word, and so to accompany it with his blessing that it may prove "the power of God to your salvation." Then shall you find "the word quick and powerful" as in the days of old; and "being renewed in the spirit of your minds," become happy monuments of God's power and grace to all around you.

2. If we have derived benefit from them, we must manifest it by a holy and consistent walk.

Every man that has received the grace of God in truth, will revolt at the idea of continuing in sin, as the Apostle did; "Shall I continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall I who am dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Nor must we be unwilling to listen to the motive suggested by our Lord to this favored man; "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto you." It is quite a mistake to imagine that a fear of God's judgments is legal It is often inculcated both in the Old Testament and the New. And, if Paul himself cherished this principle in his bosom as an incentive to watchfulness, who are we, that we should conceive it to be unworthy of a place in our hearts? Doubtless "the love of Christ is to influence" us in the first place: but still we are never to forget our liability to fall; since it is expressly said, "Be not high-minded, but fear;" and, "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." In a word, "the grace of God that brings salvation to us, teaches us to deny sin of every kind, and to live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world," and therefore, if, like this impotent man, we have received healing of the Lord, let us glorify him by a life of open, resolute, and unreserved obedience. And if the world raise a clamor against us, let it suffice us to reply, 'We are following the commands of our heavenly Benefactor.'

 

MDCXXV

Christ's Equality with the Father

John 5:17, 18. Jesus answered them, My Father works hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

THE whole Christian world is much indebted to the zeal of the blind, and bigoted, and persecuting Jews in our Lord's day; since they elicited many important truths which might not otherwise have been brought to light. For instance, when they accused our blessed Lord of violating the Sabbath-day, they led him to mention with approbation David's eating of the shew-bread in a case of extreme necessity (an act which we could not otherwise have ventured to justify); and to expound as a general vindication of such conduct, that declaration of the prophet, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." Here a similar accusation leads him to vindicate his own conduct on still higher principles; namely, his own equality with God the Father, and his right to dispense with laws instituted only for the benefit of man. True, this brought upon him still severer censure from his opponents, who judged him worthy of death for so arrogant and impious a claim. But they should have seen, from the miracle which he wrought, that he was fully authorized to do what he had done, and that he was no other person than he professed himself to be.

To open this subject to you, I will show,

I. How far the Jews were right in their interpretation of our Lord's words.

The expression which our Lord had used was, doubtless, exceeding strong.

He called God his Father, evidently in a more emphatic and appropriate sense than any mere man could presume to do. The Jews at large regarded "God as their Father," but no one had ever dared to arrogate to himself so near and peculiar a relation to God as our Lord did on this occasion. The very argument he used showed in what sense he intended his words to be taken: "My Father works hitherto, and I work." My Father continues all his works of providence on the Sabbath-days, as well as on any other day: and I, by reason of my relation to him, possess the same right, and am free therefore from all imputation of blame in exercising it. This, I say, is the force of our Savior's words; and if they be not so understood, they afford no vindication of himself whatever: and

The Jews were right in their interpretation of them.

They marked the emphatic manner in which Jesus had claimed that high and peculiar relation to the Father: they marked also the force of the argument founded on that relation: and they justly said, that he did arrogate to himself equality with God.

But they were wrong, exceeding wrong, in so hastily judging him a blasphemer. They, if they could not believe his words, had a vast abundance of works from which to judge, and which bore ample testimony to the truth of his assertions. In their hasty judgment, then, they were wrong; but in their interpretation of his words they were right: for our blessed Lord, instead of correcting their views as erroneous, confirmed them all as just and true. He proceeded to declare, that neither his Father nor himself acted apart from the other: that, on the contrary, there was a perfect unity of mind, and will, and purpose, and operation between them; nothing being done by the Father, but it was done by the Son likewise; that all men might honor the Son even as they honored the Father; and that, in fact, they who did not thus honor the Son did not truly honor the Father who had sent him.

From hence we may see,

II. What construction we must put upon them.

If the Jews were right in their construction of our Lord's assertion, then we must regard his words,

1. As an avowal of his own proper divinity.

When, on another occasion, our Lord had said, "I and my Father are one, the Jews took up stones to stone him;" and when our Lord said, "Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of them do you stone me? they answered, For a good work we stone you not; but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God." And truly, if he was not God, they were correct in their judgment. For what should we say if Moses or Paul had used such language, and founded on their relation to the Deity a right, a personal right, to supersede the laws which God himself had instituted? should we not have accounted them guilty of blasphemy? Then so was Christ, if he was no more than man. But, in fact, he spoke only what all the prophets had long since declared concerning him. "He, though a child born, and a son given, was the Mighty God;" "Jehovah's fellow," "Jehovah our Righteousness." And to the same effect all his holy Apostles also testify respecting him. Did the Father create, and does he also uphold, the world? This is true of the Son likewise; as Paul expressly asserts: "For by him were all things created that are in Heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist." Again it is said, that "God has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things; by whom also he has made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, upholds all things by the word of his power." What a confirmation is here of those words of our Lord, "My Father works hitherto, and I work!" What a confirmation, too, of the construction put upon them by the Jews, "that he made himself equal with God!" Yes, truly, "being in the form of God, even in his incarnate state he thought it not robbery to be equal with God," and the very words which were used by him on this occasion must be considered as an open avowal, on his part, that he was "God manifest in the flesh," even "God over all, blessed for evermore."

2. As a warrant to us to rely upon him for all that we stand in need of.

"In him," as we have said, "dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." "In him, too, as Mediator, there is all fullness treasured ups," that "out of his fullness all his people should receive." He is constituted "Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all." Let us only see what he did, when on earth, to the bodies of men: that he now does to their souls—Yes, pardon, and peace, and holiness, and glory, would he at this instant confer on us, if we would but seek them at his hands. Was he incessant in his labors, rendering even the Sabbath-day subservient to his great work? So will he now impart to our souls continually, and to the full extent of our necessities: and not only will he not intermit his labors on the Sabbath-day, but he will rather pursue them with redoubled energy on that holy day, sanctifying, rather than profaning, it by that blessed employment. In all this he will show himself equal with the Father. He has said "You believe in God; believe also in me ." And "every soul that believes in him shall most assuredly be justified from all things," and "be saved by him with an everlasting salvation."

From hence then learn,

1. To dismiss prejudice from your minds.

The Jews were blinded by prejudice, and therefore could see nothing in the miracles of our Lord to justify their affiance in him. Had they been candid, and open to conviction, what blessings might they not have enjoyed! But they turned his every word and work into an occasion of offence, and augmented their own eternal condemnation by the very means used for their salvation. And thus it is that prejudice works at this day. Multitudes are so offended at something which they account wrong, that they have neither eyes nor ears for those things which are of the greatest possible importance to their souls. A departure from some outward observance, which they venerate, shall swallow up all the best qualities that the holiest of men can possess, all the best actions that he can perform, and all the best instructions he can give. Only think, my beloved brethren, what the Jews lost on this occasion; and how different their condition now is, in the eternal world, from what it might have been if they had obeyed the counsels of our Lord; and you will see, that the advice I now give you is worthy of your deepest attention.

2. To exercise a simple faith in Christ.

In the days of his flesh, he inquired of persons who solicited his help, whether they believed him able to confer on them the desired blessing: and so he now says to every one among you, "According to your faith be it unto you." O what would he not do for us, if only we would call upon him? Truly, if every one of us could flock around him, importuning mercy for our souls, "virtue at this very instant should go forth from him, to heal us all." Think you, brethren, that he is less able or less willing now to hear us, than he was in the days of his flesh? No, indeed: even "a touch of the hem of his garment" should be sufficient for the effecting all that our necessities require.

 

MDCXXVI

Christ's Vindication of His Own Divine Character

John 5:21–23. As the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them; even so the Son quickens whom he will. For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent him.

AMONG the various beauties by which the Holy Scriptures are distinguished, we cannot but notice the artless simplicity with which the most sublime doctrines are delivered: they are not introduced with studied care, as they would be in human compositions; but arise incidentally, as it were, out of things which have but a remote connection with them. Our blessed Lord had healed an impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, and had bidden him to take up his bed whereon he had lain, and walk away with it. The Jews, instead of glorifying God on the occasion, accused Jesus of violating the Sabbath, and sought to kill him for having wrought this miracle on the Sabbath-day. Our Lord, in vindication of himself, said, that he did no more than what his heavenly Father did; for his Father carried on his works both of providence and grace on the Sabbath, as well as on other days; and that he himself did the same. At this answer the Jews took still greater offence. They saw that Jesus arrogated to himself a peculiar relation to God, even such a relation as was in effect an assumption of equality with God. Hence "they sought the more to kill him," on account of what they conceived to be the summit of impiety and blasphemy. Jesus was now compelled to answer for himself on these grounds: and he told the Jews, that though they were correct in supposing him to claim an equality with God, they were mistaken in imagining that he therefore set up himself against God: on the contrary, there was a perfect union of sentiment and affection, of will and operation, between them; and neither did his Father, nor he, do anything, without the most perfect concurrence and cooperation of the other: and so far was this from interfering with God's honor, that it was purposely arranged in the eternal counsels, in order that God might be honored in the person of his Son: nor would God consider himself as honored by any one, who would not honor him in the precise way which he himself had appointed.

Thus, out of this perverse conduct of the Jews arose an assertion and vindication of the divinity of Christ: they forced him to vindicate his apparent violation of the Sabbath, and then to maintain the ground he had assumed in his vindication of it: and thus we are indebted to their perverseness for one of the clearest and most important statements in all the sacred volume.

Let us now, in discoursing on these assertions of our Lord, consider,

I. The account he gives of his own character.

Had the Jews been mistaken in what they supposed to be the scope of our Lord's assertions, he would have set them right: he would have told them plainly, that he did not intend to claim equality with God. But, instead of intimating that they had misunderstood his meaning, our Lord acknowledged that he did claim an equality with God; and, in confirmation of that claim, he asserted that a Divine authority belonged to him, both essentially, as God, and officially, as Mediator.

1. Essentially, as God.

It is undoubtedly the Divine prerogative to "kill and to make alive," nor is it possible for any creature to restore to life that which is really dead. But the Lord Jesus Christ "quickens whom he will." As the Father had, by the instrumentality of his prophets, raised some to life, so Christ declared, that he would raise some by his own power. The persons, the time, the manner, were altogether at the disposal of his own will, by which alone he would be regulated in the dispensing of his favors. Moreover, he "quickens also the souls of men when dead in trespasses and sins;" and administers this gift also according to his own sovereign will and pleasure.

Would any mere creature have dared to arrogate to himself such a power as this? or would Jesus have given such an answer as this, if he have not designed to maintain his claim to an equality with God?

2. Officially, as Mediator.

When it was determined in the Divine counsels that the Son of God should assume our nature, it was determined also that the government of the universe, and of the Church more especially, should be committed to his hands; and that he should judge the world whom he had redeemed by his blood. This, though primarily belonging, as it were, to the Father, was delegated to the Son, because he had assumed our nature, and because it was expedient that he who had "purchased the Church with his blood" should be empowered in his own person both to reward his friends and punish his enemies. But this office could not be executed by him, if he were not omniscient: he must know, not only every thought, word, and action, of all mankind from the beginning of the world to the end of it, but every possible circumstance that can at all tend to determine the precise quality of each. In a word, to exercise this office, he must be the omniscient God.

Judge then, whether in claiming this office he did not yet further confirm the suspicion of the Jews, that he affected an equality with God. It is not to be conceived, that, if this had not been his design, he would have answered in such a way: for, if he was not really and truly God, the whole tendency of his answer was to mislead their judgment, and to justify their accusations against him as an impious blasphemer.

But, not contented with establishing his equality with the Father, he informs them of,

II. The regard which, in that character, he demands.

Though he affected not the honor that comes of man, yet he could not possibly relinquish the honor which belonged to him both in his personal and official capacity: he could no more absolve the people from their allegiance to him as God, that he could cease to be God. He therefore shows them,

1. The extent of that honor which he requires.

Whatever honor is due unto the Father, that Jesus claims as due unto himself; and he requires "all men" to pay it to him. Is God to be adored on account of his infinite perfections? Is he to be the one great object of our faith and love? Are we to confide in him under all circumstances, to obey him at all events, to delight ourselves in him at all seasons, even though death be threatened as the recompense of our fidelity? Such adoration, such faith, such love, such confidence, such obedience, are the unalienable right of the Lord Jesus: and it is particularly to be observed, that the putting of this honor upon the Lord Jesus was the very end and design of God the Father, when he delegated to the Son the office of governing and judging the world; "He committed all judgment to the Son, that all men might honor the Son, even as they honor the Father."

2. The necessity of paying it to him.

It might be thought sufficient to honor the Father: and so it was while the Father alone was known: but when he had revealed himself in the person of Christ, and "made all his glory to shine in his face;" when "in Christ he had reconciled the world unto himself," and had "treasured up all fullness in Christ," and invested him with "all power in Heaven and earth" for the completion of the great work that had been assigned him; then he demanded, that all men should honor him in the person of Christ: and, if any should refuse so to honor him, he would reject their persons, and abhor their offerings: yes, whatever reverence they might profess towards him, he would deal with them as rebels against his authority, and as despisers of his mercy.

Thus our Lord obviates the great objections which might be supposed to lie against the validity of his claim. It might have been thought, that the Father would be jealous of his own honor, and consider any communication of Divine glory to his Son as an infringement of his own peculiar rights. But, behold! the very contrary is here declared: for, not only is that very communication designed by God, but all honor that is not accompanied with that communication is abhorred by him.

Surely we may see from hence,

1. How defective are the views of the generality.

The religion of the generality is only Judaism divested of its rites and ceremonies. They acknowledge a God, who, they think, has given us commandments; in obeying which we shall secure his favor, and by disobedience to which we shall incur his displeasure. It is true, if you begin to speak of Christ, they will acknowledge all that the Gospel relates concerning him: but they make very little account of him in their religious system. How different are their views from those suggested in the text! There we see, that Christ is the fountain of all spiritual life; and that he dispenses life to men according to his sovereign will and pleasure. There we see, that to honor Christ is the only true way of honoring the Father. There we see, also, what unsearchable riches of consolation are treasured up for the believer; in that the very Person who bought him with his blood, is set over all things both in Heaven and earth; and the very Person who paid that ransom for him, and renewed and sanctified him by his grace, shall judge him in the last day. Ah! what do nominal Christians lose by their ignorance of Christ! Dear brethren, know that Christ is "the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" in God's account; and that, if you would be saved by him, you must make him your "All in all."

2. How defective is the practice of us all.

We have spoken a little of the honor due unto the Father: but if we would have a fuller apprehension of it, let us contemplate the honor that is paid to him in Heaven: let us imagine what are the feelings of all the angelic hosts, and of all the spirits of the just made perfect—Such then should be our views, and such our feelings towards the Lord Jesus Christ. We should begin our Heaven upon earth. True it is, that when we speak of such a state, men will immediately begin to caution you against excess: they will tell you also that such a state would be incompatible with the necessary affairs of life. But where does God caution us against excess in religion, provided our religion be of a right kind? or what are those affairs which could not be conducted, if all men possessed the highest measure of true religion? Were Joseph, David, Daniel, impeded in their temporal duties by their religion? Or is there any one relation of life which will not be filled to more advantage by one who possesses true piety? The true reason why men so decry religion is, that they feel themselves condemned when they behold it exhibited in the conduct of the godly; and the less of such light they behold, the more quiet they hope to be in the prosecution of their evil ways. But we must not regard the cavils of men, or put them in competition with the commands of God. We know full well how all the ransomed of the Lord are occupied in singing praises "to Him that sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb," What forbids then that we should be so occupied now? It is our duty, our interest, and our happiness, to "follow the Lord fully," and I pray God we may also follow him, and delight ourselves in him; that when we are dismissed from the body, and translated to the realms of bliss, we may change our place and our company, but not our employment!

 

MDCXXVII

The Believer's Happy State

John 5:24. Truly, truly, I say unto you, He who hears my word, and believes on Him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

THAT there will be a future judgment, we all know: and that Jesus Christ is appointed to be the Judge, is also generally acknowledged. But what his rule of judgment will be is very imperfectly understood. That our works will be inquired into, and form the ground of decision either against us or in our favor, is admitted on all hands: but that our principles will be scrutinized, and enter most essentially into the consideration of our Judge in determining our eternal state, is far from being generally expected or conceived. Yet that is declared by the Judge himself, even by our blessed Lord, and in the plainest terms. Having told us that "the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son," he adds, "Truly, truly, I say unto you, He who hears my word, and believes on Him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Now, from the manner in which this truth is affirmed, we see at once both the certainty and importance of it: and therefore, with confidence, I will set before you,

I. The character here described.

Of course, our Lord did not mean to say, that all who heard his discourses, but that all who so heard them as to make them the rule of their faith and practice, would be saved. Consider then,

1. What the great subject of our Lord's discourses was.

He represented himself as sent by God the Father to expiate upon the cross the sins of men; and "to bring in an everlasting righteousness," whereby all who should believe in him might be saved.

2. What must of necessity be experienced by all who should receive it aright.

They must feel themselves sinners, deserving of God's wrath and indignation. They must be convinced of the utter impossibility of ever reconciling themselves to God by any works of their own. They must see Christ to be the true Messiah, sent by God to be the Savior of the world. To him they must apply themselves, and to God the Father through him; having no hope but in his blood and righteousness, nor any plea whatever but his obedience unto death. In the daily habit of their minds they must come to God by him with deep humiliation and with fervent prayer; and must consecrate themselves to God as his obedient servants, determined to follow, without hesitation or reserve, his revealed will.

Such, in few words, is the character described.

We notice,

II. The blessedness connected with it.

This is set forth as it exists,

1. In prospect.

"Never" shall a person of this character "come into condemnation." However much he may have provoked the Divine displeasure in former times, he now enjoys "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." However God's anger may have waxed hot against him at a former period, "it is turned away from him now," and all "his iniquities are cast into the very depths of the sea." He has nothing to fear. Being "found in Christ," "there is no condemnation to him," on the contrary, he is "presented faultless before God," and "stands before him without spot or blemish."

2. In possession.

"He" already "has eternal life," both in title and in actual possession. He can claim eternal life, as given to him by covenant and by oath. Numberless are the promises made to those who "lay hold on God's covenant;" and he may confidently rest upon them, expecting every one of them to be fulfilled in its season: for "it is an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure," and sooner should Heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or tittle of it should ever fail.

But it is not a mere title to it that he possesses; for it is already begun in his soul. He has actually experienced, so far as it respects his soul, a transition similar to that which will hereafter take place in reference to the body. He once lay, as it were, in the grave, altogether "dead in trespasses and sins," but now "he has passed from death unto life." A new principle of life has been infused into him; so that he has new views, new desires, new pursuits, and new habits: and is altogether "a new creature in Christ Jesus." "He lives no longer to himself, but unto him who died for him, and rose again."

The whole of this subject being so plain and obvious, I have not judged it necessary to enter very fully into it in a way of discussion, that I may have the more time to improve it in a way of application.

Two things, then, I earnestly request of you, my beloved brethren:

1. Inquire carefully into the state of your souls before God.

Inquire whether, like Mary, you are sitting at the feet of Jesus, and receiving with obedient regard his every word. Say whether his written word be your daily study and delight; and whether you diligently apply to yourselves his preached word, for the correcting of every sinful habit, and for advancing the life of God within you.

Inquire whether, in obedience to his word, you are relying solely upon him, and coming to the Father through him, and pleading his merits and mediation as the only grounds of your hope.

Carry your inquiry yet further; and see whether your transition from death to life be so clear and manifest, that it admits not of any reasonable doubt. Are you "crucified with Christ" to all the vanities of this world? and are you "living entirely by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," "receiving everything out of his fullness," and improving everything to his glory?

If these things be indeed your daily experience, then is all the blessedness annexed to such a state your assured portion. But consider, I pray you, the sad alternative. If these things be in you, "you shall not come into condemnation," but if you have only the appearance of them, and not the reality, then does condemnation await you at your departure hence; yes, our blessed Lord expressly tells you, that "you are condemned already, and that the wrath of God abides on you." What a fearful thought is this! How can you bear to live in such a state, or endure even to have your state a matter of doubt or suspense? If it were at an earthly tribunal only that condemnation awaited you, it were a tremendous prospect: but to be condemned by the Judge of quick and dead, and be sentenced by him to everlasting misery, is so terrible, that I wonder the apprehension of it does not utterly overwhelm you. My heart's desire and prayer to God for you, brethren, is, that not one of you may be ever subjected to such a doom as this.

2. Pursue with all earnestness the blessedness that has now been set before you.

Surely it is worth seeking for, and will richly repay all that you can either do or suffer to obtain it. Were you urged to commence a life of suffering, such as the devotees of idols inflict upon themselves, you might well undertake the painful task, and submit to all that could be inflicted on you. But we call you to nothing of this kind. We invite you only to come to Christ, and to "hear his word, and to believe in the Father who has sent him," and shall this be deemed hard? Even in this present life, the blessedness of having a title to Heaven, and the very life of Heaven begun in your souls, would richly repay you: how much more, then, will all the glory and felicity of God himself, so far as a creature can enjoy it, recompense your labors? Be in earnest, brethren. There is nothing under Heaven worth seeking after in comparison of this. Let "the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom," and in dependence on it, go to the Father, and "lay hold upon him," and remind him of his covenant: yes, take all "his exceeding great and precious promises," and plead them before him: and see whether it shall be in vain to call upon God. No, indeed: He will be merciful unto you: he will seal a sense of his pardoning love upon your soul; and make himself over to you as your God and portion forever. Call to mind the assurance given you in my text: "Truly, truly, I say unto you." Thus shall it be done to the believing soul. What more can you want to comfort and encourage you? Only come to God in his appointed way, and all this blessedness shall be yours.

 

MDCXXVIII

The Resurrection

John 5:28, 29. The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

FROM the resurrection of Christ we may infer, that we ourselves also shall rise from the dead. Indeed, he is called "the first-fruits of them that slept;" and therefore we may expect that there will be a complete harvest in due time. To this effect also we are informed in the words before us: from which we shall be naturally led to consider,

I. The certainty of the resurrection.

By many it has been "thought incredible that God should raise the dead." But "their error proceeds from not knowing the Scriptures, or the power of God." Consider then,

1. What the Scriptures speak concerning it.

They have recorded many instances wherein the dead have been raised—Even in the Old Testament there are not wanting many strong intimations of it—and in the New, it is declared in every paged.

2. The power of God to effect it.

See what God has done: look at the whole creation; and then ask, Whether He who formed the universe out of nothing, cannot as easily re-unite our scattered atoms (whatever changes then may have undergone), and restore to every one his own body? Yes; it was the voice of Jesus that spoke the universe into existence; and that same voice will call forth into renewed existence all that are moldered in their graves. See, moreover, what our God is doing. We forbear to notice the succession of day and night, and summer and winter; or the reviving of birds and insects after long intervals of suspended animation. We call your attention rather to the changes wrought upon the seed that is cast into the earth: it dies, and rises again, in appearance different, in reality the same. What more striking image of the resurrection could be presented before our eyes? Surely in this we have a pattern of the change that shall be accomplished in us at the last day; and a pledge that "our bodies, which are sown in corruption, weakness, and dishonor, shall be raised in incorruption, power, and glory."

As no doubt can remain upon our minds respecting the certainty of the resurrection, let us next consider,

II. The issue of it.

There will be an immense difference between the states of different men.

Who can conceive all that is implied in "a resurrection to life?" If in some respects we may borrow images from the present life in order to illustrate it, in other respects that new and heavenly life will form a perfect contrast to all that we now experience. It is true, that all the faculties of our bodies shall be employed in the service of our God: but it is also true, that they shall never clog the soul in its operations; their capacities shall be exceedingly enlarged; they shall never be subject to weariness or want of any kind; they shall be as full of activity and blessedness as the soul itself.

On the other hand, Who shall declare what is the full import of "a resurrection to damnation?" We are shocked at the very sound of the word "damnation," how much more should we be so, if we knew all that is comprehended in it! It is in vain to attempt to describe the anguish which the body shall endure in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. But we are persuaded that the soul will bitterly bewail the necessity it is under of being re-united to that body, which once, instead of governing it aright, it pampered and obeyed—And its misery will be fearfully augmented by the increased capacity of anguish which it will derive from its union with the body.

This difference will correspond with, and be founded on, their moral characters.

The Scriptures uniformly declare the connection that exists between our present conduct and our future state. Nor need we be afraid of stating the truth precisely in the same manner, provided we bear in mind what is implied "in doing good, and doing evil." To do good is, to serve God cheerfully and without reserve. Now the very first "commandment of God is, that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ." This at once lays the axe to the root of all self-righteousness; and necessitates us to look unto Christ both for righteousness and strength. And we do not hesitate to say, that all who serve God in conformity with this fundamental principle, shall have a resurrection to life.

If, on the contrary, we "do evil," neglecting this adorable Savior, and living to ourselves rather than to him, we shall certainly "come forth to everlasting shame and contempt."

Each of these truths is so firmly asserted in the Scriptures, that no doubt of them can be entertained. We want only to have them brought home with more feeling to our hearts.

Address.

Consider for which of these states you are preparing. You may delay, under the idea that the time will never come: but "the hour is coming," as fast as the wings of time can bring it forward. Let not your preparation for it be deferred: for life is uncertain; and as death finds you, so will judgment find you. If you live and die obedient followers of Christ, you will be happy. If you rely not on him, or devote not yourselves unreservedly to him, it will not be in the power of God himself to save you: for "he cannot deny himself;" and he has expressly said, that all such persons shall have "a resurrection to damnation."

 

MDCXXIX

John Baptist's Character

John 5:35. He was a burning and a shining light.

IT might well be expected that the advent of the Messiah should be marked by such concurrent circumstances, as should carry conviction, to every dispassionate mind, that the person assuming that character was indeed the person predicted by Moses and the prophets. Accordingly we find, that there was a person sent as the forerunner of our blessed Lord, to prepare his way, and to bear witness to him. This person was John the Baptist, himself a most extraordinary man; so extraordinary, that the Jewish rulers doubted whether he was not the Messiah: but he disclaimed all pretensions to that honor; and rested satisfied with executing the office which had been assigned him. To this man's testimony our blessed Lord appealed; at the same time testifying respecting him, that "he was a burning and a shining light."

In confirmation of this assertion respecting John, I will,

I. Point out the peculiar excellencies of his character.

Of course I cannot enter into all the parts of his character: I will content myself with specifying three things which pre-eminently distinguished him:

1. The clearness of his knowledge.

In this he excelled all who went before him. Many prophets had spoken plainly of Christ, declaring both his sufferings, and the glory that should follow them. But they spoke of Christ at a distance of several hundreds of years, and understood not the prophecies which they were inspired to record. But John pointed out the Messiah himself, and directed the people to Jesus, as "that Lamb of God, who, by the sacrifice of himself, should take away the sins of the world." In this act, not only was the typical nature of the Mosaic offerings distinctly recognized; but the Lord Jesus Christ was made known as fulfilling in his own person what had been so long shadowed forth in the daily sacrifices. Thus did he "give the knowledge of salvation to the people for the remission of their sins," a knowledge which pre-eminently exalted John above all the prophets that had gone before him.

2. The ardor of his zeal.

The first thirty years of his life he spent in retirement, and in the closest walk with God. And, when he entered on his office as the Messiah's harbinger, he came in the most self-denying way, "having his clothing of camel's hair, and a leathern belt about his loins; while his meat was locusts and wild honey." As to the manner in which he executed his office, nothing could exceed his fidelity. To all persons, of whatever rank, he preached with undaunted boldness; and declared, as far as he was able, the whole counsel of God. When many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to his baptism, he, well knowing their hypocrisy, addressed them in these animated and pungent strains: "O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance. And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." Even before Herod himself did he manifest the same undaunted courage; telling him plainly, that "it was not lawful for him to live in an incestuous commerce with his brother Philip's wife;" and exhorting him without delay to put her away. He well knew at what peril he exercised this fidelity: but no personal consideration could induce him to withhold, or modify, this beneficial counsel. Herein, then, he approved himself to be a prophet indeed, and rendered himself a pattern for ministers in all ages.

3. The holiness of his life.

"He was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." And so holily did he demean himself, that Herod could not but reverence and stand in awe of him, and in many instances, comply with his admonitions. In the whole of his ministrations his attention was particularly turned to the advancement of practical religion; enforcing upon all those peculiar duties which their situation called for, or which their peculiar circumstances tempted them to neglect. Those who were under good impressions from his ministry, consulted him, as might be expected, what they should do in order to evince the efficacy of the principles they had imbibed from him. "When some asked him, What shall we do? He answered, He who has two coats, let him impart to him that has none: and he who has meat, let him do likewise." When publicans (I. e. tax-gatherers) made the same inquiry, to them he said, "Exact no more than that which is appointed you." And when soldiers requested the same information, he said, "Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages." Thus he showed how anxious be was that all should bring religion into their daily practice; not suffering it to evaporate in mere sentiments and professions, but carrying it into effect, in the whole of their life and conversation.

Having thus set before you the character of this blessed man, I will,

II. Commend it to your imitation.

Far, very far, in general, are men from admiring such a character as this.

By many, even of this holy man it was said, "He has a devil." The Rulers and Pharisees rejected his counsel altogether, and would not submit to his baptism." And though many were well affected towards him, and "rejoiced in his light, they rejoiced in it only for a season," and at last he fell a sacrifice to his fidelity. Thus, at this time, if a man were to resemble him, he would find but little acceptance with an ungodly world. In fact, he would by many be thought to be more under the influence of demoniacal delusion than of sound reason and solid piety. His deadness to the world would be regarded as most contemptible fanaticism, and his faithfulness in reproving sin would be condemned as most insufferable presumption.

Nevertheless, I cannot but earnestly commend his character to the imitation of you all.

From ministers in particular his example demands the most respectful attention. Certainly the same degree of austerity that he practiced is not necessary now. Our Lord has shown, that under this new dispensation a greater measure of liberty is allowed, provided we be duly careful that in no instance it degenerate into licentiousness. But with respect to an entire devotion of the soul to God, and a faithful discharge of our ministry, there is to be no difference between us and John: we must be as faithful in our ministrations, and as holy in our lives, as he—But to Christians of every class is this bright example applicable. Every follower of Christ is called to be a "light in the world," yes, "a burning and a shining light." His soul, inflamed with fire from Heaven, should burn with holy love; nor should the fire, once kindled on the altar of his heart, ever be suffered to go out. To all around him he should "hold forth the word of life;" and so "cause his light to shine before men, that all who behold it may be constrained to glorify their Father who is in Heaven."

Address.

1. Be "willing, then, to rejoice in his light."

Surely such a ministry as his, so instructive, so faithful, so convincing, is an unspeakable blessing to every one that enjoys it. And such a ministry we have, not in him only, but the holy Apostles, yes, and in multitudes of the present day. Show, then, that you duly appreciate the labors of these men; and "be followers of them, as they are of Christ."

2. Let your joy in that light be both abiding and progressive.

Of the myriads who were impressed by the ministry of John, there were very, very few who became steadfast in the faith. All the Disciples of John, and Jesus, and his twelve Apostles, and his seventy Disciples, amounted to no more than five hundred, after the ascension of our Lord. The great mass of those who appeared ed hopeful, were turned aside by fear, or by the vanities of this sinful world. Be on your guard then, brethren, against everything that may produce this sad effect on you—and beg of God that your. "path may be like the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day."

 

MDCXXX

Christ's Appeal to the Scriptures

John 5:39. Search the Scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

WHEN our Lord professed himself to be the promised Messiah, and claimed an authority equal to that of Almighty God, it was necessary that he should bring abundant evidence of his Divine mission, and prove, by testimonies of the most unquestionable kind, his title to the honor he assumed. Nor was he backward to give all the proof which the occasion required. He appealed to the testimony of John the Baptist, whom the whole Jewish nation considered as a prophet, and whose testimony therefore ought to have great weight with them. He appealed also to his own miracles, which were so great and numerous as to be in themselves an indubitable evidence that God was with him. He further appealed to the testimony which his heavenly Father also had given to him at his baptism, both by an audible voice from Heaven, and by the visible descent of the Holy Spirit upon him. Lastly, he appealed to the Holy Scriptures, which the Jews themselves received as the word of God, and which bore testimony to him; even such testimony as would be found to agree exactly with his person and character in every respect. As these had existed for centuries, and might be compared with all that he had either done or taught, their testimony must be unexceptionable, and must carry conviction to every mind.

From the words before us we shall be led to notice,

I. The transcendent excellency of the Holy Scriptures.

Two things are here spoken respecting them:

1. They reveal unto us eternal life.

Reason never could suffice for discovering the immortality of the soul. Philosophy never enabled any man so to establish the certainty of a future state, as to render it an article of general belief, or to produce any considerable influence on the minds of those around him. Many have reasoned well upon the subject, and spoken what approximated to the truth: but they never could with certainty affirm a future state of rewards and punishments; much less could they tell us how to avoid the one, and obtain the other. But the Scriptures have drawn aside the veil and shown us that this present world is introductory to another, in which men shall exist to all eternity. The Old Testament, it is true, speaks but darkly on this point: yet was it sufficiently clear to impress the Jewish nation at large with a persuasion that both the souls and bodies of men should live in a future state of existence. The Sadducees, who were the free-thinkers of the day, were exceptions to the general rule. The national creed in these respects accorded with what was more fully revealed under the Christian dispensation. "By the Gospel, life and immortality have been fully brought to light;" yes, and the way of salvation been clearly revealed: so that we who live under its benign influence, do not merely think, but know, that there is for those who believe in Christ, a salvation treasured up, a "salvation with eternal glory." In this respect therefore a very child among us is better instructed than all the wisest philosophers of Greece and Rome.

2. They testify of Christ Jesus our Lord.

"The testimony of Christ," we are told, "was the spirit of prophecy" from first to last. The testimony which the Scriptures have borne to Christ is clear; not like the ambiguous answers of heathen oracles, which were so formed, as to be, without any great difficulty, accommodated to any event; but clear and precise, and incapable of any other interpretation than that which, upon the very face of it, it professed. Take, for instance, the prophecy relating to the time and place of our Savior's birth; and it was as much understood before his advent as afterwards, even by those who had not the grace to welcome his arrival. It was also copious, so that no one thing which could by any means be desired to designate the Messiah's advent, was omitted. His person, his work, his offices were all described and shadowed forth: the nature of his salvation was fully delineated, and the extent of his kingdom declared. Nothing was left for any reasonable man to desire either for the rectifying of his views, or the ascertaining that those views were correct. It was in the highest possible degree convincing. The prophecies concerning him were so minute that they could never have entered into the mind of an uninspired man, nor could by any possibility have been accomplished by any contrivance or conspiracy of men. Though a Jew, our Lord Jesus was to die, not a Jewish, but a Roman death, the death of the cross. Yet in his crucifixion he was not to suffer all that was usually associated with that punishment; for "not a bone of him was to be broken." On the other hand, there were to be inflicted on him indignities, never associated with that punishment in other instances; he was to be scourged before his crucifixion, and to be pierced to the heart with a spear after it. The very taunts with which he was to be insulted on the cross were accurately and literally foretold; as was also the cruelty in offering him vinegar in the midst of all his torments. The division of one of his garments, and the casting of lots upon the other, were among the circumstances which no human being could have divined, and which no impostor would have ventured to predict. And who would ever have imagined, that one so ignominiously treated in his death, should yet "have his grave with the rich?" The very price which was to be paid for his blood, together with the subsequent application of it in the purchase of a potter's field, and the untimely death of the person that betrayed him, these, and a great variety of other circumstances equally minute, prove beyond a doubt that Jesus was the person testified of, and that the testimony borne of him was divine.

Had the different witnesses been contemporaneous, it might have been supposed possible that these infinitely diversified circumstances should have been devised and executed by means of a well-concerted conspiracy. But the witnesses lived in ages and places far distant from each other, even many hundreds of years apart: yet did all the prophets so harmonize with each other in all their various predictions, that no room is left for doubt but that they were wholly unconnected with each other, and altogether under the direction and influence of the Spirit of God. Thus whether we consider the testimony itself, or the witnesses by whom it was delivered, we can have no doubt but that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Such then being the excellency of the Scriptures, let us contemplate,

II. Our duty in relation to them.

This is clear and manifest:

1. We must "search the Scriptures" for ourselves.

Possessing such Divine records, we should apply ourselves diligently to the study of them. We should search them with simplicity of mind, desiring to learn from them the will and mind of God, and determining through grace to comply with them in every respect, receiving implicitly whatever they declare, and obeying without reserve whatever they command. We must not bring to them any of our own prejudices whereby to judge of them, or anything of our own passions with which to limit them. We must bring to them the simplicity of a little child, submitting our own wisdom to the wisdom of our God, and our own will to the will of God. In fact, we must desire to know God's will in order that we may do it. Like Samuel we must lend to every word of God a willing and obedient ear, saying, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears." We have a most instructive example in the conduct of the blind man whom Jesus healed. Jesus asked him, "Believe you in the Son of God?" The man immediately replied, "Who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him?" The whole bias of his soul was towards his God; and his desire of instruction was for the sole purpose of glorifying God by the strictest possible conformity to his holy will. And if we resemble him in these respects, we are assured, that we shall be enabled to "know of every doctrine whether it be of God."

Of course, we must prosecute our search with all diligence, The very word, "Search," imports, that we should sift every word, as miners sift the earth in the pursuit of precious jewels; and must exercise all our faculties about it, as dogs do in the pursuit of their prey. A slight and cursory perusal of the Scriptures will be of little use; nor will a formal habit of reading, as some do, the psalms and lessons for the day, answer the ends for which we are to read the Scriptures. There must be in us a habit of weighing every sentiment, and of imploring God to convey to our minds its true import. Diligence of itself will not avail for the full understanding of the Scriptures. We must have the eyes of our understanding opened by the Spirit of God; and his aid will only be given to us in answer to fervent prayer. We must, in fact, never approach the Scriptures without that petition of holy David, "Open you my eyes, O Lord, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." Hence these two, diligence and prayer, are united by Solomon as equally necessary for the attainment of divine knowledge: "If you apply your heart to understanding, yes, if you cry after knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding; if you Seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures; then shall you understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom: out of his mouth comes knowledge and understanding."

But in particular we must search the Scriptures with a more especial view to derive from them the knowledge of Christ. As they all testify of him, so it should be our most anxious care to see and learn what they do testify. A mere critical knowledge of Scripture, though good, will bring with it no saving benefit. Nor will an historical knowledge of Scripture, no, nor even a speculative knowledge of its doctrines and its precepts, avail us anything. It is the knowledge of Christ, and that alone, that will convey to our souls the blessings of salvation. "This is life eternal, to know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." In the great mystery of a crucified Savior "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," and "in comprehending the height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ as revealed in that mystery, we shall be filled with all the fullness of God." My dear brethren, even good people do not sufficiently bear this in mind. Men, in going into the fields, obtain, for the most part, that which they are in pursuit of. One obtains health, and another pleasure; but it is the botanist only that acquires the science of herbs. So in perusing the Holy Scriptures, whatever else men may obtain, none will obtain the knowledge of Christ in all the glory of his person, the extent of his love, and the fullness and excellency of his salvation, but those who go to them with this express view, and bend all the force of their minds towards the attainment of them. You will remember that the Cherubim upon the mercy-seat were in a bending posture looking down upon the ark, that peculiar symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ as mediating between God and us. This Peter explains to us, declaring respecting all the wonders of salvation revealed to us in the Scriptures, that "the angels are desiring to look into them." Be then, brethren, in this posture whenever you take the sacred volume into your hands, and, like the Apostle Paul, seek to your dying hour to know more and more of Christ, "of the power of his resurrection, and of the fellowship of his sufferings," for, in proportion as "you behold the glory of Christ, you shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

2. Endeavor to diffuse the knowledge of them to the utmost of your power.

The command to "search them" evidently implies the duty of promoting in others also the knowledge of them. In this respect the Christian world has done well in spreading the Holy Scriptures both at home and abroad, to an extent altogether unprecedented. And in the work of translating the Holy Scriptures, and of sending forth missionaries to diffuse the knowledge of them, this age has also excelled all that have ever gone before it.

But who would ever have thought that a great part of the Christian world should set themselves against the circulation of the Scriptures, and should actually prohibit their people from reading them? Yet this is done by the Church of Rome in every quarter of the world. The Governors of that Church will not suffer the word of God to be read, except by their special permission, and with their corrupt glosses, which in ten thousand instances obscure and falsify its meaning. And what shall we say to this? I stand amazed at such conduct in a Church professing itself the Church of Christ. I know not whether is the greater, the impiety or the cruelty of such conduct. The Lord Jesus Christ says, "Search the Scriptures." 'No,' says the Papist; 'you shall not search them: I will not even suffer them to be in your possession: and if they be given you, I will wrest them out of your hands.' But if it he replied, "In them we have eternal life;" 'I care not for that,' says the Papist; 'you shall perish, rather than I will suffer you to read that book.' 'But Christ has said, "They testify of me;" and I want to know what they testify.' 'I care not for that,' says the Papist; 'I will not suffer you to know what they testify: you shall not hear their testimony any farther than I please to inform you of it, and then you shall know it only as corrupted and falsified by me.' What such priests will answer at the bar of judgment, God alone knows: but I fear their doom will be very terrible, seeing that they will have to answer for the souls of thousands whom they have kept in the sorest bondage, and blinded to their eternal ruin. Judge then you, brethren, whether you should not endeavor to counteract this impious tyranny, and to diffuse the knowledge of salvation through the perishing millions of your fellow-subjects. I mean not that you should do this in a spirit of opposition, but in a spirit of love. And as the legislature at their request has made them partakers with you in all civil and political privileges, so do you, unsought and unsolicited, labor to impart unto them the full enjoyment of your spiritual privileges, in the knowledge of Christ, and of his salvation.

 

MDCXXXI

The True Reason of Men's Destruction

John 5:40. You will not come to me, that you might have life.

TO doubt whether men wish to be saved or not, may appear absurd. No man would hesitate to answer such a question in the affirmative. But though every one would prefer happiness to misery, they are but few who really prefer the way that leads to happiness. The text may be addressed to the generality among ourselves with the same propriety as to those who rejected the invitations of our Lord in the days of old. We shall take occasion from these words to inquire,

I. What are the benefits of coming unto Christ.

To "come to Christ" is a frequent expression in the Scriptures:

Let us first consider what is implied in this act.

It imports not an outward attendance on his person, but an inward affiance on him for salvation. It imports a coming to him with humility as sinners—with faith as to the only Savior—and with love as to our rightful Lord and Master.

From a due performance of this act the most inestimable benefits will arise.

Temporal, spiritual, eternal life will flow from it. Even the temporal comforts of life are enjoyed by none so much as by him who believes in Christ; nor is there any other person who holds them by so sure a tenure. He cannot fail of possessing them as far as they will conduce to his spiritual welfare. But spiritual life is a far richer blessing; and this is the believer's assured portion. His soul shall be endued with a new and vital principle of grace. Christ himself will live in him and be his life. As Lazarus when raised was enabled to perform the functions of animal life, of which he had been rendered, for a season, incapable, so shall the believer's soul, which was once dead in trespasses and sins, be quickened to the discharge of all the duties and offices of the spiritual life. He shall enjoy sweet communion with God in secret, and find his supreme delight in fulfilling his blessed will. The man who thus daily comes to Christ for righteousness and strength is incomparably the happiest man on earth; but his happiness does not terminate with his present existence. No, he shall possess also eternal life. Believer, you have a never-fading crown of righteousness and glory awaiting you at your departure hence—What a recompense is this of all your labor! What encouragement to come continually to Christ does such a prospect afford you!

One would suppose that, with such prospects, all should be pressing toward the Savior with their whole hearts. Let us then proceed to inquire,

II. Whence it is that any fall short of these blessings?

The reason assigned in the text is the most just and most humiliating of any. There is no unwillingness in Christ to save us, but we are unwilling to go to him for salvation.

1. We are indifferent about life.

We consider all pretensions to a new and spiritual life as enthusiasm, and therefore disdain to apply to Christ for it. As for eternal life, we do not wish to hear anything about it. If the prospect of temporal advancement be held out to us, we can cheerfully and intensely bend our minds to the attainment of it; but if Heaven and all its glory be offered us, we slight it utterly. We choose to talk of any subject rather than religion, and universally agree to banish that from our conversation. If at any time the thought of eternity be obtruded upon us, we turn from it with disgust; and are uneasy until some other topic be brought forward. Even in the house of God we hear of heavenly things as if they were fabulous and unworthy of our attention. We love our own ways, though they will end in death; and will not endure to be told of Heaven, because we cannot reconcile our minds to the way that leads thither. To this effect is that declaration of Christ, "They that hate me, love death."

2. We are averse to the way in which alone it is to be obtained.

We will not come to Christ for life: this appears to be too humiliating. If we could obtain life by any works of our own, we would gladly do them; but we cannot bear to be so entirely indebted to another. We do not choose to acknowledge ourselves lost and undone. We hope to establish some righteousness of our own. Hence we neither do, nor will, come to Christ for life and salvation. Besides, this way to life is too strict: as we do not like to come with humility, and faith, so neither do we feel that love which will instigate us to devote ourselves unreservedly to his service. We think that less religion will suffice, and are determined to perish, rather than endure such drudgery. In every ungodly sinner are the words of our Savior verified, "How often would I, but you would not."

Inferences.

1. What ground for self-condemnation will there be in the day of judgment!

Every condemned sinner, however full of excuses now, will then have his mouth shut; yes, even now a moment's reflection must convince us, that every sinner's condemnation is the effect of his own obstinacy. Who among you does not know, that he ought to read the word of God, and to seek his face, and to repent of sin, and to flee to Christ for refuge, and to give up himself to Christ in a way of holy obedience? Yet you will not do it. Your conscience at times remonstrates with you: yet you will not obey its voice: and your recollections of this in the eternal world will be one of the most bitter ingredients in the cup which you will drink to all eternity.

2. What astonishing grace and mercy are there in the Lord Jesus Christ!

His reproof contains in it a most gracious invitation. He addresses all of us at this instant, "Come unto me and I will give you life." Let none resist him any longer. Let us go to him, and he will in no wise cast us out.

 

MDCXXXII

Men's Want of Love to God

John 5:42. I know you, that you have not the love of God in you.

OUR blessed Lord "needed not that any should testify of man: for he himself knew perfectly what was in man;" and, consequently, without any reference to overt acts, could determine what was the state of every man's soul before God. Yet, in making known his decisions upon character, he, for the most part, appealed to fact; especially if his testimony was to their discredit. In declaring Nathanael to be "an Israelite indeed, and without deceit," he referred to secret transactions, known only to God and to Nathanael himself: but, in denouncing those whom he was now addressing as destitute of the love of God, he appealed to their obstinacy in rejecting him, notwithstanding the full evidence he had given them of his Messiahship. It is probable that this testimony of his gave great offence: yet is there occasion for it to be given respecting multitudes in the present day; and, no doubt, if he were here present, he still would be constrained to say of many, "I know you, that the love of God is not in you."

In confirmation of this, I will show,

I. That such characters do still exist.

But where must we look for them? Can it be supposed that a single individual of this character is to be found in the midst of us? Go round to each individual in rotation, and ask each apart, "Have you the love of God in you?" Perhaps there is not one who would not reply, "Yes; I hope and trust I have." Some, I can have no doubt, would be quite indignant at the question; and would answer with disdain, "What! do you suppose I am a downright reprobate?" In this respect there would be but little difference between the different classes of the community. The Moral would deem their morality a decisive proof of the point; nor would the Immoral account their immoralities any proof to the contrary: they would find reasons enough for their deviations from the straight line of duty, without impeaching the integrity of their own hearts before God, and their attachment, on the whole, to him. The Old would conclude, of course, that they could not have attained to their age without having at least secured this first principle of all religion: and the Young would intimate, that, though they make no profession of religion, they are not so destitute of it as this question would imply. All would consider it as a libel upon the Christian Church to suppose that such a character should be found within its pale, unless perhaps among those, whose whole habits proclaim them to be addicted to every species of iniquity.

But it was to those who had been admitted into covenant with God by circumcision, and who were attending the ministry of our blessed Lord, that the words in my text were addressed: and therefore it is more than probable, that still, even among professing Christians, there are some who answer to this character; and of whom, one, who had a perfect knowledge of them, might say, "I know you, that the love of God is not in you."

But the existence of such characters will not be doubted by any of us, when once we have seen,

II. How they may be known and distinguished.

Doubtless such characters may be known, by themselves at least, if not by their fellow-creatures also. Our fellow-creatures, it is true, can judge only by outward acts, because they cannot discern the workings of the heart: but the point may be ascertained by ourselves at all events, if on examination we find,

1. An habitual want of those dispositions which are essential to love.

Wherever love exists, there must be an esteem of, a desire after, and a delight in, the object beloved: and these feelings must bear some proportion to the worthiness of the object himself. Now, of course, if God be that object, he must exceed in our estimation all created good, as much as the meridian sun surpasses the faint radiance of the glow-worm. And, inasmuch as we can never be happy without him, we must thirst after him, even as the hunted deer thirsts after the water brooks; and find in the enjoyment of his presence every desire of our souls completely satisfied. Now, we can be at no loss to discover how far our experience accords with this. At all events, if we be utter strangers to all these exercises of mind, the matter is clear: a voice from Heaven could not make it more clear than the testimony of our own conscience has already made it. What should we ourselves judge of the professions of a fellow-creature, who pretended to feel a suitable regard for us, while in no one of these respects did he ever manifest it in the smallest degree? The judgment, then, that we should pass on him, we must pass on ourselves; and conclude, for a certainty, that the total absence of all these dispositions towards God proves that the love of God is not in us.

2. An habitual indulgence of those dispositions which are repugnant to love.

It is not an occasional failure in our duty that will prove us destitute of love to God: for, then, where would so much as one lover of God be found? But if there be in us an habitual indulgence of feelings absolutely inconsistent with the love of God, then also will the point be clearly decided. For instance, God has said, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Again, it is said, "Whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his affections of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him?" Again, it is said, "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." Now here are marks given us whereby we may know infallibly the state of our souls towards God. If the world and its poor vanities rival him in our hearts, the matter is clear. If we have so little regard for God, that we can shut up our affections of compassion from our destitute fellow-creatures, instead of relieving them for his sake, then also the point is decided for us. And, lastly, if our love to God do not actuate us so far as to ensure a willing obedience to his every command, then also no doubt is left about the point at issue: we are in every one of these cases declared to be obnoxious to the charge contained in our text.

I say, again, an occasional defect will not warrant so distressing a conclusion; but if our failure be universal, habitual, and allowed, the inference from it is undeniable; and we are declared by God himself to be destitute of any true love to him.

Let us, then, in reference to such unhappy characters, contemplate,

III. In what an awful condition they are.

No words can adequately describe the misery of such a state. The persons who are obnoxious to this charge, are in a state,

1. Of fearful delusion.

However pointed out by God, they put far from them the accusation, and boldly deny the charge. They cannot conceive of themselves as persons so lost to all that is good, as to have no love of God whatever in their hearts. They will admit that they do not love him so ardently, or serve him so fully, as they ought: but they will not admit that they have no love to him. They substitute some good sentiments respecting God in the place of real love to him; and thus, deceiving themselves by their own vain imaginations, they neglect to humble themselves before God on account of their extreme wickedness. Truly, if there were but one such person in the midst of us, one who was buoying himself up with some fallacious conceits, while God said respecting him, 'There is a wretch that has no love to me;' who among us would not be ready to weep over him? and who would not labor to undeceive him, while yet a discovery of his error might be available for his welfare?

2. Of just condemnation.

It is not possible but that such persons must be objects of God's wrathful indignation. In fact, they are the very image of Satan himself: for what can be said worse of Satan than this, or what can characterize him more justly than this, that he has no love to God? It is not necessary that a man should have committed murder or adultery, to deserve the wrath of God. If he has no love to the Supreme Good, to Him whose perfections are infinite, to Him who every moment maintains him in existence; if he have no love to Him who gave his only dear Son to die for him, and offers his Holy Spirit to renew and sanctify him, and would gladly confer on him all the blessings both of grace and glory; his desert of God s wrath is unquestionable. Paul says, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha," and there is not a creature in the universe that will not assent to the same denunciation, in reference to the wretch that loves not God.

3. Of utter incapacity for happiness, even if he were actually admitted into Heaven.

Suppose a man, destitute of love to God, were admitted into Heaven; what happiness could he find there? Amidst all the heavenly hosts, there would not be so much as one with whom he could hold communion, or have one single feeling in sympathy. As for God, the God whom he hates, he could not bear the sight of him. The sinner would know, that it was in vain for him to assume any appearances of love; for that his heart could not but be known to God, and consequently he must be an object of God's utter abhorrence. For the employments of Heaven, it is obvious he could have no taste: and he would solicit a dismissal from the place, where everything he saw and heard must, of necessity, generate in him the bitterest feelings of envy, malignity, and despair. To take his portion under rocks and mountains would be to him a deliverance from scenes to which he was utterly averse, and from vexations painful to him as Hell itself.

Now, then,

1. Let every one of us institute an inquiry into this matter.

Paul exhorted the Hebrews of old to "examine themselves, whether they were in the faith," so now I would say, "Examine yourselves," whether there be in you any love to God. Do not take it for granted, without examination; and be careful, also, not to try yourselves by an inadequate test. Take the tests that have been before proposed; and see what is the habitual state of your minds in relation to them. To what purpose will it be to say, you love God; when the entire course of your feelings and habits declares the contrary? You cannot deceive God; nor can you prevail on him. to give in your favor a judgment contrary to truth. Bring the matter to a trial. Be not content to leave it in suspense. Indeed, if you can be content to leave it in doubt whether you love God or not, you can have no clearer proof that you are altogether destitute of his love: for the smallest sense of love to him that could exist in your soul, would make you uneasy, until you had placed the existence of it beyond a doubt.

2. Let us not be satisfied until we can appeal to God, and say, "You know that I do love you."

Thus Peter was enabled to reply, in answer to the question thrice put to him by our blessed Lord: and we also should be able to make a similar appeal to the heart-searching God respecting our love to him. And why should we not? Of defects, every one of us must be conscious; yes, of such defects, that, if God were to enter into judgment with us according to them, we must perish. But of our desires after God, and our supreme delight in him, and our determination of heart, through grace, to please him, we may be conscious; and this consciousness may well abide in us, as a source of most exalted joy. I pray God that this joy may be ever yours, my beloved brethren; and that when we shall stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, God himself may bear testimony to us all, as having borne a distinguished place among his faithful, loving, and obedient servants.

MDCXXXIII

Faith Incompatible with The Love of Man's Applause

John 5:44. How can you believe, who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only?

IT is certain that great care is requisite in interpreting the Holy Scriptures; lest, on the one hand, we explain away their meaning altogether; or, on the other hand, we take occasion, from the strength of some particular expressions, to maintain doctrines which they do not fairly establish. And the more unqualified any declarations are, the greater caution we should use in affixing to them their true import. The passage before us is of the deepest importance to every soul of man: but on the explanation of it, its force must entirely depend. Shall it be said, that no kind of faith will consist with our seeking honor from man, rather than from God? or, that the mere "receiving" of honor from man is incompatible with true faith? Either of these positions would be utterly false. Let us then proceed to the consideration of these words with that care which their importance demands; and may God, of his infinite mercy, guide me, while I endeavor to show,

I. What we are to understand by "believing" in Christ!

It can never surely be meant, that we cannot receive the Scriptures as a revelation from God, or have a general view of the leading doctrines contained in them, while we are seeking honor from man: for the mere weighing of evidences, and determining according to evidence, are acts of the mind, which every man of sense, whatever be his feelings as to human applause, is capable of performing. Certainly much more than a bare assent must be comprehended in the faith here spoken of. It must import two things:

1. An acceptance of Christ, as he is set forth in the Holy Scriptures.

The Scriptures speak of our "receiving the Lord Jesus Christ." We must receive him as the gift of God the Father to a sinful world; and must receive him, too, for all the ends and purposes for which he is given. If we embrace him not under all the relations, and for all the ends for which he is sent, we reject him, rather than acknowledge him; and put him away from us by unbelief, instead of receiving him into our hearts by faith. It is not optional with us to separate his offices, and to acknowledge him in those only which are agreeable to our own minds. Whatever "God has made him to us," that he is to be with our full consent; our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, our complete redemption."

2. A surrender of ourselves to him, as his obedient followers.

Without this we can never be acknowledged by him as his: "If any man will be my Disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." And so unreserved must our surrender of ourselves to him be, that, if we be not ready even to lay down our lives for him, we shall be regarded by him in no other light than as aliens or traitors. A faith which does not operate in this manner, and to this extent, is no better than "the faith of devils," it is "dead," and will leave the soul dead to all eternity.

Such, then, is the faith of God's elect; and such the faith of which our Lord speaks in the words before us; a faith that "works by love," and "purifies the heart," and "overcomes the world."

Having ascertained what is meant by faith, we proceed to show,

II. Who they are who are declared incapable of exercising it.

The mere "receiving" of honor from man has no such effect: for the good man passes "through honor as well as dishonor, and through good report as well as evil report." It is the seeking of honor from man that is here spoken of; that is, the seeking of it, either independently of "the honor that comes from God," or in preference to it. All desire of man's approbation is not wrong: a child may properly seek the approbation of his parent; a servant, of his master; a subject, of his prince. But to make man's approbation the main object of our pursuit, is to put man in the place of God: and this can never be pleasing to the Supreme Being; who is "a jealous God," and "will not give his glory to another." Nor is it necessary that what we do should be substantially and in itself evil, in order to provoke God to jealousy: our actions may be good in themselves; and yet, if they be done to please man, their character is altogether changed, and they become hateful in the sight of God. Almsgiving and prayer are good; but if either the one or the other be done in order to obtain applause from man, it is vitiated, and debased, and execrable: and fasting itself is odious, when proceeding from no better principle than this. It was this base desire of man's applause which chiefly characterized the Pharisees of old: and, where-ever it prevails, it destroys all pretensions to uprightness before God, and all hope of ever being acknowledged by Christ, as his Disciples: as Paul says, "If I yet pleased men, I could not be the servant of Jesus Christ."

In like manner we err, if we seek man's approbation, in preference to the honor that comes of God. The two often stand in competition with each other; or rather, I should say, are always opposed to each other, where the higher duties of Christianity are concerned: for, of "the circumcision of the heart, which is in the Spirit and not in the letter," we are told, "its praise is not of men, but of God." Indeed the praise of God is frequently not to be obtained without incurring the deepest odium from men. But, when that is the case, there must be no hesitation on our part whom to obey, and whose honor to seek. Our reply to the whole universe must be, "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you." Neither parental authority, nor brotherly affection, must have any weight with us in opposition to God: for, if "we come to Christ, and hate not father and mother, and brother and sister, yes, and our own lives also," in comparison of him, "we cannot be his Disciples."

But in these two respects the persons described in our text are essentially defective. In respect of moral virtue, as it is called, they may be exemplary enough; and it is even taken for granted that they are so, by their "receiving of honor from men," which may be supposed to be accorded to them on account of their virtues: but, inasmuch as they do not utterly despise man's approbation in comparison of God's, and even "glory in shame" itself for the Lord's sake, they are incapable of exercising a true and saving faith in the Lord Jesus. I say again, It is not the immoral man, of whom our Lord speaks, but of the man who, from any cause whatever, prefers the praise of man before the praise of God.

But why can they not exercise faith in Christ? Let us inquire,

III. Whence their incapacity arises.

The disposition to prefer the applause of man,

1. Unfits them for discerning truth.

External evidences, as I have before observed, they may judge of: but the real excellency of the Gospel is hid from their eyes. The glory of Christ, and the beauty of holiness, they cannot appreciate; because they possess not that spiritual discernment whereby alone they can be seen. There is a film over their eyes: "their eye is evil; and therefore their body and soul are full of darkness." Sin and "Satan have altogether blinded them." The sublimer truths, when offered to their view, produce only the effect which a flood of light does when poured upon a disordered patient in a dark chamber. "They hate the light, and will not come to it," and when truth is set before them, they reply, "This is a hard saying: who can hear it?" Especially if they be called to renounce self altogether, and to glory in Christ alone, they have no ears to hear it: they are like those of whom our Lord said, "Why do you not understand my speech? even because you cannot hear my words."

2. Indisposes them for walking according to the light they have.

Much, doubtless, they may see: but they are kept in bondage by "the fear of man that brings a snare." As far as relates to a speculative view of the truth, they may have a strong conviction of it; so strong as, in the common acceptance of the term, to be said to possess faith. Thus we are told, respecting many who beheld our Lord's miracles: "Among the chief rulers, many believed on him: but, because of the Pharisees, they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." Here their incapacity to give themselves up to Christ is marked as proceeding from the very same cause to which it is ascribed in the text: "They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." Thus it is that this evil principle operates in ten thousand instances, keeping men from an attendance on public ordinances, from the society of the Lord's people, and from that public confession of Christ, whereby they ought to glorify his name.

3. Leads them into courses directly contrary to the truth.

A desire of worldly favors draws men, of necessity, not only to a neglect of what is good, but also to the positive commission of evil. The world will never he satisfied, until they bring us, in some measure at least, into a conformity with their views and habits. The compliances which they first desired are perhaps innocent: but gradually they increase their demands upon us, until they ensnare our feet, and defile our conscience, and lead us to dishonor our holy profession, if not altogether to renounce the faith.

Now let me make this subject.

1. A matter of appeal.

Our blessed Lord appeals to the persons themselves, whose spirit he reproves. And I also will venture to ask of you, my brethren, Whether you have not found in your converse with others, that a love of man's applause, wherever it has obtained, has proved a bar to the introduction of light into their souls; so that either you could produce no conviction upon their minds, or, if you have silenced their objections, you could not prevail upon them to act agreeably to the light they had received? I ask also, in reference to yourselves, Whether, if at any time you have suffered your minds to be influenced by that unworthy principle, it has not rendered your views of truth obscure, and your compliance with it difficult? I will yet further ask, Whether a carnal and a spiritual mind be not opposed to each other, as darkness to light; and whether the prevalence of one must not, in proportion as it prevails, dispel the other? Yes: it is an acknowledged and unquestionable truth, "that we cannot serve God and Mammon." If, then, the intimation in our text be confirmed by all that we see in others, and all that we experience in ourselves, let it be treasured up in our minds as a rule of action, and be referred to continually for the regulation of our hearts and lives.

2. A ground of exhortation.

Look not for the honor that comes of man; for it is not to be obtained without sacrifices that are far too costly for so worthless an acquisition. Let your hearts be right with God. Let his revealed will be your sure directory: and regard nothing in opposition to it. Seek to please him at all events, though you should displease the whole world. I mean not by this, that you should not listen to good advice: for it is highly desirable that you should "walk wisely in a perfect way." But let that advice alone be followed, that is founded on the word of God. And be careful to keep a conscience void of offence: and so to walk before God, that you may be approved of him, and receive from him at last that testimony of his approbation, "Well done, good and faithful servant: enter you into the joy of your Lord."

 

MDCXXXIV

Unbelief Rebuked

John 5:45, 46. Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses, in whom you trust. For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me: for he wrote of me.

THERE is nothing more painful to a pious Minister, than to reflect, that, instead of having to present all his hearers to God as his children, saying, "Here am I, and the children you have given me," he will have to stand at the bar of judgment as an accuser of by far the greater part of them, and to appear as a swift witness against them. To the majority of them, the most successful minister must say, with our blessed Lord, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin." But, whether they be called as accusers or not, the inspired writers will undoubtedly execute that painful office; as our Lord here testifies to his unbelieving audience: "Think not that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses, in whom you trust: for had you believed Moses, you would have believed me: for he wrote of me."

Let me now, in faithfulness to your souls,

I. Set before you the charge which the whole inspired volume brings against us.

Strong was that charge which Moses exhibited against the Jews.

Much "had he written respecting Christ." The whole ceremonial law was one typical adumbration of him—the moral law itself, as denouncing a curse against every one that should transgress it in the slightest instance, was, in fact, intended to show men their need of Christ, and to shut them up to that way of salvation which he should open for them. The prophecies which he revealed were many and clear: he set forth Christ as "the seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent's head;" and as "the seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations of the world should be blessed;" and above all, as "that prophet who should in due time be raised up like unto himself; to whom all must take heed, at the peril of their souls."

Now to these writings our blessed Lord appealed continually, in confirmation of his divine mission. But the Jews, while they pretended the highest veneration for Moses, actually made their regard for him their plea for rejecting Christ. But this showed that they did not understand the writings of Moses, and that they did not, in fact, believe any one of those things which he had spoken: for if they had understood him, and believed his testimony, they would of necessity have believed in Christ, of whom he testified. We may suppose him, then, as accusing these people before God the Father to this effect: "You see, O God, what a zeal they profess for me: but it is all hypocrisy, for, instead of receiving my testimony respecting their Messiah, they shut their eyes and ears against every word that I have spoken; and make no other use of my testimony, but to pervert it, and to found upon it their rejection of that very Savior whom I have revealed."

But stronger far is that charge which the whole inspired volume brings against us.

We profess to believe in the written word, both of the Old and New Testament: and if any one were to brand us with the name of infidels and deists, we should be filled with indignation against him, as uttering a gross calumny. But how do we manifest our faith? The Scriptures tell us, that "except we repent, we must perish." But who believes it? Who is stirred up, by that declaration, to real penitence and contrition? The Scriptures tell us, that we must look to Christ for salvation, as the wounded Israelites did to the brazen serpent. But where do we find that intense earnestness to obtain relief, and that utter renunciation of every other hope but that revealed to us in the cross of Christ? The Scriptures require us to live by Christ, exactly as the Israelites lived by the manna which they gathered, and the waters of the rock that followed them. But where do we find persons making this continual use of Christ, if I may so speak; and living altogether by faith in the Son of God, who loved them and gave himself for them? The Scriptures tell us, that "having been bought with a price, we must glorify Christ with our bodies and our spirits, which are his." But where do we find persons employing every member of their body, and every faculty of their soul, for the glory of Christ?

Behold, then, what an accusation the whole inspired volume brings against us. 'See, Lord, this people! You know how fully your holy will is revealed in every page of your word: yet who regards it? Who regards any word contained in this volume, provided he has any interest to serve, or any lust to gratify, by the violation of it? I accuse the whole Christian world, with the exception of a very few, as hypocrites: for, with all their professed regard for your revealed will, they violate it in all its most essential points; and with their boast of being Christians, they live altogether as if they were down-right heathens.'

Now then, having stated the charge, I will proceed to,

II. Put you upon your trial in relation to it.

Of the little flock who believe in Christ, I will say nothing. I will confine myself to the great mass of my hearers, who have never yet been renewed by the grace of God. And I ask,

1. Is not the charge true of you?

Look, I pray you, and examine the matters before proposed. See in what state you are, as it respects repentance for sin, and faith in Christ, and holy obedience to the commands of God. Compare yourselves with the Scriptures which you profess to believe: see whether you are "cast into them, as into a mold;" and whether you are really living as the Apostles did? I will not ask whether you have attained the eminence of Paul; for to that none of us can pretend: but are we followers of him, as he was of Christ? And if he were to see the daily habit of our minds, would he acknowledge us as imbued with the same spirit with him, and as treading in the same steps?—It is evident, then, that we are guilty before God; and that the accusations which Moses, and the Prophets, and the Apostles, are exhibiting against us, are true.

2. Are you not then deeply criminal?

We are in the habit of reprobating infidels as among the vilest of men. And far am I from intending, in any respect, to lessen the abhorrence with which they are viewed, and should be viewed. But it may well be doubted, whether the great mass of Christians be not in a worse state than they. For infidels, however profane, are at least consistent: they do not profess to believe the Scriptures: they regard them all, and everything contained in them, as "a cunningly-devised fable." But the Christian world profess to receive the Bible as the word of God, and to expect that men shall be dealt with in judgment according to the plan proposed in it: yet do they in their lives give the lie to all that they profess. If they really believed in that word, they would believe in Christ, and love him, and serve him, and glorify him. Could a man believe that his house was on fire, and ready to fall upon him, and not flee out of it? It is a delusion altogether: and in pretending to believe at all, they only lie unto the Holy Spirit.

3. Are you not utterly inexcusable?

What excuse can you offer in vindication of yourselves? Is not every part of the inspired volume brought before you in its season? You know that "we have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you," but "have declared unto you the whole counsel of God." But, at all events, the inspired volume has been in your hands, and you might have drunk water at the fountain-head. It has been accessible to you at all times: and if it have been "a fountain sealed," whose fault is that? Has not God promised, by his Holy Spirit to open it? and has not Christ told you, that "if you would ask of him, he would give you living waters, which should be in you a well of water springing up unto everlasting life?" What is there that has been wanting to you? Has there been any defect of evidence? No, the evidence has shone forth as bright as the sun. Has there been any want of encouragement? No, there is not any species of encouragement that has not been poured upon you as a flood. Nothing has been wanting, but a humble and docile spirit. It is your own pride, and worldliness, and unbelief, that has kept from you the blessings of salvation: and you have none but yourselves to blame.

Application.

I say, then, confess your hypocrisy, and humble yourselves for it—And take the Holy Scriptures, and "search them with all diligence; and pray to the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth." But mark more especially what they speak of Christ; for "of Him they testify in every part," and, having found him, believe in him, and surrender up yourselves to him: and let your whole life attest the consistency of your character, and the integrity of your hearts before God.

 

MDCXXXV

Christ's Messiahship Proved

John 6:14. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

THE friends of infidelity wish it to be thought, that the Gospel which they reject is not supported by such a weight of evidence as would justify them in yielding to it an implicit and unqualified obedience. But they have, unperceived by themselves, a bias against the truth; and will suffer any slight difficulty, which they are not able to solve, to outweigh all the most decisive proofs that can be adduced in its support. Where the mind is candid, and open to conviction, it will be satisfied with that measure of evidence which the subject itself fairly admits of, without demanding such as it is unreasonable to expect. The persons of whom my text speaks, afford us a good example in this respect. They had seen a stupendous miracle wrought before them, even the feeding of five thousand men, besides women and children, with five loaves, and two small fishes: and they were convinced that no person could work such a miracle as this, unless God were with him; and therefore, without further hesitation, they said, We are expecting the Messiah; and this must be he: "Of a truth, this is that Prophet who should come into the world."

From this acknowledgment I will take occasion to consider,

I. The proofs which Christ gave of his Messiahship.

Miracles may properly be regarded as proofs of a divine mission.

I am not prepared to say that a miracle is of itself, independent of all its circumstances, a sufficient proof that the person performing it comes from God. For there may be circumstances so peculiar, as to account for God's permission of such an event, even while the persons through whose instrumentality it occurs, are no better than hypocrites and impostors. The magicians of Pharaoh were permitted to imitate some of the miracles of Moses, for the very purpose of demonstrating the more forcibly, that Moses alone was invested with any authority from him. They were permitted to turn their rods into serpents: but Moses' rod swallowed up all of theirs. They were permitted to inflict several plagues; but they could not remove one. Moses alone was empowered to do that. Nor could they follow Moses beyond a certain extent, or even avert from themselves the plagues that Moses inflicted: so that they themselves were made witnesses for Jehovah, and were constrained to say, "This is the finger of God."

Again: God having done so many and great wonders for his people, may see fit to try their faith and love, in order that the faithful among his people may display their fidelity, and the hypocritical their hypocrisy. And for this end we may conceive him to suffer some impostor to assume the character of a prophet, and, by the performance of some sign or wonder, and the prediction of some event that shall come to pass, to give occasion for his people to manifest what is in their hearts. Indeed, he warned his people that he would suffer such occurrences, in order to try their fidelity to him.

But we cannot conceive that he should suffer such a trial to proceed so far as to impose on those who were truly upright. We can have no doubt, but that to a humble and prayerful soul there would appear, at the same time, very abundant evidences of the imposture: for otherwise the true prophets would be unable to prove the divine authority of their mission.

Admitting, however, that such occurrences may, for wise and gracious purposes, be permitted, we still must regard miracles, when wrought expressly in confirmation of the divine authority, as sufficient attestations to the mission of him who works them. These were the credentials whereby Moses was to authenticate his mission to the Israelites in Egypt. By this test the worshipers of Baal agreed to have the contest decided between Elijah and them: "The God that answers by fire, let him be God," and, on seeing the testimony borne from Heaven to Elijah, they exclaimed, "The Lord, he is the God! the Lord, he is the God!" To this test he referred the disciples of John, who were sent to inquire whether he were the Christ—And to the same he continually referred, as beyond all possibility of contradiction decisive of his own mission.

And, beyond all doubt, the miracles which Jesus wrought were sufficient for this end.

They were altogether innumerable; insomuch that the inspired historian says of them, that "if they should be written every one of them (with all their attendant circumstances), the world itself would not contain the books that should be written." But we need not go further than the miracle before us. The Disciples, so far from being confederate with their Master to impose upon the multitude, acknowledged, with the utmost simplicity, the impossibility of providing for such a multitude in that wilderness. Our Lord had made the inquiry of them for the express purpose of calling their attention, and the attention of all around them, the more fully, to the miracle which he was about to work. The five thousand men were all placed in ranks, a hundred in length and fifty in breadth, that everything might be done in their sight, and without a possibility of collusion. The food having been blessed by our Lord, was committed to the Apostles for distribution; and, as fast as they disposed of it, the remainder was augmented in their hands, and all were supplied to the full: and after all had eaten and been satisfied, the fragments which were taken up far exceeded in quantity the original measure which they possessed. All the people were themselves witnesses of what passed before their own eyes: and if there had been any deception, it could not but have been discovered. This miracle, therefore, gave them a very just ground for the conclusion which they instantly formed; namely, that Jesus must be the Messiah, who had been predicted, and was at that time expected to make his appearance in the world.

Concluding Jesus, then, to be the true Messiah, let us consider,

II. Our duty to him under that character.

The history before us will enable us to state this to advantage. Our duty to him is,

1. To believe in him.

At the time that Jesus abode on earth, it was generally expected that the Prophet spoken of by Moses would appear; "the Prophet like unto Moses," who should be a Lawgiver, a Mediator, a Prophet, a Ruler, a Deliverer. Such a prophet Jesus professed to bef: and such a prophet he was. The people who saw this miracle had no doubt of it: they said, "This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world." Let the same conviction be on your minds. View him as the true Messiah. Regard him in the full extent of his character, as resembling Moses—and give him, from your inmost souls, the honor due unto his name.

2. To become his devoted followers.

Hear from him all that he has come to reveal: for God has said, that "Whoever will not hear that Prophet, he will require it of him." How zealous the people were in his cause, you are told in the very words following my text: "They sought to take him by force, and to make him their King." In this they erred, because they thought of him only as a temporal Prince. And therefore he withdrew, and hid himself from them. But if you will, in a spiritual view, make him your King, I will venture to assure you, he will not withdraw from you, or decline the honor you would assign him. You may even come by force, the holy "violence" of faith and prayer with which "the kingdom of God is taken;" and he will yield to your importunity, and establish his throne in your hearts. O that we could see somewhat of this ardor in the minds of those who profess to acknowledge him as their Messiah! Let every rival be banished from your hearts—and let Jesus henceforth reign the unrestrained governor of your souls.

3. To look to him for all that your utmost necessities can require.

Though he had withdrawn from them, they concluded that he would follow his Disciples; and therefore they followed him, though with much difficulty, and to a great distance, in the confidence that he would supply their every want. Herein also they erred, because they sought only "the meat which perishes," but if you will seek of him the meat that endures unto everlasting life, he assures you, that he will give it to the utmost extent of your necessities; for that "God the Father has sealed" him to this very office. You see how he supplied thousands of persons with food: and can he not equally supply your wants, though they should be ever so numerous? He can; he will. He has all fullness treasured up in him for that very end. "He is ascended up above all heavens, that he may fill all things." Indeed, by the ministry of his word, he is working this miracle yet daily. How many does he nourish and strengthen by the bread of life that we dispense! Know, then, that he will not commit this ministration to us in vain, as it respects you: for God has said, He will "supply all your need out of his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

 

MDCXXXVI

Laboring for Heaven

John 6:27. Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for him has God the Father sealed.

OUR blessed Lord never failed to improve any occasion that was afforded him of doing good to the souls of men. His labors collected people from every quarter; and sometimes they must actually have fainted by the way, if he had not interposed by miracle to supply their necessities. But these very exertions of his, in administering to their temporal wants, were made an occasion of fostering in many their favorite sentiment, that he was come to accomplish for them a temporal deliverance. He had just "fed five thousand men with five loaves and two small fishes," and we are told that, in order to prevent their "taking him by force to make him a king, he departed into a mountain himself alone." His Disciples he sent over the sea, towards Capernaum: and multitudes, though they saw he was not with them, concluding that, by some means or other, he would follow them, went thither to meet him: and when they had found him, they expressed their surprise, and asked him, how he had contrived to come thither? Our Lord, instead of gratifying their foolish curiosity, turned their attention to the state of their own souls, and pointed out to them the mistake under which they labored: they supposed that they were evincing a zeal for his glory; whereas they were not actuated by any conviction that he was the true Messiah, but by a blind hope that he would prove himself such a Messiah as they vainly expected: "You seek me, not because you saw the miracles," (and were convinced by them of my Messiahship), but because you did eat of the loaves and were filled;" and conclude from thence, that I both can and will effect for you all which your carnal ambition can desired. Then he gives them the solemn admonition which I have just read to you: in unfolding which, I shall notice,

I. The direction here given.

We are not to understand the direction as containing a prohibition to attend to the concerns of the body, but only as intimating that they were not to be placed in competition with the concerns of the soul. It is in this way that we are to understand those memorable words, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." God does not mean to prohibit sacrifices, which he had positively enjoined: but only to express, that if an act of mercy could not be performed without entrenching upon a ceremonial command, the latter should give way to the former; since that which was of a moral nature was of greater worth, in his sight, than anything which was merely ceremonial.

To attend to temporal concerns is a positive duty.

It is a duty we owe to ourselves: we are, by the very necessities of our nature, constrained to "obtain our bread by the sweat of our brow." We owe it to our families: for "if a man provide not for his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. We owe it to the poor: for if we have enough for ourselves, yet are we enjoined to work with our hands the thing that is good, that we may have to give to him that needs." We owe it to the Church. No man is to be supported in idleness: "for God has ordained, that if a man will not work, neither shall he eat." We owe it to our God: we are to be "not slothful in business, at the time that we are fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." In truth, "whatever our hand finds to do, we should do it with all our might."

It is of great importance that this matter should be well understood. Religion does not supersede our civil or social duties: it regulates them, and suggests the proper motives by which we are to be actuated in the performance of them: but it does not dispense with any: it subordinates them, indeed, to the duties which we owe immediately to God; but it inculcates and enjoins them, as necessary in their place, and as truly acceptable to God himself. We must "render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things which are God's."

But an attention to spiritual concerns is of greater and more indispensable importance.

The labor which pertains to them is incomparably more worthy of an intelligent and immortal being, than that which relates to the things of this life. I would not undervalue the occupations of the student in the pursuit of science, or of the artisan in the execution of his work, or of the peasant in the labors of the field. All are good in their place; but all may be performed by a heathen, no less than by a child of God. But the exercises of humiliation before God, of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, of an entire consecration of our souls to the service of the Deity; in a word, fellowship with God, and with his Son Jesus Christ, is a work in which an angel may engage, and in the performance of which the highest archangel would be honored—The fruit also of spiritual labor infinitely excels all that can be reaped in the field of nature. The statesman, the philosopher, the merchant, the mechanic, have doubtless a rich reward of their labors: but it is a reward which an atheist may enjoy; and which, to whatever extent it is enjoyed, "perishes with the using," it is all but as "the meat that perishes." But the peace of God which passes all understanding, the light of his reconciled countenance, a sense of his love shed abroad in the heart, the joy of the Holy Spirit, the earnests and foretastes of the heavenly bliss; what shall I say of these? what are earthly things in comparison of these? what, but a taper before the meridian sun? Besides, these endure forever: they are "a meat that endures unto eternal life;" and, to whatever extent they are enjoyed, they are but as the dawn of future blessedness, the first-fruits of an abundant harvest.

Can any labor be too great for these? The mind may easily be too intensely fixed on the vanities of time and sense, and the exertions made for them be too great: but it is not possible to have the desire after spiritual blessings too ardent, or the pursuit of them too laborious.

Let us now turn our attention to,

II. The encouragement here afforded.

We may labor for the meat which perishes, and be disappointed; as thousands are, who, after years of incessant toil, have either acquired little, or perhaps been reduced to the lowest ebb of want and misery. But this shall never be experienced by those who labor for that better meat which endures unto everlasting life. For, as a recompense of their labors,

1. The Lord Jesus Christ will give it to them.

The Lord Jesus constantly calls himself "the Son of Man;" because by that name, in particular, the Messiah was expected, and had been foretold. "Him had God the Father sealed," and attested, by the visible descent of the Holy Spirit upon him, and by an audible voice from Heaven. By all his miracles, too, did God bear ample testimony to his Messiahship, and, above all, in his resurrection from the dead, and his visible ascension to the highest heavens. There is he invested with "all power both in Heaven and earth;" and from thence will he communicate to all his believing people, according to the full extent of their necessities. The Lord Jesus Christ is of himself well disposed to give us all that we can desire: but, if it were possible to have any security beyond that which we possess in his own love and mercy, we have it in his ordination to that very office by the Father, and in his exaltation to Heaven for that very end, "that he may be Head over all things to his Church," and "that he may fill all things" "out of the fullness that is treasured up in him."

2. He will give it to them all, without exception.

There is no want of power in him to give it to whoever he will. Nor will he be constrained to work a miracle to supply any number that call upon him. "In his Father's house there is bread enough, and to spare." Nor will he show any partiality to one above another. Every laborer, whether old or young, rich or poor, shall receive his proper recompense, every one in exact proportion to his own labor. There will not be with him a different standard whereby to estimate the labors of men; the time and zeal of one being regarded as nothing, in comparison with the exertions of others. "He will judge righteous judgment." It may be that some do not begin to labor until they are incapable, according to human apprehension, of doing anything to good effect: but though they "come into the vineyard at the eleventh hour," they shall have a portion dealt out to them with a liberal hand. One thing only must be observed by all: whatever they receive, they must receive it as a gift, "a reward, not of debt, but of grace." This is indispensably necessary for them all. Not one is to look upon the meat as earned by him; because there is no proportion whatever between the work and the reward, so far as merit is concerned. The labor of ten thousand years would not merit the smallest portion in Heaven: the best of men are but "unprofitable servants," but, if men will labor, "they shall never labor in vain, or run in vain."

This subject affords just occasion for,

1. Reproof to the indolent.

Truly, when we see how anxiously and industriously men exert themselves for the things of time and sense, the very best among us may well be ashamed and confounded on account of his own listlessness and inactivity in the ways of God. Look at the worldling: see him "rising early, and late taking rest, and eating the bread of carefulness," for weeks, and months, and years: see the satisfaction which he feels in prospects of success, and his pain in the apprehensions of failure: see how alive he is to everything which may help him forward in his favorite pursuit, and how everything is made to bear upon that. When shall we engage with such ardor as that in the pursuit of Heaven? When shall we use the means of grace with the same zest and constancy as they do the means of temporal advancement? When will everything be swallowed up, as it were, in the concerns of the soul? Alas! it must be confessed that we fall exceeding short in all these exertions, and that "the men of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." For one Mary that sits habitually at the Savior's feet, there are many Marthas, who, in spite of their professed love for Christ, are careful and cumbered about many things.

But, if this be the case with the most spiritual among us; what shall I say to those who have never yet set themselves in earnest to obtain eternal life? The consciences of many must surely testify against them, that, instead of laboring with all their might for spiritual and eternal blessings, they have never spent so much as one hour in prayer for the salvation of their souls. They are content to leave their eternal interests to chance, if I may so speak; though, if God be true, they leave them to certain ruin. The Lord Jesus Christ, as we have seen, will give to them that labor: but where is it said, that he will give to them that labor not? No such promise can be found in all the book of God. No, indeed: all is suspended on the use of means: "Ask, and you shall have: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you." He who improves his talents, whether they be more or less, shall be rewarded: but "the unprofitable servant, that hides his talent in a napkin, shall assuredly be cast into outer darkness." Consider this, my dearly beloved, and begin without delay the work that is assigned you; for "the day is fast passing away; and the night is quickly coming, when no man can work."

2. For congratulation to the poor.

It must be confessed, that, in relation to temporal concerns, your portion is far inferior to that of the more opulent. For you may often be willing to labor, and not be able to find employment: and when you do labor ever so hard, you may be scarcely able to earn sufficient to supply your necessities. But, in relation to spiritual and everlasting happiness, the balance is altogether as much in your favor. The richer part of the community are so engrossed with the cares or pleasures of this life, that they can scarcely find a moment to devote to the concerns of eternity. The very dispositions which are generated by carnal ease, render it "more difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven, than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle." Hence you read, that "not many mighty, not many noble, are called." But what do you read concerning the poor? Hear, and be astonished! hear, and bless your God! "Has not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdoms?" Yes, he has: and experience proves it: and the appeal which God himself makes to us respecting it is absolutely unanswerable. Be of good cheer then; and bless your God for the privileges which you enjoy. True, indeed, no rich man shall perish because he is rich; nor shall any poor man be saved because he is poor: but if the rich neglect their Savior and their God, however full their tables may now be, they shall soon "want a drop of water to cool their tongues," but the poor, though they be so destitute that they have not rags to cover their sores from the dogs that molest them, shall, if they truly seek after God, soon sit down with Abraham at the heavenly banquet, and rejoice in all the abundance of God's glory forever and ever. Let not your poverty, then, be urged as an excuse for neglecting God; but be improved rather, as an incentive to secure the true riches, which shall never fade away.

 

MDCXXXVII

The Necessity of Faith in Christ

John 6:28, 29. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent.

THE real scope of these words is more clearly seen in the original than in the translation. Our blessed Lord, knowing that many had followed him from carnal motives, and under an expectation that He who had fed thousands of persons with a few loaves and fishes would establish a temporal kingdom among them, had given them this solemn caution: "Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for him has God the Father sealed." These words they had not fully understood. They supposed that some great advantages were to be derived from him; and that some particular works were to be done, in order to obtain them: but what works they were, they did not know. They asked therefore of our Lord, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? you speak of some works appointed to be done by us; and we want to know what they are, in order that we may commence the performance of them." It must here be observed, that they use, throughout their reply, the very same word as Jesus had used when he bade them "labor." Our blessed Lord, still using the same word, says, "This is the work of God," (that is, this is the thing which God enjoins you to do, in order to a participation of the blessings which I am come to bestow), that you believe on Him whom he has sent."

In opening these words, I will show,

I. What is that work which God more particularly requires of us.

It is, that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ.

Let us, however, distinctly notice what kind of a work this is.

It is not a mere assent to the truth of his Messiahship, but an humble affiance in him as the Savior of the world. We must feel our need of him—We must see the suitableness and sufficiency of his salvation—We must actually go to him as the appointed Savior, and seek acceptance with God through Him alone—We must renounce every other hope—and make him "all our salvation and all our desire."

And let us bear in mind, that this is "the work of God."

It is a work. True, indeed, it is often in the Scriptures opposed to works; as when it is said, "A man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ: still, however, it is a work, and a great work too, and such a work as none but God himself can enable us to perform. Only bear in mind the foregoing description of it, and you will see, that, in order to the exercise of it, there must be the deepest prostration of soul before God, and a going-forth of the whole soul to him in a way of humble and grateful affiance. And who is sufficient for the performance of it? Truly, "it is the gift of God," and of God only: it is his grace, and his grace alone, that can ever form it in the soul. It is his work also, not merely because he alone can work it in us, but because it is that which he requires of every living man. When he commanded his Gospel to be preached to the whole world, this was the declaration which was to be universally and invariably made; "He who believes and is baptized, shall be saved; and he who believes not, shall be damned."

To justify what is here said of faith, I proceed to show,

II. Why it has this great pre-eminence above all other works.

In some respects, faith is inferior to other graces: as the Apostle says, "Now abides faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." There are, however, some points of view in which faith rises above every other grace, and may, in a pre-eminent degree, be called, "The work of God."

1. It is that for which Christ himself "was sent" into the world.

He was sent, no doubt, to redeem the world by his own most precious blood. He was sent "to die for us—He, the just, for us the unjust, that he might bring us to God." But, in executing this office, he was to become the one object of faith and hope to the whole world. He was lifted up upon the cross, precisely in the way that the brazen serpent was erected on the pole in the wilderness. The serpent was to convey healing to those only who looked to it as God's appointed instrument for that end: and the Lord Jesus must in like manner be looked to, in order to a participation of his benefits; as he says by the prophet, "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth." This our blessed Lord pointed out, with very extraordinary fullness, in his discourse with Nicodemus. He repeated it again, and again, and again: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so shall the Son of man be lifted up; that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He who believes on him is not condemned: but he who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.… He who believes on the Son has life: and he who believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him." If we believe not on him, we defeat, as far as respects ourselves, all the gracious purposes of God the Father, who has sent him; and all that Christ himself has done, in dying for us; and all that the Holy Spirit has done, in bearing testimony to him, and in revealing him to the world. There is no other grace, the want of which does such dishonor to God, as this: for it sets aside all the wonders of his love, and pours contempt on all the riches of his grace. The whole mystery of godliness is made void, unless he who was "God manifest in the flesh" is also "believed on in the world."

2. It is that, without which all other graces will be of no avail.

I will suppose a person to possess as many graces as Paul himself: of what use will they be to the salvation of his soul, if he believe not in the Lord Jesus Christ? If, indeed, we had never sinned at all, and were to continue sinless to our dying hour, we might hope for acceptance with God without the intervention of Christ. But, as we are sinners before God, how can we ever obtain forgiveness with him, except through the atonement which has been offered for us? But, if we obey perfectly, we do no more than our duty: there can be no overplus to merit the forgiveness of past sin. And, if God were freely to forgive the past, what could we do to purchase Heaven? What act have we ever done which we could presume to carry to Almighty God, saying, 'This needs no forgiveness at your hands; on the contrary, it is so perfect and meritorious, that I can claim all the glory of Heaven as a just recompense for it?' Truly, if Job himself, the most perfect man upon earth, dared not urge such a plea in his own behalf, much less can we: and therefore we must renounce every such self-righteous thought, and, with the Apostle Paul, "desire to be found in Christ; not having our own righteousness, which is of the Law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ." Let me not be misunderstood, as though I would undervalue graces of any kind: they are all good and necessary in their place: but no one of them, nor all together, can justify the soul before God: that can be effected only by faith, which unites us unto Christ, and interests us in all that Christ has done and suffered for us.

3. It is that which will secure, for every one that possesses it, all the blessings both of grace and glory.

It is impossible for one who believes in Christ to perish. Whatever he may have been, whatever he may have done, even though he may have been as wicked as Manasseh himself, we are warranted in affirming, that, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he may find acceptance with God: "though his sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as wool; though they have been red like crimson, they shall be made white as snow." Our blessed Lord has expressly declared this, without any limitation or exception: "Him that comes unto me, I will in no wise cast out." Nor is there any limit to the benefits which the believing penitent shall obtain at his hands. Does he desire pardon? The declaration of an inspired Apostle is, "All that believe, shall be justified from all things." Does his troubled soul sigh for peace? "Being justified by faith, be shall have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, so as to rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Does he pant after holiness? Such shall be the transforming efficacy of his faith, that "his very heart shall be purified by it;" and in the exercise of it he shall "be changed into the Savior's image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Now there is no other grace, of which these things can be spoken; because there is no other grace that can unite us to Christ, or derive from him those rich communications which alone can produce these great effects.

Application.

1. Is there, then, an inquirer here?

I suppose there are some who are ready to ask, 'What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?' Let me, before I reply to this, ask in return, 'Are you sincere in making this inquiry? And will you, if I set before you the very truth of God, endeavor earnestly to comply with it? Can you, from your hearts, declare before God what Jeremiah's hearers engaged to him, "The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for which the Lord your God shall send you unto us: whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send you; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God." ' If this be really the disposition of your minds, then do I confidently return to you the answer which Paul gave to the jailor's inquiry, "What shall I do to be saved?" "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." This is the work which must be done by all: and this work really and truly done, you shall as surely find acceptance with God, as if you were already in Heaven. I do not say, that, when you have done this, there remains nothing more to be done: but I say, that if this he really done, all the rest will follow. Once find the sweetness of that truth, "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," and you will soon attain the character inseparable from it: "You will walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

2. But methinks I hear the voice of an objector.

Someone, perhaps, is saying, 'A fine easy way to Heaven indeed! Only believe; and you may live as you will, and be sure of Heaven at the last!' But this objection will never be urged by one who knows what faith really is. Were it a mere assent to any set of truths, we might well be alarmed at the virtue assigned to it. But it is a grace, which contains in it the seed of all other graces. We speak of a living, not a dead faith: and a living faith will as surely be productive of holiness, both of heart and life, as the light of the sun will dispel the shadows of the night.

But the objector will say, that our whole statement is contrary to the Holy Scriptures; since our blessed Lord, in answer to one who had asked him, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" replied, "If you will enter into life, keep the commandments." The same answer will I give, if, like that inquirer, you are determined to save yourselves by your doings. But then, remember, you must keep them all, and perfectly too, and from the first to the latest moment of your existence. But if, in one instance, even though it be in thought only, you fail, the law will curse you to all eternity; as it is written, "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." And if you will not rest your hopes on such an obedience as this, then is there no other refuge for you but the Lord Jesus Christ, nor any other hope of acceptance for you than through faith in him. But if you still wish to adhere to the commandments, know that "this is God's commandment, that you believe in his Son Jesus Christ;" and that there is no commandment in the Decalogue more peremptorily given than this; since it is expressly declared, that "if you obey it, you shall he saved: and if you obey it not, you shall be damned."

3. Let me not close the subject without a few words to one, as an approver.

It is truly delightful to think, that, however hostile the heart of man is to this doctrine, there are some who cordially approve it. Beloved brother, whoever you are, who embrace it from your heart, I congratulate you from my inmost soul. For, in relation to all other works, a self-righteous man can never tell whether he has a sufficiency of them to justify him before God. To his latest hour he must be in fearful suspense about the state of his soul: but you have in your own bosom a ground of the fullest assurance. The work of faith is such as will at once commend itself to your conscience as really done. You will feel a consciousness that you renounce every other hope, and relies on Christ alone. And in Christ there is such a sufficiency of all that you need, that you can not possibly entertain a doubt, whether he be able to save you to the uttermost. Go on, then, "strong in faith, and giving glory to God." And, as the world will look for the fruits of your faith, yes, and as God himself also will judge by them, see that you show your faith by your works, and that you "abound in all the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God."

 

MDCXXXVIII

The Living Bread

John 6:34. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

A IMAGINED approbation of the Gospel will consist with rooted enmity against it. But such an approbation always arises from carnal, or partial views of the truth. Many love God under the idea "that He is such an one as themselves." Thus the Samaritan woman desired the living water, that she might have no more occasion to go to the well. Thus also the people, whom our Lord was now addressing, seem to have misapprehended our Savior's meaning. They had desired him to confirm his Divine mission by some miracle equal to what Moses had wrought for their forefathers in the wilderness. Our Lord assured them that He himself was the true bread, of which the manna was only a type and figure. They, little knowing what they asked for, desired him to give them the bread of which he spoke. The petition however, in itself, was good. That you may be led to offer it in a more intelligent manner, we shall set before you,

I. The excellence of that bread.

Our Lord enters very minutely into this subject. He institutes a comparison between the manna, and himself as the bread of life; and shows the superiority of the true bread,

1. In its origin.

They supposed that the manna had been given them from Heaven: whereas it came only from the clouds; and was as earthly in its nature as if it had been formed like common bread. But Christ himself was the true bread: and He came down from Heaven. His abode from all eternity had been in the bosom of his Father. And he was now come down from thence to be the food of his chosen people.

2. In its properties.

The manna, like any other bread, was suited only to the body; nor could it give life to that, but only maintain its life; and after all, the bodies which it nourished would die at last. But the true bread was intended for the soul. Nor would it merely support it when alive, but quicken it when dead. Yes, the soul, once quickened by it, should never die. Christ himself being their life, they should live by him here, and with him forever.

3. In its uses.

The manna was very confined as to its use. It was for one nation only; whereas the true bread is intended for the use of all mankind. It is more extensively necessary. The Israelites might as easily have been supported by other food. And we can find many substitutes for bread. But without Christ, no man can live. Neither earth nor Heaven can provide a substitute for him. That bread is equally needed by every child of man. It is also more extensively suitable. Persons may be so disordered as to be incapable of enjoying, or even digesting, common bread. But in whatever state we be, Christ is the proper food of the soul. He is a bread, which is suited both, as milk, to babes, and, as strong meat, to them that are of full age. Further, it is more extensively satisfying. The manna could supply but one want. Whatever abundance of bread we have, we may need a variety of other things, for want of which we may even perish. But if we have Christ, we have all things. We can want nothing which is good for the body; nor anything that relates to the soul. He is food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, riches to the poor, health to the sick, life to the dead; He is all and in all.

Such a glorious account of this bread being given by Christ himself, it becomes us to inquire into,

II. The means by which it may be obtained.

Every provision for the body must be obtained by labor; but this for the soul must be accepted as a free gift.

We are extremely averse to stand indebted to another for our spiritual sustenance. We should be much better pleased to earn it by our own industry. But all our exertions for this end are fruitless. If we were to obtain an interest in Christ by our own works, salvation would no longer be of grace. We are therefore cautioned against every attempt to gain it in that way. We are expressly told that the Israelites were left forever destitute of this bread, because they would persist in these self-righteous methods of obtaining it. We are exhorted to receive it freely, without money and without price.

Nevertheless we are not to decline all kind of labor for it.

We are to seek this bread in prayer, and in the use of all God's appointed ordinances. We are to exert ourselves as much in order to obtain it, as if the acquisition of it were the sole effect of our labor. But we are at the same time to depend as much upon God for it, as if we used no endeavors whatever to procure it. Nor is there any inconsistency in such a view of our duty. Our Lord himself says, "Labor for the meat which the Son of man shall give you."

Application.

Let us seek it by prayer and faith—Let us be thankful that it is sent us in such rich abundance—Let us gather it fresh every day and hour—Nor once attempt to hoard it for future use. There is a fullness in Christ to satisfy our every want—Nor shall we ever be refused if we plead with him as we ought to do. Let us remember, that in our Father's house there is bread enough and to spared. And rest assured, that by feeding upon Christ, we shall find him to be meat indeed and drink indeed.

 

MDCXXXIX

Christ's Willingness to Receive Sinners

John 6:37. Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.

IT is a pleasing reflection that there is a people secured to Christ, who, having been given to him by the Father, shall, each in his appointed time, "be gathered unto Shiloh," to be the fruits of his travail, and the spoils of his victory. This pleasure however would be greatly damped, if we believed, that there were any infallibly, and from eternity, given over to perdition, who should be sent into the world for no other purpose than to fill up the measure of their iniquities, and to fit themselves for the place, to which they had been doomed by an eternal and irreversible decree. We confess that we cannot so draw the line as to satisfy in all cases a caviling, or perhaps a scrupulous mind: but the same difficulties occur, if we attempt to mark the distinct boundaries of free will, and free grace; or to show how the existence of sin could ever consist with the holiness of God. This however is not our province: we must leave to God to reconcile the difficulties that occur; and receive the truths he declares, not because we can comprehend everything respecting them, but because they are revealed by an unerring God. That some are secured to Christ appears from hence, that, if they were not, it might eventually happen, that none might come to him; and consequently, that he might shed his blood in vain. We are not however left to found this sentiment on any uncertain reasonings of our own; since our Lord himself, in the very words before the text, says, "All that the Father has given me, shall come to me." But are all others therefore of necessity sealed up unto perdition? no; for he adds, "And him that comes unto me I will in no wise cast out."

To improve this blessed declaration, let us consider,

I. What we should come to Christ for.

In general, we answer, that we must come to him for everything; since all fullness is treasured up in him, on purpose that we may receive out of it according to our necessities. But more particularly, we must come to him for pardon, which we all need; which we cannot otherwise obtain; and which he is exalted to give. We must come for peace, since all peace derived from other quarters, is delusive, and he, as the Prince of peace, has promised to bestow it. We must come for strength, since without him we can do nothing, and by him, everything; and Paul himself applied to him in prayer, and obtained from him, as we also shall do, grace sufficient for him. Lastly, we must come to him for eternal life and glory; since he frequently claims it as his prerogative to give it, and will surely be the author of it to all them that obey him.

II. In what manner we should come to him.

Of course, our Lord meant not that we were to approach him with our bodies; since many thronged him, and pressed upon him, who nevertheless were cast out. It is therefore, not to the motion of our bodies, but to the frame of our minds, that we are to have respect, when we come unto him. We must come unto him empty. If, like the Laodiceans, we think ourselves rich and increased with goods, our application to Christ will be vain and fruitless. We must be deeply convinced of our own guilt and helplessness; and be thoroughly persuaded that we must perish if be receive us not. We must be like the Prodigal, when dying with hunger, or like the Disciples in jeopardy, crying, Save, Lord, or we perish. Moreover we must come believing. This is more particularly intended by our Lord, the words "coming" and "believing," being perfectly synonymous. To come filled with unbelief, would be to insult, rather than to honor him. We should be convinced of his suitableness to our necessities, his sufficiency for our relief, and his willingness to receive us. We must regard him as the only way to life, the only door of hope. We must believe in him as appointed of God to be our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; and then we shall find by happy experience that he is "able to save us to the uttermost."

III. The encouragement we have to come to him.

Though our Lord sometimes delayed answering the requests of those who came to him in the days of his flesh, he never finally refused any. Thus, though he may not instantly manifest his acceptance of us, he will not reject any who thus come unto him. No past iniquities shall cause him to reject us. This is evident from many strong and express declarations of Prophets, of Apostles, of Christ himself. If it be thought that the sin against the Holy Spirit is an exception, let it suffice to say, that no man, who desires to find acceptance through Christ, can possibly have committed that; since he would in that case have been given over to judicial blindness and obduracy, and consequently, would have continued altogether regardless of his eternal welfare. The same may be proved from manifold instances, wherein the vilest of the human race have found acceptance with him. We need only look at Manasseh, David, and above all at the Apostle Paul, who was in this particular intended for a pattern, and this blessed truth will be established beyond a possibility of doubt. Nor will any present infirmities cause our Lord to reject us. For his Disciples, long after they had found acceptance with him, betrayed manifest symptoms of pride, revenge, and cowardice; and Peter, whose misconduct was by far the most glaring, received by far the most striking tokens of our Lord's regard. We say not this to encourage sin, but to illustrate the tender mercies of him, who carries the lambs in his bosom, and who, instead of breaking the bruised reed, will bring forth from it the sweetest melody.

Address.

1. Those who are afar off from Christ.

Can it be supposed, that, if we will not go to Christ, we can ever participate his benefits? Doubtless we cannot: if we keep at a distance from him in this world, there will be an "impassable gulf between us" in the world to come. Let us remember then, that we must go to him or perish. Let not any one object, I cannot go: for the truth is, we will not. Yet, notwithstanding our past obstinacy, we may go to him, with a full assurance that he will in no wise cast us out. Let us not then delay, lest death seize us, and the door of mercy be forever closed.

2. Those who are coming to him.

We are told of one in the Gospel, whom, when coming to our Lord, the devil cast down, and tare, and left to appearance, dead. Such enmity will Satan discover against us also as soon as ever we attempt to come to Christ. He will raise every obstacle in his power: he will assault us by "fightings without, and fears within." But the more earnest he is in his endeavors to draw us from Christ, the more determined let us be in going to Christ: so shall we most effectually defeat his malice, and secure beyond a doubt our own salvation.

3. Those who have come to him.

Whence is it that so great a difference has been put between you and others? Is it that you were of yourselves more inclined to good, and that you made yourselves to differ? No, you were once as far from God as any; nor had the smallest inclination to seek him until God gave you the will; nor could you then have come to Christ, except the Father had drawn you by his Almighty power. Be careful then to give all the glory of your salvation to God alone. And remember that you are still to be coming to Christ every day you live. "All your fresh springs are in him;" and "out of his fullness you must continually receive." Live then a life of faith on the Son of God; and the communion, which you enjoy with him on earth, shall soon be perfected in the realms of glory.

 

MDCXL

Man's Inability to Come to Christ

John 6:44. No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him.

THERE are in the Holy Scriptures many doctrines which prove an offence and a stumbling-block to the world: but the reason of their exciting disgust and aversion, must be looked for, not so much in the doctrines themselves, as in the depravity of the human heart. To a humble and contrite spirit every truth in the Bible will appear reasonable and worthy of God: it is the pride of man that takes offence at the sacred records, and that renders him unable to receive the declarations of God. Our blessed Lord had told the Jews repeatedly, that he came down from Heaven: they knowing his mother and his reputed father, could not endure that he should arrogate to himself such high honor: but he informed them, that the ground of the offence was within themselves; they were blinded by their own prejudices, and fettered by their own lusts, so that nothing but the almighty grace of God could ever draw them to him in a becoming manner.

Now this subject is difficult; we shall therefore explain it: it is deemed objectionable; and therefore we shall assign the reasons of it: it is liable to abuse; and therefore we shall guard it.

I. It is difficult, and therefore we shall explain it.

To "come to Christ" is to believe on him for salvation.

It cannot refer to a mere bodily approach; because in that sense the assertion would not be true. Our Lord himself explains his meaning, and informs us, that to come to him is of the same import with believing in him. Our coming to him has respect to the characters which he sustains. Is he a Prophet? we must come to him for instruction: is he a Priest? we must come to him to make atonement for us: is he a King? we must come to him to deliver us from all our spiritual enemies. In whatever view he is represented in the Scriptures, whether as a sun to enlighten, a fountain to cleanse, a physician to heal, or as bread to support our lives, we should come to him, feeling our need of him under that very character, and relying on him to supply our every want.

In order to this, we should experience the drawings of the Father.

When we speak of "the Father drawing us," we appear to some as if we ascribed to him an irresistible agency, and considered men as mere machines. But we entertain no such absurd unscriptural notions. It is not with the cords of a beast, or with force and violence, that God draws us, but, as the prophet well expresses it, "with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love," that is, by rational considerations, and by the sweet attractions of his love. Perhaps this subject will be best understood by a familiar illustration. How was it that Jacob was drawn into Egypt? He was made to feel the pressure of a very grievous famine: he was informed that there was plenty of corn in Egypt; and that his dearly-beloved of the good was the Lord of all that land, and that he disposed of the good things thereof to whoever he would: he was told, moreover, that Joseph had expressly invited him; and had sent wagons for the conveyance of his family, together with abundance of provisions by the way: and finally, he was assured that, at the end of his journey, all the good of the land of Egypt should be his. Did he need after this, to have a rope or chain fastened round him, and to be dragged into Egypt? No, all that he needed was faith, to believe the tidings; and when once he was fully persuaded of the truth of these things, he was willing of himself to go into that good land. It is thus that God draws his people: he causes us to feel our need of mercy; he informs us that our beloved Jesus has all Heaven at his disposal; that he has sent to invite us to him, assuring us of whatever is needful by the way, and promising us all the glory of Heaven at the end: and finally, he gives us faith to believe his testimony. Thus "he makes us willing in the day of his power;" and a thorough belief of these truths will bend the most stubborn heart, and overcome the most reluctant mind.

Without these drawings we cannot come to Christ.

We may give an assent to all the truths of the Gospel, and may profess an attachment to our Lord himself, without any such gracious influence; but we cannot really come to him in the manner before described, unless we be drawn by an almighty power. We can never apprehend him, until we are thus, as it were by a kind of magnetic influence, apprehended by him.

Such is the plain import of the subject before us; but,

II. It is deemed objectionable, and therefore we shall assign the reasons of it.

There is no doctrine of the Bible that is loaded with more opprobrium than this: it is represented as grossly enthusiastic, and almost bordering on blasphemy. But the truth of it will immediately appear, if only we consider the grounds and reasons of it. It is founded,

1. On our indisposition to come to Christ.

Consider what the coming to Christ implies: First it implies a sense of our lost state without him: and do men like to feel themselves guilty and undone? do they feel no backwardness to confess that they are justly exposed to everlasting misery? Next, it implies a renunciation of all dependence on ourselves: and is this pleasing to corrupt nature? Are we willing to believe ourselves so utterly destitute of wisdom, righteousness, and strength, that we must be altogether dependent on Christ, as much as a new-born infant is on its parent? Next, it implies a turning from everything that is displeasing to Christ: but have we no reluctance to mortify our besetting sins, and to forsake the habits, maxims, company, and interests of a polluted world? Lastly, it implies that we give ourselves entirely up to Christ, to walk in a state of holy communion with him, and unreserved obedience to his will: but does man naturally affect such a life as this? Is there nothing irksome to him in such restraints; nothing painful in such exertions?

Here then is one reason why we need the drawings of the Father in order to come to Christ. Our coming to Christ is altogether against the current of our corrupt nature: and as a river flowing to the ocean cannot turn back again to its source without the attractive influence of the heavenly bodies, so neither can we reverse all our natural habits and propensities, without the drawings of our heavenly Father.

2. On our impotency.

The impotency of man to do what is good is certainly rather of a moral than a natural kind: his inability is not like that which incapacitates him to stop the sun in the firmament: it consists principally in a want of inclination: yet, together with that, there is a positive weakness; there is even in a regenerate man "the flesh lusting against the Spirit, so that he cannot do the things that he would." Paul himself complained, that "to will was present with him; but how to perform that which was good, he found not," that "the good which he would, he did not; and that the evil which he would not, that he did: that when he would do good, evil was present with him." And who among us has not found the same? Who has not felt wanderings of mind, yes, and lamentable obduracy of heart, in those seasons when he has earnestly desired to maintain communion with his Lord and Savior? Who has not been made sensible that he is like a becalmed vessel; and that he spreads the sails in vain, until the wind arise to bear him onward in his voyage?

We need not then to inquire after any other reasons for the doctrine in the text: our own experience, together with that of the saints in all ages, amounts to a demonstration of the point; more especially because it is confirmed by the strongest declarations of Holy Writ. God himself has told us, that without Christ we can do nothing; that we cannot, of ourselves, even speak a good word; nay, that we have not sufficiency even to think a good thought: that "God must give us both to will and to do." If then "our sufficiency even for these things must be of God," how much more must a Divine influence be necessary in order to our coming fully and habitually to Christ, as the life and strength of our souls!

We must not however be satisfied with establishing this doctrine; for,

III. It is liable to abuse; and therefore we will guard it.

It is abused as much as any doctrine whatever;

1. By the ignorant and ungodly.

When we tell them how they must come to Christ, and devote themselves to his service, they excuse themselves by saying that they cannot: and thus, in fact, they cast all the blame of their condemnation upon God, instead of taking it to themselves. But the impotency of which they complain is no excuse for them. Before they conclude themselves to be blameless, let them inquire, whether they do all that they can; whether they read, and meditate, and pray, and watch, and strive as much as they can? If they do not improve aright the strength they have, what reason have they to complain that God has not given them more? They will not so much as "frame their doings to turn unto the Lord," and therefore they are as deserving of punishment, as if they had had all the power in their own hands: if they be not faithful in the few things which they have, there is no reason to think that they would have been faithful in more, if more had been committed to them. With this accords our Lord's own interpretation of such excuses, and the sentence he will pronounce on those who offer them: instead of standing excused before God, they will be condemned as wicked and unprofitable servants.

But such excuses are indeed the greatest aggravation of their guilt: for they amount only to this; "I love sin so much, that I cannot renounce it; and hate God so much, that I cannot bring my mind to love and serve him." And how would such an excuse sound in a court of judicature on behalf of a murderer? This man hates his fellow-creatures to such a degree, that he cannot help murdering them whenever he can get them within his reach? Would the people say, 'Poor man, he ought not to be punished, for he cannot help it?' Would they not rather think, that the wickedness of his disposition was the greatest aggravation of his guilt, and that it would be the height of injustice to let him pass unpunished? The cases are altogether parallel: the conduct of each proceeds from his own depravity: and in either case increases, rather than diminishes, their desert of condemnation.

2. By many professors of religion.

Strange as it may seem, we must confess that there are many professors of religion who abuse most shamefully the doctrine of the text: I allude to Antinomian professors, who, when warned of their state, will plead their weakness in extenuation of their guilt, and will cast the blame on God, just as the ungodly themselves are accustomed to do. But if there be any people under Heaven more offensive to God than others, surely these must be they. The ignorant and ungodly are quite innocent, when compared with these. Truly the excuses of an Antinomian professor are little short of blasphemy. O that all of that description might consider the fallacy and impiety of their pleas! But we would hope that no such professor is in this place: if however there should be one, we must declare unto him, that, whatever excuse he may make for his sinful practices or neglects, "he deceives his own soul, and his religion is vain." If God indeed were unwilling to help him, there might be some justice in his pleas. But who will dare to cast such a reflection upon him? The fault is only in the depraved wills of men: "You will not come unto me, that you might have life." Let none then presume to charge God foolishly: if ever we would be right in his sight, we must trace all good to him, all evil to ourselves.

Address.

1. To the self-confident.

If you be not yet convinced of your need of Divine influences, go home, and try to perform some spiritual acts in your own strength: try to go to Christ with contrition; to cast yourself upon him with humble confidence; and to devote yourself to him in unreserved obedience. Do this, do it really, and with your whole heart, and we will retract all we have spoken, and confess either that the Bible is false, or that we have mistaken its true import. But we fear not the issue of such a trial: we are persuaded it would tend, more than anything, to your conviction. Having within your own power the means of ascertaining the truth or falsehood of what you have heard, you will be utterly inexcusable if you neglect to do it.

2. To the timid.

Let it not be a source of discouragement to you that you feel your weakness: for "when you are weak, then are you strong." Can you do nothing of yourselves? then live the more dependent upon God: and "he will perfect his strength in your weakness." He has said, "Fear not, you worm Jacob, you shall thresh the mountains." What a labor is this to be performed by a worm! yet it shall be done. Trust then in him, and be of good courage: and He who "seat Christ to you," will draw you to him, and he who draws you to him, will accomplish in you all his good pleasure, until you are "raised at last" to a full enjoyment of his presence and glory.

 

MDCXLI

The Importance of Living by Faith on Christ

John 6:53–55. Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

THE natural man neither does nor can understand spiritual truths. This inspired declaration has been verified in all ages. The Samaritan woman showed how unapt we are to receive spiritual instruction. Even Nicodemus formed the most absurd conceptions of our Lord's meaning: such also was the blindness of the Jews to whom our Lord addressed this discoursed. He, however, in compassion to them, proceeded to confirm his gracious declarations. May we experience the illuminating and constraining influences of divine grace, while we consider,

I. What is meant by eating the flesh of Christ, and drinking his blood.

Great caution is necessary in explaining the figurative expressions of Scripture. We shall endeavor to exhibit the full scope of the metaphor, without pressing it too far. It is sufficiently obvious that the text is not to be understood in a literal sense; nor does it relate to the sacrament, that being not yet instituted; nor does it signify the giving a mere assent to our Lord's doctrines.

The doctrines of the Gospel are sometimes represented as bread and wine; and our Lord may be considered as speaking of his doctrines when he speaks of himself as the bread of life. But he could not intend a mere assent to those doctrines by the metaphor of eating. If this were all that he meant, Judas and Simon Magus were truly possessed of eternal life.

Our Lord explains the eating of him as synonymous with believing on him: but to speak more particularly, the metaphor of eating the flesh of Christ, etc. implies,

1. An union with his person.

The doctrine of our union with Christ is set forth by a great variety of images in Scripture. It naturally arises from the metaphor in the text. It is particularly mentioned by our Lord in the two verses following.

2. A trust in his sacrifice.

Our Lord speaks of his flesh expressly in reference to his sacrifice. The words which he used at the institution of his Last Supper confirm this idea. The eating of his flesh therefore can mean no less than a trust in that sacrifice.

3. A dependence on his grace.

What animal food is to the body, that the grace of Christ is to the soul. Unless we have recourse to Christ continually, we must fall and perish.

According to this view of the metaphor, it is worthy of the deepest attention.

II. The importance of the doctrine.

This is abundantly manifest, from the words before us. There is nothing so important as a life of faith on Christ: nothing,

1. So necessary.

The greatest of all concerns is the salvation of the soul: but that cannot he effected by any other means. The person who does not live on Christ, has no spiritual life: he may have wealth, and honor, learning, and even morality (in some sense), but he has no life: he may even "have a name to live, but he is really dead;" and his spiritual death will issue in death eternal. What then can be so necessary as to believe in Christ?

2. So beneficial.

The possession of the whole world is not to be compared with eternal life: yet life eternal is secured by eating the flesh of Christ. As for past sins, they shall be no bar to our obtaining of this blessing. Indeed, "the believer has already eternal life" in his soul. He has a title to it, confirmed by the promise and oath of Jehovah. He has also the earnest of it since this communion with Christ is Heaven begun on earth: and the Savior in whom he trusts, will raise him up at the last day" to the complete and everlasting enjoyment of it.

3. So excellent.

They may be said to "feed on ashes," who have no higher gratifications than those which are derived from carnal indulgences: but "the body and blood of Christ are meat indeed, and drink indeed." Nothing affords such unspeakable delight as the exercise of faith on Christ: nor has anything such a transforming efficacy on the soul. Surely, if the manna was "angels' food," much more is the body and blood of Christ.

Address.

1. Those who are disregarding this heavenly banquet.

Would to God that you would consider Who it is that utters the declarations in the text! and that you would mark the energetic manner in which he utters them! Think you that his words are false, or that they shall ever be reversed? Ah! cast away the husks on which you are feeding; and live, as the Apostle did, by faith on the Son of God.

2. Those who doubt whether they may partake of it.

The whole of our Lord's discourse to the Jews shows that all were, not only at liberty, but bound, to feed on him; and we are commanded to invite, yes, to compel, you to come to this glorious feast. Indeed, to whom else will you go? and on what else will you feed? Come then, and "eat and drink abundantly, O beloved;" and rest assured, that they who come hungry, shall never be sent empty away.

 

MDCXLII

The Gospel a Ground of Offence

John 6:60. Many therefore of his Disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

THE Gospel, to those who have obtained just views of it, is simplicity itself: but to those who are not taught of God, it is utter foolishness. When the prophets taught the people, their hearers, instead of "believing their report," were ready to exclaim, "Ah! Lord God, does he not speak parables?" In like manner, when our blessed Lord, "who spoke as never man spoke," addressed to his followers as rich and instructive a discourse as any that is contained in the sacred volume, they said among themselves, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?"

We shall find it not unprofitable to consider,

I. What was the saying at which they were so greatly offended.

In substance it was, that his people must live by faith in him.

This he had spoken plainly: "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger; and he who believes in me shall never thirst." But he had also represented it under a figure which they did not understand. He had been challenged by his hearers to give any proof of his divine mission, equal to that which Moses had given to the Jewish people, in the wilderness, by supplying them with manna from Heaven for forty years: and, in answer to that challenge, our Lord drew a parallel between the manna and himself, whom that manna typified—and required that all should live by faith in him for the salvation of their souls, as their forefather did on the manna for the sustenance of their bodies.

This filled them with extreme astonishment and disgust.

That he should speak of himself as "coming down from Heaven," was unaccountable; since they knew, as they supposed, his earthly parentage, as well as they did that of any other man—That he should speak of "giving them his flesh to eat," was equally incomprehensible; since they could annex no idea to it but that which was too horrible to think off—Then, as to the consequences that he spoke of, as infallibly arising to them from their eating, or declining to eat, his flesh, they could not endure to hear such assertions from his lips.

Hence they "murmured" among themselves; and declared it all to be utterly unintelligible, and unworthy to be received by any rational being. Their confidence, in relation to this view of it, is strongly expressed in that pointed interrogation, "Who can hear it?" And so strong was their disgust at it, that "from that time many of his Disciples went back, and walked no more with him." So general, too, was this feeling, that it seemed as if the Apostles themselves would follow the example of his other Disciples.

But that to which I would more especially call your attention is, to inquire,

II. Whence it was that it proved so particularly offensive to them?

It should seem that they were offended because of,

1. The strangeness of the image.

Never had they heard anything like it before. Had he spoken of himself as a sacrifice, they might have more readily received the idea of "eating his flesh;" because, under their own law, the offenders in many cases partook of their own sacrifices. But even then, as they knew nothing of human sacrifices, it would have proved sufficiently dark and unintelligible to them. But when he spoke of "drinking his blood," it was disgusting to them in the extreme: for not even the prohibitions relative to idolatry were stronger than those which related to the tasting of blood. If they viewed it literally, they could regard it in no other light than as a savage ordinance, too horrible to think of: and of a spiritual or mystical import their minds could form no conception; since nothing that they had ever heard of could at all lead them to such a thought. Hence it is not surprising that they should be stumbled at what they were so utterly unable to comprehend. If so learned and excellent a man as Nicodemus was confounded at the mention of a new birth, we cannot wonder that Disciples of a more uneducated class should be offended at an image so gross, and remote from common apprehension, as that of eating human flesh, and drinking human blood.

2. The sublimity of the sentiments contained in it.

They saw that some deep mystery was contained in this image, though they were unable to unravel it. The food of which Jesus spoke was not to nourish life, but to give it; and not to the body, but to the soul; and not of one people only, but of the whole world; and not for a few years, but forever and ever. What could all this mean? The manna had never restored so much as one dead man to life; nor had it kept even Moses himself from dying: yet the flesh and blood of Christ were to do this, and infinitely more, for all who would partake of it, even to the very end of time. "What shall we say to such assertions as these? How can they be credited? How can any man listen to them for a moment?" Yes: such, I say, might well be the murmurings of those who understood not his sayings.

3. The baseness of him who promulgated these sentiments.

Had he been a mighty monarch, who, like the kings of the earth, had the command of life and death, his hearers might have annexed some idea to his words. But they were uttered by a poor man, who "had not for himself so much as a place where to lay his head," and was attended only by a few poor fishermen. What could such a person mean, by asserting things which would appear extravagant beyond all endurance, if uttered by the greatest monarch upon earth? Doubtless the unsuitableness of his pretensions to his present appearance must have tended exceedingly to increase the difficulty of apprehending the just import of his words.

4. The contrariety of the sentiments to all the notions they had ever imbibed.

In addition to all the difficulties arising from the figures that were used, an insurmountable objection to the reception of them arose from the sentiments which they seemed intended to convey. If they had any meaning at all, it must be, that, in some way or other, the souls of men were to live by him, and by him alone. But how could this be? What must become of all the ordinances of the Ceremonial Law, and all the precepts of the Moral Law? Must all these, without exception, be put aside; and nothing be of any avail, but the eating of this man's flesh, and the drinking of his blood?

That this was a particular stumbling-block in their way, is highly probable, from the very question which was put to our Lord, and from which the whole discourse originated. "They said unto him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent." What! Is this the great work that we have to do? Is faith in him the great duty, by means of which we are to find acceptance with God? What then becomes of Moses, and of all the precepts, whether ceremonial or moral, that he has enjoined?

Let us put ourselves into the place of the people whom our Lord addressed, and take into consideration these various difficulties which they had to contend with; and, though we cannot but severely blame, we shall be inclined, I think, to pity also, the fatal resolution which they adopted on this occasion.

Address.

1. Those who have an insight into this mystery.

"Blessed are the eyes that see the things that you see." We have very little conception what privileges we enjoy, even above those who attended the ministry of our Lord himself. We are enabled to compare one part of Scripture with another, and to see both the character of our Lord as God and man, and the accomplishment of the whole Mosaic economy in him. The things, therefore, that were stumbling-blocks to his hearers, are not so to us: and the things which were veiled in impenetrable darkness to them, are as resplendent as the day to us. Nor do we merely comprehend the Gospel as one harmonious whole, revealed at successive periods from the fall of man; but we are enabled to enjoy in our own souls, and to attest, from personal experience, that Christ's "flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed." Be thankful then, beloved, for this inestimable benefit; and, as the Israelites in the wilderness subsisted altogether on the bread from Heaven, so live you on "the true bread from Heaven," even "on the Son of God, who has loved you, and given himself for you."

2. Those who are not yet able to receive it.

Do not imagine, that because many things in the Gospel appear absurd to you, they are therefore of necessity absurd in themselves: for you cannot but know, that, in human sciences, there are many things which, if they were stated to you with the greatest clearness, you would not be able to comprehend: and therefore you may well expect the same in that deepest of all mysteries, the redemption of the world by the blood and righteousness of our incarnate God. The truth is, that this mystery cannot be understood, unless our eyes be opened by the Son of God, and a spiritual understanding be given to us, whereby to discern the things of the Spirit. Let me, then, guard you against precipitancy in judging of the things which you are not able to comprehend: but lift up your hearts to God in prayer, that his Spirit may be given you, and that by that Spirit you may be guided into all truth. Perhaps the images of Scripture may offend you; or the declarations of it may appear too harsh. But remember, "It is the Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak unto you, says our Lord, are spirit and life." Though therefore, if taken in a carnal sense, they may be, as doubtless in many cases they are, foolishness itself, yet, viewed according to their true import, they are "the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believes."

 

MDCXLIII

Christ the One Source of Eternal Life

John 6:67–69. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will you also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.

IT was said of our Lord by the aged patriarch who took him in his arms at his presentation in the temple, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spoken against; that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed," and this discovery of men's characters was universally produced by his ministrations. Nor was it occasioned by his doctrines only, but frequently by the manner in which they were promulgated. His discourses abounded much in parabolical and figurative representations, which cast a veil of obscurity over them and served as a touchstone to try the spirits of those who heard him. His statement of the new birth was for a time a stumbling-block to Nicodemus, who knew not what interpretation to put upon his words: and in like manner, his discourse respecting "eating his flesh and drinking his blood" offended many; insomuch that "they went back, and walked no more with him." His own Apostles scarcely knew how to receive his word; so that it seemed as if they also would depart from him. But they were of a more humble and teachable spirit; and therefore, when our Lord asked, if they also intended to forsake him, they expressed their abhorrence of such an idea, and their determination to adhere to him at all events.

I. The question which our Lord put to his Disciples demands our first consideration.

Though it related to one particular occasion, it is suited to convey much general instruction. It shows us,

1. That the best of men are liable to depart from God.

This is a truth of infinite importance, which yet many are very averse to hear. But who can doubt it in reference to himself? Who does not feel that he himself may fall, and that too into grievous sin, and into final condemnation? Advocates for human systems may say what they please on this subject; but there is not an humble Christian in the universe who does not feel this to be true in reference to himself: and if any choose to deny it, we shall oppose to him the example of the Apostle Paul, who "kept his body under, and brought it into subjection, lest by any means, after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away." In ourselves we are weak as new-born babes: it is God alone "that can keep us from falling;" and if ever we be saved at all, we must be "kept by the power of God unto salvation."

But there is not that opposition between this doctrine and that of the perseverance of the saints that some imagine. A mother's care is a pledge for the security of her child: but that does not set aside the liability of the child to perish by hunger or cold, or a thousand other accidents; any of which things may at any time occur by the carelessness or death of its nurse. Thus our security is not in ourselves, but in our God: if left to ourselves for one moment, we should perish: and all our hope is in the tender care and mercy of our God. The only difference between the child and us is, that its guardian is weak and mortal; whereas ours is the almighty and unchangeable Jehovah, in whose power and fidelity alone our advantage consists.

2. That the defection of some endangers the stability of others.

We are easily wrought upon by the influence of bad example. "The mixed multitude in the wilderness fell a lusting," and soon drew after them the whole nation of Israel. In the Gospels too we have many melancholy instances of the readiness even of good men to follow each other in what is evil. Peter, full of self-confidence, presumed to declare, that "though he should be called to die with his Lord, he would not deny him," and then we are told, "Likewise also said all the Disciples;" so speedily were they led away by his example. On another occasion, we find them all "murmuring and full of indignation" about the expense which had been incurred for the purpose of honoring their Lord: and, when we come to inquire whence it originated, we trace it all to Judas, who was a thief, and wanted to steal the money for his own use. The instance of Barnabas also, and other Jewish Christians, who were led away by Peter's dissimulation, is precisely in point. Indeed, who that is at all conversant with the Christian world, has not seen, on many occasions, how rapidly a bad spirit in one diffuses itself through a whole Church? Good instruction and example operate very slowly and partially; but that which is evil spreads apace: "a little leaven will soon leaven the whole lump." It becomes us then to be on our guard against the contagion of evil. Doubtless these apostates thought that they had reason enough to forsake our Lord: but if we were left, like Paul, unsupported and unacknowledged by the whole Christian world, it would become us, like him, to maintain our steadfastness, and to "cleave unto Christ with full purpose of heart."

3. That we ought to watch the first motions and tendencies of our own hearts to evil.

The twelve had evidently participated in the feelings of the other Disciples, though not to the same extent. This our Lord saw; and therefore bade them come to a decision. Happy was it for them that the bias of their minds was the right way: and happy for them that they were called upon to decide, before the evil had got too deep a root in their minds. Had they been left to "go back, and walk no more with Jesus," how bitterly would they have lamented it to all eternity! Let us then be aware of the tendency of evil thoughts, and guard against their first introduction into the mind. If we be tempted for a moment to account anything "a hard saying," or to turn aside in the smallest degree from the path of duty, let us remember, that they who draw back, "draw back unto perdition;" and that "if any man draw back, God's soul shall have no pleasure in him."

Such was the instructive nature of our Lord's question: and,

II. The answer of Peter was worthy of an inspired Apostle.

Peter was forward on all occasions to speak his mind; and often spoke hut unadvisedly at best. But on this occasion he returned, both for himself and all his brethren, an answer fraught with wisdom. Two grounds he states for the determination which all of them had formed to adhere to Christ;

1. The insufficiency of the creature.

The conviction of his mind on this subject was very strong; insomuch that he ventured even to appeal to Christ himself, and to defy, if I may so speak, Omniscience itself to tell him, where any other refuge could be found, or any other source of solid good: "Lord, to whom shall we go?" 'We are in pursuit of instruction: who can give it us, if we turn our back on you? We are in pursuit of happiness: where can we find it, but in you? We are bent upon the attainment of Heaven: who can bring us thither, but yourself? If we go back to the world and cast off all care for these things, nothing but everlasting destruction awaits us: and if we go to the Scribes and Pharisees, we have had evidence enough what kind of teachers they are, "blind leaders of the blind." To whom then can we go, with the smallest prospect of attaining what we are seeking after?'

Now this part of Peter's answer furnishes us with a good reply to all who would turn us from the Lord. "To whom, or what, would you turn me?—to the world? I have found its emptiness. To sin? I know its bitterness. To formality? I have felt its incompetency to satisfy my mind and conscience. My God tells me that "Christ is all," and I am constrained from daily experience to say to him, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides you" Whatever advantages were proposed to us as an inducement to turn back from Christ, we should regard the proposal as absurd and impious as that which was made by the Israelites of old.

2. The all-sufficiency of Christ.

Our Lord had frequently asserted in the foregoing discourse, that "he would give eternal life to those who should eat his flesh and drink his blood." Peter, in his answer, refers to that; and professes confidently, in the name of all the other Apostles, that the words of Christ pointed out the only true way to life, and that Christ himself was that very Messiah, who was authorized and commissioned to bestow life: "You have the words of eternal life; and we believe, etc."

This was a glorious confession, and an ample reason for the determination they had formed to remain firm in his cause. Where should they go for water, when they had the fountain near them? "True it was, that at the present it was, in a measure, a fountain sealed;" yet not so sealed, but that it always afforded them an abundant supply for their present necessities; and in due time it would be opened to the whole world, and flow unto the ends of the earth. They were persuaded that he would impart to them living water; and that, "if only they drank of the water that he should give them, they should never die." O that every Christian in this day felt the same confident persuasion! In vain would the world, and the flesh, and the devil combine their efforts to destroy him: he would determine with Joshua, that though the whole world should become servants to them, "he and his house would serve the Lord."

Application.

Who among you are disposed to walk with Jesus?

This may be done now in the exercise of faith and prayer, precisely as Enoch and Noah "walked with God" in the days of old. It is every Christian's privilege to do so. Be assured, that, however the world may be offended at Christ, he is an able Instructor, a kind Master, a faithful Friend, and an all-sufficient Savior.

Are there any among us that have turned back from him?

Alas; there are apostates now, as well as in former times. But what has any one gained by departing from Christ? Is he happier than he was when he sat at the Savior's feet and heard his words? There is but one testimony on this head from all the children of men: "In observing lying vanities, they have forsaken their own mercies"—Think then from whence you are fallen, and say, "I will return unto my first husband, for then it was better with me than now."

To those who are walking steadily with him,

We would address those words of the Apostle, "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." If even the Apostles were ready to start aside, who has not need to watch and pray lest he also enter into temptation? Awful is that admonition of our Lord, "Remember Lot's wife." If you would endure unto the end, you must be teachable as little children; and be determined, through God's assistance, to "die with Christ, rather than forsake him."

 

MDCXLIV

No Savior but the Lord Jesus

John 6:67–69. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will you also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that them are that Christ, the Son of the living God.

NOTHING is more common than for persons to take offence at the word of God itself. Sometimes its strictness offends them; sometimes its harshness and severity; sometimes its mysteriousness and sublimity. Nicodemus could not receive what was spoken to him about the new birth: the Samaritan woman could not comprehend the idea of living water: and the hearers of our Lord were altogether indignant, when he discoursed to them about giving them his flesh to eat. Indeed, this saying appeared to them so hard, so strange, and so absurd, that a great number of them departed from him, and walked no more with him. Even the Apostles themselves were evidently stumbled at it; insomuch, that our Lord, with a mixture of surprise and pity, asked them, "Will you also go away?" The answer which Peter gave him, in the name of all the rest, will lead me to show you the grounds of a Christian's adherence to Christ. He determinately cleaves to Christ,

I. Because there is salvation for him in no other.

We may conceive the Apostle speaking to this effect: "Lord, to whom shall we go? We are seeking after salvation: we are desiring to obtain peace with God: we want to find rest for our souls. Where can we go for any of these things?"

Now, in like manner, may every Christian say, 'To whom shall I go, to remove the burden of my sins? If I go to the world, it may dissipate my thoughts for a moment; but it can bring no solid peace to my soul. Its cares, its pleasures, its company, can do nothing towards healing the pangs, or silencing the accusations, of a guilty conscience: they may suspend, but can never remove, my sorrows: or rather, if they cause me to forget my sins for a little time, it is only that they may press upon me afterwards with an accumulated weight, and leave me a more awful prey to guilt and shame and misery. If I go to the Law, and seek to pacify my mind by an obedience to its commands, I find no success. I feel a consciousness that I can never atone for the sins I have already committed: I am sensible, too, that, in spite of all my endeavors, I cannot fulfill its demands: I come short in everything I do: and I hear it thundering out its anathemas against me; saying, "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." I perceive that I can never establish such a righteousness as shall avail for my acceptance before God. I am therefore shut up to that way of salvation which you, my Lord, have revealed. Nothing but fear or terror haunts me, whether I endeavor to forget my sins, or to make an atonement for them: and I can find none but Jesus that can afford me the desired relief.'

A further ground on which a Christian adheres to Christ is,

II. Because he is both able and willing to save.

"You have the words of eternal life," said this blessed Apostle. The preceding discourse alone abundantly warranted this assertion: for, in it, Jesus had declared, in the strongest terms, that "he would give eternal life;" that "whoever should come to him, and believe in him, should never hunger, never thirst;" that "of those who should come to him, he would never cast out one;" that "all who should see him and believe in him should assuredly have everlasting life;" yes, that they were at that very moment in actual possession of it; that he had come down from Heaven on purpose to bestow it on all who would seek it through him: that, as the Jews had subsisted upon manna in the wilderness, so all who would eat his flesh, and drink his blood, should exist by him, and that not for a time only, but forever. Now what could all this mean? Could any declaration be more full, more rich. more suitable to men sojourning in this dreary wilderness?

Thus, then, may every believer say: for the whole Scripture teems with invitations and promises from this adorable Savior, and especially to those who feel their need of mercy at his hands. "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls: for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink: and out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Here is no exception: the only requisite for acceptance with him is, that we feel our need of him, and come to him to quench our thirst.

What can we want more? Let our wants be ever so great, he has a fullness adequate to the supply of them: and let our unworthiness be ever so great, our sense of that unworthiness shall be our best recommendation to him: nor shall our incapacity to offer him anything in return for these benefits be any bar to our acceptance: since they are all offered freely, "without money and without price." Shall we then decline going to him? or, having gone to him, shall we ever depart from him? God forbid!

But the Christian will yet more determinately adhere to him,

III. Because he is expressly appointed to that very office.

Of this the Apostles were assured: "We believe, and are sure, that you are that Christ, the Son of the Living God." It had been foretold that the Messiah should appear, on purpose "to finish transgression, to make an end of sin, to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in an everlasting righteousness" for his believing people. This person was to be no other than "the Son of the Living God." And that Jesus was this very person, the Apostles had no doubt. They had seen the miracles which Jesus had wrought in confirmation of his divine mission, those very miracles to which Jesus himself had appealed in proof of his Messiahship: and they could not doubt but that he was the very person to whom all the Law and the Prophets had borne witness, as the appointed Savior.

Now, if the Apostles at that time "were sure" of this truth, how much more may we be assured, who have seen his whole work completed, in his death upon the cross, his resurrection from the dead according to his word, his ascension into Heaven, and his sending down of the Holy Spirit, to testify of him, and to establish his kingdom in the world? Methinks we might as well doubt our own existence, as call in question his Messiahship, and his express ordination of God to be the Savior of the world.

Shall we, then, look out for any other? or, having believed in him, shall we for a moment suffer any other to stand in competition with him? No, Lord: we believe, and are sure, that you are sent of God to this very office; and we will know none but You, none but You.

Here I would put a question or two, by way of bringing home the subject more fully to our souls. Having taken for granted that we all are following the Lord Jesus, I have forborne hitherto to inquire respecting it. Let me, however, entreat you to supply that defect, and to examine carefully whether you have ever come to Christ aright? Deceive not yourselves, I pray you, in relation to this matter: for the everlasting salvation of your souls depends upon it. Have you seen that there is no hope for you in anything but in his atoning blood? Have you renounced all dependence upon your own righteousness; and are you trusting altogether in his obedience unto death?—Unless this be clearly ascertained, you are not prepared to enter on the consideration of the questions which I would wish to propose to you. But, supposing that you are indeed believers in Christ, I ask,

1. Will you depart from him?

Whom or what will you place in competition with him?—Perhaps you are not at present tempted in any particular way to depart from him. But be assured that you will he: for there is not any true follower of Christ who does not, sooner or later, meet with trials to prove his sincerity. You may not be called to "resist unto blood," but you cannot fail to meet with smaller persecutions, such as contempt and ridicule, and the hatred of an ungodly world, perhaps too even of your nearest friends. What, then, is the state of your minds in reference to these things? Are you enabled, through grace, to honor Christ, and to set at defiance all your enemies? If you see others turning back, (for what age is there which does not witness many apostasies?) are you the more determined, through grace, to "cleave unto him with full purpose of heart?" Are you saying, as Ruth to Naomi, "Nothing but death (no, nor death itself) shall part between you and me." You must not indeed be making resolutions, and, in dependence on your own strength, be saying, "Though all men forsake you, yet will not I," but your daily prayer must be, that you may be kept steadfast unto the end: for it is only by being "faithful unto death, that you can ever attain a crown of life."

2. Will you not endeavor to bring all you can to him?

Surely, if you are fully persuaded that "there is no other name under Heaven but his, whereby man can be saved," you will labor according to your ability to bring men to the knowledge of him. You cannot but pity the poor deceived world, who are going after lying vanities, while you have found a refuge for your souls. Go, look around you: go and see what empty cisterns men hew out to themselves, while your thirst is quenched at the fountain-head. Go to the places of public resort, and see what a poor vain portion the worldlings have. Truly, their best pleasures are but as the crackling of thorns under a pot; a fire that blazes for a moment, and then expires in smoke and melancholy. Have compassion on them, and tell them of the Savior you have found: and, while you labor to instruct the ignorant, exert yourselves to the utmost to confirm the wavering, and to bring back the sheep that have been driven away.

Extend your views, also, to the heathen world. Alas! to what refuges of lies have they recourse! Behold their idols of wood and stone, that cannot so much as move themselves, much less assist their votaries! Behold the painful and cruel rites which they observe, in order to recommend themselves to the favor and approbation of their imaginary deities! Can you be acquainted with the Savior, and not wish to make him known to them? Can you be in possession of "the words of eternal life," and not endeavor to put into their hands that blessed volume in which they are contained? Surely, next to a personal adherence to him, this must be your duty: and, if you are his Disciples indeed, I feel no doubt but that you will engage in this blessed work with an affectionate solicitude for the welfare of your fellow-creatures, and an ardent zeal for the honor of your God.

 

MDCXLV

One of the Apostles a Devil

John 6:70. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?

OUR blessed Lord and Savior, in the whole of his deportment, was meek and gentle: yet, when occasion called to it, he exercised a holy fidelity even towards his beloved Apostles. They had now all confessed him as "the Christ, the Son of the Living God;" and had declared their determination still to adhere to him, however others of his Disciples might be offended at him, and induced to forsake him. On this account they might be led to value themselves on their steadfastness, or perhaps feel themselves offended, when they should find, at a future period, that one of their own body was a traitor. Our Lord, therefore, warned them both against self-confidence at the present time, and against that discouragement which they would hereafter feel, when they should behold him delivered up to death through the instrumentality of one of his own most highly-favored Apostles; saying, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?"

Now, if you doubt not the Savior's love in giving this solemn warning to his followers, let not me be thought harsh, if I call your attention to it,

I. As delivered to the Apostles.

God in every age has of his own sovereign will and pleasure, chosen, irrespective of any merit in themselves, the objects of his more especial favor.

Even in Heaven did he choose some of the angelic host in preference to others, whom, in his righteous judgment, he suffered to fall and perish: on which account they who "kept their first estate" are called his "elect angels." And after man also had sinned, God chose our fallen race in preference to the fallen angels; providing a Savior for us, when he had made no such provision for them. To various offices also has he chosen men, as Moses, to bring his people out of Egypt; Aaron and his descendants, to officiate in the priesthood, while the descendants of Moses were only Levites; and Saul and David to exercise the royal functions in Jerusalem; and Cyrus, three hundred years before any such person existed in the world, to restore his people from Babylon. The whole Jewish people were "chosen by God to be to him a holy nation, and a peculiar treasure to him above all the people upon earth." In like manner our blessed Savior chose his twelve Apostles. "They did not choose him, but he them;" calling one from his nets, and another from the receipt of custom; and afterwards another, in the midst of his most hostile purposes, and blood-thirsty pursuits. He appealed to them, "Have not I chosen you twelve?" Have I not distinguished you above others, to be my stated attendants, and to be instructed by me with all imaginable clearness in the things which to others are revealed only in parables?

But though, in external circumstances, there is a great resemblance between the elect, there is often a sad difference between them.

As, among the Jews, "all were not Israel who were of Israel," so all the elect are not "elect unto salvation: as we clearly see among the chosen Apostles, one of whom was, and remained to the last, "a devil." In their call they were alike, as they were also in their endowments (the power of working miracles), their outward conduct, and their usefulness. On one occasion, Judas seemed to be the most excellent of all the Apostles: for, when a very precious box of ointment, which might have been sold for three hundred pence (almost ten pounds) and been given to the poor, was poured upon the head and feet of our blessed Lord, he was the first to complain of the waste; and he it was who inspired all the rest of the Apostles with "indignation against it," as an act of insufferable extravagance. True, indeed, his motives were not very pure (as we are told); but of them the Apostles neither knew, nor suspected anything. On the contrary, when, at the close of our Savior's life, he told his Disciples that one of them would betray him, every one of them suspected himself rather than Judas, so correct had been his outward deportment during the whole period of our Lord's ministry on earth. But during that whole time, Judas, who had been entrusted by our Lord as the purse-bearer for them all, had pilfered money in small quantities from the bag (had he stolen largely, the money would have been missed); and so hardened did he become through his dishonest practices, that at last he sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver, and delivered him up into the hands of his enemies. This reigning lust of covetousness showed, that, in the midst of all his professions, he was at heart no better than a devil, and that he might be justly designated by that opprobrious name.

And may we not consider this warning,

II. As delivered to us.

Yes, we also are God's chosen people.

As Christians, we are chosen above all the rest of the world, not one-sixth part of which has ever heard of the name of Christ. As Protestants, too, we are favored of Almighty God to be delivered from the superstitions of Popery, and from the deplorable bondage in which the Popish community is held. And to whom do we owe it that we were not born of heathen, or Mohammedan, or Popish parents? To whom is it owing, that our lot is cast in this happy land of light and liberty? Can we trace these mercies to anything but the sovereign grace, and the electing love, of God? And may I not go further still, and say, that you, my dear brethren, are favored with a ministration of the Gospel as clear and as faithful as any around you? I trust I may, without vanity and without boasting, call God to record, that I have "never kept back anything which I conceived to be profitable for you." Then, in these respects, I may say of all of you, that God has chosen you: and, inasmuch as you are all equally partakers of these mercies, you may account yourselves equally the children of God; yes, and so far as your outward conduct is correct, you may be accounted so by others.

But, after all, God may see, and most probably does see, an immense difference between you.

Only see what one reigning lust proved and demonstrated in Judas Iscariot: it proved him, in despite of all his specious appearances, to be "a devil." My dear brethren, the same evidence will demonstrate the same awful truth, wherever it be found. Nor does it matter what that reigning lust is: it may be covetousness, or lewdness, or pride, or vindictiveness, or any other sin; but, whatever it may be, whether dear as a right eye, or apparently necessary as a right hand, it will decide our character, and determine our doom: if it continue unmortified and unsubdued, it will infallibly consign us over to the fire of Hell. If one besetting sin marked Judas as "a son of perdition," and transmitted him to that everlasting dread abode, so will it us, whose place it must be," as well as his. Our being of the seed of Abraham will not make us "God's children," any more than it made him. Our saying, Lord, Lord, however confidently we may repeat it, will not procure us a place in Heaven; nor if we have "wrought miracles and cast out devils in the Savior's name," will it prevail to avert from us our merited condemnation. Perish we must, if sin of any kind be harbored in our hearts. It is not necessary that we be perfect, in order to obtain mercy of the Lord in that day: for then who could ever be saved? The Apostles themselves were not perfect: but in purpose and endeavor we must be perfect: and they only will find acceptance before God, who are "Israelites indeed, and without deceit." I say again, in aim and effort we must be perfect: "for he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."

Application.

1. Rest not then, brethren, in outward privileges.

Be it so: you may have all the privileges that Paul himself possessed when in his unconverted state: yet would they not profit you, if you were not brought to the knowledge of Christ Jesus, and to a real conformity to his image. Who can think of one of our Lord's chosen Apostles perishing in his sins, and not tremble for himself, lest his very mercies, instead of rescuing him from eternal misery, should only aggravate and increase it?

Beware, then, lest, having been exalted to Heaven, like Capernaum, in your privileges, you be cast down to Hell for your abuse of them; and lest, having remained impenitent under blessings which Tyre and Sidon would have improved, your final condemnation become at last proportionably heavier than theirs.

2. Examine yourselves as to your inward dispositions.

God sees the heart: and by the dispositions of the heart will he judge us in the last day. Now, suppose that our blessed Lord, who in his tender mercy has chosen this whole assembly to enjoy all the means of salvation, should, on inspecting our hearts, pronounce that there was, in the midst of us, one who, notwithstanding all his fair pretenses and specious appearances, was a devil; and suppose that unhappy being were pointed out to us; with what pity should we look upon him, and how compassionately should we weep over him! And can we venture to hope, that in such an assembly there is not one who is under the dominion of some secret lust? If in such a family as our blessed Lord's, where they had such rich instructions, such a bright example, and such motives to serve their God aright, there was, even among the small number of twelve, one that was a devil; is there not reason rather to fear, that, instead of one only being found in the midst of this whole assembly, there may be as many in proportion as among our Lord's Apostles; namely, one in every twelve? O! what a fearful thought is this! And is this an. uncharitable thought? Are we all so like to the holy Apostles, that one in twelve may not be supposed to differ from them, if not in outward conduct, yet in the integrity of his heart, and in the entire devotion of his life? And what if, after all, this proportion should be inverted, and not above one in twelve be found truly dead to sin, and alive unto righteousness, as the holy Apostles were, and ready to lay down their lives for the Lord Jesus; would not this come nearer to the truth? Alas! alas! I would not be uncharitable: but when I compare the mind, the spirit, the entire conduct of you all, with that of the Apostles, I cannot dissemble my fears respecting the testimony which the Lord Jesus, the Judge of quick and dead, shall bear respecting you at the last day. Judge then yourselves, brethren, that you be not judged of the Lord. Judge whether there be not some price for which you have already sold your Savior, and for which you are betraying him to an ungodly world. I must tell you, that if there be anything, even life itself, which you are not ready to part with for his sake, that is the price for which you have sold him; and that, though you may continue to deceive both yourselves and others, the hour is coming when your true character will be declared, and your proper doom awarded to you. May God, in his infinite mercy, impress this awful subject on all your minds, and lead every one of you to look for this unhappy character, (supposing there to be one among you,) not to your neighbor, but to yourselves; and to inquire, every one for himself, "Lord, is it I? Lord, is it I?" that so at last the number of this unhappy people may be diminished; and if it were possible, that not one of you should remain, who shall not at last have an approving testimony from the heart-searching God! Amen, and Amen.

 

MDCXLVI

Connection between Piety and Knowledge

John 7:17. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

THE very enemies of our Lord were constrained to say, "Never man spoke like this man." Yet did many of them persist in representing him as a deceiver: and, because he had not been educated after the manner of the Scribes and Pharisees, they considered him as incapable of instructing them. But to what was it owing that they could not receive his word? Was there anything in his mode of conveying his instructions, which involved them in unnecessary obscurity? The parabolic form in which he taught the people was common in his day; and, if it cast somewhat of a veil over his instructions, it tended to remove the offence which too explicit a statement would occasion, and to convey knowledge to persons precisely in such a measure as they were able to receive it. The real obstacle which his discourses met with arose from the inveterate prejudices with which the minds of his hearers were prepossessed. Hence they rejected his word, and denied that he was divinely authorized to promulgate the doctrines he maintained. To remove this obstacle, he told them what it was which they wanted, and what alone it was which would render his word profitable to their souls. They wanted an integrity of mind, to obey the truth, as far as it should be revealed to them: and therefore he said, "If any man will do God's will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."

These words will naturally lead me to show,

I. The disposition of mind necessary for a profitable investigation of the Holy Scriptures.

Truth, which is merely practical, requires little besides a strong intellectual power to be exercised upon it; but divine truth is intimately connected with the dispositions of the mind, and requires,

1. A desire to know God's will.

We should bear in mind, that there is a superior Being, to whom we are all accountable for our actions. This may be known even from the works of creation: and the knowledge of it should make us anxious to be informed what His will is, and how we may find acceptance with him. When, therefore, a book is put into our hands, purporting to come from him, we should read it, not with mere transient curiosity, nor as a book whereon to exercise our critical skill, but with a real desire to know all that he shall have seen fit to reveal, especially respecting the duties which we owe him, and the way that he has appointed for the conciliating of his favor—The state of our minds should be precisely like that of Cornelius and his family, when Peter was sent as a divine messenger to instruct them: "Now are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded you of God."

2. A readiness to do it.

We must not sit in judgment on God's word, complaining of this as too strict, and that as too difficult and self-denying. The only point for us to ascertain is, whether it be the word of God or not: and, if we are convinced that it is his word, then must we receive it with the most child-like simplicity, and obey it without either hesitation or reserve. Nothing is to appear to us "an hard saying." If it be beyond our comprehension, we should be content to say, in relation to it, "What I know not now, I shall know hereafter." If we see not exactly the reason of God's commands, we are not therefore to decline obeying them: for, if an earthly parent expects obedience, though the reasons of his commands be hidden from his child, much more may God expect at our hands a ready acquiescence in all that he commands, even when the reasons of his injunctions are far out of sight—Paul's prayer, at the time of his conversion, should be ours at all times: "Lord, what will you have me to do?"

To recommend to you this disposition in perusing the Holy Scriptures, I will proceed to mark,

II. Its conduciveness to a clear understanding of them.

It will most materially aid us,

1. In a discovery of its origin.

When this holy disposition is wanting, almost every truth of Scripture will prove a stumbling-block to us: but when it regulates our researches, we shall find all the deepest and most offensive declarations of God's word to accord with our real state before him. Does he declare that "the carnal mind is enmity against him?" We shall be ready, from our own actual experience, to admit it: for we shall be constrained to confess, that, whatever others may have been, we have had no delight in him, or in anything that could lead us to him. When he asserts that there can be no salvation for us but through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall see how exactly that agrees with our own necessities at least; since we are wholly devoid of any righteousness of our own, and incapable of working out a righteousness wherein we can stand before him. When he requires an entire devotedness of heart and life to his service, our own feelings attest that such a surrender of ourselves to him is the duty and happiness of all his creatures. In fact, the whole revelation of God will then appear to us both worthy of God and suited to man: and, though other evidences of the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures have doubtless their weight and importance, and indeed are absolutely necessary for the conviction of others, this will prove the most satisfactory of all to a man's own mind. The very excellency of the truths of Scripture will mark, to his perfect satisfaction, their divine origin: for none but God could have conceived things so remote from human apprehension, yet so glorious in themselves, and so harmonious in all their parts; harmonious with the perfections of the Deity, and with the necessities of fallen man.

2. In an apprehension of its import.

In "an honest and good heart," such as alone is fit for the reception of the heavenly seed, there is such a correspondence with divine truth as makes the reception of it easy. To such an one sin appears hateful, and therefore he acquiesces at once in all that is said in condemnation of it: and holiness appears delightful, and therefore he feels no inclination to lower the requirements of the Gospel. He would gladly, if he could, "be holy as God is holy," and "perfect as God is perfect." Hence the things which are stumbling-blocks and rocks of offence to a carnal mind, are most acceptable to him, inasmuch as they accord with the convictions of his own mind, and with the desires of his own soul. In a word, the whole plan of salvation, in all its parts and in all its bearings, is such as fills him with delight. He would not but be humbled in the dust: he would not wish to rob Almighty God of his glory in any one particular: "Not unto us, not unto us, O Lord, but unto your name, be the praise!" is the very language of his soul: and all that is spoken in Scripture respecting God's free and sovereign disposals of his grace and mercy, so far from being offensive to him, finds a complete counterpart in the dispositions of his mind: and he is then most pleased, when God is most glorified.

Hence, then, we may see,

1. Whence it is that the word of God produces so little effect in the world.

It is not regarded as the word of God. Men sit in judgment upon it; and, instead of taking it with meek submission as a rule of their faith and practice, satisfy themselves with making it a theater for the display of their own ingenuity and learning. At best, the generality of men give but a feigned assent to it as the inspired volume: they will, perhaps, even contend for it as a whole, and yet dispute against it in relation to all its most important parts. Thus men contrive to evade its force: but when it comes fully upon the heart and conscience, "it is like fire, or like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces." Let it once reach the heart of man, and it will prove "sharper than any two-edged sword," and "bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."

2. How we may derive from it all the benefit it is destined to impart.

We must receive it as the word of the living God, the word of God to us. We must yield ourselves "with meekness" altogether to its influence. What is there that it will not then do for us? Truly, "it will do good to him that walks uprightly." Yes, all kinds of good: it will quicken, comfort, support, sanctify, and save the soul. Let your souls, then, be turned as the wax to the seal, or as the melted ore to the mold. Then, through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, shall it perform its whole work upon you, and transform you "into the divine image in righteousness, and true holiness."

 

MDCXLVII

Christ May be Sought too Late

John 7:36. What manner of saying is this that he said, You shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither you cannot come?

FROM the character of our blessed Lord we might well expect, that, in whatever circumstances he should be placed, his words and actions would be such as became an incarnate God. Accordingly we find that he was never discomposed, never disheartened; but that, as well in the prospect of a cruel death as on all other occasions, he preserved a temper unruffled, a patience unsubdued. "The Pharisees had sent officers to take him;" and though the precise hour for his being delivered up into their hands was not yet arrived, it was very near: yet, instead of manifesting the smallest apprehension of his approaching sufferings, he spoke of his death as though he had been going a journey; and showed, that his chief concern was about the judgments that would fall upon his enemies: "Yet a little while am I with you; and then I go unto Him that sent me. You shall seek me, but shall not find me; and where I go, thither you cannot come." This assertion of his appeared quite inexplicable to them. "They said among themselves, Where will he go, that we shall not find him?" and then, after some unsatisfactory conjectures about his going to preach among the Gentiles, or destroying his own life, they were constrained to acknowledge, that they could not at all comprehend it; "What manner of saying is this that he said?" Indeed, even his own Disciples were as much at a loss about his meaning as his very enemies.

It is not our intention to justify their unbelief: for it is evident that they were actuated by a proud captious spirit, and not by a sincere desire after instruction. Yet their words will afford us a fit occasion to show,

I. The importance of inquiring into Divine truth in general.

It is certain that there are many expressions in the Scriptures dark and intricate.

This arises in part from the mysterious nature of Divine truth, which relates to subjects remote from the apprehensions of fallen man—It is owing also in part to the metaphorical language in which the doctrines of Revelation are often expressed; for, however certain figures may serve to illustrate the particular doctrine contained in them, they cast a veil over the doctrine, until the truth contained in them is understood—But most of all, it is owing to the disinclination of man to receive the things which are revealed. The mind of fallen man is blinded by pride, and passion, and interest: it has a corrupt bias: it is averse to the things which the Spirit of God requires and reveals: "it hates the light, and will not come to the light, lest its vile propensities should be reproved," and therefore it accounts "the things of the Spirit foolishness," because it is not able to discern their excellency.

Nevertheless the things contained in the Scriptures are of infinite importance to us all.

They relate to the everlasting salvation of the soul: they declare the only way in which a sinner can find acceptance with God: they set forth the person, work, and offices of the Messiah, together with the distinct offices of the Holy Trinity in the work of redemption. They make known the characters of them that are saved and of them that perish, together with the states to which both the one and the other will be sentenced. In short, "the word that Christ has spoken to us, the same shall judge us in the last day." Now in comparison of these things, the concerns of time and sense are lighter than the dust upon the balance. Earthly things indeed appear of greater magnitude, because they are nearer to us: but if spiritual truths are brought near by faith, they eclipse every other object, as the meridian sun hides by its splendor the feebler radiance of the stars.

They should therefore be inquired into with all diligence.

We should not be satisfied with a general acknowledgment of their truth, but should examine into the precise import of them, with a view to ascertain what is the state of our own souls before God. When we hear our Lord affirm so solemnly and so repeatedly, that "unless we be born again we cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven;" should we not pause, and consider, and inquire what is meant by the new birth, and whether we have ever experienced the change implied in it? When we read, that "except we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, there is no life in us," should we not use all possible means to understand it, and to learn whether we are in a state of life or of death? Can we suppose, that, because these assertions are conveyed under metaphorical expressions, they mean nothing; or, that we have no concern with them? Will our ignorance of their import make them void? or will our contempt of them prevent the execution of the Divine judgments agreeably to them? We ought, then, as our Lord enjoins us, to "search the Scriptures," to weigh every expression contained in them, and to seek a conformity to them in the whole of our principles and conduct.

But not to dwell any longer on general truths, let us consider,

II. The importance of ascertaining the meaning of "this saying" in particular.

Scarcely any expression so frequently occurs towards the close of our Savior's ministry as this; from whence we may be assured, that it deserved the special attention of his followers. Let us then examine its meaning,

1. In reference to them.

Our Lord was speedily to be put to death. His death indeed was voluntary on his part; "No man could take his life from him, but he laid it down of himself," and therefore he said, "I go to Him that sent me." But on their part, it was the effect of murderous rage: for this their iniquity the whole nation were to be abandoned to utter ruin. "Then," says our Lord, "you will seek me, and shall not find me." He does not mean, that they would cry to him, and humble themselves before him; but that they would seek for their Messiah, and long for him to deliver them: and the fact was, that, when those calamities did come upon them, they were so desirous of the Messiah's advent, as willingly to receive any impostor that chose to assume that character. But they had slain the true Messiah, and would look for any other in vain.

Besides, the great mass of individuals among them were to be given over to final impenitence; and, when they should come before Christ at the last day, they would desire to find mercy with him: but, as "Esau, having sold his birth-right, desired afterwards to inherit the blessing, and was rejected, and could find no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears;" so these wicked men would repent too late, and spend eternity in unavailing sorrows.

While our Lord warned them of their impending danger, he taught them to consider their punishment as necessarily connected with their wickedness: "Where I am, thither you cannot come." He does not say, "you shall not;" but, you "cannot" come: for they would be excluded from Heaven no less by their utter incapacity to enjoy it, than by the unalterable decree of God. Heaven, if they were admitted to it, would be no Heaven to them, while they retained their malignant passions, and rejected the salvation offered them in the Gospel.

2. In reference to ourselves.

Jesus is yet present with us by the preaching of the Gospel; and he will be withdrawn from us as soon as ever death shall separate us from the means of grace. When "the door of Heaven shall be shut, we may stand without, and knock, saying, Lord, open to us," we may even plead with him, and say, "We have eaten and drunk in your presence, and you have taught in our streets," but it will be too late: he will say to us, "Depart from me, I never knew you," you sought me not, nor believed in me, when you were yet on mercy's ground; and now you must have "judgment without mercy."

But this may be the case while yet we are in this lower world. There is an "accepted time, a day of salvation," which we may irretrievably lose. We may "grieve" and "resist the Holy Spirit," until we "quench" his gracious motions, and provoke God to say, "He is joined to idols, let him alone." He may be so offended by our wickedness as to "give us up to a reprobate mind," and to "swear in his wrath that we shall never enter into his rest." He has warned us, that he will do so; that "if we refuse when he calls, he will laugh at our calamity, and mock when our fear comes: that we may even seek him early, and shall not find him; because we hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord."

Indeed, as long as we continue in an unconverted state, that word is true, "Where I am, thither you cannot come," for it is impossible for any one to enjoy Heaven, without having attained a fitness for it; or to sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb in Heaven, without that wedding garment in which every acceptable guest is clothed.

We may see then What manner of saying this is.

1. It is an instructive saying.

Many are the valuable lessons which it inculcates. It teaches us, that on the present moment eternity depends—That our great concern in life is to obtain the knowledge of Christ, and an interest in his favor—That a willful abuse of our present privileges may provoke God to give us up to final impenitence—and that, if we die before we are "renewed after the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness," we can no more enjoy Heaven, than "light can have communion with darkness, or Christ with Belial"—Would to God that we might learn these things so deeply, as to be continually influenced by them! Happy will it be for us, if we "seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near."

2. It is a comfortable saying.

The words of our text are elsewhere addressed to his own more-favored Disciples. They are, in fact, like the pillar and cloud by which Israel were conducted out of Egypt: they have a luminous aspect towards the people of God, while they present a dark side towards his enemies. His own dearest children cannot follow him now; but they shall follow him soon. He is merely "gone to prepare a place for them; and will come soon to take them to himself, that where he is they may be also." Moreover, his separation from them at present is only corporeal: for he is still with them, and "they see him," and enjoy the sweetest "fellowship with him," and in a little time they shall enter into his immediate presence, and "be forever with the Lord." Well might the Apostle say, "Comfort you one another with these words."

But this saying is peculiarly comfortable in another view; for what our Lord said respecting the unbelieving Jews, the Christian may say respecting all his spiritual enemies: 'Yet a little while I am with you; and you may make your assaults upon me: but soon I shall go to my Father, and be out of your reach: then you shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am, thither you cannot come. No, Satan, you can no more molest me there: temptation shall harass me no more; sin shall no more defile me; sorrow shall no more cloud my mind or oppress my spirits: there shall enter nothing that defiles: I may be exposed to you all a little while longer; but soon I shall embrace uninterrupted joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.' Blessed reflection! Who must not long for death, that he may enjoy such happiness as this? Who must not add his Amen to that petition of our Lord, "Father, I will that they whom you have given me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me?" Yes; let all our hearts say, "Even so, Come, Lord Jesus; come quickly!"

3. It is a terrific saying.

While we see so many living at their ease disregarding all the invitations of the Gospel, and dreaming of happiness without an interest in Christ, how distressing is it to think, that in a little time their day of grace will be passed, and that God may either give them up to judicial blindness, or say, "You fool, this night shall your soul be required of you!" When we tell them of these things, they are ready to reply, "What manner of saying is this that he has said? It is a wild enthusiastic dream that shall never be realized." Ah! would to God it might not be realized! but it will, in spite of all that you can say, or do, to the contrary. If you continue saying to Christ, "Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of your ways;" he will soon take you at your word, and say, "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Trifle then no more with the opportunities afforded you; but "redeem the time;" and, "while the light is yet with you, walk in the light, lest darkness come upon you," and "an impassable gulf be fixed" between you and our ever-adorable Emmanuel.

 

MDCXLVIII

Christ's Offer of the Spirit

John 7:37, 38. In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He who believes on me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

OUR blessed Lord incessantly labored for the salvation of men; nor could their ungrateful returns at all divert him from his purpose. His life was sought, and he knew that persons were sent to apprehend him: yet, instead of rejecting them with abhorrence, he sought to win them by love, and importuned them to accept his richest blessings. Let us consider his invitation,

I. As addressed to them.

The time and manner of his invitation are worthy of notice.

This was a day of peculiar sanctity, and of uncommon festivity; and it seems that some customs, not required in the original institutions of the law, obtained among the Jews at that time. Happy to improve the opportunity, Jesus stood in the most conspicuous place, and, with an exalted voice, claimed the attention of the people; and, despising equally the censures of the uncharitable, and the persecutions of the proud, he made them fresh overtures of mercy. While they only panted for his blood, he longed for their salvation. He pointed himself out to them as "the only fountain of living waters," and assured them of his readiness to impart whatever they stood in need of. He excepted none from his offers, provided they did but "thirst" for his blessings.

Lest, however, his invitation should be slighted, he enforced it with a promise.

He first explained what he meant by "coming to him." (It was not a mere outward, but an inward and spiritual application, that he wished them to make to him.) They were to "believe in him," as possessing all fullness in himself: and as the person appointed of the Father to convey blessings to them. In a full persuasion of this truth they were to come to him by faith. For their encouragement he promised them a rich effusion of his Spirit. By "living water" our Lord meant the gift of his Spirit; and when he said, that "rivers of this living water should flow out of his belly," he intimated, that the believer should have a constant spring of consolation within him, which should refresh all who came within the sphere of his influence. Of this blessed truth the Scriptures had abundantly testified, and our Lord now confirmed it to them by a most solemn promise. He assured them, as he had before told the Samaritan woman, that his communications to them should prove a source of unutterable and endless joy.

In this promise he clearly showed them that he was the promised Messiah.

The gift of his Spirit in such an abundant measure was that "new thing" which the Messiah was to accomplish—And in thus freely offering it to all, he fulfilled the office more especially assigned him.

But it is time that we consider the invitation,

II. As addressed to us.

In the very name of Christ, and as his authorized ambassador, I now repeat the invitation to you: "I stand and cry to you," even as he did to them, and with the very same confidence and assurance.

Christ is "the fountain of living waters," it has pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; and that all we should receive out of it according to our necessities. In fact, he has received the Holy Spirit on purpose that he may impart it unto . And now I say in the presence of you all, that if you will but "believe in him you shall receive this heavenly gift in the richest abundance." Whatever you may have been, or whatever you may have done, even though, like his auditors, you may have thirsted for his blood, the offer is to you. If only you thirst for salvation, you shall never be disappointed of your hope: "The Holy Spirit shall be in you as a well of water springing up unto eternal life." It shall accomplish in you all the good pleasure of your God, and shall enable you to diffuse blessings all around you. In truth, this is your distinctive privilege. A man may possess ever so large a measure of earthly wisdom or power, and never be able to benefit or comfort one soul: but if you be endued with the Holy Spirit, your conversation shall be edifying to all around you; and you shall be the means of imparting to others in rich abundance the consolation and refreshment which you yourself have received. If Christ be as the rock in the wilderness to you, you in your measure shall be the same to many a thirsting soul.

Let me then invite you all, as it were, separately and by name.

You who, like our Savior's auditors, have no desire after spiritual blessings, what have you ever found that can be compared with the blessings here offered you? What have all those things for which you have labored proved, but "broken cisterns that can hold no water?" And do you think you contract no guilt while you prefer such vanities before the living God? Hear how God himself complains of you—And assure yourselves, that, if you continue to treat him thus, the day will come when you will "want a drop of water to cool your tongue."

If there be any who doubt whether they shall ever obtain such mercy at their Savior's hands, "only believe, and according to your faith it shall be done unto you." See how exactly the Lord has stated your very case, and accommodated to your mind his gracious promises—Dismiss your fears then, and wait patiently upon him in prayer: and in due season the Rock shall be stricken to quench your thirst; and "your soul shall before long be as a watered garden, and as a spring of water, whose waters fail not."

But doubtless there are some who have already drunk of the living waters which Christ has given them. It is no wonder that you thirst: for if you had received as much as ever Paul himself had, you would only thirst the more, "forgetting what you had received, and panting still for more." But remember this; if you have ever drunk of these waters, "you will never thirst for anything else" even to your dying hour. Even though you have no earthly comfort whatever, you will be "as one that possesses all things." Remember too, that you must daily make your profiting to appear. Being watered as the garden of the Lord, you must "abound in all the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God." Remember lastly, that you are to impart to others the blessings which you yourselves have received. From you are to flow rivers of living water for the refreshing of others; and "as you have received freely, you must freely give" to all around you. As "the righteous are a tree of life," that all may eat of their life-giving fruits, so are you to be wells of salvation in your respective spheres, that all who can gain access to you may have the cup of salvation put into their hands, and drink and live forever. Such is the honor which our blessed Savior has conferred on you; and such is the improvement of it which he expects at your hands.

 

MDCXLIX

The Woman Taken in Adultery Dismissed

John 8:10, 11. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those your accusers? has no man condemned you? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more.

IT is surprising to see in what a variety of ways the wickedness of the human heart will betray itself: sometimes in the commission of gross iniquity, and sometimes in apparent indignation against it: sometimes in open hostility against Christ, and sometimes in hypocritical professions of regard for him. Who that had seen the zeal of the Scribes and Pharisees against an adulterous woman, would not have thought them the purest of the human race? Who that had heard their citations of Moses' law, and their respectful application to Christ as an authorized expositor of that law, would not have supposed that they truly feared God, and desired to perform his holy will? Who would have imagined that the whole was only a murderous plot against the life of Christ? Yet so it was. These accusers had no indignation against the sin of adultery, nor any love to the law of Moses, nor any zeal for the honor of God: they were actuated solely by an inveterate hatred of Christ, and a determination to find, if possible, some occasion against him, that they might accuse him. Their professed object was, to punish the woman; but their real object was, to lay a snare for his life.

We forbear to notice, that in some old manuscript copies this short history is not recorded, because there can be no doubt of its authenticity; and the very care with which the early Christians examined the authenticity of every part of Scripture, is a strong proof of the genuineness of the New Testament, as it has been handed down to us.

That which we wish you particularly to observe, is,

I. In what manner Christ extricated himself.

The snare laid for him was well contrived.

The Scribes and Pharisees brought him a woman, who had been taken in the very act of adultery, and was therefore incapable of uttering a word in her own defense. The law of Moses had prescribed that all who were guilty of that crime should be put to death. If the woman were not absolutely married, but only espoused, she was still to be put to death, and that by stoning. Hence, it should seem, the particular death to which adulterers in general were condemned, was that of stoning. But the point which they referred to our Lord's decision, was, whether they should execute the law, or not. Now there were but four things which our Lord could do: either he might acquit the woman, or condemn her, or dismiss the matter without any attention to it, or refer them to another tribunal; but whichever of these he should do, they would make it a ground of accusation against him: if he should acquit her, they would represent him as an enemy to Moses, and a patron of iniquity: if he should condemn her, they would accuse him to the Romans as resisting the government of Caesar, and encouraging sedition: if he should dismiss the matter, they would say he showed no zeal for the honor of God, whom he pretended to call his Father, and had no pretensions to the office of the Messiah, whose first object would be to "make an end of sins, and to bring in everlasting righteousness." If he should refer them to any other tribunal, to whoever he referred them, whether to the Roman or Jewish authorities, they would equally find matter of accusation against him; either of sanctioning the usurpation of the Romans on the one hand, or of setting himself against it, on the other: so that, whatever he should say or do, they would lower him in the estimation of the people, and open a way for his destruction.

And how did he escape the snare.

At first he declined giving any answer at all; but stooped down, and wrote upon the ground. What he wrote, we know not: nor are we told precisely what he meant by that significant action: but his enemies, conceiving that they had gained their point, became more and more urgent for a decisive answer: he therefore addressed himself to their consciences; and as, in the case of idolatry, the law required that the witnesses should be the first in stoning the offender to death, so he bade the person that was without sin among them begin to inflict the punishment of death upon her. He did not by this intend, that under the Gospel dispensation human laws should not be executed by any who were not themselves without sin; but lie determined to confound these vile hypocrites, who, under a mask of zeal against sin, were perpetrating the greatest of all sins. To give time for his word to operate on their consciences, he stooped down and wrote again: and behold, these accusers, self-condemned in their own minds, and fearful lest their own secret abominations should be exposed to public view, withdrew as privately as they could; the elder part among them, as being most fearful of exposure, retiring first, and gradually the younger also following their example; so that in a little time not a single accuser was left. What an evidence was here of the power of conscience, when awakened by the Spirit of God, and armed against the sinner by a Divine power! Truly, the blindest must see, the most obdurate must feel, the most impudent must blush, and the most confident be confounded, when once the voice of conscience is distinctly heard: and we cannot but think it a good way of silencing a contentious and subtle adversary, to make a direct attack upon his conscience, and to fix his attention upon what has passed within his own bosom.

It is not necessary to suppose that all the accusers had been guilty of the precise sin which they laid to the charge of this woman: there was now enough of their past iniquities presented to their view to produce the desired effect, of constraining them to proclaim their own shame, and to suspend the persecution which they had so wickedly commenced. Thus was our Lord relieved from every difficulty; and his enemies "fell into the pit which they had dug" for him.

It remains for us now to notice,

II. In what manner he dismissed the woman.

We hear of no triumph that he expressed over his disconcerted adversaries: he merely asks where they were; and finding that they had withdrawn, and no longer chose to appear in the quality of accusers, he dismisses the woman,

1. With condescending kindness.

"Woman, has no man condemned you? neither do I condemn you: go your way," It is not my office to exercise the power of the civil magistrate; nor is it my wish to denounce the judgments of God against you. "I came not into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through me might be saved." Go, improve the time that is now unexpectedly allotted you: be thankful that you are not now sent into the presence of your God with all your sins upon you: let the "space which is given you for repentance," be well employed: lose not an hour in seeking forgiveness with your God. Go to your chamber, and pour out your soul before him: and remember, that the mercy which you are experiencing at my hands in relation to your body, is an emblem of what I am ready to bestow upon your soul. "I came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost," nor shall the vilest of the human race be condemned before me in the great and awful day, provided he penitently confess his sins, and humbly seek acceptance through me: "Though his sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

2. With an authoritative admonition.

Greatly as our Lord delighted in mercy, he would not so exercise it as to give the least countenance to sin. While therefore he dismisses her, he adds a solemn admonition, "Go, and sin no more." Think not lightly of your sins, because I have expressed such tenderness towards you; neither imagine that they will not be punished hereafter, if you continue in the commission of them. The "goodness and long-suffering and forbearance which you have experienced, should lead you to repentance," and, if they do not, they will aggravate your condemnation to all eternity. Go therefore, and sin no more. Let a sense of your past dangers deter you: let a consideration of the mercies given to you stimulate your exertions: let the hope of future mercies encourage you: let the prospect of a future judgment fix your purpose, and strengthen your resolution. Above all, commit yourself to God, who alone is "able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."

Address.

1. The self-satisfied and self-applauding Christian.

Many who are vehement against flagrant transgressors, and many too who profess an outward reverence for Christ, are yet exceeding vile in the sight of the heart-searching God. Before men, perhaps, they appear in a favorable light: but if all that they have thought and done in secret were written on their foreheads, they could not endure the sight of their fellow-creatures, but would retire from society, as these Scribes and Pharisees retired, filled with shame and confusion. Let each one of us examine the records of his own conscience; and recollect all the transactions which have passed from his youth up to the present hour: ah! who among us would venture, after such a survey, to justify himself? Know you, brethren, that God sees all that has passed, whether you see it or not: you may have forgotten it; but it is all recorded in the book of his remembrance, and will be exposed by him to the view of the whole assembled universe. Learn then to view yourselves as he views you; and to esteem yourselves as he esteems you: and know, that you never have a just estimate of your own character until you see yourselves to be the chief of sinners. Cast away, I say, your high thoughts of yourselves, and learn to loath and abhor yourselves in dust and ashes.

2. The sorrowful and self-condemning Christian.

You see in the history before us how tender and compassionate the Savior is. If then conscience have arrested you, and brought you into his presence, remember, that he is rich in mercy, and ready to forgive; and that he will never condemn any but the impenitent and unbelieving.

At the same time, I would affectionately caution you against mistaking the nature of true repentance. Perhaps conscience has condemned you, and you have felt ashamed and confounded on account of your great iniquities. But if you have gone no further, you are no true penitent. The Scribes and Pharisees advanced thus far; but they sought not mercy at the Savior's hands: they went from him, fearing more the decrease of their reputation, than the loss of their souls. Had they been truly penitent, they would have blessed him who had thus flashed conviction on their minds, and have implored his more effectual power to change and renew their souls. Be not contented then to resemble them; but seek to know all the hidden abominations of your hearts, and to have them washed away in the Redeemer's blood. Be assured that true repentance will lead you to Christ: and, if you do not find this effect from your convictions, you may know infallibly that your sorrow is not of "a godly sort," and that your very repentance needs yet to be repented of.

It is of great importance for you to make these distinctions; because many continue all their days guilty, but not humbled; condemned, but not forgiven.

3. The Christian who professes to have obtained mercy of the Lord.

The admonition given to the woman is equally addressed to every true believer. And here must I suggest a caution against a common, but fatal error. If persons abstain from some particular sins which they have before committed, they are ready to think that they have done all that is required of them. But to turn from gross iniquities is a small matter; and to perform some particular duties is a small matter. Pride and self-delight may carry us thus far: but the grace of God must carry us much farther. We must lay the axe to the root: we must put away "our besetting sin," and must become "new creatures," and "be renewed in the spirit of our minds." Mark this expression: it conveys a more complete idea of sound conversion than almost any other expression in the whole sacred volume: contemplate it: enter into it: beg of God to reveal to you its true import. The bent of your minds was earthly: a directly opposite bent must now be given it; just as a river which recently flowed with rapidity towards the ocean, now flows with equal rapidity towards the fountain-head: the tide has turned, and completely changed its course. Thus must it be with you: heavenly things must now have the place in your affections that earthly things once held; and the delight of your soul must be in them, as that of a licentious man is in his pleasures, or an avaricious man in his wealth. To surrender up all your faculties and powers as a living sacrifice to God, is the proper fruit of his mercies, and the proper evidence of his grace. Never think then that you have yet attained, but press forward for higher degrees of grace and holiness; and make it your endeavor to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."

 

MDCL

Christ the Light of the World

John 8:12. Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

IT was customary with our blessed Lord to take occasion from things that were immediately before him to instill divine knowledge into his hearers. When he was at a well, he spoke of himself as a fountain of living water: when mention had been made of the manna which was given to the Israelites in the wilderness, he represented himself as the bread that came down from Heaven, that men might eat of it and live forever: when he was passing though a vineyard, he set himself forth as the true and living vine, by an union with which all the branches were to bring forth fruit. Thus, it should seem, in the passage before us, being early in the temple, and beholding the sun shining bright upon him, he resumed his discourse which had been interrupted, and spoke to all the people, saying, "I am the light of the world."

We cannot but notice in this impressive declaration,

I. The excellency of Christ.

Of all the objects in the visible creation, the sun is the most splendid and majestic: and hence it is the most frequently selected to characterize our blessed Lord. The sun has in itself a fullness of light, and is the one source of light to the material world. In Christ also are "hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;" and from him alone is derived all spiritual light. It is he who enlightens all,

1. By his instructions.

To form a correct judgment of this subject, we should survey the state of the world before the coming of Christ. The darkness that prevailed is justly styled by the prophet, "gross darkness." The most learned philosophers could not absolutely determine whether there were a God; or, if there were, whether there were one or many. They conceived that there were some beings superior to themselves; and them they called gods: but the characters they assigned to them, were such as would disgrace the lowest of the human race. They felt themselves sinners; but the methods which they devised for expiating their crimes were beyond measure absurd. They could not account for the sin and misery which they both saw and felt, nor could they prescribe any remedy for these disorders. "They were vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened: professing themselves to be wise, they showed themselves to be very fools." But "the Dayspring from on high," the Lord Jesus Christ, "has visited us, to give light to them that sat in darkness and the shadow of death." He has declared to us fully the nature and perfections of God, the means of reconciliation with him, the duties we owe to him and to each other, and whatever else can conduce to the regulating of our lives or the furthering of our happiness.

2. By his example.

Had precepts alone been given us, we should have been ready to construe them in such a way, as would best suit with our carnal prejudices and sensual inclinations. But by exhibiting in his own life a perfect pattern of holiness, he has cut off all occasion for doubt respecting the nature or extent of our duty. We need only to walk as he walked, and we cannot err. Do we desire to ascertain what that service is, which we owe to God? we see in him, that we should have the whole law of God written in our hearts; and that it should be "our meat and our drink to do his will." Do we wish to know how we should conduct ourselves towards our fellow-creatures? We have an unerring rule set before us, in his unruffled meekness, his unexhausted patience, his unbounded love: in laying down his life for his enemies, he has shown us what we are to do, at least for the brethren, if not also even for our bitterest persecutors. In short, we can be in no situation whatever, wherein his example will not serve as a light to our feet and a lantern to our paths: if it do not show us the precise act we are to perform, it will show us infallibly the spirit we are to exercise.

3. By his influence.

The sun is of use to those only who have eyes to see it. But Jesus, at the same time that he imparts light, bestows upon us also the organs of vision whereby we may behold it. He "opens the eyes of our understanding;" and "shines into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." He not only causes "the day to dawn," but is also "the Day-star arising in our hearts." He gives the spiritual discernment whereby alone we can discern the things of the Spirit, however clearly they were before revealed. Indeed, our reason is nothing more than a taper which He has lighted up in our minds: and much more is the faculty of comprehending the deep things of God, derived from him: so that that inspired testimony concerning him is strictly true, "He is the true light which lights every man that comes into the world."

From hence we are naturally led to consider,

II. The blessedness of his followers.

We regard with pity the inhabitants of the polar regions, who for half the year are statedly secluded from the cheering rays of the sun. We consider our quicker returns of light and darkness as incomparably more conducive to comfort and prosperity. But infinitely happier is he on whom the Sun of Righteousness has once arisen: for,

1. He shall not walk in darkness.

Once he was guided altogether by erroneous principles. So blind was he, that he "put evil for good, and good for evil; darkness for light, and light for darkness." Nor is this the case only with the ignorant and profane: it is equally true of those whose minds are cultivated, and whose lives are moral. Even Paul before his conversion, fraught as he was with the knowledge of the Scriptures, and zealous in the pursuit of righteousness, perpetrated the most horrible acts of wickedness under the idea of doing God service: "he truly thought with himself that he ought to do the things which he did." But the follower of Christ, the true believer, is not suffered to live under the influence of such delusions: his views are rectified: he beholds things in the light in which they are represented in the Scriptures; he has learned from them what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, and has his mind cast, as it were, into the very mold of the Gospel.

Once too he indulged himself in corrupt habits: whether more or less addicted to gross sin, he loved the ways of the world, and conformed himself to them: all his delight was in the things of time and sense: he lived as if he had nothing else to do, but to consult his reputation, ease, and interests in the world. But, having obtained mercy of the Lord, he now discerns the evil of such a life: he begins to see, that "to be thus carnally-minded is death," and that there are objects infinitely nobler than those he has regarded, and more deserving his attention. Convinced of this, he "will not live any longer to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." Instead of "fulfilling any longer the desires of the flesh and of the mind," he strives henceforth to mortify them, and labors to "perfect holiness in the fear of God."

We must add yet again, that he once walked in the darkness of distressing apprehensions. God has said, and experience proves, that "there is no peace to the wicked." Every man in his unregenerate state is in bondage to the fear of death, and more or less under the terrors of a guilty conscience. The thoughts of death and judgment are painful to him; and he puts them far from him: he flees to business, to pleasure, to company, in order to dissipate those reflections which he cannot wholly avoid. He has an inward consciousness that he has not sought the Divine favor, and, in consequence of that, a secret fear that he shall not obtain it. From such feelings as these, the believer in Christ is happily delivered. "He knows in whom he has believed, and that his adorable Savior is able to keep that which he has committed to him." He has learned to reckon death among the number of his friends, and to regard it as the door of entrance into his Father's presence. Instead of being harassed with a "fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation," he enjoys "that peace of God which passes all understanding."

2. He shall have the light of life.

There is a light which proceeds from life, and leads to life; and that light is his blessed portion. A dead man has no light at all: but a living man has senses given him, on purpose to guard him from things destructive, and to lead him to things conducive to his welfare. The sight, the hearing, the smell, the taste, the touch, have all their appropriate uses; and each has its peculiar office, in circumstances where the others can find no scope for exercise. They are so many sentinels, that guard every avenue of ill, and that give warning on the first approach of evil. Thus protected is the follower of Christ: he has spiritual senses, which, being of quick perception to discern good and evil, give early notice of the things which might prove fatal to the soul. They serve as "a light to his feet, and a lantern to his paths." Solomon justly observes, that "the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly." This candle being duly trimmed, his way is made plain before his face; and he is enabled to walk without stumbling: "He walks in the light, as God is in the light;" and thus maintains sweet fellowship with God, and a sense of his pardoning love in Christ Jesus. If at any-time, through temptation or distress, this light burn dim, he cries to his Lord and Savior, who has promised to send him fresh supplies of his Spirit; and speedily does "light arise to him in his obscurity, and his darkness becomes as the noon-day." Thus guided through his whole life, he arrives at last at those blessed regions, "whereof the Lamb is the light," and where "his Lord shall be an everlasting light, and his God his glory."

Application.

You can easily conceive the difference both in the feeling and the safety of one that walks in midnight darkness, and of one that travels in the light of the noon-day sun. O that all would make a just application of this thought to their own case, and resolve without delay to become followers of Christ!

 

MDCLI

Fitness for Heaven Necessary

John 8:21. Where I go you cannot come.

THE generality of men conceive that there is no difficulty in securing Heaven: and hence they use no efforts to obtain an entrance there. If told, that, in their present state, they could not by any means obtain admission to the Savior's presence, they would account it a very uncharitable and unwarrantable assertion; and would be as unable to account for it as our Savior's hearers were when they asked, "Will he kill himself? because he says, Where I go, you cannot come." But they consider not what kind of a place Heaven is, or what state of mind is necessary for the enjoyment of it. It is certain, however, that what our Lord again and again said to his hearers, is applicable to us at this day. They indeed expected a Messiah, while they rejected him whom God had sent; and therefore our Lord says so repeatedly, "You shall seek me, and shall not find me," and so far his address to them is not applicable to us, who all acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ. But what he adds, is as applicable to us as ever it was to them; since in an unregenerate and unconverted state it is impossible for us ever to behold the face of God in peace.

I am aware that this is an observation that must occasion pain: but, if such persons still exist as those to whom the declaration was made, it is surely the office of love and charity to apprise them of it. You will therefore receive my friendly suggestions in the spirit with which they are offered to you, while I show,

I. To whom this declaration was made.

They are here clearly described by our Lord himself:

1. The worldly-minded.

"You are of this world: I am not of this world." Now the worldly are not only put in a state of contrast with the Savior himself, as in this and other places, but with the children of God also: they are represented as being "wiser in their generation than the children of light;" and as hating them on account of their stricter course of life: "If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

Now it is really not difficult to discover, to which of these opposite parties we belong. Let us only ask, Which we more esteem? which we more desire? which we more delight in, the things of time and sense, or the things which are invisible and eternal?—I ask not, Which of the two engages more of our time? for our social and civil duties require a great deal of our time: and God himself permits us to labor six days, and to reserve the seventh only for him. But the question is, On which of the two is our heart fixed? Which do we mainly affect, the things of this, or of the future world? If only we mark, which of the two chiefly engages our thoughts, when our minds are free to fix upon the things which are most interesting to us, we shall then see the real bias of our minds, and our true character as before God—God has expressly warned us, that "if we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us;" and therefore we are assured beyond all doubt that the lovers of this present world are justly placed among those to whom the declaration in our text pre-eminently pertains.

2. The unbelieving.

"If you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins." Now there is as great a difference between the believer and the unbeliever, as between those who are of this world, and those who are of God. Only see the conduct of believers, and the matter will be as clear as the light itself. The true believer is humbled for his sins, and, under a consciousness of his utter inability ever to reconcile himself to God, he flees to Christ, and lays hold on him, and relies wholly upon his meritorious blood and righteousness, and glories in him as all his salvation and all his desire. The unbeliever, on the contrary, neglects him, and seeks for himself some other ground of hope, if not openly and professedly, yet in the real feelings and dispositions of his soul.

Now it is easy to ascertain, whether from day to day we are bewailing our sinfulness and fleeing to Christ for refuge, as to the hope that is set before us; or whether we be resting satisfied with some attainments of our own, and only complimenting Jesus with the name of Savior, without laboring to obtain an interest in him, and cleaving to him with our whole hearts. The exercises of our soul this very day will suffice to show us, in a great measure, to which of these classes we belong: and whether we be not of those who shall "die in their sins, and never be with Christ where he is." Beyond all doubt, the unbelieving soul will be excluded from his presence, and never be suffered to taste of his saving benefits.

Does this appear uncharitable? Then let me remind you, that it is the declaration, not of a fallible man, but of our Lord himself; and let me set before you,

II. The grounds and reasons of it.

It were quite sufficient that our Lord has declared it, even though we were not able to account for that which he has spoken: but we may well and satisfactorily account for the exclusion of such persons from the presence of God, and from the felicity of Heaven. For,

1. There is nothing in Heaven suited to their taste.

What do those persons affect as their supreme happiness on earth? Do they say with the Psalmist, "Who will show us any good? Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon us." No, they desire nothing beyond the things of time and sense. Some indeed affect only carnal, while others delight themselves chiefly in intellectual, pursuits: but still the objects of their desire belong to this world only; and there is no scope for the enjoyment or pursuit of them in Heaven. Here a man may have sensual gratifications of various kinds. But feasting, and dancing, and music, and all the other things which are here considered as sources of happiness, terminate with this life: and the man who derives all his satisfaction from them, will find nothing in Heaven to please his appetite. And on this very account Heaven would be no Heaven to him, but only like a prison, where nothing palatable, nothing desirable was afforded to the unhappy tenant. He would be altogether out of his element: and what would be happiness to others, would be misery to him.

2. They have an utter incapacity to enjoy Heaven, even if they were admitted there.

Supposing for a moment, as our Lord says, that, "instead of coming into that sheepfold through the door, they have climbed up some other way," and obtained by some artifice admission into the assembly of the just; what pleasure could they find either in the company or the employments of Heaven? Could they delight themselves in a Holy God, whose purity would appal them, and who could not look upon them but with the utmost abhorrence? Could they find pleasure in the sight of that Savior, whom they have all their life long despised, and whose very "blood they have trodden under foot" by continuing in sin? Would the presence of the glorified saints and angels be any source of comfort to their minds? With no one of them would they have the slightest possible communion: nor would so much as one of those holy beings admit them into their society. Methinks such persons getting into Heaven, would resemble King Uzziah, who went into the temple of God to offer incense: the priests, filled with disgust at his leprous state, "thrust him out thence; yes, he himself also hastened to go out," so little did the sanctuary of the Most High God become him, and so little would their intrusion prove a source of happiness to them.

But neither would they find any comfort in the employments of Heaven. Never having obtained favor with God, or an interest in the Savior's merits, they could never join in the songs of praise which are offered there continually by the whole assembly of the redeemed. Nay, as in a concert here on earth, a man unskilled in music, with an inharmonious voice, and an instrument untuned, would, by his efforts to join the choir, only disturb the harmony of the whole, so it would be with them in Heaven, where their every note would produce the most hateful discord, and their odious deformity create one universal feeling of disgust.

3. They are excluded from Heaven by an absolute and irreversible decree.

Persons are not the subjects of God's reprobation: characters are. When Peter says, that "some stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto they were appointed," the meaning is, not, that they were appointed to stumble or to disobey, but that God had appointed, that they who would not obey the word, should find it a stumbling-block to them; and that they who would not make it "a savor of life, should find it to be a savor unto death." Now God has ordained that "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God," and that into Heaven "nothing shall enter that defiles." In particular he has declared, that even the friendship of the world is incompatible with love to him, and that he who believes not in Christ, shall perish everlastingly. Now I ask, Will God reverse these decrees for us? Will he act contrary to his word for us? "Is he a man, that he should lie, or the Son of man, that he should repent? Has he said, and shall he not do it? Has he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" Know then, that "if you live after the flesh, you shall die;" and to hope for Heaven in a carnal and unconverted state is only to deceive your own souls.

Let me then request of you two things:

1. Inquire what measure of preparation you have for the enjoyment of Heaven?

There is "a fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light." There is a preparation of heart for it, without which Heaven would be no Heaven to you. An ignorant clown would find no pleasure in the conversation of men of science, or in the polished society of courtiers. He would soon wish to leave such scenes, and to return to the company that was better suited to his habits, and intelligence. Now in Heaven there is one continued effusion of praise from every soul around the throne. Saints and angels join in one general chorus of praise and thanksgiving to God and to the Lamb. Inquire then whether you have learned that song? Inquire whether you have yet tuned your harps, that you may bear your part in that concert? If you have not yet learned to play the higher parts of praise and thanksgiving, can you at least sound the lower notes of humiliation and contrition? Nor think it hard to be put on this inquiry. It is not your minister, but an inspired Apostle, that calls for it at your hands: "Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith: prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you except you be reprobate?" Examine carefully whether the things of this world or the felicity of Heaven be the higher in your esteem, and the object of your more diligent pursuit? You can easily ascertain your proficiency in earthly things: search then and see whether you be growing daily in grace, and in a conformity to the Divine image? This inquiry will be made at last by the heart-searching God; and his sentence will be passed upon you in perfect accordance with your real state. I entreat you therefore to "judge yourselves" now, while "space is given you for repentance," that you may not be judged of the Lord, when your state will be irremediable and final.

2. Let the testimony of your conscience produce in you its appropriate effects.

If conscience bear witness that you have lived to yourselves and to the world instead of living for God and for eternity, begin without delay to implore mercy at the hands of God, and to seek that renovation of heart and life, without which you cannot be saved. Withdraw yourselves from "the world which lies in wickedness," and give up yourselves to Christ as his redeemed people: and let it henceforth be your daily labor to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life.

But if you can call God to record, that, notwithstanding your many defects, you do indeed set your affections on things above rather than on the things of time and sense, then, rejoice and bless God for the work which he has wrought in your hearts; and look to him to "perfect in you the good work he has begun." To you, beloved, I will reverse the text, and say, "Where Christ is, there shall you be also." In fact, he has promised, that "where he is, there shall also his servants be." He has actually "gone before, in order to prepare a place for you; and he will shortly come and take you to himself, that you may be with him forever." In his intercessory prayer, he declared this to be his fixed purpose: "Father, I will, that they whom you have given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me." Look forward then to that blessed period, when you will be no longer at a distance from him, but enjoy his presence, and inherit his glory, for evermore.

 

MDCLII

Danger of Rejecting Christ

John 8:24: If you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sins.

THE necessity of faith in Christ, in order to salvation, is not to be considered as a mere arbitrary appointment: it arises out of the very state into which mankind are fallen: a state in which it would be impossible for them to enjoy God, even if they were admitted into his immediate presence. They are at present laden and defiled with sin; and could derive no comfort from the sight of a holy God. Their iniquities would forever render them odious in his eyes, and him terrible in theirs. They must be cleansed from their sins, before they can hold any communion with him as a Father and a Friend. But they can never wash away their own sins; nor find any other means of expiation besides that which God has ordained, even the blood of his only dear Son. Nor is there any way in which they can be interested in Christ, but by believing in him. Here then we see, that, independent of any particular command respecting it, there is a necessity for faith in Christ, if ever we would be saved at all. For we cannot go to Heaven with our sins upon us: and they cannot be removed, but by an atonement: and there is no atonement capable of removing them, but that of Christ; nor any means of being interested in his atonement but by faith.

That we may see this truth in its just light, we will go back to the preceding chapter. Our Lord had told his unbelieving hearers, that he should soon be withdrawn from them; and that, in consequence of their rejecting the light, "they would never be able to come where he was." They, not able to comprehend his meaning, supposed that he intended "to go among the Gentiles," where they, on account of their religion, could not follow him. The next day he renewed to them the same solemn warning; saying, "I go my way; and you shall seek me, and shall die in your sins. Where I go, you cannot come." On this, instead of humbly inquiring into his meaning, they scoffingly and impiously asked, "Will he kill himself? because he says, Where I go, you cannot come." 'No,' says our Lord, 'your sins will be a very sufficient barrier to keep you from me. You are altogether, in every disposition of your hearts, directly contrary to me: and in this state you will be left until death: and so dying, it will be impossible you should ever come where I am going, that is, into the beatific presence of my Father: "You are from beneath; I am from above: you are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that you shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sins.' "

Now, this solemn warning is as applicable to us as to those to whom it was more immediately delivered: and, that we may not slight it as they did, I will proceed to show,

I. What is comprehended in the faith here spoken of.

At first sight, it appears as if nothing more were required than to acknowledge Jesus as the promised Messiah; and that, consequently, all who bear his name may be considered as possessed of the faith here spoken of. But if we go back to the time of our blessed Lord, we shall see that the faith, of which he spoke, comprehended,

1. A full persuasion of his Messiahship.

This was necessary then: and it is no less necessary now. And we greatly mistake, if we think this a common attainment among those who call themselves Christians. The generality have no better reasons for believing Jesus to be the Messiah, than the Mahommedans have for their faith in that arch-impostor. I mean not however to say, that every Christian must have studied this point so accurately as to be able to answer all the objections of infidels: but, so far as to be able to "give a reason of the hope that is in him," and to justify the reliance which he places on the Savior, every true believer should have studied the point, and made up his mind upon it. Circumstances, I grant, may have been so unfavorable to the attainment of this knowledge that a person's views may be very indistinct: but, where these have not been such as to preclude a reasonable hope of his acquiring this necessary information, a want of it may well cause him to doubt whether he has ever possessed any true faith at all.

2. A cordial acceptance of him under that character.

A speculative assent to the mere abstract truth of his Messiahship was never such a faith as he approved. Many there were who could not resist the evidence of his miracles, who yet were regarded by him as no better than aliens, in whom he could place no confidence. To exercise faith aright, we must receive him in all his offices: we must view him as that Prophet, whom God has sent by his word and Spirit to enlighten us: and as that Great High-Priest, who has made atonement for us, and now intercedes for us within the veil: and as that King also, who is to reign over us, and to have "every thought of our hearts brought into captivity" to his holy will. Here, then, the subject before us opens to our view. Faith is not a speculative assent; but a practical affiance, that leads us to the Savior for everything that we stand in need of, for "wisdom, for righteousness, for sanctification, and for complete redemption." Then only do we truly believe, when we can say with the Apostle Paul, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for meg."

3. An entire devotion to him, as his disciples.

This our Lord expressly required of all his followers: "If any man will be my Disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Nay, he required that this should be done in defiance of the whole world. He declared, that if any man hated not his father and mother, yes, and his own life also, in comparison of him, he could not be his Disciple. Now, all this is essential to true faith. Whatever was requisite in those days, is requisite still. A man must be wholly given up to Christ; having no will but his; and no object, but to advance his glory. If we have true faith, we shall "henceforth live no more to ourselves, but unto Him who died for us and rose again."

Nothing less than this will constitute a living faith: and our Lord's assertion in relation to it clearly marks,

II. The importance of it to our eternal welfare.

To "die in our sins" is a most fearful doom.

The man, so dying, goes into the presence of his God with all his sins upon him; with those of early childhood, and those of inconsiderate youth, and those of maturer manhood, yes, and those committed even to the very hour of his departure hence. Alas! what a catalogue is here! a mass numerous and heavy as the sands upon the sea-shore! And for every distinct offence must the soul receive an appropriate recompense at the hands of God. O! who can conceive the anguish of the soul at the instant of its appearance at the tribunal of its Judge! With what horror must it shrink back, to hide itself, if it were possible, under rocks and mountains! And now, when challenged by his God, how mute is he, who once would vindicate himself with such assured confidence! Not for one action of his whole life can he now offer any excuse, nor urge any reason why he should not be consigned to the bottomless abyss in Hell. Thither, therefore, is he cast, with all his sins upon him; nor carries he with him so much as a ray of hope to cheer those regions of darkness and despair. Now he knows, what once he was so averse to believe, what "a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the Living God." Such is the doom that awaits the whole unbelieving world: "They drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and they are tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night."

And this must be the doom of all who believe not in Christ.

Our Lord has assured us of it: yes, he has repeated it again and again. And wherefore has he so solemnly affirmed it? Was he disposed to create unnecessary alarm? or did he feel any pleasure in denouncing woes? No, it was from love he spoke: he desired the salvation of his hearers; and, therefore, while he encouraged them with words of grace, speaking to them with a wisdom and a tenderness that "never man spoke," he warned them of the consequences of rejecting his gracious invitations. Let it not, then, be thought unkind in us, if we also, "knowing the terrors of the Lord, persuade men." It is not to excite unnecessary fears that we thus speak, but to avert the judgments that are impending over your heads. We would not willingly grieve you; but we dare not "prophesy unto you smooth things; we dare not prophesy deceits." Our God has told us, that, "if we forbear to sound the trumpet of alarm, our own souls must perish." Nor will you be at all benefitted: for "you will die in your iniquities; and your blood will be required at our hands." If you doubt the truth of what we affirm, look at the frequent appeals which God makes to yourselves—look at the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Rich Man believed not in Christ, nor gave himself up to him: and when he died, "he died in his sins," and the next that you hear of him is, that he was "in Hell, lifting up his eyes in torments." His five brethren, who inherited his wealth, were following his steps; never dreaming where he was gone, or where they themselves were hastening. The man in torments earnestly entreated that one might be sent from the dead, to warn his surviving brethren of the certain issue of their course. But that favor could not be granted. They had Moses and the prophets: and, if they would not receive their testimony, no other would be given them. So then you may see the certain consequence of unbelief: and, if you will not credit the testimony of the Lord Jesus, nothing remains for you, but to feel to all eternity what you cannot now be prevailed upon to believe and shun.

Permit me now to recommend to you,

1. An inquiry into your state, in relation to this matter.

Do not take it for granted that you are believers in Christ. The Jews thought that they believed Moses, while they were acting in direct opposition to his words. And, as they deceived themselves, so do you, while you imagine that you can be saved in any way but that of a total surrender of yourselves to Christ. You must be Christ's now, if you would be his hereafter: and if you will not give yourselves up to him, you must "die in your sins." I know how averse we are to believe this. Of the thousands that die around us daily, we never entertain a thought whether they died in their sins or not? It seems to us a matter of course, that a person dying goes to a state of happiness: and if a doubt were expressed in relation to the happiness of any one connected with us, we should resent it as the grossest insult. But, I pray you, brethren, whatever charity you exercise towards others, be careful not to deceive yourselves. Others you may well "leave to their own Master," but respecting yourselves let no doubt be suffered to remain. Call to mind the description we have before given of a saving faith, and examine yourselves by it. This is the advice of the Apostle Paul: "Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves." Let your state be ever so good, you can suffer no loss by self-examination: the gold sustains no injury by being tried by the touchstone: nor can you, if true believers, by the strictest scrutiny. I entreat you, therefore, to "prove your own selves: so shall you have rejoicing in yourselves alone, and not in the delusive testimony of others."

2. A consideration of the doom that awaits the unbelieving soul.

Doubtless, such a consideration must be painful. But yet, how much better were it to reflect on that doom, while by timely penitence it may be averted, than to sustain it through the endless ages of eternity. Reflect, I pray you, what it is to die in your sins? Think what your state would have been at this very hour, if you, by disease or accident, had been taken unprepared into the presence of your God? Ask yourselves, Whether at this moment you have any scriptural ground to believe that your sins have been blotted out; and that, if you were removed hence this very night, your transition would be from a world of vanity to a world of bliss? Think of the unhappy souls that are now gone beyond the reach of mercy; the hearers of our Lord, for instance, who would not regard his warnings, but turned them into ridicule: Would they, think you, make light of such warnings now, if for a few short hours they could be restored to your state? Ah! think how soon their state may become yours! Methinks the very possibility of such an event is enough to make you tremble. "Today, then, while it is called today, harden not your hearts, lest you provoke God to swear, in his wrath, that you shall never enter into his rest."

3. An attention to the blessed truth which our text implies.

When our Lord says, "If you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sins," who does not see what a glorious promise is implied in it; that, if we do believe in him, we shall not die in our sins? Yes, this blessed truth is declared throughout the whole Scriptures. Hear what the Apostle said to the jailor. Under a dread of God's wrath, the convinced sinner cried, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" and the answer which the Apostle gave was clear and full: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; and you shall be saved." The same say I to you: "Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through the Lord Jesus Christ is preached unto you the remission of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses." O! it is a blessed truth, that "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus!" Their iniquities are blotted out, as "a morning clouds," they stand before God "without spot or blemish;" "nor does God himself behold any iniquity in them." Believe, then, in Christ, and "live unto him; so, whether living or dying, you shall be the Lord's."

 

MDCLIII

The Liberty Which Christ Gives his People

John 8:36. If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.

WE are exceedingly backward to acknowledge our true state and condition. In consequence of this we disregard the remedy provided for us, and deprive ourselves of all the blessings of salvation. Nevertheless our gracious Savior endures us with much long-suffering, and repeats to us the overtures of love and mercy. Thus he acted towards those who denied their need of freedom: thus also he addresses himself to us at this time.

It will be profitable for us to consider.

I. In what respects we are in bondage.

We of this nation may justly boast of our civil freedom; but we are, like all the rest of our species, under spiritual bondage.

1. Under the curse of the law.

The law of God requires perfect and perpetual obedience. It denounces also a curse against us for every transgression. Its precepts have been violated by us in ten thousand instances. We all therefore, without exception, are obnoxious to its curse. This may well be considered as a state of wretched bondage.

2. Under the power of sin.

Sin has infected all the members of our body, and the faculties of our soul. What can be conceived to argue a state of slavery so much as this? This construction is so obvious, that no Christian can doubt respecting it. The church of old confessed her iniquities to have been a sore bondage, and Paul himself could find no better image whereby to express the evil and bitterness of his indwelling corruptions.

3. Under the tyranny of Satan.

The influence of Satan over us is often denied and ridiculed; but the wickedness of men is ascribed in Scripture to his agency, and every impenitent sinner is expressly said to be in bondage to him.

4. Under the fear of death.

Many will show a contempt for death on a field of battle, but all fear it in its more gradual approaches. Hence even the bravest are averse to meditate on death and judgment. This is declared to be a state of wretched bondage.

Surely the Egyptian or Chaldean yoke was light in comparison of this; yet all may obtain a release from this yoke.

II. How we may be delivered from it.

Vain are all attempts to liberate ourselves by our own strength.

We cannot make satisfaction for one single breach of the law. To do this were beyond the power of the highest archangel. Nothing but the blood of Christ can ever atone for sin. We cannot by any means renew and sanctify our own hearts. There is not in us a sufficiency even to think a good thought. Our inclination and ability to do good can come from God alone. It is not in the power of fallen man to resist the assaults of Satan. There is provided for us armor of a heavenly temper, and in that alone can any man hope to obtain the victory. We are no less unable of ourselves to disarm death of its sting. In spite of all our efforts its terrors will appal the stoutest heart.

But "the Son" of God is able and willing to deliver us.

Christ, as "the Son," is heir and Lord of all things. The very intent for which he came into the world was to give us liberty. He has paid down his own life as the price of our redemption, and therefore may claim us as "his purchased possession." He is also commissioned to liberate us by his power. All fullness resides in him for this very purpose; nor will he withhold this blessing from any believing soul.

Unspeakably blessed are they to whom this blessing is given.

III. What glorious liberty we may obtain.

The liberty which sinners enjoy is merely ideal; but that which Christ will give, is real and substantial.

1. He will free us from all our bondage.

The law shall never be suffered to execute its curse upon us: Christ gave himself up as our surety, on purpose to redeem us from it: it shall have no more power over us than a dead man over the wife that survives him. Sin also shall be cast down from the throne which it has erected within us; nor, though it may renew its assaults, shall it ever regain its dominion. Christ will never suffer this great end of his death to be frustrated. Satan himself too shall yield to the all-conquering arm of Jesus, and flee from the face of the very meanest of his saints. Nor shall death appear any longer formidable as an enemy; it shall be accounted our gain, and numbered among our treasures.

2. He will introduce us to a state of perfect freedom.

There is "a glorious liberty into which God's children shall be brought." Christ will pour into their hearts a spirit of adoption, and admit them to the most intimate fellowship with himself. The most difficult duties also he will render pleasant to their souls; nor will he confine his blessings to this present life. To all eternity shall his redeemed delight themselves in him: their capacity of enjoyment shall be inconceivably enlarged; and every power be freely exercised in its proper functions.

Inferences.

1. How glorious a Savior is Jesus Christ!

There is no bond-slave whom he will not liberate. He offers too this liberty "without money, and without price." He even esteems himself glorified in conferring it upon us. Let us all admire and adore his goodness, and by faith apply to him for this perfect freedom.

2. How just will be the condemnation of those that perish!

None ever perish but through their own fault; their condemnation is the consequence of their obstinate attachment to the bonds in which they are held. O that men would reflect how they will one day condemn themselves! Let it be remembered that such offers of mercy will never be made to us in the eternal world. This is a day of grace; but there will come a day of vengeance. Let every one then lay the blame where it is justly due, and follow without delay the beneficial advice of David.

 

MDCLIV

The True Children of Abraham

John 8:39. If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.

THERE is in men an extreme readiness to deceive themselves in reference to their state before God. Any delusion, however absurd, shall serve them for a ground of hope; and they will cling to it with as much confidence as if it were an express declaration of God himself. The Jews conceived that the mere circumstance of their descent from Abraham was sufficient to justify their expectation of the Divine favor, at the very time that they were living in all manner of iniquity. John the Baptist expostulated with them upon this head: "Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." Paul also warned them, that "all were not Israel who were of Israel; neither, because they were all the seed of Abraham, were they therefore, in a higher and more refined sense, his children." No, "if they were Abraham's children, in this sense," they, as our blessed Lord here told his persecutors, would do the works of Abraham. Here we have a test whereby our spiritual relation to Abraham may be ascertained: and we shall do well to consider it,

I. For the informing of our judgment.

The more we enter into the true import of this declaration, the more shall we be convinced that it contains,

1. A reasonable test.

There are enthusiasts in the world who will persuade themselves that they are the Lord's people, because they have had a revelation of it from Heaven, or a dream whereby it has been made known to them; or, because they have had some portion of the Holy Scriptures applied to their souls in so forcible a manner as to convince them that the testimony came to them from God himself. But all this is a mere delusion. I say not that God may not reveal to any man whatever he pleases: but I do say, that we have no reason whatever to expect that God will make known to us, by revelation, anything which, without such a miraculous interference, may be easily and safely deduced from his blessed word. He has told us, that "a tree is to be known by its fruits;" and that the same means whereby we ascertain the quality of what is natural, must be used for the discovering of what is spiritual; or, in other words, that men are to be known and judged by the fruits which display themselves in their lives. This we all acknowledge to be reasonable, in forming our estimate of a tree; and it is no less so as a test for discovering the state and quality of our souls.

2. An impartial test.

There is no man whatever who may not here find a glass in which to behold his own face. The old, the young, the rich, the poor, the learned, the unlearned, may all judge themselves by this test. Of course, some allowance must be made for the different capacities of men, and the different opportunities which they have enjoyed of serving God. We do not expect the same degree of improvement from one who has possessed but two talents, which we look for from him who has had ten talents committed to his care. "From him to whom God has committed much, he will expect the more." But, making due allowance for these circumstances, every child of man may apply to himself this test, and may form, by means of it, a just estimate of his real character.

3. A certain test.

We are assured, by our Lord himself, that "a good tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit, nor can a bad tree bring forth good fruit." There is but one principle in the world that will sanctify the soul, and that is faith. And this principle, if genuine, cannot but be productive of universal holiness. Hence we may lay it down as an infallible rule: "By this, the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: he who does not righteousness, is not of God."

Now, then, let us adopt this test,

II. For the trying of our state.

Of course, our first endeavor must be to learn what were Abraham's works; for, until we have ascertained that point, we cannot institute a comparison between him and us, or learn with any accuracy how far we resemble him. Now, our Lord complained of his hearers, that, instead of believing his word and obeying his voice, they sought to kill him: "Now you seek to kill me, a man that has told you the truth which I have heard of God. This Abraham did not do."

Abraham believed all that God revealed to him, and obeyed all that God commanded him.

God revealed to him, that he should have, by Sarah, a son, from whom should proceed a progeny numerous as the stars of Heaven and as the sands upon the sea-shore; and, finally, a seed, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed. But no less than five-and-twenty years did he wait for this promised seed; even until, according to the course of nature, he could not have a child; he being one hundred years old, and Sarah ninety. But did his faith fail him? No, "he never once staggered at the promise through unbelief;" but against hope, he believed in hope; "being fully persuaded, that what God had promised, he was able also to perform."

At the same time that this revelation was given him, a command was also issued, that he should "leave his country, and his kindred, and his father's house; and go to a land which should in due season be pointed out to him," and without hesitation did he yield obedience to this strange mandate. Another more remarkable command was given him afterward, even to take this very child of promise, and offer him up for a burnt-offering on a mountain that should be pointed out to him. Instantly, without so much as communicating with his wife upon the subject, he took the lad, and prosecuted his journey with him, for the space of three days, to the place appointed; and there proceeded to offer him up, in the way that had been enjoined. Here was another act of obedience that never had its parallel since the foundation of the world.

Now, then, see whether you do these works of Abraham.

Of course, we have not ourselves received either the same revelations or the same commands. But we may see whether we have the same principle of faith as he, and whether it operate to produce the like obedience. To us is that Promised Seed revealed; and we are told to look for all blessings from him. Yes, Christ is that Promised Seed, in whom alone can any child of man obtain the blessings of salvation. Are we then going to him, and relying on him, and receiving from him all that we need for the salvation of our souls? Are we looking to him daily, and to him alone, for "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and complete redemption?" O! inquire whether you are thus living a life of faith on the Son of God, as having loved you, and given himself for you.

Then see, whether, in compliance with God's command, you have come out from the ungodly world, and set out upon a journey towards that land, that good land flowing with milk and honey, which, however, you never have seen, nor can see until your pilgrimage shall have come to a close. And are you, in your way thither, sacrificing to God your dearest interests and most darling lusts? Say, do you take your very Isaac, and sacrifice him with your own hand? This will show you whose children you are: for none but a child of Abraham can ever so resemble that father of the faithful: while it is equally certain that "every child of his will thus walk in his steps."

Application.

1. Make use then, I pray you, of this test, for the ascertaining of your state.

You are not Christians because you were born of Christian parents, and have been educated in the Christian faith. True Christianity is seated in the heart, and displays itself in the life—And remember, there is no medium between children of God and children of the wicked one: so that, if it cannot be said with truth that God is your Father, it must be said, "You are of your father the devil," and with him must you take your portion, even "with him, whose you are, and whom you serve." I pray you, then, "examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; and prove your own selves" with the utmost diligence; lest, while you call yourselves Abraham's children, and hope to "sit down with him forever in the kingdom of your God," you be disclaimed by him at the last, and be "thrust out of the mansion" where he dwells, and where no unclean thing can ever enter.

2. And use also this example as a stimulus to your exertions.

See the heights to which your father Abraham attained; and strive, to the utmost of your power, not to come short of them.

 

MDCLV

Love to Christ a Test of Our Relation to God

John 8:42. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, you would love me.

IF experience did not convince us, we could scarcely believe that presumption should be so rooted in the heart of man as we find it is. That it should exist, not only without any grounds, but in opposition to the strongest possible evidence, and be held fast with a pertinacity which nothing can shake, is truly surprising. Yet so it is: men believe that God is their Father, though not one feature of his image is found upon them, and their resemblance to Satan is complete. The Jews accounted themselves children of God merely because of their carnal descent from Abraham, his friend: and when our Lord endeavored to show them, from their works, that they could have no spiritual relation either to Abraham or to God, they could not so much as understand his words; so strange and incomprehensible did his distinctions appear. But, as he had just before shown them that their works disproved their relation to Abraham, so now he appeals to their works as undeniable evidences that they were not children of God; "If God were your Father, you would love me."

In discoursing on these words, we shall,

I. Consider the test here proposed.

Our Lord is proving that his obstinate opponents neither were, nor could be, children of God: and he gives them a test whereby they may try themselves. Now this test was the most easy, and most certain, that could be imagined: for if they were children of God,

1. They would have in themselves a disposition to love.

God is love; and all his children bear his image, especially in this particular. However vile they may have been in their unregenerate state, "living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another," by regeneration their evil dispositions are mortified, and a spirit of humility and love becomes the governing principle of their souls. This change is universal: it is the leading feature by which every child of God is known. The want of it, whatever else we may possess, infallibly proves us children of the wicked one. "Though we should know all the mysteries of our holy religion, and have a faith that can remove mountains, and give all our goods to feed the poor, and even give our bodies to be burnt for Christ, if we had not the principle of love in our hearts, we should be only as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals."

2. They would find in Christ whatever was suited to conciliate their regard.

This our Lord particularly specifies. He had "proceeded and come forth from God," in a way in which no creature ever had. He was the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts: he had not come of his own mind, like the false prophets, but was sent from God; as his credentials abundantly testified. Nor was he doing his own will, but the will of Him that sent him: nor did he seek his own glory, but the glory of Him that sent him. Seeing then that he was the Father's Messenger to them; that he was come not only to reveal the way of salvation to them, but to obtain salvation for them, by bearing their sins in his own body on the tree; seeing that in the prosecution of this work he had displayed such unerring wisdom, such indefatigable diligence, such invincible patience, such almighty power, and such unbounded love; could they do otherwise than love him, if they were children of God? Could they be blind to so much excellence, and insensible of so much kindness, if God were their Father? Impossible. It could not be that God should leave his own children so much under the power of the devil, as to reject the mercy he had prepared for them, and destroy the Messenger whom he had sent to redeem them.

That we may see more clearly the suitableness of this test, we will,

II. Compare it with other tests which men devise for themselves.

Every man has some ground on which he builds his hopes, and some test whereby he tries his title to Heaven. This test varies according to the attainments which each person has made, or thinks he has made, in religion; every one fixing his own standard, and so drawing the line as to include himself within the number of God's elect. They are children of God, because,

1. They have committed no gross sin.

Be it so: they have kept within the bounds which the world prescribes for our moral and religious conduct: but is this sufficient to prove them children of God? Yes, rather, does not the delight which they feel in consequence of this partial obedience prove them indisputably to be children of the devil? What is, in fact, the language of their hearts? Is it not this? 'It is needless to love and serve God: to obey his law is quite superfluous: all that we need to do, is, to abstain from gross sin: if we do that, we need not alarm ourselves about the displeasure of God: we are in no danger of perishing: we need not trouble ourselves about a Savior: we have all the righteousness that God requires, and may look forward with confidence to our final acceptance with him.' Yes, this, I say, is the language of their hearts: and I leave you to judge how far such a state of mind can be an evidence of their being children of God. In truth, all the gross sins that they could possibly commit would not more clearly prove them children of the devil, than this impiety: the weight and number of their sins indeed might be increased; but, as a test, nothing can be more decisive of their state, than such vain confidence as this.

2. They approve of the doctrines of the Gospel.

It matters little what doctrines we embrace, unless they operate to the renovation of our souls. Our Lord intimates that many will express a considerable degree of zeal in his cause, preaching his Gospel, and casting out devils in his name, who yet will be rejected by him at last, because they did not experience any sanctifying efficacy from his Gospel; "their saying, Lord, Lord, will not avail them anything, because they did not the will of his heavenly Father." Indeed a knowledge of the Gospel tends rather to aggravate the guilt of those who do not practically embrace it; because they sin against greater light, and against the convictions of their own conscience. The Jews were filled with zeal for the law of Moses, and were ready to put our Lord to death for supposed violations of it: but were they therefore children of God? No, though they pretended such high respect for the law, they did not themselves keep the law, as our Lord told them; and that very law would condemn them in the last day. It is plain therefore that an assent to any system of divine truth can never be an adequate test of our relation to God.

3. They have experienced a change both in their views and conduct.

This comes to nearly the same point as the two preceding: for the circumstance of our having formerly been more erroneous in our views, or more vicious in our conduct, can never make us right, if we stop short of that change which God requires. It is true that a reformation of our life seems to manifest the operation of divine grace, and in that view to sanction a confidence that we are children of God: but Herod still continued a child of the devil, notwithstanding, in compliance with John's admonitions, "he did many things." The stony-ground hearers are represented as experiencing a great and joyful change; and the thorny-ground hearers even bring forth fruit, and continue to do so to their dying hour; yet neither the one nor the other are acknowledged by God as his children, because they "bring not forth fruit unto perfection."

4. But view, in opposition to all these tests, the one which our Lord proposed to the Jews.

That is perfect and complete; and will decide the point beyond all possibility of mistake. Let it only be clearly ascertained that we love Christ, and our relation to God will be unquestionable: for though it may be said, that the love of Christ is not of itself a performance of all our duty; yet it must be said, on the other hand, that it is a principle which will yield universal obedience: nor is it possible to have a true love to Christ in our hearts without loving, and longing to fulfill, the whole will of God. While therefore the tests which men adopt for themselves are universally defective and fallacious, this is perfectly adequate to the end proposed: for no man can be a child of God who cannot abide that test; nor can any man be a child of Satan, if the love of Christ be found in his heart.

Let us then proceed to,

III. Try ourselves by it.

The inquiry is simple: Do we love,

1. His person?

"To them that believe, he is precious;" "fairer than ten thousand, and altogether lovely." Is he so to us? Have "we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father?" Have we seen him to be "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person?" Have we seen concentered in him all divine and human excellence, so as to be constrained to say, "Who is like unto You?" And do we "account all things but dung for the excellency of the knowledge of him?" If we love him aright, our love to him must infinitely exceed all creature-attachment: life itself must have lost its value, in comparison of his will and his glory. To say, "My beloved is mine, and I am his," must be the summit of our ambition, more in our estimation than ten thousand worlds. Inquire then whether this be indeed the habit of your minds? The splendor of the sun eclipses the feebler radiance of the stars: and in like manner will the glory of the Sun of Righteousness, if it be indeed beheld by us, cause all sublunary glory to vanish from before our eyes.

2. His ways?

"He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me," says our Lord himself. We know how strongly even creature-affection will operate to make us consult the wishes, and perform the will, of the object beloved: and the love of Christ will assuredly operate in the same manner: it will "constrain us to live, not to ourselves, but unto Him who died for us and rose again." His commandments, whatever self-denial they may require, will never appear grievous; but we shall account his service to be perfect freedom. In proportion as "God enlarges our hearts," it will be our delight to "run the way of his commandments." How is it then with us in this respect? Are we panting after higher degrees of holiness, and laboring with augmented diligence to do whatever will be pleasing in his sight? Are we "forgetting what is behind, and reaching forward to that which is before," accounting nothing attained while anything remains to be attained, and longing to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God?" This, this is the fruit of love: and if we say that we love Christ while we are strangers to this frame, "we are liars, and the truth is not in us."

3. His salvation?

It cannot fail but that, if we love Christ, we must love that glorious plan of salvation which he has revealed to us, "and glory above all things in the cross of Christ," there will appear a suitableness in it, a perfect correspondence with all our wants and necessities. The atonement which Christ has offered for us will be regarded with wonder and admiration, as the most mysterious fruit of divine wisdom, and the most stupendous effort of divine love. The opening made by it for the harmonious exercise and united display of all the divine perfections will fill the soul with rapture, and constrain it to vie with all the hosts of Heaven in singing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing: therefore blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever."

4. His glory?

We shall not be indifferent to this, if we love him in truth: we shall wish that his name may be known, his salvation enjoyed, and his glory be exalted, throughout all the earth. As those who preceded his advent longed for his appearance upon earth, so shall we long for his fuller manifestation to the world, that Heaven itself may be brought down to earth, and all the kingdoms of the world be his undivided empire. It will grieve us to see that any of the human race are ignorant of him, and that he is dishonored by so many of those who enjoy the light of his Gospel: and we shall be praying from our inmost souls, "Your kingdom come; your will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven." If we can do anything for the conversion of Jews or Gentiles, we shall gladly exert ourselves to the utmost; if by any means we may be the honored instruments of extending his dominion, even though it should be only over the soul of one single individual.

What now does conscience say to these things? Have we indeed the love of Christ in us; and does it extend thus to everything relating to him, his person, his ways, his salvation, his glory?

Address.

1. To those who can stand this test.

Happy indeed are you, who, when Christ puts the question to you, "Love you me?" can answer, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." You assuredly are children of God; and, "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ"—Yet remember, that your evidence of this relation exists only in proportion as the love of Christ reigns in your souls. If any sin whatever have dominion over you, your evidence is destroyed, or rather, it is evident you are not the Lord's. This is so strongly asserted by God himself, that we would wish you never for one moment to lose sight of it, lest your presumption be like that of the Jews, and issue, like theirs, in everlasting ruin.

2. To those who are condemned by it.

These, alas! are the great majority of the Christian world. If the love of self, or the love of the world, had been the test of our relation to God, then would he have had many children among us, whose evidence would be clear, and their claim indisputable. But we must stand or fall by another test, even by that proposed by our Lord himself. See then what you have to do. You have not to fulfill the whole law in order to become children of God; (that were indeed a hopeless case:) but to get the love of Christ in your hearts. And can you feel any backwardness to that? Methinks, the difficulty should be to refrain from loving him. Only think who he is; and what he has done and suffered for you: think what excellencies unite in him, and how great will be the comfort of loving him: think how willing he is to reconcile you to God, and to bring you into the family of Heaven. Only believe in him, love him, and give yourselves to him; and all shall yet be well with you, both in time and eternity.

 

MDCLVI

Unbelief Traced to Its Source

John 8:46. If I say the truth, why do you not believe me?

ONE would reasonably suppose, that if Almighty God were to become a man, and to labor for the instruction of his creatures in a way of daily and familiar fellowship, and were to confirm his testimony by miracles without number, it would be impossible for men to withstand the influence of his word. But the experiment has been made; and men have shown a degree of perverseness, of which one could scarcely have conceived them capable. Sometimes they would endeavor to justify their opposition, by accusing our Lord Jesus of violating the law of Moses. But they were invariably put to shame; the falsehood and malignity of their charges being exposed by him with unanswerable force and demonstration. It was to opponents of this description that he addressed the words before us: "Which of you convinces me of sin? And, if I say the truth, why do you not believe me?"

From these words, I will take occasion to mark,

I. The prevalence of unbelief.

Men believed not even our Lord himself.

He spoke to more advantage than any other person ever did: he spoke with more wisdom: his very enemies were constrained to say, "Never man spoke like this man." He spoke with more authority: in this respect he differed widely from the Scribes and Pharisees, yes, and from Prophets and Apostles too: "Truly, truly, I say unto you," was with him a common mode of uttering his instructions. He spoke with more grace, so that his adversaries themselves wondered at the gracious words that proceeded from his lips. He confirmed his word with more miracles: for he alone, in the short space of three years, wrought more miracles than ever were wrought, either before or since, from the foundation of the world to the present moment. Moreover, in confirmation of all that he said, he appealed to Moses, whom the Jews themselves professed to venerate, and of whose inspiration they had no doubt. Yet the people would not believe him: though they could not controvert one word that he uttered, yet would they not receive his declarations. The tidings which he brought to them were such as one might have supposed they should receive with all readiness of mind: yet would they not believe him. He declared himself sent from God to be their deliverer from sin and Satan: and he assured them, that if they would believe in him, he would make them "free indeed;" free from the guilt of all their sins; free from the condemnation due to them; free also from the power and dominion of sin; and free to serve their God in newness of heart and life. But still it was all in vain: for they would not believe his testimony in any respect.

Nor are his servants believed at this day.

Every faithful servant of Christ bears the same testimony that Christ himself did; and his one object is, to commend Christ to men as the Redeemer of the world. We declare, that men are in a state of bondage; that no man can deliver himself; that Christ is sent of God to be the Savior of the world; and that "all who believe in him shall be justified from all things." We cannot work miracles in confirmation of this doctrine: but we can appeal to the miracles by which it was confirmed in the days of Christ and his Apostles. And not only to the Scriptures do we refer, in proof of our declarations, but to the authorized standard of truth contained in the Articles and Homilies of the Established Church. We bring also the very prayers which every member of the Established Church uses from time to time; and we do not hesitate to say, that every doctrine not contained in those formularies is undeserving of any serious regard. Yet will not men believe us, any more than they believed our blessed Lord. They will cry out against us, as introducing new doctrines, though they are so fully maintained by our own Church, and by all the Apostles and Prophets from the foundation of the world. Let a minister preach any self-righteous doctrines subversive of the Gospel, and he will be credited by all: but where the Gospel comes, a division immediately ensues; and, if some receive the word, vast multitudes will be found to reject it.

To account for this unbelief, I will point out,

II. The source from whence it flows.

Men can give no satisfactory reason for it: for they have in their own minds somewhat of a conviction, that what they oppose is true. Hence our Lord said, and we also may adopt his words, "If I say the truth, why do you not believe me?" The true reason of men's unbelief is, that they have within them "an evil heart," from whence it proceeds. In answer to our Lord's question, then, I will tell you why you do not believe.

1. You will not inquire into what you hear.

Men hear us, as they heard our blessed Lord: but they will not examine whether what they hear agrees with the voice of inspiration, or whether it corresponds with their own experience. We tell them of their guilt: we declare to them their danger: we make known to them the way of salvation: but whether they assent to what they hear, or dissent from it, they alike are sunk in unbelief; because they will not take the pains necessary for investigating the subject, or ascertaining the agreement of our statements with the truth of God. In this the inhabitants of Thessalonica showed themselves peculiarly defective, while the Bereans prosecuted a wiser and better plan: "The Bereans were more noble than those at Thessalonica, in that they searched the Scriptures daily, to see if these things were so: and therefore many of them, it is said, believed." If men will leave truth unexplored, it is no wonder if they doubt its excellence, or deny its very existence.

2. You are averse to the truth, as far as it comes before you.

Our Lord's hearers "believed him not, because he told them the truth." And so it is now. If we declare to you your undone state, you do not like to hear of it. If we affirm the impossibility of saving yourselves by anything that you can (In, and the indispensable necessity of looking for salvation through Christ alone, you are offended, and represent us as depreciating good works, and encouraging licentiousness. If we call you to renounce the world, and to give up yourselves to the service of your God, you are displeased, because we would tear you from your idols, and call you to a life which you do not affect. Our Lord tells us, that "the world hated him, because he testified of it that its works were evil." And this constitutes the peculiar guilt of unbelief; as our Lord has said: "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world; and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that does evil, hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved: but he who does truth, comes to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." We have a striking example of this in the chief priests and elders, who demanded by what authority our Lord drove the buyers and sellers from the temple. He, instead of giving them a direct answer, put a question to them concerning John, desiring them to say, "whether his baptism was from Heaven, or of men." They saw, that if they acknowledged it to be from Heaven, he would ask, "Why then did you not believe him?" and, not choosing to confess the truth, declined answering his question at all. Thus the same dishonesty prevails among us: and, even when convinced in our minds respecting the truth of a statement, we refuse to admit its truth, because it militates against our principles or habits.

3. You are determined to hold fast your lusts, which are condemned by it.

Men love the world, and will hear of nothing that requires them to renounce it. They desire to stand high in the estimation of men, and will not conform to sentiments or habits which will endanger the loss of it. They are often persuaded in their minds that what they hear is true and good; but then they consider how far their adoption of it will interfere with their worldly interests. Among the chief rulers, we are told, many believed on Christ: but, because of the Pharisees, they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." And hence our Lord said to his hearers, "How can you believe, who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only?" This is at the root of unbelief, in all instances where much instruction has been given; "Men hate to be reformed; and therefore cast God's word behind them."

Address.

1. Those who persuade themselves that they already believe.

If an assent to the truths of Christianity were real faith, there would be no further room for that complaint which, all the Prophets and Apostles made, "Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" But it is not faith; or, at least, it is only "the faith of devils." Saving faith would bring you to a cordial reception of the Lord Jesus Christ in his proper character, as the Redeemer of men, and the Savior of the world. The Jews denied that they were in bondage; and so do the generality of men among ourselves: and hence they disregarded the offer of a Deliverer, as we also do. But this proved them to be in unbelief: and it proves the same respecting us. I pray you, brethren, deceive not yourselves with the idea that you are believers, while your faith is inoperative and unproductive. If your faith do not bring you to Jesus as your only hope; if it do not bring you to him to be made free indeed—free from sin, as well as free from guilt; I declare unto you, that you are yet in unbelief, "you are yet in your sins." While you imagine that an unproductive assent to the Gospel is saving faith, you deceive your own souls. You may call us Antinomians, for exalting the exclusive efficacy of faith to save the soul: but you are the Antinomians, who maintain your faith to be saving while it produces no sanctifying effects upon you.

2. Those who think that they have no occasion for faith.

It has been said, that his faith cannot be wrong, whose life is in the right. But no man's life can be right, until he is united unto Christ by faith. He wants that principle which alone can sanctify the soul. But, let our sanctification be ever so perfect, will any man presume to put that in the place of Christ's atoning sacrifice? Will any man rely on his own merits, rather than on Christ's obedience unto death? Ah! fatal error! Not even Paul himself could be saved by the works of the law; and therefore he "desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in him." And in this way must every one of you be saved. You must renounce all dependence on yourselves, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ as your only hope. If you will not believe this, go and try the experiment: go and try by your own righteousness to satisfy the justice of Almighty God; and by your own arm to vanquish all your spiritual enemies. But both the one and the other of these things are impossible to mortal man: and therefore go with all humility to the Son of God; and know, that "if the Son make you free, you shall be free indeed."

 

MDCLVII

Abraham's Views of Christ

John 8:56. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

ONE cannot read any of our Lord's discourses without seeing the need of a spiritual discernment. For want of it, his hearers could not understand his plainest assertions. It being his object to convey spiritual instruction, he used such expressions as were suited to that end: but his hearers annexed only a carnal sense to them, and therefore conceived of him as talking like a maniac; "You have a devil, and are mad." One expression in particular gave them the highest offence: he had said, "If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death," this they interpreted as relating to the death of the body; and, well knowing that Abraham and the prophets had all died, they could not endure such arrogance as that assertion implied; since it, in fact, exalted him above Abraham himself. Though they misconstrued his meaning, our Lord would not deny the inference which they drew from his words; but, on the contrary, confirmed it; and told them, that, contemptible as they thought him, Abraham himself had "eagerly desired to see his day," and, on being favored with a sight of it, "had greatly rejoiced." At this they stumbled still more: and, on being further assured by him that he existed before Abraham was born, they took up stones to stone him.

In the assertion before us, however ridiculous it appeared to their carnal apprehensions, is contained a most important truth: to illustrate which, we shall show,

I. What were Abraham's views of Christ.

To mark this with precision is no easy matter. If we suppose that Abraham understood the types as we do, his views of Christ were complete indeed: for, from the appearance of Jehovah to him in human shape, he would behold the incarnation of Christ; and from Melchizedek, to whom Abraham himself offered tithes of all that he possessed, and from whom also he received a blessing, he would know the everlasting priesthood of Christ, and the necessity of depending on him for all spiritual blessings. Moreover, from his being ordered to offer Isaac upon an altar on Mount Moriah (the very place where Christ was afterwards crucified;) and from Isaac being restored to him, when in Abraham's purpose he was already dead; he would learn the sacrifice of Christ by the hand, as it were, of his own Father, and his resurrection from the dead. And as he is said to have made this offering "by faith," and to have "received his son from the dead in a figure," we are by no means certain that he did not see the mystery contained in that remarkable transaction. But we wish always to lean to the safe side in our interpretations of Holy Writ, and rather to assert too little than too much: we therefore content ourselves with ascribing to Abraham such views only as the New Testament writers have clearly assigned to him. He saw then,

1. The person and work of Christ as a Savior.

He saw that there was some particular person who should spring from him, distinct from, and superior to, all his other descendants. He saw that the covenant which God had condescended to make with him was confirmed and ratified in that particular individual. He saw that that person was to be a source of blessings to mankind; and that, not to one nation only, but to all the nations of the earth. He saw, that though the land of Canaan was promised to him and his posterity, this was not the only, or the chief, blessing which they were to inherit: on the contrary, he regarded Canaan only as a type of a better inheritance; and saw distinctly, that grace and glory were the special benefits which the promised Seed should obtain for them. Whether he knew precisely in what manner Christ was to obtain these things for us, we do not undertake to determine; but that Christ was to be the one fountain of these blessings to the world, he knew assuredly: for on that very truth he grounded all his hopes of salvation.

2. The method of a sinner's justification through him.

We are continually told, "that Abraham's faith was counted to him for righteousness." But was it the act of faith that constituted his justifying righteousness before God? If so "he has whereof to glory;" (in direct opposition to Paul's assertion); and he was saved by works, and not by faith only (for faith, as an act of our own, is a work, as much as love, or any other act). No, it was by the object of faith that he was justified, even by that promised Seed, who died for him upon the cross: and it was to that promised Seed that he looked for a justifying righteousness before God.

It may be said, in opposition to this, that James says he was justified by works, and particularly by offering up his son Isaac upon the altar. But a very little consideration will suffice to show, that he does not contradict the assertions of Paul. When was Abraham justified? I answer, the very moment he believed the declaration of God with respect to the promised Seed. But this was long before any of those acts of obedience for which we might suppose him to have been justified: it was no less than twenty-four years before he was circumcised: and consequently, forty, if not fifty, years, before that act of obedience which James refers to. This indisputably proves, that the offering up of Isaac was not the ground of his justification before God; but that it was only an evidence of the truth and sincerity of that faith whereby he was justified. The righteousness of Christ was that by which he was justified; his faith was only the means of his justification; and his works were the evidence of his justification: by faith he apprehended Christ; and by offering up his son (from whom Christ was to spring), he showed the reality and strength of his faith.

This great truth, that we are justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is the one grand point in which the whole Gospel centers: and this point Abraham saw, not only in reference to himself, but in reference also to the whole world; as well those who should not derive their natural descent from him, as those who should. Other things he might see more or less distinctly; but this he saw as clearly as we ourselves can do; yes, happy would it be for many, if they saw it half so clearly as he did.

From knowing what his views of Christ were, we shall be at no loss to say,

II. Why he so exulted in them.

Though we should estimate his knowledge by the lowest standard, the event which he foresaw could not fail of being a source of much joy to him,

1. Because of the mystery contained in it.

Frequently does Paul characterize the Gospel as a "mystery that from eternity was hid in the bosom of God," and as containing "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Another Apostle represents the very "angels in Heaven as desiring to look into it," and to search out, if possible, its immeasurable extent.

Do we wonder then that Abraham rejoiced in the manifestation of this to his soul? To see such a display of the divine perfections, all exhibited in the person of one who should spring from his loins; to see a descendant of his own effecting what all the angels in Heaven would in vain have endeavored to effect; to see him, by his own obedience unto death, bringing more honor to God than all the obedience of angels ever brought, and more good to man than he would have enjoyed if he had never sinned at all; I say, to see such "a day" as this, might well fill him with all the rapture that feeble mortality could sustain. When this mystery began to be more fully manifested in the incarnation of Christ, a multitude of the heavenly host, astonished, as it were, at the display of the Divine glory, commenced a new song, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men." And from that period it has been the one theme of praise and adoration among saints on earth and saints in Heaven. Yes, so glorious, so inexhaustible is the subject, that after millions of years it will be as new and interesting as ever: and to all eternity, notwithstanding it will be progressively unfolded to the admiring universe, it will be found to have a length and breadth, a depth and height, that can never be explored.

2. Because of the benefits conveyed by it.

If he had only his own personal benefit in view, he could not but rejoice: for, what an amazing benefit is it for a guilty creature to say, "Behold, God is my salvation: I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song, he also is become my salvation!" It is not possible for any one to have this sweet assurance, and not adopt the language of exultation actually used by the Church of old, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord: my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Indeed it is said of every believer, that "though lie has not personally seen Christ, yet he cannot but rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory." But doubtless he looked to the salvation of a ruined world: and what joy must not that excite! See in what raptures David was, at the prospect which was opened to him! See how, at the period of our Savior's advent, every heart rejoiced! how Mary exclaimed, "My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior!" how the embryo infant, of six months' existence only in the womb of Elizabeth, leaped for joy at the approach of the blessed Virgin, in whom the Savior was but just formed! Hear, at the time of his nativity, with what ecstatic joy the angels proclaimed his advent, "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!" Hear how every person, to whose ears it was at all welcome, exulted in it! how Zachariah "blessed God;" and Simeon desired his dismissal from the body, accounting that he had attained all that was valuable in life, now that he had seen and embraced the infant Savior! Behold, when salvation by Christ was proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, how all the converts forgot every personal concern, and spent all their time in blessing and praising God. So it was, wherever the glad tidings were proclaimed. No wonder then it was so with Abraham, when he heard, as it were, an universal jubilee proclaimed: his heart at least, if not his lips, gave vent to its feelings, in the expressive language of the prophet, "Sing, O you heavens, for the Lord has done it: shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree therein; for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel."

We cannot conclude without inquiring, What effect has the arrival of this day on you?

How many who live under the meridian light of the Gospel have never yet attained the knowledge nor the joy that Abraham possessed, though he lived two thousand years before the Lord Jesus came into the world! The greater part of those who bear the Christian name, even when commemorating the Savior's advent, celebrate it only in a way of carnal feasting; thus making his being "manifested to take away our sins" an occasion of multiplying their transgressions against him. But woe be to those who so mock and insult the Savior of the world: truly their mirth will have a very different issue from what they expect. I call upon you then to examine, what effect the contemplation of this mystery has produced on you? Has it filled you with admiration, and gratitude, and joy? and does this effect of it remain upon your mind from day to day? Tell me, if Abraham so exulted in it when he saw it only prospectively, and at the distance of two thousand years, should you view it with indifference, who are privileged to behold it in its meridian splendor? Methinks the frame predicted by the Prophet Isaiah, should be that of every soul among you: "It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is the Lord; we have waited for him; we will be glad, and rejoice in his salvation." My dear brethren, be not satisfied, if this be not your experience: be assured, you know nothing of the Savior's love, nothing, at least, as you ought to know it, if it have not produced this effect upon you. If you be Abraham's children, you will "walk in the steps of your father Abraham," believing in Christ, and rejoicing in him; not indeed in the prospect of his advent in the flesh, but in the prospect of that day which is now fast approaching, when all, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be gathered to him, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God—You will also look forward to that day, when he will come again in the glory of his Father, and of all his holy angels, to judge the world—forever to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe."

 

MDCLVIII

The Need of Working While It is Day

John 9:4. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.

IN the circumstances of mankind we behold an inequality, which, at first sight, appears strange and unaccountable. One is born possessed of all the faculties that can conduce to his welfare: another is brought into the world deformed in body, defective in intellect, and, on the whole, in a state scarcely superior to the brute creation. This must certainly, in the first instance, be traced to the sovereignty of God; who has a right to give to his creatures, or withhold from them, whatever he shall see fit. He has not injured us by making us inferior to the angels; nor does he injure any one, if he make him inferior to the beasts also. But, in these sovereign exercises of his will, he often has a special view to his own glory. Perhaps, at no period of the world did he ever give Satan liberty to exert his power over the bodies of men to so great an extent as during the time of our Lord's ministry upon earth. In this dispensation, he gave to the Lord an opportunity of displaying, to a greater degree than he could otherwise have done, his power over Satan and all his hosts. We know, from authority, that this was the reason of our Lord's not interposing to heal Lazarus, as soon as the application was made to him. In staying two whole days after he was informed of the dying state of Lazarus, he appeared regardless of the requests which had been sent to him by his much-loved friends, Mary and Martha. But he assigned as the reason of that delay, that, from the state of Lazarus, it was intended to bring glory both to God the Father, and to himself, as his Father's agent. In like manner we are informed, that, for a similar end, a man was born into the world blind. A notion having obtained among the Jews, that there was a state of existence previous to that which men now have on earth, and that they were either rewarded or punished in this world, according as they had conducted themselves in that from whence they had come; and that God also recompensed in men the good or evil that had been done by their parents; the Disciples asked our Lord, which of these two things had occasioned to the poor man this great calamity. Our Lord told them, that the calamity was not to be traced either to any evil that the man had committed in a preexistent state, or to any that had been committed by his parents; but that it had been sent by God, for the furtherance of his own glory, in giving sight to the blind. It had been ordained of God, that the Messiah should evince the truth of his mission by opening the eyes of the blind: and the opening of this man's eyes was a work especially assigned to the Lord Jesus for that very end. Hence, instead of entering into a distinct consideration of the questions proposed to him, he contents himself with negativing both alternatives, and with intimating, that he must address himself without delay to the work before him; the work of giving sight to this blind man.

But though the words of our text have a particular reference to our blessed Lord, they must not be confined to him; since they are equally applicable to every child of man, and declare to all of us,

I. Our duty.

We all have a great work to do.

As far as our blessed Lord acted as a Mediator between God and man, his work was peculiar to himself: but, as far as he was engaged in "fulfilling all righteousness," he was a pattern to us. He acted as his Father's servant, "sent" to perform a work: and we, in like manner, are servants of the Living God: only, being sinners, we have the duty of sinners; which Jesus, by reason of his innocence, could not have. As having offended Almighty God, our first duty is, to humble ourselves before him, and to seek for mercy at his hands. Our next duty is, to implore help from him, that we may be able to fulfill his will in future, and, by a holy life and conversation to advance to the uttermost the glory of his name: for "herein is our Father glorified, when we bring forth much fruit." This is the duty of every man, without exception. Men's duties, in reference to society, differ according to the rank and station which they hold: the prince and the peasant, the parent and the child, have different offices to perform: but towards God we all stand in the same relation; and all have to render the same services.

For the performance of this work, we are "sent" into the world.

We are not sent here to eat, and to drink, and to pass our time in pleasure; but to do the work assigned to us. Every moment of our time is given us for that purpose, and should be employed for that end. When we rise in the morning, we should inquire, What duties have I to perform this day? And, when we lie down again at night, we should inquire, how far we have executed the will of our heavenly Master. The performance of our work should supersede everything else. Nothing should occupy our mind in comparison of it. To every one who would call us from our duty, we should reply with Nehemiah, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to you?" The conduct of Abraham's servant, when ordered to seek out from among the family of Abraham a wife for his son Isaac, will admirably illustrate our duty towards God. Having received his instructions relative to the conduct he should pursue, he implored of God his unerring guidance, that so he might be led to a successful issue. And when, by Divine Providence, he seemed to have attained his end, having been led to the very house of Abraham's own nephew, Bethuel, he was desired to refresh himself after his long journey. But what was his reply? It was truly memorable; and showed how much he had at heart the execution of the trust committed to him: "There was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told my errand." Here, we see, he preferred his duty "before his necessary food." This is exactly what we should do. Our blessed Lord has set us the example: and, like him, we should be able to say, "My meat is, to do the will of Him that sent me."

With our duty, our blessed Lord sets forth also,

II. The urgency of it.

We have but a "day" to do it in.

A day is given us; and that is little enough for so great a work: yet it is time enough, if duly and diligently improved. It is, however, of very uncertain continuance. The sun of many goes down at noon; and often without the slightest warning. Yes, scarcely is the sun risen with many, before it sets. This is a truth known to all; but considered by few: else, how earnest should we be in doing the work assigned us. We should not be putting it off until "a more convenient season;" but should improve the present hour, "not knowing what a day or an hour may bring forth." We should "walk, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time."

Our day being closed, our work is closed with it.

"There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave." "When the night is once come, we can work no more." Our good purposes, if not carried into effect before, will then fail, and our best resolutions prove abortive. If we have lived impenitent to that hour, or have only felt remorse, without carrying our sins to Jesus, and washing them in the fountain of his blood, we shall continue impenitent and unforgiven to all eternity. "As the tree falls, so it will lie," We may then weep for our sins; but our tears will be unavailing: we may even "wail and gnash our teeth for anguish," but the door of mercy will be closed. We may cry, "Lord, Lord, open unto us!" but God will be deaf to our entreaties. We may even call upon the rocks and mountains to fall upon us, and to hide us from the wrath of the Lamb: but they cannot perform for us that friendly office; nor can so much as a drop of water be obtained, to soothe the anguish of our bodies and our souls. We may then wish, 'O, that I had another day, or even another hour! how would I work then!' But our day is forever closed; and nothing but everlasting "night" remains; even "the blackness of darkness forever."

Address.

1. Those who are more advanced in years.

Much of your day is obviously gone: and little, according to the course of nature, remains. Your glass is well near run down. Is it not then time for you to awake, and to begin the work which God has sent you to perform? Should you not be engaged in penitential sorrow for your past sins; in crying earnestly to Almighty God for mercy; in fleeing to the Lord Jesus Christ as to the hope set before you? Should you not be seeking the renovation of your souls after the Divine image? Should you not be daily "preparing to meet your God" in judgment? Yes, indeed: but it is a sad and melancholy truth, that few who have advanced beyond the middle term of life impenitent, are brought to repentance afterwards. Their habits are fixed; their conceit of their own safety is become inveterate; and their very consciences, as far as it respects everything but gross sin, are seared. I thank God, however, that there are instances of persons entering into the service of their God even at the tenth or eleventh hour! Let me entreat you, beloved brethren, to be of that happy number; that, when you come to die, you may be able to adopt the words of our blessed Lord, and say, "Father, I have glorified you on earth; I have finished the work which you have given me to do."

2. Those who are yet in early life.

It can never be too early for you to begin this necessary work. The lambs which were appointed to be offered unto God in sacrifice, every morning and evening throughout the year, were to be "of the first year," and it is in the earliest period of your lives that you should "offer yourselves living sacrifices to the Lord." You will remember, that the first fruits of everything were to be offered to God: and of the corn, they were to be of "full ears" indeed; for God must have everything of the most perfect kind; but they were to be "green ears," green ears "dried by fire," and beaten out. And what can this import, but that, before you have attained that measure of maturity which is required for the service of man, you may, and must, be rendering service to your God? You have examples of this in Samuel, Obadiah, Timothy; and, above all, in our blessed Lord himself, who, at the age of twelve years, willingly devoted himself to his God and Father, in his temple. Let me prevail on you to follow these examples; and now, before sin has hardened your hearts, and Satan has drawn you fully into his snares, to devote yourselves to God. And know, for your encouragement, that a special promise is given you of the Lord, "They that seek me early, shall find met."

3. All of you without exception.

Through the mercy of our God the day is yet continued to you; that day, which, within the last year, has closed on thousands, who, humanly speaking, were as likely to live as you. And, to multitudes of them, how dreary a night has commenced! and how thankful would they be, if they were permitted once more to hear the tidings of salvation which yet sound in your ears! Be thankful, I pray you, for this distinguishing grace which has been given to you: and increase not your guilt by a further continuance in sin. What a fearful reflection will it be at a future period, that you lived but to "add sin to sin," and to "treasure up wrath against the day of wrath!" If you live to repent of it, what anguish of mind will you suffer, before you obtain forgiveness! And, if you live not to repent of it, what infinitely sorer anguish will you sustain to all eternity! And why should you defer the work to which God is calling you? Suppose you that it is a state of melancholy, that shall embitter the whole remainder of your days? No, "The work of righteousness is peace: and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance forever." Indeed you all know, in your hearts, that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and that "in keeping of God's commandments there is great reward."

 

MDCLIX

The Blind Man Healed at the Pool of Siloam

John 9:6, 7. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

THERE is reason to think that all the miracles of our Lord were intended as emblems of the spiritual blessings which he came to bestow. But in interpreting Scripture it is better to assign to every passage a sense which is clear and determinate, than to wander into the regions of conjecture. In some places however the mystical meaning is pointed out by the inspired writers themselves; and then we may follow them without doubt or fear. Such is the case with respect to the miracle before us; in considering which it will be proper to notice,

I. The historical fact.

The Disciples seeing a man that had been blind from his birth, inquired of our Lord whether the sins of his parents, or any sins of his own in a former state of existence, had been the occasion of that calamity being inflicted on him? Our Lord informed them, that it was owing to a far different cause: that it had been ordained of God on purpose "that the works of God might be made manifest in him," and that in him the Messiah might be glorified. What a consoling thought is this to those who have endured long and heavy afflictions, that God perhaps has sent those afflictions on purpose to glorify the riches of his grace and love by means of them! Who would not submit to be reduced to the state of this blind beggar, in order to be made the honored instrument of glorifying God, and the happy monument of his power and grace?

Our blessed Lord, determining to heal him, made clay of his own spittle, and put it on his eyes, and bade him wash in the pool of Siloam. How strange a remedy was this! In itself, it was more calculated to put out the eyes of one that could see, than to give sight to one that was blind. Whether the Lord Jesus intended by this act to show, that men who are born blind are, as it were, still farther blinded by their fellowship with this present world, and that no power but his could remove this double veil from their eyes, I cannot say: but this is clear, that he did it, to show, that he can work by any means, however inadequate; that we must submit to use the means which he prescribes; and that in the use of his instituted ordinances, of whatever kind they be, we may expect his blessings.

The man complied with the injunctions given him, and found the desired blessing. One would suppose that the sight of this stupendous miracle must have convinced all, that Jesus was the Messiah: but a determined infidel nothing will convince. The Pharisees were determined not to believe in Jesus: they therefore endeavored at first to disprove the miracle. When that was established beyond a possibility of doubt, they made the performing of the miracle on the Sabbath-day a ground of accusation against Jesus, and cried out against it as a scandalous violation of the Sabbath. When they saw the conviction that was fastened on the minds of the more sincere, they enacted a law, that every one who should confess Jesus to be the Messiah, should be excommunicated. Such are the weapons with which ungodly men have ever combated the truth of God: when they fail in argument, they have recourse to authority, and establish that by pains and penalties, which they have in vain labored to maintain by an appeal to reason or Scripture.

The parents of the man were intimidated and silenced; but the man that had received the benefit, boldly vindicated the character of his benefactor. His arguments were irresistible: but they served only to incense the haughty Pharisees, and to bring upon himself the sentence of excommunication. Thus will every truly enlightened man confess his Savior; and, when called to suffer for him, will take up his cross with cheerful resignation, yes, and rejoice that he is counted worthy to bear it.

Our blessed Lord soon found his faithful confessor, and amply rewarded his fidelity by a fuller manifestation of himself, and a more abundant communication of grace to his soul. And thus will he recompense all who suffer for his sake: they shall have a hundredfold now in this present life, and "in the world to come life everlasting."

Forbearing to notice the more minute incidents, we pass on to,

II. The typical interpretation.

We cannot conceive why the Evangelist should give the typical import of the word Siloam, unless to intimate, that the whole miracle had a typical reference. The word Siloam means, Sent; and was intended to prefigure the true "Shiloh," "the messenger of the covenant," the sent of God, the Messiah that should come into the world; and the miracle wrought there typically represents,

1. The state of mankind by nature.

The man by the special providence of God was born blind, in order that he might more fitly characterize the state and condition of unregenerate men. They are universally blind by nature, and as blind with respect to spiritual things as this poor man was with respect to all the objects around him. He could form some crude notions about them by means of feeling; but he could discern no one thing aright: so the men of this world may, by reading, obtain some faint idea of spiritual things; but they have no just apprehension of them at all. To prove that all natural men are blind, we need not descend to particulars, or show that they cannot discern this and that particular truth; there is one question that may determine the point at once; Do all, or do any of those who are in the broad road, see where they are going? do they not universally think, or hope at least, that notwithstanding all which God has spoken, they shall go to Heaven when they die? If further proof be wanted, let an appeal be made to Scripture, and God himself will put the matter beyond dispute. Nothing can more justly represent our state than the man on whom this miracle was wrought.

2. The end for which Christ came into the world.

Our Lord himself gave this exposition to the miracle, at the very time he wrought it; and enforced it afterwards by more express declarations. He was not only to be a light to lighten the world, but was to open the eyes of the blind. He was not only to set before men truths which they were unacquainted with before, but to open their hearts, that they might give attention to them, and their understandings, that they might understand them.

The very manner in which he imparts his blessings, is also not obscurely intimated in the miracle before us. As the means he used were very inadequate to the end proposed, so, for the advancement of his own glory, he uses the ministry of weak and sinful men, and by their word he turns men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Even supposing that we were able of ourselves to convince the judgments of men, we can no more give them spiritual discernment, than the clay and water could give organs of vision to the blind beggar. But, as an ordinance appointed by Jesus, and accompanied with his Spirit, our preaching is made instrumental to the enlightening and saving of many souls. And the weakness of the instruments used by him, is rendered subservient to his more abundant honor.

Our blessed Lord has given us a yet further insight into the miracle, by suggesting to us,

III. The spiritual improvement.

There was to be a judicial discrimination in the ministry of our Lord for the purpose of encouraging the humble, and confounding the proud. The great line of distinction between men is this; some are sensible of their blindness, and desire to be divinely enlightened; and others imagine that they already see, and therefore disregard all offers of spiritual illumination.

With respect to the former, Christ came to give them sight: and, if they will apply to him in the use of his appointed ordinances, he will assuredly grant to them the benefit they desire. He declares that this was the very intent of his coming into the world: and he counsels all to apply to him for the eye-salve that shall effectually remedy their wants. If they do this, their want of education, or even weakness of intellect, shall be no obstacle in their way; he will "reveal to babes and sucklings the things which are hid from the wise and prudent."

With respect to the latter, he will leave them to the operation of their own minds, and give them up to their own delusions. He will not actively mislead them; nor is there any need that he should in order to produce the increase of blindness in them: for if left to themselves, they will bewilder themselves in their own reasonings, and confirm themselves more and more in their own errors. Their prejudices, their passions, and their interests, will concur to lead them astray, and their great adversary the devil, will obstruct the entrance of light into their minds; and thus they will eventually be "taken in their own craftiness," and "utterly perish in their own corruptions."

The improvement then which our Lord himself teaches us to make of this miracle is, to cultivate a sense of our own blindness, and to "become fools in order that we may be wise." If we be "wise in our own conceits, there is more hope of a fool," or of any other character in the universe, than of us. On the contrary, if we be deeply humbled before God as destitute of all spiritual discernment, the "scales shall soon be made to fall from our eyes," and the "Spirit of the living God will guide us into all truth."

Address.

All of us must of necessity resemble the man while his blindness continued, or after it had been removed. Let us then inquire whether we can say with him, "This I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see?" If we cannot, let us remember, that the Savior is near at hand, and that the means used for our illumination, weak as they are, are quite sufficient, if accompanied with his power. Let us take encouragement to ask the influences of his good Spirit, and to pray with David, "Open you my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." On the other hand, if our eyes have been opened, let us boldly confess our benefactor, and willingly bear whatever infidel rulers or persecuting bigots may inflict upon us for his sake. Let us, like Christ himself, endure the cross, and despise the shame. Let us "be faithful unto death, and he will give us a crown of life."

 

MDCLX

Disposition to be Exercised Towards the Gospel

John 9:35–38. Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Do you believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, You have both seen him, and it is he who talks with you. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshiped him.

NO man that ever suffered for righteousness' sake found, in the issue, that he had any reason to complain: for, sooner or later, God has recompensed his sufferings into his bosom a hundred-fold, even in this present life: and assuredly a most glorious recompense awaits him in the world to come. A remarkable instance of God's special favor to his suffering people is recorded in the passage before us. A man, who had been born blind, had been restored to sight. The Pharisees, being averse to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, would not believe that the miracle had been wrought: but, being compelled at last to acknowledge that, they persisted that Jesus, in working this miracle on the Sabbath-day, had violated the Sabbath, and unequivocally proved himself to be a sinner. But the man, on whom the miracle had been wrought, very justly observed to them, that God would never have set his seal, in so public and wonderful a manner, to the pretensions of an impostor; and that, consequently, the miracle must be considered as a decisive proof that Jesus was both sent of God, and approved of God. The Pharisees, unable to withstand the force of his reasoning, had recourse to persecution, and "cast him out of the synagogue." But his fidelity did not long remain unnoticed or unrewarded: for our blessed Lord soon found him, and poured into his soul all the blessings of salvation.

In considering the case of this blind man, I propose to notice,

I. The disposition exercised by him.

We cannot but observe, that, to the question put to him by our Lord, there was something very remarkable in his reply: "Do you believe in the Son of God?" "Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?" Now,

In this he manifested a singular degree of candor.

The question, as applied to him, might appear almost unreasonable: for he had been blind from his birth; and therefore had been cut off, in a measure, from many sources of information which were open to persons of his own age and rank in society. It is true, that the Messiah was generally expected among his countrymen, and that he was expected as "the Son of God," but, from the obstacles which had obstructed his enjoyment of social converse, it could scarcely be hoped that he had collected much information on the subject: and, as for the benefit arising from ocular testimony, he was altogether, by his blindness, precluded from it. Yet, no complaint was made by him on these grounds, nor any excuse offered for his own ignorance; but a desire was expressed to obtain information, and a willingness was declared to act upon it. The excellence of this disposition will best appear, by contrasting it with others which are generally exercised on similar occasions.

Contrast it with prejudice; of which the Pharisees exhibited a striking example on this occasion. They could not deny that the miracle had been wrought: yet they were not at all the more disposed to receive the testimony of Jesus. As those, who saw that devils were cast out by him, would rather account for it by a supposed confederacy with the prince of the devils, than confess the Messiahship of Jesus; and, as those who saw Lazarus after his restoration to life plotted to kill him, lest the sight of him should fasten conviction on the minds of any, and induce them to believe in Jesus; so, in the passage before us, the Pharisees determined to resist all evidence, however strong, and to reject the Savior, whatever proofs he might give of his Divine mission. But against such perverseness, the man, of whom my text speaks, bore, both in word and deed, a most decisive testimony.

Contrast it with indifference; of which we have a deplorable instance in Pilate. Our Lord had told him plainly, "For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, hears my voice." On hearing this, Pilate asked, "What is truth?" But he waited not for an answer; and thereby discovered that he had no desire to be informed. Not so the man before us: he really wished to be informed, that he might conduct himself as it became him towards the person after whom he inquired.

Contrast it with scepticism. Of the great mass of the Jews who had followed Jesus, it is said, that, "though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him." Not contented with such miracles as he saw fit to work, and which left no room for doubt, they would have signs of their own choosing. Even Thomas, one of his own Disciples, (when he had the fullest testimony of all the other Apostles, who had themselves been by no means forward to believe, and had yielded only to evidence that was irresistible,) declared, that, unless he should put his fingers into the very print of the nails in his Savior's hands, and thrust his hand into his side, he would not believe. This was decidedly wrong. We are bound to yield to evidence, provided that evidence be sufficient to convince us on ordinary occasions: and a readiness to act upon the testimony of him who had opened his eyes was a very commendable trait in the character before us.

Contrast it, lastly, with credulity. This is an error on the contrary side; but extremely common, when falsehood is proposed for our belief. In every age, the Jews were prone to it. Whatever impostor arose, professing himself to be the Christ, he was sure enough to find many followers. He needed only to "come in his own name," and very little would suffice to satisfy the minds of the deluded multitude. Against this we should be on our guard, no less than against excessive incredulity: for John says, "Believe not every spirit; but try the spirits, whether they are of God." But of this there was no trace in the spirit of this man: for, though he expressed a readiness to believe, he had abundant reason to rely on the testimony of Him who had so miraculously opened his eyes: in him, therefore, this readiness was not credulity, but piety.

This is the precise disposition which becomes us all.

In a matter purely speculative, the mind should have no bias at all; no leaning towards one side of the question, any more than towards the other. But the Gospel is not a speculative doctrine; nor are we in a condition to speculate upon it. We have an interest in believing it: and we act most irrationally if we do not feel a wish that the evidences for it may be found true. We are sinners; and, as sinners, under the displeasure of Almighty God. The Gospel purports to be a revelation from Heaven, declaring a way for our reconciliation with God. It announces to us a Savior, even the only- begotten Son of God, as becoming incarnate, and dying upon the cross for our sins; that, through Him, all that believe may be justified from all the sins that ever they have committed. Will any one then say, that we ought not to wish this revelation to be true? or is it a subject on which we ought to speculate, as if we had no interest whatever in it? If a number of rebels, under sentence of death, were informed that the king had sent a free pardon to them, would it become them to receive the tidings with perfect indifference, and to amuse themselves with abstract speculations about the nature and degrees of evidence, without any concern about the offered benefit? No man would for a moment approve of such apathy; no man would blame a wish to ascertain the truth of such a report, or a readiness to credit it on sufficient evidence. And precisely in that situation do we stand; and such should be the disposition of our minds towards the Gospel of Christ.

To this we are greatly encouraged by,

II. The benefit he derived from it.

Two things we behold, as immediately resulting from it:

1. Christ's manifestation of himself to him.

To no one, except the Samaritan woman, did our Lord so frankly and so fully declare his own Messiahship, as to this man. To her, upon her saying, "I know that Messiah comes, which is called Christ; when He is come, he will tell us all things;" he plainly replied, "I, that speak unto you am He." So, to this persecuted man he also, with the same frankness, proclaimed his divine mission: "Do you ask who the Son of God is? You have both seen him; and he it is that talks with you." I say not but that, on some occasions, both to his Disciples and to Pilate, he acknowledged himself to be the Messiah: but to no person did he give so direct, and full, and positive an assurance, as to these two most favored people: to the woman, in order to show, to all future generations, that "where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound," and to the man, that he might encourage all to take up their cross boldly, and follow him.

But does this instance encourage any hope in us? Yes, assuredly it does: for, if we really desire to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, and to cleave unto him, "he will come to us, and manifest himself unto us, as he does not unto the world." And to those who questioned his doctrines, he said, "If any man will do God's will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself," so, to those who would approve themselves to him, he says, "If a man love me, my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." A docility of mind, and a readiness to follow the dictates of an enlightened conscience, are the distinguishing features of "an Israelite indeed," and shall never fail of being honored with testimonies of his special approbation.

2. His dedication of himself to Christ.

No sooner did the Lord Jesus profess himself to be the Messiah, than this man acknowledged him under that character, and paid him that "worship" which was due to him as God's only dear Son.

Now, whence had he power to do this? Was not this faith the gift of God? And was not this act of adoration the fruit of the Spirit, even of the Holy Spirit "working mightily in him" as "a Spirit of grace and of supplication?" Yes: the Lord Jesus, who had restored the organs of vision to his body, "gave light also to his soul," and enabled him to exercise these sublime graces: for we know, assuredly, that "without Christ he could have done nothing."

And will He not do as much for us, if we manifest the same child-like spirit? He will: he will remove all doubts from our minds, and enable us to exclaim, with Thomas, "My Lord, and my God!"

And here let me observe, that our Lord did not decline these expressions of his adoring love. When such were offered by Cornelius to Peter, and by John to an angel, they were rejected instantly, as an invasion of the divine prerogative: but to Jesus they were properly offered, because he was the Son of God; and therefore he accepted them; and has thereby taught us, that all men are to "honor the Son, even as they honor the Father; and that he who honors not the Son, honors not the Father who has sent him."

Behold then, I say, the rewards conferred upon the disposition that was exercised. In an instant, as it were, this man was brought "from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God."

Let me, in conclusion,

1. Propose to you the inquiry.

To every individual among you would I propose the question, "Do you believe on the Son of God?" And let no one imagine, that it is an unnecessary inquiry. This man had argued well on the subject of evidences, and yet needed to have the question put to him. And many among ourselves may be able to defend the outworks of Christianity, while yet they have no personal acquaintance with the Lord Jesus. If we would determine this point aright, let us see how this man acted: the very instant that he was enabled to say with truth, "Lord, I believe," he fell down and "worshiped" his heavenly Benefactor. And will not true faith produce the same effect on. us? Shall not we feel delight in prostrating ourselves at the Savior's feet, and in acknowledging our obligations to him? Beyond a doubt, this effect must and will follow. Ask then yourselves, whether this be the habit of your minds from day to day? Has it been so this very day? Has it been so during the past week? Is there in your souls such an overwhelming sense of gratitude to him, as constrains you to revert to him, and fix your thoughts on him, as soon as ever the occasions which have caused a momentary diversion have passed away? Are you touched, as it were, with a magnetic power, that draws you to him, as the needle to the pole? This, I say again, is the invariable effect of true faith; and the resolution of this question will furnish you with the true answer to the inquiry in the text.

2. Commend to you the example.

In reference to every part of God's word should the same disposition be exercised. I say not, that an attentive examination of evidences is not good: for we are bound to "prove all things, and then to hold fast that only which is good." But a critical spirit, a disputatious spirit, a skeptical spirit, are not favorable to the reception of divine truth. They may be proper enough in reference to things which are purely intellectual; but not so in reference to things which are altogether spiritual. For a just discernment of these things we need the teachings of God's Holy Spirit: and with childlike simplicity of mind we should ever pray with Job, "What I see not, teach me;" and with David, "Open you my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." Were such a spirit exercised by us, we should find, in ten thousand instances, that the difficulties of Scripture would vanish; what was "crooked becoming straight, and what was rough, being smoothed to a plain." An obediential spirit would make the whole book of God both luminous and easy to be received. Let me then recommend, that you regard the sacred volume as "a mold, into which your soul is to be poured," and by which its every feature must be formed. Be ready to "obey it from the heart;" and it shall be as effectual to create your souls anew, as the command of Heaven was to bring forth the universe into existence, and to reduce the chaos to that order and beauty which entitled it to the commendation of Jehovah, as "very good." In a word, cultivate the spirit which displayed itself so eminently in this man; and, with a readiness to receive instruction and embrace the truth, let there be in you a determination of heart to follow your convictions, without hesitation and without reserve.

 

MDCLXI

Discriminating Effects of the Gospel

John 9:39. Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they who see might be made blind.

THE miracles of our blessed Lord were, as is well known, testimonies from God to his divine mission. But they were also intended as emblems of that spiritual work which he was sent to accomplish. In the former view, he appealed to them for the conviction of John the Baptist, and of those who had been sent by John to inquire respecting his Messiahship: "Go, and show John those things which you do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up: and blessed is he who shall not be offended in me." In the latter view, he refers to them in the passage before us. He had healed a man who was born blind. This having been done on the Sabbath-day, his obstinate and unbelieving enemies imputed it to him as a crime, rather than as any proof of his Messiahship: but the man who was healed, knowing that "no man could do such miracles unless God were with him," believed in Jesus, and confessed him openly as the Savior of the world. From the division thus caused, our Lord took occasion to declare, in reference to the souls of men, the intent, and certain effect, of his advent: "For judgment am I come into this world; that they who see not, might see; and that they who see, might be made blind."

The true import of this passage will not be seen by a superficial observer. It needs much consideration: but it will amply repay all the labor which we can bestow in the investigation of it.

To assist you in apprehending it aright, I will show,

I. The need there was of Christ for the developing and disclosing the characters of men.

The judgment which was universally formed of men's characters was extremely erroneous.

Men had no other test, whereby to try the human character, than that of moral virtue. If a person had such a respect for the Supreme Being as to be observant of external duties towards him, and such a disposition towards his fellow-creatures as prompted him to acts of benevolence towards them, he was approved, and regarded as a pattern of all that was good. Hence it was that the Scribes and Pharisees were held in such high esteem. Humility, as a grace, was not inquired after; nor indeed was it at all necessary to the discharge of those offices which alone were deemed obligatory in the service of God. On the contrary, the fulfillment of religious duties was considered as a just ground for self-admiration and self-applause. Such men, indeed, as David, who were inspired of God, had the same ideas of it as we have: but, as among the Greeks and Romans, so also among the Jews themselves, it was rather reckoned as a mean and base feeling, than as the summit of human excellence. Nor, if it had entered into the composition of virtue in their minds, were there any means of discovering its existence. The submission of human wisdom to that which is divine was not called for to any great extent: nor was a renunciation of a man's own righteousness demanded, in order to his acceptance through a righteousness provided for him by God. General obedience to acknowledged laws constituted the chief excellence of every man; and beyond that nothing was looked for, in order to secure the approbation of God. But all this was erroneous: yes, in relation to it all, it may be said, that "that which was highly esteemed among men was an abomination in the sight of God."

Hence arose a necessity for our blessed Lord to come into the world.

Doubtless, the first ground of his advent was to make reconciliation for the sins of men, and to work out a righteousness for them by his own obedience unto death. But subordinate to this was the purpose specified in our text: "For judgment came I into this world." To understand this expression aright, we must call to mind the office of a Judge. He inquires into the particular facts which are brought before him, and determines the characters of men according to those facts. Now, what an earthly judge does in reference to overt acts, that the Lord Jesus Christ does in reference to secret dispositions. He brings with him a revelation calculated to elicit the dispositions of the heart, and to show what men really are in the sight of God. Hence, at the time when his parents brought him to the temple, to do for him after the custom of the law, it was said concerning him, "This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

But I will proceed to mark more distinctly,

II. The suitableness of his appearance to produce that discovery.

The whole of his appearance, from the first to the latest hour of his existence upon earth, was calculated to offend the pride of man.

See him at his birth. Behold him born in the family of a poor carpenter; and laid in a manger, because there was no better accommodation for his mother, under circumstances which, it might have been supposed, would have called forth sympathy and liberality from ten thousand bosoms. Is this the Son of God? Impossible: it can never be, that Almighty God should suffer him to come into the world under circumstances of such unparalleled degradation.

See him, too, in his life. Behold him still so poor, as not to have a place where to lay his head: a few poor fishermen for his followers; and an object of scorn and derision to all the higher parts of the community. Were I to give a just description of him, I could not do it in more appropriate terms than in those of prophecy itself: "He shall be as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor loveliness: and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him: he was despised, and we esteemed him not." Yet this is the person who offers himself to me as the Savior of the world!

See him, finally, in his death. This completes the scene. He is sentenced to death, both by the men of his own nation and by the Roman governor; and, by universal consent, is executed as a malefactor; a murderer being preferred before him, as a fitter object of mercy than he. And is He to save me, when he did not save himself? Is He to deliver me from the wrath of God, who himself fell under the wrath of man? I wonder not that such an idea was a ground of offence; for throughout the whole there was an apparent inconsistency with all his own professions, and an absolute contrariety to all the expectations that were formed concerning him. Is this the person that came from God, and "made himself equal with God," and through whom alone any child of man can come to God, or find acceptance with him? Unenlightened reason discards at once such pretensions as these, and rejects them utterly as irrational and absurd. And this is exactly what the prophet has foretold: "He, the Lord Jesus, shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken."

On the other hand, he gave sufficient evidence of his Messiahship to convince any humble inquirer.

The testimony borne to him by angels at his birth, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him at his baptism, the numberless miracles wrought by him in his life, the wonders attendant on his death, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension to Heaven, his sending of the Holy Spirit on his Disciples, and all the miracles wrought by them in his name, these were evidences which an humble mind could not withstand. Besides, to those who felt their need of a Savior, there was everything which was suited to their necessities. A mere man would not have sufficed for them: they needed a Savior who was God as well as man: they needed an atonement of infinite value; a righteousness fully adequate to all the demands of God's holy law, and capable of being imputed to them for their acceptance before God. They needed not only the sacrifice of Christ on earth, but also his intercession in Heaven; yes, and his all-powerful agency, too, as the Head of vital influence to his Church and people: in a word, they needed precisely such a Savior as he had represented himself to be: and, though the whole relating to him was involved in mystery which they could not comprehend, they saw in it nothing but what was honorable to the character of God, and nothing but what was conducive to the happiness of man. Hence they were content to receive the Lord Jesus as their Savior, and to found all their hopes of happiness on him alone.

Thus in him was found precisely such a test as the world needed: and

The use of this test was seen in,

III. The actual effect of his advent.

Mark the effect of his advent:

1. While he himself was on earth.

This discrimination of character was seen from the first moment that he entered on his ministry. Never did more gracious words proceed from the lips of man, than those which were uttered by him in his first public discourse at Nazareth; insomuch, that "all who heard them bare him witness, and wondered," yet, upon his reminding them of two events in their history, the sending of the Prophet Elijah to be supported by a Sidonian (a heathen), and not an Israelitish widow; and the healing of a leprosy, by the Prophet Elisha, in the person of Naaman, a Syrian, and not of any of the lepers that were in Israel; they were instantly fired with such indignation and wrath, that "they thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong," and destroy him. Now, what was there in his discourse to produce so instantaneous a change? The Jews considered themselves as exclusively the objects of God's regard; and they could not endure the thought that he should have mercy in reserve for the Gentiles: and the suggestion of this was in their minds an evil worthy of death. Again: when our blessed Lord wrought miracles in confirmation of his word, many, instead of yielding to conviction, took occasion, from the very works which they could not but acknowledge to be miraculous, to accuse him of a confederacy with the devil: and, in the very passage before us, they made his restoring a man to sight on the Sabbath-day a ground rather of accusation against him, as a sinner, than of acknowledging him to be, what he really was, the true Messiah. And to his latest hour they evinced the same spirit, calling out for a sentence of death against him; when his very Judge declared him innocent, and not a person upon earth could be found to convict him of the slightest sin. Nor was it the mere populace who thus persecuted him: they were only instruments in the hands of their superiors: it was the act of the Scribes and Pharisees, and of all who presided in their nation, whether in the Ecclesiastical or Civil department: and this showed how, by his ministry, their hypocrisy was detected: and that, in the midst of all their pretended piety, they were decided enemies to God in their hearts.

2. In the whole of the apostolic age.

The preaching of his name was productive of the very same effect as his personal ministry had produced. It was universally "to the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness." If we except the instance of the Savior himself, there never existed, from the foundation of the world, such a contest as that which was maintained by the Apostle Paul; he doing everything that man could do, and suffering everything that man could suffer, for the salvation of a perishing world; and they, whether Jews or Gentiles, uniformly and universally seeking his destruction. The same treatment was shown to all the Apostles, and to all the followers of Christ, in proportion as they, by their activity and zeal, drew the attention of those to whom they ministered; insomuch that, with the exception of John, not one of the Apostles was suffered to die a natural death.

On the other hand, there were many to whom the mystery of the Gospel was "the wisdom of God and the power of God." In all its provisions they beheld an excellency and glory: and they found, by experience, that it was "the power of God to the salvation of their souls." And who were they that thus displayed its energy? Were they the great, the wise, the moral? No, "you see your calling," says Paul, "how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are; that no flesh should glory in his presence," so fully did the Gospel answer the end predicted by the prophet; "Go, and tell this people, Hear you indeed, but understand not; and see you indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed."

3. At the present hour.

No where is Christ faithfully preached, but "a division" is made among the people: and in all the families where his truth prevails, "a sword" is introduced, even among the nearest and dearest relatives. No caution in the preacher will suffice to abate the enmity of the heart against God. Only let Christ be exalted, and some will call the preacher an enthusiast and deceiver, while others will "regard him as an angel of God, or even as Christ Jesus himself." The very same word is still, as in the days of old, "a savor of life to the salvation of some, and a savor of death to the condemnation of others." And so far are the admired characters of the world from being most favorable to the truth, that even "publicans and harlots enter into Heaven before them," so true is it still, as in the days of old, that "the last are first, and the first last."

And now let me address myself,

1. To those who are unconscious of their own blindness.

This was the state of the Pharisees, to whom our Lord addressed the words of my text. Perceiving that he had in his mind a reference to them, they confidently and indignantly asked, "Are we blind also?" But our blessed Lord told them that their conceit only tended to enhance and aggravate their guilt. If they had, indeed, never been favored with means of instruction, they would have had the less to answer for: but, in proportion as they supposed themselves already informed, they showed their impiety in rejecting him. Now this is the very caution which I would give to you: The more confident you are that you are already in possession of the truth, the more you make it manifest that "Satan has blinded your eyes," for to make you reject Christ, is the work in which that subtle adversary is incessantly engaged. O! learn this humiliating truth, that you "are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;" and you will then have no difficulty in discovering the excellency of Christ, who offers to you "gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and eye-salve, that you may see; and clothing, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness may not appear." Only resemble the man who was willing and desirous to believe, and Christ will soon make himself known to you, in all his excellency, and in all his glory.

To those who are willing to be taught of God.

The docility of a little child is one of the choicest gifts that can possibly be bestowed upon you. It is a certain prelude to divine instruction, and the best preparative for all the blessings of the Gospel. You need not be discouraged at the thought of your own weakness: for "what God has hid from the wise and prudent, it is his delight to reveal to babes." "The wise he will leave to be taken in their own craftiness," but the more you are "a fool" in your own estimation, the more certainly and effectually shall you be made truly wise. The Holy Spirit is promised to you, as "a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ," and though the Gospel must ever remain to you an unfathomable mystery, you shall have such an insight into it as no unenlightened man can have, and by means of it be "guided safely into the way of peace."

 

MDCLXII

The Good Shepherd

John 10:9. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

THE importance of sound doctrine cannot be too strongly insisted on. Error, especially in the fundamentals of religion, is as destructive as vice. In innumerable instances, it brings both those who propagate, and those who receive it, into eternal ruin: hence Paul denounced anathemas against any one, even though he should be an angel from Heaven, who should blend Judaism with Christianity. Our Lord himself also spoke of false teachers with indignation. The Pharisees, while they rejected him, taught the people to look for salvation to their own ritual or superstitious observances; Jesus therefore declared them to be only as "thieves and robbers," who, instead of belonging to the flock of God, sought eventually their destruction, and, in opposition to their false doctrines, affirmed himself to be the only door of admission into the fold of God.

We shall consider,

I. The metaphor by which Jesus represents his own character.

He had been delivering "the parable" of "the Good Shepherd;" in elucidating which, he speaks of himself as "the door of the sheepfold."

The Church of God is here compared to a sheepfold.

All men in their natural state are wandering at a distance from God: they neither acknowledge him as their Shepherd, nor feed in his pastures; they are strangers to that flock which is under his immediate cared. But in every age God has had "a chosen and peculiar people," in the days of Moses he brought them into a visible fold; until the time of Christ all his sheep were kept within the pale of the Jewish Church. But our Lord announced his purpose to introduce the Gentiles also into his fold. Now all who name the name of Christ are called his sheep. All however who are nominally his, are not really so. It is to be feared that his sincere followers still form but "a little flock;" but the truly upright, of whatever denomination they be, belong to him: they are indeed often ready to cast out each other as aliens; nevertheless they are equally the objects of his superintending care.

Of this fold Christ is "the door."

Parts of Judea were probably still infested with wolves: the sheepfolds therefore were better secured than ours: perhaps the entrance into them was guarded by a door. Now, what that door was to the fold, that is Christ to the Church: every sheep must enter into it by faith in him. We are expressly said to have access unto God through him; nor indeed has there ever been any other way into the fold. It was the blood of the sacrifice which procured admission for the high-priest within the veil. Through that, all believers, from the very beginning, were brought near to God; and, through that, we also have boldness to enter into the holiest. Some, it is true, have "climbed up into the fold some other way," they profess to be his without having ever believed in him; but they are regarded by him only as thieves and robbers; nor will they ever be admitted into the fold above.

This description of Christ is of great importance.

II. The benefit of receiving him under that character.

There is no benefit which can accrue to a well-attended flock, which does not arise to those who believe in Christ.

1. Security; "He shall be saved."

Protection is of unspeakable benefit to a defenseless sheep: but who can estimate the value of salvation to an immortal soul? Yet, such is the portion of those who enter into the fold aright: they shall be rescued out of the jaws of the devouring lion: they shall be freed from the curse and condemnation of the law: death itself, disarmed of its sting, shall have no power to hurt them: every kind and degree of penal evil shall be averted from them. He who is empowered, is also engaged, to "save them to the uttermost," and this benefit he bestows, because they "come unto God by him."

2. Liberty; "He shall go in and out."

A sheep left to wander on the mountains infested with wolves, might boast of its freedom from restraint; but it would soon find what little reason there was to glory in such a privilege: its truest liberty is to submit itself to the direction of the shepherd. Thus they, who live without God in the world, may boast of their liberty; but their very freedom is, in fact, the sorest bondage: and every moment they are in danger of everlasting destruction. It is far otherwise with those who have entered into the fold by Christ. Whether at large by day, or enclosed by night, they feel no restraint. Through Christ they have all the liberty which their souls can desire. Secure of God's favor, "they go in and out" before him in perfect peace.

3. Provision; "He shall find pasture."

Good pasture comprises all the wants of a highly favored flock: and how rich, how abundant is that, which the sheep of Christ partake of! There are "exceeding great and precious promises," on which they feed. It is utterly their own fault if ever they experience a dearth. David from his personal knowledge attests this truth; and God confirms it by an express promise to all his people. This privilege too, no less than the others, is the consequence of entering into the fold by the appointed door.

Address.

1. Those who are wandering at a distance from the fold.

Perhaps, like the silly sheep, you are insensible of your danger; but the more confident you are of safety, the more certain is your ruin. If they only, who enter in by the door, are saved, what can you expect? O consider, that the loss of bodily life, is not to be compared with the doom that awaits you; nor do you know how soon that doom may be inflicted upon you. Blessed be God, however, the door is yet open to all who come, and the Savior's declaration is yet sounding in your ears—He is even now desirous to bring you home on his shoulders rejoicing. Stay not then until the door be forever closed upon you. Let the caution given by our Lord stir you up to improve the present moment.

2. Those who are desirous of returning to God.

It has been already shown, that they only are saved who enter in at the door. Now our proud hearts are extremely averse to be saved in this way. We would rather come into the fold by some less humiliating means. But our self-righteous attempts will be of no avail. We must come unto God by Christ, or not at all: salvation never was, nor can be, obtained through any other name than his. Seek then, and that with earnestness, to enter in at the strait gate, and then you shall have that promise fulfilled to you.

3. Those who are dwelling in the fold of God.

What debtors are you to the grace which brought you to the knowledge of Christ! and what inestimable blessings are you now made to enjoy! Yet these are only an earnest of the blessings that await you hereafter. Rich as your present pastures are, they are not to be compared with those above. Let nothing tempt you then to wander from the fold to which you are brought. Follow not those who are but "goats," or "wolves in sheep's clothing." Let it be your delight to hear your Shepherd's voice, and to follow his steps: then shall you be separated from the goats in the day of judgment, and receive from the Chief Shepherd the portion reserved for you.

 

MDCLXIII

Life Abundantly by Christ

John 10:10. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

THE parables of our blessed Lord, though exceedingly clear and striking, lose much of their force by reason of the difference of our habits from those which obtained among the Jews. For instance, the office of a shepherd, though simple in itself, was widely different in Canaan from that which men are called to discharge in our land. In Canaan, where there were beasts of prey, it was attended with danger; and a man was often called to expose his own life for the protection of his flock. Such was the office which Christ undertook for us: only, instead of endangering his own life for the preservation of ours, he actually laid down his life, in order that we might obtain life. He was "the Good Shepherd, who gave his own life for the sheep;" and who "came, not only that we might have life, but that we might have it more abundantly."

To elucidate these words, I will show,

I. The gracious purpose of our Lord's advent.

"He came that we might have life."

We could not, by any means, obtain it for our-selves.

We were in the state of the fallen angels, so far as respects both guilt and condemnation; and were as incapable of removing these, and of restoring ourselves to the Divine favor, as they.

But Christ came in order that we might be restored to the possession of it.

He came in order to purchase life for us, and to impart it to us; to purchase it by his blood—and to impart it to us by his Spirit—And this he has effected, so far, that every one who believes in him has actually a title to life, and the very beginning of it in his soul.

But the text leads us further to consider,

II. The extent to which he has accomplished it.

"He has come, that we might have life more abundantly." And, the very instant we believe in him, we have life,

1. With more abundant evidence than was enjoyed under the Mosaic dispensation.

The promises given to the Jews were mostly temporal. It is surprising how little is spoken of eternal life in the Old Testament, and especially of the resurrection of the body to a participation of it. And the access which men had to God was very distant. No one could offer sacrifice, except through the instrumentality of the priest; nor could any one but the High Priest go into the holy of holies; and he only on one day in the year; nor could even he go then, without the blood of his sacrifice. But the Lord Jesus Christ has "opened a way for us, a new and living way, into the holiest of all," with his own blood; and, the veil, having been rent in twain from the top to the bottom, the way is made quite plain, and all his people, as "a royal priesthood," may go, every one for himself, into the very presence of his God—Moreover, "a spirit of adoption" is now given by Christ to his believing people; and every one of his true followers is authorized to claim God as his Father, and to consider himself as possessed of an inheritance which, in body as well as in his soul, he shall enjoy to all eternity—Yes, in this sense are "life and immortality brought to light by the Gospel," nor has any believer now any more doubt respecting either the present acceptance of a saint, or of his future reign with Christ in glory, than he has of the existence of a God. All this, though very partially and indistinctly known under the Mosaic dispensation, is now so clearly revealed, that a little child may see it, and "he who runs may read it."

2. In a more abundant measure than it would ever have been enjoyed, if man had never fallen.

By the Prophet Zechariah, God says, "Turn you to the strong-hold, you prisoners of hope: even today do I declare that I will render double unto you," so Christ here offers to us a double measure of life. Man, if he had never fallen, would have possessed but a creature-righteousness; whereas, through faith in Christ, he becomes possessed of a divine righteousness, and is entitled to address the Savior himself as "Jehovah, our Righteousness"—Moreover, if man had never fallen, he would have had very narrow and contracted views of God, in comparison of those which are revealed to him in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. As a creature, he would have beheld the goodness of God: but he could have formed no conception of the justice, and holiness, and mercy, and truth of God; and much less of the union and harmony of all these attributes, as simultaneously exhibited in the person of a crucified Redeemer—I add, too, that had he never fallen, his happiness would have been only the gift of grace; whereas, through the coming of Christ, every blessing that he shall enjoy in the eternal world, will bear upon it a stamp of the price it cost, and will be enjoyed by the soul as the fruit and purchase of the Redeemer's blood—Take this view of the blessedness which Christ has obtained for us; and I hesitate not to say, that it as far exceeds all that man would otherwise have enjoyed, as the noon-day sun exceeds in radiance the morning-star, or the feeble glimmering of the glow-worm.

1. Let not any of you, then, be satisfied without this light.

Shall the Son of the living God have left the bosom of his Father, and assumed our nature, and died upon the cross for us, and we be indifferent about the life that he has purchased for us? Would not "the very stones cry out against us?"—Tell me, would the apostate spirits, if they were favored with one such message of mercy as is given to you, make light of it as you do? I charge you, then, be in earnest; and, while the invitations of the Gospel are yet sounding in your ears, go to this good Shepherd, and seek from him the life which he has come from Heaven to bestow.

2. Let not any be satisfied with a small measure of life.

Christ came, "that you might have it more abundantly." O brethren! you should not be content to live; but should seek to live in the richest possible enjoyment of the Divine favor, and in the most perfect fitness for glory. Paul, after all his attainments, "forgot what was behind, and reached forward to that which was before." And that should be the habit of your minds. This is the way to answer the ends of Christ's first advent; and it will be your best preparation for his future advent, when he shall come to judge the world in righteousness, and to bestow, in all its fullness, the life which he has purchased for you.

 

MDCLXIV

Voluntariness of Christ's Undertaking

John 10:17, 18. Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

THE subject here insisted on, while, at first sight, it appears merely speculative, is really of great importance: for, if the Lord Jesus Christ did not act voluntarily in every part of his mediatorial work, there could be no justice in laying our sins upon him, nor any efficacy in the atonement which he offered for them. It was this willingness of his to endure all which was necessary for our redemption, that put an essential difference between him and all other shepherds. Other shepherds, in countries where their flocks are open to the assaults of wild beasts, have exposed, and even sacrificed, their lives for their flocks: but no one ever undertook the office of a shepherd on purpose that he might die for his sheep. This, however, our blessed Savior did. He foresaw, from all eternity, that, if he would redeem our souls, he must die in our stead: and of his own mind and will, without any necessity or constraint, except what arose from his own love to us and to his heavenly Father, he undertook our cause, and executed all that was necessary for the accomplishment of that stupendous task. The earnestness with which this fact is asserted in my text, together with the acceptableness of it to his heavenly Father, in whose estimation it so greatly raised him, show, that the whole subject deserves our most attentive consideration. In fact, we cannot have just conceptions of our Savior's mediatorial work, unless we distinctly mark,

I. Its voluntariness on his part.

It is said, indeed, in my text, "This commandment have I received of my Father." Now, it must be remembered, that the Lord Jesus Christ, as man, and as Mediator, was the Father's servant: as says the prophet; "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights." And hence he is spoken of continually as "sent by the Father to be the Savior of the world." But, as God, he was equal with the Father, and voluntarily concurred with the Father in executing the plan that was agreed upon between them. This appears,

1. At his first undertaking of the work.

"The counsel of peace was between the Father and the Son;" the Son agreeing to "make his soul an offering for sin," and the Father engaging to give him "a seed who should prolong their days" in happiness forever and ever. This mysterious transaction is declared by the Psalmist in the plainest terms; and his words are cited by Paul in confirmation of it: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire: my ears have you opened (boring them, as it were, to the door-post, after the manner of a servant, who voluntarily refused his liberty, and consecrated himself forever to the service of his master). Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do your will, O my God: yes, your law is within my heart." And this accords with what our blessed Lord also says, "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth."

2. In all the progressive steps of its advancement.

Our blessed Lord foresaw all that should come upon him in the performance of his work. "He knew from the beginning, who should betray him." In the prospect of his sufferings, he was quite "straitened until they should be accomplished." He distinctly and repeatedly foretold all that he was appointed to endure; and, when the time was come for his enduring them, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem," for the express purpose that he might endure them: and, on Peter's endeavoring to dissuade him from submitting to them, he rebuked him with a severity never manifested on any other occasion, and declared him to be on that occasion an agent and confederate of the devil. On the night previous to his crucifixion, he instituted his last Supper; delivering to every one of his Disciples the bread and the wine, as representing his body broken, and his blood shed, for the remission of their sins." When Judas, with an armed band, came to apprehend him, he, by a word, beat them all backward to the ground, to show that, in his subsequent surrender of himself to them, he acted voluntarily, and not from necessity. Thus in these, as in a variety of other incidents, he showed, that neither by fraud nor violence could any man prevail against him; but that, in every part of his work, he freely consented to sustain all that should come upon him.

3. At the closing scene of his life.

"He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, and went altogether like a lamb to the slaughter." If it had pleased him, "he could have called to his aid more than twelve legions of angels;" any individual of whom would have been able to defeat his adversaries, even if they had been a thousand times more numerous than they were. "But how, then, should the Scriptures be fulfilled?" He had undertaken to save us; and therefore he would not, though he could easily have done it, save himself. And at the very moment that he surrendered up his life, "he cried with a loud voice," in order to show that his nature was not exhausted, but that of himself "he had power to lay down his life," and did lay it down voluntarily, and not by constraint. And this very thing so struck the Centurion who superintended the execution, as to convince him that Jesus "was indeed the Son of God."

That Jesus raised up himself is also true. He had, in the very beginning of his ministry, declared, that "when the Jews should have destroyed the temple of his body, he would raise it up again in three days: and accordingly he did rise, as he had said. At the appointed time, also, he ascended up to Heaven, and sent down his Holy Spirit to carry on the work on earth, while he himself should be carrying it on in Heaven. Thus he has proved, that, in every part of his work, he has acted voluntarily, "having loved us, and given himself for us."

Let us now proceed to notice,

II. Its acceptableness on the Father's part.

In my text, it is said, "Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again." Here again we must observe, that Christ speaks of himself, not personally, as the second Person of the ever-blessed Trinity, but officially, as man and as Mediator. Personally he needed nothing, nor could do anything, to augment the Father's love: for "He and the Father are one," in glory equal, and in majesty co-eternal. But in his office he greatly commended himself to the Father's love:

1. In undertaking it so willingly.

The first intimation of the Father's wish for the redemption of the world was, as we have seen, assented to by the Son, without the slightest hesitation, notwithstanding the means, by which it was to be accomplished, were so difficult and self-denying. To divest himself of all his glory, to assume the nature that had sinned, to bear in his own person the wrath due to our sins, and to "become a curse for us, in order to redeem us from the curse of God's broken law," all this he willingly undertook; because he saw, that, while by this mysterious act of condescension he should save our ruined race, he should glorify his God and Father, in a way, and to an extent, in which he never otherwise could be glorified. God had shown forth his wisdom and power and goodness in the works of creation: and he had manifested his justice and holiness in the condemnation of the fallen angels: but never had he exhibited any trace of mercy, any more than if it had not been an attribute of his nature, or a perfection which it was possible for a holy and just Being to display. But, by undertaking to die in our place and stead, he has satisfied the demands of justice; and, by working out a righteousness for us, he has rendered our acceptance with God compatible with the rights of holiness; and has thus opened a way for the exercise of mercy, not only in perfect consistency with all the other attributes of the Deity, but to the more glorious display of all; thus glorifying justice in a way of mercy, and mercy in a way of justice; or, as the Psalmist expresses it, causing "mercy and truth to meet together, and righteousness and peace to kiss each other." This could not but be pleasing to the Father; and, consequently, well might "the Father love him on account of it."

2. In executing it so completely.

Never did the Lord Jesus Christ draw back, until he could say "It is finished." By what he did and suffered for us, all the eternal counsels of the Father were fulfilled, and everything was effected that could conduce either to the honor of God or the good of man. There was nothing left for either God or man to desire. His atonement fully satisfied Divine justice: his righteousness is fully adequate to our necessities: and now that he has again resumed his life, and has all power committed to him in Heaven and in earth, he will complete the work he has begun; and God shall, to all eternity, be glorified in him. In the very prospect of this, when Noah offered up a sacrifice that only shadowed it forth, "God smelled a savor of rest," and much more, when the Lord Jesus Christ offered up himself the true Sacrifice, was the Father well pleased with it! so true is that declaration of Paul, that "Christ loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savor."

We see, then, from hence,

1. How to commend ourselves to the Father's love.

If "the Father loved his own Son because of his voluntary services," he will love us also on the same account. Some would be ready to cry out against this, as a legal sentiment: but I affirm that it is truly evangelical. Hear our blessed Lord's assertions to this effect: "He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he who loves me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.… If a man will love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." True, God has given us commandments: but it is not as servants, but as sons, that we are to obey them; delighting to do his will, even as our Savior himself did. We are "to esteem all his commandments concerning all things to be right; and to abhor every false way." It is this readiness, this delight in God's commandments, that constitutes the very summit of evangelical obedience: and in proportion as we abound in it, we hesitate not to say, that God will love us, both in this world and in the world to come. According as with self-denying zeal and diligence we improve our talents for him, he will exalt and magnify us to all eternity.

2. What love we owe to the Son of the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Did the Father, who could receive no benefit from his Son's work, love him because he laid down his life for us? What, then, should we do, whose happiness, both in time and in eternity, results from that alone?—Paul says, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." And who, among us, will hesitate to add his Amen to that? Who does not feel the justice of it? Who does not wonder that it has not long since been executed on himself, for his base ingratitude to the Savior? And who, if Hell were at this moment to open and swallow him up quick, must not justify God, and say, "Righteous are you, O Lord; and true and just are your judgments?" Sure I am, that however we may attempt to palliate our ingratitude to him now, the time is coming, when "our mouths will be shut," and we shall be constrained to acknowledge that "we have received the just reward of our deeds." But, brethren, "I hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation," and most gladly close my subject with that benevolent petition of the Apostle, "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity! Amen and Amen."

 

MDCLXV

Security of Christ's Sheep

John 10:27, 28. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

WHILE we acknowledge with gratitude the powers of reason in investigations of a speculative or temporal nature, we must be very jealous of its conclusions in matters that are purely spiritual or practical. In whatever relates to God and to the soul, its decisions are apt to be biased by prejudice, or interest, or passion; and it yields, or withholds, assent, not so much according to the weight of evidence adduced, as according to the dispositions which are called forth into exercise. This was peculiarly manifest among the persons who attended on the ministry of our Lord: some were so wrought upon by the greatness of his miracles, and the impressive wisdom of his discourses, that they could not but receive him as the Messiah; while others were always complaining of want of evidence, and always caviling at his words. In the preceding context we are told, that "the Jews came round about him, and said, How long do you make us to doubt? if you be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you; and you believed not." He then informs them what the source was of their unbelief; "You believe not, because you are not of my sheep," you are destitute of those gracious qualities which would have fitted you for receiving my word: had you been given to me by the Father, and possessed the dispositions which characterize my sheep, you would have both believed in me, and reaped all the benefits of that faith: "My sheep hear my voice; and I know them, and they follow me," etc.

In these words our Lord refers to a conversation which he had recently had with them respecting his sheep; and goes on to declare,

I. Their character.

This is delineated with great simplicity:

1. They hear his voice.

Sheep that are well attended, are always observant of the shepherd's voice: so is the Christian also of the voice of Christ. Christ speaks to us in his word as truly as ever he spoke to his Disciples in the days of his flesh: and it is the delight of all his people to hear and obey his word. The inspired volume is to them a source, an inexhaustible source, of comfort: they read it, they meditate upon it, they pray over it, they "esteem it more than their necessary food." When they open it, they look up to their Divine Master, and say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears;" "Open you my eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of your law." Directions, warnings, invitations, promises, are all alike acceptable to them: everything that conveys to them the mind and will of their good Shepherd, is received with implicit faith, and unreserved obedience.

2. They follow his steps.

In the written word they behold the path their Savior trod; and wherever they see the traces of his feet, they endeavor to follow. They inquire not whether the way be arduous and self-denying, or perilous and beset with enemies; all that they desire is, to ascertain precisely the path of duty; and then to walk in it with steadiness and perseverance. They plainly see that their Shepherd is gone before them towards Zion, regardless of all dangers, indifferent to all the things of this world, and intent only on executing the will of his heavenly Father; and thither they direct their steps, cultivating in everything "the mind that was in him," and endeavoring "to walk as he walked."

In proportion as they pursue this path, they augment,

II. Their happiness.

The Lord Jesus Christ regards them with approbation.

It is true that he "knows them" all by name; nay more, he knows everything relating to them, their wants, their weaknesses, their fears, their trials, their exertions, their desires. But the word in our text is intended to express the approbation with which their Shepherd notices their well-meant endeavors. And what can afford them greater happiness than the enjoyment of his favor? "In his favor is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itself." Is it asked, How be conveys to them a sense of his favor? I answer, by "the witness of his Spirit," by "the testimony of their own conscience," by "shedding abroad his love in their hearts through the Holy Spirit." It is a certain truth, that "he will manifest himself to them as he does not unto the world," and he "will give them the white stone, wherein is a new name written, which no man knows, saving he who receives it." In this sense of his love, they have a "peace that passes all understanding," and "a joy with which the stranger intermeddles not."

He loads them with his richest benefits.

Whatever he bestows upon them in this world, it is but a taste before the banquet, a drop before the shower, a pledge and earnest of infinitely richer blessings in the world to come. "He gives unto them eternal life," he has prepared other pastures for them in Heaven, where all his sheep from the commencement to the end of time shall be collected, and form "one fold under one Shepherd." If their "joys" even here are sometimes "unspeakable," who shall declare the happiness reserved for them against that day? Never for a moment will they lose sight of their Beloved: they will hear his voice day and night: they will follow him incessantly without any weariness or difficulty: the richest images that can be borrowed from earthly things are incapable of conveying the smallest idea of the felicity that awaits them. And all this is given them; it is given them freely; it is given them now: it is said in our text, not, "I will give them," but, "I give them," the very moment that they are brought home to his fold, he bestows it on them: they have instantly a right and title to it; and when they go hence, they go and take possession of it, not as a new gift which shall then be conferred, but as an inheritance, which by the surest of all titles, they have before been enabled to call their own.

Their ultimate possession of these benefits is insured to them in such a manner, as warrants us to affirm and to rejoice in,

III. Their security.

Nothing shall be permitted to rob them of their inheritance.

Sheep may perish either from internal disorders, or from outward enemies: and it should seem that the sheep of Christ also may fail of attaining eternal blessedness either through the corruptions of their own hearts, or through the assaults of their spiritual enemies. But against both these dangers their Shepherd has engaged to protect them: "they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand." It is here taken for granted, that they are exposed to things, which, without the intervention of Omnipotence to prevent it, might terminate in their destruction: and every one of them feels that this is really the case. But Jesus guarantees, if I may so say, their safety: he has himself begun the good work in them, and he undertakes to perfect it: he "has laid the foundation in their hearts, and he will finish it, and bring forth the top-stone," he has reserved Heaven for them; and he will keep them for it.

For this Jesus pledges his own veracity and his Father's power.

It is not asserted here, that they shall never be tempted: nor is it asserted that they shall never fall: but it is asserted that they shall never perish, nor be plucked out of their Redeemer's hand. What shall we say then? That they are at liberty to live in sin? No; there is no such licence allowed them. The way in which they shall be kept from perishing, is, by giving them "grace sufficient for them," by enabling them to "mortify the deeds of the body," and by sanctifying them throughout "in body, soul, and spirit," and by "bruising Satan under their feet." In this way they shall be made "more than conquerors through Him that loved them." And, because Jesus was about to leave his Disciples, and to commit the keeping of them to his heavenly Father, he pledges himself, that his Father also, who was infinitely above all created Powers, yes, and greater than he himself also, as man, and as Mediator, should effectually preserve them; and that no enemy should prevail against them, unless he should first overcome Jehovah himself. This then being secured to them by a promise that cannot fail, and by a power that cannot he overcome, we may congratulate the sheep of Christ in the words of their good Shepherd; "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

Now because of the singular importance of this subject, we shall,

1. Guard it against abuse.

By referring the final issue of our warfare to the veracity and power of God, rather than to the faithfulness and diligence of man, it may be thought that we open a door for licentiousness of manners, or at least for carelessness and indifference in our spiritual concerns. But if it be recollected what has been stated as the character of Christ's sheep, (that "they hear his voice" and "follow his steps;") and what has been declared as to the manner of perfecting in them the good work, (that God enables them to mortify sin, and to vanquish Satan;) what room can there be for the objection of its tending to licentiousness? If however there be any man disposed to say, 'God will not suffer me to perish, therefore I will be careless about my walk and conduct,' he needs nothing more to prove that he is not one of Christ's sheep; he has not the smallest resemblance to his sheep; he is altogether deaf to the voice of Christ; he walks in a way directly opposite to his; and, instead of vanquishing sin and Satan, he is overcome by them. Whatever therefore he may call himself, he is no other than a wolf in sheep's clothing. To imagine that he can attain the end without the means, is absurd; for God has ordained not only the end, but the means, and the end BY the means. See how clearly this is stated by Paul: "God," says he, "has from, the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." To what has God chosen us? to enjoy the means of grace? to possess Heaven, if we can earn it by our good works? No; he has chosen us to salvation, even "to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." But has he left it to our choice in what way this end shall be attained? No, he has appointed "sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth," as the way to it: and if we are not proceeding in that way, it is in vain to think of ever attaining that end. If we choose to walk in sin, we may; but it will infallibly lead us to perdition: holiness is the appointed path to Heaven; and "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." To those, therefore, who would take the comfort arising from this subject, we recommend, that they judge of their state by their character and conduct: if they resemble Christ, and are walking truly in his ways, let them confidently trust in Him who "is able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy," but let them never entertain the thought of reaching Heaven in any other than the appointed way: for, if they resemble "the goats," it is in vain to hope that they shall have their portion with "the sheep."

2. Defend it against objections.

Many are the objections confidently urged against the doctrines here maintained: and I most willingly acknowledge that these mysterious truths are to be stated with extreme caution, and that they should occupy only such a space in our general ministrations as they appear to occupy in the Holy Scriptures. Yet we must not keep back any part of divine truth; but, when occasion offers, must "declare the whole counsel of God." It is true, that many pious men cannot receive these doctrines; and therefore we should, as much as possible, avoid such a statement of them as may wound their minds: still, however, we are not called to suppress the mention of them, but only to concede to others what we claim for ourselves, the right of forming our own judgment, and of being treated with respect and candor by those who differ from us.

It is said that the doctrines before stated are contrary to Scripture, to fact, and to the interests of morality.

The Scripture, it is said, abounds with warnings and exhortations to obedience; in many of which our final enjoyment of God's favor is actually suspended on our perseverance in his ways. All this is true; and we are grieved, when any, from an undue attachment to human systems, attempt to deny it: but is it not also true that the Scriptures abound with passages of like import with the text? The great fault of those who adopt human systems is, that they will be wise above what is written, and, instead of receiving God's word as little children, will presume to reject everything which they cannot reconcile with their own favorite opinions. Who could ever reconcile God's fore-knowledge with the free-will of man? but who will venture to deny either? So, we may not see how to reconcile God's determination to keep his people, with his cautions against the danger of apostasy; and yet God's determinations may exist, without superseding the need of fear and caution on our part; nay, I am persuaded, that they are carried into effect by means of that very fear which his warnings inspire. And this is, I apprehend, the true solution of the difficulty, as far as it can be solved by man. God's precepts teach us what we ought to do: his exhortations put us upon making every exertion in our power: his threatenings humble us for our short-comings and defects: his promises incline us to look to him for strength: and his covenanted engagements encourage us to "hope even against hope," and to renew our exertions in an assured expectation of ultimate success. View the different portions of Scripture in this way, and, whatever the heat of controversy may lead men to urge against each other, there will be found no real opposition between them, but a perfect harmony in every part.

But, it may be said, it is contrary to fact that the Lord's people are so preserved; for the inspired records inform us of many who "make shipwreck of their faith," and "whose end," in consequence of their apostasy, was "worse than their beginning." This also is true: but it disproves not one atom of what is asserted in our text.

Hear what John says to this very point: he acknowledges that some had apostatized from the truth: but, says he, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us." To this it may be replied, that, if apostates are disclaimed as having ever really belonged to Christ, it is impossible to tell who do really belong to him. I readily acknowledge, that no man can know either that he himself belongs to Christ, or that any other person does, except by his works, or in any degree further than he is warranted by his life and conversation. If a man have the mark and character of Christ's sheep, he may have a good hope that he belongs to Christ; but the very moment that he declines from that character, his evidences of relation to Christ decay, and, together with them, his hope of ultimate acceptance with him. "The foundation of God stands sure; the Lord knows them that are his: but let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

As to the objection that these doctrines are contrary to the interests of morality, it has been already answered, when we were guarding this subject from abuse. The doctrine that asserts that we shall be kept in the way of holiness, can never be inimical to the interests of holiness. But we would further ask, What must be the effect of denying these doctrines? Will not men be tempted to trust in an arm of flesh? and will not that issue in disappointment? and will not repeated disappointments tend to create despondency? People are apt to dread the idea of despondency as connected with the doctrines of grace: but we will venture to affirm, that, for one instance of despondency arising from a view of the sovereignty of God, and of our entire dependence upon his power and grace, a hundred instances arise from want of just views of this subject. What is the answer which we uniformly receive when we exhort men to walk in the steps of Christ? Is it not this! 'We cannot: You require more of us, than we are able to perform?' Of course, in these persons exertion is discouraged; and they remain bond-slaves of Satan, because they conceive it impossible that they should be delivered from his power: whereas, the person who believes that God is all-sufficient and faithful to his promises, is encouraged to renew his application to him from day to day, and, even under the most distressing circumstances, to expect a happy termination of his conflicts. A view of God, as "able to keep us from falling," and as engaged to "perfect that which concerns us," will be a cordial to the drooping soul: and will enable us to adopt the triumphant language of Christ himself; "He is near that justifies me; who will contend with me? Let us stand together; Who is my adversary I let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he who shall condemn me?" And what the effect will be of such a cheering hope as this, I leave you to judge. Only see it realized in the Apostle Paul, and we have no fear about any conclusions that shall be drawn from it.

3. Improve it for your encouragement.

What unspeakable encouragement is here afforded to those who are yet ignorant of Christ! Who can hear this saying, and not wish to be numbered among his sheep? Methinks the hope of obtaining such security should induce every one to return from his wanderings, and to put himself under his guidance and protection. Where shall we find any such promise made to those who are at a distance from the fold of Christ? Where has God said to them, "You shall never perish?" To them belongs rather that tremendous threatening, "Except you repent, you shall all perish." O that all who are going astray might consider this, and "return immediately to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls!"

To you who have fled to him for refuge, here is indeed strong consolation. You are sensible of manifold corruptions, any one of which is sufficient to destroy your souls. You feel your weakness too, and your utter inability to withstand that roaring lion that seeks to devour you. What then would you do, if you were left to preserve yourselves by the unassisted efforts of your own strength and resolution 2 To you it is no little joy to be assured, that you are in the hands of an Omnipotent Being, against whom neither earth nor Hell shall ever be able to prevail, and who engages in your behalf, that you shall never perish. Learn then to "cast your care on Him," and to commit the keeping of your souls to Him in well-doing, as into the hands of a faithful Creator."

 

MDCLXVI

Christ One with the Father

John 10:30. I and my Father are one.

IT might well be expected, that, if God should reveal his will to man, there would be many things disclosed by him, which exceed the narrow limits of human reason. This might more particularly be expected in whatever related to his own person and character: for, as we can know nothing of him any farther than he is pleased to reveal himself to us; and as we cannot even comprehend our own nature, or discover how the soul is united to the body; it would be strange indeed if we could comprehend the mode of God's existence, and explain how there should be an union of Three Persons in the God-head. In relation to such a mysterious subject, our wisdom is to ascertain what God has revealed concerning himself, and to receive it on the testimony of his word. This is the office of reason, as well as of faith: for reason requires, that we submit our understanding to the dictates of His wisdom, no less than our wills to the influence of His authority. That a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead is revealed, cannot reasonably be doubted, as long as the baptismal rite shall continue to be administered "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit;" for to imagine, that a creature is here associated with Almighty God in the highest possible act of divine worship, were the height of absurdity, and impiety. The subject before us relates only to the union subsisting between Christ and his Father: to that therefore we shall confine our attention. We begin with considering,

I. The truth of our Lord's assertion.

Here mark,

1. The assertion itself.

Our Lord says, "I and my Father are one." Now it must be remembered, that the same expressions are used, as in human compositions, so also in the Holy Scriptures, sometimes in a metaphorical and figurative sense, and sometimes in a plain and literal sense; and their true import must always be judged of by the context. This is particularly the case with respect to the expression before us; which is elsewhere used in reference to the saints, to mark the exalted state to which they are raised by their connection with Christ, and the mutual interest which they should feel in each other's concerns: "I pray for them, that they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one." Here the sense is obvious: no one could conceive for a moment that the union here spoken of is personal, as though the saints could be one person with God, or one person ill their collective capacity: it simply means, that the saints are to enjoy an union with God and with each other, as nearly resembling that which exists between Christ and his Father, as their situation and circumstances will admit of, namely, an union of sentiment, of affection, of will, and of operation. But, in the passage under our consideration, more is evidently intended: in that is implied, not merely a figurative, but a real and personal union, an union of nature and of essence.

In proof of this, we must refer you to the whole scope of the passage. Our Lord is speaking of the security which his sheep enjoyed; that "He gives unto them eternal life, and that they shall never perish, nor shall any one ever pluck them out of his hand." But, because he was speedily to be taken from them, and might therefore be supposed incapable of fulfilling this promise, he says, that "his Father was confessedly greater than all" created powers, yes, greater than he himself was in his human or Mediatorial capacity; and "that none should ever be able to pluck them out of his Father's hand." Yet, that they might know that he would not, on account of his removal from them, remit his care of them, he added, "I and my Father are one;" 'we are one, as in will, so in power; as in operation, so in nature and in essence: and consequently my sheep have a double pledge of their security.'

This is the plain meaning of the passage; and that it is so, may be clearly seen from the construction which the Jews put upon his words. They took up stones immediately, to stone him: and when he inquired for which of all his good works they were about to stone him, they replied, that it was "not for any good work, but for blasphemy; because that He, who was only a man like themselves, made himself God." Now this shows incontestably what meaning they affixed to his words: it was not an ignorant individual, or persons ill acquainted with the received import of the words, that so interpreted them; but the whole audience, who perfectly understood what meaning his expressions were suited to convey.

The Jews were taught by God himself to be particularly jealous on the subject of idolatry; and to put to death any person who should, whether openly or in secret, attempt to seduce them to it. When therefore they heard our Lord arrogate to himself divine honors, they resented it, as they had done repeatedly before, by taking up stones to stone him as a blasphemer. We do not say, that they were right in expressing their abhorrence of idolatry in this way; because they should have had the matter examined before a magistrate, and have acted according to evidence, and not according to the impulse of their blind passions: but we do say, that Jesus was justly accused of blasphemy, if he was not God; and that there was just cause for the indignation which his audience expressed.

But perhaps they were mistaken in their construction of his words: in which case we may be assured that Jesus would carefully rectify their error. But do we find that he did disclaim the assertion which they called blasphemy? No;

In his answers to them we find only,

2. His confirmation of it.

They had just complained that he kept them in suspense; and had desired that he would tell them plainly, who, and what, he was. He, in reply, declares that he had told them, and that they would not believe. Had he told them that he was a mere man like themselves, the; would readily enough have believed that: but when he tells them again that he was "one with his Father," they go about to stone him for blasphemy. Nevertheless, instead of revoking his word, he vindicates his claim; and establishes the justice of it by an appeal to the sacred writings. Magistrates, he tells them, were in the inspired volume frequently dignified with the name of gods: and he refers them to one passage in particular, well known to them all, "I have said, You are gods," Now these were called gods partly, because they were Jehovah's representatives and vice-regents upon earth; and partly, because they were types of the Messiah, who was to be really and truly God, even "Emmanuel, God with us," 'Now,' says our Lord, 'if these persons, in order to prepare you for the reception of your incarnate God, were honored with the name and title of gods, and you readily acquiesced in it, with what reason can you, when your incarnate God appears, accuse him of blasphemy, because he assumes that title, or calls himself by a name which you justly consider as equivalent to it? You are looking for your Messiah; and that Messiah is expressly foretold under the character of "Jehovah's fellow," who is "David's Lord, as well as David's Son," such therefore the Messiah must be; for "the Scripture cannot be broken," why then do you not acknowledge the justice of my claim? If indeed I do not give evidence enough that I am the Messiah, you may justly dispute my title to be regarded as God; but if I do, then you are the blasphemers, who rob me of my proper honor. Know you then, that I am the Person "whom the Father has sanctified" and set apart from all eternity to the office, "and now has sent into the world" to execute it: know also, that, instead of retracting anything I have said, I repeat my assertions, and demand your acknowledgment of me in my true character,'

Thus our Lord confirms his assertion by an appeal to Scripture. He next proceeds to confirm it by an appeal to his own works. 'I do not desire to be credited in such an assertion upon my bare unsupported word, without any corroborating evidence;' says our Lord: ' "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not: but, if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works; that you may know and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." Consider my works, both the matter, and the manner of them, and see if they do not justify every assertion I have made. Did ever man perform such miracles as I have done, so many, so great, so benevolent, so demonstrative of a divine agency? Moses indeed and the prophets wrought some few miracles: but how? they wrought them uniformly by application to Jehovah for the intervention of his power: but look at my miracles: on some occasions indeed, I also, acting in my mediatorial capacity, have acknowledged my dependence on him, and have acted "in his name," as his servant; (for as Mediator, I am his servant:) but, as being One with the Father, I have wrought in instances without number by that power and authority which I possess in common with the Father. Whence had I the power to still the elements as I have done; or to expel Satan, or to raise the dead? When the leper justly acknowledged my power to effect whatever I would; to whom was I indebted for power to heal him, when I said, "I will, be clean?" '

Such an appeal as this was sufficient to convince the most incredulous: and it receives much additional light from the manner in which the Apostles wrought their miracles: they wrought them invariably in the name of Jesus; and disclaimed all idea of any inherent power in themselves, or even of any goodness on account of which God had wrought by them; so fearful were they, lest by any means they should rob the Lord Jesus of the honor due unto his name.

Shall it be said that our Lord did not mean in this appeal to assert his true and proper Godhead? Then see both his words, and the sense in which his enraged adversaries continued to understand them: "Though you believe not me, believe the works; that you may know and believe, that the Father is in me, and T in him.—Therefore they sought again to take him." Here are two things demonstrated; first, that his enemies understood him to affect equality with God: and next, that He, knowing that they did so understand him, renewed and confirmed the assertions which they had so interpreted. A clearer explanation of what he affirmed, or a stronger proof of what he is, we cannot reasonably desire.

We are the more earnest in establishing the Divinity of our blessed Lord, because it is intimately connected with every fundamental truth of our holy religion.

To illustrate more fully the truth asserted, I proceed to mark,

II. The incalculable importance of it.

This truth established, we behold in the clearest light.

1. The dignity of his person.

Because God condescended to take our nature upon him, we requite his love by denying him to be God. But know that Jesus Christ is indeed "the true God," "the mighty God," "the great God and our Savior," "God over all, blessed for evermore." He is "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person;" yes, in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Hear what he himself says unto Philip: Philip, having heard him speaking of the Father, as actually known to his Disciples, and already seen by them, says, "Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us." To this Jesus replies, "Have I been so long with you, and have you not known me, Philip? He who has seen me, has seen the Father; and how do you say then, Show us the Father? Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? Believe me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works' sake." Now, I ask, if Jesus had not been really "one with the Father, would he have dared to use such language as this? And, if his Disciples were guilty of idolatry in worshiping him, was not the fault altogether his? Were not his words and his arguments expressly calculated to mislead and deceive them? But there is no room for doubt on this head. We never can entertain too high thoughts of him; nor can we ever honor him as we ought, unless we "honor him, even as we honor the Father."

2. The virtue of his sacrifice.

On the dignity of his person depends the whole value of his atonement. The Apostle justly observes, that "it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin," and the same observation may with justice be applied to every creature, however exalted. But when we are assured that it was "God who was manifest in the flesh," that it was "the Lord of glory that was crucified," and that it was "God who purchased the Church with his own blood," we no longer hesitate to declare that his death was "a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world." He was, it is true, "in the form of a servant; but he was also in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God;" and therefore we may be assured that "his blood will cleanse us from all sin." The ransom he has paid for us, is fully equal to the redemption of a ruined world: and the righteousness which he has wrought out for us by his obedience unto death, is all that is wanted for the justification of those who trust in it. The very name given him by the prophet declares this; for we are taught to "call him, Jehovah our Righteousness." Here then "the weary and heavy-laden may find rest unto their souls."

3. The sufficiency of his grace.

If Jesus were only a creature, those who trust in him might be addressed like the worshipers of Baal, "Cry aloud, for he is a God: either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey; or perhaps he sleeps, and must be awaked." He could not attend to the concerns of the whole universe at once; and therefore could not be a suitable object of our trust and confidence. But he is infinitely above all creatures, being "King of kings, and Lord of lords." He could truly say to Paul, and to every suppliant in the universe, "My grace is sufficient for you." Let not any one then despond, as though his corruptions were irremediable, or his enemies invincible; for "God has laid help for us upon One that is mighty," and the weakest of the human race that relies on him, may confidently say, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength," "The Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation," "The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing."

4. The excellency of his salvation.

If we consider the price that has been paid, we may judge of the value of that redemption which has been purchased for us. Even in relation to the present life, we are told that "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things which God has prepared for them that love him." Under whatever figure they are spoken of, they are represented as exceeding all human apprehension: "the gift of them is unspeakable," "the riches of them unsearchable," the peace that is enjoyed by means of them, surpasses understanding," and "the joy which they produce, is unspeakable and glorified," the love that bestowed them has "a height and depth, and length and breadth" that can never be explored. Respecting the future life, we are still further from being able to appreciate the glories of it. The description of Heaven, as a city paved with gold, and enriched with everything magnificent or good, affords but a faint idea of that glorious place; as the songs and music of its inhabitants very inadequately represent their blessedness and joy. But this we know, that, both on earth and in Heaven, the felicity of the saints shall be worthy of the sacrifice that was made to obtain it. Let not any one then seek it in a listless and lukewarm manner, as though it were of little value—for it is a "great salvation," which the tongues of men and angels can never worthily describe, nor can the ages of eternity suffice to enumerate its blessings.

 

MDCLXVII

Christ the Resurrection and the Life

John 11:25, 26. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Believe you this?

IN great and long continued afflictions, we are apt to entertain hard thoughts of God. But, whatever be his intention with respect to the ungodly, we are sure that he designs nothing but good to his own peculiar people, even when he appears most regardless of their supplications. There are two ends which he invariably proposes to himself in his dispensations towards them; namely, the brighter revelation of his own glory, and the fuller manifestation of it to their souls.

In the history before us we have an account of a heavy affliction that had befallen a family, through the death of one, to whom Jesus had shown a very peculiar attachment. He had been solicited to come and help them; but he had delayed his visit until the sick person had been dead four days. This however, though liable to misconstruction, he had done intentionally, in order that he might manifest more fully to the disconsolate sisters his own power and glory. Accordingly, when they intimated their persuasion, that, if he would pray to God for the restoration of their brother to life, God would grant his request, he told them that he needed not beseech God to effect it; for that he himself was the resurrection and the life; and was able to impart either bodily or spiritual life to whoever he would.

In considering this most remarkable declaration, we shall notice,

I. That part which relates to himself.

Martha having, in conformity with the prevailing opinion of the Jews, expressed her expectation of a general resurrection at the last day, Jesus says to her,

"I am the resurrection."

Our Lord, in his divine nature, possessed omnipotence necessarily, and of himself. In his mediatorial capacity he was invested with it by his Father, agreeably to the plan concerted in the divine counsels. To him who had undertaken to procure salvation for a fallen world, was delegated all power requisite for the full discharge of that office. The restoring of his people to a new and heavenly life after death, was essential to their complete salvation: this therefore was committed to him; and he both declared he would execute this great work, and gave an earnest of its accomplishment in raising himself from the dead.

"I am the life."

In this term our Lord proceeds further than in the former, and asserts, that as he is the author and first-fruits of the resurrection, so is he the very principle of life whereby his people live. This might indeed be collected from many figurative expressions of Scripture, which represent him as the fountain of life to all his people: but we are not left to gather such an important truth from mere parables; it is asserted frequently in the plainest terms: he is a quickening Spirit, that lives in us, and is our very life. He is to the soul, what the soul is to the body; he pervades, animates, and invigorates all our spiritual faculties: by his secret energy our understanding is enabled to apprehend divine truth, and our will inclined to obey it: and, without him, the soul would be as dead as the body without the soul.

Let us now prosecute our inquiries into,

II. That which respects his people.

There is a remarkable correspondence between the two latter, and the two former clauses of the text; the latter declaring the operation of the powers expressed in the former.

1. As being "the resurrection," he will raise the bodies of his people.

Judging of things according to our weak reason, we are ready to think that the restoration of bodies, which may have undergone so many changes, is impossible. But cannot He who formed the universe out of nothing, collect the atoms that constitute our identity, and reunite them to their kindred souls? He can, and will; yes, that very Jesus, who died upon the cross, has the keys of death and of Hell, and will effect this by his own almighty power.

This clause might further intimate, that by the first act of faith in him our souls should be made partakers of spiritual life. And this would accord with other passages of Scripture, and prepare us for the next clause, which, rising in a climax, declares the benefits that shall result from a continued life of faith upon him.

2. As being "the life," he will preserve the souls of his people unto everlasting life.

The bodies of the saints must undergo the sentence denounced against sin; (though death to them is scarcely worthy the name of death; it is rather a sleep, from which they shall be awakened at the morning of the resurrection,) but their souls shall never die: none shall prevail against them; none shall pluck them out of Christ's hands; their life is hid in him beyond the reach of men or devils; the vital principle within them is an ever-living seed, an over-flowing fountain: as long as Christ lives, they shall live also. The separation that will take place between their souls and bodies will only introduce them to a higher state of existence, which they shall enjoy until the day that their bodies shall be awakened from their slumbers, to participate and enhance their bliss.

We must not however fail to notice the description given of those to whom these promises are made.

Twice, in these few words, are these blessings limited to believers: not because our Lord disregards good works, or because they shall not be rewarded; but because we cannot do any good work unless we first receive strength from Christ by faith; and because, if we obtained life by working, we should have whereof to glory before God: and God has decreed that no flesh shall glory in his presence, and that we shall glory only in the Lord. It must never be forgotten that God has caused all fullness to dwell in his Son, Jesus Christ; and that we must, by a continued exercise of faith, receive out of that fullness grace for grace. It is by faith that we live, we stand, we walk, we are saved: in a word, "God has given us eternal life; but this life is in his Son: he therefore that has the Son, has life; and he who has not the Son of God, has not life."

The pointed interrogation with which our Lord closed this address to Martha, directs us how to improve this subject: it suggests to us,

1. That all persons, however eminent in their profession, or decided in their character, ought to "examine themselves whether they be in the faith."

It was to one whom he knew to be an humble and faithful Disciple, that Jesus put this question: well therefore may we who are of more doubtful character, consider it as addressed to us; "Believe you this?" Believe you that Christ is the only fountain of life; and that there is no way of receiving life from him but by faith? And do you believe these things, not in a mere speculative manner (for that many do whose souls are dead before God) but in such a way as to reduce them to practice? The believing of this record forms the one line of distinction between those that shall be saved, and those that shall perish. If we truly receive it, we have already passed from death unto life: if we do not receive it, we are yet dead in trespasses and sins: we have not life now; we cannot have life hereafter. A resurrection indeed we shall partake of; but it is a resurrection to damnation, and not a resurrection to life: we shall live; but it will be a life justly denominated death, the second death. Let us not then defer our inquiries into a subject which is of such infinite importance.

2. That the believing of this record is the most effectual antidote against the troubles of life or the fears of death.

If Martha had felt the full influence of these truths, she would have moderated her sorrows, under the persuasion that her loss was her brother's gain; and that, if her brother were not restored to life, she should soon meet him in a better world. Thus in every state the consideration of these truths will afford to us also unspeakable consolation: for if we believe in Christ, and have through him the possession of spiritual, and the prospect of eternal life, what cause can we have to complain; what cause to fear? The world will be divested of its allurements, and death of its terrors. Satisfied that all events are under the control of our best Friend, we shall commit them cheerfully to his wise disposal; and looking forward to the day in which he will call us from our graves, we shall expect his summons with, composure at least, if not also with a holy impatience. Let us then live by faith in our divine Savior, assured that he will keep us unto eternal life, and exalt us, both in body and soul, unto the everlasting enjoyment of his presence and glory.

 

MDCLXVIII

Sympathy

John 11:35. Jesus wept.

THE Holy Scriptures are, beyond all comparison, superior to any other book; in that they reveal to us truths which human reason could never have explored, and administer consolations which no human composition could ever have imparted. But it is not merely on these accounts that they are to be valued. Taking them as records only, they are deeply interesting, because of the incidents which they bring to our view, and the simplicity which pervades the narration of them. The history of Joseph, for instance, stands unrivaled in this view in the Old Testament, as does the account of Lazarus in the New. By what is related concerning him, we are introduced into the bosom of a pious family, the happiness of which is interrupted for a time by the disease and death of its chief member; and is afterwards exalted a hundred-fold, by the restoration of that person to life. We forbear to enter into the particulars of that history, as they may be read by every one at home: but we would call your attention to that particular incident mentioned in our text, "Jesus wept."

In these words we have,

I. A memorable occurrence.

Only reflect on the person of whom this is spoken. He was no other than our incarnate God; who, being absolutely perfect in every respect, was far above the reach of those passions with which we are apt to be transported, and had all his feelings in perfect subjection: yet of him it is said, that, at the grave of Lazarus, "he wept."

But from whence proceeded these tender emotions? They arose,

1. From sympathy with his afflicted friends.

Such was his regard for Lazarus and his sisters, that his friendship for them was a matter of public notoriety. And now that death had made an inroad on their happiness, and reduced the surviving sisters to deep distress, he could not but feel for them, and participate in their sorrows. In truth, sympathy is a necessary fruit of love, and altogether inseparable from it. When, therefore, our Lord saw these friends weeping so bitterly, and their friends and attendants weeping also, he could no longer refrain, but had his own cheeks also suffused with tears. To this principle the spectators ascribed his tears: they all exclaimed, "Behold, how he loved him!"

2. From compassion for their remaining infirmities.

After all that they had seen and known of him, they should have assigned no limits either to his power or grace. Yet behold, though they did believe that he could have preserved their brother from death, they had no conception that he was able to restore him from the grave. Though he had intimated to them his intention to do so, they could not believe him: and when he actually prepared to do so, they imagined that the period which had elapsed since his death, and which, according to the common course of things, would have caused the body to decay, was an insurmountable obstacle to his purpose. Well might this give pain to his holy soul. And that it did so, we see from the reproof which he administered: "Said I not unto you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God?" With his own Disciples, also, he was frequently grieved on the same account.

3. From grief for the obduracy of those, who, he knew, would be yet further hardened by this miracle.

This, I doubt not, entered deeply into his feelings at this time. It was for their conviction that he had refrained from healing Lazarus at first, and had afterwards delayed coming to his friends until he had been four days dead. It was for the very same end that, instead of exerting his own Almighty power in the way that he usually did, he prayed to his heavenly Father to effect the miracle; showing thereby the Father's union with him in all that he did, and thus placing beyond all reasonable doubt the truth of his own Messiahship. But "he knew what was in man," he knew that this stupendous miracle would only enrage some of them the more, in proportion as it carried conviction to the minds of others; and that, instead of converting their souls, it would only precipitate, them into more heinous guilt and wickedness. All this it eventually did: and all this he foresaw. We wonder not, then, that he wept; seeing that the very means he was using for the salvation of men, would issue, with respect to many of them, in their more aggravated condemnation. Nor were these things of rare occurrence. They prevailed among the great mass of his hearers, and proved a source of continual sorrow to his soul.

But in these words we have, also,

II. An instructive lesson.

Were we to trace this occurrence in all its bearings, we should scarcely know where to begin, or where to end. We shall content ourselves, therefore, with noticing only two or three things which naturally arise out of it.

We see then from it,

1. That there is no condition in this life, in which men are exempt from sorrow.

Had there been any exception from the common lot of all men, we should have looked for it in such a family as that of Lazarus, where there was such ardent love between all the members of it, and so peculiar an interest in the favor of the Lord Jesus; or, at all events, we should expect to find it in our incarnate God. But death invaded their peaceful mansion; and filled the surviving sisters with distress, in which also the Savior himself participated. Who then, among us, can hope for freedom from the general lot? Truly, this is a "Bochim," a valley of tears, to every child of man. However prosperous our condition may be, no one "knows what a day or an hour may bring forth." Either in our own persons, or in our families and connections, it will be strange indeed if something do not frequently occur to damp our joys, and to remind us that "this is not our rest," for "man is born to trouble," as naturally and as certainly, "as the sparks fly upward."

2. What is of necessity the operation of divine grace in the soul.

The sum and substance of all practical religion is love: and wherever love exists, there will be sympathy: for it is impossible but that the members of the same body should have a community of feeling with each other. To "rejoice with them that rejoice, and to weep with them that weep," is the necessary fruit and consequence of grace in the soul." The man that is devoid of these holy feelings is destitute of piety altogether. In truth, for our griefs and sorrows we have the very same occasions as at this time presented themselves to our blessed Lord. There are troubles and calamities all around us: and if we have our souls duly impressed with them, we shall be able to say, with holy Job, "Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? Was not my soul grieved for the poor?" But if there are no particular troubles that come under our cognizance, who can open his eyes and not see to what an extent sign reigns in all the world? And should not that move us? Should not "rivers of waters run down our eyes, because men keep not God's law?" Should we not say with the Prophet Jeremiah, "O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the sins and miseries of my people! Nor should the defects of those who profess godliness escape our notice. When Paul marked the conduct of some at Philippi, he was quite distressed in his soul because of the delusions by which they were blinded: "Many walk," says he, "of whom I have told you often, and tell you now even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, and that their end is destruction." And so tenderly did he enter into the concerns of all, that he could say, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn nots?" This is "the mind that was in Christ Jesus;" and in this every true disciple will resemble him.

3. What a Friend we have, before whom to spread all the sins and sorrows with which we are oppressed.

Has any temporal calamity befallen you? He who wept at the grave of Lazarus invites you to call upon him: "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will hear you; and you shall glorify me." Are you loaded with a sense of guilt? The same Almighty Friend says to you, "Come unto me, all you that are weary and heavy-laden; and I will give you rest." Very remarkable is that expression of his pity for Ephraim of old: "Surely I have heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus.… Is not Ephraim my dear son? is he not a pleasant child? For, since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still: yes, my affections are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord." And do you think that he will exercise less compassion towards you? O, know for a certainty, that you "have not a High-Priest who cannot be touched with a feeling of your infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as you are, yet without sin." Be it so, that your sins appear to be of more than ordinary enormity, because of the circumstances under which they have been committed: shall you therefore despond? Be assured, that He who wept over the murderous Jerusalem, has lost none of his compassion, but is alike willing to exercise his mercy towards you. He is justly called "the Consolation of Israel," and, if you seek him, he will be found of you: though you were dead, yet should you live: and if you will truly believe in him, you shall assuredly behold the glory of God."

 

MDCLXIX

Lazarus Raised

John 11:40. Said I not unto you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God?

SUCH is the state of God's people upon earth, that they can scarcely ever come into trying circumstances without discovering the frailty of their nature, and laying themselves open to reproof from their Divine Master. But in all the rebukes which our Lord gave his Disciples, we may notice a peculiar tenderness, like that of a parent towards his beloved child. In the passage before us he had occasion to reprove the unbelief of Martha: but he could not possibly have done it in milder terms.

In considering this reproof, let us notice,

I. What it spoke to her.

She, in her extremity, sent to Jesus, to entreat him to restore her brother Lazarus to health.

Bethabara beyond Jordan, where Jesus was, was a long day's journey from Bethany. Martha and Mary had foreborne to inform him of their distress, until they despaired of obtaining help for their brother except from his miraculous interposition. In answer to their petition, he sent them word, that "the sickness of their brother should not be unto death; but that the Son of God should be glorified thereby." But, instead of attending to the request immediately, he stayed where he was two days, and then went to Bethany, and found, that Lazarus, who had died soon after the departure of the messenger, "had been dead and buried four days." Martha, hearing of his arrival, went forth to meet him, and expressed her regret that Jesus had not been there while her brother was yet alive, since she was confident, that he would have exerted his almighty power to restore him to health. Our Lord now repeated what he had declared to the messenger, and told her that "her brother should rise again." She however, supposing him to speak of what should take place "at the last day," took no notice of his words as a ground of present consolation. Jesus therefore proceeded to speak more plainly, that "He himself was the resurrection and the life: and that one who believed in him, though he were dead, yet should live, yes, and never die." But still she did not see in this, that he who could restore dead souls to life, could also with equal ease restore a body that was dead. When therefore he ordered the stone to be removed from his grave, she intimated, that the state of his body, now putrid, placed it beyond a possibility of restoration to life. Upon this our blessed Lord administered the reproof which we are now considering: "Said I not, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God?" Then, not being "extreme to mark what was done amiss," he spoke the word, "Lazarus, come forth," and immediately he who was dead came forth, with all the solemn appendages of death adhering to him; and was again restored to the society of his beloved sisters and friends.

By the mercy given to her on this occasion "God was greatly glorified."

How wonderful must the condescension and grace of God appear to Martha, when she saw the request of such unworthy creatures as herself and her sister prevailing to such an extent as this!—And what a confirmation had she now before her eyes of that truth which she had already confessed, that "Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of God, that was to come into the world!"—What an enjoyment too would they henceforth have of their brother's society, whose presence could not fail of bringing all these things to their remembrance, and of calling forth on all occasions their devoutest praises and thanksgivings to their God and Savior!—Thus then did she indeed see the glory of God, notwithstanding her faith, though true, fell very far short of that perfect standard to which it ought to have attained.

 

But, not to confine the reproof to her, let us consider,

II. What it speaks to us.

To us does the Lord Jesus speak in his word, as truly as he ever spoke to Martha, or to his own Disciples. To ourselves then we may apply that question, "Said I not thus and thus unto you? and that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God?" Yes: and in this reproof we see,

1. That whatever the Lord Jesus has spoken to us, should be treasured up in our minds.

In his word are "exceeding great and precious promises," and every one of them is made to us: and it is no less our duty, than our privilege, to rely upon them, and to expect their accomplishment to our souls. For instance, He has told us that "those who come to God by him God will in no wise cast out"—that "all manner of sin and wickedness shall be forgiven unto them—and that "they shall never perish, but shall have eternal life." These, and ten thousand other promises we should treasure up in our minds, and plead them before God in prayer. Nor should we ever be discouraged by any difficulties or any delays. The difficulties may be designed of God for the fuller manifestation of his own glory—and the delays be permitted to endear to us the more the mercies that he will grant unto us.

2. That the more we exercise faith in God the more will he manifest to us his glory.

God will honor faith. See it in the case of Abraham and in the case of Moses: How much more visible were his power and grace in the birth of Isaac when he was given to Abraham after all hope of any progeny had ceased, and when restored to him afterwards, as it were, from the dead! And how did every difficulty that interposed between the first message delivered to Pharaoh and the final establishment of the Hebrews in the promised land, display and magnify the grace of God in that stupendous dispensation! So shall we find in all God's dealings with us, the more we are tried, the more will his glory appear to us, if only we stagger not at his promises, but be strong in faith, giving glory to him! Only let us never limit his power, or doubt his veracity. If our case appear as desperate as that of Lazarus, let us not therefore doubt, and much less despond: for sooner shall Heaven and earth pass away, that one jot or tittle of his word shall fail."

 

MDCLXX

The Prophetic Counsel of Caiaphas

John 11:51, 52. This spoke he not of himself: but being high-priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

IT is often found that the people who are not humbled and converted by the Gospel, are irritated and incensed by it; and that, to justify their rejection of its truths, they become persecutors of those who preach it. When their prejudices are once excited, nothing will allay them. However exemplary a minister may be in his conduct, however benevolent in his purposes, however wise and discreet in his exertions, he cannot escape their censure, or ward off their hatred. Rather than he should pass without censure, the very best actions of his life shall be brought against him as grounds of accusation. The abundance of his labors and the success of his endeavors shall be reported as matters worthy of blame, and shall be made the grounds of inveterate persecution. It was thus when our blessed Lord himself ministered on earth. His wisdom or benevolence none can doubt: yet was he "a butt of contradiction" to all around him. He had just wrought a stupendous miracle in raising from the grave a man who had been dead four days, and who, in that climate, must have begun to putrefy. Would any one suppose that this should give offence? yet behold, some who were present, went and made the miracle an occasion of grievous complaint; insomuch that the high-priest instantly convened a council, in order to concert measures for preventing a repetition of such offences in future. After some of the chief-priests had offered their opinions, the high-priest himself, in a very contemptuous and dictatorial tone, decided the point at once; and determined, that private, should give way to public, good: this, he said, common policy required; and therefore it was expedient to destroy the author of this benevolent act, lest the popularity which he had acquired by means of it, should excite the jealousy of the Roman government, and call down their vengeance on the whole nation. This advice was immediately, though not unanimously, agreed to; (for any argument will suffice, when prejudice is the judge;) and means were instantly adopted for executing the decree. But the text informs us, that this advice, pronounced as it was with oracular authority, was indeed an oracle; though it was dictated by God in a very different sense from that in which it was intended by Caiaphas. We shall therefore illustrate it in both points of view:

I. As intended by Caiaphas.

Caiaphas meant only, that, as the state would be (in his apprehension) endangered by the popularity of Jesus, common policy required that they should destroy him at once. But what advice was this to come from a minister of religion, yes, from God's high-priest!

1. How unjust!

Here was nothing criminal laid to the charge of our blessed Lord; yet was he to be treated as a criminal, and to be put to death as a malefactor. On what principle could this be justified. We do not hesitate to say, that nothing can warrant such a procedure. If a man think that he can benefit the State by exposing his own life, he is at liberty to do it; yes, every true Christian ought to be willing to "lay down his life for the brethren," he should even account the sacrificing of his life in such a cause, to be rather a source of exultation and triumph, than of dread and sorrow. But no tribunal under Heaven can take away the life of an innocent man: nor ought that which is radically unjust, ever to be sanctioned by legal authority.

2. How impious!

It was acknowledged by Caiaphas himself, that Jesus had wrought "miracles," "many" miracles; and miracles of such a nature as to carry conviction with them to every beholder. Now these miracles proved to demonstration, that Jesus was sent by God himself: they were the broad seal of Heaven attesting his Divine commission. What then was the advice, but a direct opposition to God himself? There was not so much as an attempt to cover the impiety: a fear of man's displeasure was the avowed and only reason for the commission of it. To what a height of wickedness must that man have attained, who could offer such advice; and that council who could adopt it!

3. How absurd!

The Jewish history might have shown the council, that the Romans could not prevail against them any further than God authorized and empowered them to do so. Consequently, if they looked no further than to their temporal happiness, it was their wisdom rather to conciliate the favor of God by doing what was right, than to provoke him to anger by murdering his dear Son. Yet, so infatuated were they, as to fear "the axe, rather than him that hews therewith;" and to draw down the certain displeasure of the Almighty, rather than incur the danger of displeasing a worm like themselves. The event proved the folly of their choice: for the very means they used to avoid destruction, brought down destruction upon them, and that too from the very persons whose favor they had so impiously courted. In the space of forty years, God executed upon them the most signal vengeance: he inflicted upon them the judgment he had warned them of: and made use of the Roman armies "miserably to destroy those murderers, and to burn up their city."

But we are told that Caiaphas "spoke this not of himself." He meant indeed what he said; but his words bear a very different construction,

II. As dictated by God.

Since the Jews had been brought under the Roman yoke, the high priesthood, instead of being continued to the end of life, was changed as often as the interests of the Roman government appeared to require it. It now happened, that, notwithstanding Annas, the predecessor of Caiaphas, was yet alive, Caiaphas was high-priest. And, as God in former times had enabled the high-priests, by means of the Urim and Thummim, to declare his will, it pleased him now so to overrule the mind of Caiaphas, that he should utter a prophecy, when of himself he designed nothing more than to give the most impious advice. And though this was certainly a remarkable instance of God's interposition, it was by no means singular: for none of the prophets fully understood the import of their own words: some prophesied without any direct intention on their part; and others, in words most opposite to their own wishes.

In this prophecy he unwittingly declared,

1. The end of Christ's death.

Be astonished, O heavens! this inveterate enemy of Christ, at the very moment when he proposed that he should be put to death, proclaimed, that it was not for his own sins, but for the good of others! How careful was God to clear the innocence of his Son, when, in addition to this wretched pontiff, he stirred up Judas who betrayed him, and Pilate who condemned him, and one of the malefactors that suffered with him, and the centurion who superintended his execution, to unite their testimony to this effect! With this prophecy of Caiaphas agree those of Daniel and Isaiah, that "the Messiah was to be cut off, but not for himself;" that he was to be "wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities." Yes, "he died, the just for the unjust," he was a atoning sacrifice for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

2. The efficacy of it.

Caiaphas intimated, that if this Jesus were put to death, all cause of fear would cease, and the whole nation would enjoy both peace and safety. Blessed truth! provided only we believe in Jesus: we then indeed have nothing to fear from those who have enslaved us, or from those who seek our ruin: sin, Satan, death, and Hell shall all be disarmed of their power. The whole Israel of God, wherever "scattered," are the nation of whom Caiaphas unwittingly spoke: they are "a holy nation," they are interested in all that Christ has done or suffered: they "are gathered into the one" great community; partakers of one heavenly nature; members of one mystical body; and heirs of one eternal glory. Caiaphas, your words are true; "they are tried to the uttermost;" that Jesus, whom you are persecuting, "has by death destroyed death, and delivered those who were all their life-time subject to bondage."

Inferences.

1. How mysterious is the providence of God!

That act which was in itself the most atrocious that ever was committed, was in its effects the best! How deep a mystery! the life of the world secured by the death of God's only Son! But so it is still: "God's ways are in the great deep," and the very efforts which are made by men and devils for the destruction of his people, are instrumental to their establishment and growth in grace. And the time shall come when all the saints shall see as much reason to bless God for the malice exercised towards themselves in particular, as now they see to adore him for the accomplishment of his word in and by the Lord Jesus.

2. How rich his grace!

For whom was it that Jesus died? it was "for that nation;" that nation that abused so many mercies, and persecuted so many prophets, and imbrued their hands in the blood of God's only Son! Even Caiaphas himself, with all that were concerned in that unparalleled transaction, were free to accept of mercy, and, by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ upon their souls, to be cleansed from the guilt of shedding it. Nor are we excluded from the benefit. Whatever guilt we may have contracted, the way is open for us, if we desire reconciliation with our offended God: "Not one that comes to him shall ever be cast out." Let this grace, this "exceedingly rich grace," fill us with astonishment, and be now, as it certainly will be in the eternal world, the subject of our incessant praise.

 

MDCLXXI

Our Lord's Views of His Own Death

John 12:23, 24. Jesus answered them, saying. The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be glorified. Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.

THE nearer our Lord's death approached, the more he delighted to speak of it. So far from regarding it as an object of terror, he was longing for its accomplishment. To his Disciples he had frequently declared the precise manner of it, together with all its antecedent indignities; and now he declares it to some strangers, whom curiosity had led to visit him.

Whether those strangers were Jews or heathens, is not agreed: but from the general use of the term which we translate "Greeks," and from the difficulty which the Disciples felt about introducing them to Jesus, we apprehend that they were heathens, who had been proselyted to the worship of the true God, but were not become Jews by circumcision. Jesus had forbidden his Disciples to enter into any cities of the Gentiles, when he sent them out to preach his Gospel; and therefore they might well doubt the propriety of introducing Gentiles to him; which Philip did not venture to do, until he had conferred with Andrew, and consulted Jesus himself also on the point. When, however, they were brought to him, he advertised them of his approaching death, which he represented as a source of honor to himself, and of benefit to man. In these two views we shall consider it,

I. As a source of honor to himself.

He speaks not of being crucified, but glorified: for his death was indeed a glory to him:

1. As atoning for the sins of the whole world.

This is the true light wherein to view his death: it was a sacrifice for sin, for the sins of all mankind: and it perfectly satisfied all the demands of law and justice, so that "God may be just and yet the justifier of all who believe in Jesus"—View the death of Christ in this light, and say whether his crown of thorns were not his brightest diadem; and the cross on which he expired, his most glorious throne? Men indeed saw nothing but shame in his crucifixion; but God and angels beheld it replete with glory.

2. As opening a way for the salvation of all mankind.

Being "lifted up, he was to draw all men unto him." He was the true "Shiloh, unto whom the gathering of the people should be." Had he been the Savior of Jews only, it had been comparatively a light matter; but being God's salvation to the ends of the earth, he was most glorious in the eyes of God himself. Behold, now already was he reaping the first-fruits of that harvest which was soon to be gathered in: the solicitude of these Greeks to be made acquainted with him was an earnest of that more extended dominion which he was speedily to possess. And who can reflect on "his erecting thus his standard to the nations," and not acknowledge "his rest to be glorious?" Indeed this gathering of the people to him is represented by the prophets as constituting the summit of his glory—and he himself is "satisfied with all the travail of his soul, when he reaps this as its appointed fruit." But the songs of the redeemed in Heaven are the best evidence of this unquestionable truth.

Our Lord next speaks of his death,

II. As a source of benefit to man.

The illustration here used is familiar to all: every one knows that a grain of wheat, if left exposed upon a rock will be unproductive; but that if buried in the earth, it will corrupt, and vegetate, and bring forth fruit. Now to this our Lord compares his death.

If he had not died, he would not have proved a Savior to any.

If he had not died, there would have been no atonement made, no sin forgiven, no soul of man delivered. There was no other way in which God could have been reconciled to his sinful creatures, consistently with his justice, holiness, and truth—In vain would Christ himself have become incarnate, if he had not died: in vain would he have fulfilled the law himself, and set us a perfect example of obedience: if he had not completed the work by his death, the demands of law and justice had been still unsatisfied, and every child of Adam must have perished. As for any attempt on our part to supply the deficiency, either by repentance or amendment, it would have answered no purpose; it would have left us under the curses of the broken law.

But by his death millions obtain life.

It is not thirty, or sixty, or a hundredfold, that that grain of corn produces, but millions, innumerable as the sands upon the sea-shore: "the fruit of it shall shake like Lebanon, and they that spring up from it in the city, shall be as the piles of grass upon the earth. Think of the fruit produced by it in the apostolic age, and that which is yet growing from it in every quarter of the globe, and that which will arise in the Millennium, when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea: truly it will at last be a multitude, which no man can number, out of every kindred, and nation, and tongue, and people; all growing upon his root, all deriving life from his stem, all assimilated to his image, and all treasured up at last in the same garner! And is one single soul of such value, that the whole world is as nothing in comparison of it? What then is the benefit arising to mankind from the death of Christ! how vast! how extensive! how incalculable!

Address.

1. Those who are inquiring after Jesus.

If any are saying, like these Greeks, "Sir, we would see Jesus," we bless God who has put that desire into their hearts: and we shall be glad to be instrumental in any respect in introducing them to him. Of one thing we can confidently assure them, that there no longer exists any barrier to their admission to his presence, provided they desire in sincerity of heart to devote themselves to his service: whatever be their nation, their profession, their character, they are alike welcome, if they come with penitence and faith; and may be assured, that "he will in no wise cast them out." Would they know what he would principally commend to their attention? we answer, he would direct them to consider his death as the most stupendous display of his love, and an inexhaustible source of blessings to their souls. Reflect then, you inquiring people, on the Savior's love, and give him the glory due unto his name.

2. Those who profess themselves his followers.

As Jesus had frequently told his own Disciples that they must be ready to lay down their lives for him, so he now declared to these strangers, that these were the only terms on which he would accept them as his people. The wheat must resemble that from which it sprang; and the Disciples be conformed to the image of their Lord. Nor must they only be willing to suffer like him, but must account those sufferings their glory. This was the practice of the Apostles; and must be the practice of all who would adorn the Gospel. We should feel no difficulty in pronouncing him honored and glorified, who should be irradiated with a glory, like Moses, or have the Holy Spirit lighting visibly on him, as once he did on the Apostles: with equal confidence then may we pronounce him glorified, who bears his cross after Jesus; for "the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon him." Remember then, brethren, that these are the terms on which Christ acknowledges you as his; and "arm yourselves with the mind that was in him." Be content to "suffer with him; and then you shall also be glorified together."

 

MDCLXXII

The Benefit of Following Christ

John 12:26. If any man sense me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor.

THE Christian's life is certainly a life of difficulty and self-denial, not only as being contrary to our natural inclinations, but as exposing us to the contempt and hatred of an ungodly world. From the very days of Cain to this present moment, the wicked have hated, reviled, and persecuted the just. The prophets were all, without exception, treated with great malignity. The Apostles were deemed as "the very filth of the world, and as the off-scouring of all things," both by their own people the Jews, and by the Gentiles in every place. Our blessed Lord himself, in whom no fault whatever could be found, was an object of "abhorrence to his whole nation," and was put to death by them as the vilest and most odious of malefactors. And we also are taught to expect similar treatment at the hands of those among whom we live. Nor are we at liberty to shun the cross by any relaxation of our principles, or by any deviation from the path of duty. Our Lord tells us plainly, that "he who loves his life shall lose it; and that he only who hates his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal." But if this appear hard, the encouragement which our Lord affords us is amply sufficient for the support of our minds. His injunction is, "If any man serve me, let him follow me," even unto death. And for his encouragement I assure him, that where I am there shall also my servant be: yes, if any man serve me, him will my Father honor.

Here we have, on the most unquestionable authority,

I. Our duty set before us.

II. Our encouragement to perform it.

I. Our duty is to "serve" the Lord Jesus Christ, "whose we are and whom therefore we are bound to serve." But how must we serve him? Our Lord says, "If any man serve me, let him follow me," Let him follow me,

As his Teacher, to instruct him.

As his Master, to rule him.

As his Savior, to save him.

As his Example, whereby to regulate the whole of his conduct.

We must follow Christ as our Teacher, to instruct us. "Christ is a Teacher come from God." He has "left the bosom of his Father, and come down to earth to declare him to us," and to make known to us his mind and will. In particular, He is come to inform us what plan his heavenly Father has devised for the restoration of a guilty world to his favor; and in what way they must walk so as to please and honor him. And he expects that we come to him with the docility of little children, and receive instruction from his lips: "Learn of me," says he, "for I am meek and lowly in heart;" that is, 'Learn of me, for I can bear with your infirmities, and will carefully convey instruction to you as you are able to receive it.' It was in this way that Mary sat at his feet, while her more earthly-minded sister Martha was cumbered about providing for the guests whom she was about to entertain: and this was "the good part" which Mary chose, and which, our Lord assured her, should never be taken from her. To inculcate this lesson, and to induce this habit, was the real scope of our Lord's address to the Rich Youth, who desired to know what he must do in order to obtain eternal life. Our Lord told him to "keep the commandments." And, when the Young Man, ignorant of their spiritual import, affirmed that he had kept them all from his youth up, our Lord said to him, "Go and sell all you have, and come and follow me; and you shall have treasure in Heaven;" by which he meant, not that the sacrifice of earthly treasures would purchase those which are eternal; but that by disencumbering his mind of earthly cares, and attending diligently on the instructions that should be given him, he should gradually be guided into all truth, and finally attain that eternal life about which he had professed so much concern. This is what our Lord requires at our hands also; and not at the commencement of our career only, but throughout our whole lives. After he had taught his Disciples during the whole of his ministerial life, even after he was risen again from the dead, he both "expounded to them out of the prophets all that related to himself," and "opened their understandings that they might understand the Scriptures," and in like manner must we, to the latest hour of our lives, come to him for the illumination of our minds by his word and Spirit. We shall still need the same teaching as at the first, and must come to him for that spiritual "eye-salve which he alone can give."

Next we must follow him as our Master, to rule us. "We call him Lord and Master; and we say well; for so he is." But "to what purpose shall we call him Lord, Lord, if we do not the things which he says?" His word must be a law unto us at all times, and under all circumstances. There is no authority whatever that is to be regarded in comparison of his. When the Disciples were forbidden to preach in his name, they made this appeal to their Rulers; "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you." So whatever menaces be used to intimidate us, and to deter us from the path of duty, we must say with Paul, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto meg," so that I may but discharge the duty I owe unto my Lord, and approve myself to him as his faithful servant.

Further, we must follow him as our Savior, to save us. There is no other Savior, no other name under Heaven given among men whereby we, or any human being, can be saved. It is he who has by the sacrifice of himself effected our reconciliation with our offended God: and he says, "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth." "As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness that the wounded Israelites might look unto it and be healed, so," says our Lord, "have I been lifted up, that whoever shall believe in me may not perish, but may have eternal life." But our eyes must be to him alone. We must not blend anything with his all-sufficient merits. We must not look partly to ourselves and partly to him; for he will not endure any rival, or "give any part of his glory to another." If Paul "desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christi," much more must we renounce all dependence on our own works, and seek to be justified by Christ alone. As in Heaven there is but one song, "To him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and the Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever;" so on earth must there be an entire and exclusive affiance in him for all the blessings of salvation.

Once more, we must follow him as our Example, to regulate the whole of our life and conversation. When he washed his Disciples' feet, he declared, that he intended in this symbolical act to show, how they were to demean themselves towards each other; and, by the example he then set them, to inculcate the necessity of their performing towards the meanest of their brethren every possible act of condescension and love. So by Peter we are informed, that under still more trying circumstances the Lord Jesus Christ "has set us an example that we should follow his steps," and more especially in those duties which are most difficult and self-denying. As "he did no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth, and when he was reviled, reviled not again, and when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to him that judges righteously; so we, under all the heaviest trials that can come upon us, are to suffer them with all meekness, "blessing those who curse us, and praying for those who despitefully use us, and persecute us;" our determination, through grace, must be, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good. In a word, "the whole mind must be in us that was in Christ Jesus; and under all imaginable circumstances we must approve ourselves as followers of Christ, walking as he walked, and doing only those things which will please and honor our Father which is in Heaven. It must at all times be "our very meat to do his holy will."

Now this, I apprehend, is the import of those words, "If any man serve me, let him follow me," 'let him follow me for all the ends and purposes for which I came into the world, that he may honor me before men, and become fully meet for all the blessedness which I will award unto him.'

To enforce this precept, our Lord adds the richest possible encouragement," Where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor."

Now I would ask, Where was our Lord when he spoke these words? In his human nature he was on earth; but in his divine nature he was in Heaven. For thus he said to Nicodemus; "No man has ascended up to Heaven, but he who came down from Heaven, even the Son of man which is in Heaven." And after our blessed Lord had completed on earth the work which his Father had given him to do, he was raised from the dead, and exalted to the right hand of God, far above all principalities and powers, and was invested with a throne and a kingdom as the just recompense of his obedience unto death. 'Now' says our blessed Lord, 'such is the felicity that awaits all my obedient servants, and such the glory that shall be accorded to them.' While he was yet on earth, he told them, that "he was going to Heaven to prepare mansions for his obedient followers, and that in due time he would come again and receive them to himself that they might be with him, in a full enjoyment of his presence and glory." He also made it a part of his intercessory prayer just before his death, "Father, I will that they whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me." And Paul has told us, that at the last day the Lord Jesus will come again in power and great glory, and gather together his obedient people to "meet him in the air; that so they may be ever with the Lord." At the instant of death shall this felicity be conferred on our souls, as on the dying thief in paradise; and at the day of judgment shall our bodies also be restored to life, that in union with our souls they may have a full and everlasting participation of this glory. Well, therefore, does the Apostle add, "Comfort you one another with these words." And are there any circumstances under which these words must not administer comfort? The Lord Jesus glorified his Father when on earth: and now he is glorified with him." And, if we glorify God by following his dear Son, will he not glorify us also? Yes: he will honor us, even as he has honored the Lord Jesus. He will acknowledge us as his beloved children before the whole assembled universe. He will exalt us to the kingdom which he has prepared for us before the foundation of the world. He will place us on the very same throne on which he has placed his Son: he will assign to us the office of judging the world, yes and of judging angels too, as assessors in judgment with him: and he will "give to us the very same glory which he has given to him." Doubtless in all this the Lord Jesus will have the pre-eminence, even as the sun, which is the fountain of light, has above the twinkling star, which emits only a borrowed radiance: but as far as what is finite can be compared with what is infinite, we shall enjoy in our measure the same blessedness and the same glory which Christ himself possesses; being "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."

Behold then what encouragement is here afforded us! Did Christ himself "for the joy that was set before him endure the cross and despise the shame, until he was called to sit down at the right hand of the throne of God?" Methinks we should do the same: we should account no commandment hard, nor any suffering grievous. We should consider ourselves as altogether devoted to the Lord Jesus, and "yield up both our bodies and our souls as living sacrifices to him," to be consumed, as it were, if he see fit, on his altar by the flames of martyrdom, but especially and above all by the fire of his love.

But who can conceive aright of this glory? We can form no idea of what it was to behold the Lord Jesus on Mount Tabor, when his glory shined above the brightness of the meridian sun: how much less can we conceive what it must be to "see him as he is" in glory! There he shines, not only in all the brightness of the Godhead, but in the tempered effulgence of the "Lamb that has been slain." There we shall see, not merely the glories of his nature, but all of them exhibiting in the brightest possible array the wonders of his love. There we shall behold him not merely as God, but as a Redeeming God, yes, as our Redeemer, and our God, and our portion forever. Tell me, does not this afford us encouragement to serve him, and to "follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach?" Surely not life itself should be of any value, but to honor him with it. See what men will do for earthly advancement; what cares, what labors, what privations will they endure; if by any means they may obtain the favored objects of their ambition! And shall we account much of any labors or sufferings which we may be called to endure in order to the attainment of this glory? I blush to think how stupid and brutish we all are: Methinks, that acknowledgment of Agur was but the just expression of his feelings, and well befits every one of us, "I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man."

And now, my brethren, let us improve this subject, first in reference to ourselves, and next in reference to the mournful occasion before us.

In respect to ourselves, we are here of necessity called to inquire what our habits are, and what our prospects? Whose servants are we, and whom do we follow? The Apostle appeals to us, that "To whoever we yield ourselves servants to obey, his servants we are to whom we obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness." Let me ask you then, Whose sentiments you have adopted, and whose precepts you have followed? Do you not find, on a retrospect of your past lives, that you have adopted for the most part the maxims of a corrupt world, instead of receiving explicitly, and following exclusively, the commandments of your God? Let me further ask respecting your views of salvation: Have you seen and felt your utter incapacity to save yourselves, and "fled to Christ for refuge as to the hope set before you," renouncing every other ground of dependence, and relying altogether upon his blood and righteousness for your acceptance before God? And have you consecrated yourselves to God as his redeemed people, that, "having been bought with a price, you may glorify him with your body and in your spirit which are his?" And do those who are around you, behold in you such a resemblance to Christ, as constrains them to acknowledge you as his peculiar people, who have been brought by him out of darkness into marvelous light, and are showing forth his virtues in the whole of your life and conversation? If you are really Christ's, you are "living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men?" Now inquire whether it be so with you? for on this depends all the consolation which is here afforded us. I appeal to you, whether you can reasonably hope to be with Christ hereafter, if you do not serve him here; or, that God will honor you as his redeemed people in Heaven, if you do not honor him in this world as his faithful servants? He has told you expressly, "Them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." Yes indeed, if the obedient shall come forth to everlasting life, the disobedient "will awake only to shame and everlasting contempt." Of this there can be no doubt. I will appeal even to the most confident among you, Do you yourselves believe, that God will put no "difference between those who serve him and those who serve him not?" You cannot but know that he will act as a righteous Judge, though you are unwilling to regard this truth in reference to yourselves with all the solemnity that it deserves. Behold then, you servants of the world, you stand altogether self-condemned. You know, and must know, that God will recompense men according to their works; and that "they only who seek for glory and honor, and immortality, can ever have eternal life." Suffer me then to ask, If in the eternal world you be not with Christ in Heaven, where, and with whom will you be? Oh! this is an awful question. I pray you to answer it to your own souls. To the Jews who rejected him, our Lord said, "Where I go you cannot come," so must I say to you who make it not the one end of your lives to serve and honor him: "You shall die in your sins; and where Christ is, you cannot come." I pray you, lay this to heart, and give up yourselves to him without delay, as his willing and devoted servants.

In reference to the mournful occasion on which we are assembled, one sentiment pervades us all; namely, that our loss is our brother's gain. Our loss is indeed great. To his bereaved family it is irreparable, except as the bereavement may bring them, as I hope it will, to God, and be the means of spiritual and eternal welfare to their souls. To the Church of God the loss will be exceeding great. Who, that has known our departed brother from the first moment that he undertook to advocate the cause of God's ancient people, must not bear witness to his unremitting zeal and diligence in this high calling? Truly in labors has he been very abundant; as all who have been connected with "the London Society" can witness. In truth, it is wonderful how a person, not naturally robust, should have been able to sustain all his diversified labors and fatigues. In all his counsels and deportment, they who have seen the most of him will attest, that he has manifested, in no ordinary degree, the meekness of wisdom, and rendered incalculable service to the cause in which he has been so long engaged. To the children in the schools he has been a parent from the beginning; nor can we doubt but that several of them, who have died in the faith of Christ, will be "his joy and crown of rejoicing" forever and ever. O that God may be pleased to raise up another like unto him, endued with the same holy zeal and heavenly disposition! As for himself, we cannot but congratulate him rather than condole with him. If Paul accounted it "better to depart and be with Christ," than to protract the most favored existence upon earth, no doubt our departed brother feels this realized in himself at this time. Who can conceive what blessedness he now enjoys in the presence of his Savior, and in the very bosom of his God? Could we but now behold the crown of glory placed upon his head, and the throne on which he is seated at the right hand of God, and could we appreciate the transports of his soul in singing the praises of his redeeming God, we should not wish him back in the midst of us, but should congratulate him, saying, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." The office that remains for us, is, to "follow him, as he followed Christ," and to stand ready for that summons which all of us must before long receive; that, whenever it be sent, we may be found "with our loins girt and our lamps trimmed," and may receive that welcome which has been given to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter you into the joy of your Lord."

 

MDCLXXIII

Christ's Resignation

John 12:27, 28. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify your name.

THE sight of one in affliction necessarily produces some emotion of pity in our breasts, if we be not dead to all the feelings of humanity. But if there be majesty in distress, and that majesty be accompanied with consummate goodness, we take a deeper interest in all the circumstances exhibited to our view. Behold then a spectacle, such as the world never saw before, never will see again! a sufferer, infinitely superior to the highest archangel in dignity and worth! a suffering God! Let us draw near with reverence, and learn from his own lips,

I. The depth of his troubles.

Man had not yet touched his body; nor, whatever weight we may give to his apprehension of bodily sufferings, can we suppose that it was that alone, or that chiefly, which drew forth these bitter complaints.

His soul was now enduring the severest agonies.

He particularly says, "Now is my soul troubled." If it be asked, What was the source of his troubles? we answer, he was now sustaining the wrath of God, and conflicting with all the powers of darkness.

It had been foretold that the Father should bruise his Son, and smite him with the sword of his inexorable justice. And now the season was come for the accomplishment of these prophecies. The wrath of God was the punishment due to sin: and that wrath Jesus was now enduring: yes; in order that he might redeem us from the curse of the law, he himself was become a curse.

But it had also been foretold that the "Serpent should bruise his heel." And he himself had just before said, that the prince of this world was coming to assault him. Satan, when first our Lord entered on his ministry, had made repeated efforts to destroy him; and, though foiled and vanquished, he retreated only for a season, determining to renew his assaults with increased vigor. This therefore seeming an opportunity peculiarly favorable to his designs, he failed not to improve it. He summoned all his principalities and powers to unite their efforts: and O, how desperate was their attack! Our blessed Lord himself, though victorious in the conflict, had almost fainted, if angels had not been sent from Heaven to support and support him.

Under these agonies he was reduced to the greatest embarrassment.

Never was he embarrassed through the persecutions or cruelties of man: but when he endured the wrath of God, and the assaults of Satan, he could not but complain of his accumulated troubles: yes, so was he distressed, that he was at a loss what to say, or what to do. His nature dictated a prayer, which however he afterwards saw occasion to revoke. He begged that the cup might pass from him, and that he might be saved from that tremendous hour. Nor was this petition in the least degree inconsistent with his fortitude or resignation. It showed him to be a man; and it was such a petition as he might offer with perfect innocence; seeing that to dread and deprecate the wrath of God is not only lawful but our bounden duty.

Recovering himself, however, he welcomes his afflictions, and states,

II. The grounds of his submission to them.

1. It was with a view to those very sufferings that he had come to that hour.

These sufferings had been foreseen, when he first engaged to redeem a fallen world; and he had then stipulated to bear them for our sakes." It was with a view to them that he had assumed our nature, without which he would have been incapable of bearing them. And throughout the whole of his ministry he had frequently adverted to them as what he should undergo, as soon as his hour was fully come. Yes, he had reproved Peter with great severity for attempting to dissuade him from his purpose: and had expressed his eager "desire to be baptized with that bloody baptism," being greatly "straitened until it should be accomplished." And would he now recede? would he shrink from the trial now it was come upon him? would he rescind his own voluntary engagements, and abandon the work he had undertaken? No, difficult as it was to submit to these sufferings, he determined to endure them, since the purposes of his grace could in no other way be accomplished.

2. They were necessary for the promoting of his Father's glory.

This is strongly intimated in the latter petition. The Father's justice could not have been so much glorified even in the destruction of the whole human race, as in the sufferings of his co-equal co-eternal Son: in these it appeared altogether inflexible. And how glorious would be the display of the Father's love, when it was seen that he had adopted such a method of restoring man to his favor! Yes, how would every perfection shine forth in this stupendous mystery! Would Jesus then sacrifice the Father's glory to his present feelings? When the Father had already glorified him by repeated attestations from Heaven, and by so many miracles, would Jesus now draw back, and rob the Father of all the glory that was to accrue to him from this dark and painful dispensation? No, by no means; and therefore he not only acquiesces in the appointment, but even prays, that, whatever he himself might endure, God would glorify his own name.

This subject is capable of most useful improvement.

1. For the awakening of our fears.

These sorrows were the just reward of our sins: and every one on whom sin shall be found must sustain them. Go then, you who make a mock at sin, go follow at your ease the imaginations of your own hearts. You who think it unnecessary to repent of sin, go on in your impenitence; but consider, and learn, "if these things were done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" If the curse due to sin so overwhelmed the Lord of glory himself in the space of one hour, what effect shall it produce on you to all eternity? Then no supplication can remove, nor any submission mitigate, our anguish. This, this alone, is the time for prayer. If then we would escape the wrath of Almighty God, let us flee instantly to this very Savior, whose blood can cleanse us from the guilt of sin, and whose grace can rescue us from its dominion.

2. For the encouraging of our hopes.

What do we owe to the adorable Savior, for that, in the hour of his extremity, he did not recede? But he saved not himself, that he might save us: "He gave up his own life, that he might ransom us;" and drank, even to the dregs, the cup of bitterness, that he might take it out of our hands for evermore. Let all then rest assured, that the debt once discharged by our great Surety, shall never be required at our hands, provided we believe in him.

3. For the regulating of our conduct.

There is no sin in praying for the removal of afflictions, provided we be willing, on the whole, that God's will should be done in preference to our own. But, when we see what the Lord's will is, we must say, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" We must desire above all things the glory of God: and cheerfully acquiesce in any dispensation, provided God may be honored by it.

 

MDCLXXIV

The Effects of Christ's Death

John 12:31, John 12:32. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

INCONCEIVABLY arduous was the work which Christ had undertaken: yet amidst his heaviest trials his confidence never for a moment forsook him. He had just complained of the insupportable weight of his mental agonies; yet not so complained, but that he had desired his heavenly Father to glorify his own name, whatever sufferings he might have to endure for that end. For the satisfaction of those who would otherwise have drawn wrong conclusions from those sufferings, the Father answered him by a voice like thunder, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again," and immediately Jesus, with his usual calmness, resumed his discourse respecting the nature and necessity of his approaching death, and confidently predicted,

I. The issue of his conflicts.

The world and Satan were his great adversaries: and though by his death they would appear victorious over him, yet he declared that by his death,

1. The world would be judged.

What we are to understand by "the judgment of this world," we cannot absolutely determine: but we apprehend the import of that expression to be, that his death would be the means of exhibiting in the clearest view, first, the wickedness, and next, the desert of the ungodly world.

Who would have conceived the wickedness of the world to be so great as it really is? Who would have conceived, that, if God himself should become incarnate, and sojourn in a familiar manner upon earth, and cause the light of his perfections to shine around him, and diffuse innumerable blessings by the unbounded exercise of omnipotence and love, his creatures should rise up against him, and put him to death? Who would conceive too, that this should be done, not by ignorant savages, but by the people who had enjoyed the light of revelation, heard his gracious instructions, beheld his bright example, and received the benefit of his miraculous exertions: yes, that it should be done too, not by the inconsiderate vulgar, but by the rulers themselves, and by the priests and ministers of God's sanctuary? This shows what human nature itself is, even under the greatest possible advantages: and humiliating is the picture which it exhibits to us.

But the desert also of the world is manifested to us in the death of Christ: for Christ suffered the penalty due to sin: "to redeem us from the curse of the law, he became a curse;" and all the misery that he endured both in body and soul as our surety and substitute, was our deserved portion. He indeed, by reason of his office, could endure it but for a time: but the soul that perishes in sin, must endure it to all eternity. Death, which to him was the period of his release, will be to the condemned soul the commencement of its sorrows, of sorrows that shall endure to all eternity. The hidings of God's face and the sense of his wrath will be co-existent with the soul itself.

2. The prince thereof would be cast out.

Satan is called the prince, and the God, of this world, because he exercises an universal government over men who are his willing subjects. That which has given him this power is sin: on account of sin, God has delivered men into his hands as their jailor and their executioner. But Jesus Christ has "finished transgression and made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness;" and has thus rescued from the hands of Satan a countless multitude, who shall be eternal monuments of his electing love and his redeeming power. While yet he hanged on the cross, the Lord Jesus "bruised the serpent's head;" yes, "he spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them openly upon the cross." At that moment did "Satan fall from Heaven as lightning," and though he still retains a sway over the children of disobedience, yet he is forced continually to give up his vassals to the Lord Jesus, and is made to flee from those whom he lately "led captive at his will." Moreover, the time is shortly coming, (yes, in the Divine purpose it was, as it were, then present,) when he shall be bound in chains of everlasting darkness, and be cast into that "lake of fire" which has from the beginning been "prepared for him and for his angels."

Next, our Lord predicts,

II. The triumphs of his grace.

By being "lifted up from the earth" was meant, his crucifixion. The expression refers to the lifting up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, which was a type and emblem of the death of Christ. The Evangelist himself tells us, that our Lord intended to intimate the peculiar kind of death which he was to suffer: and the people themselves understood him as speaking of his removal from them by death. Nor did his words convey the idea of uncertainty, which seems intimated in our translation: the event was fixed in the Divine counsels from all eternity; and he spoke of it as certainly to be accomplished.

Here then are two things to be noted;

1. The event predicted.

Christ will "draw all men to himself," He is that "Shiloh, to whom the gathering of the people should be;" and we see on the day of Pentecost the commencement of this great and glorious work. Would we understand precisely the import of the expression, there we behold it exemplified in the clearest view—We must not indeed imagine that every individual of mankind will be drawn to Christ; for in every age many have rejected him: but some of all nations, professions, and characters, shall be drawn to him; and at last they shall be found a multitude that no man can number.

2. The manner in which it shall be accomplished.

Men are not drawn to him like stocks and stones, but in a way consistent with the perfect exercise of their own free will. The power indeed is Christ's; and it is exerted with effect: but it is made effectual,

First, by showing men their need of him. The eyes of all the wounded Israelites were drawn to the brazen serpent in the wilderness: they felt that they were dying of their wounds; they knew that no human efforts could heal them; and they were assured that a sight of that brazen serpent would effect their cure. This attraction was sufficient: they looked and were healed. Thus the jailor saw his own perishing condition, and asked, "What shall I do to be saved?" and was glad to embrace the Savior proposed to him. This is universally the first operation of Christ's victorious grace.

Next, he draws men by the attractive influences of his grace. Because men know not how the Holy Spirit works upon the souls of men, they are ready to doubt, or even deny, his operations. But who doubts the agency of the wind? yet no man knows whence it comes, or where it goes. It is visible in its effects, and therefore its operation is acknowledged, notwithstanding it is involved in the deepest mystery. Why then should the operation of the Holy Spirit be doubted, merely because the mode of his agency is not understood? Were it possible to question the evidence of our senses, we should deny the virtue of the loadstone, and represent any one as weak or wicked who should profess to believe it. But we behold its effects; and our incredulity is vanquished. So then must we confess the agency of the Holy Spirit upon the souls of men, though we cannot comprehend everything respecting it. Our Lord has told us, that "no man can come unto him, except the Father draw him," and the Psalmist affirms, that God makes us "willing in the day of his power." It is sufficient for us to know, that he draws us rationally, "with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love."

Lastly, he draws men by discovering to them the wonders of his love. Let but a glimpse of his incomprehensible love be seen, and everything in the whole creation will be darkened: just as a view of the meridian sun renders every other object invisible. Paul tells us, that "the love of Christ constrained him," it carried him away like a mighty torrent: nor will the soul of any man who feels it, be either able or desirous to withstand its influence. As well might the angels in Heaven be averse to serve their God, as the man that has tasted of redeeming love.

In this way then does the grace of Christ prevail; and in this way shall it triumph to the ends of the earth.

Application.

1. Seek to experience the attractions of his grace.

Nothing under Heaven is so desirable as this—Say then, with the Church of old, "Draw me, and I will run after you."

2. Fear not the counteracting influence of men or devils.

Men may oppose you, and vaunt themselves against you: but they are already "judged" by the word of God; and, if they repent not, they shall be judged by the same at the tribunal of their God. If they do not themselves become such despised creatures as they esteem you to be, they will before long "awake to shame and everlasting contempt."

Satan too may harass you: but he is a vanquished enemy: yes, he too "is judged," and though, "as a roaring lion, he seeks to devour you," you are provided with armor, whereby you may withstand him: and you have the promise of God, that "he shall be shortly bruised under your feet."

 

MDCLXXV

The Duty of Walking in the Light

John 12:35, 36. Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he who walks in darkness knows not where he goes. While you have light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light.

THE perverseness of men in resisting the means of conviction, is apt to beget an asperity in the minds of their instructors, and to make them cease from their labors of love. But we are required "in meekness to instruct them that oppose themselves." And our blessed Lord affords us in this respect an admirable example. He had plainly told the Jews, that he must be crucified: and their very answer shows, that they understood his meaning. But, instead of receiving the information aright, they caviled at it, and concluded from thence, that he could not be the Messiah. Our Lord did not judge it proper at that time to afford them any farther means of conviction, when they had so abused those that were already afforded them: but he most affectionately warned them to improve their present advantages, before they should be finally withdrawn from them.

The words being equally applicable to us, we shall consider,

I. The duty enjoined.

Christ is here spoken of as "the light."

We might consider the term "light" in general, as referring to the Gospel: but here it undoubtedly relates to Christ himself. He is justly characterized by this name, not only as being the eternal fountain of light, but as enlightening the world by his doctrines and life.

"In him," under this character, we are to "believe."

All that he has spoken respecting his person, work, and offices, together with all his promissory, or threatening declarations, should be received by us without gainsaying, and be relied upon without hesitation.

"In him" also we ought to "walk."

We view earthly things in the light of the material sun; and avail ourselves of its light, every step we take. Precisely thus should we act with respect to Christ, "the Sun of Righteousness." We should view sin and holiness, time and eternity, yes, everything without exception, in the light that he, by his word and conduct, reflects upon it. Nor should we take any one step in life, without a direct reference to his word as our rule, and his life as our example.

To render this injunction more impressive, let us consider.

II. The arguments with which it is enforced.

There are three topics mentioned in the text, from whence we may urge this important duty:

1. From the shortness of the time that we shall enjoy the light.

The Jews now had the light; but it was to be extinguished within the space of four days. Hence our Lord repeatedly urges this consideration, "Walk, while you have the light." And how strongly does this argument apply to us! You have the light at present, yes, even greater light than the Jews enjoyed under the ministry of Christ: (for there were many subjects, which he did not fully open; and the things he did utter could not be perfectly understood, until the day of Pentecost; whereas you have Christ exhibited to you in all his glory; and the fullness, the freeness, the suitableness of his salvation constantly set before you.) But how soon may it be removed from you, or you from it! O then, "while you have the light, believe, and walk, in the light."

2. From the danger we incur by disregarding the light.

If we will not attend to the voice of Christ, a "darkness will come upon us," even "darkness that may be felt." They who never have had Christ preached unto them, are indeed in an awful condition; but by no means so awful as that of those who have despised the Gospel. The darkness of which the text speaks, is judicial, sent them by God as the punishment of their iniquity; and the very light that shines around them, serves only to increase their blindness, and to aggravate their guilt. In this state, "they stumble at the noon-day," and wander, "not knowing where they go;" until at last they fall into that pit of destruction, where is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth for evermore.

Should not then the dread of such a state lead us to a just improvement of our present privileges?

3. From the benefit arising to those who rightly improve the light.

By "children of light," we may understand either children of God (who is light) or, truly enlightened persons. In either sense the general import is the same, namely, that, by believing in Christ, we shall attain the knowledge and enjoyment of God. Compare this state with that of those who are in darkness; and how great will this benefit appear!

Shall not then this blessed prospect allure us to embrace the Gospel? Or shall we still prefer sin and misery to holiness and glory?

Application.

Let us no longer withstand the solemn warnings and affectionate exhortations of the Lord Jesus; but improve to the utmost this accepted time, this day of salvation.

 

MDCLXXVI

The Danger of Loving the Praise of Men

John 12:42, 43. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

IT seems astonishing to those who have ever considered the evidences of Christianity, that any one should hesitate to embrace it, or to acknowledge any one of its fundamental truths. But reason is by no means a certain guide, even in the things which come within its proper and legitimate sphere: it is too frequently biased in its decisions, even when the person himself is unconscious of any undue influence upon his mind. Evidence does not carry the same conviction to all: one is persuaded, while another doubts: the prejudices and passions of mankind operate to a great extent, and often leave demonstration itself almost without effect. Hence we find, that all the credentials with which our Lord confirmed his divine mission, were insufficient to produce conviction on the minds of many: as it is said, "Though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him." But by this the Scriptures themselves were fulfilled: for "Isaiah had said, Who has believed our report; and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Yes, he had also declared, that on account of the perverseness and obstinacy with which many resisted the evidence set before them, they should be given over to judicial blindness and obduracy, so as to be incapable of estimating truth aright, or of embracing it when proposed to them. Even when reason is convinced, it does not always carry the affections along with it; but is often constrained to yield to the superior influence of some predominant lust. Thus it was with those spoken of in our text; who believed indeed that Jesus was the true Messiah, yet could not find in their hearts to acknowledge him in that character.

We propose to consider,

I. The conduct they pursued.

They had seen the miracles of our Lord, and were persuaded that he was the person spoken of in the prophets: yet, because the Pharisees had agreed to excommunicate any who should receive him as the Messiah, they dared not to confess him openly. Now this conduct was exceeding sinful. Of its constituent evils we may notice,

1. The disingenuousness.

The use of knowledge is to direct our ways: for the sake of our practice therefore we should be careful to acquire just sentiments. If our opinions be doubtful, we should try them; if erroneous, renounce them; if true, we should regulate our lives according to them. To act contrary to the convictions of our mind is unworthy of a rational Being. We all know in what a contemptible light that man appears, who for the sake of human applause pretends to religion, while the world and sin are predominant in his heart: and equally contemptible is he, who, with the knowledge of the truth in his head, is deterred by the fear of man from yielding to its influence. Indeed the latter species of dissimulation seems the worse of the two, inasmuch as to disclaim what is good, is worse than to express an approbation of it. At all events, it is marked with a decisive testimony of God's abhorrence; "To him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin."

2. The ingratitude.

The gift of God's only dear Son to die for us is the greatest that God himself could bestow upon us: for from that the Apostle infers the unquestionable willingness of God to give us all other things, seeing that all other things together are not to be compared with that. Now to know that God has bestowed that gift upon us, and yet not dare to confess it, is the basest ingratitude that can be imagined—And if it be ingratitude towards the Father, so is it also towards the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who voluntarily undertook the great work of our redemption. Reflect a moment on this: think of his pitying our undone condition, and leaving the bosom of his Father, in order that he might assume our nature, and die in our stead—What incomprehensible love was this! and what a base wretch must he be, who, believing that Christ has so loved him as to give himself for him, is afraid to confess it openly! To all such persons, well may that indignant expostulation be applied, "Do you thus requite the Lord, O foolish people, and unwise?"

3. The impiety.

Wherein can any man be guilty of more flagrant rebellion against God, than in knowingly and deliberately denying his dear Son? The command of God respecting the submitting to his Son is positive, and enforced with a very awful menace. What an act of defiance then is he guilty of, who against the convictions of his own conscience denies him! What cruelty also is he guilty of towards his fellow-creatures! Men are influenced greatly by example, especially by the example of those in higher life: the lower classes are ready to suppose that the rich and learned must know better than they, and with a blind confidence to embrace or reject sentiments solely on the authority of their opinions. Hence the timid dissembler is the means of deceiving many souls; and involves himself in the double guilt of destroying others together with himself. The man who rejects Christ for want of conviction, will "be beaten with few stripes;" but the man who rejects him contrary to his convictions, will "be beaten with many stripes," the one "dashes himself against a rock that will break his bones;" the other will have "that rock fall upon him, which will grind him to powder."

That we may be able to account for such strange conduct, let us consider,

II. The principle by which they were actuated.

They acted from a regard for the good opinion of men. But the praise of men runs not in the same channel with the praise of God; and they unhappily gave the applause of man the preference. Now this love of man's applause is,

1. A common principle.

The moment that we begin to be impressed with a sense of eternal things, we begin to consider, what men will say, if we betray our feelings to the world. Though we should have never paid much attention to the sentiments of others before, we shall now feel the emotions of fear and shame: we shall contrive how we may reconcile the performance of our duties with a conformity to the customs and habits of the world; and shall often strain our conscience to make compliances with the world, in order to escape reproach on account of our singularity. It may be thought that persons who move in a higher sphere should have learned to divest themselves of this principle; but the higher any men are in society, the more they are influenced by the opinions of the world: they set a higher value on man's applause, and feel conscious that their actions are more open to remark. They of whom our text speaks, were "chief rulers," they conceived that they had much to lose; and they well knew that their rank would not screen them from the assaults of religious intolerance. They might have indulged vices with impunity; those would have been connived at, even by Pharisees themselves; but piety in them would have been an unpardonable offence, which the very refuse of the people would have been forward to resent. But, though this principle is peculiarly operative on the great, it is not confined to them: we all feel it working in our own bosoms, and have need to be on our guard against its malignant influence.

2. A foolish principle.

What can the applause of man do for us? it is a mere breath of air, that vanishes in a moment: but the approbation of God is of incalculable importance, since according to that will our eternal state be fixed. To many, the choice of Moses would appear unwise: to refuse the first honors of the Egyptian court, and participate rather in the afflictions of the oppressed Israelites! to "esteem the reproach of Christ as riches, yes as greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt!" this might be regarded as folly by the ignorant Egyptians; but to us who know how to appreciate such conduct, it appears an act of consummate wisdom. Look at the rulers of whom we are speaking: suppose that all the consequences which they dreaded had come upon them; what would the anathemas of men have been, in comparison of God's displeasure? and what an expulsion from the synagogue, in comparison of a rejection from Heaven? If the whole world cannot compensate for the loss of a soul, surely they must be fools indeed who barter away their souls for the breath of man's applause.

3. A fatal principle.

God himself has told us, that it is absolutely incompatible with saving faith; "How can you believe, who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes of God only?" And we may appeal to all, whether it does not chill every devout affection, and impede the exercise of every Christian grace? What its ultimate effect will be, our blessed Lord has warned us; "If we confess him, he will confess us; but if we are ashamed of him and deny him, he also will be ashamed of us, and deny us, when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels."

Address.

1. The secret and timid disciples.

We do not put you all upon a level; for even where the outward conduct is the same, the inward principle may be widely different. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were not so open in their acknowledgment of Christ as they should have been; but, when a necessity occurred for making known their sentiments, they rose to the occasion, and avowed their attachment to him more boldly than the Apostles themselves. We mean not to express any approbation of their previous timidity; but to intimate, that an essential difference may be found, where none externally appears; and that God may have his "hidden ones" even among those who are as yet too much entangled by prudential considerations. It is not however by such examples that we are to regulate our conduct. Our duty is clear: the heart and the mouth are to be alike consecrated unto God; the one, to exercise faith on Christ, the other, to confess him to the world: and as the mouth without the heart will be an unacceptable offering to the Lord, so also will the heart without the mouth.

2. Those who are suffering for confessing him.

We are far from despising the approbation of men; but we account it of no value, any longer than it can be enjoyed with a good conscience. That in which alone we are materially interested is, the plaudit of our God: and if only he say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servants," we need not be concerned, whatever may have been the judgment of men concerning us. Are any of you reproached for the sake of Christ; be not grieved, but rather rejoice; for "it turns unto you for a testimony." Great is the encouragement which God himself affords you in his word; and glorious is the prospect that awaits you at your departure hence. Be strong then, and of good courage; knowing, that if your faith be subjected to heavy trials at the present, "it shall be to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."

 

MDCLXXVII

Men Judged by the Gospel

John 12:48. He who rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

THE judgment of the last day is a period to which we must all look forward with the deepest interest, and for which we should be preparing from day to day: for then "we shall receive at the Lord's hands according to what we have done in the body, whether it be good or evil." True it is, our Lord says, in the verse before my text, "If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." But we are not to understand this absolutely: for we are told expressly, that "God has committed all judgment to the Son;" and that "he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he has ordained." The meaning is, that "to save the world" was the great and primary object of his mission; and that, though he will also judge the world, he will not do it arbitrarily, according to any secret will of his own, but according to his revealed will, even with that word which, from day to day, he declared unto them. Of their reception of this word they should give account; and in strict accordance with it should his judgment be passed upon them.

In confirmation of this truth, I will show,

I. The responsibility of those who hear the Gospel.

Man is responsible to God for every talent that has been committed to him, and for every advantage he enjoys. In proportion to the opportunities which men have of knowing their Lord's will, must be their accountableness for the performance of it: and more or fewer stripes will be awarded to the negligent servant, according to the degree of information which had been given him, and the knowledge he possessed. "The times of men's ignorance God winked at; but, when his fuller revelation was made known to them, he called upon them more authoritatively to repent." The uninstructed "heathen will be judged by the law written on their hearts," the Jews, by the law of the Ten Commandments; but Christians, by the Gospel. And a far more severe account will be required of us than of the others, on account of the superior light we have enjoyed. Our Lord told his hearers, that "if he had not come and spoken unto them, they bad not (comparatively) had sin; but that now they had no cloak for their sin." And he warned them, that not only Tyre and Sidon, but even Sodom and Gomorrah, with all their wickedness, would have a lighter condemnation in the day of judgment, than those who neglected to improve the advantages afforded them by his instructions. This he plainly declared in the words of my text: "He who rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."

Here also we see,

II. The rule by which they shall be judged.

"The word that Christ spoke, the same shall judge," both those who heard, and us who read it. We shall be judged by,

1. Its declarations.

Nothing can be plainer than his declarations respecting the necessity of a new and heavenly birth, or the necessity of faith in him—Now, in the last day these will appear against us: we cannot plead ignorance: the terms, in which these requirements were made known, were clear, peremptory, decisive; and if we have not obeyed them, we must take the bitter consequences of our neglect.

2. Its invitations.

These have been as free as our hearts could wish. Do we need to obtain rest in Christ? he says, "Come unto me, and I will give it you." Do we need a new nature? he bids us to "take from him the water of life freely." Have we any apprehension that he will not grant to us these blessings on account of our own unworthiness? be bids us receive them at his hands, "without money and without price." Now these also will appear against us in judgment. And what excuse can we offer for not accepting them? Truly, we must confess, in that day, that "our ruin was of ourselves alone;" and that we perished only because "we would not come to Christ for life."

3. Its promises.

How "exceeding great and precious" are these! They are enlarged to the full extent of our necessities. What can we desire more than this, "Whoever comes unto me, I will in no wise cast him out?" Here is no exception, either of character or condition. Whoever the person be, "the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse him from all sin," yes, "though his sins have been red as crimson, they shall be made white as snow." And what shall we say, when these appear in array against us on account of the contempt we poured upon them? Truly, our mouths will be shut, and not so much as a word of excuse can ever be offered by us.

4. Its threatenings.

These are no less plain than any of the former: so that we can never plead ignorance, or a want of faithful admonition. And I appeal to you, whether all of these, the more awful as well as the more encouraging parts of Scripture, have not, in their season, been set before you with all fidelity? These, therefore, shall also be your judges in the last day. No arbitrary appointment of God shall determine your fate; but these very words, which you have so neglected and despised.

And now, I pray you,

1. Examine how you have treated all these portions of Holy Writ.

2. Bear in mind your responsibility for the warning now given you.

 

MDCLXXVIII

Christ's Condescension

John 13:12–15. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. If I there, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

THERE are some fanciful interpreters of Scripture, who find mysteries in everything; while others, who affect a supereminent regard for man's reasoning powers, banish mysteries altogether, and say, "Where mystery begins religion ends." These are equally distant from the true method of interpreting the sacred oracles; and are almost equally adverse to the interests of religion: the former bring the truth into contempt; the latter utterly discard it. The proper medium evidently is, to follow the direction which the Scripture itself gives us. The fundamental doctrines of the Gospel are professedly mysterious, even "the wisdom of God in a mystery." There are many of the historical parts also, to which a mystical interpretation is given by the inspired writers: and, of the actions of our Lord there are some, into which a deeper insight is given us than into others; to which therefore we may safely assign a more mysterious import. The action referred to in the text was very significant, and may, with the greatest propriety, be considered,

I. As illustrative of his character.

No one can behold Jesus washing his Disciples' feet, without feeling a reverence for his august character: and the more we contrast his dignity with their baseness, the more are we constrained to admire his condescension and love.

But we shall have a very partial and inadequate view of this action, if we regard it merely as a single and detached instance of humility. To understand it aright, we must see it as exhibiting in a very lively manner his general character.

What a beautiful illustration does it give us of his incarnation! Behold him laying aside his robes of majesty, and clothing himself in our flesh, and coming, "not to be ministered unto, but to minister" to our guilty race!

How aptly does it represent to us the whole tenor of his life! From the cradle to the grave his humility was uniformly conspicuous. Born in a stable, and of mean parents, he wrought at the trade of a carpenter until the age of thirty: then, submitting to baptism, as though he had been a sinner, he entered on his ministry, and prosecuted it in the midst of temptations, of want, and ignominy, until his obedience was consummated in the accursed death of the cross. And to all this he condescended for our benefit, for our salvation.

Nor does this action less fitly characterize him in his present exalted state. "Though he is high, yet has he respect unto the lo