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3. Obedience ensures the possession of all good.
As attendance at these festivals secured to the Israelites many temporal advantages, so "they that wait on the Lord shall not lack any good thing." The poor among you are sometimes tempted to doubt the fulfilment of such promises; but be assured that "not one jot or tittle of them shall ever pass away." The relief you need shall come; or there shall be an ample compensation for its withholdment in the sanctification of the trial. Reposing in God the entire affiance of your soul, supremely concerned to do and suffer his will, your feelings shall resemble those of Baxter, who said, on hearing some expressions of surprise at his patience under accumulated affliction, "I have God for my Father, Christ for my Saviour, the Holy Spirit for my Comforter, angels for my companions, and heaven for my home; and shall I be dissatisfied because I have not health? He is an ungrateful wretch who is not contented when he has a God, though he has nothing in the world beside."
As, too, the Israelites participated spiritual as well as temporal good in the paths of obedience, so, as it has just been intimated, will it be with the obedient now. Christian! "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, for you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." And though "through much tribulation you enter the kingdom," yet arrayed in the purity of its subjects, and exulting in their dignity and bliss, you will not wish that your sighs, or tears, or pangs had been fewer; but you will rather wonder, that with such a God in possession, and a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" in prospect, you should ever have been disquieted or ever have repined.
What a rich compensation will there be for every sacrifice; what a glorious reward will be enjoyed for every trial, when it may be said, in its fullest sense, "You are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."-" In the 'eternal year' of heaven, there will, we may venture to suppose, be points of duration, when more solemn celebrations of the Divine goodness and love will be appointed; heavenly festivals, commemorative of eras, agreed to be held above others in grateful and sacred remembrance, and to be solemnized with periodical expressions of gratitude and praise, among the assemblies of the blessed. Often the
morning stars may sing together, and the sons of God shout for joy in the remembrance of the time when the foundations of the earth were laid. Often may the multitude of the heavenly host renew their songs of praise to God in the remembrance of the incarnation of Christ, and say, 'Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will towards men.' At such periods of celestial jubilee, the Sun of Righteousness may shine with a more glorious beam, and the light of the Divine countenance be lifted up with a more enchanting radiance and beauty upon the congregations of saints and angels."*
Go then, Christian brethren, and aim habitually at entire obedience to the Divine will. "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things." After the utmost attainable conformity to the will of God, you should unceasingly aspire. There should not be a speck or a stain on the holy garments, any more than a rent; there should not be a fault in any "living epistle of Christ," any more than an essential omission or mistake; nor should there be a scar to impair the moral beauty of "the new creature," any more than a wound that may injure its health, or destroy its energies.
From the highest order of human excellence rise to the contemplation of that which is angelic. Those radiant beings who “excel in strength, do the commandments of God, hearkening to the voice of his word." Their obedience is prompt, without delay; cheerful, without reluctance; constant, without intermission; and impartial, without choice. The reason is, they love God, and his will they exclusively regard. They are equally ready to ascend or descend; to execute a mission of mercy, or a mission of vengeance: and if the angel who delivered Peter from prison were sent also to destroy Herod, the persecutor, he would have so distinct an apprehension of the reasons and consequences of both these acts, and of their perfect accordance with the honour of his Master and the universal good,— that he would perform the office of deliverance and the office of punishment with the same lively feelings of holy complacency and of glowing benevolence.
But while it should be your fervent desire to imbibe the spirit of angels, you should especially take Christ for your example, who 'pleased not himself;" whose "meat it was to do the will of his Father, and to finish his work ;" and who cried in the prospect of
Joice on Love to God.
a bitter and ignominious death, Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee!" Put ye on," then, "the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof."
Am I not, however, addressing some who have not yet yielded themselves unto God? Some to whom self-will, the will of the world, or the will of Satan, is the only law? Some who have continued to this hour, despisers of God's excellence-ungrateful partakers of his favours rebels against his supreme authority? Then let me declare in his name, that "except ye be converted and become as little children,"-yea, as those whose parents' will is implicitly obeyed-"ye cannot enter the kingdom of God." And why should you defer the pursuit of this change of mind and of heart? Why should you postpone the prayer for pardon, acceptance, and sanctification, even till another day? Why should you not remember that now is the accepted time-that now is the day of salvation," and breathe forth your fervent desires for these blessings, this hour— this moment? Only let the brittle thread of life be snapped asunder, and, dying in your present state, you must perish! "The soul once lost is lost for ever." And ere to morrow's sun shall rise, your spirit may stand before the eternal Judge.
But should this not be the case, and could it be announced to you from heaven that you will live for a century, still, still I could shew you that this is the golden opportunity,-that no time for seeking your immortal interests is so favourable as the present,--and that if this be suffered to escape, you may mourn at last, and say, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved."
For the only means of conversion is the truth of God; to the revelation of it, no chapter, no verse, no line, no word will ever be added. We can tell you now that " God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son ;" we can lead you now to Bethlehem, and Gethsemane, and Calvary; we can beseech you now, as in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God; yea, we can make every statement, adduce every argument, and employ every entreaty that it will ever be in our power to use; and if we fail now, what hope is there that we shall succeed on another and a future day? What expectation is there, if the arrows of the Lord now discharged, rebound and fall to the earth, that they will ever prove quick and powerful?" there is none-there is none—and hence we most solemnly and affectionately urge you now to believe, that ye may be saved! The Holy Spirit is the agent of regeneration. can do nothing. And think you, that if you now, by continued transgression, do all you can to vex, grieve, and induce him to
Again, Without him you
abandon you, that you can look for his coming, and expect him to "work in you to will and to do of his good pleasure,” at the very hour when you feel the deep necessity of his influence, and are disposed to implore it? Such aid could not be anticipated from an earthly benefactor whose person you have long insulted, and whose favours you have long spurned; nor does the Scripture warrant the expectation of divine influence at that precise moment when you can grasp the world no longer, or when death stares you in the face. If, then, some hallowed emotions are now rising in your soul, trifle not with them; cherish them diligently, prayerfully, faithfully; the Holy Spirit may now be knocking at the door of your heart, to demand admission for the Saviour; and if now repelled, he may depart, and return no more!
FINALLY, sin is so hardening, that you are more susceptible of impression now, than you will be at any future time. This consideration gives additional force to those which have preceded it, and unites with them to urge immediate attention to the welfare of the soul. For "evil men wax worse and worse." Hazael said to Elisha, on predicting his future course, "Is thy servant a dog that he should do this?" Yet he became the degraded, the guilty wretch whom the prophet described. Even Nero, at the beginning of his reign, was distinguished by condescension and kindness, and when desired to sign an order for the execution of some malefactors, he exclaimed, "I wish to heaven I could not write!" Yet this was the monster who assassinated his mother, set fire to Rome, massacred multitudes of men, women, and children, and delighted himself with the spectacle of their terrific sufferings.
By these various considerations, then, I would most affectionately and earnestly appeal to each and to all of you. Now, now, let the cry for mercy arise! One sincere, heart-felt, earnest prayer will bring down the blessing. And let your future language resemble that of the young man, who, when a relative attempted to deter him from the obedience of Christ, broke from the tempter, exclaiming, “I am determined by all means to save my soul!" Amen.
THE PREFERENCE DUE TO THE HOLY SPIRIT.
BY JAMES BENNETT, D. D.
JOHN xvi. 7.-Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
GREAT is the influence of first impressions; for novelty excels in force as well as in charms, so that the scenes of childhood recur to us again with new interest in old age, when the intermediate events of life have faded away into utter oblivion. But last impressions have their advantages too, since they keep the hold they have once acquired, because nothing else follows to interfere with them, or to erase them from our minds.
What can surpass the freshness, and vigour, and loveliness, and glory of the earliest scenes of our Saviour's life? The heavens opened to reveal the descending God; angels hovered round, and sung his natal song; the star of Bethlehem shone over the manger which formed his cradle; and the sages of the East presented Arabia's gold and spices to the newly-born King of the heathen, as well as the Jewish, world.
But the closing act of this divine drama was invested with an interest and glory altogether its own. The future heralds of mercy to the world were gathered round Him who was at once their authority and their theme, and on the mountain, from which they were to carry the glad tidings to the four winds of heaven, they received of him the message which they were to deliver, through the whole of life, and to seal with their blood, poured out by a martyr's death. But while he was thus teaching them the things concerning the kingdom of God, "he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, that while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven."