« السابقةمتابعة »
my fear? saith the Lord of hosts. They enjoy peculiar privileges, confide in his paternal care; he supplies all their need. “ Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." - In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence, and his children shall have a place of refuge.' Well may they cast on him all their care; for he careth for them. “ As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” They have a family resemblance, a common interest, are taught of God to love one another. Whosoever loveth him that begat, will love him that is begotten of him. They are the heirs of a blessed inheritance; an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away ; reserved in heaven for them who are kept by the power of God unto salvation. They are, 1 say, kept through faith in the testimony of God, who has assured them of the existence of this better country, wherein their inheritance lies; and through faith in him, who, as their elder brother, has gone before, to prepare a place for them, and has promised to come again and receive them unto himself; and has given them an earnest of it. On which account they are the more concerned to walk worthy of him who has called them to his kingdom and glory: hence they live here as strangers and pilgrims.
SECONDLY: The ignorance of the world respecting the children of God, and the evident cause of it.
The world know that there are those that talk about God and religion, and that profess to indulge the hope that they are his children. They know that they do not all think alike about some of the circumstantials of religion; and that some are called by this name, and some by that: but the world know not the unspeakable importance of those things on which they are all agreed. And they know us not, because they know him not. They scarcely realize the existence of God, (though they may not dare expressly to deny it,) and they know much less of his moral character and glorious perfections. Hence they cannot account for the anxieties, the conflicts, the privileges, or the enjoyments of true Christians.
Yet, if they would believe their own senses, they must believe that this world cannot make them happy, that all its enjoyments are unsatisfying and transitory. If we have a Maker, Preserver, and Benefactor, we ought to expect him to act as a Moral Governor ; to demand our supreme regard ; to care for the welfare of his creatures, and to notice how they feel and act towards each other ; to show his hatred of sin, as well as his love to virtue. If we form any just idea of the standard of duty, we must know we have violated it. We must think it a dreadful thing to be exposed to the anger of God in consequence of this violation ; and we ought to long to know his will, and especially to know how sinners can be restored to his favor and his image. We ought to attend diligently to the revelation of his will, and especially to the discoveries of pardon and salvation; to consider it as a far more important concern to know what will be our eternal state, than what will be our condition in the present life. If our future destiny will be fixed at the close of this short life, it is of infinite consequence to know what it will be.
But if these things were realized by the world, they would: have no room to wonder that we stand in awe of him, dread displeasing him, and are anxious to escape his wrath. If they knew how kindly he has revealed himself in the gospel of his Son, they would not wonder that we should love him, rejoice in him, trust him, and make him our refuge. If they knew what he has provided for them that love him, they would not think it strange that we do not run to the same excess of riot; that mere worldly pleasures should seem su insipid ; that heaven should attract us more than any thing on earth ; that we should find pleasure in the service of God; that we should want others to know, love, serve, and enjoy him ; and be earnest to see them reconciled to God, and made fellow-heirs with us. Alas! They know not the glorious character of God, how worthy he is of love and obedience : they know not the evil of sin, and the power of his anger : they know not the riches of his grace, and the glorious all-sufficiency of the Redeemer; nor the constraining influence of his love : they know not the efficacious influence of the Holy Spirit, how able he is to make all things new :
they know not what God has prepared for them that love him. Hence it is that the children of God are so despised, and often hated. It is because they set their affections on things above the world's comprehension, and opposite to its taste. The world does not understand such a sort of men, It knows nothing of this race, neither Father nor children.
1 John v. 3. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.
This Epistle contains a more full and particular account of the evidences of vital, heartfelt religion, than any other part of the divine word. Consequently, there is no part of the word of God by which we may more advantageously try ourselves, whether we be in the faith, whether we are born of God, united to Christ, and interested in all the benefits of his mediation ; whether we are passed from death unto life, and are authorized to consider ourselves as the children of God, and heirs of the kindom of heaven.
In this chapter, the Apostle suggests the necessity of faith in Christ, as the only Mediator between God and man; by which he evidently intends, not a mere careless, speculative assent to the doctrine of scripture ; but that faith which worketh by love, to God, to his dear Son, to the people of God, and to all mankind ; which leads to universal obedience, and conformity to the divine will ; making us to overcome the world, and live here as strangers and pilgrims.
Two things are taught in the text :
First, That obedience is the great test of love.
True religion is internal, and consists primarily in holy affections, and devout exercises of the heart. But if these be genuine, they will, in proportion to their strength, show themselves externally, and influence the whole conduct. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
" Then are ye my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." " • Herein is
my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples.” “In Christ Jesus, circumcision availeth nothing, nor uncircumcision; but faith, that worketh by love." “ We are bis workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God.” This obedience, however, must spring from love, or it is nothing. They whose religion is all internal, and they whose religion is all external, are equally nothing. If it spring merely from worldly prudence, ostentation, slavish fear, or mercenary pride, it is of no worth. It must not be partial, but universal; must consist not merely in negatives, but be positive; must be cordial, showing that we are zealous for good works, devote ourselves to God, walk with him, set him always before us, make his service the great business of our lives, pressing toward the mark, and persevering in a course of obedience. An obedient spirit will show itself, not only in the external duties of devotion, in prayer, praise, hearing of the word, reading, and religious conversation ; but also in attention to all moral and relative duties, endeavoring to discharge them as in the sight of God, from a regard to his glory, and to the eternal interests of our fellow-men; wishing to recommend religion to all around us, by sobriety, self-denial, humility, meekness, justice, fidelity, and truth; doing unto others as we might reasonably wish them to do unto us; and especially seeking the spiritual profit of many, that they may be eternally saved. This is the great evidence of love to God, that we aim at his glory continually; studying his word attentively; that we may know his will, and conform to it unreservedly. If we love him as God, we shall acknowledge his right to govern and direct us : and also to dispose of us, and of all our concerns. It is his commandment that we should treat him as God, rejoice in his highness, account it his place to command, and be ready to obey him in all things, however contrary to our selfishness, pride, and self-indulgence : mortifying sensuality and worldly mindedness, covetousness, envy, malice, &c. crucifying the flesh, with the corrupt affections and lusts thereof; endeavoring to
perfect holiness in the fear of God. Can we now say, that this is our habitual desire ? that we want to know how he would have us to act in every case, and toward every body with whom we have any connexion ? Looking well, at the same time, to the springs of action; that we may do all heartily, as to the Lord, and not merely to man? His commands are exceedingly broad ; do we wish to know their full extent: not wanting to indulge any affection or passion that he has forbidden; but abstaining from the very appearance of evil, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and desiring to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present worldlet duty be fashionable or unfashionable? Do we account it our wisdom, duty, and privilege, to be employed in his service? And do we watch for opportunities to show the sincerity and strength of our love to him : making his service a delight, and not a burden, or task? We are taught,
Secondly, That his commandments are not grievous ; i. e. not irksome; but pleasant and delightful.
Love to a creature will sweeten labor ; as Jacob's love to Rachel sweetened his hard servitude to her father. Or, as it was expected, the kindness of an Hebrew master would sometimes induce the slave to say, “I love my master; I will not take advantage of the law to go out at the jubilee; I will not go out free; but have my ear bored through to his door-post, in token of my willingness to be his servant for ever.” How much more should love to God induce us to devote ourselves eternally to his service! Yes : Consider whose commandments they are to which our text refers. The infinitely wise, holy, righteous, glorious, and gracious God; who knows what it becomes him to enjoin upon his creatures, and has given no command but what tends to promote order, harmony, and happiness. Though he is the highest and best of all beings, above all control from others, yet he will not therefore require any thing wrong or unreasonable: but his wisdom knows what is best, and will infallibly direct to it. He is love, and his law is summed up in one word-LOVE. Consider his sovereign, as well as his essential goodness. You are called to obey the law in the hands of a Mediator, who gave himself a ransom for perishing sinners, and redeemed them