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THE ADVANTAGE OF OVERCOMING THE WORLD.
Rev. xxi. 7. He that overcometh, shall inherit all things ; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
I lately saw the latter clause of this verse mentioned in the diary of a very young Christian, as having excited much joy in his mind, on his hearing it read in course, in the family; and he also added, that a doubt rising whether he had a right to the consolation it contained, was checked by the first clause of the next verse, which made him the more eagerly lay hold on this sentence, lest he should be included in the awful doom which follows. Now, were I to judge of his warrant to apply this promise to himself, simply by his own statement, I should be ready to call it in question, and suspect that he had then imbibed some wrong ideas, both of the nature of the application of the promises, and of the nature of unbelief. As to the affections excited in his mind by hearing this promise, I should think them of very little worth, if they were founded chiefly on the strong impression it made on his imagination, without some instruction received from the words, respecting the glorious privilege to which they refer : and I should think it unsafe for him to infer from it what is not contained in that passage or any other; viz. a testimony that such an individual was a child of God. No text in the Bible could ascertain this, except by consequence. As John i. 12. Rom. viii. 14. And as to the following clause, it by no means imports, that any person will be finally condemned for fearing he should perish, or for not firmly believing his own safety, or that Christ is his, without evidence from scripture, sense, or reason. But the fearful, cowards, who dare not follow Christ, or expose themselves to scorn and opposition for righteousness' sake, but would rather sin than suffer; and the unbelieving, are such as do not depend on Christ for salvation, but who either neglect both the warnings and invitations of God's word, or trust to something else for salvation, instead of Christ's mediation.
It would be absurd and unscriptural, to suppose that every one must be a child of God who can believe he is so. If this were true, then our Lord's worst enemies had one Father, even God.
John viii. 41. And it would be very harsh to conclude that none can be the children of God, who fear they are not so. At the same time, candor requires us to allow, that this young person might have some mistaken ideas of these things, in consequence of hearing elder Christians express themselves injudiciously, and yet might be the subject of divine illumination and the drawings of the Holy Spirit; though he did not state, in his diary, the best evidences of his being so.
If a person should affirm that his father had left him a certain estate, alleging in proof that he had assured him so in a dream, this would be no sufficient evidence that it was so; nor would his weakness in laying so much stress on a dream, be a certain evidence that it was false : but we should advise him to get an attested copy of the will, and thus ascertain the truth. Let us be as wise as to our spiritual
First: Consider the inestimable privileges described. I will be his God, and he shall be my son, and inherit all things.
The special application of the promises consists, not in their being suddenly and strongly impressed on the mind, just as any other expression might occur to our thoughts, so that for a time we could not get rid of it; but in their being applied to the heart, so as to fill it with an affecting sense of the nature, excellence, and value of the blessings promised ; exciting a mental thirst after the enjoyment of spiritual things ; an admiration of the riches of grace manifested in bestowing such favors on unworthy sinners; with a sense of the suitableness of Christ, in whom all the promises ai e yea
and amen, to remove out of the way every obstacle to our partaking of these blessings, and a reliance of the divine all-sufficiency and faithfulness to make good the promise to us.
Now then, as to this promise : I will be unto him a God. Do you understand its import, and set a high value upon it? It is evidently designed to express a peculiar privilege; not what is common to every creature, but a peculiar relation ; a new relation as to sinners.
Yet this does not supercede, nor set aside the relation which subsisted before ; nor can any one claim this new relation, who is disposed to deny or renounce the original and necessary connexion with God, which he had in common with other intelligent creatures. Rather, it pre-supposes a cordial acknowledgment of every claim of our Creator, Benefactor, Lawgiver, and Judge. No man can consistently say, 'I like God for my father, friend, and portion, though I hate the thought of owning him for my governor.' No, verily. Rather, 'I justify God in all his previous conduct, as the moral governor of the universe ; but I do peculiarly admire this, that so holy and righteous a being should plan and execute the reconciliation of sinners to himself; that he should so spontaneously provide a ransom for the guilty and the lost, giving the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Now then, I am willing to return to him in his own way; to be reconciled on his own terms. I implore his forgiveness and acceptance ; I value his friendship above all the world; I consent to his covenant of grace, as my only foundation of hope; and to his holy law, as the rule of my temper and conduct, which I wish to be inscribed on my heart.'
He shall be my son. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called sons of God. Oh! put me among the children, and send forth the Spirit of thy Son into my heart; that I may possess a truly filial spirit; and reverence, love, trust, obey, serve, and imitate thee, as my heavenly Father.
He shall inherit all things. For God possesses all things; and if we are his children, then are we his heirs. Our Father will never die, never leave us. Omnipotence will defend us, so that none shall ever deprive us of our inheritance. And he will bring all the concerns of time to that issue which shall produce the greatest quantity of happiness, to eternity; even the greater glory to himself, and the greatest bliss to all who place their felicity in the contemplation of his glory.
We proceed, SECONDLY, To examine, Who is entitled to claim this privilege ?
Some answers may be gathered from what has been noticed
already. To be sure, they cannot claim the privilege who set no great value upon it; or, who disregard the consequent duties which certainly follow. Somewhat might be gathered from the preceding verse. I will give to him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely. Are we willing to be indebted to the free grace of God, for our whole salvation ? And do we consider Christ as the Alpha and Omega ? the beginning and end of our salvation ? the author and finisher of our faith ?
our all in all ? But more direct answers may be gathered from the text itself.
He that overcometh. No one can overcome who is not engaged in a conflict, and heartily engaged. Are we disposed to fight the good fight of faith? to oppose every thing which is opposed to God? Unless this be the case, how can we overcome? Overcometh what? The world, the devil, the flesh. Are we against the world ? Does faith lead you to separate from it ? Does your regard to the things that are unseen, oppose the undue influence of the things that are seen? Does it lead you to oppose Satan? to long for the destruction of the works of the devil in your own heart, and the ruin of his cause upon earth ? Do you endeavor, through the Spirit, to mortify the deeds of the body? the lusts of the flesh, and of the mind ? Christ came to save his people from their sins. Do you pray, Take away all iniquity ? and are you willing God should hear your prayers ? Are you willing to be active and resolute, in fighting against sin ? Every temptation overcome will increase the evidence in your favor. If you can overcome pride and worldly mindedness, you need not indeed wait till the war is ended, to enjoy the comfort of this promise. If you oppose all sin, and combat in the strength of Christ, looking to him as the Captain of your salvation, for all your success, you shall finally prevail. The promise indeed is to him who is overcoming. Victory is promised! Sin shall not have dominion. Yet, be not high minded, but fear. Be jealous of self, and strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,