Графични страници
PDF файл

repentance and remission of sins, was pricked to the heart, was convinced of sin, repented, and then believed in Jesus. By this faith of the operation of God, which was the very substance, or subsistence of things hoped for, Heb. xi, 1, the demonstrative evidence of invisible things, he instantly received the spirit of adoption, whereby he now cried, “ Abba, Father,” Rom. viii, 15. Now first it was that he could call Jesus Lord, by the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. xii, 3, the Spirit itself bearing witness with his spirit that he was a child of God, Rom. viii, 15. Now it was that he could truly say, “I live not, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” Gal. ii, 20.

2. This, then, was the very essence of his faith, a divine slexos (evidence or conviction) of the love of God the Father, through the Son of his love, to him a sinner, now accepted in the Beloved. And,“ being justified by faith, he had peace with God,” Rom. v, 1, yea," the peace of God ruling in his heart;" a peace, which passing all understanding, (Tavta vsv, all barely rational conception,) kept his heart and mind from all doubt and fear, through the knowledge of him in whom he had be lieved. He could not therefore“ be afraid of any evil tidings;" for his “heart stood fast believing in the Lord.” He feared not what man could do unto him, knowing the very hairs of his head were all numbered. He feared not all the powers of darkness, whom God was daily bruising under his feet. Least of all was he afraid to die; nay, he desired to “depart and to be with Christ,” Phil. 1, 23; who, " through death, had destroyed him that had the power of death, even the devil, and delivered them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime (till then) subject to bondage," Heb. ii, 15.

3. His soul therefore magnified the Lord, and his spirit rejoiced in God his Saviour. "He rejoiced in him with joy unspeakable, who had reconciled him to God, even the Father:"“in whom he had redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” He rejoiced in that witness of God's Spirit with his spirit, that he was a child of God; and more abundantly,“ in hope of the glory of God;" in hope of the glorious image of God, and full renewal of his soul in righteousness and true holiness; and in hope of that crown of glory, inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away."

4. “ The love of God was also shed abroad in his heart, by the Holy Ghost, which was given unto him," Rom. v, 5. “Because he was a son, God had sent forth the Spirit of his Son into his heart, crying, Abba, Father !" Gal. iv, 6. And that filial love of God was continually increased by the witness he had in himself (1 John v, 10) of God's pardoning love to him; by“ beholding what manner of love it was, which the Father had bestowed upon him, that he should be called a child of God," 1 John iii, 1. So that God was the desire of his eyes, and the joy of his heart; his portion in time and in eternity.

5. He that thus loved God, could not but love his brother also; and not in word only, but in deed and in truth."' “ If God," said he,“ loved us, we ought also to love one another,"' 1 John iv, 11 ; yea, every soul of man, as "the mercy of God is over all his works,” Psa. cxlv, 9. Agreeably hereto, the affection of this lover of God embraced all mankind for his sake; not excepting those whom he had never seen in the flesh, or those of whom he knew nothing more than that they were " the


[ocr errors]



He was

offspring of God," for whose souls his Son had died; not excepting the evil and unthankful, and least of all his enemies, those who hated, persecuted, or despitefully used him for his Master's sake. These had a peculiar place, both in his heart and in his prayers. He loved them even as Christ loved us."

6. And“ love is not puffed up," 1 Cor. xiii, 4. It abases to the dust every soul wherein it dwells: accordingly, he was lowly of beart, little, mean, and vile in his own eyes. He neither sought, nor received the praise of men, but that which cometh of God only. He was meek and long suffering, gentle to all, and easy to be entreated. Faithfulness and truth never forsook him; they were “ bound about his neck, and wrote on the table of his heart.” By the same Spirit he was enabled to be temperate in all things, refraining his soul even as a weaned child.

crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him ;" superior to "the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life.” By the same almighty love was he saved, both from passion and pride; from lust and vanity; from ambition and covetousness; and from every temper which was not in Christ.

7. It may easily be believed, he who had this love in his heart, would work no evil to his neighbour. It was impossible for him, knowingly and designedly, to do harm to any man. He was at the greatest distance from cruelty and wrong, from any unjust or unkind action. With the same care did he “set a watch before his mouth, and keep the door of his lips,” lest he should offend in tongue, either against justice, or against mercy or truth. He put away all lying, falsehood, and fraud; neither was guile found in his mouth. He spake evil of no man; nor did an unkind word ever come out of his lips.

8. And, as he was deeply sensible of the truth of that word, "with out me ye can do nothing," and, consequently, of the need he had to be watered of God every moment; so he continued daily in all the ordinances of God, the stated channels of his grace to man: in the apostles' doctrine," or teaching, receiving that food of the soul with all readiness of heart; in “ the breaking of bread," which he found to be the communion of the body of Christ ; and " in the prayers” and praises offered up by the great congregation. And thus, he daily

grew in grace," increasing in strength, in the knowledge and love of God.

9. But it did not satisfy him, barely to abstain from doing evil. His soul was athirst to do good. The language of his heart continually was,

My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” My Lord went about doing good ; and shall not I tread in his steps ? As he had opportunity, therefore, if he could do no good of a higher kind, he fed the hungry, clothed the naked, helped the fatherless or stranger, visited and assisted them that were sick or in prison. He gave all his goods to feed the poor. He rejoiced to labour or to suffer for them; and wlierein soever he might profit another, there especially to “ deny himself." He counted nothing too dear to part with for them, as well remembering the word of his Lord, " Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” Matt. xxv, 40.

10. Such was Christianity in its rise. Such was a Christian in ancienı days. Such was every one of those, who, when they heard the tirreatenings of the chief priests and elders, lifted up their voice to ii, 42.

[ocr errors]

God with one accord, and were all filled with the Holy Ghost. The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul." (So did the love of him in whom they had believed, constrain them to love one another !) “ Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” So fully were they crucified to the world, and the world crucified to them!

“ And they continued steadfastly with one accord in the apostles' doctrine, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayer,” Acts

And great grace was upon them all; neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need,” Acts iv, 31-35.

II. 1. Let us take a view, in the second place, of this Christianity, as spreading from one to another, and so gradually making its way into the world : for such was the will of God concerning it, who did not

light a candle to put it under a bushel, but that it might give light to all that were in the house." And this our Lord had declared to his first disciples, “Ye are the salt of the earth,'

,” “the light of the world;" at the same time that he gave that general command,“ Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” Matt. v, 13-16.

2. And, indeed, supposing a few of these lovers of mankind to see “ the whole world lying in wickedness," can we believe they would be únconcerned at the sight, at the misery of those for whom their Lord died ? Would not their bowels yearn over them, and their hearts melt away for very trouble ? Could they then stand idle all the day long, even were there no command from him whom they loved ? Rather would they not labour, by all possible means, to pluck some of these brands out of the burning ? Undoubtedly they would : they would spare no pains to bring back whomsoever they could of those poor “ sheep that had gone astrav, to the great Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, 1 Pet. ii, 25.

3. So the Christians of old did. They laboured, naving opportunity, to do good unto all men,” Gal. vi, 10, warning them to flee frora the wrath to come; now, now to escape the damnation of hell. They declared, The times of ignorance God winked at; but now he calleth all men 'every where to repent,” Acts xvii, 30. They cried aloud, Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways ; so iniquity shall not be your ruin," Ezek. xviii, 30. They reasoned with them of temperance and righteousness, or justice, of the virtues opposite to their reigning sins, and of judgment to come; of the wrath of God, which would surely be executed on evil doers in that day when he should judge the world, Acts xxiv, 25.

4. They endeavoured herein to speak to every man severally as he had need.' To the careless, to those who lay unconcerned in darkness and in the shadow of death, they thundered, “ Awake, thou that sleepest : arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light:" but to those who were already awakened out of sleep, and groaning under a sense of the wrath of God, their language was, “We have an Advocate with the Father ; he is the propitiation for our sins.” Meantime, those who had believed, they provoked to love and to good works; to patient continuance in well doing; and to abound more and more in that holiness, without which no man can see the Lord, Heb. xii, 14. 5. And their labour was not in vain in the Lord. His word


and was glorified. It grew mightily and prevailed. But so much the more did offences prevail also. The world in general were offended, “because they testified of it, that the works thereof were evil,” John vii, 7. The men of pleasure were offended, not only because these men were made, as it were, to reprove their thoughts :-" He professeth," said they, "to have the knowledge of God; he calleth himself the child of the Lord; his life is not like other men's; his ways are of another fashion ; he abstaineth from our ways, as from filthiness; he maketh his boast, that God is his Father,” Wisd. ii, 13–16 :- but much more, because so many of their companions were taken away, and would no more run with them to the same excess of riot, 1 Pet. iv, 4. The men of reputation were offended, because, as the gospel spread, they declined in the esteem of the people; and because many no longer dared to give them flattering titles, or to pay man the homage due to God only. The men of trade called one another together, and said, “ Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. But ye see and hear that these men have persuaded and turned away much people. So that this our craft is in danger to be set at nought,” Acts xix, 25, &c. Above all, the men of religion, so called, the men of outside religion, “ the saints of the world,” were offended, and ready at every opportunity to cry out, “Men of Israel, help! we have found these men pestilent fellows, movers of sedition throughout the world,” Acts xxiv, 5. “These are the men that teach all men, every where, against the people, and against the law,” Acts xxi, 28.

6. Thus it was that the heavens grew black with clouds, and the storm gathered amain. For the more Christianity spread, the more hurt was done, in the account of those who received it not; and the number increased of those who were more and more enraged at these men who thus turned the world upside down,” Acts xvii, 6; insomuch that more and more cried oui, “Away with such fellows from the earth; it is not fit that they should live;" yea, and sincerely believed, that whosoever should kill them would do God service.

7. Meanwhile they did not fail to cast out their name as evil, Luke vi, 22 ; so that this “sect was every where spoken against,” Acts xxviii, 22. Men said all manner of evil of them, even as had been done of the prophets that were before them, Matt. v, 11. And whatsoever any would affirm, others would believe. So that offences grew as the stars of heaven for multitude. And hence arose, at the time foreordained of the Father, persecution in all its forms. Some, for a season, suffered only shame and reproach; some, “the spoiling of their goods;"

some had trial of mocking and scourging ; some of bonds and imprisonment;" and others “ resisted unto blood,” Heb. x, 34, xi, 36, &c.

8. Now it was that the pillars of hell were shaken, and the kingdom of God spread more and more. Sinners were every

where turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” He gave his children “such a mouth, and such wisdoin, as all their adversaries could not resist :” and their lives were of equal force with thcir words. But above ail, their sufferings spake to all the world. They

approved themselves the servants of God, in afflictions, in necessities,

“ He being

in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours; in perils in the sea, in perils in the wilderness, in weariness and painfulness, in hunger and in thirst, in cold and nakedness,” 2 Cor. vi, 4, &c. And when, having fought the good fight, they were led as sheep to the slaughter, and offered up on the sacrifice and service of their faith, then the blood of each found a voice, and the heathen owned, dead yet speaketh."

9. Thus did Christianity spread itself in the earth. But how soon did the tares appear with the wheat, and the mystery of iniquity work as well as the mystery of godliness! How soon did Satan find a seat, even in the temple of God,“ till the woman fled into the wilderness, and “ the faithful were again minished from the children of men !" Here we tread a beaten path: the still increasing corruptions of the succeeding generations have been largely described from time to time, by those witnesses God raised up, to show that he had “ built his church upon a Rock, and the gates of hell should not (wholly) prevail against her,” Matt. xvi, 18.

III. 1. But shall we not see greater things than these ? Yea, greater than have been yet from the beginning of the world. Can satan cause the truth of God to fail, or his promises to be of none effect? If not, the time will come when Christianity will prevail over all, and cover the earth. Let us stand a little, and survey (the third thing which was proposed) this strange sight, a Christian World. Of this the prophets of old inquired and searched diligently, 1 Pet. i, 10, 11, &c: of this the Spirit which was in them testified : “ It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more," Isa. ii, 1-4. “In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people. To it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again to recover the remnant of his people ; and he shall set up an Ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth,” Isa. xi, 10–12. “ The wolf shall then dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little chi'd shall lead them. They shall not hurt nor destroy, saith the Lord, in all my holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea,” Isa. xi, 6–9.

2. To the same effect are the words of the great apostle, which is evident have never yet been fulfilled. “ Hath God cast away his people? God forbid.” “But through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles.” “And if the diminishing of them be the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?" “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, That blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved,” Rom. xi, 1, 11, 25, 26.

3. Suppose now the fulness of time to be come, and the prophecies to be accomplished. What a prospect is this ! All is "peace, quietness,

« ПредишнаНапред »