Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

tianity, without practising it. “And every one,” said our Lord Jesus, "that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house

upon

the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it."

Let us therefore direct our regards to that scattered flock of Christ, comprehending various kindreds and classes, who have received revealed religion in the love of it; who have been made willing in the day of the Lord's power; and who, with earnestness and honest determination, are fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold of eternal life.

The religious privileges which are common to the whole of this family of true believers in Christ are unspeakably valuable. At some of the principal of them we may now shortly glance.

1. They are brought out of darkness into marvellous light. “Ye are a chosen generation," said the apostle Peter to some of the early Christians, “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, 'a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.Furnished with full and satisfactory evidences of the truth and divine authority of Christianity, they have found in that holy religion, as it is recorded in the Scriptures, a plain statement of all those truths which relate to man's salvation—a clear account of the character of manof the attributes of God of the future life of eternal rewards and punishments; and more especially of that divine Saviour, the incarnate Son of God, who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. The outward knowledge, which has been thus graciously communicated to them, may truly be called a “marvellous light." Yet these expressions are more properly applicable to that spiritual illumination, by which the humble followers of Jesus are enabled to form a right estimate of the things of God. True Christians may be described as persons whose moral sight is rectified. God has given them the spirit of "a sound mind.” Every thing connected with religion appears to them (as far as is consistent with the narrow limits of the apprehension of mortals) in its real dimensions. From the secret illumination of the Lord's Holy Spirit, and

1 Matt. vii. 26, 27.

2 1 Pet. ii. 9.

by means of the outward revelation of divine truth, they are enabled to form a comparatively just view of themselves-of their Creator of virtue and vice of the world and eternity—of heaven and hell—and more particularly of Jesus Christ, as their Mediator with the Father, as their divine and all powerful Redeemer. Such persons can acknowledge, with humble gratitude, that "the darkness is past," and that “the true light now shineth.”

2. The religion, respecting the truths of which Christians are thus enlightened is a powerful religion. In other words, it is the medium through which the power of God operates upon them, for the great purposes of sanctification and salvation. Thus the apostle Paul expressly asserts that the Gospel of Christ is “the power of God unto salvation.” Again, he says, “The preaching of the cross is, to them that perish, foolishness; but, unto us which are saved, it is the power of God;"3 and, in addressing his Ephesian converts, he makes particular mention of the “exceeding greatness" of the "power" of God “to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.

Faith in the Son of God is not the mere assent of the understanding to the mission and divinity of Jesus. It is a practical and operative principle of wonderful energy. Those who live by this faith enjoy an access unto the Father by a new and living way, which Christ hath “consecrated for them through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” Their dependance is placed, not upon their own strength and wisdom, but upon that Great High Priest of their Profession, who “ever liveth to make intercession” for them—who “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him ;'' and at his gracious hands, they receive that more abundant effusion of the Holy Spirit, by which they are enabled, in a distinguished degree, to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and to become conformed to the will of a righteous and holy God. Thus do they experience, that, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.??

3. The followers of Jesus Christ being enlightened in their darke 1

i John ii. 8.

Eph. i. 19, 20,

2 Rom. i. 16.
5 Heb. vii. 25.

3 1 Cor. i. 18.
6 2 Cor. v. 17.

1

ness, and strengthened in their weakness, are animated during the varied course of their earthly pilgrimage, with the clear hope of immortal joy. Their treasure, their conversation, are in heaven; their desire is fixed on that “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” They are seeking a better country, that is, a heavenly.” Often indeed are they cast down under a humbling sense of their great infirmities, and many transgressions; and are at times scarcely able to entertain the belief that they shall “ be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” Yet, as their regards remain steadily fixed on that Saviour who died for their sins, and rose again, and is their advocate with the Father ; as they are “ kept by the power of God, through faith ;” they are seldom permitted to sink into despondency, or finally to lose a peaceful expectation of that inheritance which is “reserved for them in heaven”—“an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.

4. Lastly.—They are, “ baptized by one Spirit into one body." How delightful is the union which subsists among the numerous members of this holy family! It is true that their views, in some respects, are far from being perfectly coincident. It is true that they are ranged under various banners, and are called by many different names.—It is true, also, that they do not all possess the same measure of light; and that the sentiments of some among them are of a more spiritual character than those of others. Nevertheless, their ground of accordance is at once wide and substantial. Their footing is placed on the same Rock of ages; and that Rock is Christ. They enjoy a true fellowship one with another, even because their fellowship is “ with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Love is the blessed principle by which they are united, and which animates them in the prosecution of joint efforts, conducted on common principles, in support of the same cause.

Such, then, are the religious privileges which appear to distinguish, from mankind in general, the members of the true visible church of Christ; and which, as it relates to them, are universal. They are in a peculiar manner brought out of darkness into marvellous light—they experience the exceeding greatness of the power

of God revealed in Christ for their salvation—they are cheered by a prospect of immortal joy, clearly manifested to them by the Gospel;

1 1 Peter i. 4.

and they are brought into spiritual fellowship one with another. May the love which cements together the varied members of this mystical body of Christ more and more abound; may the barriers which ignorance and prejudice have reared among them, be broken through and demolished; may Christians be enabled increasingly to strive together for the hope of the Gospel; and, while they individually draw nearer to the Fountain of all good, may they be enabled yet more perfectly to enjoy “the communion of the Holy Ghost," — to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!"

ADDENDUM TO CHAPTER I.

A, D. 1834.

ON UNIVERSAL LIGHT.

“If ye were blind,” said our Saviour to the Pharisees, “ye should have no sin.”' This is a most equitable principle, and it is plain that the apostle Paul kept it steadily in view, when he declared the sinfulness of the Gentile world. “ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold (or restrain) the truth in unrighteousness. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the foundation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead, so that they are without excuse. Because, that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools; and changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image made like unto corruptible man, &c."

It is evident that the “ungodliness” of the Gentiles is here condemned, on the ground that some knowledge of divine truth was bestowed upon them. Not only were they furnished with a visible evidence, in the outward creation, of the eternal power and godhead of Jehovah, but “that which may be known of God was manifest in them.” They were not left without some sense of his holiness, and of their responsibility to him, as the righteous governor of the world. Thus it appears, that their guilt consisted in restraining the truth, by their unrighteousness. Graciously provided as they were, not only with outward proofs of the omnipotence of God, but with a measure of light respecting his moral government, they nevertheless followed the corrupt desires and devices of their own hearts. They held the truth in bondage, not yielding to its influence, so that it was suppressed in their hearts, and did not rise into dominion.

1 John ix. 41.

2 kategóvrwv. So Schleusner, Rosenmüller, Beza, Castalio, Hammond, Doddridge, &c. The verb karéxw has the same sense in Luke iv. 42; 2 Thess. ii. 7.

3 Rom. i. 18–23.

Having thus convicted the Gentiles of sin, in the breach of that part of the divine law which relates to the worship of God, the apostle proceeds to describe their dissolute and wicked practices and especially those fearful transgressions against their fellow-men, which were the inevitable consequence of their falling from God“ being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, &c.” Here again their guilt was inseparably connected with their knowledge of the divine law—“knowing the judgment (or rather the righteous rule)' of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."

Now it may be freely allowed that some scattered rays of information respecting the supremacy of God, and respecting this righteous rule by which he governs mankind, might have descended to the Gentiles, in the apostle's days, from original revelation, by means of tradition. It is probable also that some of their more inquisitive philosophers may have obtained a little knowledge on these subjects, indirectly, from the Jews. But it is sufficiently obvious, that the apostle's argument mainly rests on a far stronger and wider basis even on that of an inward and universal light.

That he alluded to an inward light, we may in the first place learn from his declaration respecting the Gentiles, that the truth of

1 το δικαίωμα.

2 ver. 29–32.

« PreviousContinue »