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with the invisible God, and invisible world. It is intelligent, so as to understand its true interest, free to choose it, and active in pursuing it. It recovers its liberty, and maintains it. (John viii. 31, 32, 36.) It has so far dominion over the creatures that nothing harms, (Ps. xci. 1, 1 Pet. iii. 13 ;) and all things work together for good. Some, by strong faith, have walked on water, quenched the violence of fire, stopped the mouths of lions. The immortality of man's soul becomes an everlasting blessing, and his body shall be restored, and made immortal, being conformed to CHRist's glorious body. (Phil. iii. 21, 1 Cor. xv. 47-50.)
As to the necessity of thus recovering the divine image ; Without this we do not learn Christ aright; the Gospel and grace of God do not answer their end upon us, nor are we Christians ; (Eph. iv. 21 ;) without this we do not, cannot glorify God, but dishonour him; (Rom. ii. 23-26 ;) without this, we cannot be happy here, we cannot be admitted into heaven. (Heb. xii. 14, Matt. v. 8, 1 John iii. 3, Rev. vii. 14, xix. 8, Matt. xxii. 11, 2 Cor. v. 3.)
In order to recover this lovely image of God, we must look at it, as Eve looked at the fruit; (2 Cor. iii. 18;) we must long for it, must hunger and thirst after it; (Matt. v. 6;) we must exercise faith in Christ, (Acts xxvi. 18,) and in the promises ; (2 Pet. i. 4;) and thus approach the tree of life, and pluck, and eat its fruit; we must pray for the Spirit ; (Tit. iii. 5, Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 27, 2 Cor. iii. 18 ;) we must read the word, hear, meditate, &c.; (John viii. 31, 32, xvii. 17, 1 Pet. i. 22, 23, James i. 18;) we must use self-denial, and mortification, (Rom. viii. 13, Gal. v. 16,) and watchfulness. (1 Pet. v. 8, Rev. xvi. 15.)
WALKING BEFORE GOD.
GEN. xvii. 1.
I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
THESE words were spoken to Abraham after his leaving his country in obedience to the divine command, (ch. xii ;) his giving ap his own interest for peace with Lot, (ch, xiii ;) his venturing
his life to rescue his kinsman, (ch. xiv ;) his being met and blessed by Melchizedek, and refreshed and strengthened with bread and wine ; his believing the divine promise, and being justified, (ch. xv.) They imply,
I. A DECLARATION,—I am the Almighty God.
Whose favour is better than life, yea is the greatest good ; and whose displeasure is worse than death, yea is the greatest evil.
Who is perfectly able to direct thee in all difficulties, to protect thee in all dangers, to comfort thee in all troubles, and to supply all thy wants.
Able to strengthen thee for thy spiritual warfare, for thy duty, and for sufferings.
Able to work, in thee and by thee, his whole will, and to raise thee to a state of felicity and glory inconceivable and eternal.
All-sufficient.—Whose favour, and image, and communion with whom are an all-sufficient portion, here and hereafter.
II. A COMMAND,—Walk before me.
To walk before God is,
To remember that we are before him, at all times, in all places, employments, companies, and to think of his omnipresence. That his
upon all our ways, our thoughts, desires, tempers, words and works, motives and ends.
That he is not an unconcerned spectator of our deportment; but is so holy, as constantly to approve or disapprove, and to abhor or delight in our spirit or conduct.
That he is so just as to determine to punish or reward to all eternity.
That he is so merciful as to forgive, through Christ, all that is past, and so gracious as to be even ready to change our nature at the present, and enable us to live to his glory for the future.
It is to have these things in daily recollection, to think, speak, act, &c., under a sense of them.
To have an eye to him in all our walk, as God Almighty and All-sufficient. Is his favour better than life? Then let us value it, and have an eye to it accordingly. Is he able to direct in difficulties, protect in dangers, comfort in troubles, and supply our wants ? Then let us look to him for direction, protection, comfort, and a supply of our wants. Is he able to strengthen us for our spiritual warfare, duty, and sufferings? Then we must
look to him to do this for us. Is he able to work in us and by us his whole will, and to raise us to felicity and glory? Then let us look to him for this. Is his favour and image, and communion with him, an all-sufficient portion here and hereafter ? Then let us view him as our chief good, and live constantly, in all our conduct, under a sense of this.
III. A FURTHER COMMAND, or PROMISE,—Be thou perfect, or thou shall be perfect.
As a command, it imports, thou shalt be upright and sincere, in all the particulars above-mentioned.
As a promise,-thou shalt be perfect, as thy state and nature can bear.
Negatively not in knowledge, so as to be free from ignorance, error, mistake ; or in holiness, so as to have no infirmity, failing, or defect; or in happio ness, so as to have no adversity, reproach, pain, affliction, &c., or so as not to feel such things as evils.
But, positively, perfect in a knowledge of the great and most important truths of the Gospel as far as they are revealed, (Heb. vi. 1, Eph. iv. 14.) In holiness, so as both to have power over sin, and deliverance from all those tempers, words, and works, that are known to be evil; and also to have faith, hope, love, humility, and all other graces, in lively and vigorous exercise. In happiness, so as to receive all trials, &c., in faith, hope, patience, and resignation, and to find God a sufficient portion.
The readiest way to this perfection is to walk before God, as above described. We shall then see light in his light, and gain a knowledge, which shall “shine clearer to the perfect day.” While steadily contemplating the holiness of God, as revealed by his Spirit, we shall not only adore, but abase ourselves before him, (Job xlii. 6,) and see our need of conformity to him. Also, while regarding his mercy and faithfulness, we shall obtain encouragement to trust in him, and, by faith in his promises, we are actually made partakers of his holiness. In short, while we walk before him, as the all-sufficient God, we shall be blessed with the fulness of his grace and goodness.
It is promised in this way. Only let us walk before God, and he will make us perfect.
GEN. xviii. 19.
I know him, that he will command his children and his household
after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham, that which he hath spoken of him.
In the context we have a lively picture of the hospitality, simplicity, benevolence, and liberality of the ancient patriarchs, (ver. 1.) This appearance of God to Abraham seems to have had in it more of freedom and familiarity, and less of grandeur and majesty, than those of which we have hitherto read, and, therefore, more resembled that great visit, which, in the fulness of time, the Son of God was to make to the world. He 66 sat in the tent door in the heat of the day,” not so much to repose himself, as to seek an opportunity of doing good, by giving entertainment to strangers. (Heb. xiii. 2.) And when there were no inns where travellers could refresh themselves, it was necessary for hospitable persons to invite such at noon, or at eventide, into their houses, or tents, (ver. 2.) And lo, three men stood by him;" three spiritual, heavenly beings, now assuming human shapes that they might be visible to Abraham, and conversant with him. Some think they were all three created angels; others, which is more probable, that one of them was the Son of God.
66 And he rose to meet them, and bowed himself toward the ground.” Religion does not destroy, but improve good manners, and teaches us to " honour all men.” (ver. 9.) “ And they said, where is Sarah, thy wife?” By naming her, they gave intimation to Abraham, that, though they seemed strangers, they well knew him and his family, and were concerned for their welfare ; and by speaking of Sarah, she overhearing it, they drew her to listen to what was further to be said. (ver. 10.) “ I will return unto,” or visit “ thee, according to the time of life,” (or, nine months hence,) and in fulfilment of my promise, “and Sarah, thy wife, shall have a
(ver. 12.) “ Therefore Sarah laughed within herself.” It was not a laughter of faith like Abraham's, (ch. xvii. 17 ;) but of doubting and distrust. The great objection, which Sarah could not get over, was her advanced age, and that of her husband,
which, in the course of nature, rendered them incapable of having children, especially as Sarah had been hitherto barren. JEHOVAH said, Wherefore did Sarah laugh? Is any thing too hard for the LORD?" By showing that he knew what Sarah did secretly in another apartment of the tent, he manifested that he could accomplish his word, however contrary to the ordinary course of nature, “ And JEHOVAH said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” (ver. 17.) God often, in his counsels, expresses himself, after the manner of men, with deliberation. 66 The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.” Those that by faith live a life of communion with God, cannot but know more of his mind than other people. They have a better insight into what is present, and a better foresight of what is to come.
But a reason is assigned why God would make known to Abraham his purpose concerning Sodom. He knew and approved his piety and integrity, and was assured he would employ his authority, as a father and a master, for the promotion of religion and justice, and would communicate the knowledge he acquired, for the benefit of those under his charge.
Let us consider,
I. THE LIGHT IN WHICH ABRAHAM APPEARS IN THIS PASSAGE; AND HOW HE WAS QUALIFIED FOR THE DUTY HERE ASCRIBED TO HIM.
He appears --A man of KNOWLEDGE; not, perhaps, in the jargon of language, the refinements of sciences, the niceties of history, or the subtilties of speculation ; but in matters of the greatest moment to his own present and everlasting salvation, and that of others, namely, in religion and morality, here termed the
way of the LORD," “justice and judgment.”
A man of PIETY. He not only understood the way of the LORD; but he loved, experienced, and practised it. Hence his concern and endeavour to impress it upon others. Without personal religion in the heads of families, we cannot expect they will sincerely and perseveringly endeavour to promote it in their children or servants.
A man of VIRTUE. Justice and judgment were as dear to him, and as much practised by him, as the “ way of the Lord.” He did not make doing his duty to God, a reason for neglecting his duty to his neighbour ; nor, what God had joined together did he put asunder.
A man of AUTHORITY. 66 He will command his children and