Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

one of the commandments grievous: but rather he esteems them all concerning all things to be right. His complaints are, not against the law as too strict, but against his own heart, as treacherous and vile. With respect to the testimonies of God, he says, with David, “ I claim them as mine heri. tage for ever; yea, they are the rejoicing of my heart; they are sweeter to me than honey and the honey-comb.”

Such, in other parts of God's word, is the description given of the godly.", We should therefore enquire into our faith and practice, in order that we may ascertain our real character. For if we are harbouring self-righteousness on the one hand, or hypocrisy on the other, we have no part in this covenant, nor any interest in its blessings. Whether we reject the covenant or dishonour it, we are equally destitute of grace, and equally obnoxious to God's displeasure. To have a good evidence of our acceptance with God, we must trust as simply in the covenant, as if no works were required; and be as earnest in the performance of good works, as if works only were required.)

Having delineated the character of the godly, let us next consider II. The dealings of God towards them

It might be supposed that persons, so pleasing to Cod, should never suffer affliction: but the contrary is true, as appears, not enly from the declarations of scripture, but from the experience of all that have been most favoured of God. But all God's dealings towards them are 1. Mercy

[There are no dispensations, however afflictive, which are not sent to them for good. They are all mercy in their source, their meusure, their end. Whence do they spring, but from the love of God? for, " whom he loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every Son, whom he receiveth.” And are they not all mercifully tempered as to their number, weight, and duration? Has there not“ with every temptation been opened also a way to escape,” or “ strength given according to our day?” And have they not all wrought for good, to wean us from the world, to purge away sin, to exercise and increase our grace, to give us the comfort of grace bestowed, and God the glory of it? Is there one of us who must not confess, " It is good for me that I have been afficted?” And shall we not say that they have been rich mercies, when we find what a weight of glory our light and momentary afflictions have wrought out for us?] 2. Truth

Ps. cxix. 128.

c Isai. lvi. 4, 5. Ps. ciii. 17, 18. Zeph. ii. 12. Ps. xxxiv. 19.

Job, David, Paul, and kuove all, Christ himself. ileb. xii. 6. Deut. xxxiii, 23.

[Truth has respect to the performance of promises. Now afflictions are expressly promised as much as salvation itself.5 When therefore they come, we should regard them as the accomplishment of God's word, wherein he has said, that he will withhold no good thing from us. It was in this light that David viewed them, when he said, I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afficted me. And it is in consideration of this, that we are taught to consider, not merely life with all its comforts, but even death also with all its antecedent evils, as a treasure given us by God.] INFER 1. How excellent a grace is faith!

[It is faith, and faith only, that can enable us to view God's dispensations in this light. If we are weak in faith, we shall be easily drawn to fretfulness and murmuring; but if we are enabled to see the hand of God in our trials, they will all administer occasions of joy and gratitude. Faith is the phitosopher's stone, that turns all to gold, and enables us to glory in that, which, to flesh and blood, is a

source of sorrow and disquietude. Let us then cultivate this

grace,

and keep it in continual exercise: and, if any thing occurs, the reasons of which we cannot immediately comprehend, let us content ourselves with saying, What I know not now, I shall know hereafter.]

2. How resigned should the believer be under all his troubles!

[Nothing can come to him which is not the fruit of God's mercy and truth. Not so much as a hair can fall from his head but by divine appointment. Believer, art thou sick and in pain? God knows that health and ease would have been prejudicial to thy soul. Hast thou sustained some heavy loss? God sees, perhaps, that the thing which thou hast lost might have been a weight about thy feet, and have retarded thee in running thy race. Art thou persecuted by the world, or tempted by Satan? It is a discipline whereby God is preparing thee for future victories, and everlasting triumphs. These may be mercies in disguise; but they are mercies notwithstanding; and therefore should be received with resignation, and improved with diligence.] 3. How lamentable is the state of unbelievers!

& Jer. xxx. 11.

h Ps. cxix. 75.

il Cor. iii. 22,

[While we disregard God's covenant, and his testimonies, we neither enjoy any mercy, nor have an interest in any promise. On the contrary, our very blessings are cursed to us, and every threatening in God's word is in full force against us. Moreover, our troubles are pledges and earnests of infinitely heavier calamities, that shall come upon us in the eternal world. Let us then, if we be yet in unbelief, embrace the covenant of grace, and set ourselves diligently to keep the testimonies of our God. So shall the blessings of the covenant flow down upon us, and we shall know by happy experience, that “the Lord is gracious, his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth from generation to generation."]

DXXIX. THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT AN ENCOUR

AGEMENT TO OBEDIENCE.

John xiv. 15–17. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And

I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in

you.

IT has pleased God to unite man's happiness with his duty, and to ordain, that the paths of righteousness alone should be paths of pleasantness and peace. Hence our Lord, in his last discourse, wherein he laboured more abundantly to comfort his disciples, insisted on obedience to his commandments as the best proof of their attachment to him, and the best means of securing blessings from above: yea, when he was informing them how richly the loss of his bodily presence should be overbalanced by the indwelling of the Spirit in their hearts, he first reminds them, that this benefit was inseparably connected with holiness of heart and life.

In discoursing on his words, we shall consider I. Our Lord's command

Our Lord requires all his people to keep his command. ments

[His people are released from the law as a covenant of works, so that it shall have no power to condemn them; but they are as much as ever subject to it as a rule of life. Toimagine the contrary is a dangerous delusion; a sentiment directly opposite to the whole tenor of the gospel. St. Paul, while among the Gentiles, paid no regard to the Mosaic law, in order that he might have the freer access to them for their good: yet, though he was without law in this respect, “ he was not without law to God, but under the law to Christ." So he tells us with respect to the moral law, that our connexion with it is dissolved, as that of a wife is, when her husband is dead. Nevertheless the dissolution of that connexion is only in order to our being “married to Christ, that we may bring forth fruit unto God." It is evident therefore that the command here given is equally binding upon all.]

The manner in which our Lord urges his command is worthy of particular notice

[He did not intend to question the love of his disciples; for they could all have appealed to him, as Peter afterwards did, “ Thou knowest all things; thou knowest that we love thee.” But they were now sorrowing because of his approaching separation from them: and, as this indicated nothing more than a mere carnal affection, he tells them that there was a far better way of manifesting their love to him, even by keeping his commandments. Indeed, whatever evidences of love to Christ a man may have in his bosom, there is only one way in which he can demonstrate it to the world; he must shew it by its fruits. Moreover, though the most secret motions of love will not be unnoticed in the day of judgment, the chief stress will be laid on those outward proofs of it which we have riven in our actions. St. John, speaking of the nature of true love, says, “ This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” He does not mean by this to say, that love and obedience are the same, but he must be understood to say, that they are inseparable: nor can his assertion admit of one moment's doubt; for love without obedience is dissimulation; and obedience without love is mere servile drudgery. To us therefore does our Lord speak as well as to his immediate disciples, enjoining us to “ love him, not in word and in tongue only, but in deed and in truth.”]

This command of our Lord can never appear grievous, if we duly consider

a 1 Cor ix. 21.

b Rom. vii. 4.

ci John iii. 18.

II. The promise with which he enforces it

The promise, though suited to the immediate state of his disciples, extends equally to all his followers

[He assures his disciples, that, though absent from them, he would not be forgetful of their interests: on the contrary, he was going to transact their business, and to intercede with the Father on their behalf. Moreover, he predicts the certain and glorious success of his petitions, and tells them, that the Father would send them another, and an abiding, Comforter. He had been their comforter hitherto in all their trials; but, as he had already been sometimes absent from them, so now he was about to withdraw himself altogether; and that too, at a time, when their love and obedience to him would subject them to far heavier trials, than ever they had yet endured. But they had no need to fear; for he would send them the Holy Ghost, whose office, and whose continual care, it should be to comfort and support their souls.

And does he not appear in the presence of God for us also? And is not that blessed Spirit also the Comforter of all God's children? Doubtless then the promise is to us also, and our children, and to as many as are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call?d]

And how strongly does it enforce the injunction before given!

(What if the disciples should be called to endure trials for him? could they feel any reluctance, when they considered how he was engaged for them, and what unspeakable blessings he had obtained for them? Could they want any thing, when they had this Comforter with them? or need they fear any thing, when they were assured of his almighty succour and support? True, they might lose their possessions, their liberty, and their very lives; but none could rob them of this Comforter on the contrary, " the more their afflictions abounded, the more should his consolations also abound" towards them.

And what greater incentive to obedience can we have? Surely nothing should be thought hard either to do or suffer, when we have a prospect of such consolations and such supports. And indeed, experience proves, that when this Comforter reveals himself in our hearts, the most arduous duties are easy, and the most bitter sufferings an occasion of jov.]

But, to discover more fully the force of our Lord's argument, let us consider

d Acts ii. 38, 39.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »