« VorigeDoorgaan »
his living voice, and seeing his living manners. And Would not they also say, You have a peculiar advantage in conversing with his written word, and in reviewing, at your pleasure, the things which you have learned ? If a living voice will touch the heart more sensibly, yet it is more transient than the writ. ten word. This is much better adapted to enrich your memory, and improve your knowledge. What then could be expected of them as disciples of Jesus, more than may be expected of you? You think that men, who had been with Jesus, as they were, should daily live under the influence of his doctrines and in conformity to his example. And ought not you to do the same? You are as fully taught, as they were, how you ought to walk and to please God; and ev. ery motive, which they had, is also proposed to you. If you then, who have thus been with Jesus from your youth, and have ever lived under his instructions, are governed by the interests, and conformed to the manners of this world, What will you say in your own excuse ?
2. There is a still higher sense in which the true believer has been with Jesus.
He has received the renewing influence of the spirit of Christ, and experienced the sanctifying power of his gospel. He has not only heard the Saviour's inviting voice, but has enjoyed fellowship with him, and been made a partaker of his grace. The most important intercourse, which the first disciples had with their Lord was of this kind. Barely to behold his works, and receive his instructions, was but a small thing, compared with the efficacious influence of his grace on their hearts. Of this every real believer is a subject; and therefore, in the highest and most eminent sense of the expression, he has been with Jesus. There was a miraculous power of the spirit, designed for the establishment of the gospel, which was peculiar to the apostolick
age. But the more gentle influence of the Spirit, which aids the efficacy of the gospel on those who hear it, is in a greater or less degree, common to all ages. Christ says, “The words, which I speak, they are spirit and they are life.” The Spirit which Christ promised to his disciples, was to “abide with them always.” The gospel is called “a ministration of the Spirit.” In regard of his spirit, dwelling in the hearts of believers, Christ promises, that “ He will come and make his abode with them." If then
you have received the spirit of Christ, in his renewing and comforting influence, you have, in the most desirable sense of the expression, been with him.-And ought you not to be distinguished from a wicked world ? Ought you not to live in such a manner as will manifest your acquaintance and intimacy with him ? If he has come and made his abode with you, will you not serve him in newness of spirit and purity of life? If you have been called to the fellowship of the Son of God, and to the communion of the Holy Ghost_if you are heirs of God, and jointheirs with Jesus Christ, then walk no more according to the course of this world, fulfilling the desires of the fesh, and of the mind, but walk in the Spirit, and manifest the life of Christ in your own. For you are debtors to live, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit-ot according to the course of the world, but according to the pattern of your divine Redeemer.
3. As true believers have been with Jesus in their renovation by his Spirit ; so there are times, when they have special intercourse and communion with him.
They are often with him in their private devo. tions.
He has commanded them to enter into their closet, and pray in secret to their heavenly Father, who will reward them openly. They are careful to obey the
command, and they experience the fulfilment of, the promise. When they draw near to God, with a humble sense of their wants and their unworthiness —with a believing view of Christ's power and grace with earnest desires of the mercies which they need, and with lively hopes of obtaining them through his mediation; then may they be said to have been with him. Such a sensible interview will be accompanied with penitence for sin and resolutions against it-with greater indifference to the world—and with more ardent aspirations of soul after heaven and holiness.
But alas ! how often does the christian feel such a deadness on his spirits, such a faintness in his desires, and such a languor in his affections, as scarcely to know, whether he has been with his Saviour, or has only made a formal visit to his closet. He retires without the refreshment, which he sometimes finds, because he has been there without the life, which he sometimes feels. The hyp. ocrite is content with the forinality of a visit. The sincere christian laments his languid faith, and unanimated devotion. He adopts the language of Job, “O that I knew where I might find him. I would come even to his seat; I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me.” He examines his heart to find what secret iniquity has intercepted the glad beams of his Saviour's love. He calls to mind his sins, and lays them, in humble confession, before God. He labours to a. waken in his soul greater life and fervour of devo. tion. And though, after all, he should not find that spirit and affection in duty, which he desires, still his resolution is fixed to walk with Christ in all holy conversation,
In this resolution chiefly consiste the power of godliness. The warmth of affection
may, even in good christians, be variable. And some, perhaps, imagine that religion decays in their souls in proportion as their devout affections cool. But this is not always the case. Do you still cleave to God with purpose of heart ? Are your resolutions against every sin, and for every duty, as firm and steady asever? Then interpret not the languor of your affections, as an indication of the decay of religion ; but rather impute it to the infirmities of nature. "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Lively affec. tions, well balanced, and wisely directed, are great helps to duty, and contribute much to the facility and pleasure of practical religion. But a heart, under the calm and rational influence of the great doctrines of the gospel, steadily fixed for God, and firmly resolved against every sin, is principally to be regarded.
As true christians are with Jesus in their private devotions, so they are often with him in social worship.
He has promised his disciples, “ If two of you shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father who is in heaven; for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Christ has instituted social worship, and required his disciples to attend upon it, for their edification in knowledge, purity and love. When they, in regard to his institution, and in obedience to his command, associate in divine worship, they come together in his name. When thus they come together, he is in the midst of them, by the ministration of his word for their instruction, by the inAuence of his Spirit for their assistance, and by his gracious notice for their acceptance. If when we retire from the place, where he has appointed to meet us, we can, on reflection, find that we have received his word with corresponding purposes and
dispositions of soul—that we have felt its humbling and quickening power—that in social prayer our hearts have really joined--that desire has accompanied our petitions ; humiliation, our confessions ; gratitude, our praises; and charity, our interces. sions; then may we say, We have been with Jesus.
Again : He has appointed his holy supper, as a medium of intercourse with him ; and he requires our observance of it, that we may remember and shew forth his death. Here he represents his body wounded for our transgressions- our great guilt, which nothing but his blood could expiate-his amazing love in giving himself a sacrifice for usthe full pardon purchased by his death—and the necessity of repentance and newness of life, in or. der to our obtaining his great salvation. When we attend upon this ordinance with such views of Christ--with godly sorrow for our sins--with love and gratitude to him, who has died for us-with humble reliance on his atonement and intercession and with fixed purposes of heart to honour him before men ; then may we be said to have been with him.
When Jesus first instituted this ordinance, he at. tended it with his disciples. But if they had no other views of him, than what his bodily presence of. fered to their sight, they were with him to little pur. pose. The view, which faith gives of him, as a divine teacher and a spiritual Saviour, and such desires and resolutions, as this view is suited to in. spire, are now, and were then, of principal impor. tance in attending on this supper.
We have seen what it is to have been with Jesus.
II. We will now consider, how such as have been with him, ought to distinguish theinselves.
The rulers of the Jews marvelled at the conduct of the two apostles, until they took knowledge of