« VorigeDoorgaan »
for pre-eminence? What can be a better state for teaching us the fear of God, than one in which the peace and order we enjoy is derived chiefly from obedience to him? What so proper to make us value the uninterrupted happiness above, as the storms and troubles of this unquiet world? Sweet, indeed, is the haven to mariners who have long been buffeted by the waves! Where such a school, in which to learn the love of God, and his infinite mercy towards mankind, as that world which has been the theatre of so astonishing a display of it? Carry me not to the bright courts of heaven, to behold the splendour of Divine goodness; but bring me to the hill of Calvary, and there let me learn it, at the foot of that cross upon which the son of God, my Saviour, hangs as a propitiation for my sins! What a display of the Divine attributes is here! Angels themselves look down from heaven to learn, with mortals upon earth, the manifold wisdom and goodness of their God. And would we be fitted for ever to serve him, to join in eternal Hallelujahs to him and to the Lamb; surely a residence in this sinful world, struggling with many temptations and exposed to many dangers, and, above all, experience of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, will prepare us for it, and give us the sentiments and affections which it demands. Thus we are trained up, that heaven may be the place of our own choice, that the dispositions which will render the enjoyment of it desirable may be formed in us, and, in part, exercised by us; and that we may set a proper value upon that happy state, where nothing is transitory, nothing mixed and alloyed with sorrow, nothing polluted and sinful; but where God reigns amidst a fair and holy creation, surrounded by creatures perfectly fulfilling his will, and perpetually glorifying his name.
One reflection I will make on this subject.-It is not, then, enough that we should be just and moral: there must be something in us more than this;-a holy disposition. We must feel the pleasures of piety: we must
derive our comforts from it. Many approve religion, because it seems an easy way of pleasing God; a decent thing; that requires but little of our time, and is a proper element in life. But if they were reduced to take comfort in it, they would be as much at a loss as those who had lived without God in the world. They are astonished, perhaps at the impiety of the profane; but they wonder, too, as much at those who would make every day a day of worship. They enjoy no more the pleasures of piety, than the pleasures of profaneness. In their calculations of enjoyment and of happiness, religion has no place. When they fall into misfortunes, they never think of using it as their comfort; but try to make themselves quiet and contented by other means. To so little purpose do numbers profess the Gospel! How little does such a negative sort of goodness fit them for the enjoyments of heaven! How little does it produce of thankfulness, of love and cheerful obedience! How little is it like the spirit of the Apostles! Let us follow after those things which make for our eternal peace, and labour to be meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
Lastly, ye who humbly hope that, through the great mercy of God, ye are made heirs of the kingdom of heaven, consider what effect this hope should have upon you: what thankfulness it ought to excite; and what vigilance of conduct it ought to produce.
1. What thankfulness.-If there was ever cause for thankfulness, it is when man is made an heir of heaven. Reflect on his natural state: a sinner, exposed to wrath; the slave of Satan; the heir of destruction; serving divers lusts; full of every evil disposition and vile affection!-Behold the change!-This heir of misery, and slave of sin, is redeemed-redeemed by the sufferings, and by the death of the Lord of men and angels; made the object of his pity and love; sealed by his Spirit; comforted by his promises; raised to dwell and reign with him in heaven; and a new nature is given to prepare him for it.
Now can this change be thought of without wonder -without joy-without gratitude? Is it a light thing, or to be classed with common mercies? No! if there be a spark of sensibility, of grateful feeling in the soul, surely this is calculated to call it forth. What then should be your feelings toward God and Christ? How reverently should you adore your Father who is in heaven! How should the rich love and matchless grace of your Redeemer inspire your heart with wonder, and your tongue with praise!
2. What holy and vigilant conduct should it inspire! Thou, O Christian, art a child of God, and an heir of the kingdom of heaven; training up for immortality and glory. Consider, then, what manner of person thou oughtest to be. Should not thy reflections. be of this kind: I am not of this world, even as my Master was not of this world. I am not, therefore, to have my mind engrossed with its vanities. From my former vain conversation I have been redeemed. I should not be occupied even by the business of the present life, as if it were my all. My treasure is above. My home is not here. I must live as a pilgrim and stranger upon earth.-All the doctrines of the Gospel are practical, but none more than this. This requires purity of heart, as absolutely necessary to prepare us for heaven. Our holiness is not, indeed, the foundation of our claim; it is not the cause of our obtaining heaven; but it is our qualification for the enjoyment of it. It is the seal of God's Spirit preparing us for it. Let us bear, then, in mind the conclusive reference of the Apostle: "Seeing these things are so, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?"
WALKING IN THE SPIRIT. THE PRESERVATIVE FROM THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH.
Galat. v. 16.
This I say, then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.
THESE words contain a direction, and a declaration of the happy effects of following that direction. The effects are such as will be most highly esteemed by every serious Christian: being no less than the subjugation of those lusts of the flesh which it will be his ardent endeavour, his unceasing prayer, and his greatest pleasure to subdue.
The direction is most important, not only on account of the importance of the end at which it aims, but on account of the person who gives it. To whom can we listen on such a subject with the certainty of being directed aright, if not to an Apostle? Whom else can we follow implicitly, under the full persuasion that our labour will not be in vain in the Lord? Here, then, is his