an attitude of hostility to Him whom angels adore, and whose frown would wither all his joys; he knows that holiness is, in itself, lovely and attractive, and that every departure from rectitude is a violation of that order which God has established, and the universal observance of which would secure the rights not only of the Most High, but of all his creatures, in their relations to each other, and diffuse harmony and joy throughout the world; but while these convictions and feelings guard his purity, it is love which is the very essence of that purity, and the living principle and spring of all his acts of obedience. The mind that is renewed by the Holy Spirit glows with gratitude to God, esteems his character as the perfection of excellence, seeks his friendship as its first and highest good, and is attracted towards him as its centre and its portion. And with this love to God there will ever be combined benevolence to the whole human family, and a special complacency and delight in all who are pure and good. The Most High breathes into the believing mind a measure of his own benignity; and thus he corrects the selfishness of our nature, dethrones every malignant and unworthy passion, and causes us to seek the spiritual welfare of all who are around us. "Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love."

2. The Apostle passes from the state of holiness, to which it is the purpose of God to raise all who are in Christ Jesus, to the privilege of adoption into the divine family which such characters enjoy,-a privilege which necessarily implies the forgiveness of their past sins. He does not intimate, by this arrangement, that our adoption is consequent on our attainment of holiness, but rather the reverse. His pure and spiritual mind, the energies of which were once, indeed, guided by human passion, but had now long been consecrated to the service of the Redeemer, and the diffusion of truth and piety, fixed at once on holiness as the great blessing of the Christian covenant. His loftiest ascriptions of praise were called forth by the conviction, that it was the purpose of God to constitute all who are in Christ by living faith "holy and without blame before himself." He beheld in this result the rescue of our spiritual nature from the degradation of sin, and its restoration to harmony with the angelic hosts, and even to the complacency of God himself. And then he passes to the great principle from which only inward purity and active obedience to the divine will can flow, the principle of love, of ardent gratitude to God, and delight in him as the fountain of excellence and joy. But how is this love to be infused into the breast of sinful man? How is that heart, which is naturally cold towards God, and averse from his purity and justice, and which, when awakened to a sense of its guilt and pollution, shrinks back from the awful majesty of the divine holiness,-to be filled with delight in God, to feel itself attracted towards him, and to find its repose and blessedness in the assurance of his favour, and the devotion of its energies to his service? The Apostle himself supplies the answer. Provision has been made for the pardon of our sins; and we who stood condemned, may, through "the blood" of Jesus, through his one sacrifice of himself, the virtue of which is ever fresh, and ever availing to the penitent believer, stand "accepted before God. Nay, more: upon our believing in Christ we are raised even to the relation of children; we become the adopted sons of God; and a confidence far more intimate and joyous than could ever fill the breast of an approved servant, is infused into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, while we stand in a peculiar relation of brotherhood to the adorable Redeemer,

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the incarnate Son. It is a part of the gracious plan of God, of the eternal scheme of redeeming love, that all who truly believe in Christ should, as an act of grace and favour, and not on the ground of any merit on their part, receive the forgiveness of sins, and enjoy the intimate access of children to himself, as their reconciled and approving Father. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Thus it is that love to God is called forth in our hearts, and finds its appropriate exercise in our approaches to him. The curse of the law no longer rests on us, and fills us with dread anticipations; the holiness of God no longer keeps our minds in painful awe; but we feel that in Christ, "the Beloved," we are pardoned and accepted; that through him we are raised even to the relation of children; and we trace in these arrangements of the evangelical economy "the glory of the grace of God," the riches of his condescending love, which stoops to raise us from the depth of our spiritual ruin, and to confer on us the noblest and most valuable blessings.

3. We are next led by the Apostle to contemplate the clear and ample discoveries which God has made to believers, under this last dispensation of grace, of his own plans and purposes, more especially as connected with the mediatorial exaltation of Christ, as the Lord of angels, and the Head of his redeemed people: "Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him."

The views under which the Christian economy is here presented to us are lofty and affecting. It is "the dispensation of the fulness of times." Every preceding development of the divine character, and of the principles and procedures of the divine government, had been preparatory to those which are now made to us. The patriarchal dispensation, exhibiting, as it did, to the faith of men the wise and righteous administration of Jehovah, and the method of approach to him by sacrifice; the Mosaic dispensation, with its more ample declarations of the character and rule of God, and its imposing ritual, that kept before the view of the ancient Israel the necessity of an atonement, and shadowed forth the sacrifice and priesthood of Him who was to come ;-were only introductory to that economy, under which Christ, the incarnate Son of God, is presented to our view as crucified for us, and then exalted to universal dominion, and an everlasting and unchangeable priesthood. The dispensation under which it is our privilege to live is distinguished by the clear and impressive manner in which divine truth is brought before our minds: "The law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." No longer are those themes which most deeply interest us, and most intimately affect our character and happiness, presented in the comparative obscurity of prophecy and type: they are unfolded to us with the distinctness of narrative, and we are called upon to lift our eyes to Calvary, and "behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." The glory of God-the unsullied brightness

of all his moral perfections-now shines forth to us in the face of Jesus Christ; and, standing beneath his cross, we can understand why He who is a Spirit, and who can take pleasure only in spiritual worship, should through so many ages have required sacrifices of animals, perfect in their kind, and have expressly arranged an economy, of which the characteristic feature was, that "without shedding of blood there was no remission." And though this system of animal sacrifices is now swept away, and the blood of bulls and goats no longer flows as an atonement for sin, we perceive the harmony of the divine procedures, since we are called to trust in the one perfect sacrifice, of which these were only types, and to connect a reference to the atonement with every act of worship, and with every service which we attempt to render to God.

Under the Christian dispensation, also, we have a clear and ample discovery of the purposes of God relative to the constitution of his church,— that "mystery of his will, which in former ages was not made known unto the sons of men." The Jewish dispensation, though in many of its aspects favourable to the religious interests of the world, seemed yet to be in other aspects forbidding and repulsive. It welcomed, indeed, men of all nations to worship Jehovah, and to present their offerings in the outer court of the temple; and it admitted them to become proselytes, and thus to be incorporated with the family of Israel, upon their submitting to circumcision, and engaging to observe the whole ritual law: but it restrained all who did not thus come under the yoke of its ceremonies from mingling in religious communion with the people of God. There was "the wall of partition," which kept every uncircumcised person at a distance from those who had come within the bonds of God's ancient covenant. And many of the Jews, who admitted the claims of our blessed Lord to be the Messiah, wished it still to be thus under the dispensation which followed his ascension to heaven, and which is emphatically "the kingdom of God." They wished that circumcision, and the observance of the ritual law, should still be a condition of religious fellowship. But far different was the wise and gracious purpose of the divine will. The ground of spiritual communion was henceforth to be the common exercise of faith in Christ, and the common profession of his name. It was a leading feature of that plan which existed in the divine mind, "to gather together in one all things in Christ,” * to unite them under him, as the Head of his believing people, the source to all of living energy, and the exalted Lord, to whom it belongs to exert over all a supreme and unquestioned authority. Union with Christ by faith is now the great, the essential, requisite to our being the people of God, and members of his true, spiritual church. It is "in Him" that we are to be gathered into one; and if there is only that living faith in him, that penitent trust in his blood, which causes us as individuals to be "in Christ,” then, though there shall be diversities of thought and observance as great as those which existed between the believing Jew and the believing Gentile, there will be the common possession of spiritual life, and the warm glow of paternal love, leading to mutual recognition and united worship. It was a sentiment deeply fixed in the mind of St. Paul, and dear to his heart,—a

* The original of this clause contains a reference to the headship of the Redeemer: ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ. Dr. Doddridge's translation is, "that he might reunite under one head all things in Christ." Mr. Wesley, though he retains the common translation, with a slight modification, thus explains in his note the meaning of the verb: "Might recapitulate, reunite, and place in order again under Christ, their common Head."

sentiment which gave a peculiar cast to his expositions of religious truth, and which in this Epistle stands forth with the greatest prominence, that all true believers are one, as being “in Christ,” as united to him by faith, and receiving from him the one Spirit of holiness and love. Let us mark the earnestness with which this truth is inculcated in the passage now before us :-"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." In the next chapter, also, we find this truth impressively stated: "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make IN HIMSELF of twain one new man, so making peace."

But in contemplating the purpose of God relative to the union of all his people in Christ, we must not confine our views to the intercourse of earth. That purpose is far more comprehensive and sublime. It has respect to the saints in heaven,-to the pious of every age, who have ceased from the toils and conflicts of this probationary state, but who unite with the saints on earth in ascribing their salvation and happiness to Christ, while they bow to his authority, and delight to do his will. And it has respect, further, to the union of all the pious among men, with the angelic hosts, and with the whole family of pure and happy intelligences throughout the empire of the Most High. The apostasy of our race severed us from that family; angels, whose hearts still glowed with love to God, and who still revered his majesty and purity, could have no sympathy with us, who proudly spurned his authority, and aspired to be as gods to ourselves. But in Christ we are again gathered into one. They own the incarnate Son as their Lord, and the proper object of their adoration and love; they cheerfully place themselves at his disposal; they gaze with deepest interest upon the facts of his redeeming work, and the arrangements of his mediatorial government; and they dwell on the history of the church and the world, so as to derive from it important and valuable lessons. They sympathize with the people of Christ on earth; they rejoice when the first sighs of penitence issue from the relenting and broken heart; and they especially rejoice to behold the kingdom of Christ-his peaceful and purifying reign-established in the breasts of men. They are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation;" and they will form at last, with the saved among mankind, one happy and glorious society, that shall dwell for ever in the presence of their Lord.

4. Finally, the Apostle brings before us the exalted privilege of believers, -that they have obtained, through Christ, a title to the inheritance of heaven. "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory who first trusted in Christ." It is a part of the gracious plan of God, that they who trust in Christ, and maintain that trust, and avow it before men, shall share at last in the triumph and glory of the Redeemer. They shall enter, in virtue of their relation to Him as his believing and holy people, upon that state of rest, and dignity, and joy, to which he has ascended, not for himself only, but as the Head and Forerunner of all his saints. They shall rise to higher glories and nobler pleasures than earth could give, and dwell for ever in a world, from which conflict, and danger, and sorrow are utterly excluded.

The Apostle attempts not to depict to us the glory of the heavenly state, or to trace in detail the sources of its blessedness; but he places before us one general idea, calculated to expand our views of its excellence, and to encourage our persevering faith. He affirms that it is the design of the universal Lord-of Him whose unseen but powerful energy is diffused through the whole of nature, so as to regulate and control its processes, and who can even subordinate to his own great and holy purposes the voluntary actions of his responsible creatures-to show forth the riches of "his glory," and to call forth the praises of an admiring universe, by the dignity to be conferred at last on the saints of Christ. Such is the present state of believers who have entered upon their heavenly rest, and who already share the triumph of their Lord, that it pre-eminently shows the power and wisdom, the abounding goodness and unsullied purity, of God; but when at length our entire nature shall be redeemed, and the universal church of Christ shall be presented spotless in the presence of her Lord, there will be afforded the brightest display of the divine perfections which the universe has ever beheld. The glory of the Redeemer will then be reflected from all his people; and the pure and heavenly joys which pervade their minds, and the dignity which encircles their entire nature, will illustrate the efficacy of his blood, and the grace of his mediatorial reign. No previous development of the exhaustless resources of the divine mind will equal that which shall be presented at the consummation of the Christian economy. But here we pause. Imagination fails in all its efforts to trace the minute features of that glory; and we rest in the general conclusion, that our restored nature shall resemble that of our exalted Lord, and that we shall share in the high and noble joys of a spiritual society, where intellectual vigour is combined with purity and depth of feeling, where harmony and benevolence reign without interruption, and where God is all in all. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is."

Such, then, are the privileges and hopes of believers; and such the constitution of the economy of grace. We behold in the plan of our redemption, and in those arrangements of God of which it forms the basis, the most impressive manifestation of the divine character; while we adore the riches of that grace which sheds forth on all believers blessings suited to the wants of their spiritual nature, and which prepare them for a state of eternal purity and joy. Of this economy, so peculiar, and yet so glorious, the Lord Jesus Christ is emphatically the Head. It is from him that all our blessings are derived; union with him by faith is the great and distinguishing feature of all the pious; it is in him that we are gathered into one; and through our relation to him shall we obtain at last that inheritance, where all the sons of God dwell in the immediate light of the divine presence, and enjoy throughout eternity the communications of the divine fulness.




So he teaches Abram. From his tent, where first he met with him; from his bed, perhaps, which he had been watering with his tears; the Lord raises the patriarch, and leads him out, and places him beneath

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