« PreviousContinue »
church, the increase of converts to his religion, the spread and influence of his gospel, the promotion of knowledge and holiness, peace and charity, and the suppression of wickedness and error, are interests which he much regards. To advance these interests, we are to be workers together with him. We are to profess our submission to his government, and belief of his gospel. We are to bear testimony against the corrupt opinions and practices of the world. We are to employ our influence for the reformation and enlargement of his kingdom, and for the encouragement and confirmation of those who would join themselves to it. We are to study the things which make for peace, and by which we may edify one another. Thus we are to express our love to the Saviour. When Peter professed his love, Christ said to him, "Feed my lambs-feed my sheep."
We are to shew our love to the Saviour by doing good to his needy brethren and friends. These we have always with us, and whensoever we will, we may do them good. And the good which we do to them, he will accept as done to himself. And the smallest charity performed in his name, will in no wise lose its reward.
This principle will express itself in a devout attendance on his ordinances, especially on that which he instituted to awaken and perpetuate the remembrance of his dying love. As absent friends delight to reciprocate tokens of fidelity and affection, so the sincere disciples of Jesus love to maintain a correspondence with him by a religious observance of his day, and a pious celebration of his worship. They rejoice with those who say, "Come let us go up to the house of the Lord; he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths." They love the assemblies of the saints, because Christ has promised, that he will be in the midst of them.
Love often looks beyond this world to that glorious state where the Redeemer is gone, and anticipates the happiness to be enjoyed in his presence. It is a part of the character of the saints, that "they love his appearing and kingdom, have their conversation in heaven, and thence look and wait for the Saviour." Love to him will indeed make us willing to abide in the flesh, as long as his service requires; and while our minds are clouded with doubts, we shall choose to abide, because we fear the consequence of a departure. But whatever interests call our attention to this world, and whatever fears darken our passage to the other, still, if love reigns and operates in us, we shall esteem it good to be with Christ; we shall long for brighter displays of his glory, and stronger evidence of our sincerity; we shall aspire toward heaven, shall give diligence to the full assurance of hope, and follow them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
These are the genuine operations of love to Christ. IV. We will consider the benediction connected with this temper. It is called grace, a term of large and glorious import. It comprehends all the blessings, which the gospel reveals to the sons of men, and promises to the faithful in Christ.
One great privilege contained in this grace is justification before God. Through faith, which works by love, we are justified freely by grace; and being justifed by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Another privilege is the presence of the Divine Spirit. Christ says to his disciples, "If ye love me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, even the Spirit of truth whom the Father will send in my name. He shall abide with you forever."-The Spirit often makes his visits to sinners in a way of conviction and awakening. Hence Christ says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the VOL. III. 4 D
door, I will come in to him." But with those who love him he makes his abode, to comfort them in their afflictions, guide them in their doubts, assist them in their duties, and preserve them through all their dangers unto eternal life. Christ has promised, They shall never perish, and none shall pluck them out of his hands."
They who love Christ have free access to the throne of grace, and a promise that they shall be heard and accepted there. "By him they have access by faith into that grace, in which they stand."-If they abide in him, they may ask what they will, and it shall be done unto them." We must remember, however, that there is a limitation of the promise. "If we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; and if he hear us whatsoever we ask, we have the petitions which we desire of him."
Finally They who love Christ in sincerity, will receive the gift of a happy immortality. There is a crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them, who love him-a crown of righteousness, which he will give to all who love his appearing. This grace passes all understanding. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things, which God hath prepared for them who love him."
How happy are the souls who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity! They are delivered from the wrath to come. They are redeemed from the curse of the law. They are within the protection of divine grace and under the security of an immutable promise. They will, indeed, meet with afflictions, while they are in the flesh; but all things are working for their good, and nothing will separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus their Lord.
This happiness is not confined to any particular family, nation or age, but extended to all who love the Redeemer. In him there is no distinction of Jew or
Gentile, male or female, bond or free; but all are one in him.
When a certain person, hearing Jesus teach, exclaimed, "Blessed is she who bare thee," he replied, "Yea, rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it." In his character as a Saviour, he gave no preference to his relatives according to the flesh; but declared, "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister and mother."
Let us often place the Lord Jesus before our eyes, and contemplate his Spirit, doctrines and works, his sufferings, resurrection and intercession. Let us view him as represented in his word and in his ordinances, and by frequent converse with him increase and strengthen our love to him.
Let us prove the sincerity of our love by obeying his precepts, promoting his interest, imitating his example, encouraging his friends, opposing his enemies, and attending on his ordinances. And let us remember, that it is not merely by calling him our Lord, and by eating and drinking in his presence, but rather by doing his will, that we prove the sincerity of our love, and ascertain our title to his kingdom.
I have now finished that series of discourses, which I proposed to deliver to you upon this rich and excellent Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I have endeavored to explain such passages as seemed obscure, have marked the connexion of one part with another, and have pointed out the instructions which the epistle itself naturally suggested. I have aimed to give Paul's sentiments in a plain and familiar manner, and to introduce him into the pulpit preaching the same gospel, which he preached in Ephesus,
In the course of these meditations, all the great doctrines and duties of the Christian system have come in our way; for the epistle is a compendium of the gospel. It teaches us the fall and apostasy of man, and God's purpose concerning his redemption; the character of the Redeemer, and the manner in which he executed his work; the operation of the divine Spirit in applying this redemption; the nature and design of the Christian church, and of the gospel ministry; the various duties which we owe to God, to Jesus Christ, to the Divine Spirit, to mankind, to our fellow Christians, and to ourselves; how we should regard the things of this world, and the things of the world to come; how we should conduct in our secular calling and in all the particular relations of life; how we should behave in times of affliction and temptation; and how we may enjoy the comforts of religion here, and secure the re
wards of it hereafter.
It becomes us to inquire, what improvement we have made in knowledge and piety, while we have been attending to this epistle, and whether we have more deeply imbibed the spirit and sentiment, which it has poured upon us.
In order to the recollection of what we have heard, it may be useful, that we sit down, and read over this epistle with close attention and self application, with fervent prayer for the guidance of that Spirit, which leads into all truth, and with humble concern, that our hearts may be moulded into the temper here described.
And God grant, that we may abound more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, that we may approve the things which are excellent, and may be sincere and without offence until the day of Christ.AMEN.