« PreviousContinue »
thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” He that takes care of the beasts of the field, and feeds the fowls of heaven, and hears the young ravens when they cry, will never fail to take care of his own children, whom he loves more than any earthly parent loves his child.
4. Does God see saints in such a fair and beautiful light? What great encouragement then have they to grow in grace, and improve in every moral beauty and excellence. He tells them as he told Daniel, they are greatly beloved. He calls them his sons and daughters, his jewels and his glory. This ought to encourage and animate them, to purify their hearts from all unholy affections, and to do “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report” and praise-worthy. What is more animating to a youth than to be told, that he is much esteemed, and that much is expected from him? What is more animating to a soldier, than to be told that he has acquitted himself well, and has the esteem and confidence of his commander? And what can be more animating to Christians, than to be told by God himself, who knows their hearts, that they have his peculiar love and approbation? What though the world know them not, and even despise and oppose them? If God be for them, who can be against them? If they have the love and approbation of God, why should they fear the frowns of the world? God has told them what they now are, and what they shall be, and this ought to give them courage and resolution to walk worthy of their high and holy calling, and future prospects. The beloved apostle John presses this motive upon his fellow Christians, to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ.
5 Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 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. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." Believers have no cause to be faint and weary in their Christian course, but the most animating motives to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." He assures them that they shall finally shine forth in all the beauties of holiness, as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Be entreated then to “add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue,
- Neither pray
knowledge ; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.” And be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord,” but will meet an ample and glorious reward.
5. If God views saints with complacency and delight, would it not greatly increase their peace and comfort to view each other in the same amiable light? They are too apt to look (chiefly or only) upon one another's moral defects and imper. fections, which cools, and deadens, and often destroys their mutual brotherly love. This draws after it very disagreeable consequences, which injure themselves and the world. Brotherly love is one of the brightest evidences that they can have of their own sincerity. Says an apostle, “ We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” And their mutual brotherly love is one of the best evidences that they can exhibit to the world that they belong to Christ. So he says in the seventeenth chapter of John. I for these alone; but for them also which shall believe on me through their word: that they all may be one ; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us : that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” The world distinguished the primitive Christians, by their peculiar love and attachment to one another; and the world still views this as a peculiar mark of their sincerity. They are commanded to “let brotherly love continue.” David appealed to God that he exercised brotherly love. “O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my
On Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight." Since God loves saints, notwithstanding all their moral imperfections, they ought to love one another, though they fall far below perfection in this life. So the apostle argues. “ Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." This argument is very tender and forcible. .
Who can resist its force ? God sees a vast many more imperfections in Christians, than they can see in one another, and still he loves them. Surely then they ought to love one another. . This would greatly promote their inward comfort, their external peace, and extensive usefulness. By the want of it they discourage each other's hearts, and weaken each other's hands, and obstruct the great cause which they have bound themselves to promote.
6. Do saints appear so amiable and excellent in the view of God ? Surely then they ought to appear amiable in the view of the world. They are the excellent of the earth. They deserve the esteem and approbation of the world. Their enemies can have no excuse for hating and opposing them. Their moral imperfections are no excuse. They have no right to expect that saints should be free from these, in this imperfect, probationary state. They have no right to live upon these, and justify their own impenitence, unbelief, and disobedience, by the short-comings of Christians. Those who were so severe upon Job for his supposed and real imperfections, were finally obliged to go to him to pray for them, that they might find forgiveness with God. And if impenitent sinners ever do find pardon and mercy, it will be through the intercessions of saints, whom they contemn and despise. It is the immediate duty of those without to look into their own hearts, renounce their disaffection to God and to his friends, and accept the humiliating terms of the gospel. And they will never have good evidence, that they have passed from death unto life, until they find that they love the brethren. They are not required to unite with the brethren, until they love them; but they are required to love them, upon pain of being forever separated from them, and falling under their everlasting disapprobation. Now are you prepared to meet the disapprobation of God, and of Christ, and of all heaven, and of your own consciences? “As though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
COVENANT WITH GOD AND HIS PEOPLE.
“And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people :
and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold, the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.'—Exodus, xxiv. 7, 8.
It belongs to God to propose to enter into covenant with men, and not to men to propose to enter into covenant with him; for it is an act of condescension for God to enter into covenant with man; but it is an act of duty in men to enter into covenant with God. Accordingly, God has a right to require men to enter into covenant with him, but they have no right to require him to enter into covenant with them. This appears not only from the nature of a covenant, but from the account the scripture gives us of all the covenant transactions between God and man. God proposed to enter into covenant with Abraham, and required him to comply with the terms he proposed. Just so God proposed to enter into covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai, and required them to comply with the terms which he
rms which he proposed. " And he said unto Moses, come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel.
And Moses came, and told the people
all the words of the Lord. -And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people : and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and
said, Behold, the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.” By these words which God spake to Moses, and which he wrote and read to the people, we are to understand the terms of the covenant which God proposed and required his people to comply with and fulfill. What these terms were, we find in the three
preceding chapters, which comprise not only the ten commandments written on two tables of stone, but precepts, prohibitions, and penalties, respecting servants, murder, trespasses, and minor transgressions ; all which the people solemnly promised to obey. The text contains the proper form of a religious covenant be. tween God and man. I shall therefore,
I. Consider the general nature of a covenant.
II. Consider the nature of a religious covenant between God and man,
III. Inquire whether men have a right to enter into a religious covenant with God.
I. We are to consider the general nature of a covenant. Any covenant is different from either a mere declaration, or a promise. A man may speak his mind, or tell his intention before two, or twenty, or an hundred persons, without making a promise to
any A man may seriously and openly declare before any persons, that he intends to go to a certain place next week, or to build a house next year, or to sow or plant a certain field this year; and if this be his real intention, he speaks the truth, but he makes no promise by this bare declaration, and is at perfect liberty to alter his mind, without being chargeable with falsehood, because he did not bind himself to act agreeably to his declaration. He may indeed charge himself, and others may charge him with being fickle, but not with a breach of promise, or violation of any divine command. Men have a right to form good intentions and keep them a secret in their own breast, and while they keep them secret, they injure nobody and bind nobody; and if they express their good intentions, they are no more binding than they were before.
But a promise is very different from a bare declaration. If a man promise another man, either absolutely or conditionallly, that he will do something for him, he is bound to fulfill his promise, if it be in his power to fulfill it, unless he to whom he promises release him from his obligation. The reason is, that a promise excites expectation and dependence in the mind of him to whom the promise is made ; and if he be disappointed he is injured, and has ground to complain of him who has injured him. It makes no difference whether the promise be absolute or conditional, for a conditional promise is as binding as