Obrazy na stronie

true God; but their belief of it is spiritual, being the fruit of a complete indwelling of the Spirit of God in all their hearts. Nor is the belief of just men made perfect in glory, any less spiritual. And so far as the Spirit of God has prevailed, in expelling sin from the hearts of good men on earth, the way is prepared for them to receive the truth in the love of it; so that they have a real and pure fellowship one with another, and also with the inhabitants of the upper world. All the holy fellowship in the universe, is effected by the Spirit of God. The infinite holiness of God himself, is certainly from his own Spirit and the holiness of all his creatures, whether on earth or in heaven, is from the same source. Their holiness, it is true, exists in their own minds; but his Spirit is the efficient cause of its existence. And since the holiness thus produced, prepares them to be united in their views, feelings, and pursuits, it is a spiritual union, and may well be denominated the fellowship of the Spirit.

6. This subject will assist us in determining the question of our meetness for heaven: if we have fellowship with God and his friends, then are we prepared to spend eternity in their society. By reading the word of God, we discover what are his sentiments and feelings, and also what are the sentiments and feelings of his friends, in relation to all those great subjects which lay a foundation for spiritual fellowship. If we are honest in our endeavors to become acquainted with their sentiments and feelings, and also with those of our own minds, we shall be able to determine whether we are in a state of agreement with them and agreement, let us remember, is essential to fellowship; for how can two walk together except they be agreed?

Are we in a state of agreement with the God of the Bible? Can we perceive this, when we pray? Prayer is often called communion with God. Do we, when we pray, have real communion with Him? Unless our prayers are an unmeaning form, they bring our minds to look directly at the most weighty truths of divine revelation, and this gives us a good opportunity to know whether our fellowship is with the God of the Bible. When we come before him in prayer, it concerns us to be able to decide, whether we entertain those views of divine subjects which he has declared to be his own. He views it as his right to reign over the universe; and has declared that he will not give his glory to another. Do our feelings accord with this declaration : do we from the heart say, let him have the glory due to his name? He has manifested an entire regard to his holy law, and a great abhorrence of our transgressions. Do we love the one, and abhor the other? In God's account, a pharisaical self-righteous spirit is loathsome; but those who come to him with a broken and contrite spirit, not relying on their own righteousness, but on that of his Son, he will not despise. Are these the very sentiments of our hearts? Do we loathe the self-righteousness we discover in our own religious services? Though God would have us justified freely through the redemption of his Son, yet he wills our sanctification. Do we, in accordance with this, hunger and thirst after righteousness? Can we, in these solemn approaches to God, appeal to him as the searcher of hearts, that his will, as he has revealed it to us, concerning his prerogatives and our obligations, his infinite purity and our entire depravity, his free grace and our utter un worthiness, meets our cordial approbation? Can we say, that as he thinks and feels on these interesting subjects, so we think and feel? If we can, then may we say with the apostle, truly our fellowship is with the

Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And they who enjoy the blessedness of communion with God now, will enjoy it hereafter; for communion on earth is a foretaste and an earnest of communion in heaven.

But let us remember the caution which the apostle gives, in close connection with the text: "If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness," (i. e. in moral darkness or sin,) "we lie, and do not the truth." Lastly. This subject reflects light on the criminality of unbelief. Το many it seems strange, that the gospel should denounce such severe threatenings against that, which to them appears no crime at all; or, if any, a very small one. How, say they, can we be considered so culpable for not believing what appears to us irrational and unworthy of our belief? But would such a glorious exhibition of divine truth appear unworthy of their belief, if they did not love darkness rather than light? The gospel, which proffers salvation to repenting rebels through the mediation of Christ, recognises the immutable difference between holiness and sin, and makes the most luminous display of the divine glory, and of all those truths, which form the only basis for a consistent fellowship in the moral system. They who cannot be attracted by such things as are presented in the gospel, are decided enemies to the interests of the universe. The man who rejects the offer of eternal life, on the condition of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, practically declares that he wants no fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, nor with his Father, nor with his disciples, nor with angels of light; that he wants no divine government, no moral law, no mercy-seat, nor reconciliation with God. His unbelief plainly speaks it out: "If I cannot be received into the fellowship of God and his friends, without my feelings and pursuits being made to harmonize with theirs, let me remain without the camp of Israel." And what does the threatening of God do, but confirm his own choice? "He that believeth not, shall be damned." The threatening places him without the gates of the New Jerusalem, where he has chosen to remain. It excludes him from the fellowship of those within the walls of the holy city, and leaves him in the company of those who are characterized as ፡፡ dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie !"

But let not the unbeliever think that his case excites no compassion. While the gates of the holy city are not shut, to be opened no more, we cannot forbear to cast a wishful look, and to address him, in the `language of Moses to Hobab: Come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel. Let such of you as have not yet accepted the gospel invitation, know that the God of Zion, and all his friends in heaven and earth, wait to receive you into their fellowship. "The Spirit and the bride say, come." Oh, come then without delay, lest the privilege of being associated with such holy and blessed society be lost forever.



PSALM, CXII. 7.—Peace be within thy walls.

THE Psalmist, contemplating the beauty of Zion, and the delightful harmony and exquisite grandeur of the worship at Jerusalem, and feeling his bosom glow with love for his "brethren and companions," when they said, "let us go into the house of the Lord," breathes forth to Heaven the soft aspiration, "Peace be within thy walls." This prayer of the sweet singer of Israel, contains a sentiment which ought to be cherished in every Christian's heart, and often uttered in his petitions before the Throne. It is of the same spirit with the final blessing and legacy of the dear Redeemer: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you :" and will therefore be an appropriate theme for a few remarks on the importance of peace in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

1. The triune Jehovah, the covenant God of the Church, is the God of peace. How frequently in the benedictions of the Apostle Paul, is he thus characterized: "The God of peace be with you," Rom. xv. 33.

"The very God of peace sanctify you wholly," 1. Thess. v. 23.—"The God of peace make you perfect in every good work," Heb. xiii. 20.— "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace," 1. Cor. xiv. 33.Consequently, in entering into covenant with him, he will expect of us conformity with his own character, and esteem us as his people only so far as we imbibe his spirit. And we cannot consider the church as fulfilling her obligations to her Sovereign, unless she cultivate those dispositions which will fit her for communion with him, and continually" follow after the things which make for peace.”

2. Jesus Christ, the head of the church, and king in Zion, is the Prince of peace-the Lord of peace. At his birth as the Son of Man, a choir of the heavenly hosts sang, "Peace on earth." To effect a reconciliation between an offended God and rebellious men, was the purpose for which he came into our world, and submitted to poverty, reproach, and death; and to secure this object, he now lives as Intercessorin heaven. He therefore anticipates, that peace will reign in his spiritual kingdom, that its members will all speak the same thing, being perfectly joined together in the same mind, that there may be no schism in the body, but the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. What! shall there be strife and divisions among the subjects of that kingdom, which is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost?" Shall the soldiers of the Prince of peace, march forth under any other banner than that of love? Shall they not emulate the spirit and manner of their great leader? His paths on earth were paths of peace; his sermons, sermons of peace; his prayers, his benedictions, his commissions, all were peace. And now that "he reigns exalted high," peace is inscribed on the radiant bow of glory that encircles his head.

3. The Spirit, who inhabits the church as his temple, is a spirit of peace, and refuses to dwell in the midst of noise, strife, and confusion. "The fruit of the Spirit, is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance." These effects of the Spirit's operation are all connected with a subdued and softened heart; and every thing which is of an opposite nature and tendency, belongs to the flesh, grieves the Holy Spirit, and induces him to take his departure. "Whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts, that war in your members?" Wherever then we find envying, strife, and divisions, there is carnality, confusion, and every evil work; there the Spirit will not remain, and we may not look for his peaceful and purifying presence. But how shall the church ever arise and shine, fair as the moon, and clear as the sun-how shall she ever put forth her strength, and exert her power to bring the world to the love of God and holiness, if that Spirit desert her, whose it is to cherish her graces, give her might in prayer, and make her instrumental in the conversion of the world?

4. The constitution of the kingdom of Christ, is one whose essential principles are peace. "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight."-The principles on which I establish my government in the world, are not the ordinary principles of human government, but such as inspire my subjects with peaceful feelings, and induce them to sheath the sword, and make conquests only by the persuasive influences of truth and love. The gospel is the gospel of peace. "Have peace one with another.” "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." "The kingdom of God is peace." Indeed we can scarcely read a section in this constitution, without perceiving clearly that it emanated from the God of peace, and was intended and adapted to bless the world with peace, and to lead men to love and pursue it.

Hence we read that "unto them that are contentious, and obey not the truth," God will render "indignation and wrath :" but "blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.” "Live in peace, and the God of peace shall be with you." When therefore the Christian church enters into sharp and virulent controversy, when her members indulge in debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults, they belie Christianity, contravene its laws, rebel against its righteous principles, and offend its author, their King. If then we would preserve inviolate the very charter under which we act, and which we acknowledge to be excellent by our voluntary adoption of it, we must avoid foolish and unlearned questions, which gender strife, and follow after peace with them that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.

5. The church can only then shew forth her beauty, and glorify her King, when her members are at peace with one another. The beauty of the church consists not in any external habiliments, or any system of observances, but in a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God, is of great price; in the manifestation of kindness, tenderness, meekness, forbearance, peace. Only when clothed with humility, and crowned with love, and speaking in the mild accents of mercy, can she so let her light shine, that others, seeing her good works, shall glorify her Father who is in heaven; and only then can she go to the footstool of mercy, and implore the Spirit to lift up a standard against

[ocr errors]

the onsets of the enemy. In order to glorify her Jesus, she must walk in his steps, imitate his example, grow up into his likeness; and

"Thus will she best proclaim abroad,
The honors of her Savior God."

Thus will she convince the world of the purity of her motives, and the excellence of her religion, and lead multitudes to shout, "Hosanna to the Son of David."

But who can admire the church, when they see it the arena of strife and sedition? Who can believe it to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone? Who will imagine it to be the image of a pure and lovely religion? Or who will be won over to the love and belief of the truth? And how can Christianity ever hope to take hold of the world, and secure its favor, while her professed friends are not at peace among themselves, but displaying towards each other the rancor and malice of bitterest foes? How can we dream of making conquest of the whole earth, and recommending the religion of Jesus to Pagan nations, until we shake ourselves from the dust, and put on the beautiful garments of peace?-until, in one united host, accoutred in the armor of God, and wielding the spiritual weapons of the heavenly warfare, we go forth to conflict only with the powers of darkness, under the great Captain of salvation?

II. But if peace be so important, and so manifestly incumbent on the children of the Most High, it will be interesting to inquire, what means should be used for its cultivation?

1. Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. The lusts of the flesh include, among others, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife; and are directly opposed to the exercises of the spiritual nature-love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness. If then we place ourselves under the guidance of the "Peaceful Dove," and act in conformity with his suggestions, we shall be preserved from biting and devouring one another, and shall pursue the things which make for peace. And when a brother errs, we shall labor to restore such an one, in the spirit of meekness. Whenever the church is rent with unholy contentions, and her members indulge inimical and untender feelings, she is not walking after the Spirit, but after the flesh, and led captive by the devil, throwing herself off from the heavenly influences of that Spirit, who flies from the scenes of turmoil and divisions, to seek for some more peaceful and quiet resting place. Let the church only listen to the wooings of the Spirit, let her members cherish his movements on their souls, and often sit with docility under his teachings, and they will necessarily cultivate the Christian graces of love and peace.

2. In contending for THE FAITH, avoid the usual concomitants of controversy. There is no allusion now to the controversy often existing between different departments of Christ's kingdom, but to that contest which the whole church is expected to maintain with the enemies of truth. The faith of which Jude speaks, as the connection will shew, is manifestly that which is included in repentance unto life and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; for it is opposed to the doctrine of those who were "ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, even our Lord Jesus Christ; sensual, having not the Spirit, walking after their own lusts;" and is character

« PoprzedniaDalej »