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God is within them, that kingdom which "consisteth not in meats and drinks, but in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.-He who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, hath also made them kings and priests unto God.-By beholding his glory with the eye of faith, they are "changed into the same image, from glory to glory," while they sojourn here below, as we read 2 Cor. iii. 18. This resemblance, at present indeed imperfect, shall continually advance, through the influences of the divine Spirit, till, being released from the prison of the body, they shall no more see darkly as through a glass, but face to face; and by seeing him as he is, shall be fully transformed into his image, which will render them completely happy, as it is written, 1 John iii. 2. "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."
Thus have I opened the import of the terms by which the apostle describes the dignity and happiness of believers in Christ Jesus. By their new birth, and in consequence of their union with the Lord Jesus Christ, they are constituted heirs of a kingdom, which it is their Father's good pleasure to bestow upon them by free gift; this kingdom cannot be moved; it was prepared for them before the foundation of the world; it is reserved for them in heaven, and they are kept for it through
faith by the power of God: and though the full possession of it, in all its glory, awaits them in a future state, yet they have their maintenance and provision out of it in the mean time; the new nature they have got is not only the pledge, but the earnest of the inheritance, being of the same kind with that glory which is afterwards to be revealed; they at present receive eternal life, a life that cannot die, but, like the morning light, shall continue to shine with increasing brightness, till in heaven it shall arrive at the perfect day.
Such is the present dignity and happiness of all true believers in Christ Jesus; in this sense the weakest, as well as the strong, receive a kingdom which cannot be moved.
II. LET us consider the exhortation to duty, founded upon this privilege," Let us have grace." 1st, We are called upon to serve God. Believers, though kings, are still the subjects of the King of kings; and the honour conferred upon them, instead of relaxing their obligation to duty, rather binds them to serve him with greater zeal and activity. Their very royalty consists in their release from the enemies of God, which formerly enslaved and led them captive at their pleasure. Hence that exhortation of the apostle, "Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies." They are styled, in the book of the Revelation, "Kings and priests to God, even the Father :" and dominion
is given them, not in respect of God, to render them independent on him, but in respect of sin, Satan, the world, and death, over all which they are made conquerors through him that loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood. They are indeed a chosen generation, and a royal priesthood; but for what end? It is, that by bringing forth the fruits of righteousness, "they may shew forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light."
2dly, We are reminded of the qualification that is requisite for serving God acceptably. We cannot do this by any strength that is inherent in us. "We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves." We are indeed exhorted to work out our own salvation; but at the same time we are told, "that it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The apostle's words are chosen with the most significant propriety. He doth not say, Let us take strength to ourselves; or, let us purchase it from another; but, let us have it; i. e. Let us ask it of him who giveth liberally-Let us possess it, by receiving the gift that is offered; or, having received it, let us hold it fast, as the word is rendered in the margin, and improve it to the purposes for which it was bestowed.
3dly, We are directed to the manner of serving God, so as to be accepted of him, viz. " with reverence and godly fear:" i. e. with a deep sense
of his infinite greatness, and of our own meanness and unworthiness. We are indeed exhorted and encouraged to come boldly to a throne of grace; but it must be such a boldness only as becometh those who stand in need both of mercy and grace; of mercy to pardon what hath been amiss, and of grace to help them in every time of need. "There is forgiveness with thee," said the Psalmist," that thou mayest be feared." And indeed mercy is dispensed in such a way, as renders God no less awful than he is amiable to the pardoned sinner. The sacrifice of Christ, while it manifests the love of God in giving his Son to be the propitiation for our sins, affords, at the same time, the strongest proof and demonstration of his holiness and justice. The new and living way of access to God is consecrated for us through the veil of Christ's flesh. The blood that cleanseth from all sin, by which we have boldness to enter into the holiest, is the blood of Emanuel, the Word made flesh, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not any thing made that is made. A proper attention to this, will shew both the meaning and propriety of the apostle's direction to serve God with reverence and godly fear; not the tormenting fear which cherisheth that enmity against God, whereby the carnal mind is characterised; but that filial reverence which flows from a supreme love to God, as a reconciled father, and desire to please him, which consists in a holy jea
lousy of ourselves, an abhorrence of every thing that is offensive to God, and produceth a carefulness to avoid every temptation to sin, and to shun not only the forbidden, but even the doubtful ground, according to that just description which is given of it, Prov. viii. 12. "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." And the genuine effects of this fear are fully expressed in those advices of the Wise Man, which are recorded, chap. iv. at the close. 66 Keep thy heart with all diligenceLet thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left; remove thy feet from evil." Such is the reverence and godly fear with which we are directed to serve the Lord.
Let us now briefly consider the arguments with which the exhortation is enforced; and these are two-The one respecting the matter of duty in general-And the other, the manner in which the service that is due to God ought to be performed.
1st, We are exhorted to serve God, in testimony of our gratitude for the inestimable benefits his grace hath conferred upon us. This argument is plainly addressed to believers in Christ, who have received that kingdom which cannot be moved. The apostle doth not say, Let us serve God that we may obtain a kingdom; but, having received