« PreviousContinue »
contrary and unfriendly to his own, not for his own gratification, but in the hope of winning them to the pursuits of holiness. Conscious that he is not
seeking his own pleasure, but the honour of God, he goes protected by the shield of faith, and armed with the sword of the Spirit, in the strength of the Lord his God. He goes, confiding in those promises-"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee*";-promises these, with which a cowardly, half-hearted professor of Christianity, consorting, from preference, or from false shame, with the enemies of his Prince, has nothing to do. Trusting in these promises, and acting at the same time under a sense of his own weakness, which keeps him out of unbidden danger, he is encased in complete armour: "No weapon that is formed against him shall prospert." That Saviour, who Himself ate and drank with publicans and sinners that He might seek and save the lost, will bring forth His follower unhurt and unconquered, + Ib. liv. 17.
* Isa. xliii. 2.
yea, sometimes more than conqueror, with a trophy won for his Captain. Great caution, however, is necessary, lest we should deceive ourselves, in venturing on such dangerous ground. Nothing, I conceive, will preserve us from delusion on this head, but a single eye to the glory of God; and that, not without watchfulness and prayer :-and not only should we pray, but we should often look back, to observe whether our conduct has been consistent with our prayers.
Now, it is very possible, that those of you, who have been endeavouring to obey the command of the text, to "come out, and be separate," have found it no easy matter. You have found, in particular, that if you would obey God, you must endure-what it was hard to bear the laughter and scorn and hatred of some whom you had no wish to offend, but who would not suffer you to withdraw from their society without shewing that they were offended. It is indeed impossible, that persons who have no love to God should do otherwise than dislike those who, from love to God, act in a manner contrary to their practices, and especially
who, from conscience towards God, quit fellowship with them. You may hold what Articles of faith you will—you may even preach them—provided you will conform to the spirit and practices of the world; but if you will live godly in Christ Jesus, so as to shew that you are really different in heart and conduct from those who are living without God, you must do it at the expense of their favour. Almighty God, who gave the command, "Come out, and be separate," knew that obedience to it would sometimes be difficult; and, therefore, along with the command, He gave also a promise, suited to the necessities of those who should be willing to obey it. He said, "I will receive you." He foresaw that some of those who love not God would cast you out; and therefore He said, "I will receive you." If this had been the whole of the promise, surely it had been enough, and more than enough, to make up for the loss of any favour or benefit which you could have hoped to receive from men. The lowest place in the service of God, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, confers more real honour and happiness than any merely earthly distinction or pleasure. But what is the promise?
It is this: "I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you; and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the LORD ALMIGHTY." What astonishing words are these! What is there left for those persons to desire, who are received of God, and adopted by Him as sons and daughters? To those whom He receives as children, He also gives the spirit of adoption, teaching and enabling them to cry unto Him, "Abba, Father;" to regard Him habitually as their Father, reconciled to them through Jesus Christ, able and willing to supply all their wants, and to make all things work together for their good. Think of the sweet access which a dutiful and affectionate child has to his earthly Father-how he goes to tell Him of all his wants and griefs, with a confident hope of being heard with patience, and of being relieved according to the ability of the parent. What, then, is the happiness of the true Christian, in having the LORD ALMIGHTY as his Father? To Him, who is able and willing to do for him more than he can ask or think, he is permitted, and invited, to come at all times, and in all places; with a full assurance that He will not withhold from him any good thing
that He will train him by the discipline which He, as being infinitely wise and good, knows to be best calculated to prepare him for everlasting happiness— that He will make even the afflictions, which He sees to be necessary for him in this state of trial, add to his weight of heavenly glory—and will, in due time, take him to an inheritance above, incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away? Think of this, and say, What can any give up, in comparison of what is secured, by the promise of the unchangeable God, to him who obeys the command of the text?
Many have obeyed that gracious call, to "come out, and be separate" from practices and associations to which their natural temper and circumstances would have inclined them. They felt, perhaps, that they were making some sacrifice of what held out to them a fair promise of personal gratification;-though, if they had known more of the deceitfulness of such promises, they would have estimated them more justly:-but they set against that delusive promise the blessedness of having the LORD ALMIGHTY for their Father and Friend.