« PreviousContinue »
not yet been crucified by them to the world; and have not the most distant perception of the necessity of coming out from among the ranks of the frivolous, being "separate,”* and renouncing the customs and pleasures of the unconverted mind. Now, at the sight of avowed servants of Christ, thus deficient in their views of truth, the experienced believer is immediately tempted to express himself in censures and reproaches. He compares the prevailing errors around him with the true standard of Scripture; and finds it hard to think, with composure, upon opinions so dark and uncertain in regard to the religion of the Son of God, among those who are called his disciples upon earth. Some of those who now hear me have probably experienced the feeling to which I refer; and to such, the language of St. Paul under review exhibits, in contrast, the spirit which should characterize the children of God. The believer, instead of being uneasy at the deficiencies of professed Christians, should rather live in the exercise of humble prayer, and of patient expectation. Let those who are most taught of God look back to the gradual advances, by which they reached their present illuminated state: let them think of the inadequacy of their own former views: and be thus led to hope for brighter apprehensions, in regard to their yet half-instructed brethren in the Lord. So far from being dissatisfied because all is not perfect, be grateful that so much has been accomplished; and trust that the same almighty Providence will, in due season, communicate still larger supplies of that heavenly Spirit, which guideth "into all truth."+ Despise not "the day of small things ;"t think that what you see not now, you shall see hereafter; and strive after the possession of that love,
* II. Cor. vi. 17.
† John, xvi. 13.
Zech. iv. 10.
which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."*
The next admonition here given by the Apostle, enjoins upon Christians the importance of persevering with constancy, in the maintenance of those spiritual graces and privileges which they already possess. He thus expresses his exhortation. "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing:" or, in other words-Though your progress in the divine life, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, may have been as yet but small, continue, by dependence upon the grace of God, in the career which you have begun; and beware, lest, after having "escaped the pollutions of the world," you be "again entangled therein, and overcome."†
It would be impossible, my brethren, too much to admire the wisdom of the Apostle, in addressing a precept such as this to the young in faith and holiness. He had just been expressing, as you have seen, his favorable hopes as to the future improvement of those, who were as yet imperfectly acquainted with the gospel. But bearing in mind, at the same time, the perilous temptations that beset the Christian traveller, he immediately proceeds to caution them; and to urge their adherence to that way of peace and salvation, upon which they had so happily entered. The experience of some before me will be able to testify to the necessity of the admonition; and will acknowledge it to be a truth, that, if there be any among the disciples of Christ who stand in need of all which precept, and exhortation, and warm entreaty can effect, in preserving them steadfast in their "first love," it is those who have just com
*I. Cor. xiii. 7.
II. Pet. ii. 20.
+ Rev. ii. 4.
menced their course of "fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." With such persons, most of all, the pilgrimage to heaven is a difficult and trying career. He who has made but feeble advances in the love of Christ, is proportionately weak in his ability to rise superior to the assaults of the world; things seen have a more attractive appearance in his eye; and, not being influenced by a counteracting principle sufficiently strong and steady, he is liable to be carried off by the gaudy pageantry of life, or to be withdrawn from the singleness of his pursuit after heaven. This, then, is one of the dangers that encompass the inexperienced servants of God; and we may mention, in addition, their discouragement of heart, by the discovery of their repeated falls beneath the power of temptation. Overcome by the grand enemy, relapsing from the warmth of their affections, and led into sinful compliances, they are ready to give up the contest; and, with a species of desperation, conclude, that it is not to be their privilege to be faithful unto death, and to receive the crown of life everlasting. Amidst these combined perils of the young soldier of Christ, the voice of the Apostle here speaks to him its animating and seasonable language. He bids you, my believing friends, in the exercise of faith, patience, and ardent supplication, hold fast your profession without wavering. He counsels you, by all the inestimable glories of salvation, to yield neither to the blandishments of the world, nor to the suggestions of wicked despondency. He comes to you as to persons, that know the blessedness and value of Christ's service, and all the loss that you will incur by your desertion; and then affectionately exclaims, "Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, * I. John, i. 3.
and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul."*
From this exhortation to the weak in faith, the Apostle passes on to give a general admonition to believers of every description; and humbly presents to them the duty of taking himself, as the model of their daily walk and conversation in the world. "Brethren,” he exclaims, "be followers together of me; and mark," or observe, "them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample:" or, to express his meaning in other language; Copy into your own lives those graces and qualifications, which, through the sanctifying Spirit of God, I am enabled to exhibit; and, wherever those are to be found who are endeavoring to fashion their course by my example, make them the objects of your study and imitation. These words are highly important, because they inculcate a truth which is declared, with equal plainness, in other portions of the word of life; namely, that the believer may very properly propose to himself, as patterns, the faithful servants of Christ; and endeavor to be like them, so far as their characters bear a resemblance to that heavenly Master, whom both he and they serve. Thus, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul commands them, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." In conformity with this precept, he counsels the believing Hebrews to be "followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." And it is in the same manner that the Psalmist expresses himself; "Mark the per
*Heb. x. 37. 38. 39. † I. Cor. xi. 1. + Heb. vi. 12.
fect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace."*
There can certainly be no privilege, my Christian brethren, for which our gratitude is more justly due unto the Father of mercies, than that of being furnished, in the lives and actions of God's real servants, with animating examples of every heavenly virtue. It is by these holy and self-denying followers of the Lord, that we are impelled forward on our way; we catch their spirit; we dwell with delight upon the several portions of their blessed career; and go forth, with new vigor, resolving like them to live, and also like them to die. Perhaps the best method of proving the efficacy of these models of the divine life, will be to refer you to your own experience, in past days, of their influence upon your hearts. Where have you found the Scripture to speak with greater interest and power, than in its histories of those who here walked in communion with God, followed the leadings of his providence, and cast themselves, as believing sinners, upon the merits of his only-begotten Son? I may remind you, also, of the profit which you have, at various times, derived, from the perusal of Christian biography. You have risen with new determinations to forsake all for Jesus, from the pages that record the lives of Gardiner, and Newton, and Scott, and Martyn, and Urquhart, and Richmond; and have felt after them an increased and increasing devotion to that everlasting gospel, which was the grand theme of their rejoicing. And it is with the same happy results, that the Christian contemplates those who, in his own day, live before his eyes as signal illustrations of the loveliness and glory of reli
*Ps. xxxvii. 37.