« AnteriorContinuar »
ligion, that it has the most direct tendency to promote godlimess. It would be indeed an undeniable evidence, that it had not a divine original, if it gave us an unworthy representation of the blessed God, or did not make a full provision for securing his rights and claims from mankind. But it is the glory of Christianity, that it sets out God, his perfections, relations, and authority in the most clear and amiable view; and at the same time calls us by the most express precepts and the strongest motives to a becoming temper and practice. 2. Let us then who wear the Christian name, make it our business to live godly in Christ Jesus. We find that phrase used in 2 Tim. iii. 12. and it imports something peculiar in the godliness to be exercised by Christians. Let the respect we pay to God be agreeable to the revelation made of him by Christ. While “no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of . the Father hath declared him,” John i. 18. And hath declared him in such a manner, as he was scarce manifested to the world before. Let our regards for him be correspondent to this discovery. Let them be spiritual and not only bodily; as he is now more fully revealed in his spiritual nature, and requiring spiritual worshippers, John iv. 23, 24. He is now manifested, not only as our Creator, but as at the head of a saving design, reconciling an apostate world to himself in his Son : Our homage therefore should be paid him, not as if we were innocent creatures, but as it becomes redeemed sinners, through a mediator; honouring him in the way established by wise grace for lapsed creatures to have access to him. And yet as his grace and good-will are set in a clearer light than in any former dispensation, and as there is a more comfortable effusion of his Spirit, as a Spirit of adoption ; our service to him should be, not with a slavish, but a child-like temper. Let us animate ourselves in the practice by the great example of piety which Christ has given us. Ilooking unto Jesus, let us have grace to serve God acceptably; remenbering that while in one nature he was himself, the true God, yet as man, he was the most godly man that ever was in the world. - Let us apply ourselves to the exercise of godliness in a dependance on the grace and strength of Christ. If we are united to Christ as his living members, and partakers of his Holy
Spirit, godliness will thrive under such blessed culture and influence; but separate from him as our head, we, apostate creatures "can do nothing," John xv. 5.
Let us expect God's favourable regard to the poor and imperfect respects we pay to him, only for the sake of Christ. As our goodness, on supposition it were perfect, cannot extend to him to profit him; so in the present imperfection of it, it could not please him or be accepted by him but in his beloved Son.
3. As godliness is profitable to all things, and peculiarly subserves the other duties of the Christian life; so let the fruits of it appear in all the rest of a Christian temper and practice. Let our faith be shewn by our works: our piety by our sobriety, and righteousness, and charity: and our love to Goti, whom we have not seen, by our love to our brother, whom we have seen. That superstructure the apostle calls us to add to godliness, in the words immediately following the text, ver. J. "And to godliness, brotherly-kindness; and to brotherly-kindness, charity."
1 Pet. i. 8.
fVJiom, having not seen, ye love: in whom, though now ye • see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.
NEXT to the regards we owe to God, the Christian temper towards Christ, as the Saviour and Mediator, naturally comes under consideration. As the Saviour is himself God, that which hath heen said already of the respect due to God, belongs to him in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost; but the scripture leads us to another view of him as the Messiah and Mediator, and claims from us distinct practical regards to him as such. These are what I now propose to consider, for which the words read give us a proper foundation.
St Peter wrote this epistle, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, &c. ver. 1. that is, to those of the Jewish nation who lived out of Judea in foreign parts, as many of them had done long before Christ's time; and who were already converted to the Christian faith. Several churches were early planted in Asia, consisting chiefly of these Jewish converts. The apostle describes the nature of their change, whence it had its original, and how it was brought about, in ver 2. And then expresses the happiness of it, offering a solemn thanksgiving to God upon that account, because they were new-born to the heavenly inheritance, and preserved by divine power in the way that led to possession, ver. 3, 4, .5. In this their happy state, he says, they could rejoice, even in the midst of various
sufferings which attended them; for they knew that those sufferings were only trials of their faith, and upon their aequitting themselves well in the trial, would redound to their own, as well as to their master’s “praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ,” ver. 6, 7. Upon the mention of Christ's name, the apostle adds an elegant representation, how they stood affected to him.—“Whom, having not seen,” &c. Wherein we may observe,
1. Their temper itself towards the Lord Jesus. They
believed in him ; that was fundamental to all the rest. And their faith wrought by love; they loved him, upon the sentiments they entertained concerning him with a faith unfeigned. And this faith and love produced a joy in him. The disposition of mind toward our blessed Lord, to which Christianity calls us, may be summed up in these three things. But then we are to observe, 2. A circumstance of seeming disadvantage taken notice of in the case of these converts, beyond the case of some others. Some had seen the Lord ; had had the advantage of being spectators of his life and miracles, of his death and resurrection, and ascension into heaven, and had heard the gracious, words which proceeded out of his lips. This was the privilege of Peter himself, and of the other disciples during Christ's abode below. But the Christians in the text had not had the same opportunity; they had not seen him, because he was withdrawn into heaven before they came to the knowledge of him or of his gospel. Herein their circumstances were parallel to ours; the same with all those who, after Christ’s entrance into glory, are called to believe in him through the word of the gospel.
I intend to discourse particulary of the three several branches of the dispostion of Christians here mentioned; and shall keep in view this circumstance of his being unseen, in the consideration of each. -
I. FAITH in Christ, is an essential branch of the Christian
temper, and necessary to be cultivated in us who see him not.
This is the peculiar and the first call of the gospel wherever
it comes, next to a belief of the gospel-revelation in general,
that men believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is made
the grand term of our interest in the various blessings of
grace and glory, which are offered to sinners: we have no encouragement given us to expect the acceptance of our persons or of any of our services without it; and we are directed to it, as the principle of the whole divine life. So the apostle tells us, Gal. ii. 20. "The life which I now live in the. flesh (which in the verse hefore, he says* was a "living unto God;" this life) I live by the faith of the Son of God." His whole life of godliness was influenced and animated by this: hence he derived his principal motives to it, and his main supports and encouragements under the difficulties attending it; hereby he was furnished with strength and grace sufficient for it; and by this means the whole was acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And of the same importance is faith in Christ to every one of us. Upon this therefore I would,
1. Give you a brief account of the nature of faith in Christ.
2. Consider it as that which we are called to exercise in our present circumstances, without seeing him.
I. The nature of faith in Christ is briefly to be explained. And it must be understood to comprehend these two things.
1. A firm persuasion of the truth of what the gospel testifies concerning him.
The whole compass of the divine revelation concerning this blessed person, is the thing to be believed. The discovery of him was made gradually, the light not breaking in all at once. Some notices were given of him immediately upon the fall, as a necessary foundation of hope to apostate creatures: and through the several periods of God's ancient church, "to him gave all the prophets witness. But all the prophets and the law only prophesied until John," Matt. xi. 13.,that is, though they described or prefigured the Messiah in his principle characters, yet there was a degree of obscurity attending all this; as a matter is not equally clear in a prophecy to what it is in the accomplishment; till John the Baptist came, and directly pointed out the person. When Christ himself eutered upon his public ministry, the main thing which he took care to inculcate and give evidence of, was his being the true Messiah, and the great prophet sent by God, promised under the Old Testament, and expected by good men from age to age. He gave indeed many intimations of the dignity of his person, of