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A good conscience
[The conscience of every man has been more or less defiled. Nor could the offerings under the law perfect a man with respect to it. But the blood of Jesus will cleanse it from its defilement". And, if we heartily endeavour to keep it void of offence in future, we shall enjoy the testimony of a good conscience. But if we live in the habitual neglect of any duty, or the allowed commission of any sin, we shall have an evil and accusing conscience. It is necessary therefore that our hearts be purged from the guilt of sin by the sprinkling of Christ's blood, and from the love and practice of sin by his Spirit. Without this we can never approach God with comfort or acceptance. We shall stand self-condemned as hypocrites. And every petition we offer will appear a solemn mockery of God. We must therefore have our hearts purified from all habitual and allowed sin. Nor unless we have, can we hope for any answer of peace unto our souls P.] An holy conversation
[As our inward principle must be pure, so must also our outward practice be. The priests washed their flesh before they went within the vail, to denote the purity which was required of them by God". Thus must we also be careful to possess that purity, if we would approach him with acceptance. Not that our sanctity of heart and life will procure us favour in his sight. The only grounds of our acceptance have been before stated. But there is a meetness for the enjoying of his benefits. And if we possess not that meetness, in vain shall we expect the benefits themselves.] APPLICATION
[Some may ask, What shall I do, seeing I possess not these requisites ? Shall I stay away from the throne of grace entirely? We answer, No; if we cannot ask as we ought, we should ask as we can. God will assist us if we endeavour to serve him aright; and will impart to us those holy dispositions, that shall qualify us for the reception of his richest blessings. Let us then thankfully improve the liberty he has afforded us. Let us see the vail now rent asunder, and behold our God upon his mercy-seat. Behold, his address to every
m Heb. ix. 9. n Heb. ix, 14. • 2 Cor. i. 12. p Prov. xxviii. 9. Ps. lxvi. 18.
9 The last clause of the text might properly begin the next verse ; in which case it must be referred to our baptismal washing, and the solemn engagements consequent upon it.
Lev. xvi. 4.
one of us is, Draw nigh to me, and I will draw nigh to you; cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded®. In obedience to his command, let us surround his throne with fervent importunity. Let us ask for mercy and grace to help us in every time of needt; and so open our mouths wide before him that He may fill and satisfy us with good things“. Thus shall we enjoy the sweetest fellowship with him in this world; and shortly be admitted to his more immediate presence in the world to come.]
s Jam. iv. 8. + Heb. iv. 16. u Ps. Ixxxi. 10.
STEADFASTNESS AND ACTIVITY IN GOD'S SERVICE
INCULCATED. Heb. x. 23–25. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith
without wavering ; (for he is faithful that promised ;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works : not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
CHRISTIANS in general do not sufficiently advert to Christian principles as a ground of action. Whilst they acknowledge their obligation to serve God, they lose sight of those considerations which alone can render his yoke easy, and his burthen light. They bear in mind that Christ offered himself a sacrifice for sin ; but they forget, that his priestly office, which was but in part executed on earth, is still carrying on in heaven. Were this duly contemplated, it would afford a stimulus to exertion which nothing else can give. In the fourth chapter of this epistle, the Apostle urges it as a motive to steadfastness in our most holy profession : “Seeing then that we have a great High-priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our professiona.” In the passage before us he repeats the same glorious truth, and grounds upon it, not only the same exhortation, but an exhortation to various other duties connected with it. What these
a Heb. iv. 14. VOL. XIS.
duties are, it is my intention at this time to point out.
Consider then, I. Our duty as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ b
It is our duty to profess openly our faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ
[We are not to be contented with exercising faith in him as our Saviour: we must confess him also before men: for, if “ with the heart we believe unto righteousness, it is with the mouth that confession must be made unto salvation." But,]
This profession we must “hold fast without wavering"
[The more we make our light to shine before men, the more will those who “ love darkness, rather than light” oppose us --- Nothing will be left untried to divert us from our purpose. Persuasion, derision, menaces, will all be used in their turn: and all manner of influence will be brought to bear upon us, if by any means we may be prevailed upon to renounce what the world calls our enthusiasm and folly. But we must “ hold fast our profession," whatever efforts be made to wrest it from us: we must hold it fast " without wavering." There must be no inclination of the mind towards the ways we have forsaken, or the society we have left: “ We must forget our own people and our father's house, if we would that our heavenly Bridegroom should have pleasure in our beauty." We must “ hate father and mother, and even our own lives," in comparison of Christ. There must be in us a determination of heart to “ follow the Lord fully," and at all events; even though we be threatened with scourging and imprisonment, as the Apostles weref; or with a cruel death, as were Daniel and the Hebrew Youths 5. As for those vain reasonings by which men endeavour to justify their departure from God, they must not be entertained for one moment --- Our whole life and conversation should proclaim “ whose we are, or whom we serve." We should be as shining as lights in the world;" and be as “ epistles of Christ, known and read of all men."]
Connected with our duty to Christ as his followers, is,
II. Our duty as members of his mystical body
Some copies read daidos instead of riotEWS ; but they both amount to the same, hope being the offspring of faith.
c Rom. x. 10. d Ps. xlv. 10, 11. e Luke xiv. 26, 27. 1 Acts iv. 19, 20. 8 Dan. iv. 18. and vi. 10.
We are “not to put our light under a bushel or a bed.” When once we become united to Christ by faith, we become members of the body, of which he is the Head. To that body we from henceforth have duties, even as the members of our corporeal frame have to the body of which they constitute a part. With that body we are to unite, both in its public and social meetings, and not by withdrawing ourselves from it, to shew an indifference to its welfare. Some there were, even in the Apostle's days, who, through cowardice or worldly-mindedness, forsook the assemblies of the Church : and some there are who do so at the present day. But whatever vain excuses they may offer for their conduct, they grossly neglect their duty, which is, to edify, as far as they are able, every member of Christ's mystical body. This all are bound to do,
1. In a way of mutual inspection· [We should “consider one another:" we should notice each other's wants and weaknesses, defects and failings, in order to guard each other against the very beginnings of declension in the divine life, and to stimulate one another to exertion in the cause of truth and love. We should mark also one another's abilities and opportunities for serving God, in order that the energies of all may be employed to the best effect. The members of our natural body, if attempting to execute offices for which they are not fitted, can effect little; but, when exerting themselves in their appropriate sphere, they all contribute to the general good. Thus should all the members of the Church seek out for themselves, and assign to each other, such offices as they are best qualified to perform; that, each labouring in his proper vocation, (" he that ministereth, for instance, or teacheth, or exhorteth, or giveth, or ruleth,” in the due discharge of their respective duties",) the whole body may be edified, and God's name be glorified.] 2. In a way of mutual excitation
[Love, both in its feelings and actings, is apt to languish, if it be not watched, and cherished, and quickened to activity, from time to time. « This gift of God that is in us, needs to be stirred up," and fanned to a flame, by mutual exhortations. Hence we are told to “provoke one another unto love and to good works.” No member of the body should be idle: there
Rom. xii. 7, 8.
are some good works which all may perform: and all should be penetrated with a desire to do what they can. It is by the unwearied exertion of all their powers that the designs of God are to be accomplished, both in the Church and in the world. But, as all are apt to be remiss, all should exhort and animate one another, and, “ so much the more as we see the day approaching." The final destruction of Jerusalem was very near at hand when this epistle was written: and that period would be most afflictive to the Church who fled to the mountains, as well as to those who abode in the city: and therefore they all needed to prepare for that trial, and to labour with redoubled zeal for the Lord, whilst an opportunity of serving him was afforded them. And to us also, there is a day of trial near at hand, even the day of death, and of our appearing before God in judgment. Then all our opportunities of serving and honouring God will be terminated for ever. O how diligent then should we be in redeeming the present time, and in labouring whilst it is day; seeing that the night, when no man can work, is so near at hand! To impress these thoughts on each other's minds, and to stimulate one another to activity in the consideration of them, is our bounden duty: and whatever we may imagine about serving God acceptably in secret, whilst we neglect these public and social duties, we shall find ourselves awfully mistaken, when God shall call us to account for “ hiding our talent in a napkin."]
Such being our duties to Christ and his Church, let us notice, III. Our encouragement to perform both the one
and the otherGod is faithful to his promises
[Great, “ exceeding great and precious are the promises” which he has given us in his word; promises suited to every state in which every member can be placed. In the covenant of grace they are all contained, even in that covenant of which Christ is the Mediator and Surety: and " in Christ they are all yea and amen, to the glory of our covenant-God and Fatheri.” Not one of them shall ever fail of accomplishment: for “ God is not a man, that he should lie, or the son of man, that he should repent.” Indeed " he has confirmed his promises with an oath, that, by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong consolation." The experience of all ages attests this blessed truth, that God is faithful to his promises. Joshua's appeal to all Israel, at the
i 1 Cor. i. 20.