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hear the word in a general way, and see enough to make them tremble ; but then it is truly effectual when it is addressed to us, as the voice of one that speaks to us from heaven; when it disarms us of our enmity to Christ, excites in us the desire of knowing him, and makes us willing, without hesitation or delay, to obey his commandments.
God, who is faithful, will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.-1 Cor. x. 13.
We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.--2 Cor. i. 8.
The ability in the first of these passages, and the strength in the last, are far from being the same. The former is expressive of that divine support wbich the Lord has promised to give to his servants under all their trials : ihe latter, of the power which we possess naturally as creatures. We may be tried beyond this, as all the martyrs have been, and yet not beyond the other. The outward: man may perish, while the inward man is renewed day by day.
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.Gal. vi. 2.
Every man shall bear his own burden.--Gal. vi. 5.
The first is an exhortation to Christian sympathy under present afflictions: the last is a declaration of the rule of future judgment, according to character. We may alleviate each other's sorrows in this life ; but cannot stand in each other's place at the last day.
The Lord is at band.---Phil. iv.5.
Be not soon shaken in mind, nor troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand... 2 Thes, i. 2.
EVERY thing with respect to degrees is what it is by comparison. Taking into consideration the whole of time, the coming of Cbrist was at hand. There is reason to believe from this, and many other passages of the New Testament, that the sacred writers considered themselves as baving passed the meridian of time, and entered into the afternoon of the world, as we may say. Such appears to be the import of the following, among other passages. God hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son.—Once in THE END OF THE WORLD hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.—Upon whom, THE ENDS OF THE WORLD are come.—The coining of the Lord draweth (nigh.-Surely I come quickly.
But taking into consideration only a single generation, the day of Christ was not at hand. The Thessalonians, though a very amiable people, were by some means mistaken on this subject, so as to expect that the end of the world would take place in their life-time, or within a very few years. To correct this error, which might have been productive of very serious evils, was a principal design of the Second Epistle to that people.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.- 1 John i. 8.
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him : and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.-1 John iii. 9.
It appears that the word sin, in these passages, is of different significations. In the first it is to be taken properly, for any transgression of the law of God. If any man say, in this sense, he has
no sin, he only proves himself to be deceived, and that he has yet to learn what is true religion.
But in the last, it seems, from the context, that the term is in tended to denote the sin of apostasy. If we were to substitute the term apostasy for sio, from the 6th to the 10th verse, the meaning would be clear. •Whoso abideth in him, apostatizeth not: whosoever apostatizeth hath not seen him, neither known him.--He that is guilty of apostasy is of the devil : for the devil hath been an apostate from the beginning.-Whosoever is born of God doth not apostatize ; for his seed remaineth in him : and he cannot apostatize, because he is born of God.'
This sense of the latter passage perfectly agrees with what is said of the sin unto death. (v. 16–18.) There is a sin unto death ....... We know that whosoever is born of God, sinneth not ; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. It also agrees with Chap. ii. 19. They went out from us, but they were not of us ; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us. But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. Al. together, it affords wbat we might presume to call, an incontestible proof of the certain perseverence of true believers.
All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.“ 2 Tim. iii. 12.
When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even bis enemies to be at peace with him.--Prov. xvi. 7.
Some consideration is required for the difference of times. It was the genius of the Old Testament more than of the New, to connect obedience to God with temporal prosperity; and there. fore that might be said under the one which would be less appli- . cable under the other.
It is allowed, however, that this is not sufficient to solve the difficulty. There has always been the same radical enmity in general
between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. He that was born after the flesh then persecuted him that was born after the Spirit: and so it is now. And by bow much more spiritual the church at any time has been, by so much bigher has the enmity arisen against them. It is also true under the gospel, as well as under the law, thal where a man perseveres in righteousness and godliness, though he may have many enemies, yet their enmity shall frequently be prevented from hurting him, and even turned away from him into other channels. The truth seems to be, that neither of the above passages is to be taken universally. The peace possessed by those who please God does not extend 90 far as to exempt them from having enemies ; and though all godly men must in some form or other be persecuted, yet none are persecuted at all times. God has always given his people some sea. sons of rest. The former of these passages may, therefore, refer to the native enmity which true godliness is certain to excite, and the latter to the divine control over it. The rod of the wicked must be expected to fall, but not to rest upon the lot of the righteous. Man's wrath shall be let loose in a degree ; but farther than what is necessary for the praise of God, it shall not go. It shall be suffered to shoot forth in measure; but God will debate with it. He stayeth his rough wind in the day of his east wind.
REPLY TO A QUERY ON READING THE SCRIPTURES.
I do not wish the following remarks to supersede any other an. swer which may enter more fully into the subject. All I have to offer, will be a few hints from my own experience.
In the first place, I have found it good to appoint set times for reading the scriptures; and none have been so profitable as
part of the season appropriated to private devotion on rising in the morning. The mind at this time is re-invigorated, and unincumbered. To read a part of the scriptures, previous to prayer, I have found to be very useful. It tends to collect the thoughts, to spiritualize the affections, and to furnish us with sentiments wherewith to plead at a throne of grace. And as reading assists prayer, so prayer assists reading. At these seasons we sball be legs in danger of falling into idle speculations, and of perverting scripture in support of hypotheses. A spiritual frame of mind, as Mr. Pearce somewhere observes, is as a good light in viewing a painting ; it will not a little facilitate the understanding of the scriptures. Ido not mean to depreciate the labours of those who have commented on the sacred writings: but we may read expositors, and consult critics, while the spirii and life of the world utterly escape us. A tender, humble, holy frame, is perbaps of more importance to our entering into the mind of the Holy Spirit, than all other means united. It is thus, that by an unction from the Holy One we know all things.
In reading by myself, I have also felt the advantage of being able to pause, and think as well as pray; and to inquire how far the subject is any way applicable to my case and conduct in life.
In the course of a morning's exercise, it may be supposed that some things will appear bard to be understood ! and I may feel myself, after all my application, unable to resolve them. Here, then, let me avail myself of commentators and expositors. If I read them instead of reading the scriptures, I may indeed derive some knowledge ; but my mind will not be stored with the best riches.; nor will the word dwell richly in me in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. If, on the other hand, I read the scrip. lures, and exercise my own mind on their meaning, only using the helps with which I am furnished, when I particularly need them, such knowledge will avail me more than any other: for having felt and laboured at the difficulty myself, what I obtain from others towards the solution of it, becomes more interesting and abiding, than if I had read it without any such previous efforts. And as to my own thoughts, though they may not be superior, nor equal to those of others, in themselves considered; yet, if they be just,