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ACTS IV. 13.
“ They took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus."
Such was the impression produced on the Jewish, council by the behaviour of Peter and John before them. They had expected that the majesty of the.court would awe them into silence, that, if they did speak, they would be easily put to confusion by their threats and cavils, and that their defence would be the feeble and hesitating apology of perplexity and fear. But they beheld in them a courage which proceeded from the spirit of power, an energy which struck their consciena, ces, and a wisdom with which their craft and subtlety were unable to contend. They saw in them those qua. lities which they had so often dreaded and envied in their Master, that they shone with his light, and plead. ed with his zeal. It had been the privilege of these disciples to be for a considerable time the associates of Jesus ; and such were the lessons which he had given; them respecting truthi and duty, and all divine and heavenly objects; and such were the graces which he had displayed before them, that their views must have been very different from those of carnal men: the path which they pursued was far from the course of this world, and the temper that influenced them was quite opposite to its spirit. Such was the result of their bes. ing with Jesus.
But this is the privilege of good men in all ages. We cannot indeed be with him in the way in which his companions on earth were, but saints are with him when he condescends to visit them, and to maintain fellowship with them. There are various promises of the word of God in which good men are taught to expeet, and to prepare for his gracious presence. “If any man love
me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him.” - Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It is not the number, but the piety of his worshippers which attracts his presence.
The offices which Jesus sustains suggests arguments to prove the reality of this fellowship. He is their friend, and he will visit them with the proofs of his care and regard; he is their counsellor, and he will direct their steps; and he is their physician, and he will bind up their wounds. To him is committed the care of their interests, the supply of their wants, and the culture of their graces; and this requires his presence and continued influence. And the experience of good men in various scenes attests the reality of this privilege. In the scene of danger and suffering, he hath been with them to support their courage, and to ensure their safe. ty; in the season of temptation, he has enabled them to avoid its snares, and to resist its assaults; in the bour of solitude, they have felt that they were not alone, for Jesus was with them; on the bed of sickness, they have enjoyed his soothing pity and effectual support, and in the ordinances of his grace they have seen the beauty of the Lord, while they inquired in his temple.
In the ordinance of the Lord's Supper he is peculiarly present with his disciples. It is at such a scene that "he brings them into his banqueting house, and that
his banner over them is love." Ye know this from your past, and may I add from your present experience; and if this is the case, you feel how love burns, how hope is animated, how griefs and fears are forgotten, and how joy abounds in his presence. You have felt pleasure in the society of the wise who could instruct you, the good who could sooth you, and the friends who loved you; but communion with Jesus now can be equalled and exceeded only by the bliss of heaven, There are evils which hurnan sympathy cannot allevia ate, and difficulties in which earthly wisdom cannot guide; but Jesus can make darkness light before us, and comfort against grief on every side.
The Scriptures record many delightful testimonies to the reality and sweetness of communion with Jesus, and these testimonies are not the language of the weak and the credulous; of persons of strong imaginations and ardent tempers; but of men the most remote from any thing like folly or presumption. The object which they had in view, in detailing their high privilege, was not to gratify their own vanity, or to secure their dominion over the faith of others, by teaching them to regard them as the special favourites of heaven; but to honour the grace of Jesus, and to encourage others to seek the happiness
It belongs to your Lord to determine the place where his presence is to be enjoyed, the season of this fellowship, and the degree in which his saints shall be con scious of it. Wherever the place is, they may
be assured that none of its confusions shall be permitted to disturb their tranquillity, and that its miseries will not drive him away.
If they are with him but for a moment, they feel that it becomes not them to complain, who deserved the blackness of darkness for ever, who hope to spend eternity in his immediate presence.
Nay you ought not to repine, that you behold him darkly as through a glass, and hear but a few whispers of his voice ; for even of this you are unworthy; and the world is before
shall see as you are seen, and know him even as you are known.
You have heard the solemn injunction, “ prepare to meet thy God, O Israel," and I trust that those who are now favoured with his presence, are exciting every faculty of their souls, and every affection of their hearts, to magnify his name, and let those who long for his arrival, but to whom he hath not yet appeared, observe the indications of his approach. “ It is the voice of my beloved, behold he cometh.” I am certain there is not one that knows how to value and improve this prie vilege, but will say with Jacob, " I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”
After the Service.
Now what is the temper and conduct by which you will make it manifest that you have been with Jesus ? It is well known how ready we are to imbibe the spirit, and to adopt the manners of those to whom we are strongly attached, and with whom we frequently associate. Even where the imitation was not intended, we slide into it insensibly. Now intercourse with the Sa. viour produces conformity to his image ; and as the man who has been handling perfumes will carry a fra. grant scent with him wherever he goes, so he who has been with his Lord, will manifest the savour of his name in
every place. Superiority to the world will evince your communion with Jesus. Such beauties are seen in the Saviour's character, that the eye which has been gazing on them, turns with disgust from the world's attractions. Good men discern such a value in his salvation, that the pos. session of it forms the grand object of their pursuit ; and such a certainty and preciousness do they perceive in his promises, that the most flattering prospects of the world appear to them as idle dreams. In order to learn this superiority to the world, we need not repair to the schools of heathen philosophy, or to the cells of monkery to get our minds perverted, or our hearts deadened by the unnatural apathy of the one, or the gloomy austerities of the other; but let us go to the feet of Jesus. I call on you who are now with him, to seek more earnestly the things which are above, and to shew that his voice has closed your ears to the world's flatteries, and his glory your eyes to its vain shew.
Tenderness of conscience and circumspection of cons duct, will also make it evident that you have been with Jesus. In communion with him you have the liveli. est impressions of the purity of his nature, and such seems the importance of his favour, and such the beauty of his unspotted rectitude, that it becomes the most earnest wish of his people, to avoid every thing which would displease him. Indulgences which seem to others excusable, you must carefully shun; and omissions which to others appear to be without blame, you must avoid as indications of ingratitude to Christ, and indifference to your duty. This moral delicacy and caution are quite different from the scrupulosity of hypocrites. They are scrupulons only in matters of trivial moment, and their austerity is accompanied with bitter reflections on those who are less reserved than they are; but the circumspection and self-denial of the pious, is always accompanied with mildness and liberal. ity in their judgment of others. See that you abstain from every appearance of evil. How soon does the