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merely to Israel, “after the flesh," but to Israel in that spirit and faith which seal them the children of Abraham.
The Israel of God are the people of his choice, “Chosen in Christ, before the foundation of the world.” In themselves they are equally corrupt with others, and by nature, “the children of wrath.” They are separated from the ungodly world by effectual vocation, they carry his conspicuous image in their lives, and demonstrate that they are exclusively devoted to him. They are here exercised with many and peculiar trials. They are sometimes favored with Bethel manifestations, and at other seasons, have their Peniel wrestlings, in which they also prevail.
It is not among their smallest mercies that they are related to God in a covenant, well ordered in all things and sure.
In this covenant it is provided that in Christ one of the covenant contractors, all the seed of Israel shall be justified and shall glory. This covenant supplies a firm staff in the promises, on which they do sweetly lean when they worship God in the spirit. 'Tis this that blunts and breaks every weapon formed against them; 'tis this enables them by faith to rejoice in the glorious prospect of inheriting their spiritual Canaan, that better country; and emboldens them at the verge of Jordan to exclaim, We have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.
O my soul, canst thou claim an interest in the covenant of God? What innumerable obligations art thou laid under; to love him in sincerity and truth; to cleave unto him with full purpose of heart; to serve him in the Gospel of his Son; and, finally, to follow him without
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the Camp, bearing shame and reproach for his name's sake. Thus wilt thou prove thyself an Israelite indeed; and God, the God of Israel, shall give thee his blessing.
REFLECTIONS ON THE PLEASURES AND ADVANTAGES
OF VITAL GODLINESS,
In a Dialogue between Philemon and Theophilus.
To the Reader. The common civilities of life require, that when strangers are introduced into our company, we should have some information respecting their names and character; as I am about to introduce two visitors to thee, it is proper that I should comply with this established custom, and I trust, at the close of the visit, thou wilt have no reason to regret the interview. Philemon is an aged, honorable, and deeply experienced Christian, whose happiness it was to be savingly called by the grace of the Holy Spirit in his early youth, and though time has shed his silver frost on his venerable head, his heart still glows with all the holy fervor of his early profession, and, with that generous pleasure which is only known to a gracious heart, rejoices unfeignedly in the salvation of sinners and the prosperity of his fellow saints; hence, it was with a sincere pleasure that he saw thc dawnings of Divine grace on the soul of Theophilus, a modest amiable youth, who was much persecuted by his father on account of his religious profession. To the affectionate admonitions of Philemon,
young Theophilus was peculiarly attentive, and to him as his kind instructor, he freely unbosomed his very soul. In a former visit he had given Philemon an affecting account of his father's conduct in opposing his spiritual progress, and, therefort, his agod friend was agreeably surprized to find his countenance brightened with an unusual joy, when he called again at the house of Philemon, who accosted him in the following words:
Phil. Welcome my beloved Theophilus; if I may judge from
your countenance, which I believe is the index to the feelings of your heart, the storm is blown over, and the prejudices of your father softened, since I saw you last.
Theoph. Your conclusion, my honored friend, is a just one, and, not only has the heart of my dear parent relented toward me, but I have been favored with such a manifestation of the Redeemer's love, as no words can describe. Agreeable to your advice when we last met, I retired to my closet to seek directions from the Lord, and was enabled to pour out my heart to him with unusual enlargement. On rising from my knees, I took up my Bible, and on opening it, that precious passage, Luke xviii. 29, 30, immediately met my eyes, “Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting." On reading this sweet text, my soul was filled with joy and peace in believing, and from that hour the conduct of my father toward me has been altogether as kind, as it was before the very reverse.
Phil. You will readily believe me, Theophilus, when I say, my heart rejoices with you on this occasion, but, as one who would watch over you with an holy jealousy, let me ask, on what grounds do you so confidently affirm that this visit was from God, for sudden impulses of the mind are often unsubstantial in their nature.
Theoph. It is my desire to be searched, for this is a point in which it would be awful to err: in answer to your question, let me say, that I do not draw the conclusion merely from the circumstance of my opening the Bible just on the passage I have referred to, though that was more than a little remarkable, but because I derived instruction from the words in these two views, 1. From the solemn declaration of our Lord, I was led to see that all who live godly, and walk closely and consistently with God must expect the sneer and contempt of a gainsaying world, and, 2. That where the Lord gives grace thus to act, and to make a believing surrender of the soul with all its concerns for time and eternity into the hands of Jesus, he stands solemnly engaged by his promise, to carry that man through all the storms and dangers of the way, to bless him in this world, and to exalt hiin to all the blessedness of eternity; and this, not as the reward of his services or sufferings, but as the free bestowment of unmerited favor.
Phil. The account you have given me is both satisfactory and pleasing, and you may rest assured, that none ever did, or shall thus trust in the Lord and perish. Your beginning, my young friend has been hopeful
, and I trust, through Divine grace, your rest shall be glorious, I would say to you in the words of an au.
cient servant of God, “Go on, and the Lord be with thee.”
Theoph. Your kind advice, on all occasions, demands my grateful acknowledgments, and it would considerably add to the obligations which you have laid me under, if you would favor me with your views of that animating passage, 1 Tim. iv. 8, in which the apostle affirms, that “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
Phil. The cordial regard which I feel for your present and eternal happiness, iny Theophilus, urges me to a cheerful compliance with your request; I will, therefore, freely offer such thoughts upon the subject as may be suggested to my mind. Let us first consider what the character supposes. We read of some in the days of the apostle, who had the form of godliness, without the power, and I fear there are but too many of such characters in our day, and this is a delusion against which we cannot too carefully guard. A good old puritan writer has given us a short definition of true godliness, by calling it“God-likeness;" and it may be properly applied to the character, for a godly man is quickened and made alive to God, by the regenerating power of his Holy Spirit. Like the rest of mankind by nature, he bore the image of the earthly Adam, but Divine grace hath stamped upon his soul the image of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. He is one whose heart and feet are turned to God, and he delights to walk in his ways. The word, ordinances, and house of God, are dear to his soul. He cordially loves the image of God in others, wherever he finds it, and the people