« AnteriorContinuar »
disappointed of our hope. We shall have just reason to say, Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. The hungry he will fill with good things, and never send the needy away empty ; it is only the rich and self-sufficient he sends empty away. The diligent soul shall be made fat with good things.
And here let me observe, that, in the vision, the lamps, the pipes, the bowl, and the oil were all of gold. By this we are to understand that those who wait upon the Lord in sincerity and in truth, are in themselves as superior to unregenerate men, as gold is to the baser metals. And what is there of such value as the grace of which they have been made the partakers? In comparison of it, all else is but dross. And are there not in the gospel unsearchable riches ! And may we not well say, that under the institutions of Christianity, whether private or public, we have enjoyed many golden opportunities ? 'Yes, indeed; and if we be careful and diligent to keep up the communication between Christ and our own souls, we shall have all our wants abundantly supplied, and the salvation administered shall be as a lamp that burneth.
4. Finally, we are taught by this vision, that however low our state may be, or however numerous and powerful our enemies, his grace shall be sufficient for us. This assurance was given to Zerubbabel and Joshua, and the event corresponded with the vision. Of this, too, may we be assured; for to us no less than to St. Paul, does the Lord Jesus say, My grace is sufficient for you. Is that grace at present imparted in but low degrees? Still God says to us, Who has despised the day of small things ? I do not; and, therefore, let not any of you do it. Are our enemies exceedingly powerful? God teaches us again to say, Who art thou, O great mountain ? before Zerubbabel Thou shalt become a plain. Have we an evidence in ourselves that the Lord Jesus Christ has begun a good work of grace within us? God again teaches us to say, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house ; his hands shall also finish it. If it should be thought that these pas. sages relate to that particular occasion, by looking into the New Testament we shall find the same assurances and triumphs. Here we are told, that He who has been the author, will also be the finisher of our faith. Here we have also assurances given to us, that He who has begun a good work in us, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. And even now, whilst conflicting with our enemies, we may say, If God be for us, who can be against us. IV ho shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Who is he that shall condemn ? Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No; I am persuaded, that neither angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The plummet is in the hands of our Zerubbabel, with those seven
attendant spirits, who are the eyes of the Lord, and run to and fro through the whole earth ; and he will see that the work is performed in us according to his will.
Look, then, my brethren, to our adorable Lord and Saviour, and let nothing interrupt your communication with him. It is your privilege to be daily and hourly receiving out of his fulness, grace, occording to the grace that is in him, and sufficient for all your necessities. Do
feel your need of repentance, or pardon, or any blessing whatever! Remember that he is exalted to be a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, and remission of sins. And though you are not to expect the Holy Spirit imparted to you in his miraculous powers, yet you may in his gracious influences : yes, you shall receive the Holy Spirit, For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to as many as are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And though you may still have many conflicts, the time is not far distant, when, the work being completed in you, The head stone thereof shall be brought forth with shoutings ; and to all eternity you shall cry, Grace, grace unto it.
Christians the Light of the World.
“ Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid: neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick ; and it giveth light into all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”—Matt. v., 14-16.
Had we not been authorized by God himself, we should never have presumed to designate the saints by such honorable appellations, as are unreservedly given to them in the Scriptures. Of all the objects in the visible creation, the sun is the most glorious and magnificent. It has attracted the universal attention of mankind in all ages and in every nation, and has been the wonder of the most refined and polished, as well as the most rude and barbarous. Every plant, every tree, and every living creature upon this terraquious globe, and all the celestial luminaries in the firmament of heave en, partake of its benign influence; yet, even to that are the saints compared ; Ye are the light of the world. Under the Mosaic dispensation, the light of the world was a title applied to the most eminent Rabbins, but under the gospel age, Jesus Christ transferred it to his disciples, who, under God, were to be the means of diffusing the light of life throughout the universe.
I. We propose, in the first place, in illustrating these words, to
consider the office to which God has destined his people. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Strictly speaking, neither prophets nor apostles could arrogate to themselves the honor which is here, in a subordidate sense, conferred upon the followers of Christ : it belongs exclusively to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Sun of Righteousness ; and who says of himself, I am the light of the world. St. John, speaking of the Baptist, who was the greatest of all the prophets, expressly declares. that he was not that light ; but that Christ was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. Taking this view of the subject, the name of stars would be much more applicable to us, for we shine only with a borrowed lustre; reflecting merely the rays which we have received from the Lord Jesus. But God has been pleased to dignify us with that more honorable appellation, the light of the world; for the saints exhibit to the world all the true light that is in it. He has sent his people to fulfil that office in the moral, which the sun performs in the natural world.
In the first place, he has qualified them to sustain this relation to mankind. By the energy of the Holy Spirit, he has quickened them from the death of sin, and imparted to their souls the light of life; this cannot be imparted by reason or philosophy, and no man can possess it, unless it be given bim from above. This sentiment has been clearly and fully expressed by the Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Corinthians. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him : neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned, but he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This is that mystery which was hid from ages and from generations, but is now made manifest to the saints, according to the commandment of the everlasting God. The meanest of his people are, in this respect, wiser than the wisest of unenlightened men, because they are all taught of God. They have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things. We are aware that this is an offensive truth, and that the learned will ever reply, in the language of the offended Pharisees, Are we blind also ? The knowledge of which we speak is not acquired by the exercise of reason, or by the use of books; it is the knowledge of experience. It must be sought and obtained from God, and from him alone. It is no less a truth at this day, than it was in former ages, that God has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes ; even so, for so it seemeth good in his sight.
Now this divine illumination qualifies his people to instruct others. They may, indeed, be unlearned and ignorant men in other things, but of these things they have the witness in themselves, and, therefore, are enabled to speak of them with the same confidence they do of the things about which they are daily conversant. They
may not speak scientifically about their bodily feelings and religious exercises ; they may use broken sentences, and misplace their words; indeed, they may use a very bad choice of words ; but when they tell you of their wants and supplies, or of the diseases and the remedies which they have found effectual to remove them, they know whereof they affirm. Thus respecting the great truth of the gospel, they are enabled to speak from their own experience ; and the greatest philosopher in the universe may sit at their feet and learn these humble lessons of divine wisdom and knowledge.
Again, God has ordained them to sustain this relation to mankind. With many it is a favorite idea that they are to be religious, but that their religion is not to be seen. Under the pretence of hating ostentation, they conform to every practice of the world, and are in no respect distinguishable from the more decent moralist. But such persons are laboring under a fatal delusion. They only deceive their own souls, when they think a man may serve God faithfully, and yet avoid the notice of those around him.
For, in the first place, they cannot do it if they would. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. The Christian life is a high and sublime attainment, an attainment at which no man can arrive without great pains and persevering efforts ; and if he walks after the Spirit, and confines himself to the narrow way that leadeth unto life, he must necessarily attract the gaze of public notice. What a wide contrast between a devout Christian and a man of the world, who is living after the flesh, and walking in the broad road that leadeth to destruction! The whole temper, and spirit, and conduct of a Christian, differ from such a man's, as much as light from darkness. Indeed, let us suppose his light is but small, and if exhibited before the meridian sun, it might easily be overlooked ; yet the smallest taper attracts notice when shining in the midst of darkness : and this is precisely the case with every Christian: the splendor of his conduct may not be such as of itself to command admiration ; yet it cannot but be seen, by reason of the surrounding darkness. A humble, devout, and engaged Christian, who lives godly in Christ Jesus, cannot escape public notice; his holy conversation, his pious deportment, his unblamable life, his upright conduct, will attract the attention of all acquainted with him.
In the next place, they ought not to do it if they could. Men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house. In like manner, God does not bring his people out of darkness into his murvellous light solely for their own good, but that they may show forth the praises of him that hath called them, and diffuse the light which they have received. They are bound, therefore, by every tie of duty and gratitude, to make him known to others, and to advance, as much as possible, his glory in the world. And he who does not do this to the best of his ability, is highly criminal in the sight of God. Moreover, their fellow-creatures have also a claim upon them. Who that should
see a house in flames, and know its inmates were asleep, would not feel himself bound to alarm them of their danger, and account him. self guilty of murderous cruelty towards them, if they should perish in the flames through his neglect? If, then, we should feel it to be our duty to give them the advantage of our superior light and knowledge in relation to their bodily welfare, how much more ought we to do it in relation to their souls ! The command which God has given to every enlightened soul, is, arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Every true Christian ought to be deeply impressed with these sentiments, and feel himself laid under the most solemn obligation to use all his powers and faculties, the whole weight of his influence in the community, to promote the glory of God and the well being of man; and this cannot be done unless he takes a firm, decided, and public stand in favor of the Christian religion, and brings forth, in his daily walk and conversation, the fruits of righteousness.
II. We shall now proceed, in the second place, to speak of the duty resulting from it. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heav
That we are not to do any thing from ostentation and vainglory, is certain : whatever proceeds
from such a principle is altogether hateful in the sight of God. They who seek the applause of men, must expect no other reward. But we ought not to be so restrained by these considerations, as to decline that course of action which will bring glory to God, and good to our fellow beings. On the contrary, we should live such holy and blameless lives; we should walk so orderly, and so circumspectly before the world—in one word, we should make our light so shine before men, as to compel all who behold it to glorify our Father which is in heaven.
But, it may be asked, How can any conduct of ours accomplish this? I answer, first, it may show men the unreasonableness of their prejudices. All manner of prejudices are entertained against the gospel ; and all that can be said is insufficsent to remove them. A prejudiced mind will resist the most conclusive reasoning, will reject the clearest demonstration. The testimony of a thousand witnesses would have no more effect upon a mind under the control of sinful prejudice, than upon a brute. Of this, the royal Psalmist was fully sensible, when he declared that some men are so foolish and ignorant, that they are like beasts before you. Reason, persuade, preach, censure, terrify, thunder, open the treasures of heaven, and the abysses of hell, and such men remain unmoved. But what we do frequently, has a very powerful effect When reason and persuasion fail, a virtuous and holy life will often put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and make them ashamed who falsely accuse our good conversation in Christ. Nothing is so powerful to silence opposition and to remove prejudice from the minds of men, as virtuous conduct. If we love our enemies, bless them that curse us, and do good to them that hate us and despitefully use us—if we are