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and complexion, of education and habit, of locality and forms of religion may exist, there is yet a common bond of attachment, connecting all the various members of the great household of faith, at whatever period of time they live, and whatever part of God's universe they inhabit.
Points of resemblance there are, numerous and strong, between the children of God, and other members of the human race, too obvious to require notice. But there are points of difference too, if less strongly marked, yet fundamental and all-important,-difference of moral character, object of pursuit, and means of securing it.
And there are points of difference among Christians, often exciting surprise and regret, but they are not fundamental. They relate not to the grand principles of faith, but only to subordinate matters; and they are differences only, that admit of happy adjustment by the increase of light and the abounding of love.
It is a blessed peculiarity of Christians, that they are one, even as Christ and his Father are one. One, in their regenerated nature-one in their affections-one in their designs-one in their interests—one in their destiny. Their hopes, conflicts, encouragements, joys and sorrows, are one. Alike, they were chosen of God from before the foundation of the world, to become holy-to be made the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty, by the agency of the same Spirit, and the instrumentality of evangelical truth. Alike, they confess themselves poor miserable sinners, helpless, and deserving of wrath, worthless, and entitled to no favor. Alike, they discard all confidence in the flesh, renounce their own righteousness, admit the holiness, justice, and goodness of God's law, turn their eyes to Jesus, as the only Saviour, and behold in Him "the chief among ten thousand," the "one altogether lovely;" all are branches of one and the same vine, derive their nourishment from the same root, bring forth the same peaceable fruits, and impart the same blessings to a dying world. They may inhabit lands wide apart as the poles, belong to hostile nations, live under every variety of government, and adopt dissimilar customs; they may have lived before the flood or after it, in the prophetic or apostolic age, in the period of barbarism or refinement; and even more, they may continue to weep and struggle here below, or, already wear the crown of victory on the hill of Zion, and pour forth their everlasting songs in harmony with the myriads about the throne of God, but still they are one.
Exult not now, O profane man! that Christians here are full of imperfections and sins. They know it. Heaven knows it. It is for a lamentation. Many is the tear, the prayer, the struggle, which the fact occasions. But does this destroy their relation to Christ, and to one another? Does the parent cast off his child, or the sister discard her brother, because the child or brother may have fallen among thieves, and been stript of his raiment, or
among assassins, and been gashed and wounded, or into a bed of filth, where his garments are soiled? So long as the child retains his filial spirit, or the brother his fraternal love, he will be pitied for his sufferings, and carefully cleansed from his defilements. Thus does the Christian, while absent from his father's house, fall often into the robber's hand, and into the mire; his soul is impoverished, his peace is wounded, his garments are defiled; but he is a Christian still, his heart is on God, he is one with the friends of God, and labors to be holy, as God is holy.
Of course, I shall not be understood to say, that such is the character of all professed Christians. Many are deceivers or deceived, like Judas and Demas, like Simon Magus and Alexander the coppersmith. Who they are, is known to God. And as chaff they will be blown away, when he gathers the wheat into his garner. Still, all true Christians are one wherever they live, what name soever they bear, and whatever sufferings they endure.
IV. It is the blessedness of saints on earth, that they have communion with saints in heaven. They are come "to the spirits of just men made perfect."
There is no difficulty in having communion with friends on earth, while they are far away from us. Though we see not their forms, nor hear their voices, we can bring them into our presence at any moment by the power of thought, con over our intercourse with them in times past, and so abstract ourselves from things around us, as to hold protracted and delightful communion with them. No one can be ignorant of this. And why not hold similar communion with our friends in heaven? We have known them, loved them, communed with them here, and in essential characteristics, they are still the same as ever. Death is but a narrow sea, dividing their land from ours. Communion with them is no more difficult than if they yet dwelt on earth, out of our sight and reach.
Want of faith is the only difficulty in our way. Believe the apostle's testimony, that we are "come to the spirits of just men made perfect," i. e., that they surround us, though we see them not; that they contemplate the same God that we do, that they adore the same Saviour, that the great end of their being is the same, and that they do whatsoever they do for the glory of God and the welfare of the intelligent universe; and have we not communion with them as truly as with the Father of our spirits, and the Lord Jesus Christ?
What if they dwell in light, that mortal eyes have never seen, and amid glories that surpass human powers of conception, and have a strength and clearness of vision peculiar to the heavenly state, does all this cut them off from communion with such as are still contending with principalities and powers? Have they no fellow-feeling with those they have left behind them, to maintain
the conflict with sin and hell? Do they forget the trials and sorrows of this impure state of being? Are they not our brethren still?
Whoever has the consciousness of devotement to God, and of self-consecration to the work he has given man to do, sympathizes with every being in the universe, who lives for the same end. And that the spirits of departed saints are thus devoted to God, who doubts? The object of every holy being in the universe is, to show forth God's glory by the increase of holiness and love; it is to accomplish the same work that Christ came from heaven to accomplish, and to which the saints on earth sincerely consecrate their powers. For this the spirits of just men made perfect, labor without fatigue, without disappointment, and without intermission. Must there not, then, be communion between saints on earth and in heaven? They fight against sin and Satan, as we do, only that they never "become weary nor faint in their minds." They rejoice over one sinner that repenteth, and over all penitent sinners, as we do, only with far greater intensity and purity of affection.
There is communion, then, between saints on earth and saints in heaven. It might be more perfect. It would be so, if the fact were more firmly seized. Cherish the thought, beloved brethren, and hold more frequent and intimate communings with friends and dear ones, who have fallen asleep in Jesus; nor only with those you have personally known and loved, in the several relations of life, but with saints of other generations and other lands, who, with apostles, prophets, and patriarchs, are ever bending before the throne, and ascribing glory and honor to the Lamb that was slain !
V. It is a further blessedness of Christians, that they have freedom of access to the eternal throne. They are come "unto God the Judge of all." Suffer as they may, from the suspicions of their brethren, from the violence of the ungodly, from the chastening hand of God, or from the malice of the great adversary, they still have a sure refuge in the bosom of Him who judgeth every man according to his works. Is God terrible in judgment? 'tis only to his enemies. To those who love him, it is a consolation inexpressibly sweet, that his eyes are upon all the ways of men, for the defence of his people. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
No attribute of God is more dear to the Christian than his justice. That he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and of great goodness, is a truth full of sweetness; but even this exhibition of his character is fearfully incomplete, till it is added, "he will by no means clear the guilty." A God who does not maintain unimpaired the majesty of his law, and vindicate the right against all who would trample it in the dust, is a God un
merciful and unkind. Though he hath no delight in the death of the sinner, but that he should turn and live, yet he hath infinite delight in his own perfect law, and cannot permit its honor to be tarnished. This fact is the grand security of every holy intelligence in the universe.
Whoever will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution; it is not possible to escape a measure of obloquy and contempt, even though exempt from violence. The universal conviction of this truth explains the fact of unwarranted conformity to the world on the part of Christians generally; and hence the apostle affirmns, that had we hope only in this life, we should be, of all men, most miserable. The Christian's hope takes hold on another life, and draws its nourishment from the sure word of promise, brought home by daily communion with "God the judge of all." His cause will be vindicated. Satan may stand at his right hand to resist him; but the Lord that hath chosen him will rebuke the adversary, saying to him, "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" The perfect righteousness of Jehovah is the safeguard of the humble. The Lord is his fortress, his high tower, and his deliverer forever. And in the way prepared by infinite wisdom, he has access, at all times, with boldness, into the very holy of holies, where he may spread out all his wants and sorrows, and plead with an importunity that cannot be denied, for succor and consolation.
VI. Another blessedness of the Christian is, that he ever has a prevalent intercessor at the right hand of God. He appears not before the throne in his own name: he makes no mention there of his own righteousness. Wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, his whole reliance is on the advocacy of Jesus Christ the righteous. "Ye are come," saith the Apostle," to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel."
"Cursed be every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them." Whatever this curse may be, every child of Adam lies under it. What it is, the Apostle informs us, when he declares that "the wages of sin is death"-the death opposed to that eternal life, which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ--consequently, eternal death. Such is the curse resting on every man, till, by faith he becomes one with Christ. This law, of which sin is the transgression, was the original covenant under which man was placed. Had he obeyed it, he had needed no mediator. Perfect obedience is equivalent to justification. But disobedience must receive a just recompense of reward; and that recompense is death eternal. The new covenant is established on other principles. Not that it lowers the law's demands, or diminishes the obligation to perfect obedience; but
that when the law has been violated, provision is made for magnifying and making it honorable, by other means than the destruction of the sinner.
A mediator is appointed. He is God's fellow-God's equalone with God. He is the creator of all things. The government of the world is on his shoulders. Angels, principalities, and powers, are all subject to him. Heaven, earth, and hell, alike belong to his dominion..
Though thus exalted, he has voluntarily humbled himself. He hath given his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. He hath ascended Calvary, bared his bosom to the spear, poured forth the blood of his heart in sight of the universe; said, "Father, forgive"-" It is finished"—and given up the ghost, amid the sympathies of nature, and the wild storms of human and infernal passion.
Thus has he become the mediator of the new covenant. The demands of the law are so far satisfied, that now, whosoever believeth shall be saved. Let self righteousness be renounced, and self-abasement take its place; let all hope, grounded on obedience to the law, be abandoned; and let the affections of the soul cluster around the cross, and hope plume its wing on Calvary, and the blood of Christ will speak better things than the blood of Abel.
Not only hath he shed his blood for our redemption, but he hath ascended to heaven to make continual intercession. And there he ever appears, at the right hand of the throne; touched with the feeling of our infirmities; sympathizing in the sorrows of his people; able and ready to succor them when tempted; and to pour the oil of joy into their hearts when wounded and bleeding. The Holy Spirit is their Comforter, leading them into green pastures, and beside still waters; reminding them of their sinfulness, reproving their waywardness, assisting their devotions, and supplying them with sweet prelibations of heaven's happiness. Christ sends the Spirit; and every blessing enjoyed by the Christian, is the fruit of his mediation. The blood of Abel called for vengeance on the murderous Cain. The blood of Jesus calls for mercy and grace on every believer: the blood of Abel's sacrifice could avail only to his own benefit, as an expression of his faith the blood of Jesus avails to the benefit of all nations, as the ground of justification to as many as believe.
Thus the blood that flowed on Calvary speaketh better things than the blood of Abel, precious as his blood was, to the judge of all the earth. And this is the blood to which the Christian has come, and in which lies deep and firm, the foundation of all his hopes.
And what shall I say to you more, my brethren, in relation to the blessedness found in your present condition? It were easy