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[It was manifested for “ those who by Christ do believe in God:” these are the persons interested in it, these universally, and these alone. Shew me a poor self-condemning sinner, one who under a sense of his utter guilt and helplessness comes to God through Christ, renouncing all dependence on himself, and hoping for acceptance solely through the merits and mediation of the Lord Jesus, he is the person for whom God sent his only-begotten Son; he is the person for whose benefit God raised up and glorified his Son, and for whose complete salvation he has invested his Son with all power in heaven and in earth. A man who feels not his own guilt and danger has no interest in all this; nor has the man who relies in any measure on his own righteousness or strength for his acceptance with God. It is the penitent believer, and he alone, that can derive any comfort from this stupendous mystery. Dear brethren, let this sink deep into your hearts; you must come to God through Christ, and “ believe in God in and by Christ." I pray you, do not forget this : for, till you come to God in this way, you have no saving faith, no scriptural hope. But, if once you be brought to this state of affiance in the Lord Jesus, whatever you may have been, or whatever you may have done, in times past, God's promises are made to you, and shall be fulfilled in you; for "they are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus.” “ All things are yours, if ye are Christ's ; and, as Christ is God's," so shall ye be to all eternity.]
2. What more particularly this mystery speaks to them—
(God's design in all was, " that your faith and hope might be in God." This then it says to you ; Believe in God, and hope in God. Did God fail in any thing which he had promised to his dear Son ? Neither then will he fail you, if only you believe in him. Look at the Lord Jesus: see his discouragements : see him in the manger at Bethlehem: what can that infant ever do? see him in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross, and in the grave: what can be hoped for from him? But behold him rising from the grave, ascending to heaven, seated on his throne, and invested with all power in heaven and in earth; and then you will see what God can and will do for you in your most desperate condition. The power exercised for Christ is the same that is engaged for you: yea, and the work wrought in and for Christ, is the very pattern and pledge of what shall be wrought for you. Do I speak too strongly here? Consult the Apostle Paul: it is the very thing which he himself speaks by inspiration of God: he declares, that “ the exceeding greatness of God's power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him up from the dead, and set him at his own right hand above all the princi
palities and powers of earth and hell, is that which he will exercise towards every believing soulm" --- Look then to God and “ believe in him :" yea look at Christ Jesus, and “hope,” that, for his sake, all that has been done in and for him, shall be done in and for you. Think of nothing less : expect nothing less : be satisfied with nothing less: and, if at any time a doubting thought arise, chide your drooping spirit, as David did, and say, “ Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God"."]
m Eph. i. 19-21. n Ps. xlii. 11.
LOVE TO THE BRETHREN. 1 Pet. i. 22. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the
truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
AS our Christian profession lays us under peculiar obligations to holiness, so our Christian experience should influence us to exert ourselves as much as possible in the service of our God. The more we have attained, the more we should aspire after still higher attainments. To this effect is St. Peter's exhortation in the passage before us. In his words we may observe, I. What he takes for granted respecting all true
ChristiansThe Apostle, writing to those who professed to be followers of Christ, gives them credit that they were his disciples indeed ; and takes for granted, 1. That they had “ obeyed the truth”—
[To “obey the truth” is, in scripture-language, the same as to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The substance of the divine record is, that in Christ Jesus there is life, and that we either have life or are destitute of it, according as we possess, or are destitute of, the knowledge of Christa. This is the true record of God, which we are enjoined to receive with all
a 1 John v. 11, 12.
• Christesent to a very chi may
humility and thankfulness; and when we so embrace it as to found all our hopes of salvation entirely upon it, then we may properly be said to obey the truth. Now this every Christian does; he does not merely give his assent to any propositions about Christ, but he “ flees to Christ for refuge," and relies upon him as his only Saviour. And the Apostle takes for granted (with good reason too) that they to whom he was writing, had so received Christ: for, however they might have been baptized into the faith of Christ, they were no better than mere heathens, if they had not truly believed in him.]
2. That in obeying the truth they had also “purirified their souls” –
[We may cleanse the outward part of our conduct by various means. A regard to our reputation, a self-righteous desire of recommending ourselves to God, or a spirit of pride and self-complacency, will be sufficient to rectify in a measure our external behaviour; but it is the property of faith alone to purify the heartb. And as nothing but faith will prevail for this end, so wherever faith is, it will infallibly produce this effect. The faith that has not this fruit is dead; and will no more avail for our salvation than the faith of devilsd. Well therefore does the Apostle take it for granted, that they, to whom he wrote, experienced this effect of their faith ; seeing that it is the principal intent of the Gospel to ensure and produce ite.]
3. That they had so purified their souls as to have attained an unfeigned love of the brethren
[As faith purifies the heart, so in a more especial manner it “ works by love." The love of the brethren never was nor ever can be, found in an unrenewed soul. There may be a semblance of it; there may be a partial attachment to our own sect and party, or a carnal attachment to a person who is spiritually-minded; but there never can be a love to spiritual persons simply on account of their relation to Christ, and their conformity to his image. But let the smallest portion of true grace be imparted to the soul, and instantly will this love spring up in the heart. Many things indeed may occur in the mind to restrain its exercise for a season, and to impede its growth; but it may be taken for granted that this principle both abides and operates in the heart of every true Christian; “ he that loveth him that begat, cannot but love those who are begotten of him."]
b Acts xv. 9.
c 1 John iii. 3.
a Jam. ii. 19, 20. 8 1 John v. 1.
4. That they had attained all this through the influence of the Holy Spirit
[Faith itself cannot exist in the heart, till the Spirit of God has wrought it in us : he must overcome our reluctance, and make us willing to obey the truth". Neither can our hearts be purified but by the same almighty power. Faith indeed is the instrument whereby our sanctification is effected; but the Holy Spirit is the agent. Every progressive step of it must be wrought by him! Our love can flow from no other source; whatever be the grace that is exercised by us, He must be acknowledged as the author of it; “ it is the same Spirit that worketh all in all k.”]
If what is here taken for granted be really found in us, nothing will be more acceptable than, II. The exhortation grounded upon it
“ The end of the commandment,” says the Apostle, “ is charity;" and our profession as Christians supposes that it exists, and operates, in our hearts. But care must be taken that it be exercised, 1. With sincerity,
[There is a politeness and civility which is only a counterfeit of Christian love: but it is not this which the text inculcates. We are indeed commanded in other parts of Scripture to “ be courteous;" and it would be well if some professors of religion paid more attention to this command. But the love enjoined in the text, is an “unfeigned" love to all the saints, arising from a view of their relation to God, and to ourselves. It must be an abiding principle in our hearts, operating uniformly in the whole of our conduct towards them. It must lead us to exercise meekness, forbearance, and forgiveness, and to seek both their temporal and spiritual welfare, as occasion may serve! In short, our love must be without dissimulation"; it must be not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.) 2. With purity
[Even where there is a portion of Christian love, there may be a considerable alloy mixed with it. We may be influenced too much by selfish considerations. We may be seeking our own interest or honour, while we imagine that we are giving a testimony of Christian love. Yea, our love which was pure at first, may easily degenerate into mere carnal affection. The greatest caution is necessary, especially among
h Ps. cx. 3. i Rom. viii. 13. k 1 Cor. xii, 7-11. 11 Cor. xiii. 447. m Rom. xii. 9. ni John ji. 18. VOL. XX.
young persons, lest our hearts betray us into indiscretion of any kind, and Satan take advantage of us to lead us into sin.] 3. With fervour
[An empty profession of benevolence to the poor will not be deemed equivalent to an actual relieving of their wants; nor will a cold expression of regard to the brethren fulfil the sacred duty of love to them. In the latter especially, it should know no bounds, but those which were affixed to the love of Christ. Did he love us to such a degree as to lay down his life for us? we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethreno. There is no service, however difficult or self-denying, which we should not render them for good. We should love one another, as the Greek word means, “ intensely P." To sum up all in one word, we should love one another, as Christ has loved us] APPLICATION
1. Inquire whether the things here taken for granted be found in us
[Have we indeed received the Holy Ghost? and through his almighty influence have we believed in Christ, and purified our souls, and got a principle of holy love implanted in us? And do these attainments become so many motives to diligence, and means of spiritual advancement! Let this be duly weighed, and it will serve to shew us what we are. If we be in the faith, our self-examination will increase our comfort; and, if we be not in the faith, it may be the means of carrying conviction to the soul. Let us be assured that faith, love, and holiness universally characterize the Christian, and that our evidences of conversion will bear an exact proportion to our attainments in these things". Let therefore our exercise of these graces be so manifest and undeniable, that the Spirit's agency in us may be confessed by allo.]
2. Endeavour to fulfil the duties that are here imposed on us
[A sweeter command cannot possibly be given. To obey it is to enjoy a heaven upon earth. Heaven is a region of ineffable, unceasing love ; and the more we have of that divine principle the more happy shall we be. Let us then strive to mortify whatever may retard its growth in our souls. Let us beware lest through the abounding of iniquity it wax cold. And let us strive to exercise it with all that purity and fervour which become persons so highly privileged.]
0 1 John iii. 16. PÉKTEVWC. Eph. v. 1, 2. John xv. 12. r John xii. 35. and Isai, lxi. 9. s 1 John iii. 19.