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2. For the inflaming of your gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ
[If you have been brought home to the fold of Christ, need I ask, whence this change arose ? You will know full well that it did not originate with you, nor was carried into effect by any power of your own. The silly sheep would as soon return by its own wisdom to the fold it has deserted, as you would accomplish such a change in yourselves. It was the Lord Jesus Christ who sought you out, and apprehended you, and brought you home on his shoulders rejoicing: and if he had not effected it all for you and in you, you would have been roving from him to your latest hour, and would have perished in your sins. Be thankful to him then: adore him for the grace that has so distinguished you. And, whilst you give him glory for having so made you to differ from others and from your former selves, let his mercy constrain you to surrender up yourselves to him wholly, and without reserve.]
3. To excite your compassion towards a perishing world
[Were you to see a straying sheep beset with dogs who were tearing it to pieces, who amongst you would not compassionate its wretched condition? Yet is this but a very faint image of the world around you; and not of the heathen world only, but of Christians also. We see not indeed the fate prepared for them: we see not how they are already, as it were, in the jaws of the roaring lion, whose prey they will be to all eternity. But this is not the less true, because we do not see it. It is their real state; and soon shall we see it with our bodily eyes. Our blessed Lord, “ when he saw the multitudes around him," (of persons nominally the Lord's people," he had compassion on them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd.” Do ye then consider the deplorable condition of all around you, and use all possible means to bring them to the fold of Christ --- And know for your comfort, that she who shall convert a sinner from the error of his way, will save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins.")
MMCCCC. GOD'S DISPOSITION TOWARDS THE RIGHTEOUS AND WICKED. 1 Pet. iii. 12. The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers : but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
THERE is an error which obtains, to a considerable extent, amongst religious people, and which meets with too much encouragement also in the preaching of pious ministers; namely, an idea that to insist on moral duties is legal. Suppose a servant of Christ were to address his audience in the words of David; “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good ; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous; and his ears are open to their cry: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evila:" I say, suppose a minister of the Gospel were to address his people thus, he would be thought by many to be bringing them back to the law, and to be instructing them in a way contrary to the whole tenour of the Gospel. But this is a great mistake. Legality consists in principle only, and not in practice. If we teach men to do good works in order to obtain justification by them, that is legality; and that subverts the Gospel : but if, whilst we make Christ the only foundation of a sinner's hope, we inculcate moral duties, we do nothing more than what Christian fidelity requires, and nothing but what the Apostles themselves continually did. It is remarkable that St. Peter, addressing the whole Christian Church, cites the entire passage which I have read to you from the Psalms, and applies it precisely as David himself did. In fact, we all need to be reminded, that “ God will put a difference between those who serve him, and those who serve him not;" and that, a Ps. xxxiv. 11-16.
b ver. 10–12.
whilst “ his eyes are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers, his face is, and ever will be, against them that do evil.”
In confirmation of this sentiment, I will shew, I. God's tender regard for “ the righteous”
Here we must first state who “ the righteous” are
(We are not to understand this as relating to persons who are perfectly righteous, since there is no such a character to be found on earth. “ There is not one that liveth and sinneth not :” “ in many things we all offend." The term comprehends those who, in the prevailing habit of their lives, turn from iniquity to serve the living God. He, therefore, who has fled to the Lord Jesus Christ for refuge, and, through the operation of the Spirit of God, is endeavouring to fulfil the will of God, may justly consider himself as answering to this character, notwithstanding many infirmities yet cleave unto him — ---]
Over all such persons the eyes of the Lord are fixed
[God “ beholdeth all, as well the evil as the good.” But on the righteous his eyes are fixed, with peculiar complacency. He delights to look upon them: “ His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth," to shew himself strong in their behalf; to protect them from every evil - -- and to supply them with every needful good ---] His ears, too, are open to their prayers
[We all know with what a different feeling a parent beholds the children of strangers and his own. If his own child be in a situation of danger, his eye is upon it, to interpose in the time of need; and, if he were to hear its cry, all the tenderest feelings of his soul would be called forth, and all the efforts which he could make would be exerted for its relief. The inarticulate cry of an infant does not fall unheeded on a mother's ear. So God hears, not the prayer only, but the sighs and groans of his people; and will fulfil the unexpressed desires of their hearts - ---“Even before they cry, he will answer; and whilst they are yet speaking, he will hear."]
Such, however, are not his feelings towards all : for, in perfect contrast with this, is, II. His indignation against the wicked
“ Those that do evil” must also be here defined
[We do not comprehend under this character those who have yet some remaining infirmities; for this were to confound, in one indiscriminate mass, the righteous and the wicked: it is the workers of iniquity who are here spoken of; even those who, in the general tenour of their lives, are acting contrary to God's mind and will ---] Against these God sets his face
[It is impossible but that he should view them with displeasure. He cannot forget what he has done for them, in sending his own Son to be the propitiation for their sins, and in striving with them by his Spirit to bring them to repentance: and when he sees how they requite these mercies, by holding fast their iniquities, by treading under foot his dear Son, and doing despite to his Spirit, he must of necessity be incensed against them. Accordingly, we are told that “he is angry with them every day";" that “ he sets his face upon them for evil, and not for good d;" and that he determines to execute upon them his wrathful indignation. They, perhaps, are full of confidence in their own minds, and are saying, “I shall have peace, though I go on adding sin to sin.” But this only ensures the evils which they will not deprecate: for God says, “ The Lord will not spare that man; but the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against him; and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him; and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven?." Instead of hearing his prayers, God further says concerning him, “I will deal in fury with him : mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: though he cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear him." Unhappy man! whoever thou art, that livest in wilful sin! this is thy lot; and this, if thou die in sin, will be thy portion to all eternity.] OBSERVE, from hence,
1. Of how little signification are the opinions of men
[If thou art righteous, perhaps the world will condemn thee as an enthusiast : and if thou art countenancing them in their evil ways, they will perhaps applaud thee as rational and wise. But to what purpose do men condemn, if God approve; or approve, if God condemn? If God's eye be upon us for good, we need not fear either men or devils: but if God set his face against us, though the whole universe were confederate to protect us, they could afford no help: “ Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished."]
c Ps. vii. 11. d Amos. ix. 4. i Deut. xxix. 19, 20.
e Deut. xxxii. 40–42. 8 Ezek. viii. 18.
2. How desirable it is to obtain the approbation of our God
[If there were no future world, the sense which the righteous have of God's favour were an ample recompence for all their services. But we must take eternity into our account. We must follow the righteous and the wicked into the presence of their God: we must there see what his favour imports, and what his displeasure: we must there behold the objects of his complacency seated on thrones of glory, and the monuments of his indignation cast into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. We must then contemplate their states as fixed to all eternity; so that, after millions of ages, the one will have no mitigation of his punishment, and the other no diminution of his bliss. Reflect on this, my brethren, and I shall not need to urge you to serve your God: your own feelings will urge you sufficiently: without any further loss of time, you will flee from the wrath to come, and, with all possible earnestness, lay hold on eternal life.]
THE PERSECUTED ENCOURAGED. 1 Pet. iii. 13—15. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be
followers of that which is good ? But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled ; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.
EVERY kind of argument is urged in the Holy Scriptures to animate and encourage the followers of Christ. Sometimes the present benefit, arising from piety, is proposed as an inducement to walk in the paths of holiness : “ He that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile : let him eschew evil, and do good ; let him seek peace, and ensue ita." Sometimes a holy life and conversation is recommended, by a consideration of the regard which God himself will pay to it, and the approbation of it which he will be sure to express : “ For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers : but the face of the Lord is against
a ver. 10, 11.