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[In order to come under this title, it is necessary that you should have been" begotten with the incorruptible seed, the Word of God," and been brought into God's family by the renewing influences of his Spirit. It is not supposed that you have grown to any stature in the family of Christ, but, on the contrary, that you have either recently “ come out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel,” or, at least, made very little advance in the divine life. You are, however, born again. You have seen your guilt and helplessness; you bave fled to Christ for refuge : you have sought for mercy through the blood and righteousness of your incarnate God. You have obtained a new nature: and, though you are yet weak in all your faculties and all your powers, there is no part in you that is wholly unrenewed. Your understanding, though dark, is enlightened with some rays from the Sun of Righteousness. Your affections, though far from pure, are yet, on the whole, turned to God, and heavenly things. The Divine image, though far from perfect, is, in a measure, formed upon your souls; so that it already appears whose you are, by the resemblance which you bear to your heavenly Father.
Hear then the privileges which belong to you. In the first place, we declare from God himself, that “ your sins are forgiven you.” Whatever they may have been, however numerous, however beinous, (God makes no distinction, nor can we presume to make any,) they are all “ blotted out of the book of God's remembrance," nor shall so much as one of them ever appear in judgment against you. From the first moment that you believed in Christ, and became truly regenerate, this was your happy portion: you were not to wait for it till a life of holiness should confirm your title to it; a free and full pardon was yours, the very instant you became a child of God. But remember for whose sake this pardon has been bestowed upon you. It has not been for your own sake; for you deserved nothing but wrath; yea, if God at this moment were to enter into judgment with you according to your present deserts, you must inevitably perish. God has had respect to his dear Son; and " for his sake” has forgiven you. The pardon you enjoy, was bought with the precious blood of Christ. It is altogether on account of what Christ has done and suffered for you, that you have found acceptance. “ There is no other name given under heaven whereby you, or any other sinner, can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ."
Further, it is said of you, that “ye have known the Father.” Your views of the Gospel are at present very partial, and confused. You merely see that you were sinners before God: and that God, in infinite mercy, sent his only-begotten Son to die for you; and that through the death of Christ you are to
can merous, h. you." W from Goich
obtain mercy. Hence you are emboldened to look unto God as reconciled to you in Christ Jesus; and with a spirit of adoption to cry, Abba, Father. Thus, though you see as yet but little of the work and offices of Christ, you know the Father as a just, yet merciful, and gracious God.) II. We would next address "you, young men”—
[As in the natural world children grow up to manhood, so in the spiritual world there is a similar progress to maturity. We might proceed to draw the necessary distinctions between your infantile and adult state: but the privileges annexed to your state in the words of our text, will serve at the same time to mark the progress which you have made in the divine life; and therefore we shall confine ourselves to them.
You then are declared to be “strong :” and in this you differ widely from your former state: for whereas you formerly were liable to be “ tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine," and to be overcome by every temptation, you now have obtained a stability both in knowledge and in grace. Not that you are stronger in yourselves than you were formerly: but you have learned how weak you are; and have been led to rely wholly on the Lord Jesus Christ; and “through him have been enabled to do” what, in your self-confident state, you were unable to perform. Hence "ye are strong; but it is in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and in the power of his might." Your conscious weakness is the means of your strength. You can say with the Apostle, " when I am weak, then am I strong."
It is characteristic of your state also, that “ the word of God abideth in you." When you were children, you knew but little of the word of God; but you have studied it: you have “ desired it, and delighted in it, as unadulterated milk; and by means of it have grown up” to maturity. You have found that there is no weapon so powerful as that. You have learned, not only from the Saviour's example, but from your own experience, that one single arrow taken out of that quiver is sufficient to vanquish all the hosts of hell. Hence you have been led to treasure up the promises in your memory; and to have recourse to the inspired volume for direction and support in every emergency.
Further, it is said, that "you have overcome the wicked one." In your earlier days Satan beguiled and vanquished you in ten thousand instances; but now you have attained the knowledge of his devices. He himself, if we may so speak, has at last taught you how to repel his assaults, and to resist him with success. You are become expert in the spiritual warfare. You know how to wield “the sword of the Spirit.” You know when and where to expect your enemy. You know
the way in which he manages his assaults. And you have learned to combat him upon your knees. This, though a disadvantageous posture in earthly conflicts, you have found to be the best that can possibly be resorted to in the spiritual warfare. Hence you have had the comfort of seeing that wicked fiend, who assaulted you with the subtilty of a serpent, and the fury of a roaring lion, flee from your face intimidated and confoundeda.”
O remember these your high privileges, and labour continually to walk worthy of them! ---] III. Lastly, we would speak to you also who are
“fathers” in Christ
[As age and experience elevate a man to a higher rank in the community than he possessed while in the vigour of his youth, so it is in the Church of God. Not that age, or even long continuance in the Church of Christ, can entitle a man to the appellation of " father:" for some are not born to God till they are far advanced in life; and others, through carnality or sloth, have made so little progress in religion, that they have need to be treated as babes, when, for the time that they have professed godliness, they ought to have attained the age and stature of fathers b. Those only are deserving of this honourable name, who have maintained a long and successful conflict with the powers of darkness.
Respecting you then it is said, that " ye have known him that is from the beginning." Whom he intended to designate under this expression, the Apostle himself tells us: it is Christ, who “ was in the beginning with God, and was God." Now the distinction between you and young men principally consists in this; that by your numerous conflicts you have been compelled to make use of Christ in all his offices, and have thereby attained a more extensive knowledge of his love and mercy, his power and grace, his truth and faithfulness. From your own experience therefore you can trust in him yourselves, and can exhort others also to trust in him with the most unlimited confidence, and to glory in him as their “all in all.”
See then, fathers, that ye improve your knowledge for this end : and soon ye shall “ see him as ye are seen, and know him as ye are known"---] APPLICATION,
1. To those who are included under any of the foregoing titles
a Jam. iv. 7. • 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2. Heb. v. 12.
(Let the least and meanest in God's family rejoice in the unspeakable blessings vouchsafed unto them. But let not the most advanced imagine, that they are not yet to proceed to higher attainments. All must " war a good warfare;" all must seek to “ grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus ;" all must “ be faithful unto death, if ever they would obtain a crown of life."]
2. To those who have never yet been brought into the family of God
(Dearly beloved, the forgiveness of sins is the exclusive privilege of God's children. This is manifestly implied in the - address to little children. O then seek to be made new crea
tures in Christ Jesus! Our Lord tells you repeatedly that “ you must be born again :" and that, “ if you be not, you never can enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Pray then that you may “ be born of the Spirit;" and that you may be interested in the Redeemer's death. So shall you be numbered with the children of God, and be made partakers of their inheritance for evermore.]
LOVE OF THE WORLD FORBIDDEN. 1 John ï.15–17. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof : but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever a.
WHATEVER our attainments may be in the divine life, we still need the voice of warning and exhortation, to keep us from the evils to which we
a This text might be treated somewhat differently :- Thus,
The two first heads might easily be taken from this and the fore going Discourse ; and the third head be treated in distinct Addresses to the three different classes. Thus,
“ Little Children;" Think into how many sins the world has
are exposed. As believers, we have been brought out of “ a world which lieth in wickedness :" but still we are encompassed with temptations, and bear about with us a corrupt nature which is ever liable to be ensnared by them. In persons most advanced in the divine life“ the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, as well as the Spirit against the flesh; so that they cannot do all that they would;" and may be easily seduced to do things, which, according to their better judgment, they would not.
The Apostle has been addressing the whole Christian Church according to their age and stature in the divine life, under the names of Little Children, Young Men, and Fathers; and now, to the one as well as to the other of these classes, he gives the injunction in our text. Let all classes therefore amongst you also receive the word as addressed personally to yourselves, whilst we consider, I. The injunction here given
There are few subjects, if any, in the whole course of our ministrations, that require a more careful and temperate discussion than that before us. The solemnity with which it is introduced, and the extraordinary emphasis with which it is impressed on our minds, evince beyond a doubt the great importance of it: whilst, as if it were of no importance whatever, or there were no danger of erring in relation to it,
enticed you ; and will you love the world now that those "sins are forgiven you ?"
* Young Men;" The world is Satan's ground : withdraw from it, and you vanquish him ; but go back to it, and he will “overcome you."
« Fathers." You who have attained such a knowledge of God, cannot but see how irreconcileable the love of the world is with the love of God. Light and darkness are not more opposed to each other than are these opposing tastes. Compare Rom. viii. 5, 6. and Jam. iv. 4. with the text.
A more impressive subject than this would be, can scarcely be conceived ; especially if the two parts were first treated separately, as in this book, and then a third Sermon were written on them conjointly, and the connexion between them formed the sole and entire subject of the sermon.