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not follow cunningly-devised fables, when they made known the power and coming of the Lord Jesus, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty: for they were with him in the holy mount, when he received from God the Father honour and glory, and when there came to him a voice from the excellent glory, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Whether therefore they speak of his sufferings or his glory, their testimony may be relied on: and we may be sure that in Him is salvation, and in Him alone.)
The extreme urgency of the Apostle in commending to us his testimony, leads us to contemplate, II. The benefit of receiving it
The Apostles themselves were brought into a most exalted state through faith in this Divine Saviour[“ Hear what the Apostle speaks respecting it:" “ Truly,"
our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” By the Lord Jesus Christ they were brought into a state of reconciliation with God; and were enabled to regard him in the endearing character of a Father. “ Through Him too, and by the Holy Spirit, they had access to Godt" at all times, pouring out their hearts before him, making known to him their every want, and committing to him their every care. Through the same divine channel, God descended into their bosoms, revealing to them his will, communicating to them his grace, and shedding abroad in their hearts a sense of his love. Nay more, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost bad come down and taken up their residence within them, dwelling in them as in a temple, and manifesting to them, as far as they were capable of beholding it, all the glory of the Godhead u. From hence arose within them inconceivable peace and joy, which were to them an earnest and foretaste of their heavenly inheritance; for they “ knew that Christ was in the Father, and in them also; and that they too were in himx.” Such had been their happy state from the first moment that they had believed in Christ; more sparingly indeed in the first instance, but progressively advancing as their knowledge of Christ became more intimate, and their affiance in him more entire.]
And we also, by the same faith, are brought to a participation of all the same privileges--[“ These things," says the Apostle, “ we declare unto
ye may have fellowship with us.” And in what does
$ 2 Pet. i. 16--18.
+ Eph. ii. 18.
that fellowship consist, but in a participation of all the same privileges and blessings which they enjoyed? And this is indeed the portion of all who receive their testimony aright. All believers are brought into one family, of which Christ is the Heady. The moment we believe, we come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel?." Now here we see the whole family: here is God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ the mediator; here also are the angels who never sinned, and all the hosts of the redeemed in heaven, and all the saints that are still on earth: all are brought together into one family, and all have fellowship with each other as the head and the members of the same body: so that every individual believer now has the same fellowship with the Apostles, as they had with each other and with the prophets who had gone before them; and the same “ fellowship too with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Does this appear too strong? It is not so strong as what our blessed Saviour himself has spoken upon the subject. For he not only declares to us, that “ both He and his Father will come to us, and make their abode with us a ;" but he declared to his Father also, “I have given them the glory which thou gavest me, that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one b.” Here, I say, the union of the different members of his body is compared with the union which subsists between the different persons of the Godhead, than which nothing can be conceived so entire, so mysterious, so unchangeable.
Know ye, then, that this is the state into which you will be brought, if only you receive the testimony of God respecting his dear Son. Believe truly, that “in him is life,” and that through faith in him your souls shall live ; and then all the fulness of these blessings shall be yours: nor shall even the beloved Apostle himself possess a blessing, of which you shall not, according to your capacity, partake with him.
And here let me say, that, if all the tautology which the Apostle makes use of in my text had been multiplied an hundred-fold, it would not have been too much for the occasion; since nothing can exceed the misery of those who reject this testimony, or the happiness of those who truly receive it.]
» Eph. i. 10. and iji. 15.
2 Heb. xi. 22-24.
CONTEMPLATE now, I pray you, the object which
the Apostle had in view in all these earnest solicitations
[“ These things,” says he, “I write unto you, that your joy may be full .” It was for this end that our blessed Lord himself had so strongly and so continually inculcated them : “ These things speak I in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves d.” And this is the object which I also would endeavour to attain. Beloved brethren, consider how unspeakable must be the joy of being brought into fellowship with the Apostles in all that they ever did, or ever shall, possess! All that access to God, all that intercourse with God, all that sense of Christ's incomprehensible love, all that enjoyment of his presence, and all that fruition of his glory! it is all yours by promise and by oath, if only you truly believe in Christ! O, put it not from you: defer not to seek it, yea, to seek it with your whole hearts! Then shall you know what it is to have a heaven upon earth : for, though now ye see not the Lord Jesus with your bodily eyes, yet shall you, by believing, be brought into such communion with him, that "your joy in him shall be unspeakable and glorified."] ver, 4.
d John xvii. 13. e 1 Pet. i. 8.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING CONFORMED TO GOD'S IMAGE.
1 John i. 5—7. This then is the
which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
IN fulfilling the ministerial office, it is not sufficient that we set before our people the evidences of Christianity, or inculcate the performance of some moral duties: we are messengers from God to men; and we must “declare to them the message which we have received from him.” We must not alter or conceal any part of that which we have been commanded to deliver ; but must make known the whole counsel of God; and, having declared it with all
plainness and fidelity, must urge the acceptance of it with all the energy we possess.
We have a message then from God to you: we are commanded to open to you the Divine character, and to call you by the most impressive arguments to become conformed to his image. In discharging this duty we proceed to set before you, I. The character of God
The term “ light,” in Scripture, has various acceptations; but there are two things which we shall notice as more particularly comprehended in it in the words before us. It is the property of light to discover all things; and it is perfectly pure and incapable of pollution : when therefore it is said, that “God is light,” we must understand it as designating, 1. His infinite knowledge
(God is “a God of knowledge." "There is no creature which is not manifest in his sight.” The transactions of darkness are not hid from him: he sees the adulterer, that avails himself of the darkness of the night to visit his guilty paramour. His
is upon the thief, that lays his hand upon his neighbour's property. He notices the fraudulent dealer, who sells by false weights and measures, or takes advantage of the purchaser's ignorance to get rid of a bad commodity, and to exact of him a higher price than it is worth. Nor is it the actions only that God inspects; his eyes are not only on our ways, but on our very hearts. We are apt to think that "the thick clouds are a covering to him, so that he cannot seeb;" but “the darkness and light to him are both alike :" " He searcheth the heart, and trieth the reinsd:” “He knows the things that come into our minds, every one of theme:" “ He weigheth our spirits",” and discerns the precise quantity of good or evil that there is in all our thoughts and desires : yea, "He knows the imaginations that we go about, even now, years before" the thoughts are distinctly formed in our hearts. Our inmost souls are as much open to his view, as the sacrifices were to the priest, when he had flayed them for the purpose of examining the flesh, and cut them open to inspect their inward parts". In short, " with him is no darkness at all:" “ hell
a 1 Sam. ii. 3. 0 Job xxii. 13, 14. c Ps. cxxxix, 11, 12. d Jer. xvii. 10. e Ezek. xi. 5. f Prov. xvi. 2. 8 Deut. xxxi. 21. h This is the idea suggested, Heb. iv. 13.
and destruction are before him; much more the hearts of the children of men'."] 2. His unspotted holiness
["* Light" is perhaps the only thing which is incapable of being polluted; and therefore is peculiarly fit to represent the immaculate purity of God.
God is a holy Being ; yea, “ glorious in holiness," as well as in every other perfection. “He hateth all the workers of iniquity:" “ He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquityk," without the utmost abhorrence of it. In this respect also, as well as in the former, “ there is no darkness at all in him :" there is none in his nature; there is none in his dispensations.
Consider his nature: Which of his attributes has the smallest mixture of unholiness? His sovereignty is not a weak partiality, but a holy exertion of his will, according to his own determinate and eternal counsels. His justice is not a rigorous severity, but a holy regard to the honour of his broken law. His mercy is not a weak exercise of pity at the expense of justice and truth, but a holy display of his unbounded compassion, in a way that at the same time illustrates and magnifies all his other perfections.
Consider his dispensations : these, it is true, are oftentimes inscrutable to us; yet is he “righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works!" We are sometimes indeed ready, through unbelief, to question his wisdom and his goodness . When we see the wicked triumphing, and the righteous suffering under the accumulated trials of persecution from man and desertion from God, we are apt to be offended, and to ask, whether there be a God that ruleth in the earth? But in both these respects is his holiness expressly vindicated in the sacred writings: the martyrs that are now in glory, at the same time that they expostulate, as it were, with God on the subject of his forbearance towards their persecutors, address him as “ holy and true.” and David, when complaining bitterly of the dereliction that he suffered, takes especial care to acknowledge that, in the midst of all, his holiness is unimpeached; "O God, I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not; and in the night-season I am not silent; but thou art holyo.
When therefore we are not able to comprehend the reason of God's dispensations, we must still confess, that though “ clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the basis of his throne P.")
The next part of the message points out to us,
i Prov. xv. 11.
k Hab. i. 13.
1 Ps. cxlv. 17.