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II. The necessity and benefit of a conformity to
himThe saints are said to be renewed after the Divine image: and it is worthy of particular observation, that the only two points in which this renovation is said to consist, are knowledge, and holiness'. We see then from hence wherein that conformity, which we are to attain, consists: it consists in knowledge and in holiness, or, as my text expresses it, in
walking in the light as he is in the light :” our minds must be enlightened with the knowledge of God's truth; and our hearts must be purified in the performance of his will.
Let us notice then,
[Many will pretend to have communion with God, while they are ignorant of the salvation revealed in the Gospel, and living in the habitual indulgence of sin. But, while they thus “ walk in darkness," what “ fellowship can they have with God?” What access can they have to him, when they do not so much as know the
way access to him through the rent vail of the Redeemer's fleshs ?” and what regard can they feel in their hearts towards him, while they are under the allowed dominion of worldly and carnal lusts? Their profession is a system of falsehood and hypocrisy: “ they lie, and do not the truth:” they may work up themselves to ecstacies if they will; but they neither have, nor can have, any fellowship with God; for how “ shall the throne of iniquity (or one in whom sin reigns) have fellowship with him?" • What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darknessu?"] 2. The benefit of this conformity
[If a person be walking unfeignedly and progressively in the study of God's will, and in obedience to it, he possesses two great and unspeakable benefits; namely, communion with God, and acceptance before him.
He has communion with God. God loves the humble, diligent, obedient servant: “ He will come to him," and “ lift
9 Col. iii. 10. * Eph. iv. 24. s Heb. x. 19, 20. t Ps. xciv. 20. u 2 Cor. vi. 14.
* The opposition between the 6th and 7th verses shews that ver. 7 does not relate to the communion of the saints with each other, but to their fellowship with God.
up the light of his countenance upon him,” and “ manifest himself to him as he does not unto the world.” He will “ shed abroad his love in his heart," and " give him a spirit of adoption, whereby he shall cry, Abba, Father.” The person himself may not be very conversant with raptures: but, whether he be more or less sensible of God's favour to him, it is manifest that he has fellowship with God: his knowledge of the Gospel proves that God has taught him; and his experience of its sanctifying power proves that God has strengthened and supported him.
He has also acceptance before God: he is not like an unpardoned sinner: Jesus Christ has washed away his sins in the fountain of his blood; yea, every day, every hour, every moment, is he cleansing him from the pollution that adheres to his best services. This cleansing is a continued act of Christy; and through it the soul maintains its peace with God, and is regarded by God “ without spot or blemish ?." Cleansed by Jesus from " the iniquity of his holy things,” he is presented “ faultless before the presence of God's glory with exceeding joy."
Such are the benefits of cleaving to Christ, and " walking as he walked :” and a life devoted to God is not so properly the means of obtaining these benefits, as it is the evidence that we already possess them.] From this most instructive subject we may LEARN, 1. The connexion between faith and works
(One man hopes to be saved by his works, while he disregards faith in Christ : another hopes that his faith will save him, though it never produce good works. But both of these deceive their own souls : for no man can do such works as the Gospel requires, unless he embrace the truths which it reveals : and, if he could do them, they would be utterly insufficient to justify him before God. On the other hand, “ the faith that is without works, is dead:” and as it differs not from the faith of devils, so will it bring us no better portion than theirs. Knowledge is necessary to produce holiness; and holiness is necessary to evince that our knowledge is truly spiritual and saving. It is not by separating them from each other, but by uniting them together, that we are to "walk in the light as God is in the light."] 2. The connexion between duty and happiness
[The greater part of the world expect happiness in the ways of sin : but God has warned us that there is
no peace to the wicked.” There is no real happiness but in fellowship
y “ Cleanseth."
2 Eph. v. 26, 27.
a Jude, ver. 24.
with God: and there is no fellowship with him, without a conformity to him. If then we would be happy in this world, we should be religious: we should study to know and do the will of God. Then we should be happy in sickness as well as in health, and in the prospect of death no less than in the midst of earthly enjoyments.] 3. The connexion between grace and glory
[The saints in glory are called "saints in light;" and in order to partake of their inheritance, we must be made meet for itb.” An unregenerate sinner would not be happy, even if he were in heaven. There is a total difference of character between them that are saved and them that perish: those who are saved, love God, and delight in him, and make labour of their souls to glorify him: whereas they who perish, would, if they were able, pluck him from his throne: it would be glad tidings to them if they were informed that he exists no longer. Such precisely is the difference between saints and sinners in this world; the one find all their happiness in serving God; the other say in their hearts, “ We wish there were no God.” Neither the one nor the other indeed attain the same degree of holiness or wickedness in this world that they will in the next: but in all other respects their characters will continue the same that they are in this life. If ever then we would have fellowship with God in heaven, we must begin it here: and, if ever we would dwell with him in the regions of everlasting light, we must now be “ brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of his Gospel," and "walk henceforth as children of the light and of the day .") b Col. i. 12.
c 1 Pet. ii. 9. d Eph. v. 8.
CONFESSION NECESSARY TO FORGIVENESS.
1 John i. 8, 9. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive our
selves, and the truth is not in us : if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
THESE words are rendered familiar to our ears by being read almost continually as introductory to the service of our Church. On this account they may appear perhaps the less interesting; though in reality they are, from that very circumstance, commended to us as deserving a more than ordinary attention. The truths indeed which are contained in them are extremely plain and simple : but they are of infinite importance to every child of man, inasmuch as they declare the pitiable condition of a selfapplauding moralist, and the happy condition of a self-condemning penitent. We shall consider the substance of them under these two heads :
Let us consider, I. The pitiable condition of a self-applauding mo
ralistPersons of a high moral character are too often classed with the Pharisees of old, whose leading feature was hypocrisy. But, Moral characters are proper objects of our love
[No one can doubt but that morality is highly estimable, even though it do not flow from those divine principles which give it its chief value in the sight of God. So at least St. Paul thought, when before the whole Jewish council he said, “ Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day a.” In this assertion he spoke of his life previous to his conversion. In another place, speaking of the same period, he informs us, that he was, as touching the righteousness of the law, blameless;" and, that he had justly considered this as "gain to him b.” And such may morality well be considered, wherever it exists: it is a gain to the person himself, in that he is kept from many actual offences: it is a gain to all his neighbours, who cannot but feel a beneficial influence from such a life: and it is a gain to the whole world, as far as the light of such an example can extend. True it is, that when St. Paul fully understood the Gospel, he counted all his morality “but loss for Christ." Yet this does not at all derogate from the intrinsic excellence of morality: and to speak of morality in the contemptuous and degrading terms which many religious persons, and not a few incautious ministers too, use in reference to it, is extremely erroneous and blameworthy, inasmuch as it tends to lessen men's regard for moral virtue, and to render the Gospel itself odious as hostile to good works. I would that every disciple of Christ would consider the example of his Divine Master in reference to this very point; and not consider it only, but follow it. When the Rich Youth came to him, and was directed by him to keep the disferent commandments of the decalogue, he answered, “ Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” Now I would a Acts xxiii. 1.
b Phil. iii. 6, 7.
ask, What is the treatment which that young man would have experienced from the great mass of religious professors? I greatly fear that the general feeling towards him would have been that of contempt, rather than of love. But how did our blessed Lord and Saviour regard him? We are told, “ Then Jesus beholding him, loved him.” And this is the spirit we should manifest towards all who are observant of the Divine laws, though they may not possess that faith in Christ which would stamp a new character upon the whole of their conduct. In proportion as any man excels in the different branches of moral virtue, he ought to be held as an object of respect, esteem, and love.]
But when they trust in their morality, they deserve our pity
[I do not suppose that any persons would affirm, that they never had sinned at all. I rather conceive, that the Apostle speaks of persons affirming, that they never had sinned to such à degree as to deserve God's wrathful displeasure. This, alas! is too often the effect of morality; that it causes men to overlook their manifold defects, and to be filled with self-complacency, when, if they had juster views of themselves, they would be bowed down rather with a sense of their own unworthiness.
Now such persons, how excellent soever they may be in other respects, are in a truly pitiable condition: for “they deceive themselves."
“They deceive themselves” in relation to the extent of their attainments. They do, in fact, say with the Rich Youth, "What lack I yet?” whilst " they lack one thing,” even that very thing which is indispensable to their acceptance with God. Our Lord brought the young man to the test; and, by a command which he gave, tried him, whether God or the world were the higher in his esteem? It was a grief to the young man to renounce all hope of an interest in the Saviour; but he knew not how to part with his possessions; and therefore abandoned the Lord Jesus rather than them. So, if moralists were brought to the test, they would shew, and indeed they do continually shew, that the love of Christ is not dominant in their hearts, and that they have never seen him as that “ pearl of great price, for which they are ready to part with all.”
They deceive themselves also in relation to their state before God. They imagine that they do not deserve, and consequently are not in danger of, his wrath and indignation. Thus it was with the Apostle Paul before his conversion. Hear his own acknowledgment respecting it: “ I was alive without the
e Mark x. 19-21.