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by any means clearly revealed; the very commandments themselves consisting only of prohibitions, and those prohibitions extending, for the most part, only to overt acts. Hence Paul himself, educated as he was by the first master of his day, and pre-eminently conversant as he was with the Mosaic writings, did not, till his eyes were opened by the Spirit of God, understand the spiritual import of the law, or the extent of the command, - Thou shalt not coveta." Besides, there were many enactments for the direction of magistrates in the administration of justice, which, when erroneously construed as rules of duty in private life, seemed to authorize revenge; as,
an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” But our blessed Lord threw the true light on the whole of
He declared plainly, that he was come to fulfil the law,” and “ to give his life a ransom
for directed the people to look to him as way, by which alone any one could come to the Father; as the truth," in whom all the types and shadows of the law were realized; and “ life,” by whom alone any sinner in the universe could live e. He explained also the moral law, and freed it from all the glosses of the Scribes and Pharisees, by which it had been obscured ; declaring, that it extended to the thoughts and desires of the heart, no less than to the overt act. In particular he made known the great duty of love, as comprehending the whole law in all its branches, and in its utmost extent. Thus in relation both to doctrine and morals it might be truly said, that “the darkness was past, and the true light then shined.”] The darkness was also dispelled from their minds
[All by nature are in darkness; and, even though the light shines around them, they are not able to apprehend it; “the eyes of their understanding being altogether darkened.” Of all whilst in a state of unbelief it is expressly said, that "the God of this world hath blinded their eyes.” But by the Gospel, accompanied with power from on high, they had been “ turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto Gode.” They now acknowledged Jesus as their Saviour; and had obtained “reconciliation with God through the blood of his cross.” They had now an insight into that stupendous mystery, which all “ the angels in heaven are desiring to look into," the redemption of the world by the sacrifice of our incarnate God; and, together with that, had acquired just views of the state in which a redeemed sinner ought to live. In a word, they had been “ brought out of
d Rom. vii. 7, 9.
e John xiv. 6.
darkness into marvellous lighth.” So that they were able to appreciate the necessity and the excellency of the commandment which was now enjoined.]
But let us contemplate this glorious change, II. As fulfilled also amongst ourselves— Certainly, the true light does shine among you
[The Lord Jesus “ Christ is fully preached among you." His person, his work, his offices are set before you. You have seen from time to time the types, as completed in their great Antitype ; and the prophecies, as fulfilled in him to whom they had respect, even “ Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph." The covenant of grace, which was made with him in our behalf, has been opened to you, and all the great and precious promises that are contained in it unfolded to your view. Salvation, in all its freeness, and in all its fulness, has been offered to you; and all the perfections of God, as pledged for your encouragement, have been brought in review before you. Nor has the nature of evangelical obedience been either partially or sparingly declared. The distinction between the letter and the spirit of the law has been copiously displayed; and all the high requirements of the Gospel been made known; and not declared only, but enforced also by every species of argument that could address itself to your understanding, your conscience, or your will. I say not, that these things have been so fully manifested as they ought to have been, or might have been : because, if my own views had been more enlarged, and my own soul been more deeply impressed with these things, my ministrations would no doubt have been more luminous and beneficial : but this I can say, that I have “not knowingly withheld any thing that could be profitable unto you;” nor, according to the measure of light and grace given unto me, “ have I shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of Godi.” In this respect therefore I may say, that, if at any time there have been darkness here, that darkness is past: and the true light shines among you, in such a degree, at least, as is sufficient to "guide all your feet into the way of peace."]
But can it be said that the darkness is passed away from the souls of all ?
[Would to God that my text were true in this extent also. Beloved brethren, are not many of you still in the darkness, if not of Judaism itself, yet of the Judaizing teachers, who insisted on combining some obedience of their own with the merits of Christ? Are not the beauty, and glory, and excellency of our holy religion so indistinctly seen by many amongst you, that it produces scarcely any effect upon your hearts and lives? If we look at morals, are not your views of them also very imperfect? Read our Lord's Sermon on the Mount, and see whether your heart go along with it in all that it inculcates respecting patience, forbearance, meekness, forgiveness ? Read St. Paul's description of love in the 13th chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, and see whether that be the standard at which you aim, and by which you estimate your attainments ? Have you any idea of your duty to your brethren requiring, that, if it may subserve their spiritual and eternal interests, you should lay down your life for them? I will not ask what speculative notions you may have of these things; for in that respect your views may be correct enough : but what is your practice? it is by that that your character must be tried : and, when tried by that, say whether you are not found altogether wanting. That there is great danger of self-deceit in reference to this matter, is clear from what the Apostle says in the very words following my text: “ He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
h 1 Pet. ii. 9.
i Acts xx. 20, 27.
He that loveth his brother, abideth in the light; and there is none occasion of stumbling in him; but he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyesk.” You perceive that a man may be very confident that he is in the light; and yet be so defective in respect of love, as to be in utter darkness, and going he knows not whither. I pray you, guard against so fatal a delusion as this; and never conceive
yourselves to be “ children of light,” till your whole spirit and temper, candidly examined, attest that you are " walking as children of the light?."] It may be that you would wish to have two QUESTIONS
solved: With answering them, I will conclude the subject
1. How shall I obtain the change spoken of in the text?
[Many directions I might give you; and all proper in their place: but there is one, which, if it do not supersede all others, will at least prove amply sufficient for this occasion. Our blessed Lord says, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light
1 Eph. v. 8.
of lifem." Here the direction is from such authority as cannot be withstood, and at the same time so complete, that, if followed, it cannot but succeed. In truth, all other directions, in comparison of this, are like advising persons to light a taper of their own, when they might come forth at once to the noonday sun. By the Lord Jesus Christ the whole darkness, whether from without or from within, shall be dispersed at once. The nature and perfections of God, the spirituality and extent of the law, the use of the whole of the Mosaic ritual, together with the whole work of redemption, will all be made visible as the light itself, to one who obtains just views of Christ. The whole system of morals too will be rendered clear and luminous; and all the sublime motives and encouragements to obedience be reflected with irresistible efficacy upon the soul. This then I say; Go to the Lord Jesus Christ: follow him: contemplate him; believe in him as having in himself all fulness for the supply of those who trust in him: and you shall soon “ be guided into all truth,” and experience in the richest abundance the glory and blessedness of his salvation.]
2. How shall I improve that change, supposing it to have been wrought within me?
[This is a question which every child of light should ask: and, as our blessed Lord answered the former, so shall the Apostle Paul answer this. Speaking to persons who were truly enlightened, he says, “Ye are all the children of the light and of the day: we are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober: for they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken, are drunken in the night: but let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breast-plate of faith and love, and for an helmet the hope of salvation 1.” You can easily perceive that a change of views should be followed by a corresponding change of conduct; and, consequently, that henceforth you should " have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." The mercy vouchsafed to you, has not been given for yourselves alone, but for others also; before whom you ought to "shine as lights in a dark place P,” yea so to shine, that all who “behold
your light may be constrained to glorify your Father that is in heaven."]
m John viji. 12.
Eph. v. 11.
n 1 Thess. v. 5-8. p. Phil. ii. 15, 16.
THE DIFFERENT GROWTH AND PRIVILEGES OF GOD's
1 John ii. 12-14. I write unto you, little children, because
your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children,
have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and
have overcome the wicked one.
THE word of God is intended for every individual of mankind, that all, being acquainted with their own state, may know what God says respecting them. On this account it is the duty of ministers to mark with accuracy the discriminating features of every character, and, by “rightly dividing the word of truth,” to “
give to every one his portion in due season.” St. John affords us a good example with respect to this : for, not content with “separating the precious from the vile,” he arranges the saints themselves into distinct classes, according to their several attainments, and declares to each those peculiar marks wherein they differ from each other.
There is indeed a tautology in this place, such as does not occur in any other part of the inspired volume. Whether this was intended, or whether a considerable part of the thirteenth verse was inserted by the mistake of an early transcriber, we cannot say : but the whole of that verse, except the last clause, might be omitted without any loss, because every word in it is repeated afterwards.
Our intention is simply to address the several classes of Christians here specified; first drawing their respective characters, and then setting before them their distinctive privileges and attainments. I. We speak to “ you, little children”