« PreviousContinue »
“ These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.” In truth, he had in his mind all the different classes of believers— children, young men, and fathers: “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.” Of course, there is much in this, as well as in all the epistles, profitable to unconverted men : but I must, on the present occasion, attend rather to believers, and mark of what use this epistle is intended to be to them. It is intended, I. To assure them, that in Christ they have all that
they can need All who truly believe “have eternal life :” they have,
1. The substance of it, treasured up for them in Christ
[The Lord Jesus Christ is the depository in which eternal life is placed: as the Apostle says in the preceding context; “ This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son.” The Lord Jesus purchased it for us, by his own obedience unto death: and to him it was granted, for our use and benefit; “ that he might bestow it on as many as have been given him by the Father.” Him, through the good pleasure of the Father, it dwells, even all the fulness of itd.” “ Whatever can be conceived to be comprehended in eternal life, to him it is all committed; and out of his fulness it must be receivede.”]
2. A title to it, conferred on them by Christ
[The Lord Jesus, when he sent forth his Disciples to preach the Gospel to the whole world, commissioned them to declare to all, without exception, “ He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.” No one was required to bring any measure of worthiness with him as a title: on the contrary, there was to be but one plea for all mankind; namely, the promise of God to the believing soul. On that all were to rest; and that was to be the one ground of hope to every child
6 In of man.
bi John ii. 12–14. d Col. i. 19.
c John xvii. 2. e John i. 16.
Life was to be, "not of works, but of grace":" and “ it was to be by faith, that it might be by grace." The only thing required on our part, was to receive thankfully what God offered freely in the Son of his love. In receiving Christ therefore by faith, we have a title to every thing else; according as it is said, “ All things are yours; and ye are Christ's."]
3. The actual possession of it, derived to them from Christ
[Of this, also, the Apostle speaks strongly, in the preceding context: "He that hath the Son, hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life :" that is, life is the exclusive possession of the believing soul. This is no less plainly affirmed by our Lord himself: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my words, and believeth in Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto lifeh." Whatever is comprehended in all the glory and felicity of heaven, is now begun in the believer's soul : “ He has the witness of it in himself;" yea, and “the earnest” and foretaste of itk. In fact, as an embryo in the womb has all the parts of which manhood is the perfection, so grace is glory begun; and glory is grace consummated.]
But the Scriptures are of yet further use to believers, II. To confirm and augment their affiance in him
It is necessary that they should grow in faith, as well as in every other grace'. The faith of all should daily become, 1. More simple in its exercise
[The world at large have very little idea how difficult it is to exercise a pure "unfeigned faith.” It is easy to say, 'I believe:' but to renounce all confidence in the flesh" is inconceivably difficult. A stone does not more naturally fall to the ground, than we cleave to our own wisdom, strength, and righteousness, as grounds of hope, and sources of acceptance before God. To derive all from the Lord Jesus Christ, and depend on Him alone, as an infant on its mother's care, is the very summit of Christian perfection. And where is the person that has attained to it? But, to aid us in this attainment, the Holy Scriptures are of wonderful use: they shew us the fulness that is in Christ, and the emptiness of the creature, that
f Eph. ii. 8.
i ver. 10. VOL. XX.
& Rom. iv. 16.
h John. v. 24.
is only as “ a broken cistern, that can hold no water:” and they set before us all the great and precious promises of our reconciled God, who has engaged to a work all his works in us," and to “ perfect that which concerneth us." After being made to feel, in ten thousand instances, the weakness of human nature, we are made at last to “ have our strength in the Lord alonem,” and to be willing that “his strength should be perfected in our weakness".") 2. More firm in its actings
[Our faith, when tried, is apt to waver. Peter, when the waves began to rise, brought on himself this just rebuke, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” And Sarah too “ laughed" through unbelief, when, at her advanced age, she was taught to expect a progeny, and to become a mother of nations. Yes, and Abraham himself, through the weakness of his faith, repeatedly desired Sarah to deny her relation to him, lest an acknowledgment of it should lead to his ruin. Thus we all find it, when we come into heavy trials. But by seeing in the Scriptures what God has done for his people in every age, and what he has engaged to do for them even to the end of the world, we learn, at last, to trust our God in all possible circumstances, and to be “ strong in faith, giving glory to God."] 3. More uniform in its operations
[Faith ought not to consist in acts, so much as to be one continued habit of the mind. The believer should live upon the Lord Jesus Christ, as a branch upon the vine. Whether winds or frosts menace its existence, the branch still cleaves to the stock, and derives from it the sap which is necessary to its preservation: and so must the believer cleave to the Lord Jesus Christ; and say with the Apostle, “ I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who hath loved me, and given himself for mep.” In himself he must“ be dead," if I may so speak; and “ his life must be hid with Christ in God:” it is by having “Christ as his life," that he will insure his future“
appearance with Christ in glory."] APPLICATION
1. Study then, my brethren, the blessed word of God
["' Search the Scriptures," says our blessed Lord; “for in them ye think ye have eternal life : and they are they that testify of met." Yes, “ the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” and of the whole Scriptures. It is in them that you will behold his whole character portrayed; and by them will you have his whole work carried on and perfected within yout Study them, then, with prayer. Nothing will be gained from them without prayer. From human compositions, you may acquire all that they contain by the mere force of intellectual exertion: but the Scriptures are "a sealed book," till God himself shall open them to your minds. But, if God shine upon his word, and enable you to comprehend the truths contained in it, you will derive from thence such views of Christ, as shall change you into the Divine image, and “fill you with all the fulness of Godu.” “ As new-born babes, then, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow therebyt."]
o Rom. iv. 20.
m Eph. vi. 10.
n 2 Cor. xii. 9.
2. Apply to yourselves every thing that is the proper object of faith
[All the glory of heaven is unfolded in the Scriptures to the believing soul. Make the Scriptures, then, a ladder, whereby to ascend to heaven. Go thither, and there “behold Him that is invisibley." There get a sight of his covenant: there see your own
name written in the Lamb's book of life.” There survey the throne prepared for you, with the crown of glory, and the golden harp already tuned for your touch. Survey it all as yours--your property, your portion, your inheritance. Rise thus upon the wings of faith, and all that is here on earth will vanish from before your eyes, or become like a mere speck in the unbounded regions of space. This is the proper office of faith; and this is the privilege of the believing soul, even to have “your conversation in heaven? ;"
your seat there with Christa,” almost as you will do when you shall be personally dwelling in the realms of bliss. Verily, it is no mean thing to be a Christian. If you believe in Christ, “all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours; and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's b.”]
and to occupy
John v. 39. s Rev. xix. 10. t Eph. v. 26. John xvii. 17. x 1 Pet. ii. 2. y Heb. xi. 27. a Eph. ii. 6. b 1 Cor. iii. 21-23.
Eph. iii. 18, 19. 2 Phil. iii. 20.
ANSWERS TO PRAYER.
1 John v. 14, 15. This is the confidence that we have in him,
that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us : and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
PRAYER is universally acknowledged to be a service proper for sinful men to perform; yet few have any just idea of its efficacy. If a man were to speak of having received an answer to his prayers, he would be considered as an enthusiast, who was deceiving his own soul. Yet it is clear that we are taught to expect answers from Almighty God, and that too even in relation to the specific petitions which we have presented before him. The words which we have just read abundantly attest this, and naturally lead me to shew, 1. The confidence which a believer may enjoy in
drawing nigh to GodHe may possess a confidence,
1. Respecting the acceptance of his prayers in general
(God has been pleased to make himself known to us under this very character, “A God that heareth prayer." And in the most explicit terms has he assured us, that “ man shall seek his face in vain 6:" Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." In truth, if this hope were not held out to us, it would be in vain to approach our God at all. Thus far, therefore, the world at large will admit the efficacy of prayer: they will acknowledge that some good will proceed from it; though their idea is, that the benefit will accrue rather from the meritoriousness of the act of prayer, than from any attention paid to the prayer itself. But we must go further, and assert, that the believer is warranted to enjoy a confidence also,]
2. Respecting specific answers to each particular petition
a Ps. Ixv. 2. b Isai. xlv. 19. c Matt. vii. 7, 8.