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reproofs, it would keep us from much evil, and lead us safely to heaven. Let none of us then stifle it, or bribe it, or despise it: but let us rather get it well informed, and cherish with care its salutary admonitions. Let us carefully conform ourselves to its dictates," and "judge ourselves, that we may not be judged of the Lord!."]
3. How thankfully should we bathe in the fountain of Christ's blood !
[There is not a day or an hour wherein conscience does not contract some defilement: nor is there a probability of pacifying it, but by continual applications to “the blood of sprinkling." Let us then rejoice that there is " a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness;" and let it be our care day and night to cleanse ourselves in it from every fresh contracted stain. If we neglect this, our mind and conscience will be defiled m;" but if we “abide in him, we shall have confidence in expectation of his appearance; nor shall we be ashamed before him at his coming ".") k Acts xxiii. 1.
1 1 Cor. xi. 31. m Tit. i. 15.
n 1 John ii. 28.
FAITH IN CHRIST ENJOINED. 1 John iii. 23. This is his commandment, That we should believe
on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. SOME Christians, from a mistaken zeal for the Gospel, are ready to associate the idea of legality with the very mention of the term "commandment;" forgetting that the commandments, if obeyed from love, are of the very essence of the Gospel; obedience to them being its necessary fruit, its appropriate end, its highest glory. St. John had as ardent a love to the Gospel, and as vigilant a jealousy for its honour, as Paul himself: yet does he lay the greatest stress on an obedience to the commandments, saying, in the very words before my text, “ Whatsoever we ask, we receive of God, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” But the very Gospel itself is here presented to us under that character, as much as “love” itself, which is the sum and substance of the law :
“ This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” In fact, the Gospel should be particularly endeared to us under this character. And, that it may be so, I will set
I. The duty here commended to us
If faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a grace bestowed“, so is it also a duty enjoined. We are commanded of God,
1. To receive Christ as he is revealed in the Gospel
(He is spoken of as the person foretold from the beginning of the world, “the Seed of the woman," “the Seed of Abraham," “the Shiloh,” “the Son of David," the Virgin's child, the Messiah that was to come. And it is our bounden duty, after comparing the history of the New Testament with the records of the Old, to receive him under this character.
But he is said also to sustain certain offices corresponding with the typical representations of him under the Mosaic economy. He was to be “ a Prophet like unto Moses ;" he was to fulfil and execute also all the services of the priesthood; and he was to “ sit on the throne of David," as King over his Church and people. In all these views, then, we must inspect his pretensions : and from all that we read concerning him, we must be convinced, that in him were all these offices united; that he is indeed the Prophet, who has revealed to us the mind of God; the Priest also, that has offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of men; and the King, that will bring the whole world under his sceptre, and reign unto the very ends of the earth.
In a word, he is declared to be a Saviour, the only Saviour of our fallen race. And, from all that he wrought for the bodies of men in healing all manner of diseases, and from the effects which he produced also upon their souls, both during his sojourning on earth, and after his ascension to heaven, we must thankfully acknowledge him under that endearing character; and confess him, as the Samaritan converts did, “ This is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world b."]
2. To depend upon him for all the blessings which he is commissioned to bestow
a Eph. ii. 8. Phil. i. 29.
o John iv. 42.
[A speculative acknowledgment of Christ, without a practical application to him for all the benetits of his salvation, will be of little use. The offices he sustains have respect to the necessities of fallen man: and under a sense of our need, we must look to him to fulfil those offices for us.
Is he a Prophet? We must look to him to instruct us by his word and Spirit, and to guide us into all truth. Is he a Priest? We must rely on the atonement which he has offered for us, and seek, through his prevailing intercession, all those good things which he has purchased for us, and which God, for his sake, is ever ready to bestow. Is he a King? We must put ourselves altogether under his government and protection, and live only for the glory of his great name.
We must renounce every other hope, and rely on him for every thing; looking to him, and to him only, as “our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our complete redemption.” In a word," the life which we now live in the flesh, we must live altogether by faith in the Son of God, who has loved us, and given himself for us.”]
But, in contemplating this duty, I would call your attention particularly to, II. The authority by which it is enjoined
If to act faith on Christ were merely conceded to us by permission, it were a great and invaluable gift
[Suppose the Israelites, when perishing with thirst, to behold the rock stricken, and the water gushing out like a river; would they need any command to drink of its refreshing streams ? Would not a permission be amply sufficient? Methinks, if it had even been prohibited, they would have broken through the commandment, to slake their raging thirst. At all events, we are sure they would not have needed a command to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded them. Or let us take another supposition. There is, we are told there is, an impassable gulf between heaven and hell. But, suppose there were a bridge built over it, and an open door made into the highest heavens, and a free permission given to the fallen angels to escape from their dungeons, and to resume the thrones of glory from which they fell; how long, think ye, would they continue in their abodes of misery? Would so much as one of them need a command to leave his sad abode, and to return to the enjoyment of his primitive felicity? Then why should not a permission suffice for us? A permission is given us ; “ Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out."
c John vi. 37.
And what do any of you want more? Do you not need the waters of life as much as Israel ever did ? And are you not under the same condemnation with the fallen angels? Yes, verily: the only difference between them and you is this, that they are already suffering the punishment of their sins; but over you the penalty is suspended, and only waiting the command of God to fall upon you to the uttermost. Surely, then, there should be in you the same anxiety to escape from the wrath to come; and a bare permission should suffice to induce you to embrace the salvation set before you in the Gospel.]
But what shall we say, if God has recommended to us this salvation in a way of advice ?
[This he has done: "I counsel thee,” says our Lord, " to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich ; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest seed.” By the prophet, too, it is said, “ Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good; and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” Such was the advice given by St. Peter to those who, on the day of Pentecost, inquired, “ Men and brethren, what shall we do?" He bade them "repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins," which, he assured them, should be conferred on all who followed his advice'. And what was the effect? No less than three thousand persons instantly complied, and embraced with thankfulness the proffered benefit. So the jailer, when Paul gave the same advice to him in answer to a similar inquiry, arose immediately, and, with all his household, was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Why, then, should any of us delay? Why should any thing more than a mere word of advice be necessary
any one of us ?] But, alas! more is necessary: and therefore God, in tender mercy, has enjoined it in a way of positive command
[Yes, this is his commandment, that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. We are averse to this humiliating way of salvation, and, if we dared, would eternally reject it. But God sent us this solemn warning, that, “ if we believe in Christ, and are baptized in his name, we shall be saved: but that, if we believe not, we shall assuredly and eternally be damned h.” And even after we are made, in a measure, willing to embrace this salvation, we are apt to put it from us, under an idea that we are unworthy of it, and that it were presumption in us to appropriate to ourselves so rich a boon. But God silences at once all objections of this kind. He leaves us not at liberty even to deliberate upon the subject. He tells us plainly, that “as long as we continue in unbelief, we are in a state of condemnation, and that his wrath abideth on us." And he further informs us, that there is but “one way of salvation k," "one only foundation” whereon to build our hopes'; and that the embracing or rejecting of that Saviour will determine our eternal state; since “ there is life in Christ alone; and he only who hath the Son of God, hath life; whereas he who hath not the Son of God, hath not lifem,” nor can by any possibility obtain it in any other way than by faith in him”.
d Rev. ii. 18.
e Isai. lv. 1, 2.
Behold then, brethren, what the duty is that is here enjoined ; and know, that it will be at the peril of your souls to disobey it.] See, then, 1. What a merciful command this is[Suppose
that God had commanded us to make compensation for our past iniquities, and to earn his favour by a course of perfect obedience; who amongst us could ever have entertained the slightest hope of mercy at his hands?. Or suppose that he had required us to do so much as one single act that should merit his favour? Who amongst us must not have been cast down in utter despair? But all he requires is, that we should receive thankfully what he offers freely. So far as respects every thing for the removal of our guilt, or for the providing of a perfect righteousness for us, all that is wrought for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, and is offered to us as a free gift from God. O beloved, what an unspeakable mercy is this! O! never turn your backs on this salvation ! for, " how shall ye escape, if ye reject it?" It is precisely such as your necessities require ; and, if ye will but accept it as the free gift of God to your souls, it shall be yours for ever.]
2. What inconceivable benefit will flow from your obedience to it
[In the words following my text there is another command connected with it; namely, that “ should love one another, as he gave us commandment." But this, in fact, is
h Mark xvi. 16. 11 Cor. ii. 11.
i John iii. 18, 36. m 1 John v. 11, 12.
k Acts iv. 12. n John xiv. 6.