« PreviousContinue »
hind them in this vale of misery and tears? They are surrounding the throne of God most high, singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb; ascribing glory to him who washed them from their sins in his own blood, and made them kings and priests unto God, even his Father. Look above you, O Christians! to this glorious company; and the desire of being one day joined to them will reconcile you to all the hardships of the Christian course, and make you run with patience the race set be.
Consider, in the 3d place, Who are your fellow-travellers. You are not only going to a glorious and triumphant society, but you go in company with persons of the greatest dignity and worth, “even the saints, those excellent ones in the earth," whom God bath chosen and set apart for himself. And this, my brethren, is an encouraging circumstance. We find, that even an Elias, when he supposed himself alone by the way, both wished and prayed for death, saying, “It is enough, now, O Lord God; take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” And therefore God was pleased, in great condescension, to rectify the mistake of his servant, by assuring him, that there were many thousands anknown to him who had not bowed the knee to Baal; and that the road to the celestial country, even in that corrupt and degenerate age, was not so unfrequented and solitary as he imagined. The saints are not only hid from the world, but frequently mistaken by one another; which tempts many of them to think, that the kingdom of Christ is of a very narrow extent, and the number of bis subjects exceeding small; but were our eyes opened, and the scales of pride and prejudice removed, we should see a far more goodly company than we expected. And ought not this to animate us in our
Christian race? Have we all the saints on earth for our companions? are we going to saints and angels in hea. ven? and shall not this fire us with an heroic ardour to run 80 as we may at length obtain ? Especially if we consider, in the
4th place, The nature of those duties which our Lord hath required of us; or if you please (to keep by the allusion) the goodness of that road in which we are to run for the heavenly prize.“ The law is holy,” saith the apostle Paul, “ the commandment is holy, just, and good ;" not only infinitely reasonable in itself, but infinitely kind and obliging to us, inasmuch as it enjoins nothing but what tends to purify and perfect our natures, and to qualify us for the enjoyment of a neverending felicity. In the frame of the moral law, God appears rather like a father than a sovereign, exacting nothing as a test of our subjection to his authority, but what is so necessarily connected with our own true happiness, that a liberty to act otherwise would in reality be a license to destroy ourselves.
5thly. We have a kind sympathizing and unerring Guide, who came from heaven to earth to teach us the way from earth to heaven; yea, he hath not only pointed out the road to us, but hath actually gone before us, and now calls upon us to follow his steps. “ Behold," saith God by the Prophet Isaiah, “I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.” This is the peculiar office of our Lord Jesus Christ; and his mildness and condescension in the discharge of this office are beautifully described by the same prophet! “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” He doth not despise the weakness of his
people; for he knoweth their frame, and " is touched with a feeling of their infirmities, having been in all points tempted like as they are.” Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth those that fear him. “ He doth not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax;" on the contrary, “ be giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” He will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able; but in the emphatical language of holy writ, “ he debates with them in measure, and stays his rough wind in the day of bis east wind.” When they pass through the fire, and through the water, he is with them; and though, for wise and holy reasons, their eyes may be holden that they cannot perceive him; yet
l with a powerful, though invisible hand, he supports and guides their weary steps; according to that gracious promise, “I will bring the blind by a way that they know not, and lead them in paths which they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked ways straight. These things will I do for them, and not forsake them.” O what a joyful consideration is this! that the great Captain of salvation is our Guide, who can cover our head, and heal our wounds; raise us up when we fall, and perfect strength in our weak.
“ Fear not,” says he, “ for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
My 6th and last motive shall be taken from the unspeakable worth of the prize to be obtained. This is no other than “ heaven itsell;" “ eternal life;" “an ex, eeeding and eternal weight of glory;"! “ an incorruptible crown;" “ an undefiled inheritance;" “ a glory
" which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither can the
heart of man conceive.” “ It doth not yet appear," saith the apostle Joho,“ what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Then shall we be thoroughly changed into the image of our Lord. We shall love him without measure, and praise him without end; we shall serve him without weariness, and those manifold imperfections which stain our most holy duties while on earth. Nay, our bodies being raised by the power and spirit of our Redeemer, who is the “plague of death, and the destruction of the grave,” shall be fashioned like unto his own glorious body; whose presence we sball for ever enjoy, and whose matchless love, that passeth knowledge, we shall eternally celebrate with the church of the first-born.
This, my brethren, is the glorious prize for which we are called to contend. And can any thing fire our ambition if this do not? What bustle do men make for an earthly crown, when, lo! death is at hand to pluck it off their heads, and to throw it in the dust? and shall not we contend for a heavenly crown, a regal dignity and power, which, when once obtained, shall never be taken from us? “ Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Let us henceforth “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us; looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." To him let our waiting eyes be continually directed; and whilst we run in obedience to his command, let us humbly and ferrently address him in the words of the devout Psalmist, with which I shall conclude: “Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee, let me not be ashamed. Shew me thy ways; Lord, teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and guide me; for thou art the God of
salvation, on thee do I wait all the day.” Amen.
ROMANS xii, 11.
Fervent in spirit, serving the LORD.
IT usually happens, saith one, that in times of peace and outward prosperity, the church, like a river whose channel is enlarged, loseth as much in depth as it gains in breadth: I wish I could not add, that the present state of the church in our own land, serves not only to illustrate the propriety of this similitude, but likewise to confirm the truth of the observation. As we have long enjoyed, in a very distinguished manner, the protection and countenance of civil authority, the number of professors is indeed greatly increased; but though the forms of godliness are practised by many, there is too just cause to complain, that the genuine power of it is felt by few. Where are the persons who make religion their business, and apply themselves to it as the one thing needful?" How few are to be found, who exemplify those scriptural representations of the Christian's work and duty; "fighting the good fight of faith;” “running