Page images

holy. The blood shed upon Mount Calvary to expiate their transgressions, has cleansed them from every vestige of corruption. They are meet for the society of angels; meet for that world where nothing that defileth can enter; meet even to appear before the throne of God, to behold him in his unveiled presence, and to serve him day and night in his temple. What a contrast this to their former condition, when, at their best estate, they were surrounded with innumerable temptations, and felt, even after their regeneration, the infection of sin, and were often fearful lest after all their past experience of God's goodness, they should one day perish by the hand of their spiritual enemies.

But the text also describes their occupations and their happiness, when thus freed from the burden of the flesh, and admitted to the enjoyments of the eternal world. Not only are they arrayed in white robes, the emblem of their spotless purity, but they have palms in their hands, as more than conquerors, through him that loved them, over sin, and death, and the power of the devil. Their warfare is ended; and they are received to the palace of their King, with acclamations of joy. Here they are eternally employed in singing anthems of praise and adoration; happy in themselves, happy in their beloved occupation, and happy in that blissful company to whom they are introduced; where, presiding over all, and rendering all infinitely blessed, they behold Him, whom, while they were on earth, not having seen, they loved, and in whom though then they saw him not, yet believing they often, even amidst their severest afflictions, rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory. They have been changed into his image: they see him as he is."

The text is well adapted to raise our ideas of this exalted state of enjoyment, by its enumeration of arious particulars, corresponding

with our feeble apprehensions of repose and felicity. They have washed their robes, stained with the dust and wounds of their late warfare. They enjoy communion with God, the fountain of all true blessedness; no longer, as on earth, beholding him through a glass darkly, through the veil of divine ordinances, or as shadowed forth in his works of nature, and providence, and grace, but viewing him in the brightness of his immediate glory, and dwelling with him and be with them. Thus admitted with angels and archangels to sensible access to Him in whose presence there is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore, they are occupied in the exalted employment so partially, so feebly, begun upon earth, of worshipping and serving him; not as now amidst many cares and interruptions, often with an enfeebled body and wearied mind, with a heart ill at ease, and with innumerable temptations and impediments, but" day and night," uninterruptedly, eternally, with cherubim and seraphim, who "continually cry Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts." Thus engaged in an occupation with which they never shall be wearied, and which, after endless ages of praise and adoration, shall, if possible, become. more delightful as their spirits approach nearer and nearer to the great Object of their celebration, they are raised above all earthly wants and pains, above every thing that would interfere with their eternal enjoyment: they hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light upon them nor any heat; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."

[ocr errors]

And now let us seriously ask ourselves, Are we pressing forwards towards this heavenly felicity? Is it our first object to serve God

here, looking forward to the enjoyment of his presence for ever bereafter? Are we conscious of our alienation from all just hope of this blessedness by our own merits on account of our sins? Have we repaired to the Saviour for pardon? And are we making it our great business in life to obey his commands and to live to his glory? If we are proud, or self-righteous, or covetous, or unjust, or unforgiving, or worldly, we are not fit to join this blessed society. We must have a new heart given us by the Holy Spirit of God; we must be prepared by that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. The greatness of the prize should encourage us to fresh ardour in our pursuit of it. It is no trifle that is at stake if we lose heaven, we lose all. What would it pro'fit us if we could gain the whole world at the risk of our immortal souls? What would be our feelings if, while the heavenly gates are opened to the innumerable com'pany of whom we have heard, they are shut against us? Let us bring ourselves to the test; let us from this moment make a decided choice; let us forsake every thing that is inconsistent with the hopes of this glorious inheritance, and follow every thing that leads to it. Let us imitate" the patience of the saints," and "keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." The blessing is freely offered: "The Spirit and the bride say, Come:" it is only our own hardness of heart, and love of the world and sin that keep us back. Let, then, "him that heareth" say to himself, and to all around him, "Come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosever will, let him take the water of life freely."— Amen.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. THE following remarks on a difficult passage in the sixteenth chapter of St. John's Gospel, are offered,

in answer to the appeal of J. M. W., with whose exposition they will not be found to disagree in the main, though they aim at being more particular and explanatory.

The words of the passage are "When he, the Comforter, is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."

It is remarkable, that he whose name is the Comforter should begin his office with reproof. Perhaps indeed the word, which is here translated reprove, might better be rendered enlighten, or inform so as to produce conviction. But, since to enlighten the world concerning sin cannot fail to have all the effect of a reproof, the sense is sufficiently preserved by either expression.

First then, the Holy Ghost was to enlighten the world concerning sin.

What was the notion of sin prevailing in the world before the coming of that Comforter, whom our ascended Saviour hath sent to enlighten us? Was it thought to consist in resistance to the holy will of God? Or was it not rather thought to consist only in the actual perpetration of those crimes which are injurious to society? But what does the Holy Ghost teach us to be the great sin of the world? He shall convince the world of sin, because" (says the Saviour) "they believe not in me." Unbelief in the Saviour is the great sin of the world. He was preached at the beginning to Adam; and the rejection of him brought on the flood and, when our Lord appointed that he should be preached again to all the world, his language was, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature! He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. But he that believeth not, shall be damned." So also St. John the Baptist told us: "He that be

lieveth on the Son, hath everlasting life and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." And our Lord himself used almost the same language: "He that believeth on him, is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."-He that believeth not is condemned already. He requires no new condemnation. The wrath of God abideth on him. It is not necessary for it to be sent down hereafter. It is on him already; and it abides: for from the time of the transgression of Adam, the wrath of God has been in the world; and the effects of it can be avoided in no other way than by believing in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Hence it is, that the Holy Ghost will enlighten the world concerning sin, because they believe not in the Saviour.

He will also enlighten the world concerning righteousness. And this again is taught by the Holy Spirit of God in a very different way from that in which men naturally apprehend it. Men in a state of nature, (that is, men who are sinning every day), yet dream of attaining heaven by their own righteousness. They dream of living a more righteous life than their neighbours, of abstaining from some gross offences, and although, after all, their lives must be marked by many faults, they yet trust, that their virtues will atone for their errors, or that the forgiveness of God will pass by the deficiency. But this is very different from the righteousness which the Holy Ghost teaches. "He will enlighten the world," (said the Saviour,) " cerning righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more." The ascension of our bless ed Saviour completed that work of righteousness which he wrought for the salvation of the world. It becometh us" (said he)" to ful


fil all righteousness." Accordingly he did fulfil it. He obeyed his parents faithfully as a child, and his governors as a man. He submitted to every ordinance of the Mosaic ritual, and performed every duty of the Moral Law. In short, he not only offered a perfect atonement for sin, but a perfect obedience unto righteousness. God acknowledged this righteousness, when he raised him from the dead ; and rewarded it, when he ascended into heaven. This is that accepted righteousness, in which there is no fault or blemish. Our own is an unworthy, unacceptable, unprofitable righteousness. This is that crown of righteousness, laid up for us with our Redeemer in heaven, which the Lord, the righteousJudge, shall give at that day to all who love his appearing. Hence it is, that the Holy Ghost will enlighten the world concerning righteousness, because our Saviour, who is emphatically called "the Lord our Righteousness," has gone to the Father, and we see him again no more till the last great day of ac


He will, lastly, enlighten the world concerning judgment.-The world has never been altogether without an apprehension of judg ment to come. The expectation of that judgment has always formed a part of the religion even of heathens. But their conceptions respecting it were vague and erroneous. They had a confused notion as to what crimes would bring down condemnation at that tribunal, while they hoped that a very imperfect righteousness would ensure their acquittal. But the Holy Ghost overthrows this judgment, by substituting another." He will en lighten the world concerning judg ment, because the prince of this world is judged." The prince of this world-who had poisoned, and still poisons, the minds of men by delusive expectations, which lull them in a fatal security-is himself judged and condemued: and the

kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and be shall reign for ever and ever. Satan is represented, as contending with Christ for the empire of this world: the cause is tried before God; and satan, the usurping prince of this world, is cast out. This judgment took place, when the atonement of Christ was accepted; on which occasion he overcame the world, and the prince of it, and led the powers of hell in captivity, triumphing over them in his cross. And, when the final judgment shall be passed on all the world, it will be seen not merely who have abstained from gross sins, and who have fallen into them, but who are on God's part, and who are on satan's; who have fled from all their sins and acknowledged the sovereignty of a crucified Master, and who have given themselves up to the delusions of the evil one; who, in short, are they, that, being entangled in the sins of this world, have known nothing of the righteousness of a Saviour, and who they that have forsaken their sins, and laid hold on that perfect Righteousness which alone can save them from the wrath to come. The former will go out with the prince, whom they have served, into everlasting destruction; while the latter will be received into the joy of their Lord and Master. Hence it is, that the Holy Ghost will enlighten the world concerning judgment, because the prince of this world is judged,


But, in fact, the Holy Ghost enlightens the world on these three momentous subjects, not only by correcting their views upon them, but by disposing them to think upon them at all: for there are few subjects on which men are naturally less inclined to reflect than sin, and righteousness, and judgment. But when the Spirit of God awakens the mind to a sense of its danger, when he kindles a desire to pray, and excites a serious concern for the business of salvation, the individual thinks on these

things: he thinks on them rightly; he is convinced of their reality and importance: and then the Holy Spirit of God is indeed a Comforter. A new light seems to break forth in the soul, by which it discerns the Father, as reconciled, and the Son, as the reconciler, and, casting all the burden of its sins upon him, from whom also it expects its righteousness, looks forward with anxious but lively hope, through the merits of Christ, to that future judgment, in which the final distinction will be made between the prince and adherents of this world, and the heirs through hope of a better.


To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

THOSE who are familiar with the writings of St. John, must have observed with what frequency and delight he dwells upon the love of God. At one time, contemplating it in its intrinsic magnitude and richness, he exclaims," Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we

should be called the sons of God." At another, viewing it in its effect upon its recipients in enkindling a corresponding love towards its Author, he affirms, "We love him because he first loved us." And in order that this reflexion of God's love to us may be seen in its native splendour, he shews that where in any man there exists true love to Christ, evinced by love for his ways, and a desire to obey his commandments, it is unnecessary and unscriptural to disquiet the mind with fears respecting Christ's love to "There is no fear," says lie, him. " in love."

It is certain, however, that in other parts of holy writ, the fear of God is represented as the beginning of wisdom, and is enforced upon Christians with a sanctity and a solemnity that may at first sight appear somewhat at variance with The the assertion of St. John.

[ocr errors]

object of the present remarks is to point out the real nature of godly fear by an attempt to reconcile these apparently contradictory assertions, and to shew its practical, and even consoling, influence upon the mind of the believer in life and death.


The word used by St. John (pobos) implies, and is frequently used to imply, agitating and distracting terror, and includes something of that state of mind which a slave feels towards a tyrannising master. It is a servile horror and dread, and excludes every thing approaching towards affection. But the word rendered fear in another part of Scripture, where it is said, "Serve the Lord with fear" (Psalm ii. 11), does not admit of the same interpretation, but exactly corresponds with the Greek words adws and evλaßɛia, in Heb. xii. 28. rendered in our version "reverence and godly fear." We have thus two descriptions of fear, not only distinct from, but strongly opposed to, each other; the one approaching to dread and confusion; the other mingled with the gentler and more attractive influence of love, and completing that lowly but truly honourable principle of the soul, which our Saviour described when he said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." The former of these St. John declared inconsistent with Christian love; the latter the wisest of men pronounced to be" the beginning of wisdom." The nature of godly fear being thus ascertained, let us view it in its connexion with the sentiments and conduct of the Christian.

And, first, how does it operate as respects the contemplation of the perfections and attributes of God? God is omniscient; and the believer's fear of God therefore makes him keep strict watch over his inmost thoughts, as well as his outward actions; and though conscious of many an unwelcome intruder, he earnestly strives against temptation, and prays to his Father who sees in secret, to cleanse him

from his most hidden faults. God is also omnipresent; and the believer, practically affected by this truth, remembers that "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." The constant sentiment of his heart is, "Wherever I go, whatever I do, thou God seest me; and if thou art with me, though an host should encamp against me, I will fear no evil." Thus, in this Divine attribute, he finds not only a check against sin, but a rock of defence against temptation. So again, God is omnipotent; and they that have the fear of God before their eyes, entertain such a holy and reverential awe of his majesty and power, that they dare not offend him. That arm of power, they know, is lifted up against "all ungodliness of men;" and while the fear of it deters them from the commission of sin, it also strengthens them in the ways of holiness; for if God, who is all-powerful, be for us, who can be against us? Thus the fear of God has the effect of overcoming the fear of man. Again: God is just and holy; and the Christian, with the church trimphant in heaven, cries, "Who would not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name, for thou only art holy?" And even when all these attributes of the Deity rush as it were upon the soul at once: they do not crush with terror the man who truly fears God; for how terrific soever they may be to the workers of iniquity, to the Christian they present a source of joy and confi dence. The devils fear and tremble: he fears, and loves, and hopes.

Now, in what manner is this fear connected with faith in God? Those who fear God, must have first believed" that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Job was an eminent example of faith and fear: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Thus, though faith is antecedent to this godly fear, they mutually support each other.

Again: how is the fear of God

« PreviousContinue »