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IT is supposed by many, that to profess an assurance of our acceptance with God is the very height of presumption. But, whilst we acknowledge that such a profession may be made very erroneously, and by persons who deceive their own souls, we cannot admit that no such thing as a scriptural assurance exists on the contrary, we affirm, that a consciousness of so great a change as takes place in conversion cannot but exist in some degree; and that our blessed Lord has taught all his people to expect it: "In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you"." If indeed such a persuasion were to be entertained without being subjected to any test, then would it be the most enthusiastic, and most dangerous: but, if we have an infallible rule whereby to try it, then have we no reason to feel that jealousy respecting it, which so generally prevails. The truth is, that in this very passage where our Lord has sanctioned an assurance of our state, he has established a criterion whereby all our professions must be judged: nor, till our experience has been found to accord with that standard, have we any right to expect the rewards and consolations of his Gospel : "He that," &c.
Now in these words we may see,
I. How to judge of our love to Christ
We must not imagine that the adoption of certain sentiments, or the joining of ourselves to a particular set of people, or the manifesting of a regard for public or social ordinances, or the having had great exercises of mind in reference to religion, with many hopes or fears, or joys or sorrows, or the feeling a strong confidence about the safety of our own state, are any certain proofs of love to Christ: these things not only may, but often do, exist, where there is no real love to Christ in the soul. There is one mark, and one only, whereby we can form any decided judgment about the states of men; and that is, " By their fruits ye shall know them :" they alone truly
a ver. 20.
love the Lord Jesus Christ, who manifest a due regard for his commandments:
1. Who "have them" in their hearts
[Those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity," desire a perfect conformity to his mind and will. With this view they study his commandments: they do not read them in a cursory way, but meditate on them, and search into them, and beg of God to open them to their view, and are thankful for any light that may be cast upon them, even though their own conduct should thereby be condemned. Having obtained a deeper insight into them, they treasure up the welcome truth in their minds, and "hide it in their hearts," as a rule of their conduct, "that they may no longer sin against him." "They account not any one of them grievous," but approve of them in their utmost extent, and "pant" after a more entire conformity to them, and long to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God"." They would not willingly have "a thought, that should not be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."]
2. Who "keep them" in their lives—
[Those who truly love Christ will be always "walking in the way of his commandments." Do you inquire into their general conduct? you will find them "labouring, not so much for the meat that perisheth, as for that which endureth unto everlasting life:" they will "not be taking thought what they shall eat and drink, and be clothed with, as the poor ignorant Gentiles do; but will seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;" "not laying up treasures upon earth, but laying them up in heaven." In "love to the world and the things thereof, they will form a contrast with the ungodly world."
In like manner, if you inquire into their conduct under any particular circumstances, you will know beforehand where to find them: you need only examine the commandments in relation to that subject, and you will know how they will act. You will not expect to find them conceited, selfish, querulous: because they are commanded to "prefer others in honour before themselves;" to "mind, not their own things, but also the things of others;" and "in whatsoever state they are, therewith to be content." Nor will you expect to find them censorious, passionate, unforgiving, or vindictive; because Christ has bidden them "not to judge others," or "to say to
b Ps. cxix. 127, 128, 131. This last verse beautifully expresses the ardent longing of his soul to be conformed to them. c 1 John ii. 15, 16. Rom. xii. 2.
any one, Thou fool;" but rather to "turn the left cheek to any one that smites them on the right," and to " forgive him not only seven times, but seventy times seven."
They are not unlike a mariner that is ordered to cruize in a given latitude. There is no visible object in the ocean to which he directs his way; but he consults his chart, and his compass, and the heavenly bodies, and then makes his observations with all the accuracy that he can. The spot is not so defined, but that a difference of opinion may exist respecting its precise situation: but a skilful mariner will not be far wrong; or, if for a moment he be driven by a storm from the place he should occupy, he will be sensible of his departure, and will make every effort to return to his post again as soon as possible. Thus it is with all that truly love Christ: they have in their hands the means of ascertaining the way that they should walk in: and they use those means with diligence, knowing that any considerable and habitual departure from it will be an impeachment of the sincerity of their love. The commandments indeed, especially in circumstances of expediency, are not always so defined, but that there may be room for difference of opinion respecting the precise line of conduct prescribed by them: but, in relation to the spirit in which we should act, they leave nothing doubtful; they are as clear as the light at noon-day: so that, though a difference of opinion may exist, it never can be such as to occasion any great departure from the path of duty: and as a man, who, being ordered to cruise in a northern latitude, should go to the southern hemisphere, and then maintain that he was in his proper place, would be justly deemed unworthy of any credit as a mariner; so the man who justifies himself in the indulgence of any evil tempers, is unworthy of the name of a Christian: a proud Christian, a passionate Christian, a covetous Christian, a lewd Christian, is as much a contradiction in terms, as an infidel, an idolatrous, or a murderous Christian.]
This is the criterion whereby every man must be judged and though there are imperfections even in the best, yet this on the whole is the true, the manifest, and the uniform character of all who really love Christ all others, whatever they may be, only deceive their own souls".
Our Lord having thus accurately drawn the character of his people, shews us,
II. What to expect, if we do truly love him
d 1 John v. 3. and 1 Cor. vii. 19.
It is not possible to enlarge our expectations too much, if only we confine them within the promises of God. As surely as we attain this character,
1. We shall possess his favour
[Much as "he abhors all the workers of iniquity," he will retain no unkind thought towards us: on the contrary, "he will love us," approving our spirit, accepting our services, and "rejoicing over us to do us good." The Lord Jesus Christ also says, "And I will love you." A love of benevolence he felt towards us when we were yet enemies; but now he will feel a love of complacency, even such a love as shall make him attentive to our every want, our every concern
Of course, it must here be supposed, that our obedience to his commandments proceeds from proper principles; not from a desire of establishing a righteousness of our own, but from a grateful sense of his redeeming love, and from a zeal for his glory if this be not the case, our best efforts will be even hateful both to the Father and to Christ, inasmuch as they are substituted in the place of that atoning blood of Christ, which alone can cleanse us from all sin but if our obedience be pure in its principle, uniform in its tenour, and impartial in its extent, then shall it surely be accepted for Christ's sake, and be rewarded with the everlasting favour of our God'.]
2. We shall have the present manifestations of it to our souls
[There are manifestations of God to the soul, which the world have no idea of. In reading of the word, in prayer, in meditating on the promises, God will take away the veil from our hearts, and discover himself to us, and lift up the light of his countenance upon us, and "shed abroad his love in our hearts." By the communications of his Spirit to us, he will enable us to cry, Abba, Father; he will witness with our spirits that we are his children; he will give us an earnest of our inheritance, even the present foretaste of heaven itself in our souls.
Our Lord, when interrogated by Judas, confirmed this truth by repeated asseverations, and repeatedly also confirmed what he had spoken respecting the character of those to whom these blessings should be vouchsafeds. We may be assured therefore, that to expect these manifestations is no presumption; but, on the contrary, they are the proper portion of all who love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.]
From this subject we may clearly SEE, that religion is, 1. A holy thing
Jer. xxxii. 41. Zeph. iii. 17.
f See John xvi. 27. 8 ver. 22-24.
[That there are those who profess religion and yet grievously dishonour it by their conduct, is a melancholy truth; and that the prejudices of many against religion are hereby greatly strengthened, is also true: but religion is no more accountable for the inconsistencies of those who profess it, than reason is for the follies of those who pervert it. What is the true tendency of love to Christ, has already appeared: and every one must try his professions by that test.
I would solemnly call upon all those who are habitually violating any one commandment, to remember, that all their pretended love to Christ is mere hypocrisy and delusion: and the more confident they are of their own acceptance with him, the more they deceive their own souls1.
And all who are in a measure shewing forth their faith by their works, I would exhort to abound more and more; that, "making their light to shine more bright, they may constrain all around them to glorify their heavenly Father."]
2. A happy thing—
[As there are unholy, so are there also unhappy professors of religion. But shall we therefore conclude, that Christ will not fulfil his promises to his loving and obedient people; or that there are any circumstances under which his presence with the soul cannot make it happy?]
h 1 John ii. 3, 4. Who would have thought that such persons as are here deseribed, exist? Yet they do exist. Compare the concluding words of this passage with the words immediately preceding the text. See also Jam. i. 26. and Matt. vii. 16-23.
CHRISTIANS BRANCHES OF THE TRUE VINE.
John xv. 1, 2. I am the vine, and my Father is the husbandEvery branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
THE union which subsists between Christ and his Church is mysterious: the Scripture sets it forth both in figurative and plain expressions. It is spoken of not as a speculative or doubtful point, but as well It is declared in the text under a beautiful
a John xiv. 20.