« AnteriorContinuar »
ground for all ; but because men do not desire God. There is no hope of obtaining this Divine favor in hell, because there is no atonement there, there is no ground on which to rest the expectation. But the reason why we have so little here is because God's favor is not desired. Men do not want God's society or friendship. Now how is this appetite to desire God produced ? We have neither hesitancy nor difficulty in answering, by the spirit of God.
Thus it is that God is the author of hope—he has furnished us with ground to expect and with appetite to desire. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” &c.
His unbounded beneficence in the Christian's history is here illustrated by :
II. THE BLESSINGS HE IMPARTS TO THEM. First :-The nature of the enjoyment. Joy and peace.” These two terms are employed, perhaps, to express complete happiness. What a blessing is peace ! How delightful is the calm of nature after a dark dangerous thunderstorm !
How still more precious is the peace of the empire after a long tempestuous war! But how infinitely more so is the peace referred to in the text—"Peace of mind that passeth all understanding ! There are three things that destroy peace of mind-three great causes of all mental agitation and distress. Remorse. This is a primary element of misery. It is that which has lashed the minds of the lost into a storm, and will perpetuate that storm for ever. Cain, Judas, Herod, and kindred men, have felt that storm. God removes this from the mind by the application of the sacrifice of Christ. As oil smooths the troubled waters, so the atonement of Christ calms the agitated breast. “Being justified by faith,” &c. Anger also is a principle that throws the soul into excitement, that often shakes it to its centre. God takes this away—for mankind were never made for anger,—and fills it with love ; love to God, to man, to all ; causes love to pervade every faculty. Apprehension is another element of misery. A mind under the influence of fear, of danger, or death, is all commotion. God removes this by assuring us of his constant presence and guardianship. “A very present help in time of trouble.” “Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is staid upon thee.”
Secondly : The Plenitude of the enjoyment. “Fill you," &c. Not a mere taste of joy, not a transient thrill of delight, but a fulness of deep spiritual happiness. Have you ever seen a person filled with delight? The tender mother that clasps in her arms a beloved child from whom she had been long separated, and whom she never expected to see any more, is during that moment, filled with delight ; every anxious care is buried in the abyss of joy; it seems too much for her to bear, it beams in her countenance, it flows out through her tears.
Now God wishes his people always to be filled with joy; with all joy ;-intellectual, social, religious : to have as much joy as their vessels can hold in this world. Christians have not lived up to their resources, and in consequence of this they have not only been deprived of the happiness which they otherwise would have enjoyed, but they have made a bad impression upon the world. They have led the world to associate the idea of sadness and melancholy with that religion whose “ways are ways of pleasantness," &c. It is our duty to have joy. “Rejoice evermore,” &c. Oh what a wonderful exhibition of mercy is here! It would be a great mercy in God to take us to heaven in any way. Let doubts and fears harass and perplex the mind ; let my days be days of darkness, and my nights of sorrow, let my road to heaven be through suffering and blood; to arrive there at last would be an infinite mercy. But God does not require that; nay he wishes us to be filled with happiness on the way, to have our doubts dispelled, the flowing tears wiped away, our harps taken from the willows, strung and vibrating with the joys of religion. “ The redeemed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion," &c.
Thirdly: The condition of the enjoyment. What is the condition ? Painful penances ? Great attainments ? Difficult labors ? No. A simple act of the mind "believing." An act that can be performed at any time in any place. That we are sinners righteously condemned to hell, and that Jesus Christ is a willing and able Saviour, are facts which every man must believe before he can be saved; but there is another thing he must believe before he can enjoy the happiness referred to ;-it is that he has trusted his soul to Jesus Christ for salvation. To believe this fact he must have evidence, and evidence is to be found in the correspondence of his experience with the features of Christian character as delineated in the inspired volume. The more striking the correspondence the more powerful the faith, and the more powerful the faith the more abundant the joy ; so that our happiness will depend upon personal excellencies. Only let a man believe that he has an interest in Christ, and then he can apply all the promises of God. “ All things work together for good," &c.
Fourthly: The design of the enjoyment. That we may “abound in hope,” &c. This is very remarkable. God wishes us to be filled with happiness, that we may expect the more. The more favors we receive from an individual the less we have to expect; but the reverse is the case with God :-the more we have from Him the more we may look for. Should there be any one who would say that his religious experience has been happy and therefore he cannot expect more, we reply, The greater amount of good you have received the greater reason you have to expect much more. If there be one being in the universe who should have a more enlarged expectation from God than another, we would say that it is he that had received the most. God’s disposition to bestow is infinite, and his capabilities are boundless. What a wonderful expression is that, “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all,” &c. Let me be a recipient of God's spiritual gifts until the transactions of the judgment day become facts of a far far distant and almost forgotten history, and then my expectation from God will be higher than
Brothers let us come to God with enlarged expectations. We can never weary Him, for it is His delight to give. We can never exhaust His fulness, for it is infinite. Come let us spread our wants before Him; though they be as numerous as the waves, His mercy like the heavens encompasseth them.
What a view does this give us of heaven! Expectation is a principle of the human mind. Man is always living in the future. The past is little to him : from the future he derives the largest portion of his joys. This principle will exist in heaven. We shall be always anticipating; and the more we receive the more we shall anticipate. New fields of thought, fresh scenes of delight, brighter and still brighter manifestations of the everlasting God will be eternally displayed.
III. THE AGENCY WHICH HE EMPLOYS FOR THEM. “Through the power of the Holy Ghost.” All this happiness is to be referred to the influences of the Holy Spirit, without whose sacred operations man's enjoyments in this world will be nothing but carnal, his hope but a delusive dream, his desting the blackness of despair for ever.
Now this Divine Agent is employed by God for this purpose. What an exhibition of mercy is this! Had God employed the greatest, the oldest, or the noblest spirit that he ever created for this purpose, it would have been wonderful mercy; but He employs His Holy Spirit who is equal with Himself. We are not sufficiently impressed with the value of this Infinite gift. We profess to estimate and be impressed with the gift of His Son to bleed and die for us. How unconscious we seem to be of the fact that we have as great a gift from God in us and around us as the disciple had, who rested upon
the bosom of Jesus, or listened to His words. Both are divine;the same natures and attributes are possessed by both. Both are indispensable. True, the world could never be saved without the suffering and death of Christ; and it is equally true that the world could never be saved without the operations of His Spirit. Without the Atonement the Spirit would never have been employed; without the Spirit the
Atonement would have been of no use to man's salvation. No! that Spirit is as necessary to “convince of sin, of righteousness,” &c., as was the death of Christ to redeem. It is true that no man can come unto the father but through Christ, and it is equally true that “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” &c.
Both have been ill treated. We cannot be too deeply impressed with God's love towards us in the gift of Christ. When we think of his persecutions and sufferings, when we think of the groans of Gethsemane, and the pangs of Calvary, we feel it. But has not the Spirit been ill treated ? Has there been no vexing of Him, no grieving of Him? Christ after having spent a little more than thirty years in this world ascended up on high, and seated himself in heaven, with the diadems of worlds upon his brow, and the splendors of heaven beaming around him ; but the Spirit has existed in our world for 1800 years ;-He has been vexed and grieved by millions of men in every land. Is not the mercy of God seen in employing such an agent ?
SUBJECT :-Fitness for Higher Duty and Knowledge.
Lord, increase our faith.”—Luke xvii. 50.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and forty-third.
UNDER what circumstances, may we appropriately use this prayer?
I. IN THE PRESENCE OF NEW, OR IMPORTANT AND DIFFICULT, DUTIES. Some people who know us, may imagine that we are ready for the performance of any new command which may be pealed into our ear from the throne of God, as we travel on life's common way. But we know too well how weak and ignorant we are. In our serious moments of introspection we are ordinarily accustomed to observe our puny faith, our cold love, our enervated activity. It may be that we can struggle through the duty of the passing