And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and to carefully observe My ordinances.
1. He would work within their hearts an entire change of thought and feeling, removing their strong stubbornness and replacing it with a childlike sensibility.
2. He would thus lead them to live in purity and uprightness before the eyes of those among whom they dwelt. Thus would he magnify his holy Name.
3. Then he would restore them to the old relation which they had forfeited by their sin; they should be again his people, and he would be their God, dwelling among them and ruling over them in peace and righteousness. We have here the three constantly recurring elements of true piety.
I. INWARD RENEWAL. (Ver. 26.) Consisting of:
1. Sensibility taking the place of indifference or stubborn rebelliousness. Instead of the "stony heart" is the "heart of flesh;" instead of an utter, brutish disregard of Divine claims or a perverse and froward determination to reject them, is the "new heart," the "new spirit" of openness of mind, willingness which ends in eagerness to learn of God, responsiveness of feeling when he speaks, tenderness of conscience under the spoken truth of Christ.
2. Humility taking the place of pride or careless unconcern; a sense of past sin and of present unworthiness; the inward conviction that God has not been remembered, reverenced, served, trusted, as he should have been, and that life has been stained with many errors, faults, shortcomings, transgressions; a spirit of true penitence and shame; a voice, not loud but deep, says within the soul, "I have sinned."
3. Consecration instead of selfishness. The heart turns away from selfishness and from worldliness toward God, toward the Divine Redeemer, whom it receives gladly and fully as the Savior of the soul, as the Sovereign of the life.
II. OUTWARD RECTITUDE. "I will cause you to walk in my statutes," etc. (ver. 27). The obedience which springs from mere dread of penalty is of very small account; but that which proceeds from a loyal and a loving heart is worth everything. The Divine Son, who was also a Servant, could say, "I delight to do thy will;... thy Law is within my heart." And when the new spirit or the new heart is within us, we can speak in the same strain. Our piety passes, with perfect naturalness, from the reverent thought to the right word; from the grateful feeling to the upright action, from the consecrated spirit to the devoted and useful life. We obey God's word because we honor himself; we keep the commandments of Christ because we love our Lord (John 14:15, 21, 23). If the Spirit of God be in us we shall bring forth the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). Of the commandments of Christ, to which, by his own words or by those of his apostles, he has attached the greatest weight, as indispensable to the Christian life and as the condition of his acceptance, we must include purity, truthfulness, sobriety, honesty, reverence, love - the love which forbears, which pities, which succors in time of need.
III. HEAVENLY INTERCOURSE, (Ver. 28.) While still inhabitants of earth, our citizenship is to be in heaven (see Philippians 3:20). God is to be our God, and we are to be his people. All human and earthly relationships are to find their highest and best illustration in those which are "in the heavens," which are spiritual and eternal. Communion between ourselves and our Father in heaven is to be common and constant - a daily, an hourly incident through all our life and in all our circumstances and conditions. Far below and far above all other things, we are to be the children and the heirs of God, we are to be the servants of Jesus Christ, we are to bear witness to his truth, we are to promote the coming of his kingdom on the earth. - C.
I will put My Spirit within you.I. THE AGENT IN THIS CHANGE. God Himself.
1. Nothing less than this will suffice. Outward morality not enough, does not produce true obedience. Importance of motives.
2. Failure of all else to regenerate mankind.
(1) (2) (3) II. THE METHOD OF THIS CHANGE, AS HERE PREDICTED. 2. The Spirit bestowed. God Himself dwelling in the heart (Psalm 68:18; John 14:17; John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 3:16). The great gift of Pentecost (Acts 2:4); the Church's birthday. Mark the wider diffusion, the increased knowledge, the higher tone, the advance in spiritual life since the day of Pentecost. III. THE RESULT OF THIS CHANGE. "Cause you to walk in My statutes," etc. The fruit of the Spirit is obedience (Galatians 5:22, 23); no true obedience without the Spirit (Romans 8:8, 9); the good tree alone brings forth good fruit (Matthew 7:17-20). This then supplies a practical test. 1. Are we exhibiting these fruits? If not, then we are not led by the Spirit, then we are "none of Christ's"; then the great work of the changed heart has not taken place. 2. Do we desire a better, higher life? If so, then remember the distinct promise of text. Pentecost is a pledge (Acts 2:39). (A. G. Hellicar, M. A.)
(2) (3) II. THE METHOD OF THIS CHANGE, AS HERE PREDICTED. 2. The Spirit bestowed. God Himself dwelling in the heart (Psalm 68:18; John 14:17; John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 3:16). The great gift of Pentecost (Acts 2:4); the Church's birthday. Mark the wider diffusion, the increased knowledge, the higher tone, the advance in spiritual life since the day of Pentecost. III. THE RESULT OF THIS CHANGE. "Cause you to walk in My statutes," etc. The fruit of the Spirit is obedience (Galatians 5:22, 23); no true obedience without the Spirit (Romans 8:8, 9); the good tree alone brings forth good fruit (Matthew 7:17-20). This then supplies a practical test. 1. Are we exhibiting these fruits? If not, then we are not led by the Spirit, then we are "none of Christ's"; then the great work of the changed heart has not taken place. 2. Do we desire a better, higher life? If so, then remember the distinct promise of text. Pentecost is a pledge (Acts 2:39). (A. G. Hellicar, M. A.)
(3) II. THE METHOD OF THIS CHANGE, AS HERE PREDICTED. 2. The Spirit bestowed. God Himself dwelling in the heart (Psalm 68:18; John 14:17; John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 3:16). The great gift of Pentecost (Acts 2:4); the Church's birthday. Mark the wider diffusion, the increased knowledge, the higher tone, the advance in spiritual life since the day of Pentecost. III. THE RESULT OF THIS CHANGE. "Cause you to walk in My statutes," etc. The fruit of the Spirit is obedience (Galatians 5:22, 23); no true obedience without the Spirit (Romans 8:8, 9); the good tree alone brings forth good fruit (Matthew 7:17-20). This then supplies a practical test. 1. Are we exhibiting these fruits? If not, then we are not led by the Spirit, then we are "none of Christ's"; then the great work of the changed heart has not taken place. 2. Do we desire a better, higher life? If so, then remember the distinct promise of text. Pentecost is a pledge (Acts 2:39). (A. G. Hellicar, M. A.)
II. THE METHOD OF THIS CHANGE, AS HERE PREDICTED.
(A. G. Hellicar, M. A.)
I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE GREAT AGENT IN CONVERSION AND SANCTIFICATION. Man cannot be saved unless elected; nor elected without the Father. He cannot be saved unless redeemed; nor redeemed without the Son. Not less true is it, that he cannot be saved unless converted; nor converted without the Spirit. Do you ask why? We may compare the change wrought in conversion to the removal of what was old and shattered, and the supplying its place with new machinery. But what is mere machinery? Just what a new heart were without the Spirit of God. In addition to the machinery we must have a moving power. Of what use were that which is to be moved without a force adequate to the end in view? Without a mainspring inside the timepiece, however complete the number and perfect the workmanship of its wheels, pinions, pivots, axles, the hands would stand on its face, nor advance one step over the encircling hours. So were it with the renewed soul without the Spirit of God to set its powers in motion, bring them into play, and impart to their movements a true and heavenward character. For this purpose God fulfils the promise, I will put My Spirit within you. To illustrate this truth, let me avail myself of the clement which gives a name to the Spirit, and which our Saviour selects as its appropriate emblem — "The wind bloweth where it listeth," etc. Here is a noble ship. Her masts are all in; and her canvas is spread out; yet no ripple runs by her side, nor foam flashes from her bows, nor has she any motion, but what she receives from the alternate swell and sinking of the wave. Her equipment is complete. The forests have masted her; in many a broad yard of canvas a hundred looms have given her wings. Her anchor has been weighed to the rude sea chant; the needle trembles on her deck; with his eye on that friend, unlike worldly friends, true in storm as in calm, the helmsman stands impatient by the wheel. And when, as men bound to a distant shore, the crew have said farewell to wives and children, why then lies she there over the self-same ground, rising with the flowing, and falling with the ebbing tide? The cause is plain. They want a wind to raise that drooping pennon, and fill these empty sails. They look to heaven, and so they may; out of the skies their help must come. Even so, though heaven born, heaven called, heaven bound, though endowed with a new heart, and new mind, and new will, we stand in the same need of celestial influences. The grace and Spirit of God are indispensable. This Divine gift, however, neither circumscribes nor supersedes our own exertions. These gracious influences descend not to set us idle, any more than the breeze blows to send the sailor to his hammock and rock him over in the arms of sleep. The more full the gifts and Divine breathings of the Spirit, the busier let us be; more diligent in the use of prayer, of sacraments, of the Word, of all those ordinances through which the Spirit works, and bears believers onward and homeward in their heavenly course.
II. GOD'S SPIRIT IS NOT ONLY GIVEN TO HIS PEOPLE, BUT DWELLS IN THEM. "I will put My Spirit within you." Whatever habitation the prince of darkness may have within unconverted men; and however also, holding for a time some footing, even in God's people he may suggest those thoughts of blasphemy and desires of sin, which come as unbidden as they are unwelcome, yet the saints of God enjoy what may be called a blessed possession. Not the angels, but the Spirit of God dwells in them. Heaven has descended into their bosoms, and there they have a little heaven below. God now in very truth not only dwells with man, but in man. "I will put My Spirit within you." He is enshrined within them: so that, as the soul dwells in the body, God dwells in the soul. Speaking of the man that loves Him, our Lord said, We will come unto Him. A condescension and kindness unknown to those who boast the friendship of kings, God bestows the honour of daily visits on the lowliest and poorest Christian. He comes at the time of prayer; He occupies the mercy seat at the stated hour of worship; and into the closet where the good man goes, He goes along with him.
( T. Guthrie, D. D.)
1. This is very manifest if we remember what man is by nature. Holy Scripture tells us that man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins. It does not say that he is sick, that he is faint, that he has grown callous, and hardened, and seared, but it says he is absolutely dead. When the body is dead it is powerless; it is unable to do anything for itself; and when the soul of man is dead, in a spiritual sense, it must be, if there is any meaning in the figure, utterly and entirely powerless; and unable to do anything of itself or for itself. The Spirit finds men as destitute of spiritual life as Ezekiel's dry bones; He brings bone to bone, and fits the skeleton together, and then He comes from the four winds and breathes into the slain, and they live, and stand upon their feet, an exceeding great army, and worship God. But apart from that, apart from the vivifying influence of the Spirit of God, men's souls must lie in the valley of dry bones, dead, and dead forever. But Scripture does not only tell us that man is dead in sin; it tells us something worse than this, namely, that he is utterly and entirely averse to everything that is good and right. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Turn you all Scripture through, and you find continually the will of man described as being contrary to the things of God. They will not come unto Christ, that they may have life. Until the Spirit draw them, come they neither will nor can. Hence, then, from the fact that man's nature is hostile to the Divine Spirit, that he hates grace, that he despises the way in which grace is brought to him, that it is contrary to his own proud nature to stoop to receive salvation by the deeds of another — hence it is necessary that the Spirit of God should operate to change the will, to correct the bias of the heart, to set man in a right track, and then give him strength to run in it.
2. Salvation must be the work of the Spirit in us, because the means used in salvation are of themselves inadequate for the accomplishment of the work. And what are the means of salvation? Why, first and foremost stands the preaching of the Word of God. But what is there in preaching, by which souls are saved, that looks as if it would be the means of saving souls? Under the ministry dead souls are quickened, sinners are made to repent, the vilest of sinners are made holy, men who came determined not to believe are compelled to believe. Now, who does this? If you say the ministry does it, then I say farewell to your reason, because there is nothing in the successful ministry which would tend thereunto. It must be that the Spirit worketh in man through the ministry, or else such deeds would never be accomplished. You might as well expect to raise the dead by whispering in their ears, as hope to save souls by preaching to them, if it were not for the agency of the Spirit.
3. The absolute necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart may be clearly seen from this fact, that all which has been done by God the Father, and all that has been done by God the Son, must be ineffectual to us unless the Spirit shall reveal these things to our souls. We believe, in the first place, that God the Father elects His people; from before all worlds He chooses them to Himself; but let me ask you — what effect does the doctrine of election have upon any man, until the Spirit of God enters into him? Until the Spirit opens the eye to read, until the Spirit imparts the mystic secret, no heart can know its election. He, by His Divine workings, bears an infallible witness with our spirits that we are born of God; and then we are enabled to "read our title clear to mansions in the skies." Look, again, at the covenant of grace. We know that there was a covenant made with the Lord Jesus Christ, by His Father, from before all worlds, and that in this covenant the persons of all His people were given to Him, and were secured; but of what use or of what avail is the covenant to us until the Holy Spirit brings the blessings of the covenant to us? Take, again, the redemption of Christ. We know that Christ did stand in the room, place, and stead of all His people, and that all those who shall appear in heaven will appear there as an act of justice as well as of grace, seeing that Christ was punished in their room and stead, and that it would have been unjust if God punished them, seeing that He had punished Christ for them. We believe that Christ having paid all their debts, they have a right to their freedom in Christ — that Christ having covered them with His righteousness, they are entitled to eternal life as much as if they had themselves been perfectly holy. But of what avail is this to me, until the Spirit takes of the things of Christ and shows them to me?
4. The experience of the true Christian is a reality; but it never can be known and felt without the Spirit of God. Trouble comes, storms of trouble, and he looks the tempest in the face, and says, "I know that all things work together for my good." His children die, the partner of his bosom is carried to the grave; he says, "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord." His farm fails, his crop is blighted; his business prospects are clouded. You see him approaching at last the dark valley of the shadow of death, and you hear him cry, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me, and Thou Thyself art with me." Now, I ask you what makes this man calm in the midst of all these varied trials, and personal troubles, if it be not the Spirit of God? But look at the Christian, too, in his joyous moments. He is rich. God has given him all his heart's desire on earth. Mark that man; he has plenty of room for pleasures in this world, but he drinks out of a higher cistern. His pleasure springs from things unseen; his happiest moments are when he can shut all these good things out, and when he can come to God as a poor guilty sinner, and come to Christ and enter into fellowship with Him, and rise into nearness of access and confidence, and bold approach to the throne of the heavenly grace. Now, what is it that keeps a man who has all these mercies from setting his heart upon the earth? What can do this? No mere moral virtue. No doctrine of the stoic ever brought a man to such a pass as that. No, it must be the work of the Spirit, and the work of the Spirit alone, that can lead a man to live in heaven, while there is a temptation to him to live on earth.
5. The acceptable acts of the Christian life cannot be performed without the Spirit; and hence, again, the necessity for the Spirit of God. The first act of the Christian's life is repentance. Have you ever tried to repent? If so, if you tried without the Spirit of God, you know that to urge a man to repent without the promise of the Spirit to help him, is to urge him to do an impossibility. Faith is the next act in the Divine life. Perhaps you think faith very easy; but if you are ever brought to feel the burden of sin you would not find it quite so light a labour. Then we have to cry for the help of the Spirit; and through Him we can do all things, though without Him we can do nothing at all. In all the acts of the Christian's life, whether it be the act of consecrating one's self to Christ, or the act of daily prayer, or the act of constant submission, or preaching the Gospel, or ministering to the necessities of the poor, or comforting the desponding, in all these the Christian finds his weakness and his powerlessness, unless he is clothed about with the Spirit of God.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. The gift of the Spirit. The Spirit of God is revealed to us.(1) As the good Spirit. "Let Thy good Spirit lead me," etc. (Psalm 143:10; Nehemiah 9:20). He is the essence and the source of all goodness; the opposite of the evil and malignant spirit.(2) As the Holy Spirit. "Take not Thy Holy Spirit," etc. (Psalm 51:11). "If ye, being evil," etc. (Luke 11:13). "Grieve not the Holy Spirit," etc. (Ephesians 4:30). He is essentially holy, the Author of holiness, etc.(3) Described as the Spirit of prayer. "And I will pour out," etc. (Zechariah 12:10). "Likewise the Spirit," etc. (Romans 8:26).(4) He is also the Spirit of adoption (Romans 8:14, 15). He takes out of the kingdom of Satan, etc. His indwelling the sign, etc.(5) He is styled the Comforter and Guide of His people (John 14:16, 17).
2. That Spirit is to be put within us. The signs of the Spirit dwelling in us will be —(1) The expulsion of enemies from the heart.(2) We shall be led by the Spirit. "As many as are led," etc. "He will guide you," etc.(3) We shall have free access to God (Ephesians 2:18). He will excite us, influence us, prepare us for fellowship with God.(4) We shall have a confident expectation of glory (Romans 8:16, 17; 2 Corinthians 1:21). The Spirit is the "earnest," or "first-fruits," of future glory.(5) We shall be increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. Make us fruitful in every good work (Galatians 5:22; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
II. THE PRACTICAL INFLUENCE THIS BLESSING IS TO PRODUCE. The Spirit will —
1. Impart the nature and disposition to serve God. This must be the new nature, the new heart, the right spirit, the obedient mind.
3. Will enable us to advance in the service of God.Application —
1. Let us seek largely the influences of the Holy Spirit. It is obtained by believing prayer.
2. Let us yield ourselves freely to His Divine influence.
3. Let us be careful that we quench not and grieve not the Spirit of God.
(J. Burns, D. D.)I. THE COMMENDATION OF THE TEXT, the tongues of men and of angels might fail. To call it a golden sentence would be much too commonplace: to liken it to a pearl of great price would be too poor a comparison. "I will put My Spirit within you."
1. I would begin by saying that it is a gracious word. So great a boon as this could never come to any man by merit. A man might so act as to deserve a reward of a certain kind, in measure suited to his commendable action; but the Holy Spirit can never be the wage of human service: the idea verges upon blasphemy.
2. Note, next, that it is a Divine word: "I will put My Spirit within you." Who but the Lord could speak after this fashion?
3. To me there is much charm in the further thought that this is an individual and personal word. "I will put My Spirit within you" one by one. "A new heart also will I give you." Now, a new heart can only be given to one person. Each man needs a heart of his own, and each man must have a new heart for himself. "And a new spirit will I put within you." Within each one this must be done. "And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" — these are all personal, individual operations of grace.
4. This is a separating word. Those who have the Spirit are not of the world, nor like the world; and they soon have to come out from among the ungodly, and to be separate; for difference of nature creates conflict.
5. It is a very uniting word. It separates from the world, but it joins to God. By the Spirit we have access to the Father; by the Spirit we perceive our adoption, and learn to cry, "Abba, Father"; by the Spirit we are made partakers of the Divine nature, and have communion with the thrice holy Lord.
6. It is a very condescending word — "I will put My Spirit within you." The Saviour has gone away on purpose that the Comforter might be given to dwell in you, and He does dwell in you. Is it not so? If it be so, admire this condescending God, and worship and praise His name. Sweetly submit to His rule in all things. Grieve not the Spirit of God. Watch carefully that nothing comes within you that may defile the temple of God. Let the faintest monition of the Holy Spirit be law to you.
7. It is a very spiritual word. Our text has nothing to do with outward rites and ceremonies; but goes much further and deeper. God puts His Spirit not upon the surface of the man, but into the centre of his being. The promise means — "I will put My Spirit in your bowels, in your hearts, in the very soul of you."
8. This word is a very effectual one. "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them." The Spirit is operative — first upon the inner life, in causing you to love the law of the Lord; and then it moves you openly to keep His statutes concerning Himself, and His judgments between you and your fellow men.
II. THE EXPOSITION OF THE TEXT.
1. One of the first effects of the Spirit of God being put within us is quickening. We are dead by nature to all heavenly and spiritual things; but when the Spirit of God comes, then we begin to live. This life of the Spirit Shows itself by causing the man to pray. The cry is the distinctive mark of the living child. He begins to cry in broken accents, "God be merciful to me." Remember, dear friends, that as the Holy Spirit gives quickening at the first, so He must revive and strengthen it. Whenever you become dull and faint, cry for the Holy Spirit.
2. When the Holy Spirit enters, after quickening He gives enlightening. We cannot make men see the truth, they are so blind; but when the Lord puts His Spirit within them their eyes are opened. At first they may see rather hazily; but still they do see. As the light increases, and the eye is strengthened, they see more and more clearly.
3. The Spirit also works conviction. Conviction is more forcible than illumination: it is the setting of a truth before the eye of the soul, so as to make it powerful upon the conscience.
4. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit comes into us for purification. When the Spirit comes, He infuses a new life, and that new life is a fountain of holiness.
5. Next, the Holy Ghost acts in the heart as the Spirit of preservation. Where He dwells men do not go back unto perdition. He works in them a watchfulness against temptation day by day. He works in them to wrestle against sin.
6. The Holy Spirit within us is for guidance to lead us into all truth. Truth is like a vast grotto, and the Holy Spirit brings torches, and shows us all the splendour of the roof; and since the passages seem intricate, He knows the way, and He leads us into the deep things of God. He is also our practical Guide to heaven, helping and directing us on the upward journey.
7. Last of all, "I will put My Spirit within you," that is, by way of consolation, for His choice name is "The Comforter." You that are under the burden of sin; it is true no man can help you into peace, but the Holy Ghost can.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
And cause you to walk in My statutes.
I. IT IS A WILLING OBEDIENCE. Many movements take place in the universe independent of any will but that of God. The sap ascends the tree, the planets revolve round the sun, the moon waxes and wanes in her quarters, the stars rise and set in the heavens, the tides flow and ebb upon the shore, and Nature walks in God's statutes, keeping His judgments, and doing them, moved to obedience by no will but His. So soon, however, as, leaving inanimate creation, we ascend into the regions where intelligent mind and matter, or even blind instinct and matter are united, we discover a beautiful and benevolent law, by virtue of which their Maker at once secures the happiness and provides for the welfare of His creatures. He so orders it that the will of His creatures is in perfect harmony with their work; their inclinations with their interests. The nature of the redeemed is so accommodated to the state of redemption, their wishes are so fitted to their wants, their hopes to their prospects, their aspirations to their honours, and their will to their work, that they would be less content to return to polluted pleasures than the butterfly to be stripped of its silken wings, and condemned to pass its life amid the foul garbage of former days. With such a will and nature as believers now possess, their old pleasures would be misery; their old haunts a hell. Rather than leave his father's table and bosom for the arms of harlots and the husks of swine troughs, would not the reclaimed prodigal embrace death itself, and seek a refuge in the grave? Even so God's people would rather not be at all, than be what once they were. Hence, on the one hand, their unhappiness when entangled in sin; hence, on the other hand, their enjoyment in God's service; hence David's ardent longing for the place of ordinances; hence the beauty of a Sabbath scene, and the sweet music of Sabbath bells, and the answer of their hearts to the welcome sound, I was glad when they said unto me, let us go unto the house of the Lord.
II. THIS IS A PROGRESSIVE OBEDIENCE. To "walk" implies progress in grace. Walking is an art, and one not acquired either in a moment or a day; for the power to walk is not ours, in the same sense as the power to breathe. We are born with the one power, but born without the other. Walking, indeed, becomes so easy by use, that we are unconscious of any effort; yet step into the nursery, and you see that this art, acquired by labour, is the reward of continuous, conquering perseverance. In fact, our erect attitude and progressive motion, simple and easy as they seem, are achieved by means of most delicate and dexterous balancing. The marble statue cannot stand erect without foreign support: and you have no sooner raised a dead man, and set him upon his feet, than he falls at yours, a heap of loathsome mortality.
1. In this image God's people find comfort and encouragement. Does the infant who is learning to walk abandon the attempt, or yield to despair, because its first efforts are feeble, and come far short of success? If not, why then should we despond, because in attempting to walk in God's ways we often stumble, and not seldom fall?
2. This image stimulates to exertion, as well as comforts under failure. In attempting to walk, the child falls; blood stains its brow, and tears fill its eye. Does it lie there to weep? By no means. If not by speech, yet by signs that go to a mother's heart, it prays; for it can pray before it speaks, Looking through these tears, and stretching out its little arms, the infant solicits, implores her help. Nor in vain. Teachers of our children! here let us become their scholars, and take a lesson from the nursery. Let the perseverance of the nursery be imitated by the Church. Let our knees be as often employed in prayer, and our powers and hours as much engaged in attempting a holy life, as those of infancy in learning to walk. Oh, if we would give the same diligence to make our calling and election sure, the same diligence to work out our salvation, the same diligence to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I am certain that we should be holier; much holier than we are.
III. THIS WILLING AND PROGRESSIVE OBEDIENCE IS THE SIGN AND SEAL OF SALVATION. True religion consists not in passive, but active piety. We are to walk in God's statutes, to keep His judgments, and to do them An active Christian life is implied in the very terms of the text. Grant that we are thereby exposed to hardships and temptations, from which a retiring piety might exempt us. Still, a life of active service shall prove best for others, and in the end also for ourselves. A candle set beneath a bushel is, no doubt, safe from wind and weather; but what good purpose does it serve? No light shineth for itself, and no man liveth for himself. Besides, the very trials to which piety is exposed on the stormy heights of duty, impart to it a robust and healthy character. The strongest trees grow not beneath the glass of a conservatory, or in sheltered and sunny nooks. The stoutest timber stands on Norwegian rocks, where tempests rage, and long, hard winters reign. And is it not also With the Christian as with animal life? Exercise is the parent of health; and strength the reward of activity. A Christian man should feel like some strong, brave swimmer, who has hundreds around him sinking, drowning, shrieking for help. The difficulty is to make selection, on whose unhappy head first to lay a saving hand. Amid such scenes and calls, oh, it is lamentable to think how much of our time has been frivolously, or worse than frivolously spent. Surely the time past of our lives may suffice us to have wrought the will of the flesh; to have enjoyed our own ease, made money, and gathered around us the comforts of life. To nobler ends be its remaining sands devoted! Take Jesus Christ for your copy. What is our Christianity but a name, a shadow, a mockery, unless we resemble Him who, being incarnate God, was incarnate goodness; and of whom, though He stood alone in that judgment hall, without one brave brother's voice raised to speak for Him, there were hundreds and thousands to bear witness that He went about doing good, and was the friend both of sufferers and sinners.
( T. Guthrie, D. D.)I. One of the most powerful means to accomplish the duty of the text is to CULTIVATE THE LOVE OF CHRIST. They who would live like Jesus must look to Jesus. The effect which should be produced by looking to Jesus we may learn by turning our gaze on the sun. To eyes that have been bathed in his dazzling beams, how do other objects appear? Why, all are changed. They have become dim, if not dark and invisible. And were Jesus Christ revealed to us in the full effulgence of His Saviour glory, all sinful, even all created and dearly loved objects, would appear to undergo some such, and a no less remarkable change.
1. Love is the most powerful of all motives. It is as with a stone on the dry ground, which we strain at, but cannot stir. Flood the field where it lies; bury the huge block beneath the rising water; and now when its holed is submerged, bend to the work. Put your strength to it. Ah! it moves, rises from its bed, rolls on before your arm. So, when under the heavenly influences of grace the tide of love rises, and goes swelling over our duties and difficulties, a child can do a man's work, and a man can do a giant's. Let love be present in the heart, and out of the mouths of babes and sucklings God ordaineth strength. Strength! How great strength? Death pulls down the youngest and the strongest; but love is stronger than death. She welcomes sacrifices, and glories in tribulation. Duty has no burden too heavy, nor death any terrors too great for her.
2. Love is a motive to duty as pleasant as it is powerful. Love weaves chains that are tougher than iron, and yet softer than silk. She unites the strength of a giant to the gentleness of a little child; and with a power of change all her own, under her benign and omnipotent influence duties that were once intolerable drudgeries become a pure delight. To the feet of love the ways of God's law are like a fresh and flowery sward, ways of pleasantness and paths of peace. Love changes bondage into liberty. Delighting in a law which is to our carnal nature what his chain is to a savage dog, what his task is to the slave, and against which our corrupt passions foam and fret like angry seas on an iron the fact, that BY OUR OBEDIENCE TO THESE STATUTES THE VERDICT OF THE LAST JUDGMENT SHALL BE SETTLED. We are saved by grace, but are tried by works. We are to be judged by the deeds done in the body, whether they were good or bad. Every one of us, says Paul, shall give account of himself to God. Oh! how should these solemn truths hedge up our path to a close and holy walk in His statutes! The day is coming when every unpardoned sin shall find out its author. Without a pardon, Jesus shall have no answer to us but the terrible response of Jehu, What hast thou to do with peace? Peace! — Yes, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; and the secret of that tranquillity lies in that which gave courage to a royal favourite when arraigned before his country for a most flagrant crime. Men wondered at his strange serenity, and how, amid circumstances trying to the strongest nerves, he could bear himself so calmly. Long after hope had expired in the breast of many anxious friends, and they looked on him as a doomed man, there he was, looking round serenely on that terrible array. His pulse beat calm, nor started suddenly, but went on with a stately march. Peace, like innocence, sat enthroned upon his placid brow. At length, amid the silence of the hushed assembly, the verdict of guilty is pronounced. He rises. Erect in attitude, in demeanour calm, he stands up not to receive a sentence, which was already trembling on the judge's lip, but to reveal the secret of this strange peace and self-possession. He thrusts his hand into his bosom, and lays on the table a pardon — a full free pardon for his crimes, sealed with the royal signet. Would to God we all were as well prepared for the hour of death and the day of judgment! Then fare ye well earth, sun, moon, and stars; fare ye well wife and children, brothers and sisters, sweet friends, and all dear to us here below. Welcome death, welcome judgment, welcome eternity; welcome God and Christ, angels and saints made perfect, welcome — welcome heaven.
( T. Guthrie, D. D.)
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