Jude 1:20
But you, beloved, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,
Sermons
A Safe Sphere -- LoveT. Davies.Jude 1:20
Building UpT. Davies, M. A.Jude 1:20
Character BuildingJ. S. Holme, D. D.Jude 1:20
Christians Keeping Themselves in the Love of GodS. Otes.Jude 1:20
How is the Doctrine of Religion Most HolyW. Perkins.Jude 1:20
How to Keep in the Love of GodA. Maclaren, D. D.Jude 1:20
How to Keep Oneself in the Love of GodJude 1:20
Keep Yourselves in the Love of GodW. Gregory.Jude 1:20
Keeping in the Love of GodT. Manton.Jude 1:20
Keeping in the Love of GodC. Clayton, M. A.Jude 1:20
Keeping in the Love of GodG.I.Pentecost, D. D.Jude 1:20
Keeping Ourselves in the Love of GodJ. N. Norton, D. D.Jude 1:20
Keeping the Heart in the Love of GodA. Alexander, D. D.Jude 1:20
Looking for MercyThe StudyJude 1:20
Praying in the SpiritW. Jenkyn, M. A.Jude 1:20
Self-KeepingJ. A. K. Bain, M. A.Jude 1:20
The Believer's Hope in the Mercy of ChristD. Wilcox.Jude 1:20
The Building Up of Christian ManhoodJ. Morlais Jones.Jude 1:20
The Christian LifeD. Moore, M. A.Jude 1:20
The Church a HouseW. Jenkyn, M. A.Jude 1:20
The Church and SaintsS. Otes.Jude 1:20
The Holy TrinityD. Moore, M. A.Jude 1:20
The Inspirer of PrayerT. G. Selby.Jude 1:20
The Love of GodW. Macritchie.Jude 1:20
The Means of Preserving Us from SinW. Muir, D. D.Jude 1:20
The Principles and Prospects of a Servant of ChristA. Fuller.Jude 1:20
The Spiritual BuildingT. Taylor, D. D.Jude 1:20
Well-Built ChristiansT. L. Cuyler, D. D.Jude 1:20
The LetterR. Finlayson Jude 1:1-25
The Believers Urged to Remember the Prophecies of the ApostlesJ.S. Bright Jude 1:17-21
The Exhortation to the Saints to Build Up Their Own Spiritual LifeT. Croskery Jude 1:20, 21

I. WORKING UPON THE FOUNDATION OF FAITH IS THE ONLY MEANS OF OUR SPIRITUAL SELF-PRESERVATION. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God."

1. The foundation. "Your most holy faith." This is faith objective, not subjective; the doctrine of faith rather than the grace of faith. It is true that Christ is our only Foundation, but he is so as revealed to faith, and he can only become so through faith. We build upon Christ by building upon his Word. We receive him as he is offered in the gospel.

(1) It is "your faith," because it is "delivered to the saints" (verse 4); because the saints were "delivered into it" (Romans 7:5); because it was for the salvation of their souls (1 Peter 1:9).

(2) It is "your most holy faith," because

(a) every word of God is pure;

(b) the covenant is holy;

(c) it works holiness in the heart and life (John 15.).

2. The building up upon this foundation.

(1) The saints are to build themselves up. This is addressed, not to sinners, but to saints who have been already placed upon the foundation. The counsel is the same as that of Philippians 2:12, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Jude writes to those who already possess the Spirit, through whom they already enjoy that inward and habitual grace which is to be used by believers according to their need and upon a sense of their deep responsibility. Yet believers are still in a true sense "God's workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10); and it is "the Lord who builds the house" (Psalm 127:1).

(2) The building implies a various and skilful use of the materials necessary to that end. Faith, love, hope, patience, watchfulness, knowledge, are to be the gold, silver, precious stones, built upon this broad foundation. We are to grow in grace, and grow up in Christ in all things, adding to faith all the virtues (2 Peter 1:5-7) and all the graces of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23).

II. TRUE PRAYER THE ONLY MEANS OF BUILDING OURSELVES UP. "Praying in the Holy Spirit."

1. There is no prayer without the Spirit. (Romans 8:26.) The Spirit suggests the matter of prayer; without him "we know not what to pray for." He instructs us to ask for things according to God's will. The Spirit suggests the true manner of prayer.

(1) It must be "in sincerity and truth."

(2) In fervour: "With groanings."

(3) In faith: "Nothing wavering."

(4) In holiness; for the Spirit of supplication is always a Spirit of grace.

(5) In love; for we are to lift holy hands without wrath, and the Spirit makes us at peace with ourselves.

2. Without prayer a man shows himself to be destitute of the Spirit.

3. What a resource have the saints in the building up of their spiritual life!

III. THE SELF-PRESERVING END TOWARD WHICH ALL THIS SPIRITUAL EFFORT IS DIRECTED. "Keep yourselves in the love of God."

1. This is not our love to God, but God's love to us, in which we dwell as in a region of safety - "as in a watch-tower," says Calvin; for it is parallel to the saying of our Lord, "Abide ye in my love" (John 15:9). "How great," says Jenkyn, "how fall, a good is God!" In him is all fullness of grace, of joy, of safety, springing out of his infinite love. "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16).

2. Our preservation in the midst of heresy and impiety depends on our dwelling in God's love.

3. We cannot keep ourselves in God's love without having our own love deeply stirred. This breastplate of love will be a preservative against seduction (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

4. We ought continually to pray that the love of God may be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. (Romans 5:5.)

5. Saints ought ever to know and believe that love. (1 John 4:16.)

IV. THE EXPECTATION THAT IS LINKED TO THIS GUARDIANSHIP WITHIN THE SPHERE OF GOD'S LOVE. "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

1. The object of this expectation.

(1) It is Christ's mercy, because:

(a) He procured it by his merit.

(b) He applied it to us by his Spirit.

(c) He holds out its crowning blessings in the future day of judgment: "Come, ye blessed of my Father." There is "a crown of righteousness in that day." He is "to present us faultless before the presence of glory" (verse 24).

(d) There is no mercy apart from Christ.

2. The expectation itself. This implies

(1) a confident belief in the reality of this mercy;

(2) warm desire for it;

(3) patient waiting for it (Hebrews 6:12);

(4) a joyful foretaste of it (Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 1:8);

(5) the love of his " appearance " (2 Timothy 4:8).

3. The final issue of the expected mercy. "Eternal life." This is the true life of man. In its final glory it implies the function of God's presence. Augustine says, "Heaven is a low thing without God." Our happiness finds its end in everlasting communion with God.

4. The effects which this expectation ought to exercise upon us. It ought

(1) to preserve us against error and sin;

(2) to quicken our zeal;

(3) to make us faithful in the discharge of all duty;

(4) to make us patient in the endurance of trial. - T.C.







Building up yourselves on your most holy faith.
This word "edify" signifieth "to build." This metaphor is not improperly applied to the saints, for building and edification is proper to houses. Now the Church and saints of God are as houses, and therefore may be said to be builded and edified. This teacheth us two things, first, that all Christians should be edifiers, builders; that is, should make themselves a seemly house for God to dwell in. We read what care David had to build a temple, but God would not suffer him; but now every man must build a temple for God, even his own soul. We read what cost Solomon bestowed upon the temple, but now God careth not for such temples made of stone; He will have a temple made of lively stones. All true Christians must be builders; but before they build they must know how to build, and the way to come to this knowledge is the Scripture. No carpenter will build a house without rule and square, and the rule and square of Christian building is the Word of God; by it our hearts and souls are squared, and made fit for God's house. If Solomon's workmen were one month in Libanus about the work of the temple, and two months at home about their own business, let us exceed them, let us employ two months about the Lord's building, and but one about our own business. Let us first seek the kingdom of God. And as we must edify and build houses for ourselves, so for our brethren also; so saith the apostle. Exhort one another and edify one another, but especially we must edify our children; a father should especially build his son in religion and virtue. Secondly, this teacheth us that it is not enough to begin to build in faith and good works, but we must go on, go forward, increase in it. Our progress in religion is compared to building. Houses are edified from the foundation to the walls, from the walls to the roof.

(S. Otes.)

I. EVERY MAN IS TRULY THE ARCHITECT OF HIS OWN CHARACTER. It is often said that a man is the architect of his own fortune. If a man build a fortune he has to do it with his own hands and his own brains. One thing is certain, nobody else is going to do it for him. Just so every man is the builder of his own character. Sometimes a fortune may be made suddenly, the result of an accident; but never is this true of character.

II. WE MUST NOTICE THE IMPORTANT PARTS OF THIS STRUCTURE.

1. The foundation is essential. If it be ill laid no subsequent care, toil, or expense can avail. Human nature is a quicksand, in which are thrown all man's efforts, his works, his wisdom, his piety; but all of them put together cannot furnish a sure foundation for character. "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus."

2. This foundation Rock once secured, we are to be careful to build upon it — not near or about it, but upon it, and upon nothing else. Think of an architect carefully laying a foundation, and then building on one side of it.

3. The position of the superstructure is also important. This you are to build under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Every stone we lay must bear a relation to Christ and Him crucified. The centre of gravity must fall within the base. The great leaning tower of Pisa is a wonder to all who see it, because it does not fall, for it leans fifteen feet over the base. The centre of gravity is still ten feet within the base, hence it cannot fall. There are some characters that are leaning towers; they are so strange and eccentric in many things, so far out of plumb, that we wonder why they do not fall to utter destruction. Ah, here is the grand secret: the centre of the heart's gravity still falls within Christ.

III. CHARACTER BUILDING IS A PROGRESSIVE WORK. In heathen mythology it is said that the goddess Minerva sprung from the head of Jupiter, at once full grown and glorious; but character, like a great edifice, is of slow growth. As the builder lays brick after brick, stone after stone, erects beam after beam, so, slowly and laboriously, this character work advances. There is not an act of our lives, however small, not a thought even, that does not add a stone to that edifice.

IV. THE MATERIALS TO BE USED ARE IMPORTANT. It is not every quarry that can furnish materials for a cathedral Character will stand longer than even stone, or gold, or silver. If a man is to build for the future he must select materials that will last. Gold, silver, precious stones — love, faith, hope, self-denial, and patience, these are the materials for a lasting character.

V. WE MUST BUILD FOR ETERNITY. We must live in the house we build. Character, not circumstances, makes a man happy or miserable. If a man has a pure and holy character, do what you will you cannot make him unhappy.

VI. WE BUILD FOR INSPECTION. How careful were the old cathedral builders that the most distant work should be as well done as that nearest the eye. Why? Because they were built, not for man's eye, but for the eye of God, who sees all. So in character building this should be our motto, Not for man, but for God, whose eye sees the most trifling act or thought.

VII. WE MUST NOT MISTAKE THE SCAFFOLDING FOR THE BUILDING. We meet a friend and ask, How is your business, your health, your family? — this is all scaffolding. Instead, we should ask, How is your character getting on, the inner man? — then we should get at the heart of the thing. Scaffolding may be swept away by the storm, but character remains just as we form it, unchanged for ever.

(J. S. Holme, D. D.)

I. THE CHRISTIAN GROWING IN HOLINESS. "Building up yourselves on your most holy faith." By the "faith" you are to understand the whole body of Christian doctrines. And this faith upon which we are to build the apostle describes as a "most holy faith." That which is to bear the superstructure of Christian hopes should be well proved. The faith of the gospel may well be called a "holy faith" — holy in its Author, holy in its design, holy in the precepts it inculcates, holy in the rewards it holds out. Yes, everything about this faith is holy. Holy is the law its doctrines are designed to vindicate. Holy is the offering provided by the righteous demands of God. Holy is the conversation required of those who should embrace its promises. Holy is the Agent who is ordained to make us meet for the presence of God. Such, then, is the faith upon which we are to build. The text further intimates that there must be a "building up" — that is, a progressive advancement — until it becomes a perfect building of God.

II. THE CHRISTIAN PRAYING IN THE STRENGTH OF GOD. "Praying in the Holy Ghost."

III. THE CHRISTIAN WATCHING AGAINST THE ENEMIES OF HIS FAITH. "Keep yourselves in the love of God."

IV. THE CHRISTIAN WAITING FOR HIS HOPE. "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

(D. Moore, M. A.)

I. CHRISTIAN EDIFICATION. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith."

1. A sure foundation. The gospel which they had received from faithful witnesses contains the fundamental truths for soul building.

2. A wise diligence. To build up a Christian character is man's noblest ideal.

II. SPIRITUAL AID. "Praying in the Holy Spirit."

1. The Spirit reveals our wants.

2. The Spirit inspires us with faith.

3. The Spirit blends the labour and the blessing. The building is advanced by the twofold energy of God and man.

4. The Spirit also will bring in the final issue.

(T. Davies, M. A.)

I. BEFORE BUILDING.

1. Count the cost (Luke 14:28).

2. Prepare fit matter (2 Chronicles 2:8, 9; 1 Corinthians 3:12).

3. Prepare skilful and faithful builders.Some build a wall, but daub it with untempered mortar, which the shower and hailstones throw down again (Ezekiel 13:11). Some flattering builders there be that gild rotten posts and mud walls, and by flatteries cause people to err (Jeremiah 23.). Some that square their work by a false rule; not the Word, but some profounder school-learning.

II. IN BUILDING.

1. Lay a good foundation, both for matter and manner.(1) The matter is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).(2) Then the manner of laying this foundation sure is to dig deep, as you know the foundation of a great house had need to be. Lay it in humility and godly sorrow, called in Hebrews 6:1 the foundation of repentance, because it can never be laid without a deep sense of sorrow for sin, giving us a clear sight what need we have of Christ.

2. The foundation thus laid. Lay all the materials skilfully upon the same foundation; for building is an artificial coupling of all materials by square upon the same foundation. So here —(1) There is use of many materials. In every mean house there must be somewhat of everything, some stone, timber, lime, lead, glass, iron, and in this building must be some degrees of all graces — some faith, hope, love, knowledge, and the rest. Faith as gates of brass, and door to let us in unto Christ and His Church for salvation; knowledge as windows to lighten the house, or else all would be dark; hope as the glass or casements to look out unto things believed, specially the life to come; love as the cement to knit all together; patience as the pillars, bearing all the weight of the house, etc.(2) These and the rest of the graces muse be laid together (2 Peter 1:5).(3) By line and square of the Word (Exodus 25:40).(4) All upon the same foundation — Christ.

3. Build up to the laying of the roof and ridge tiles, still striving to perfection (Hebrews 6:1; Ephesians 2:21).

III. AFTER BUILDING.

1. As the Jews, having built an house, must dedicate it to the Lord, so do thou thine. Especially the temple and tabernacle were solemnly set apart for His service and sacrifices. Do thou also offer in this thy house the daily sacrifice of prayer, praise, alms which smell sweet (Philippians 4:18). Let it be the house of prayer, a spiritual house, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Yea, offer thy soul and body a reasonable sacrifice, living and holy (Romans 12:1), which is the right dedication of thy house.

2. Furnish thy house with needful utensils.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

I. THE PRINCIPLES WHICH ARE HERE SUGGESTED TO US AS CONSTITUTING TRUE RELIGION.

1. True-religion is here represented as a building, the foundation of which is laid in the faith of Christ. "Building up yourselves on your most holy faith." Whether it relate to personal or to social religion, this must be the foundation of the fabric, or the whole will fall.(1) One lays the foundation of his religion in what he calls reason; but which in fact is his own reasoning. The same inspired writer who in one sentence commends "understanding," in the next warns us against "leaning to our own understanding" (Proverbs 3:4, 5). To strengthen ourselves and one another in this way is to build up ourselves on our own conceits.(2) Another founds his religion on his good deeds. Good deeds undoubtedly form a part of the building, but the foundation is not the place for them. They are not the cause but the effects of faith.(3) A third builds his religion on impressions. It is not from the death of Christ for sinners, or any other gospel truth, that he derives his comfort; but from an impulse on his mind that his sins are forgiven, and that he is a favourite of God, which is certainly nowhere revealed in the Scriptures. We may build ourselves up in this way, but the building will fall.(4) A fourth founds his religion on faith, but it is not a "holy faith," either in respect of its nature or its effects. It is dead, being alone, or without fruit. The faith on which the first Christians built up themselves included repentance for sin.

2. That religion which has its foundation in the faith of Christ will increase by "praying in the Holy Ghost." We must not live in the neglect of prayer.

3. We are given to understand that by means of building on our most holy faith, and praying in the Holy Ghost, we "keep ourselves in the love of God." The love of God is here to be understood, not of His love to us, but of ours to Him.

4. We are taught, that when we have done all, in looking for eternal life, we must keep our eye singly and solely on "the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ."

II. THE PROSPECTS WHICH THESE PRINCIPLES FURNISH AS TO A BLESSED HEREAFTER. "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

1. The first exercise of mercy which the Scriptures direct us to look for on our leaving the body is, an immediate reception into the presence of Christ, and the society of the spirits of just men made perfect.

2. I do not know whether I ought not to reckon under this particular the glorious progress of Christ's kingdom in this world. Why should we suspect whether our brethren who rest from their labours be from hence interested in this object? If there be joy in heaven among the angels over one sinner that repenteth, why not among the glorified saints.

3. Another stream of mercy for which we are directed to look, will attend the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consist in the dead being raised and the living changed. By looking for this part of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be reconciled to death even before we meet it.

4. But there is another stream of mercy beyond this, to which we are directed to look, and which pertains to the last judgment.

(A. Fuller.)

I. THE FIRST THING IS TO SECURE A SOLID FOUNDATION. That foundation is not to be created; it is already provided — Christ Jesus. All else than this is crumbling clay or shifting sand. Shallow conversions make shallow Christians. I trust that you have dug deep, and laid your foundations well. The Eddystone lighthouse is not only built on a rock, it is built with iron bolts and clamps into the rock. So you must be built into Christ by a living union of your weakness to His strength, your ignorance to His omniscience, your poverty to His wealth of grace, your sinfulness to His perfect righteousness. The best part of a true Christian is the unseen part, as the vital part of a tree is its root. So the innermost graces that lie, as it were, in the very depths of a Christian soul next to Christ are the most precious and powerful and enduring portion of the man.

II. BUT A BUILDING IS NOT DONE WHEN THE FOUNDATION IS LAID. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is only the initial process, and then comes the command to build up yourselves on our most holy faith. God's quarry is rich in materials. It would be a good thing for our Churches if solid granite were in greater demand. Flashing marble is very ornamental for lintels and capitals. But in these times we need more firm granite of honesty, courage, truthfulness, and self-denial. Every now and then a Church is disfigured by an ugly crack or rent in its walls from the fact that a bit of friable pumice-stone was put in there in the shape of a swindling or frivolous professor. What is true of a Church as God's building is equally true of individual character; nothing should go into a Christian's character except what is taken from God's quarry.

III. SOME CHRISTIANS ARE NOT BUILT UP SYMMETRICALLY. They are lopsided, and their painful deficiency is on the ethical side of their religion. They can sing in a prayer-meeting, and pray devoutly, and exhort fluently; but outside of the meeting they cannot always be trusted. What they lack is a rigid sense of right and a constant adherence to it. They need more conscience, a conscience to detect sin, and a granite-like principle to resist its seductions. The word of these Christians is not always to be relied on; in matters of business they do not always go by the air-line. Every wise builder makes constant use of his plumb-line. All the showy ornamentation that he can put on his edifice amounts to nothing if the wails are not perpendicular. Sometimes we see a flimsy structure whose bulging walls are shored up by props and skids to keep them from tumbling into the street. I am afraid that there are thousands of reputations in commerce, in politics, and even in the Church, that are shored up by various devices. It is a mere question of time how soon every character will fall in if it is not based on the rock and built according to Jesus Christ's plumb-line. It may go down in this world: it is sure to go down in the next. We ought to lay the plumb-line up against all our religious acts and services, even against our prayers. If failing to use the Divine plumb-line in character building is a great mistake, it is another mistake that the little everyday actions are made of small account. You could hardly make a worse blunder. Christian influence mainly depends on what you may regard as little things. It is the aggregate of a good man's or good woman's life that tells for the honour of our Lord and Saviour. It is by adding the brick of courage to the brick of faith, and to this the brick of temperance and the brick of patience, and the brick of brotherly love and the brick of honesty and of benevolence, that a noble Christian character is reared. Nothing is of small account that involves your influence in a sharp-eyed world. Other people's eyes are upon you as well as your Master's eyes. The Athenian architects of the Parthenon finished the upper side of the matchless frieze as perfectly as the lower side, because the goddess Minerva saw that side. Every one of the five thousand statues in the cathedral of Milan is wrought as if God's eye were on the sculptor. Michael Angelo said that he "carved for eternity." Every true Christian is a habitation of God through His Spirit. Young friends, build for eternity. And let every one take heed how he buildeth; for the Architect-in-Chief will inspect each one's work on the great day of judgment.

(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

I. FIRST OF ALL THE FAITH. "Building up yourselves on your most holy faith." I might say broadly, no splendid man was ever built up, no fine character was ever formed, but by a positive belief — a faith. And definite belief is the thing from which Christian manhood starts. Now, to build upon the "faith" —

1. We must first have a clear notion of what the "faith" is.(1) That is, to begin with, we must distinguish between the faith and accretions to the faith; between the tree and the parasites that have entwined themselves about the tree; between the rock and the sand which has accumulated upon the rock. We may persuade ourselves that we are jealous of the honour of the faith, that we are its champions, whilst we are the champions of the very things that obscure, mar, limit, cripple it. A very few years ago one of the noblest cathedrals in England used to be habitually spoken of with contempt. Its nave columns were huge masses of commonplace material overlaid with plaster. But some one, one day, had the wisdom to dig into this plaster, and lo! beneath were noble columns of exquisite marble. Nobody said, that I know of, that it would be desecration to destroy this venerable plaster, and very soon it had vanished; and now you have the original columns, an honour to the genius that designed them. That is all that is going on in these days. Destruction, do you say? Nay, it is restoration, not destruction; it is the bringing back of the temple of Divine truth to its original design and proportions, the bringing out again of the lines of its pristine beauty.(2) Then, secondly, we must grip the faith, understand the faith, present it clearly and vividly to ourselves. To understand a thing does not necessarily mean to remove all mystery from it. You cannot build upon mist, you cannot grow strong on mere sentiment, you cannot foster Christian manhood upon vague emotionalism. If your faith is to have anything to do with the making of you, the first thing is to state it clearly and distinctly to yourself.

2. Again: To build upon the faith, we must be continually carrying it further. The circle of Christian truth is a wide one; the applications of every Christian fact are endless, the sweep of every Christian doctrine is infinite. And we must be carrying every Christian truth continually further; we must search all the ramifications of it. This implies first, that we must never cease from fresh, ever renewed, and expectant study of it. I have heard people speak of mountain scenery. I have asked them, "Do you know Snowdon?" "Oh yes!" "And, pray, how often have you ascended Snowdon? Or" — for there is something more important than merely to ascend to the summit; it is quite as necessary to live at the foot — "how long have you lived within sight of it?" "Oh, I saw the mountain once; spent a day in the neighbourhood once. I ascended it, too. Oh yes, I know Snowdon!" "Ascended it once, saw one aspect of it, and you know it! Why, you must live there to know it. You must watch the mountain in a hundred moods. You must see it when spring creeps up its sides, and when winter has set its throne of snow upon its summit; you must see it sleeping in a trance of summer heat, and hear the shouts of its children when the floods are out. Then you may say that you know it." So of the faith. We cannot sum up its doctrines, settle them, and have done with them. We must pitch our life before them. We must live out every experience in their presence.

3. The power to be passive is as requisite as the power to be active. There are subtle beauties, finer shades of meaning, in every gospel truth; you cannot force these, but they will disclose themselves, if you can wait and give them time. There is a story in every great picture which you cannot master in a hurry; you must lend yourself to it, give yourself up to it in active passiveness. And so there are glories here which you must sit down to see; quieter tones in the voice of Jesus which you will never hear until you cease from your hurry and distraction, until sometimes you give up even your work, your most Christian work.

II. THE SPIRITUAL ATMOSPHERE IN WHICH YOU LIVE. That, in the next place, determines your progress in Christian manhood. "Praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God."

1. "Keep yourselves in the love of God." There are many aspects in which the love of God is looked at in these Scriptures; and I think this is as remarkable as one of them — that to be "in the love of God," to live in the constant sense of it, is one of the indispensable conditions of spiritual growth that Christian manhood is impossible without. The world is full of analogies of it. To begin with, we make nothing of the truths of the gospel; they never become more than opinions; they are never vitalised, unless you live in the love of God, and breathe it as the atmosphere of your life. You delight in your garden. Cultivate the taste. You go and look at your plants. You see that they have everything they need. They are set in the right soil, they have the due amount of moisture, they have sufficient heat. But you forget them; you let the fire go out, and you go in a week and find your favourites all dead. Or you remove them into a cellar. You give them everything, even heat, but you shut out the light, from them, and you go and visit them by and by, and find that you have a collection of ghosts — pale, colourless caricatures of plants. Nay, if you want them to grow, and you would delight in their beauty, you must give them warmth and sunlight. And so of this. You can make very little of the Bible unless you keep yourselves in the warmth and light of God's love. You take every rule of conduct in the Book, and you try to live them out one by one; you shut your lips and determine, exert all your force of will, keep yourself tied to the grim angel of duty; but you can make nothing of them. They simply stupefy you, and, dull and discouraged, you shrink into yourself. Love is a necessity to me. I have no courage to try to live without it. To preach law, to set clearly before myself the lines of duty, is not enough for me. I pine for love. I become a guest at a house, and there is a card hung up on your bedroom wall which practically says, "Life is ticketed off into a distinct number of rules in this house; we live by the clock here; meals are served with the regularity of the tides; the sun rises according to signals which it receives from this house"; and from that moment I am miserable. Omnipotent law, stern law, grim-faced, sublime law! But I am sick and tired of hearing of thee. Majestic, beautiful, terrible; if I were strong and heroic, and never made a mistake, the gospel concerning thee might be pleasant to hear. But I want something more to be preached to me to live, to be strong and courageous thereby; I want warmth, I want sunshine, I want the sense that God's benediction is upon me, I want love. Everything then, the sternest command, the hardest duty, becomes food to your soul, and you grow and become robust thereby. The health of God, the deep peace of God, sinks into your soul, and there is nothing in life that can beat you.

2. "Praying in the Holy Ghost." Prayer keeps the sense of God and heaven alive in the soul; it keeps up the bond of connection between earth and heaven. I go into a man's house — this is not altogether fiction — and he begins to moan over the wretched climate of this land. The sun never appears. Dark and dull and depressing; there is no light by which a man may do his work. I look around me, and lo, every window is dust-covered, no sunlight can pierce it, and I say, "My dear sir, excuse me, but suppose you begin there; clean these windows to start with. The sun does shine sometimes, even in England; be ready when it shines to receive its glorious wealth of light." And so here. I am ready to contend a great deal for prayer; I am ready to contend for some things which prayer effects that once I was not very sure about. But in any case, this I am sure of — it keeps the windows of the soul clean, it facilitates the entrance of God into the soul, it puts the soul in touch with all spiritual realities. If there be a God, He must reveal Himself to the soul that prays; if there be an eternal world, pray, and you must pray yourself into the midst of it. Come here. Stand amid the wealth of this glorious revelation. Would you understand it? Would you have the light of it fill your soul? Would you miss nothing of it? Would you have it irradiate your work and change the fashion of your countenance? Then "pray without ceasing."

III. OUR GROWTH DEPENDS UPON THE SOUL'S OUTLOOKS, THE INSPIRATIONS THAT LIE FOR US IN THE FUTURE. "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." There is a famous essay which I am never tired of reading — Emerson's "Prospects" — the outlooks of life. I went the other day to see a member of my congregation who is a great sufferer — a woman who is half her life — three-fourths of her life — a prisoner. I condoled with her, sympathised with her. "Come up into my little room," she said. "There, sit in that window. When the torture begins, when I am worried and weary, when the fog gets into my brain and the fever into my bones, and I begin to burn and welter in my misery, I run away here. This outlook across the fields soothes me, heals me, and I am myself again." I understand. I like to do my work with a window through which I can now and then look out before me. Then, I like to see the man who insists upon having mental outlooks. No man's life need be utterly material. Work, but always work with outlooks towards the world of thought, with windows towards the world of genius, make the work shine with the light that comes from the loftiest range of human vision. So in a higher sense still. Life is often hard; the years become more and more exacting; but it is not a prison. The sorrows are many, the strain is sometimes terrible; but oh, the prospects! the window of life which Christ keeps open towards heaven! I rest there. There is not a vista that looks in that direction, but I am often there. Rest you also there this morning, and let some of the aches be smoothed out of you as you rest. Listen to the murmur of the river as it wanders through fields whose green never withers, and as you listen, the beauty, the calm, the deep peace, shall pass into your face. But now to close.

1. This prospect is ours of God's free mercy disclosed to us in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Divine mercy.

2. This is the last word: as the years move on, thought, anxiety, endeavour — everything gathers there — to make sure of that. Oh, we have had our dreams. We have been full of ambitions, we have swept all earthly prizes into our lot; but they have become infinitesimally small. I care for nothing but this — shall I attain unto the "eternal life"? I have been on sea. I have made more than one voyage. We had some weeks before us, and we were full of plans when we started. I even proposed new subjects of study to myself which were to be pursued during the voyage. But one day the cry went out, "We are getting near land." Instantly there was a great bustle of preparation. The expedients devised to while away the voyage; books with which we had been busy, half finished — everything was put away. We thought of nothing but to be ready to land. Dreams of wealth, of fame — oh yes, we have had them. But they are nothing to day; I dismiss them all. I am looking out wistfully for the shore; I want to be ready when the cry comes. Breezes from the land, laden with the fragrance of the sweet fields, are in my face. I strain my eyes. It is nigh at hand. Let me be. Perish everything, so that an "abundant entrance" be given me "into the ever lasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

(J. Morlais Jones.)

First, in itself, being without fault and error and having sundry excellences, being full of Divine wisdom and truth, and the only instrument whereby God's infinite wisdom and goodness is made known unto us. Secondly, in regard of the effect and operation, which is to make the creature, but especially man holy (John 17:17). It sanctifieth men instrumentally, in that it maketh them resemble God in many graces. Thirdly, it is most holy, because it sanctifieth all inferior creatures to the use of man, so as he may use them with good conscience (1 Timothy 4:4).

(W. Perkins.)

1. The faithful are the house of God (Hebrews 3:6; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 4:17).(1) Christ is the foundation. The sole foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11). A strong foundation (Matthew 7:25).(2) The Church is a house in respect of believers, who are the stones of which this house is built up; and these stones are naturally —

(a)Rugged and unpolished, till they are hewn, smoothed, and made fit for the building (Hosea 6:5).

(b)Of several sizes — some greater, some less.

(c)Though different in size, yet cemented and united one to another.(3) The Church is a house in respect of God. He dwells in it. He furnishes it with all necessaries, yea, ornaments — His ordinances, graces, etc. He protects it. He repairs it. He cleanses it.

2. The Word of God is the foundation of a Christian. It is a foundation to bear a saint out in all his duties, comforts, belief of truths.

(W. Jenkyn, M. A.)

I. Let us consider this mystery AS A RECEIVED TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith." Now the sum of that faith, we are told, is this, "that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity." And the Catholic Church has always been very jealous of this fundamental dogma. She has never hidden it; never shrunk from the definite statement of it. With regard to the mysteriousness of the doctrine, the point is conceded. The question is, whether by a looser theology — by a charitable vagueness of expression, or by a scheme of definitions which should define nothing — we should ever be able to get rid of this mystery? A man must be an angel to understand even an angel's powers; and he must be himself infinite who could comprehend an infinite existence.

II. Let us consider this great mystery as it throws light upon THE NATURE AND MORAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD.

1. This it does in that it exhibits God as sustaining towards us the most beneficent personal relations; thus removing the cloud which had been spread before the throne, and presenting the Godhead under a form which, as Burke well expresses it, "softens and humanises the whole idea of Divinity."

2. But in relation to the clearing up of mystery in the Divine procedure, we claim it as a further advantage of the doctrine we are considering, that it is specially revealed in conjunction with a scheme for the pardon and recovery of mankind.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

Praying in the Holy Ghost
Jude, a brother of our Lord, speaks of the prayer which transcends the normal religious capacity of human nature as one of the conditions through the observance of which the believer must keep himself in the love of God and in the steadfast expectancy of consummated redemption. The attachment of friend to friend is apt to be weakened, if not destroyed, where communication ceases. When some member of family is away in a foreign land, the only antidote to the chilling effect of distance is correspondence, and correspondence which is free, vivacious, unconstrained. If the correspondence become stilted and formal only, it is about as hurtful to affection as complete silence. The heart must send its pulsations through every available channel of intercourse if love is to be kept alive. And that is true in the sphere of the religious life. No man can keep himself in the love of God without using all the lines of communication God has opened to him, and the prayer with which we keep ourselves in correspondence with God must be permeated by supernatural help and vitality. The Spirit of God helps prayer long before this ideal of praying in the Holy Ghost is completely realised in the daily experience. In the imperfect prayer which He does not as yet pervade with this supreme ascendency, He is present, in some degree at least. The man who prays before he is the subject of a new life is unconscious of the Divine presence which stirs up his prayers and prompts his faint desires after better things. When a believer has learnt to pray in the Holy Ghost, he is awake to the nearness and active operation of a mystic Being who incites and energises his prayers and makes him inherently well-pleasing to God. In him who prays according to this evangelical standard, the Spirit stimulates the sense of need. Many are comparatively prayerless in their habits, because there is no sharp sense of need at the core of the life. The age itself is so interesting, and fortune pampers men with so many worldly benefits and luxuries, that they have scarcely any aspirations which need to be fulfilled in supernatural spheres. Their souls have not been harrowed with grief or made to ache with want; and if they pray at all, it is in imitation of prevailing customs only, or as a tribute to the semi-sacred memories of childhood. Where men pray without personal convictions and in imitation of current usage, desires will press to the forefront of their prayers which ought not to be there, or there in very subordinate positions only. "Ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." When their frivolous and shallow wishes seem to be gratified, such men cease to pray, and when crossed and baffled they drift into moods of mingled mortification and scepticism, and either tacitly assume or openly proclaim the uselessness of prayer. Our natural desires can no more mature into true prayer than the bits of coloured gauze in the milliner's shop, representing orange, peach, and cherry blossom, can set into fruit. Till the Spirit comes to us, we are shut up in the senses, and can no more feel the throb of the great currents which course through the spiritual world, than the creatures in the glass cases of an aquarium can feel the enthusiasms which ebb and flow in the veins of a great nation. There can be no right and enduring sense of need unless through the constant inspirations of the Spirit. But the unspiritual are not only shut up in the senses and the things of the senses, they have no keen realisation of the deepest needs of the world. They assume that a broad law of betterment is at work in human history, and if there is any exception to the law, every man is to blame for the drawbacks which stint and embitter his own life. The bitter cry of the outcast multitude finds no echo in their hearts. Human nature without the Holy Spirit of God is too narrow and self-occupied to find a place for the spiritual wants and woes of others in its supplications. Prayer languishes everywhere through this lack of desire, not only for ourselves, but for others likewise. Like the ship described by the "Ancient Mariner," it is becalmed in a sea of breathless stagnation, slime, and death. Prayer cannot move without desire. Things will be far otherwise when the Spirit comes to us, and not only prompts our prayers, but so encircles us with His presence and power, that the world, its maxims, chilling influences, and sordid traditions of conduct, can scarcely get near us or affect us in any way. If we live in the atmosphere created by the inspirations of the Spirit, self-knowledge will grow, and a more adequate interpretation of our own needs will arise within us, and our affections will be so fed from the fountains of the Divine unselfishness that we shall be acutely sensitive to the needs of the world, and shalt pray agreeably to the counsels of Him whose name is Love. He whose soul is permeated by the presence and teaching of the Spirit will be kept from asking those things which are at variance with the counsels of the Most High. Strange and sacred restraints are cast about the believer whom He actuates, and no petty, foolish, self-seeking prayers will be likely to pass the lips. Where the influences of the Spirit are wanting, every kind of mistake is possible. Things frivolous and even hurtful are insatiably desired, and the prayers presented bear the stamp of unregeneracy. Wherever the Spirit is honoured and discerned, He will prompt us to ask for what is supremely important, and will make us submissive to all the will of God. The nature possessed by those right and acceptable desires which are instilled into it by the Spirit will instinctively exclude what is false, foolish, and wrong from its prayers. Indeed, there will be no room for such things to unfold themselves. The Holy Ghost brings its subjects into active and happy sympathy with the Divine plans, and makes that sympathy to dominate every temper and act of devotion. By such prayer we shall keep ourselves in the love of God, for if we never find the heavens as brass, our faith in God's tenderness and fidelity cannot deteriorate. All such prayer will strengthen the tie uniting us to God. In the prayer offered under those influences which the Holy Ghost creates to compass and enswathe us in our access to God, there will be an answering sense of the efficacy of Christ's work. It is His special mission to glorify Christ, and He never forgets the absorbing end for which He was sent. He can perhaps fulfil this mission more impressively through those prayers of the saints which He helps and animates than by those accompaniments of conscience-arresting power vouchsafed in connection with the preaching of the gospel to the world. Just as great winds once carried to rocky islands and barren peninsulas the seeds out of which arose at last tossing forests of beauty and far-ranging zones of sweetness and fragrance, so the great Spirit brings into the poor, barren prayers of those who are touched by His breath a seed of new things, and diffuses there the beauty and the fragrance of Christ's efficacious redemptive act. Christ by taking away sin took away the incompetence of human prayer, and the Spirit makes us steadfastly conscious of the fact. No being purified by trust in that sacrifice can pray out of proportion to the rights it has secured. We are brought into participation with a priesthood that cannot be denied. This secret, undefinable persuasion of the unknown power inherent in Christ's sacrifice and mediation is a mark of those who pray in the Holy Ghost. The prayer upwinging itself through that special atmosphere with which the Holy Ghost enwraps the obedient soul is characterised by a sense of filial confidence. The grace of assurance it is His joy to bring makes the widest possible difference in the tone and quality of the devotional life. The Spirit cannot come from the God of love to a contrite soul without bringing tokens, pledges, intimations of God's forgiving love. He gives us access into an unshadowed grace in which we may stand to the very end; and if we retain this unfailing witness, we shall always be on speaking terms with God. Never let us think of it as a superfluous luxury of the religious life rather than an essential privilege. It is given to open for us constant and intimate access to God, and is vital to the prevalency of our prayers. Where the Spirit of assurance is lacking, prayer is a voice in the outer court of the Gentiles, rather than the freedom of speech accorded to Abraham and Moses. But when the Spirit helps prayer, it is a cry in the circle lit up with the benignity of fatherhood. Prayer, falling short of this standard, is only a little above the level of pious mechanism, and cannot nourish the high affections of the soul towards God. Prayer in the Holy Ghost involves the mystic interchange and fellowship of love. Where prayer is presented under these supernatural conditions, there will be a true apprehension of the vast resourcefulness of God. The Pentecostal atmosphere is full of the Spirit's interpretation of the wisdom, power, generosity, intimate nearness of the Father; and prayer necessarily acquires a distinctive tone from that atmosphere out of which it arises. The fact that the Holy Spirit is more sensitive to our needs than we who are the subjects of them should satisfy us that He has also measured the help laid up for us in the deep counsels of God. As we pray, He shows God to us in all His amazing plenitudes, and makes His strength authoritatively ours. The man who prays without these inspirations is like one who, wrapped about with the ignorance of the stone age, stands upon the shore and yearns for some distant world of which he has dreamed. The plains there would supply his need of bread, the leaves and fruits of the forest would heal his maladies, and the metals hidden in the hills would defend his life and give him the material from which to construct a better civilisation. But he is not dwelling in an age charged with the spirit of scientific discovery and achievement. He cannot cross to this promised land and possess its good. So it is with the man who prays in the Holy Ghost. Not only does the wisdom of God interpret the secrets of redemption to his heart, but the power of God brings him into a new world in which all things are possible. And thus does he keep himself in that love of God which means victory over all seen and unseen foes. We are all familiar with the effect of atmosphere upon the quality of work, and the ease with which it is accomplished. In some parts of the world, malaria and tropical heat speedily turn healthy and capable colonists into sickly loiterers and rickety "ne'er-do-weels." No race seems able to toil under the frightful conditions of climate which prevail on the Isthmus of Panama. And, on the other hand, some climates are so crisp and exhilarating that the laggard finds it difficult to do less than a fair day's work. Unknown ingredients in the air seem to accelerate the blood and spur to strenuous exertion. The qualities of the work done by poet, painter, musician, may almost be told in the terms of the atmospheric pressure prevailing at the time. Genius, just as much as the unopened flower bud, needs the bright, bracing day to bring out its splendour. And the soul requires, for the reaching out of its highest powers towards God, a refined and well-balanced element, which we can only describe as "climate" or "atmosphere." The difference between praying on the mere level of our natural perceptions and sympathies, and praying in a realm pervaded by the unfailing inspirations of the Spirit, is not unlike the difference between drudgery on a tropical swamp and movement on a glorious tableland. In the one case prayer is an effort, a burden, a vexation, and an idle penance; in the other, a joy, a sunrise, a melodious outrush of upper springs, glad spontaneity, life pulsating with the sense of power and victory. Under this covenant of more perfect help and privilege, ought not prayer to attain a surpassing prevalency? By praying under these Pentecostal conditions we may come to reach the apostolic mark of continual and unceasing prayer. Is not He who prompts and upholds the supplications of those receiving His baptism of fire present at all times, and unsleeping in His subtle ministries as the providence of the great Being whose attributes He shares? If we dwell in a circle of which He is the vitalising centre, our conscious and even unconscious movements of thought anal feeling will be informed by strange stimulations. Acclimatised to these sacred conditions, the habit of prayer will be a second and a better nature to us. The stimulations of this unseen and ever patient Helper never fail, and so it is our privilege to "pray always and not to faint." This exhortation seems to imply the constancy of the laws under which the Spirit operates, and our power of so conforming those laws as to reach this lofty experience. It ought to be no little encouragement to us that this habit is spoken of as one of the conditions of our perseverance, and it must be therefore just as practicable for us to pray in the Holy Ghost as it is to keep ourselves in the love of God. To have this close communion with the Most High is not a distinction of pre-eminent saintship, but the privilege of all who abide in His love. He who would thus pray must cultivate tempers of daily spirituality, and to that end must shut out the world, the flesh, and the devil in their manifold disguises. Where the things which are adverse to God are thrust out the Spirit of God will surely come in. It is an axiom in ventilation that unless there be an outflow for the vitiated air it is quite useless having an inlet for that which is pure. The winds of God's life-giving Pentecost will steal into us if we give free exit to every giddy pleasure which makes the Bible an insipidity, to every darling pursuit which conflicts with the perfect love of God, to whatever deteriorates the intellect, the conscience, and the affections. One of the fair cities of the earth is begirt with pine forests, and has streaks of silver sea about it on every side. Nature lies quite close to its streets and squares, and exhales there day and night the sweetest airs and the most reviving zephyrs. But if one of the citizens should shut himself in an air-tight compartment with the diseased, even in that fair city of health the result would be inevitable. If, on the other hand, all doors and windows be open, the invisible tides of mystic sweetness and strength cannot fail to love him. The Divine breath is always playing upon those who inhabit the true city of God. Let us make ourselves accessible to it at every point, and take heed that we do not shut ourselves in with the foul and deadly contagions of the world. The tone of our daily speech and thought and life will react upon our prayers. Let us live to keep ourselves ever fit for this high intercourse with God, as the enthusiast in art or poetry or music lives for his work. Never grieve the Spirit who holds in His hand your very power to pray. He can sever at will your communication with the throne of all grace and power.

(T. G. Selby.)

1. Without the Spirit there is no praying.

2. How excellent and honourable a work is that of prayer! The whole Trinity has a work in this holy exercise.

3. As without the Spirit there is no prayer, so without prayer a man evidently shows himself to have nothing of the Spirit.

4. Needs must the prayers of the saints be acceptable. They are by the Holy Ghost.

5. How good is God to His poor saints! He not only grants, but makes, their prayers.

6. It is our greatest wisdom to get and keep the Spirit.

(1)It is obtained in the ministry of the gospel.

(2)It is kept by following His motions and suggestions.

7. How happy are saints in all straits! They have the Spirit to help them to pray.

(W. Jenkyn, M. A.)

Keep yourselves in the love of God
On the one hand we are taught here a universal principle of religious obedience; and on the other hand we are taught here what the ways are for procuring and cherishing it. "Keep yourselves in the love of God." Do so; and undoubtedly you will have no similarity of character with those men who, "having not the Spirit, are sensualists," and in being so are "separatists" from the communion of true Christians. But how shall you be enabled to obey this injunction? By "building yourselves up on your most holy faith" — by praying in the Holy Ghost — and "by looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus unto eternal life." To have love to God, and to have this Divine affection in vigorous exercise, is to give security for the renunciation of all sin, and for the choice and accomplishment of all duty. It forms the very principle of action, which is applicable in every situation, and during all time. Can the devout affections be really the object of my careful cultivation, without at the same time being accompanied by the desire and the endeavour after universal holiness? Can I revere the majesty of God without the fear of offending against the dignity of His authority? Can I esteem the unrivalled beauty of His moral excellences without the anxious wish to resemble Him and to enjoy His approbation? The view of what is the native tendency of this Divine affection is indubitable. To give diligence that we may remain in the exercise of this holy affection is to give diligence that we may weaken, and finally dislodge, every opposing affection. If once there was produced in us an entire surrender of will and power, of fear and hope, to His most blessed direction — this would amount to the being actuated by the Divine "Spirit"; and so the "sensuality" that would "separate" us from the regard and obedience of Divine truth be entirely vanquished. But how shall we "keep ourselves" in the exercise of this purest and most efficient principle? The means of doing so are here enumerated:

1. In the first place, would we "keep ourselves in the love of God"? — let us "build ourselves up on our most holy faith"; that is in the grace of faith, and in its objects, the doctrines and promises of the gospel. The height of it indeed we shall never be able, through eternity itself, to form a perfect conception of. Let us heap together all those bright views, and glorious promises, which like so many sums in our shining treasure, should be added, for the purpose of giving us an idea of the riches of the Divine mercy. Let us become more deeply acquainted with, and more intensely interested in, the doctrines and the prospects of "our most holy faith," and undoubtedly we shall be using one of the powerful, even as it is the appointed, means to "keep ourselves in the love of God."

2. Would we succeed in these endeavours at laying our minds open to the truth, and to the efficacy of "our most holy faith" would we overcome the aversions, and surmount the difficulties, that stand in the way of all our apprehensions, and that oppose the exercise of all our sensibilities, on its high spiritual objects; would we see the designs of Christianity, and feel them, and continue under their influence; let us follow the next admonition, and "pray in the Holy Ghost." The Divine Spirit dictated the Scriptures; and therefore, when we pray for things agreeably to the tenor of the revealed will of God, we are said, in one sense, to pray under this influence. Now supposing that on Scripture principles, in firm though humble dependence on the grace of God, and with constancy, fervour, and spirituality, we are enabled to cherish the affections of Christian piety; do we not see that we are thereby employing the direct means of improving ourselves, both in acquaintance with the objects of faith, and in the exercise of the grace of faith?

3. In the third place, however, the devout affections we have continually to lament, are with us so cold, even at the warmest, and so wavering, even at the utmost steadiness to which we can bring them; and in all the exercises of our minds, whether in the belief or in the practice of religious truth, we have attained to so little that we can look back on with unmingled satisfaction, that we should have no encouragement, either in devotion or active duty, were our hopes of "eternal life" made to rest on the perfection of our own righteousness. Hence our only relief in remembering the unworthy past, and our only encouragement in endeavouring after something better for the time to come, depend on the privilege granted to us of "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ." Sure, ample, blessed source of consolation and of hope! To this we flee, that the multitude of our sins may be blotted out, and thrown into perpetual forgetfulness. To this we repair, that the defects inherent even in our best duties, may be forgiven. Not to anticipate, with vividness, that future "life," in which devotion shall be elevated into the sublimest purities of spiritual worship, and where faith shall have every promise and prospect realised — how the mind would faint under its frequent insensibilities and manifold lapses! But the assurance that the difficulties are all hereafter to be overcome — that the "mercy of Christ" which pardons, will gratuitously bestow the "eternal life" which it has purchased; this is what incites to persevere, and what will lead effectually in the course of devotion and practical faith.

(W. Muir, D. D.)

1. In perseverance there is a concurrence of our care and diligence (Philippians 2:12, 13). The main work is God's (Philippians 1:6), and the same Jesus that is "Author" is also "Finisher" (Hebrews 12:2). The deeper radication of the habit, the defence of it, the growth and perfection of it, is all from God (1 Peter 5:10); but yet a concurrence there is of our care and endeavours. Well, then, let us not neglect the means.

2. Men that have grace had need look to the keeping of it.(1) We ourselves are prone to revolt (Jeremiah 14:10; Psalm 95:10).(2) We are assaulted with continual temptations. An importunate suitor, by perseverance in his suit, may at length prevail. Long conversing with the world may taint the spirit.(3) A man of long standing is apt to grow secure and negligent, as if he were now past danger (Revelation 3:17-19).(4) The worst is past, we have but a few years' service more, and we shall be happy for ever (Romans 13:11). A little more and you will land safe at the expected haven; if we have a rough passage, it is a short one.

3. Of all graces, love needeth keeping.(1) Because of all graces it is most decaying (Matthew 24:12; Revelation 2:4). Flame is soon spent, graces that act most strongly require most influence, as being most subject to abatement.(2) Because love is a grace that we can ill spare; it is the spring and rise of all duties to God and man.

4. The next note is from the coupling of these two: "The love of God," and "looking for the mercy of Christ unto eternal life." See the like connection (2 Thessalonians 3:5).(1) Love allayeth fear (1 John 4:18).(2) Love quickeneth desire (2 Peter 3:12).

5. From that "looking for the mercy," etc., observe that looking earnestly for eternal life is a good means of perseverance.(1) What this looking is. It implieth patience, but chiefly hope.(a) Patience in waiting God's leisure in the midst of present difficulties (Hebrews 10:36; Luke 8:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Romans 8:25).(b) Hope. This looking or expectation is not that blind hope that is found in men ignorant and presumptuous, that regard not what they do. This hope which I press you to is a serious act, arising from grace aiming at its own perfection. Again, this looking is not some glances upon heaven, such as are found in worldly persons, who now and then have their good moods and sober thoughts; but alas! these sudden motions are not operative, they come but seldom, and leave no warmth upon the soul, as fruit is not ripened that hath but a glance of the sun. Again, it is not a loose hope or a probable conjecture; this hath no efficacy upon the soul. Thus negatively I have shown you what it is not, but now positively; it is an earnest, well-grounded expectation of blessedness to come. It bewrayeth itself —(c) By frequent and serious thoughts. Thoughts are the spies and messengers of hope; it sendeth them into the promised land to bring the soul tidings from thence. A carnal expectation filleth men with carnal musings and projects, as Luke 12:18; James 4:13. It is usual with men to forestall the pleasure of their hopes. Now, so it is also in heavenly things; men that expect them will be entertaining their spirits with the thoughts of them.(d) By hearty longings (Romans 8:23). As the decays of nature do put them in mind of another world, they begin to lift up the head and look out (Romans 8:19).(e) By lively tastes and feelings. A believer hath eternal life (John 17:3). He beginneth it here.(2) Let me show you the influence it hath upon perseverance.

(a)It sets us a-work to purge out sin (1 John 3:3).

(b)It withdraweth our hearts from present things (Philippians 3:20).

(c)It maketh us upright and sincere; looking asquint on secular rewards is the cause of all our declinings (Matthew 6:2).

(d)It supporteth us under those difficulties and afflictions which are wont to befall us in a course of godliness.

(e)It helpeth us to resist temptations.

6. The next point is from that clause, "the mercy." The ground of our waiting and looking for eternal life is God's mercy, not for any works or merits of ours; we cannot challenge it as a debt: sin and death are as work and wages, but eternal life is a donative (Romans 6:23).

7. This mercy is called "the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ." Thence observe, that this mercy which we look for is dispensed by Jesus Christ; He purchased it, and He hath the managing of it in the whole economy of grace.(1) Get an interest in Christ, otherwise we cannot look for mercy in that great day (1 John 2:28).(2) It maketh for the comfort of Christ's people and members. Our blessed hopes are founded upon the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in His hands to dispense them. From thence you may collect —

(a)The fulness of this blessedness. An infinite merit purchased it, an infinite mercy bestoweth it.

(b)The certainty of this blessedness. Christ hath the managing of it. He never discovered any backwardness to thy good nor inclination to thy ruin.

8. The last note is from that clause "unto eternal life." The great benefit which we have by Christ is eternal life.(1) There is life; all that you labour for is for life, that which you prize above other things is life.(2) It is an excellent life. The life of sense, which is the beasts', is better than that vegetative life which is in the plants, and the rational life which is in men is better than the sensitive, and the spiritual exceedeth the rational, and the glorious life the spiritual.(3) It is a happy life.(4) It is eternal life. This life is but a flower that is soon withered, a vapour that is soon blown over; but this is for ever and ever. Well, then, let this press you to keep yourselves in the love of God till this happy estate come about.

(T. Manton.)

"But ye, beloved." These three words, repeated within a few lines, come upon the reader with some unexpectedness. They tell us, what we may have forgotten since we read the "beloved" with which the Epistle opens, that the holy energy which pulses through this short letter, though sometimes it approaches to vehemence, is not the energy of a character that works to one side only. They tell us that the energy is one of sympathies, after all, and not of mere antipathies. His vehemence is to be traced to the depth and strength of His love. When this verse occurs, the turning-point of the Epistle has just been passed. The thunderstorm of invective, which the writer has been hurling against certain godless disturbers of the purity and peace of the Church, spends itself almost abruptly here, and the Epistle seems to gather to a close among the quiet sunset light of a sky that has been clarified by the storm. These last calm sentences are directly for the saints whom he loves. "But ye," says he, "see that ye make a contrast to all this vapid corruption. The contrast which already exists between your condition and theirs, your prospects and theirs — let it be carried forth into a contrast between your conduct and theirs, your habits and theirs."

I. THE WORK OF SELF-KEEPING.

1. To keep an eye upon ourselves — an eye that is clear and true; to keep a hand upon ourselves — a hand that is steady and strong; to maintain the right attitude of mind and heart from hour to hour. Is this, then, a work for which a man himself is competent? Can a man keep himself? Our thoughts may easily alight upon passages which seem to conflict with Jude's words (1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 4:19; John 17:11, 15). In older days the Psalmist, in that hymn about keeping which the Christian Church has taken to its heart, seems persistently out of tune with the strain of Jude (Psalm 121:3, 4, 5, 7). That, indeed, is the more usual language of Scripture concerning spiritual keeping. But neither is the language of the text without parallel (Proverbs 4:23; 1 John 5:18, 21). The two sets of passages make no discord. It is only the familiar, inexplicable mingling of the human and the Divine. It is only the working together — so incomprehensible, so practicable, so blessed — of man's weakness with God's almightiness. "Keep yourselves," for it is God that keepeth you.

2. God's love to us is the element within which the keeping of ourselves becomes real keeping, safe keeping, happy keeping. That is the over-arching firmament, with its infinitude, within which our keeping is kept. We ourselves are to abide within our own poor keeping; yes, and our own poor keeping is to abide within God's tender might of love. The flower is to be environed by the frail globe of glass — the frail globe is to be environed and penetrated by the sweet, warm sunlight that comes across the tracks of worlds to illumine our dark atmosphere with safety and life.(1) These men and women, as being Christians, were "in the love of God" in a sense which did not apply to those who were not Christians.(2) A man may be more, or may be less — consciously and efficiently — "in the love of God." Give me a living assurance that my God is caring tenderly for me, for this danger-haunted sinner that I am — and that His great saving love is actually around me like shielding sunlight, I shall then have heart and motive to look to my ways. If I am worth God's watching, I am worth my own. I will watch myself for Him. I will gird up my loins to keep myself, just because God is keeping me.

3. Note the harmony subsisting between this precept and this qualification of the precept. Being "in the love of God" does not neutralise an atom of our utmost diligence in the task of self-keeping. If I feel that I am enclosed by the strong ramparts of a fortress-home, there is animating reason why I should guard myself from the lesser hazards that may still encompass me within that home; my keeping of myself is not at an end, but is only reduced to manageable dimensions. If I be on board a steam-liner, which holds her head before the wildest weather with undaunted majesty, and only fills the air above her bows with the smoke of billows she is shattering in the strong tremor of her power, I have still to care how I mount the companion-way, and pace the deck, and stow my valuables in my cabin. Indeed, it is only when I am secure from wreck or foundering, that all this minor care is of much account. "Keep yourselves — in the love of God."

II. THE MEANS TO BE EMPLOYED IN SELF-KEEPING.

1. It is significant that the first sort of occupation here named as promotive of the work of keeping is so active an occupation as that of "building up themselves." In order to conserve, they must construct. They are beset by forces which are busy to disintegrate and destroy. A Christian character is not reared as a coral structure is — by instinct. It demands a sustained effort of intelligent will The work is laboriously slow — slow, yet urgent. There is need we should bring to bear upon it something of the systematic steadiness which tells so marvellously in the meaner sphere of our worldly work — permitting to ourselves no half-heartedness in it; setting upon it the banded force of all the faculties of body and soul and spirit; pushing it on in frost and rain, and by light of torch when the daylight fails us. And there is danger, too, lest the durable qualities of our work should be imperfect. It would spare Christians many a pang of disappointment and much rebuilding of what had been built in their character, did they always make sure that they were building firmly and strictly after the plan of Christ. In any development of character which is slim and faulty, there can be no real contribution to the "keeping," the staid security, which Jude would instruct us to accomplish. In that character-structure of ours there must be settlement and stability, mass and strength, and the geometric beauty of symmetry; that is, there must be proportions well balanced upon a sufficient foundation. And what is that sufficient foundation? A sea-rock, indeed, but yet a rock — "our most holy faith." It is the truth of God in the gospel of His Son.

2. Prayer is an occupation, and a companion one to that of rearing a Christian character. Practically it is not very sound to dissociate the one occupation from the other, for prayer is not doing for us the whole that it might do unless it is breathing like an odour through all our changing activities. Yet there must be seasons when prayer is concentrated into specific labour of its own kind; then it is the most sacred manner of work, and the most productive. In this sense we can regard upbuilding and prayer as twin labourers, fitting to each other, like rampart and moat, towards the keeping of our souls.

3. We are to pray "in the Holy Ghost." The pregnant phrase wraps up a very solemnity of privilege. It is a great thing to pray in the mere presence of the Divine Spirit, or under His loving glance. It is a greater thing to pray with the vouchsafed assistance of this Divine One, as He moulds and energises our petitions. It is a greater thing still, and enters the region of permanent miracle, that we should pray with the Eternal Spirit in us, abiding in our meagre hearts, identifying Himself with us, and mingling His own intercessions with ours. We, and our prayer, and our praying — all are to be within Him — encompassed by His power, impregnated by His efficacy, informed by His light. He is to be in us while we pray, as the ocean is in the chambers of the tiny shell which has dropped into its depths.

III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO BE SOUGHT IN SELF-KEEPING. "Looking for the mercy of our Lord," etc. Hard work and brighter hope; it is these together that make up the Christian life as God means it. When the two are most sharply set over against each other in the New Testament, it is that they may be mingled by us into one. God would not have His children to toil without heart. "Ever follow that which is good. Rejoice evermore." "Live soberly, righteously, and godly... looking for the happy hope." It is not enough to have rest when the toil is over; there must be spirit while the toil is going on. "Building up yourselves," "praying," and so "keeping yourselves." Is it a catalogue of labours? Well, there follows the complementary duty, as if he added, "Cheering yourselves." Now, it is below the truth to say that while there may be other lines of activity in the world which are quite as arduous as that of the self-keeping of the Christian, there is not any line of activity which bears along it so magnificent a contingent of inspiriting considerations. But there is a practical peculiarity in the case of the Christian. It is a common thing for a man, when he throws his energies upon any pursuit, to be constantly animating himself by expectations that are exaggerated, and by data that are good only to disappoint him. The Christian, on the contrary, following the pursuit which God Himself has set along the highway to all blessed issues, is constantly underdoing his expectations — is habitually forgetting, or only half-believing, the splendid certainties by which his hope ought to be nerving his diligence. Thereby everything suffers. Thereby the reconstruction of character goes heavily, and prayer is dull; the self-custody of the soul is slack-handed and insecure. Hence the force of the great concluding exhortation of Jude: "There is your sublime task; take thought of your sublimer prospects, that you may hold on to your task with unflagging hearts and unstaying hands." On what, then, is it that our eye is to be set as the focus of all our encouragement in the grand task of our life? "Looking for — mercy." Still mercy — after all our hard work, our God-given work, in building, praying, keeping? Let us thank God that it is. Our work — it is blundering and inconstant; the worker — he is weak and unworthy: here, smiling around us out of the heaven which it makes so bright, is the Divine yet brotherly compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. No other encouragement could be so complete as this. It is the sum of all tenderest things; the pledge of all that is most unimaginable in its gloriousness.

(J. A. K. Bain, M. A.)

I. BY BUILDING UPON CHRIST. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith." Christ is the foundation; and "other foundation can no man lay." Others may think lightly of that stone; but to you it is the "only name given under heaven." You must go on, building upon Christ. And thus the Holy Spirit tells you (Colossians 2:6, 7). All this is the work of "faith." Faith lays your soul upon Christ, and faith keeps it there. He terms our faith "most holy." It is so from its nature, and from its tendency. It has to do with a "holy" God. It has to mix in "holy" services. It has to prepare us for a "holy" heaven.

II. BY PRAYING IN THE HOLY GHOST. What believer does not know his need of the Holy Spirit, that he may pray aright. How motionless were the wheels in Ezekiel's vision, till the Spirit entered into them! How lifeless were the bones in the valley of vision, till the breath from the four winds came upon them! And how dead and formal are our devotions, when we neglect to seek God's Spirit to animate our frame!

III. BY EXPECTING MERCY THROUGH CHRIST. "Looking also for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." We all need "mercy," because we have all sinned.

IV. THE EFFECTS OF TRUE SPIRITUAL RELIGION. "Kept in the love of God." And what is this? Why, this is that happiness at which we all should aim. Think how great a privilege it must be "to have the love of God shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost." How sweet to go to Him as your Father! to commune with Him as a friend, like Abraham! to see the Lord always before you, as did David! What, then, do each of you know of this security? Are all of you shut up in this tower of refuge?

(C. Clayton, M. A.)

I. THE SPHERE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE — "In the love of God." The expression is beautiful and suggestive. The following thoughts amongst others —

1. The primary thought of redemption — God loves us.

2. The demonstration of that love — Jesus loves us.

3. The proof of that love — we feel it.

II. THE EXPECTATION OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto life eternal." Hope has its objects future, and there are in the future of every believer —

1. The consummation of the present.

2. The expansion of the future. There is in store more than the present can supply.

(T. Davies.)

I. CONSIDER THAT CENTRAL INJUNCTION — THE VERY KEYSTONE OF THE ARCH OF A DEVOUT CHRISTIAN LIFE — "Keep yourselves in the love of God." God's love to us is regarded as a kind of sphere or region in which the Christian soul lives and moves and has its being. It is the sweet home of our hearts, and a fortress whereinto we may "continually resort," and our wisdom and security is to keep at home within the strong walls that defend us, compassed by the warmth and protection of the love which God has towards us. Then my text implies that Christian men may get outside of the love of God. No doubt "His tender mercies are over all His works." There are gifts of the Divine love which, like the sunshine in the heaven, come equally on the unfaithful and on the good. But all the best and noblest manifestations of that love cannot come to men irrespective of their moral character and their relation to Him. Then another question is suggested by my text. I asked, Can a man get out of the love of God? And I have to ask now, Can a man, then, keep always in it? We need not discuss, for the guidance of our own lives and efforts, whether the entire realisation of the ideal is possible for us here. Enough for us to know that it is possible for Christian people to make their lives one long abiding in the love of God, both in regard of the actual reception of it and of the consciousness of that reception. The secret of all blessedness is to live in the love of God. Our sorrows and difficulties and trials will change their aspect if we walk in the peaceful enjoyment and conscious possession of His Divine heart. That is the true anaesthetic. No pain is intolerable when we are sure that God's loving hand is round about us.

II. Further, notice THE SUBSIDIARY EXHORTATIONS WHICH POINT OUT THE MEANS OF OBEYING THIS CENTRAL COMMAND. The two clauses in my text which precede that main precept are more minute directions as to the way in which it is to be observed. We might almost read, "By building yourselves on your most holy faith, and by praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God." The first means of securing our continual abiding in the conscious enjoyment of God's love to us is our continual effort at building up a noble character on the foundation of faith. What would you say of a man that had dug his foundations, and got in the first courses, and then left the bricks lying on the ground, and did no more? And that is what many people that call themselves Christians do, use their faith only as a shield against condemnation, and forget that if it is anything at all it works, and works by love. Then remember, too, that this building of a noble, God-pleasing character can only be erected on the foundation of faith by constant effort. You do not rear the fabric of a noble character all at a moment. No man reaches the extremity, either, of goodness or baseness by a leap; you must be content with bit-by-bit work. The Christian character is like a mosaic formed of tiny squares in all but infinite numbers, each one of them separately set and bedded in its place. Now, look at the second of the conditions laid down here by which that continual living within the charmed circle of the love of God is made possible. "Praying in the Holy Ghost." Who that has ever honestly tried to cure himself of a fault, or to make his own some unfamiliar virtue opposed to his natural temperament, but has found that the cry "O God! help me" has come instinctively to his lips? The prayer which helps us to keep in the love of God is not the petulant and passionate utterance of our own wishes, but is the yielding of our desires to the impulses Divinely breathed upon us. Our own desires may be hot and vehement, but the desires that run parallel with the Divine will, and are breathed into us by God's own Spirit, are the desires which, in their meek submissiveness, are omnipotent with Him whose omnipotence is perfected in our weakness.

III. Lastly, notice here THE EXPECTATION ATTENDANT ON THE OBEDIENCE TO THE CENTRAL COMMANDMENT. "Looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." After all our efforts, after all our prayers, we all of us build much wood, hay, stubble, in the building which we rear on the true foundation. And the best of us, looking back over our past, will most deeply feel that it is all so poor and stained that all we have to trust to is the forgiving mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. That mercy will be confidently anticipated for all the future, nearer, and more remote, in proportion as we keep ourselves for the present in the love of God. The more we feel in our hearts the experience that God loves us, the more sure we shall be that He will love us ever. The sunshine in which we walk will be reflected upon all the path before us, and will illuminate that else dusky and foreboding sky that lies beyond the dark grave.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. If we would keep ourselves in the love of God, WE MUST CAREFULLY SHUN EVERYTHING WHICH WOULD BE LIKELY TO DAMPEN THE FERVOUR OF OUR AFFECTION, or extinguish this holy fire. The love of God cannot live in the heart where any known sin is allowed to enjoy quiet shelter.

II. If the Christian would keep himself in the love of God, HE MUST BE ATTENTIVE TO THE DUTIES OF PRAYER, AND THE STUDY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. The neglect or the careless performance of either of these cannot but have the effect of cooling the ardour of godliness; and, in the end, of causing it to decay and perish.

III. If we would keep ourselves in the love of God, WE MUST IMITATE HIM IN DEEDS OF MERCY AND LOVING-KINDNESS.

(J. N. Norton, D. D.)

I. ILLUSTRATE THE IMPORT AND EXTENT OF THE PRECEPT — "Keep yourselves in the love of God." To form a right notion of this duty, we must remember that our love to God is not such a familiar affection of the mind as we bear towards our equals — such as one friend has for another. The man who loves God will honour and reverence Him. Like a dutiful child, he will be fearful of offending the most tender and beneficent Parent. To keep ourselves in the love of God likewise imports the most ardent and affectionate desire of being united to Him, as the supreme good and the chief happiness of man. To keep ourselves in the love of God doth further imply, that we prefer His favour and service to everything that may come in competition with Him. In order to discover, therefore, whether our love to God be genuine, it will be necessary for us to consider what are the genuine effects which the genuine love of God is naturally calculated to produce on our minds and manners. It will produce a submission of our wills to the will of God; it will produce a love of the duties of religion; it will produce a sincere obedience to the Divine commandments; it will produce a quickness on our part in discovering our own frailties and imperfections; and lastly, it will produce an unfeigned charity to all mankind.

II. SUGGEST SOME OF THOSE MOTIVES AND OBLIGATIONS WE LIE UNDER TO THE OBSERVANCE OF THIS PRECEPT. And in order to "keep ourselves in the love of God," in order to inflame our souls with this holy and devout affection, let us only consider, first, how glorious a being God is in Himself; and second, how good and gracious He hath been to us, His unworthy creatures. Conclusion:

1. Let us consider how numerous those blessings are which we have received, and which we every moment receive from Almighty God.

2. Let us consider how much we stand in need of a continual supply of those mercies which we enjoy.

3. Let us reflect how miserable our lives would become by the want of those good things of which we are now possessed.

(W. Macritchie.)

I. A STATE IMPLIED. "The love of God" here obviously means God's love to the believer, and the believer's love to God, for every true Christian is in love to God, and in love from God.

1. God's love to the believer. It is not only the complacency, which is the portion of angels — and the love of goodness, which pervades the universe; but the love of compassion, that pities — the love of sovereignty, that chooses — the love of grace, that calls and renews — the love of mercy, that pardons and redeems — the love of faithfulness, that fulfils every promise, perfects every grace, and surpasses every expectation the love that knows neither beginning, change, nor end; and which, after having attended its object through earth's pilgrimage, will smooth and light his passage through the vale of death, and conduct him to a happy eternity.

2. The believer's love to God. This is our first great duty, and it is the foundation of all pure and undefiled religion, and of all the moral excellence and beauty which a created intelligence can possess. There is nothing in it of animal passion, but it is exclusively intellectual and spiritual; and though it subordinates the faculties and passions of the mind to its own movements, it is perfectly distinct from them. It is the feeling, conviction, and tendency of a redeemed created spirit towards an Infinite and Uncreated Spirit. It includes admiration of the natural and moral perfections of God; holy delight in thinking of Him, communing with Him, and feeling that we are near to Him; humble gratitude for all His mercies; and an earnest desire to be with Him in heaven.

II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS SPIRITUAL STATE IS TO BE MAINTAINED AND PRESERVED. "Keep yourselves in the love of God.

1. This spiritual state is like a delicate flower, or exotic; without constant care and culture, it may soon be injured, and droop and fade. The soul of the believer may get into such a cold, wintry state — be so pervaded by the chilling frosts of indifference, and the disturbing elements of worldly-mindedness and conscious guilt, as to be totally unfit for the nourishment and growth of this celestial plant.

2. And the language of the text implies another thing, and that is, that Christians are themselves responsible for the preservation, or decay, of this spiritual state. Jude says, "Keep yourselves in the love of God." It is true that in spiritual matters we can do nothing successfully without Divine aid and influence, but this is as true in the world of nature as it is in the kingdom of grace. The farmer can do nothing successfully without Divine aid and influence, and yet he would be thought very unreasonable to urge this as an evidence that no personal responsibility rests upon him for the state of his farm and crops.

3. But how are we to keep ourselves in the love of God?(1) By praying very earnestly to God, so to exert upon us His mighty power and grace, as to keep us in that love.(2) By carefully avoiding anything that would grieve and offend Him, and cause Him to withdraw the enjoyments of His love from us; and, on the other hand, by doing all we can to please Him, and to secure the continuance of His favour.(3) By preserving our love to Him from injury and decay, and by diligently using all appropriate means for its growth and perfection.

(W. Gregory.)

And there be many reasons to move us to keep ourselves in the love of God.

1. The first is His commandment "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God"; and again, "What doth the Lord thy God require of thee but to fear and love Him?" This our Saviour calleth "the great commandment." The Commander is great, the object is great, the use of the duty is great, and their reward is great that take care to do it.

2. A second reason to move us to keep ourselves in the love of God is in regard of equity. For seeing Almighty God doth love us, it is a matter of equity that we should requite love with love again.

3. Commodity should move us to keep ourselves in the love of God. For first, by this love, our faith produceth those good duties which we owe unto God. For faith is as one hand receiving love, as the other giving (Galatians 5:6). Again, by the love of God, we may know what state we are in. St. saith two loves make two cities; the love of God maketh Jerusalem, the love of the world Babylon; therefore let every man but examine himself, what he loves, and he shall see in what state he is, and to what city he belongs. Again, the love of God engenders in us the love of the godly for God, for he that loves the Father cannot but love His children (1 John 3:14). Again, from the love of God ariseth much grace and goodness, as much water from one spring. Good works wither except they be nourished by this love. As the love of money is the root and nourisher of all evil, so the love of God is the mother and nurse of all good, of all pious offices to God, and Christian duties to man.

4. We ought to keep ourselves in the love of God because He is our gracious Father, and "of His own good will begat He us through the word of truth." Now if a child must love his father, of whom he hath received a part of his body, how much more ought he to love God, of whom he hath received his soul, and unto whose goodness he stands obliged both for soul and body?

(S. Otes.)

I. DIRECTIONS.

1. Carefully shun all those circumstances and things which are known to have a tendency to damp the fervours of love, or to extinguish this holy fire. Above all, avoid every sinful indulgence. Fleshly lusts. Contention and strife. Pride and vainglory.

2. To keep ourselves in the love of God, we should often meditate on the superlative moral excellence of the Divine character, as displayed in His works and Word.

3. Every habit and affection is preserved in vigour and increased by frequent exercise.

4. The greatest hindrance to the exercise and increase of our love to God, is our blindness of mind and unbelief. In order, therefore, to preserve our souls in the lively exercise of the love of God, we must seek an increase of that faith which is "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen" — that faith which "sees Him that is invisible" — which "looks not at the things which are seen and temporal, but at the things which are not seen, which are eternal."

II. MOTIVES.

1. By doing this we shall best glorify God upon earth.

2. The next motive which should influence us to perform faithfully the duty enjoined in the text, is, that this will be the most effectual method of promoting the welfare and salvation of our fellow creatures.

3. The more we keep ourselves in the love of God, the more meet shall we be for the heavenly inheritance, where perfect love reigns in every heart. Not only so, but the richer reward will be possessed.

(A. Alexander, D. D.)

Answer

1. In general: one whom God loves and favours, must do as the favourite of a prince useth to do, to keep himself in his prince's love and favour, tie will study what the will of his prince is, and will do all that he can to please him. This is a great art to study — to know what is the will and pleasure of God (Ephesians 5:17) and to conform to it. The reason whereof is this —

1. Because the will of God is the sovereign will to all the world, therefore to thine and mine: there is no controlling of it.

2. Because the will of God is a holy will; and we can never keep ourselves in the love of God but by what is agreeable to His holiness: and that is, when we ourselves are holy (1 Peter 1:15, 16). Answer

2. But now more particularly:

I. He that will keep himself in the love of God, must he himself love God. For love deserveth love, and love begetteth love. God's love worketh thus toward us, and therefore our love must work toward God.

II. He that loves God loving him, is drawn to God by the attractive beams of Divine love. He that loves God loving him, is inflamed with God's love; as it is in a burning-glass.

III. He that will keep himself in the love of God, must mind and meditate on four attributes and properties of God's love, which will have great influence upon his heart and love.

1. On the eternity of God's love to him.

2. On the freeness of God's love (Hosea 14:4).

3. On the immensity of God's love (Ephesians 3:17-19).

4. On the unchangeableness of God's love (Hebrews 6:17, 18; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 8:39).

IV. He that will keep himself in the love of God, must keep himself free from the love of the world. Because the love of this world is contrary to the love of God, and therefore inconsistent with it (1 John 2:15, 16).

V. He that will love God, and keep himself in the love of God, must not be a self-lover. There is no greater enemy to the love of God than to love ourselves (2 Timothy 3:2).

VI. If ye would keep yourselves in the love of God, be very shy of sin, both in the risings of it, and as to the temptations to it.

1. Sin is "enmity against God" in the abstract (Romans 8:7).

2. Sin is hateful to God (Proverbs 6:16; Psalm 96:10).

3. Sin separates from God.

VII. He that will keep himself in the love of God, must clear up his interest and union to Jesus Christ.

VIII. An eighth way of keeping ourselves in the love of God, is by keeping God's commandments (John 15:10, 14).

IX. The way to keep ourselves in the love of God, is to walk closely with God in ways of strict holiness. This is a commendation and character upon record of God's chiefest favourites. Thus it was with Abraham (Genesis 17:1); thus it was with Enoch (Genesis 5:22); thus it was with Noah (Genesis 6:9): thus it was with Caleb (Numbers 14:24); and thus David (Psalm 73:28).

X. They keep themselves in the love of God who do not wave or abate their profession and practice of godliness in evil times, and do not balk the ways of God under severe providences and sharp trials.

XI. Another means to keep ourselves in the love of God is to keep in our hearts a quick sense of the pardon of sin; of the wonderful love of the Lord to a poor sinful soul, to pardon great and many sins.

XII. A further means to keep ourselves in the love of God, is not only to love the Lord, but to keep up our love to Him to the height.

XIII. If we will keep ourselves in the love of God, let us labour to grow in grace, "and to carry on the work of it in our souls to the highest perfection.

XIV. A great means of keeping ourselves in the love of God is this, to "pray in the holy Ghost."

XV. We keep ourselves in the love of God when we declare a public spirit for the cause of God in His Church against the enemies of it by being zealous for His glory and valiant for His truth in our station.

XVI. A great means of keeping ourselves in the love of God is to be sincere and sound in the worship of God.

XVII. A great means of keeping in the love of God is keeping up the communion of saints in all the parts and duties of it.

XVIII. The last means I shall name is in the words immediately following my text ("Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life"), which, doubtless, the Holy Ghost points us to, as an effectual means to "keep ourselves in the love of God."

1. Because it is the highest act of God's love to us — to bestow eternal life on us.

2. The Lord, that hath provided eternal life for us, will have us always to walk in expectation of it (Genesis 49:18; Titus 2:13).

3. We have no ground at all to expect eternal life from God without keeping ourselves in the love of God (Romans 8:23, compared with ver. 39).

4. We keep ourselves in God's love by being found in such a state and in such a way as leads to life, which is chiefly faith and obedience.

5. Now a son that is heir-apparent by adoption in Christ to such an estate of eternal life in heaven, he will not only be always in expectation of it, but will judge himself bound to study all the ways he can possibly do to please God, to keep in His love and favour, and withal fear and take heed of forfeiting the love of God.

(W. Cooper, M. A.)

Some years ago I was holding a series of evangelistic meetings in a certain New England city, and was entertained at the house of a very dear friend. His accomplished and Christian wife had been ill for many weeks with rheumatic fever, but was now convalescent. Her illness had been very severe and long-continued. One distressing result had been a depression of spirits, and the clouding of her mind as to her Christian hope and her acceptance with God. One day I found her seated in a charming little parlour, with a large bay window toward the south. It was mid-winter, and the southern sun was streaming into that south window, making the flowers and plants beautiful in foliage and bloom, and filling all the room with light and genial warmth. My invalid friend was seated in the window, with her left shoulder lightly covered with a gauzy zephyr wool shawl, but otherwise bared to the rays of the sun. I fell into conversation with her once more concerning her spiritual state. She was still in utter darkness and distress of mind. I had quoted this precious text to her again and again, "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of Jesus Christ unto eternal life"; but apparently all to no purpose. Finally, I thought to turn that south vision to purpose, and make it preach a sermon to her. So I said, "Why do you come so often and sit so long in this south window? Why," she replied, "you must know why I sit here every day. You know how long I have been ill with the rheumatic fever, and that since the fever has left me I have been the further victim of the sharp and excruciating pain of inflammatory rheumatism in almost every part and joint of my body? But latterly I have been delivered from it, except in this left shoulder. So the doctor told me, about three weeks ago, that he could do nothing more, but suggested to me that I might come into this parlour in the mornings, when the sun was at his strength, and sit here in the south window, with my shoulder bared to its warm rays, and see what a sun-bath would do for me. This is why I am here." "Well," said I, "and has the sun-bath done you any good?" "Oh, yes! Do you know, I had not taken my daily bath here for more than a week or ten days, until the last vestige of pain left me, and I am as well, apparently, as I ever was, so far as that is concerned; but it is so delicious just to sit in this sunshine, and feel its glad and genial warmth, that I come now every day for a little while, just for love of it." "Ah, my friend," I replied, "now you have been preaching my sermon. That is exactly what the apostle is exhorting you to do when he says, 'Keep yourselves in the love of God.' Your poor soul has grown cold, and is full of the rheumatism of doubt and distress. In vain you have tried to expel your doubts and fears. There is but one remedy. Go and sit in the south window of God's love, and let the warm, life-giving rays of His glad sunshine pour themselves into your heart, and you may be sure His love will chase out every doubt and fear, thaw away all coldness, and fill you with a joy and peace that will be more delicious to your soul than this material sunshine is to your poor body. And, moreover, after your doubts and fears have been dissipated, you will be glad of an hour every day. Yea, you will be glad of the privilege of sitting, or standing, or walking, or working all the day long in the 'love of God.'" This thought seemed to strike her very forcibly, and at last she exclaimed, "Oh, I see it all now! How stupid of me not to have seen it before! I have been trying, out of my cold and wicked heart, to bring forth something good to offer to God, and then to find peace and comfort in something I have done or felt. Just keep yourselves in the love of God," she went on in a kind of soliloquy, "and let that fill and quicken you. How simple! How beautiful! How I might have saved myself weeks and months of suffering, far worse than the pains of illness, if I had only known this, or at least acted upon it."

(G.I.Pentecost, D. D.)

Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life
The Study.
I. THE GREATEST OF ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS. "The mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ." Mercy.

1. Deeply needed.

2. Freely offered.

3. Experimentally enjoyed.

4. Rises in value as every other good declines.Mercy of the "Lord Jesus Christ."

(1)It is the purchase of His agonies.

(2)It is applied to the heart by the agency of His Spirit.

(3)It is finally bestowed by His own hand.

II. THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL EXERCISES. Looking. Supposes a belief in their reality, an aspiration after their enjoyment. A desirable state.

1. As a safeguard against dangerous errors.

2. As it damps the false lustre of the world.

3. As it is eminently conducive to holiness.

4. As it prepares.the soul for heaven.

III. THE MOST GLORIOUS OF ALL RESULTS. "Eternal life."

(The Study.)

I. MERCY IS THE GROUND ON WHICH WE ARE TO LOOK FOR ETERNAL LIFE, Mercy, as attributed to God and Christ, is to be taken either —

1. For that attribute whereby He is inclined to pity and help the miserable; His loving-kindness, grace, compassion, freely working to such as are in misery. Or —

2. For the effects and fruits of this; His help afforded; suitable blessings actually granted. In this latter sense it is to be taken here (2 Timothy 1:18).

II. HOW IT IS THE MERCY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.

1. He is the purchaser of it (1 John 5:11, 12).

2. In point of preparation (John 14:2).

3. In respect of actual donation (Matthew 25:34).

III. HOW WELL IT DESERVES TO BE THUS EMPHATICALLY EXPRESSED, "THE MERCY."

1. As it is that mercy which saints were chosen to, and which God always had them in His eye and heart to bring them to the possession of.

2. As it is most free. This is the pure fountain from which it springs, "the gift of God."

3. As purchased with the most invaluable price. Not only the prayers and tears, but the precious blood of the Son of God.

4. "The mercy" promised as the crown and end of all others. "This is the promise that He hath promised us, eternal life" (1 John 2:25), the grand comprehensive promise, into which all the foregoing mercies run as streams into the ocean.

5. "The mercy," as inconceivably great and full, unmixed and complete; to be measured only by the infinite perfections of that God who is to be enjoyed, and the vast capacities of the immortal soul to be filled up.

6. "The mercy," as most seasonable, and therein most sweet, upon account of foregoing misery.

7. "The mercy," as most suitable.

8. "The mercy," as reserved, and therein most sure.

9. "The mercy," as peculiar and distinguishing: the inheritance of a few (Luke 12:32).

10. "The mercy," as always to endure. Eternal life. It is life for its excellency, and eternal for its duration; a life free from all evil, and in the full possession of all good, of all that is desirable, all that is delightful.

IV. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN LOOKING FOR IT?

1. That our minds and thoughts are much taken up about it.

2. It is keeping faith in exercise with reference to it.

3. It is a setting our hearts upon it, and entertaining earnest desires after it.

4. It is a patient waiting till you are called hence to enter into that eternal life the mercy of Christ will assuredly bestow (Hebrews 6:12).

5. Serious diligence in preparing for it, and watchfulness that we do not come short, or be found unready.Application.

1. Is it mercy that bestows eternal life, how unreasonable is the sin of despair?

2. Is it the mercy of Christ, how destructive their folly who seek it anywhere else?

(D. Wilcox.)

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