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3. With what confidence and comfort may believers look forward to the coming of their Lord!
[Whom will they have for their judge but the very person who bought them with his blood? the very person in whom they have believed; and to whom they cleaved with full purpose of heart? Be it so then; the catalogue of their sins shall be produced, a catalogue reaching, as it were, from heaven to earth; and they shall not have one word to offer in arrest of judgment: yet, will the Saviour pass a sentence of condemnation upon them? Will he not himself stand forth and testify, "I saw their deep contrition; I treasured up their tears in my vial; I was witness to their frequent sighs and groans, and to their cries for mercy through my atoning blood:" "Deliver them from going down into the pit; I paid their ransom:" they were mine; and they manifested that they were mine", by their obedience to my will, and their conformity to my image: "Come, ye blessed children of my Father, inherit my kingdom prepared for you?" Fear not then, ye weak and trembling saints; but rather "be looking for and hasting to the coming of the day of Christ:" ye shall surely stand before him with joy; while they, who once justified their ungodliness, and thought, that to be among the godly was a fit matter for derision, shall bewail their folly, and confess the equity of the sentence that fixes you in heaven, and themselves in hell. Remember then with gratitude that you are to have Jesus for your judge; and when he says, Behold, I come quickly," let your hearts reply, "Even so, come Lord Jesus'."] u God represents himself in this very light. Jer. xxxi. 18—20. x 2 Pet. iii. 12. y Rev. xxii. 20.
THE CHRISTIAN'S DUTIES.
Jude 20, 21. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
IN every age there has prevailed in the Church a proneness to depart both from the principles and practice of the Gospel. St. Jude in his day, writing to the whole Christian Church respecting "their common salvation," says, "it was needful for him to write to them, and to exhort them all to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints."
At the same time he declares, that "ungodly men had crept in amongst the saints," and had not only grievously dishonoured the Gospel, but had " turned the very grace of God itself into lasciviousness," and vindicated their licentious practices as allowed and sanctioned by the Gospel of Christ". Against the influence of such pernicious examples, the Apostle was anxious to preserve all who yet maintained their integrity. He bade them remember, that the Apostles of our Lord had from the beginning taught them to expect, that such hypocrites and apostates would arise and he exhorted them so to walk before God, that they might hold fast their steadfastness even to the end. The directions which he gave them were such as could not but approve themselves to their judgment, and commend themselves to their inmost souls. The same dangers to the Church are existing still; and the same directions therefore are necessary for us, as well as for those in the apostolic age. Permit me then to call your attention to them: I. To the two former, as instrumental to your welfare
"Build up yourselves, brethren, on your most holy faith"
[It is here supposed that you have embraced the faith, and that you are standing upon the true foundation which God himself has laid in Zion. But you must not be satisfied with having believed in Christ: for St. Paul says, "As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." Your faith is verily a "most holy faith:" in its nature, in its tendency, and in all its practical effects, it is "most holy;" and to build up yourselves more and more upon it is your bounden duty. Seek then to advance continually in the knowledge of it, in all its bearings, and in all its relations. View the whole mystery as planned by Infinite Wisdom, and formed into a covenant of grace; the Father undertaking to accept an atonement in our behalf; the Son engaging to offer that atonement in his own sacred person; and the Holy Spirit engaging to bring to Christ those who should be given him of the Father, and those whom he should purchase with his most precious blood. Eternity ver. 17, 18. e Col. ii. 6, 7.
ver. 3, 4.
itself will not suffice to explore the wonders contained in this mystery; and therefore, like the holy angels, we should incessantly be searching into it, with a view to comprehend, as far as our limited capacities can reach, the wisdom of God displayed in it
We should seek to grow also in a simple reliance on the Gospel of Christ, as of itself perfectly suited to us, and altogether sufficient for the necessities of the whole world. It is impossible ever to be too jealous upon this head; since the mixing of any thing with this foundation will subvert it utterly, and make void all that Christ has done and suffered for us d
In a realizing sense of its excellency, we should also be making higher and higher attainments. There is a rest of the mind, and a satisfaction of the soul, which it is our privilege to possess; and which, in its sublimer actings, approximates very nearly to the felicity of the saints above. There is no measure of this in which we should rest. We are told, that, by believing in Christ, we may be elevated to "a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory, and may already (by anticipation) receive the end of our faith, even the salvation of our soulse".
Yet not in these respects only, but in every possible view, we should be building up ourselves on our most holy faith," and be daily manifesting our progress, and "making our profiting to appear to all around us.]
At the same time be "praying continually in the Holy Ghost"—
[Of ourselves we can do nothing: our sufficiency even for a good thought, must be of God alone: and from him it must be sought by earnest prayer. "He will be inquired of by us, before he will do for us "what in his covenant of grace he has promised to us. If we ask not, we cannot have: but, if we ask in faith, we shall have our joy increased to the full. We must therefore go to God continually; seeking from him in the first instance the "Spirit of grace and supplications," by whose gracious influences alone we can approach him in an acceptable manner, and pray to him as we ought. "That blessed Spirit will help our infirmities;" and though he may not give us that fluency of utterance, or that enlargement of heart, which we may desire, "he will make intercession in us with groanings which cannot be uttered'," but which will enter the ears of our heavenly Father, "who knoweth the mind of
d Gal. v. 2, 4.
e 1 Pet. i. 8, 9.
h Jam. iv. 2.
f 2 Cor. iii. 5.
i John xvi. 24.
1 Rom. viii. 26.
the Spirit," and will answer the petitions which are so dictated by him.
We are not indeed to expect any miraculous aid from the Holy Spirit: but a gracious influence we may expect; as St. Paul says, "Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit"." Nor need we be concerned whether we address our God in words conceived at the moment, or in a pre-composed form it is the frame of mind which God regards: and, if that be spiritual, our prayer, even though it consist only of a sigh, or a groan, shall come up with acceptance before him, and shall bring down into our souls all the blessings both of grace and glory.
Whilst then we are building up ourselves on our most holy faith, we must be "pouring out our hearts before him through the assistance of his good Spirit, and be bringing down from him such communications of grace and strength as our daily necessities require.]
The beneficial tendency of the two former directions being thus clear and manifest, let me call your attention,
II. To the two latter, as perfective of your welfareKeep yourselves in the love of God"
[This was primary in the mind of the Apostle: the two preceding being urged only as conducive to it. And certainly this is the great object which every Christian should keep in view, and at which he should aim day and night. To have a sense of "God's love shed abroad in the heart";" to "have the light of his countenance lifted up upon us;" to be going to him continually as a Father'; to "walk with him," as Enoch did; and, like Abraham, to commune with him as a friend; to "set him always before us";" to have no wish or desire but to please him; to be " delighting ourselves in him," as our God, our portion, our eternal great reward2: this is our wisdom; this is our happiness; this is our security. If we descend on lower ground, we are open to all manner of assaults: but who can reach us there? Who can break through to harm us, when we are dwelling in God, and God is dwelling in us?" We are "encompassed as with a wall of fire" we are in a fortress that is absolutely impregnable: we may defy the whole universe to separate us from his loved."j
• Ps. xxxviii. 9
u Ps. xvi. 8.
b Zech. ii. 5.
Let me then especially urge upon you this important duty. Live not at a distance from God: rest not in a formal acknowledgment of him: but endeavour to "walk worthy of him unto all pleasing :" get back, as far as possible, to the state of man in Paradise; and labour to walk as on the very borders of the eternal world. My beloved brethren, "let your conversation be thus in heaven:" and let all the faith which you exercise, and every prayer that you utter, be, as it were, a breeze to fill your sails, and bear you forward to your desired haven; that " so you may never fall, but have an abundant entrance ministered unto you into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ'."]
"Look also for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life"
[However close your walk with God may be, you must not on that account lean in the least degree to your own righteousness, but must rely entirely on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, and expect "eternal life solely as the gift of God for Christ's sake." And for this you must be waiting, looking, longing, in a state of constant preparation, and of eager expectation. The very perfection of the Christian state on earth is this, to be "looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God." Of many in the Corinthian Church the Apostle says, "they came behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christi." Do ye then aspire after the same blessed attainment. "Let your loins be girt, and your lamps trimmed, and yourselves as those who wait for the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom;" that, when he shall come, you may "enter in with him to the marriage feast." Whilst you are in such a frame as this, all earthly things will lose their influence; and all attempts, whether of men or devils, to retard your progress be in vain. From my inmost soul therefore I would offer in behalf of you the prayer which St. Paul offered for the Thessalonian Church, the prayer which so remarkably coincides with that of St. Jude in my text, "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and a patient waiting for Christ."]
[Settle it in your minds that this is true religion — This is the state in which it is both your duty and your privilege to live and so living you are sure of mercy, and cannot fail of attaining that eternal life which the Lord Jesus Christ has purchased for you—]