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and the numberless benefits that he confers on all his followers? This alone were ample reason for all the care and diligence they can possibly exert.]
2. Because of the benefit accruing to themselves from the contemplation of them
[Wise as those bright intelligences are, we have no doubt but that they are made wiser by their progressive discoveries of the truth of God. The revealing of the Gospel unto man is one way which God has adopted for the further illumination of the heavenly hosts: he makes known his manifold wisdom to the Church, in order that by the Church it may be exhibited
the eyes of angels and archangels'. We have no reason to think that they have any revelations made to them, except through the medium of the Church: and consequently, if they would grow in knowledge, they must search, as it were, the sacred oracles, and “ draw their water out of our wells of salvation."
But by their contemplation of the Gospel they are made happier too, as well as wiser. For, in what does their happiness consist? Is it not derived principally from the knowledge of God, and their admiration of all his glorious perfections? But it has been before shewn, that their views of the Divine glory are rendered incomparably more clear and full by the representations given of it in the Gospel: consequently, their admiration of God must continually increase; and their delight in him be proportionably enlarged.]
1. How unfounded is men's contempt of the Gospel!
[The Gospel ever has been despised by proud self-sufficient men, and ever will be, as long as such men continue upon earth. It will ever appear “ foolishness to the natural man.' It is still loaded with reproach, and stigmatized with opprobrious names; and he must be a stranger indeed in our Jerusalem," who has not known and witnessed this humiliating fact. But what do these scoffers think of themselves? Are they wiser or better than the angels? Do they imagine the angels so weak as to admire and search into things which are unworthy the notice of a sensible man? Alas! these proud despisers of God and of good men evince to the world, that they themselves are the greatest objects of pity and compassion. We do not, however, say to them as Paul did to the obstinate
1 Eph. iii. 10.
and obdurate Jews, “ Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perishe;" but rather, Behold, and wonder, and adore.] 2. How criminal is their neglect of it!
[Though the angels are in some measure interested in the Gospel, yet their concern with it is not to be compared with ours. They would have been happy, though no Saviour had come into the world: but where should we have been? what would have become of us ? Christ took not on him their nature: he shed not his blood for them : it was for us he became a man: for us he died upon
the cross. What guilt then do we contract in slighting all his overtures of mercy! Surely the angels will rise up in judgment against us, and condemn us, if we are indifferent to the salvation he has so dearly purchased, and so freely offered.]
3. How great a blessing is it to be well instructed in it!
(We do not wish to depreciate human knowledge: but we do not hesitate to affirm, that all other knowledge, how deep, extensive, or valuable soever it may be, is no better than dung and dross in comparison of this h. All other knowledge shall vanish away; but this shall endure for ever. Angels would account all other things beneath their notice : but they never think they can pay too much attention to this. Know then, that if your eyes are opened to behold aright the great mystery of redemption, you have the most valuable gift that God himself can bestow. You have that which will bring salvation to your soul. Yea, if you have but moderately clear views of the Gospel, you are in that respect greater and more highlyfavoured than all the prophets; not excepting even John himself, who was more than a prophet, and had the distinguished honour of pointing out to men “the Lamb of God that should take away the sin of the world.” Whatever then God has bestowed upon you, value this above all : whatever he has withheld from you, be satisfied with this. Whatever you do, or whatever you neglect, be sure to cultivate this. Resemble the angels in “ looking into these things;" and you shall resemble them in holiness, and be with them in glory.]
& Acts xiii. 41.
h Phil. ii. 8.
DIRECTIONS HOW TO SEEK HEAVEN WITH SUCCESS.
1 Pet. i. 13. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be
sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
THE truths of God deserve our attention on account of their own excellence; but they are principally to be valued for the effects they produce on our lives. The Apostles never rest satisfied with stating a mere system of doctrines, they invariably proceed to make a practical application of them to the soul. St. Peter had briefly opened the blessed state of true believers. He had represented them as begotten to a glorious inheritance, of which their joy in Christ was an earnest, and to which, through their present trials, they would be advanced. He then urged the near approach of that glory, as a reason for exerting themselves more diligently in their Christian calling—“Wherefore,” &c.
The words of the text lead us to consider, I. The great object of a Christian's pursuit
There are in Scripture many beautiful descriptions of heaven, but none more interesting than that contained in the words before us.
The day of judgment is here called “the revelation of Jesus Christ”
[Jesus Christ was revealed in the first promise that was made to mana. He was also exhibited in the sacrifices which Abel offered b. In successive ages he was made known in clearer prophecies, and typified by various ordinances of the Jewish rituala. In process of time he was personally "manifested in human flesh," and shewed himself to be the Son of God by most irrefragable proofs. In the preaching of his
a Gen. ii. 15.
b Heb. xi. 4. and xii. 24. c Gen. xxi. 18. and Isai. liii. 4, 5, 11. d Compare Exod. xii. 5. with 1 Pet. i. 19. o Acts ii. 22. Rom. i. 4.
Gospel he was yet more fully revealed. The glory of God as shining in his face is most transcendently displayed'; still however “ we see him as yet only through a glass darkly." But in the last day he will appear in all his majesty and gloryh: he will “ be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire.” His enemies, no less than his friends, will then see him to be “King of kings, and Lord of lords."] In that day, “grace will be brought unto us”—
[Grace and glory are sometimes used as synonymous terms in Scripturek ; indeed, grace is glory begun, and glory is grace consummated.
The spiritual blessings which God bestows, appear now to be the gifts of gracel; but how much more shall we acknowledge the glories of heaven to be so ! How shall we marvel at the goodness of God in all his dealings towards us! How shall we adore his wisdom, even in the darkest of his dispensations. How shall we stand amazed that we were saved, while so many others were lost! Surely, “ when the top-stone is brought forth, we shall cry, Grace, grace, unto it m." All this felicity “shall be brought unto us" openly, and in rich abundance. Now, the grace imparted to us is small, though “sufficient for us ;" and the consolations vouchsafed unto us, are known only to ourselves. But in that day the kingdom will be given us in the presence of the whole universe n; and our happiness shall be commensurate with our capacities and desires. What we partake of now, we obtain by diligent pursuit. What we receive then, shall be " brought unto us" freely by the hand of Jesus himself.]
In the meantime it becomes us to seek it with all earnestness. II. In what manner we ought to seek it
The directions given by the Apostle are very suitable and instructive
He recommends to us three things : 1. Activity of mind
[The Jews were accustomed to wear long garments; these they girded about their loins, when it was needful to use expedition'. By this figure, familiar to them, the Apostle represents our duty. Our minds are dissipated by ten thousand vanities, and our affections, for the most part, flow loosely round us, but our thoughts and desires should be carefully gathered in. We should pray, like David, “ Unite my heart to fear thy name P." Heaven is not to be sought with a divided heart. Earthly affections would impede our progress, as flowing garments in a race: the prophet compares them to an incumbrance of thick clay upon the feetl. We should therefore “gird up the loins of our mind,” and “ give all diligence to make our calling and election sure.”] 2. Sobriety of manners
1 2 Cor. iv. 6.
& 1 Cor. xiii. 12. h Matt. xxv. 31.
2 Cor. iii. 18. compared with the text. m Zech. iy. 7.
n Matt. xxv. 32, 34.
[Sobriety, in the scripture use of the term, means moderation. Excessive cares, and inordinate attachments, are very unfavourable to the soul: they so engross the mind with present things, as to draw it away from those which are eternal. We cannot therefore too carefully watch against these evils. We should endeavour to be “dying daily” to the world. We should be as one crucified to it; and it, as one crucified to us". This is the state and character of every true Christians; and we must attain it, if we would successfully pursue the one thing needful.] 3. Steadfastness of faith
[Faith respects the certainty of the promises; and hope, the accomplishment. Now, our faith is apt to waver, and our hope, to languish. Temptations often allure us to forego our interest in heavenly things, and unbelief would often persuade us that we have no part or lot in them. But we must be careful never to be moved away from the hope of the Gospelt. Hope is the very anchor of the soul, that must keep us steadfast in this tempestuous worldu. We must “ therefore hold fast our confidence and the rejoicing of our hope firm to the end x." The nearer we come to the prize, the more earnest should be our expectation of it. If our conflicts be many, we should, even against hope, believe in hopey. The proper disposition of our souls is well described by the Apostles
?; and it is to persons of this description only, that Christ's appearance will be a source of joya.] ADDRESS
1. Those who are only nominal Christians
[Your loins indeed are girt, but it is for the pursuit of earthly objects. Instead of having your souls engrossed with heavenly things, you are perfectly indifferent towards them. As for your hopes they extend to nothing but what relates to
p Ps. lxxxvi. 11.
q Hab. ii. 6.
r Gal. vi. 14.