« AnteriorContinuar »
and to bring down into their souls an increase both of grace and peace. In a word, the tribulations which they had already endured, "had wrought patience, and experience, and hope;" and therefore, instead of trembling at the prospect of future trials, it became every believer to hold fast the profession of his faith, and, together with that, the rejoicing of his hope firm unto the end."]
What we have spoken sufficiently shews the scope of the Apostle's advice as given to the Hebrews to whom he wrote; and having ascertained that, we are prepared to consider it,
II. As applicable to ourselves
That there are many amongst ourselves, who, through the tender mercy of our God, "have been illuminated" with divine truth, we firmly believe: and to a certain extent the same consequences have followed, and do still follow, a profession of the Gospel in these latter times, as in the days of old. To all of you then who have been illuminated, we would offer the same advice as the Apostle did to the Hebrew converts, persuaded that it will be profitable,
1. For our humiliation
["Call to remembrance the former days," when first ye received the knowledge of the truth, and see whether there was not much in your experience then which may justly operate for your humiliation now. You then saw and bewailed your lost estate both by nature and practice, and gladly fled for refuge to the Lord Jesus Christ, as to the hope set before you in the Gospel. Having obtained a view of him as your Redeemer and your all-prevailing Intercessor, you rejoiced in him with. joy unspeakable, so that you seemed to be come as it were into a new world. Then the cares and pleasures of this life appeared to you as empty vanities, that were scarcely worth a thought: and then, whatever you were called to suffer, whether of loss or shame, for Christ's sake, appeared to you rather a ground of joy than of sorrow, insomuch that " you took joyfully" the injuries that were inflicted on you, and rejoiced that you were counted worthy to sustain them for Jesus' sake. Nothing intimidated you; nothing was suffered to retard your progress. With the world under your feet, and heaven in your eye, you went on cheerfully, and made your profiting daily to
But now perhaps your love has grown cold; your delight in the word of God and prayer has abated; your exertions in the pursuit of heavenly things have languished; and the power of divine grace upon your souls has visibly declined. Now prudence has not merely regulated (for that it ought to do) your zeal, but has greatly abated, if not altogether superseded, it. Now the cares of this life have regained an ascendant over you the frowns of the world, which once were disregarded, are become formidable in your eyes; and the fear of suffering loss in your worldly interests damps all your ardour. Now, instead of being altogether crucified to the world, and living only unto God, as in former days, you can scarcely be distinguished, except by an outward profession, from those who were never yet irradiated by the light of Gospel truth. Is this an uncommon case? Would to God it were! But what we see in the Church of Ephesus of old is yet visible, wherever the Gospel has been long preached. Of them the Lord Jesus says, "Thou has borne, and hast had patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." " Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen; and repent, and do the first works." So then say I to you: Call to remembrance the former days:" remember what you once were, and what your former works: and let the view of your declension fill you with shame and sorrow and contrition. afraid and tremble, lest the Lord withdraw from you the light with which you have been illumined; and beg of him to return in mercy to your souls, and to "strengthen in you the things which remain, and are ready to died."]
2. For your encouragement—
[It may be that either outwardly from men, or inwardly from Satan, you are strongly tempted at this time, and need to have a word of consolation and encouragement spoken to your souls. If this be the case," Call to remembrance the former days.' Trials have not for the first time come upon you now: you have in a greater or less degree experienced them from the time that ye were first illuminated. Who is it then that strengthened you to bear them at that time? Is he not still as able and as willing to help you as ever? Is not the grace of Christ as sufficient for you now as in former days? And does he not deserve as much at your hands now as he did formerly? If you rejoiced in doing and suffering for him years ago, is there not the same reason that you should do so now? If there was "a need that you should be in heaviness through manifold temptations" formerly, may there not be the same occasion
c Rev. ii. 3-5.
d Rev. iii. 2.
e 1 Pet. i. 6.
still? and if the "trial of your faith was precious to you heretofore, yea more precious than gold, because you knew it would be found to your praise and honour and glory, as well as to the praise and honour and glory of your Lord, at his appearing," should it not be alike precious now? If too an assured prospect of " a better and an enduring substance in heaven" once made all earthly things appear to you so light, that you could take joyfully the loss of all of them in the prospect of it, is it not of equal value now? or do you think that, when you shall have obtained the enjoyment of it, you will regret the sacrifices which you made with a view to it?" Then I say, "Continue to walk by the rule whereto ye have attained;" and "look to yourselves that ye lose not the things which ye have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward"."]
Let me improve the subject in a more particular
1. To those who have never yet been illuminated by the Gospel of Christ
[How painful should the review of former days be to you! O! the seasons you have lost! the mercies you have abused! the guilt you have contracted! How differently have your lives been spent from what they would have been if you had been Christians indeed! You would have been fleeing from the wrath to come, and would have so made your light shine before men, as to "condemn the world" around you, even as Noah did when he built the ark: and you would have found in Christ such peace as passeth understanding, and such joy as should have infinitely overbalanced all that you could ever do or suffer for him. But of persecution for righteousness' sake you know nothing; and still less of that high attainment of glorying in tribulation for the sake of Christ. Look back then to the days that are past, and be confounded before God because of your impiety: and pray that "the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened," and that you may yet be "brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of his Gospel." Be thankful to God that the light yet shines around you: and, "while ye have the light, be careful to walk in the light;" and "give glory to the Lord your God before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But, if ye will not hear this admonition, my soul shall weep in secret places. for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore and run down day and night," because of the awful judgments that await you'.]
f 1 Pet. i. 7.
Phil. iii. 16.
i Jer. xiii. 16, 17.
2. To those who, though illuminated by the Gospel, are not walking in the enjoyment of the Divine pre
[This may arise from temptation and spiritual bondage, or from sloth and carnality, and worldly-mindedness. If it have arisen from the former, God forbid that I should "break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax:" let me rather "hold up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees, and encourage the fearful heart." Well I know that the soul of a righteous man may be bowed down with spiritual distress, and be so sore troubled under the hidings of God's face, as to be deaf to the voice of consolation. Such was the state of David at one time; and the remedy to which he betook himself was precisely that which is recommended in my "I considered," says he, "the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night'." Then comparing his present painful experience with that which he had formerly enjoyed, he acknowledges, that all his present doubts and fears were the result of "his own infirmity." And then, to prevent the return of any such distressing apprehensions, he adds, "I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember thy wonders of oldm." Thus then do ye: call to remembrance the experience of former saints, and your own also at more favoured seasons: and then bear in mind that, though you change, God is the same, and that "with him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
But if, as in too many instances is the case, your darkness arise from a relaxation of your diligence, and an indulgence of worldly or carnal affections, I must "change my voice, for I stand in doubt of you;" and would have you also stand in doubt of yourselves, till it be clear that "Christ is formed in you" of a truth. If you are drawing back from God in secret, beware lest he leave you to yourselves to "go back to everlasting perdition." To "have run well for a season," will be of little avail, if you do not press forward in your heavenly course. The threatening denounced against backsliding Ephesus lies in full force against you; and you will do well to take heed to it. "I will come unto thee quickly," says Christ, "and will remove thy candlestick, except thou repent." Oh, return from all your backslidings with penitential sorrow and a lively faith; so shall your backslidings be healed; and "so iniquity shall not be your ruin !"]
3. To those who are walking steadfastly in their Christian course
k Ps. lxxvii. 2-4. 1 Ps. lxxvii. 5-19. m Ps. lxxvii. 11.
[Are you under trials? Every day brings you nearer to the termination of them: and your Lord and Saviour is just ready to set the crown of victory upon your head, and to put you into full possession of that better and enduring substance that awaits you. Look up to heaven and see the myriads that are now around the throne. "Whence came they? They all came out of great tribulation, and washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God"." And therefore shall you soon join their company, and unite with them in songs of praise to God and to the Lamb for ever. Only "be faithful unto death, and God will give you a crown of life," according to that sure word of promise, "To him that overcometh will I give to sit down with me upon my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father upon his throne." "He is faithful who hath promised, who also will do it" in its appointed time.]
n Rev. vii. 14, 15.
PATIENT FORTITUDE REQUIRED.
Heb. x. 35, 36. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
THERE have been, to the Church of Christ, seasons of bitter persecution, and seasons of comparative tolerance and peace: but in whichever of these states we be, it becomes us not to yield to dejection on the one hand, or undue security on the other. We are
soldiers on the field of battle, and must be ready to encounter our enemies whensoever they may advance against us. It will be time enough to put off our armour, when we have received our dismission from an earthly warfare, and are crowned with laurels in the realms of bliss. There had been to the Hebrew Christians seasons of severe trial, which the Apostle called to their remembrance: and it is probable, that when this epistle was written to them they enjoyed somewhat of tranquillity: but he bade them not to cast away their confidence: since they would still