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land; for David, after he was established on his throne, and had subdued all his enemies on every side, assumes the same title; and the same appellation is given to us also under the Christian dispensation. Though we are not called to dwell in moveable habitations, we, as much as the patriarchs themselves, should answer to the character of pilgrims. We should feel only indifference to the things of this worldshould be daily advancing towards the heavenly world And we should look forward to death as the consummation of all our happiness —— -]
b 1 Chron. xxix. 15.
c 1 Pet. ii. 11.
THE CHRISTIAN'S DESIRE.
Heb. xi. 16. Now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.
WHEREVER the Gospel is faithfully declared, it is generally known that we are to be saved by "the same faith as that which dwelt in our father Abraham :" but it is not so generally understood, that we are to "walk in the steps of Abraham ;" and that, in the most self-denying acts of his life, he was intended to be an example to us. But in its fruits, as well as in its object, our faith must resemble his. Now, amongst his most eminent virtues we must reckon his superiority to the world, in that he willingly left his own country to "sojourn in the land of promise, as in a strange land;" and continued, with Isaac and Jacob, to the very end of his days, to walk as a pilgrim and a sojourner there, in the assured hope and expectation of a better country, which he had in view. Both he and his family "had opportunities in abundance to return" to their own land, if they had been so disposed: but they knew themselves to be under the Divine guidance and direction; and regarded nothing in comparison of God's favour, and the ultimate possession of that recompence to which they had respect.
In them, then, we may see,
I. The character of every true Christian
The Christian seeks a better portion than this world can give him—
[He is in the world, and performs the duties of his station, like others: and, as to external appearance, he differs not materially from the sober part of mankind. He does not make an unnecessary parade of his religion; nor does he affect needless singularities but he moves quietly and unostentatiously in the sphere which God has assigned him. But, in "the spirit of his mind," he is widely different from every unconverted man. "His affections are set on things above, and not on things below." He sees the emptiness and vanity of all earthly things: he has weighed them in a balance, and found them wanting in every respect. He has seen how uncertain they are, both in the acquisition and enjoyment; how wholly unsatisfying to a spiritual mind; and how soon they pass away. Heavenly things, on the contrary, he has found to be every way worthy of his pursuit: and he has determined, through grace, to disregard every thing in comparison of them. He has learned to regard this world as a mere wilderness; a land through which he is passing to his own native country; the country where his Father dwells, and which is the place of his ultimate abode. The conduct of the patriarchs gives, in this respect, a just idea of the Christian. They dwelt in tents, and not, like those around them, in cities: and thus they shewed to all, and indeed avowed, that they were travelling towards a better land. Thus the Christian takes not up his rest in any thing here below; but shews, by the whole of his spirit and conduct, that he is indeed looking for "a better country, that is, an heavenly."]
In this he is distinguished from all other persons whatsoever
[Others may be weary of the world through disappointment and vexation; or they may feel an indifference towards some things that are in it. But there is no man, except the Christian, that is uniformly and universally dead to the world, at the same time that he has every opportunity to enjoy it. No person, but the true Christian, compares the two worlds together, so as to give a deliberate and determined preference to that which is above. The glories of the eternal world are seen by none but him, and therefore are coveted by him alone. Others, in their judgment indeed, will acknowledge the superior darрica conveys this precise idea, ver. 14. e Confessed, ver. 13.
c Col. iii. 2.
excellence of the eternal world: (in truth, there is no man so stupid and brutish as to entertain a doubt of it:) but in their hearts they do not love it; and in their lives they do not seek it. The true Christian, on the contrary, does seek it above all. And in this there is no difference to be found between
saints of any country, or any age. The mind of the Patriarchs is the mind of every Christian under heaven. The same sentiment prevails among the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the learned and the unlearned, the healthy and the dying. There may be a difference in many points both of faith and practice: but in this there is none. Every individual that is truly converted to God will say, "I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers weref."]
If the Christian be exalted in his character above others, so also is he in,
II. The high honour conferred upon him—
God is, by way of eminence, his God—
[Jehovah is the God of all the universe: there is not a creature in heaven, earth, or hell, that is not subject to his controul. But he is in a peculiar manner the God of those who consecrate themselves to him, and endeavour to walk according to his will. This is particularly declared in reference to the point before us; a separation, in mind and spirit, from the unbelieving world. "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God; and they shall be my people." See what God was to Abraham: how he conversed with him as a friend; admitted him to the closest fellowship; heard and answered his prayers; protected him from every enemy; and finally admitted him to his beatific presence in heaven. Thus will he do to all, who, like Abraham, endeavour to maintain a constant fellowship with him. Yea, whatever God himself possesses, even all his own infinite perfections, shall be employed in behalf of the believing soul, as much as if there were not another creature in the universe to engage his attention. Thus will he do, I say, in this life: and, in the life to come," he has prepared for the heavenly-minded Christian a city," a fixed habitation, a habitation suited to him, and worthy of God himself.]
f Ps. xxxix. 12.
2 Cor. vi. 16-18.
Nor will God be ashamed to avow himself his God-
[God would be utterly ashamed to acknowledge a worldling as standing in such a relation to him; just as we should to acknowledge as our friend and favourite a notorious robber, or an abandoned prostitute. The worldling does "rob God" in ten thousand respects. He robs him of his heart, his time, his service and commits whoredom and adultery, as the Scripture expresses it, with every base thing which solicits his regards. How is it possible that God should approve of such base proceedings, or profess himself the friend of such worthless creatures? Our Lord tells us, that "of those who are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed, when he shall come in the glory of his Father with his holy angelsk." He will turn from them with indignation, saying, "Depart from me; I never knew you." But of a faithful servant, neither God the Father, nor the Lord Jesus Christ, will ever be ashamed. On the contrary, "both the Father and the Son will come to him, and make their abode with him." Indeed, God rather loves to be called his God, and chooses to be designated by that very name. When Moses asked of God, by what name he should make him known to the children of Israel, God replied, "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel; the Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you. This is my name for ever; and this is my memorial unto all generations" Individual believers indeed are not, nor can be, mentioned in Scripture, as these patriarchs are: but it is as true of one as of another: and God will put no difference between one and another, any further than the fidelity of each individual shall justify a distinction in his behalf.]
1. Those who set their hearts on earthly things
[How unlike are you to the saints of former days! Compare your life, or rather your spirit, with that of the persons mentioned in my text. Do not mistake, as though their call was peculiar, and nothing resembling it is given to you. know you are not called to go out from your country, and to dwell in tents: but you are called to "desire a better country," and that supremely; yea, and not only to desire it, but to seek it; to seek it with your whole hearts. And is there not just occasion for you to seek it? Compare the present with the future world: can you doubt which should have the
h Mal. iii. 8.
1 John xiv. 23.
i Jam. iv. 4.
k Mark viii. 38.
preference in your esteem? You cannot. Why, then, do you not act agreeably to your convictions? Do you not know, that you can never have any hope of heaven, if you do not desire it: you can never possess it, if you do not labour for it? I must further say, that, if you will not be the Lord's people, you can have no hope that he will give himself to you as your God. You are afraid, perhaps, that your names will be cast out as evil, if you renounce the world, and live in it as pilgrims and sojourners. To be ridiculed as righteous overmuch, is, in your eyes, too formidable an evil to be encountered. But, if you are ashamed to be called God's servants, will not he be ashamed to be called your God? No doubt he will: and I wish you to consider this, ere it be too late. Without a surrender of yourselves to him, you can never hope that he will give himself to you.]
2. Those who are endued with patriarchal virtue—
[There are some, I trust, who, like the patriarchs, desire, and shew too by their lives that they do "desire a heavenly country." Go on, beloved, in your heavenly way; and whatever opportunities be afforded you to go back, regard them not: yea, if even the fiercest opposition be made to you, let it not impede your course one moment. What if people despise, and hate, and persecute you, shall that be suffered to divert you from your purpose? Do you not remember what is said of our Lord, that "for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross and despised the shame, and is set down on the right hand of the throne of God"?" Do ye, then, walk in his steps; and, like him, in due time you shall "inherit the glory prepared for you from the foundation of the world."] n Heb. xii. 2.
ABRAHAM OFFERING UP ISAAC.
Heb. xi. 17-19.
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
THE whole life of the patriarchs was an apt illustration of the life of faith; because, when they had abundant opportunities of returning to the country