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REFLECTIONS. Let us not be surprised, if there are some who revolt from Christianity in our days; evincing thereby the insincerity of their former professions ; since even the apostolic age produced some instances of . this kind. But notwithstanding this, the foundation of God standeth firm, and the Lord knoweth them that are his. They will continue united with his church in faith and love, and no temptation will be able entirely to separate them from it. Vain are all pretences to adhere to the Father, if we desert the Son. To his gospel therefore let us stedfastly cleave, animated by the infinitely important promise of eternai life. Can we go to another Saviour? Can we expect from any other hand a nobler, or even an equal reward ? May we all, who profess a relation to him, receive an anointing from above, which may teach us all those things it is of importance for us to know, and which may engage us to abide in him with inseparable fidelity. Yet a little while, and he will again come, will appear with a glory which will warrant, and will reward the firm attachment we have manifested to his interests. May we not, at that important period, have reason to be ashamed before him; may he not be ashamed of us; but having confessed him before men, may we be confessed by him before his father, and his holy angels !
The exalted frivileges of the children of God, and the necessity of holiness
to prove that we are of that happy number. Ch. Ü. 29. iii. 1-10.
29 SINCE ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one iii. W that practiseth righteousness, is born of him.-Behold what
manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should
be called the children of God. In this respect the world knoweth 2 us not, because it knoweth not him. Beloved, now we are the · children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be:
but we know that if he be revealed, we shall be like him, for we 3 shall see him as he is. And every one who hath this hope in him, 4 purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Every one who practiseth
sin, practiseth also the violation of the law; for sin is the viola5 tion of the law: And ye know that he was manifested that he 6 might take away our sins; and there is no sin in him. Every one
who abideth in him, sinneth not: every one who habitually sin7 neth, hath not seen him, nor known him. Little children, let no
one deceive you: he who practiseth righteousness is righteous, 8 even as he himself is righteous. He who practiseth sio is of the
devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning: whereas the Son
of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the 9 devil. Every one who is born of God, doth not practise sin, be
cause his seed abideth in him; and he cannot sin like others, be. 10 cause he is born of God. In this are the children of God
manifested, and the children of the devil : Every one who doth not practise righteousness is not of God, neither he who loveth not his brother.
REFLECTIONS. How inestimable a privilege is it to be born of God! What infinite reason have those that possess it, to rejoice and be exceeding glad ! With what astonishment should we reflect upon the divine condescen. sion, in admitting us to such an endearing relation! Let us behold with admiration and joy, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we sinful wretched mortals, should be called the sons of
How glorious the inheritance, to which in consequence of this we are entitled! The world indeed knows it not ; nor do we ourselves completely know it. Even John, the beloved disciple (the intimate friend) of our Lord, who drank so deep out of the fountain-head of knowledge and holiness, even he says, it doth not yet appear what we shall be. But let us in sweet tranquillity of soul, depend on our heavenly Father, that he will do whatever is becoming his perfect wisdom and goodness, in respect to the advancement and felicity of his own children. During our state of minority, let us be contented to be at his allowance, and rejoice that we are in the general told, that when Christ the first-born of the family, shall make his second triumphant appear. ance, we shall also appear with him in glory, new dressed from the grave, to adorn his train, and transformed into his illustrious image, not only with respect to the glories of the body, but the bright glories of the immortal spirit. With him we shall have an entrance into his everlasting kingdom, and for eve experience the efficacy of that near and intimate vision of him, weich we shall there enjoy, to transform us into the same likeness from glory to glory. O that, in the mean time, we may all feel the energy of this blessed hope to purify our souls, that our hearts and dispositions may correspond to our expectations! When Christ came in human flesh, it was with this important purpose, that he might take away sin, that he might destroy the works of the devil, and reduce to order and harmony that confusion and ruin, which Satan, by his malicious insinuations, had introduced into the world. Blessed Jesus! may this thy benevolent design be more and more effectual. May the empire of sin and corruption, which is the empire of hell, be entirely subdued, and thy celestial kingdom of grace and holiness advanced. And may none [of us]deceive themselves, nor forget, that he alone is righteous, who practiseth righteousne88. By this let us judge of ourselves, whether we are the children of God, or of the devil. And instead of flattering ourselves that though we do commit sin with allowance, yet there may be some secret seed of God still concealed in our hearts; let us judge of our having received this regenerating principle, r by its tendency to preserve us from sir, and the victories it enables us to gain orer its destructive wiles and insufferable tyranny.
The necessity of brotherly-love, as a distinguishing mark of the children of
God. Ch. ii. 11, &c.
11 POR this is the message which you heard from the beginning, 12 T that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of
the wicked one, and slew his brother. And for what cause did
he slay him? because his own deeds were evil and those of his 13 brother righteous. Wonder not, my brethren, if the world hate 14 you. We know that we are passed over from death to life, be
cause we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother, abid. 15 eth in death. Every one who hateth his brother, is a murderer:
and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16 In this we know his* love, as he hath laid down his life for us : 17 and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Whosoever
therefore hath the good things of the world, and when he seeth
his brother in necessity, shutteth up his bowels from him, how 18 dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not 19 love merely in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And
in this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our 20 hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater 21 than our hearts, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart 22 condemn us not, then have we confidence before God. And what
ever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his command23 ments, and do the things which are pleasing in his sight. And
this is his command, that we should believe in the name of his
son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he hath charged us. 24 And he that keepeth his commandments, abideth in him ; and he
(i.e. God) abideth in that man: and by r this we know that he abideth in us, from the Spirit which he hath given us.
REFLECTIONS. O, that the divine Spirit which God hath given to dwell in believers, and by which he himself resides in them, may teach us more effectually this great lesson of love, which is so agreeable to the purposes for which [that Spirit] was conferred! Let us abhor the temper of Cain, as much as we abhor the actions it produced, and dread the doom they incurred. As for that hatred of the world, which in a steady adherence to our duty may probably fall to our lot, let it by no means surprise or discourage us. It is surely enough to support our spirits under the malice and outrage of a wicked world, that if we are steady and consistent Christians, we may know that we are passed from death to life. O blessed transition ! O the adorable riches of divine grace to which it is owing! May the ardour of our love to our brethren render this happy change more and more apparent : and may
* Many copies, which I here follow, read avis his, instead of Out of God.
this Christian benevolence be so ardent in our hearts, as to make us willing, when certain duty requires it, even to lay down our lives for them: having been ourselves distinguished with the like token of the love of our divine master, who spared not his own life for us; and 0, what are even thousands of our lives in comparison of his! And shall we then, while our brethren in the Lord are in necessity, be tenacious of our substance? When we are surrounded with plenty, shall we be unwilling to impart a little of our abundance for their relief, or content ourselves with the charity of words, which cost us nothing, while we withhold the things that are needful for them? How will such shameful, detestable hypocrisy disgrace all our pretensions to the love of God: but let us treat all hypocrisy either towards God or man, with detestation and abhorrence. Let us love, not only in word and in profession, but in deed and in truth, and rather choose that our actions should exceed our engagements, than disappoint in any instance the expectations we have raised.
Of what infinite importance is it to have confidence towards God in all our addresses to his heavenly Majesty! And if we desire this to be the case, let us reverence our own consciences ; avoiding every thing which would cause our hearts to condemn us, in the presence of him who is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things. And while we rejoice in this, that they do not condemn us, let us be very careful that we examine them thoroughly, that we be not imposed on by a false answer, as it is to be feared many are, through a superficial inquiry, whose expectations are the most sanguine, and whose pretensions are the loudest. Let us remember this great summary of Christian duty, that we believe in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that we keep his commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. An obedience, springing from such a faith, a faith verified by such an obedience, will give us a comfortable hope, that our prayer's shall be accepted of God now, and our persons accepted hereafter to eternal life. Amen.
Cautions against being deceived by seducing spirits ; and directions how to dis
tinguish between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Ch.iv. 1—12.
I DELOVED, believe not every Spirit, but make trial of the
D Spirits, whether they be of God: for many false prophets are 2 gone forth into the world. In this ye know the Spirit of God :
every Spirit that confesseth Jesus Christ, who is come in the 3 flesh, is of God. And every Spirit that doth not confess Jesus
Christ, who is come in the flesh, is not of God. And this is the
spirit of Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he is coming, 4 and is now already in the world. Dear children, ye are of God,
and have overcome them [these false prophets) because greater is 5 he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the
world; therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hear6 eth them. We are of God: he who knoweth God, heareth us;
he who is not of God, doth not hear us : by this we know the Spirit of truth, and the Spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one an
other ; for love is from God; and every one who loveth, is born 8 of God, and knoweth God. He who loveth not, hath not known 9 God; for God is love. In this is the love of God manifested in
us, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we 10 might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God,
but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our 11 sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, how ought we to love one an12 other? No man hath ever seen God. If we love one another,
God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
REFLECTIONS. The spirit of error has been working in some measure, in all ages of the church ; nor are we to wonder, if, having infested that of the apostles, it be transmitted to our own. It is necessary therefore to try the spirits, whether they be of God: and we may safely try them by the homage they pay to Christ ; and this not merely to his name, but to the genius of his religion, and to the great standard of it, which he hath left upon record in his word, that it might not be that uncertain thing which the fancies or traditions of fallible men might have rendered it. Antichristian principles and powers have arisen, but God has enabled, and he will enable, the remnant of his people to conquer them ; for the spirit in them is greater than that which is in the world. That may hearken to seducers, as they accommodate their doctrine to its prevailing lusts and passions ; but let us remember that the gospel is now established as a test, and we may admit, or reject, all human teachings, as they agree or disagree with it. If we read and hear it to any valuable purpose, it will teach us to love one another : that great lesson of our divine Master, with relation to which we have line upon line, and precept upon precept. If we value ourselves in any degree upon knowing God, let us give this proof of it, without which all our most subtile speculations or debates concerning his nature and perfections will be utterly vain. And that we may attain to this, let us frequently contemplate that incomparable display of his love towards us, in sending his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Let us daily consider our lives as derived from that great act of mercy and grace ; and that it is through Christ alone, as thus given us of God, that we can obtain and secure life eternal, since in him we receive the only appointed propitiation for those sins, which would otherwise have obstructed the passage of all good to us, even from the great eternal fountain of felicity. He hath prevented us with the blessings of his goodness : we did not love him, but he first loved u8. O, that this love on his part, may produce the warmest return on ours! and let us testify the sincerity of this affection, by remembering how it ought to influence our hearts to benevolence as well as devotion. And as we cannot see God at any time, nor extend any act of beneficence to him, let us see his image with due regard in every Christian, and in some degree in every human creaVol. I).