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that they would have said, “ Lord, increase our love." But their request argued a juster view of divine truth. They did indeed stand in need of love ; but it could spring from nothing but faith; and would infallibly be produced by faith : and hence they presented the fittest petition that it was possible for them to offer. Let the same petition, then, proceed continually from your lips. Unbounded are your calls for this divine principle; and the more you excel in that, the more will you excel in every Christian grace.]
4. To have it as the one governing principle of
[It is “ by faith you are to walk," " by faith to stand," by faith to live continually: as the Apostle says, “ The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for mea." You have seen how wholly the saints of old gave themselves up to its influence: do ye go and do likewise; that, having lived by faith, and " died in faith,” you may receive “ the promise which God has promised you, even eternal life b.”] a Gal. ii. 20.
God's ESTIMATE OF HIS PEOPLE. Heb. xi. 38. Of whom the world was not worthy. THESE words are introduced in a parenthesis ; and are intended to obviate an objection, which might weaken, if not make void, the foregoing statement. The Apostle has been insisting upon the operations and fruits of faith; and has adduced a great variety of instances in which its power has been displayed.
Those who wrought such stupendous works by the power of faith might be supposed to be objects of high and deserved admiration; but those who suffered so many things under its influence might be thought to have merited their afflictions: whereas, in truth, the world itself, even that very world by which they were so persecuted, was not worthy of them.
Let us consider,
It is obvious that there is an immense difference between God's estimation of his people, and that in which they are held by an ignorant and ungodly world. The world accounts the saints unworthy of it
[This appears from the manner in which the world uniformly treats the saints. In the days referred to by the Apostle, multitudes of the saints were tortured on account of their piety; many“ had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth a." And these are the persons to whom this testimony is given, that “the world was not worthy of them.”
In the days of Christ and his Apostles, the same enmity against vital godliness betrayed itself continually. Our blessed Lord, though confessedly without spot or blemish, was " despised and rejected of men:” his whole “nation abhorred him," and combined to demand his crucifixion; preferring even a murderer before him. His Apostles too, as he himself had forewarned them, were hated of all men for his sake,” and were counted as “ the filth of the earth and the off-scouring of all things,” precisely as the godly in the days of Jeremiah had been before themb. St. Paul was certainly not behind any in wisdom or piety; yet of him was it said, “ Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live."
And is it not thus at this time also ? I appeal to all, Whether the very circumstance of a person being zealously devoted to the service of his God do not uniformly bring a stigma upon his character, so that, even though he should be the most active, and benevolent, and blameless of mankind, he will be regarded as weak and noxious in that particular? If from peculiar circumstances a man of piety be led to take a prominent part in the diffusion of true religion, I ask, Will not the world account him unworthy of their esteem, their company, their protection? Let the opprobrious names which are given to such characters, and the contempt with which they are treated, and the injuries which with impunity are inflicted on them, determine this point. He can know little either of the sentiments or conduct of those around him, who does not see, that at this hour, no less than in former times, “ they who are born after the flesh persecute those who are born after the Spirit;" and that “the enmity of the serpent's seed against the Seed of the woman" is as strong as ever.
a ver. 35–38.
b Compare Lam. iii. 45. with 1 Cor. iv. 13.
c Acts xxii. 22.
But, whilst the world thus accounts the saints unworthy of it,]
God, on the other hand, pronounces the world unworthy of them,
[God regards the saints as "his peculiar treasure above all people upon the face of the earth.” In his estimation they are as lights in a dark world, and as “salt” which keeps the great mass of the ungodly from utter putrefactiona Nay further, he sends them as leaven to diffuse piety all around them, and to impart to others the blessings which they themselves have received. But the world is unworthy of them: for they know not their value; and are regardless of all the advantages which they might derive from them; yea, they are insensible of the benefits which they are daily receiving from them; and they requite all their kindness with nothing but hatred and contempt.
We have not time to enter minutely into these different particulars : yet we must not pass them over without a few words to elucidate and confirm them. Go back to the days of the Apostles: see in what light those distinguished servants of God were regarded: see at what a low rate all their labours were appreciated in every city, not of Judæa only, but of the whole world. What benefits might the people in every place have received, if they would have listened to the instructions and followed the examples of those holy men! So at this day might they be benefited by the saints and ministers of the Lord, so far at least as those saints and ministers are themselves conformed to the doctrines and examples of the primitive saints ? Indeed the world is, though unwittingly, benefited by the saints in a very high degree: for by them the tone of morals is raised, wherever they come: and a multitude of Institutions for the temporal and spiritual welfare of mankind are set on foot; Institutions, which would never have been carried forward, if the zeal and piety of the godly had not led the way, and the envy and jealousy of the careless been provoked to tread in their steps'. How far the words of our Lord respecting Jerusalem are applicable to the present day, I pretend not to say: but in that day, the tribulation that came on Jerusalem was greater than had existed since the beginning of the world, insoniuch that “ if those days of trouble had not been shortened, no flesh would have been saved: but for the elect's sake those days were shortened 8.” And if only ten righteous men had been found in Sodom, both that city, and all the other cities of the plain, would have been spared. Who can tell then what judgments would be poured out upon the ungodly world, if the saints by their piety and their prayers did not stay the hand of an avenging Godb? But how these benefits are requited, it is needless to observe. Suffice it to say, that God's estimation of his saints is the same as ever; and his declaration concerning them is, that "the world is not worthy of them."]
d Matt. v. 13, 14.
e Matt. xiii. 33. i The Societies for the Diffusion of the Holy Scriptures, for sending forth Missions to the Heathen, for the Conversion of Jews to Christianity, and for the Education of the Poor, abundantly illustrate this truth.
Let us then proceed to state, II. The sentiments with which this record should
inspire usIt should teach us, 1. To disregard the indignities that are cast upon
[Man has his “ day:" but God has his also: and in the prospect of the ultimate decision of an infallible Judge, it should be a small matter to us to be judged of man's judgment'. When men pour contempt upon us, we should say as our blessed Lord, “ Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.". In reference to the persecutors of that immaculate Lamb, the Apostle says, that " through ignorance they persecuted him," and that, “ if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” So, if men really knew what God has done for his chosen people, and how
precious their blood is in his sight,” they would not venture to oppose them in the way they do. Men are beguiled by their own prejudices: they persuade themselves that piety is hypocrisy; and that, to diffuse it, is to “ turn the world upside down :" and, in opposing it, " they think they really do God service.” Towards them therefore we should feel pity, rather than resentment: and on our own account we should feel nothing but exceeding joy; since we only participate the lot of God's chosen people k, and are rendered conformable to the example of Christ himself..]
2. To adore and magnify our God, who has so distinguished us
8 Matt. xxiv, 21, 22.
h Gen. xix. 22.
[Who is it that has made any of us to differ from the world around us m? Verily," he that hath wrought us to the self-same thing is God"." In ourselves we were no better than others: we were
dead in trespasses and sins,” like all around us; and were “ children of wrath, even as others." But he pitied us;
“ he looked upon us whilst lying in our blood, and bade us live.” O how should we bless and adore him for such amazing love! Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God P.” Let us enter into the full spirit of these words of the loving and beloved Apostle: and let us never cease to call on “ all that is within us to bless” and magnify our adorable Benefactory.]
3. To walk worthy of our high and heavenly calling
[“ What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness!” Has God called us to glory and virtue? has he made us " a peculiar people on purpose that we should shew forth both the praises and the virtues of him that has called us??" Let us then “ walk as becometh saints," and “walk as becometh the Gospel of Christ." If we profess to have received such mercies at the Lord's hands, the world have a right to expect that we should surpass them as much in real excellence, as we do in the privileges of which we make our boast. “ What do ye more than others ?" is a question which they have a right to ask, and to which we ought to be able to return a satisfactory answer. Yea, our very lives should supersede the necessity of a verbal answer; we should be “ epistles of Christ, known and read of all men." If indeed the world be not worthy of us, let them see their inferiority by our lives; and be constrained from what they behold in us to acknowledge, that “the righteous is more excellent than his neighbour." If the difference between them and us be so immense as the Apostle represents it to be", let us labour to comply with his direction, and to shine before them with all the splendour of a holy people..]
4. To exert ourselves in bringing others to a participation of the benefits which we enjoy
[“ Our light is not to be put under a bed, or under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that all around us may receive the benefit.” The importance of this in relation to the blessings of civilization is generally acknowledged: and is it less m 1 Cor. iv. 7. n 2 Cor. v. 5.
o Ezek. xvi. 5, 6. P 1 John iii. 1.
9 Ps. ciii. 1-3. r 1 Pet. ii. 9. the Greek.
8 2 Cor. vi. 14-18. + Phil. ii. 14, 15. This passage must be particularly marked.