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II. LET US DRAW SOME CONCLUSIONS FROM THE SUBJECT. things be so, some may think we had better be without knowledge, and be contented to live and die in ignorance. This is not the consequence, however, which the writer wished to have drawn from what he wrote. He says, That the soul be without knowledge it is not good; and Wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. He must, therefore, have judged, that, whatever disadvantages attended wisdom and knowledge, the advantages arising from them were far greater. Much of the sorrow arising from a knowledge of ourselves and of God, is to be desired, rather than dreaded; and, as to that which arises from a knowledge of the evils of the world, and even of the church, it is best to know the truth, though it may give us pain. That exemption from sorrow which arises from ignorance is seldom enviable. To know the evils that are to be found among men is necessary, not only to enable us to guard against them, but to know how to deal with them in religious concerns. If we be ig
norant of their faults and defects, we shall be at a loss to carry conviction to their minds, and so to make them feel the need of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. So, to be ignorant of the faults and defects of men professing religion, must be injurious both to them and to ourselves. Without knowing the truth concerning them, we cannot reprove them, and so cannot reclaim them. If those of the house of Chloe had not written to Paul on the state of things at Corinth, it would have saved him much sorrow, but then what had been the state of the Corinthians? To all appearance they were in the way to ruin; and so a tribe, as it were, would soon have been lacking in Israel. And as to ourselves, by knowing, in a certain degree, the evils that are to be found, even in the church of Christ, we are better prepared to meet them, and less in danger of being stumbled, or tempted to think the worse of religion, on account of them. By knowing things, in some good degree, as they are, we are enabled to make up our minds. Thus it is that the falls, and even the falling away of some, while it causes much pain, yet does not shake our faith. We learn to think well of religion, let those who profess it prove what they may: Let God be true, and every man a liar! And, in knowing
the faults and defects even of sincere Christians, we are not led to think ill of them as Christians, or lightly of Christian communion. If a true friend of his country could say,
"England, with all thy faults, I love thee still!"
much more will a true friend of the church of Christ consider Christians, with all their faults, as the excellent of the earth; better than the best of worldly men! And, if we love them, it will be in our hearts to live and die with them! Nor is it unnecessary that we should be acquainted with the miseries of mankind, whatever sorrow they may occasion: otherwise, we cannot sympathize with them, nor relieve them, nor pray for them, nor feel so great an anxiety for the coming of that kingdom whose healing influence shall remove their sorrows.
Three things, however, are taught us by this subject:
First: To be moderate in our expectations, as to things pertaining to this life. If vexation of spirit be attached to wisdom and knowledge, what can be expected from less valuable objects? We need but little, nor that little long. The trial made by the wise man, of mirth and pleasure, of building and planting, of the gathering together of silver and gold, &c. is, doubtless, recorded to teach us that substantial good is not to be found in them. The consequence drawn by the Apostle from the brevity of life, is designed to moderate both our attachments and our sorrows. The time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it for the fashion (or scenery) of this world passeth away. It may seem, to some, that, if we were to feel and act up to this precept, it would deprive us of half our enjoyments; but this is a mistake. To be moderate in our expectations, is to increase our enjoyment, while the contrary diminishes it. Expectation, raised beyond what truth will support, must be disappointed; and disappointment will imbitter that which, if enjoyed in moderation, would have been sweet: Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure, and trouble therewith.
Secondly: We are taught, hereby, to seek the favour of God, as the crowning blessing to all our enjoyments. The vexation of spirit which belongs to the portion of a good man, is not as that which attends the wicked. The first is accompanied with a blessing, the other with a curse: God giveth to a man that is GOOD IN HIS SIGHT, wisdom and knowledge and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather, and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. After all the particulars enumerated in the blessing of Joseph, as the precious things of heaven, the dew, and the deep that coucheth; the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and the precious things put forth by the moon; the chief things of the ancient mountains, the precious things of the lasting hills, the precious things of the earth, and the fulness thereof; the crowning blessing follows-and the good will of him that dwelt in the bush! If this be wanting, all the rest will be unsatisfying. If this be on our heads, our sorrows, whatever they be, will be turned into joy.
Thirdly We are taught, hereby, to aspire after a state in which good will be enjoyed without any mixture of evil, as a subtraction from it. If our wisdom be that of which the fear of the Lord is the beginning, and the object of our knowledge be the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, we shall soon reach that state of holiness and blessedness that is without alloy. Wisdom and knowledge and joy, will then be given us, and all the sources of sorrow which have been enumerated will be dried up. The more we know of the inhabitants of that world, the better we shall think of them, and the more we shall love them. Among all the nations of the saved we shall not find one whose character will not bear scrutinizing. If every heart were as naked to us, as ours now are to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do, we should find nothing in them but love. No hypocrisies will be there, not envies, nor jealousies, nor hard thoughts, nor evil surmisings, to imbitter the cup of joy. No surrounding miseries shall damp our bliss; no error shall throw a mist over our minds, or lead us aside from God. And what is still more, no imperfections shall mar our services, nor indwelling sins pollute our souls. To this blessed state may we, by all the sorrows of the present life, be led unremittingly to bend our course?
THE MAGNITUDE OF THE HEAVENLY INHERITANCE.
ROM. viii. 18-23.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope: because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together until now: and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
THERE is, in this part of the Epistle, a richness of sentiment and a vast compass of thought. The Apostle, having established the great doctrine of justification by faith, dwells here on things connected with it; some of which are designed to guard it against abuse, and others to show its great importance. There is, therefore, now no condemnation, says he, to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. If ye live after the flesh ye shall die: but if ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Having thus entered on the privileges of believers, the sacred writer is borne away, as by a mighty tide, with the greatness of his theme. Heirs of God!
what an inheritance! Such is the tenor of the covenant of grace : I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Joint-heirs with Christ! what a title! We possess the inheritance not in our own right, but in that of Christ; who, being heir of all things, looketh down on his conflicting servants, and saith, To him that overcometh will I grant to sit down with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. It is true, we must suffer a while; but, if it be with him, we shall be glorified together.
By the glory to be revealed in us, is meant, not that glory which we shall receive at death, but the consummation of it at the resurrection. It is the same as that which in the following verses, is called the manifestation of the sons of God-the glorious liberty of the children of God-the adoption to wit, the redemption of our body. It is that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, for which Christians are taught to look; that grace in pursuit of which we are exhorted to gird up the loins of our minds, to be sober, and hope to the end, and which is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
On this great inheritance, to which the sons of God are heirs, the Apostle enlarges in the words of the text. It is an object of such magnitude, says he, that all the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with it; of such magnitude as to interest the whole creation; and, finally, of such magnitude that our highest enjoyments do not satisfy us, but we groan earnestly after the full possession of it. To review these three great points is all that I shall attempt.
I. SUCH IS THE MAGNITUDE OF THE GLORY TO BE REVEALED IN US, THAT THE SUFFERINGS OF THE PRESENT TIME ARE NOT
WORTHY TO BE COMPARED WITH IT. In speaking of these opposites, the Apostle as by a kind of spiritual arithmetic, seems to place them in opposite columns. The amount of the column of sufferings, if viewed by itself, would appear great. Much evil attends us, both as men, and as good men. The misery of man is great upon him; and great are the afflictions which have been endured by the faithful for Christ's sake. For his sake they have been killed all the day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaugh