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awful day, we have no other confidence but the righteousness of him who was slain, and who is now at the right hand of God. But rest assured, that they who by his grace have really found refuge in his mercy, shall never perish. Whatever are the horrors of that last conflagration, they shall float innocently by the true servant of Christ; they shall bear him subserviently and peacefully to the eternal palaces of light.



1 JOHN III. 1.

Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.

THIS first Epistle of John, is chiefly a letter of comfort and encouragement to those whom he considered to be truly sincere in the profession of the Christian faith. For this purpose he adopts many different modes of address, and among them we find the passage which we have just read. He had noticed the promise of eternal life, on which they were professing to rely; and had warned them of the risk of being led away from the comfort of that promise, by those who aimed to seduce them. But then he immediately referred them, as real followers of Christ, to that inward anointing which they had received from him, and which was to them a satisfactory testimony of the reality and sufficiency of the grace on which they reposed, and of the glory

for which they awaited. And then having so referred them to this internal testimony borne by the divine Spirit in their hearts, to the reality of their new and gracious relation to God; he calls upon them to survey with joy and gratitude, the privilege to which they had been so admitted, and the blessed source of divine love from which it flowed. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God."

This is unquestionably a most extraordinary privilege: yet it is one to which all the true disciples of Christ are admitted; and their right to it originates also in the very same principle of love, emanating from the divine mind upon our guilty race. So that the topic which St John set before the Christians of his day, is precisely the desirable subject for affectionate and grateful consideration by real Christians now. Let us then address ourselves to the examination of these two subjects of thought.

I. The privilege of the real Christian,—he is the son of God.

II. The source of the blessing,—it is the love of God.

And first, The privilege of the real Christian. He is the son of God. Even a casual reading of the epistle will shew any man, that the apostle speaks of this as the privilege and possession of

some only, not of all, nor of all who profess and call themselves Christians. For he lays down the principle very clearly, that there may be a false and futile profession of Christianity, and that "if we say we have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth." And this is still further explained, when it is said, "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now." And again, "He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk even as he walked." By which we must understand, that if there are any professing Christians, whose habitual walk is contrary to the purity of the law of Christ, any walking in enmity or in falsehood, the apostle regarded them as excluded from the number of real Christians.

And observe again, also, that St John assumes all through the epistle, that those who really are Christ's know it. He speaks to them of a fact of which they are decidedly aware. He lays out in his statements a character of the true servant of God, to which he assumes as a matter of course, that their hearts and consciences will respond; and he speaks therefore of the internal experience, and the holy character of the believer, as a matter to which they will unhesitatingly give their assent. And most unquestionably whatever has tended in. these latter days to gloss over the strong testimony of the apostle, to the substantial reality of Chris


tian experience, and make men assume it to be rally doubtful to ourselves, whether we are Christians or not, has injured the cause of God. It has taught us to place true religion more in the holding certain opinions called orthodox, than in the answer of a good conscience towards God, and the recognition in our own souls of the influence of saving truth, and the blessed and elevated moral and spiritual character which it imparts.

The truth is, that they who have been made by divine grace the sons of God, are called by his own word to rejoice in the privilege; and hence it follows, that they ought to be able to ascertain their privilege; and that when the infallible word sets forth distinctly the features of their character, they should, if in a healthy state of soul, be enabled to recognize it: they ought to be able to say as the Apostle said, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God."

Let us endeavour then to make out scripturally the character of a son of God by faith in Jesus Christ; and let it be the object of each who is really anxious on the subject, to listen prayerfully that he may be able to ascertain whether he is yet a partaker of the privilege. May the Spirit of God keep us from uttering or forming one erroneous notion on a subject of such awful importance.

I observe, First, That the natural state of man is not to be the sons of God. This sonship is always


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