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النشر الإلكتروني



1 JOHN III. 2.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Ir is natural to the human mind to crave after a knowledge of its future lot. Even those whose characters are debased by a criminal attachment to this world, and whose views are limited and narrowed by that attachment, eagerly desire to know what will be their portion here in days to come; and for this purpose frequently give themselves up to be deluded by the most absurd pretenders to prophetic knowledge.

Much of this restlessness is however calmed by an experimental and saving knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. When a man discovers his real character, and sees himself as the Scripture "in the light of God's countenance;" when


he ascertains by this comparison his own guilt, and the extent of punishment he has deserved, and learns that through the love of God manifested by the death of his only Son, he is spared, redeemed, and received into favour: when instead of living under the perpetual dread of divine indignation, he can say, "Now are we the sons of God," then the whole circumstances of his case are altered. Instead of speculating with pride and selfishness upon his future gain or exaltation, he lies low before the throne of God in the spirit of contrition, counting it a mercy that he was not long since consigned to the eternal prison. He regards every comfort of mind or body as an undeserved mercy; and if amid the vicissitudes of this life, he finds "the peace of God which passeth all understanding, keeping his heart and mind," he can then draw near in thankfulness to God, conscious that his cup of blessing runneth over, that goodness and mercy have followed him all the days of his life, and that he can affectionately leave the future in those mighty and beneficent hands, from whence he has already received so much. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God," goes far indeed to soothe the irritable restlessness of the human heart. It is easy then to say of the yet unseen world, "Thou wilt guide me by thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory;" or to say of the future in this chequered life, " Although the fig


tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, and the labour of the olive shall fail; yet will I rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation." "The Lord God is my strength.” Or as St Paul says, "My God shall supply all my needs out of his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."


But although that eager craving after a knowledge of the future is much subdued and quieted on right principles in the truly enlightened and Christian mind; there is still an allowable feeling of desire going forth after a clearer view of the realities of that future state on which the Christian hopes, as the adopted son of God, shortly to The interests of time are sunk with him to an insignificant point. The value of the whole of this transitory dispensation, is summed up in the one gracious result to which in his case it has led. To be able to say, "Now are we the sons of God;" to feel on satisfactory grounds that the issue of our progress hitherto through earthly sorrows, has been the gift of such a title and such an inheritance, is to have realized the crowning blessing of this existence. It is to have obtained by a spiritual chemistry, the concentrated essence of all that is really valuable. It is to have gathered the pearl of great price and after this, all that this life has to offer, is insipid and common-place. Thenceforth the only real happiness which this life can administer, will flow from the opportunity of exemplifying here, the characteristics of that heavenly sonship, and rea


lizing, while we remain on earth, a foretaste of that heavenly inheritance which is now in prospect,-a prelibation of the joy of those celestial dwellings on the everlasting hills, to which this valley leads.

But the great object now before the mind of the real Christian, is eternity. It spreads before him with increasing breadth and dignity. It comes forth to him from the dim mists of distance, with an ever-freshening lustre. The interests of a state that one instant may terminate, cannot now, for any length of time, totally call off the mind from the certainty of eternal things. Every thing is now naturally referred to eternity. And consequently the desires do go forth ardently after a clearer knowledge of that future world: not with mere curiosity to know what is yet unknown; not with fretfulness, because all the present is dissatisfaction; not in the spirit of a vain speculation to pierce the impenetrable veil of the divine secrecy, and to rush with a rash and unhallowed gaze into that light, which must wither up at once the vision of the profane;—but with a consistent breathing after the inheritance promised to the sons of God; and with the wish to know, in all their substantial reality, the crowning felicities of that spiritual life which is already begun and delighted in below. It is in fact, a comparing what we know of the provision made within us already for a removal to that world of light, with any further notices which

the authorised record gives; and it is an endeavour to satisfy the mind on the subject, as far as our heavenly Father has been pleased to disclose his will. "Now," says the true believer, "now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." And as this is said upon authority in the volume of divine inspiration, it is evident that some satisfaction is really given upon this immensely important subject. This text itself is an authoritative and satisfactory communication. For our own benefit, therefore, and with a view to meet in a proper manner that inquiry which must arise in the mind of the true children of God, we will endeavour to enter into the consideration of this passage: and may the Spirit of revelation pour out his sacred influences upon us, while we are so occupied, to sanctify our inquiry, and render it profitable to our souls.

I. Observe first, A degree of obscurity yet hangs over our future state. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." In some respects the most advanced Christian on earth remains ignorant respecting the future; and it is a part of Christian wisdom to know how far light is given, and where it is withheld. Something on this subject has been confirmed to the Christian, as matter of moral certainty. Every thing, in fact, has been disclosed that

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