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believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." But it was not so with these Thessalonians: their hearts were right with God; they had the root of the matter in them: their conversion, and their holy conversation, proved that "God had not appointed them to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ;"and hence they were safe.
Brethren, we are not free from danger. Not a few who once seemed to follow Jesus turn back, and "walk no more with him." Would we be preserved from the fatal infection? Let us not be satisfied with "a form of godliness," but get acquainted with its " power." Let us not carelessly amuse ourselves with the hope that "God hath from the beginning chosen us to salvation:" many an apostate has done this: but let us seek a personal acquaintance with the "sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." When plausible professors decline, and go back, it is a source of much grief; but when they stand fast in the Lord, when they grow in grace, and evidently advance in their heavenly course, "we are bound to give thanks alway to God." What does the Apostle say of some who erred from the faith, and mingled again with the world?"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for, if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." May you and I so conduct ourselves as to evince the sincerity of our profession, and the uprightness of our hearts; and so walk as to excite the gratitude, not the grief, of God's ministers and people!
2. As true Christians, they were seals to the ministry of the Apostles, and proofs of the power of the Gospel.
-This would greatly encourage and comfort them : seeing their friends walking in "belief of the truth," and growing in" sanctification of the Spirit," they would know assuredly that God was with them, and working by their means. When Barnabas came to Antioch, and saw "the grace of God," he " was glad," being glad, doubtless he was thankful; " and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord."
Proofs of the power of the Gospel are not altogether wanting among us; and some are seals to our ministry with all its defects. But we want more scals : in submission to the will, and by the energy of the Spirit of the Most High, we long to see more abundant fruit, a large accession of souls to the Redeemer, made willing in the day of his power. Awful is their condition, who, hearing the Gospel, reject it, or who "hold the truth in unrighteousness." Paul mentions such with deep concern: he does it "weeping," and says of them, They are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." Can we wonder that Christian ministers "give thanks" in behalf of such as hold fast the profession of their faith? Hear what the Apostle says of these Thessalonians : "Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you, in all our affliction and distress, by your faith; for now we live if ye stand fast in the Lord." And again, "for what is our hope, our joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, at his coming?"
our glory and joy."
And even now,
And even now, "ye are
3. As true Christians, they were a credit to Christianity, exhibiting its true nature and genuine in
fluence. We fear there were some, even in that church, of an opposite description, who did not understand the Gospel, who knew not its influence, and who manifested in their temper and lives a religion mutilated and deformed; and there are such professors among us. But it is lovely, and matter of lively thanksgiving, to see persons a credit to the cause which they espouse, an honour to the Gospel which they profess. It is well to appear friendly towards the Gospel, and to be able to speak for it; to be ready to suffer, and even to die for it: but it is best, by a consistent temper and deportment, to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." This was nearest the heart of Paul when he wrote to the Ephesians; "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called; with all lowliness, and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace *"" And thus also to the Philippians: "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the Gospel of Christ †.' This was the warmest wish of his heart; and, wherever he perceived it, he felt himself "bound to give thanks alway to God."
Let this be your study: let Christianity appear in you exemplified as it really is; attractive in its genuine form; the resemblance of Him who is "altogether lovely." While you walk in "belief of the truth," grow "in sanctification of the Spirit, and abound in every good word and work."
4. As true Christians, they were useful to others, particularly by their example and exertions.-What
is that example which faith inspires, and which holiness insures? It must be a holy example, corresponding with the nature of heavenly truth and the purity of the Holy Spirit. Mark the injunction of the Saviour; "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." And what are those exertions to which true Christianity stimulates ? They are doubtless benevolent and kind: they are persevering, and more or less successful. It is a sure sign either that vital religion is not possessed, or that it languishes and declines, when there is no heart for exertion in behalf of others. The Apostle saw his friends at Thessalonica alive and active, united and zealous, endeavouring to check the progress of error and sin, to diffuse the knowledge of the truth, and to bring men over to the obedience of the faith. This, indeed, is intimated when he speaks of their "work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope;" and, in the recollection of all this, he says, "We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you."
We all need exciting to activity and usefulness. May the love of Christ constrain us! And let us remember our professed character: "We are not of the night, nor of darkness: therefore let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober." After the example of our blessed Lord, let us work" while it is day the night cometh when no man can work." Observe the admonition of the wise man; "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest."
From the whole, we shall deduce one inference:
The doctrine of the Gospel is a "doctrine according to godliness." This we assert with the utmost confidence.-Men may suspect, and, either from ignorance or design, they may say, that God's choice of his people from the beginning, to salvation, relaxes the obligation to holiness, and leads to sinful negligence; but the text is a sufficient reply: the only path to final happiness is "through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." May God, therefore, increase our faith! And may his good Spirit work in us death ùnto sin, and new life unto righteousness; that personal "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord!"