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we could behold it, strike us blind; the blessings, which will then be scattered on us, would now overwhelm us, in an agony of joy ; and our ears cannot as yet receive that unutterable Song, in which the chosen of Christ shall join. But whatever is bestowed on us will be rendered of still greater value by the recollection that it is for ever. We cannot be happy here, because our happiness is only for a time, and because the danger of future loss must mingle with our purest enjoyment. But in Heaven is no more fear; we shall rejoice; and our joy neither men nor angels can deprive us of; our safety will be as firm, as the throne of God itself; and our lot will be cast for ever with the lot of His own Beloved Son ; “ where He is, we shall be also.” • The Tabernacle of God shall be with men ; and He will dwell with them :- and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death ; neither sorrow, nor crying ; neither shall there be any more pain :and there shall be no more curse ; for the throne of God, and the Lamb, shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face ; and His name shall be in their foreheads; and there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun ; for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign for ever and ever.” 1
1 Rev. xxi. 3, 4. xxii. 3, 4, 5.
Such will be the Kingdom of God: for the coming of which, we daily and nightly pray, in those words, which God Himself hath taught us. Let those, who long for their share in such a glorious heritage, remember, that it is through unfeigned sorrow for their former sins; through an earnest and lifelong struggle to amend their lives; and through a faith in Christ, which despiseth the light afflictions, and the poor enticements, of the present evil world ; that they can obtain the crown, which God's mercy offers to their acceptance. Oh, as ye desire, that the day of the Lord shall not be to you a day of blackness and mourning, — think, often and earnestly, on the glorious prospect held out to you in Scripture; and pray to the Lord of the marriage feast, that ye may be found at His coming, clothed in your wedding garments. “ Blessed are they, that do His commandment; that they may have right to the tree of life; and may enter in, through the gates, into the city. For without, are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and adulterers, and murderers, and idolaters; and whatsoever loveth and maketh a lie. - He, which testifieth these things, saith, Surely I come quickly,—Amen ;- even so come, Lord Jesus !” 1
1 Rev. xxii. 14, 15, 20.
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
ST. JAMES, i. 21. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughti
ness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
In the verses, which go before my text, and which, together with that text, have been read to you as the Epistle for this morning's service, St. James had been establishing the fact of our total dependance on God; the perfect freedom of His grace, in the work of redemption ; and the holiness of heart and life, which it was the object of that grace to produce in us. He then lays down, as a necessary consequence of these doctrines, certain practical rules for forwarding in ourselves the work of God's Spirit; for the avoiding of every thing, whereby its course might be grieved, or hindered; and for working out our own salvation, by the diligent use of those means, which the Almighty has, in His mercy, afforded to us.
Every good gift," he begins by assuring us – every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above; and cometh down from the Father of lights; with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." These expressions are, by the greater part of learned men, supposed to be intended as an answer to some strange and grievous errors, which, in the time of St. James, were very common, among both Jews and Heathen. As if a man's good or evil fortune in the world, and even the general character of his passions, temper, and disposition, were owing to certain effects of the stars; which shone, at his birth, or at those times, when he undertook whatever business he was engaged in. And it is in opposition to this foolish doctrine, that St. James begins by ascribing every good and every perfect gift whatever, not to these creatures of God, which His hand has formed, and which shine but by His decree,—but to God Himself, the Father of these and of
other light; who does not, like these.stars, move from one side of Heaven to the other; sometimes eclipsed, sometimes setting, sometimes rising :but “ with whom is no variableness, or shadow of turning;" and on whose perfect love, unchangeable will, and Almighty and everlasting power we can, therefore, depend with entire and thankful confidence. 66 Of His own will,” St. James continues, this great and good God begat us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.” Here it is to be first observed, that, as the act of becoming a Christian by baptism and by the Holy Ghost, is, in Scripture, uniformly described as being born again ; so the act, whereby God, through His grace, awakens our minds to a sense of our natural misery and corruption, and of His glorious promises in Jesus Christ, to repentance, to faith, to conversion, is, in like manner, often compared to natural production : and the Almighty is said to have begotten those anew, whom He thus calls, from the darkness and slavery of a sinful world, to the blessed light and liberty of His children. Thus, we find in the first chapter of St. John's Gospel, the members of the Christian Church described as “the Sons of God ;" “ which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” And St. Paul speaks of those, whom he had himself brought to Christianity, even as if they had been his own children ; and calls Onesimus “ his Son, whom he had begotten,” that is converted, “ in his bonds.” 1