« PreviousContinue »
Restoration. And, at first, there seemed every probability that counsels of moderation would guide the course of the king (Charles II.). Between the Independents and the Prelatists there could be no truce; their union was hope. less. But between the Presbyterians and the more moderate Churchmen there seemed every prospect of an accommodation. The Presbyterians had been faithful to monarchy, even in its darkest eclipse. They had made many sacrifices for the king ; sacrifices for which they might now expect a recompense. They had not turned against the Church in the hour of her adversity, but had suffered with her at the hands of the Independents. Though preferring the synodical form of government, they were not indisposed to submit to Episcopacy, if only it were modified and guarded against abuse. “The moderate Episcopalian admitted that a bishop might lawfully be assisted by a council. The moderate Presbyterian would not deny that each provincial assembly might lawfully have a permanent president, and that this president might lawfully be called a bishop. There might be a revised Liturgy, which should not exclude extemporaneous prayer; a baptismal service, in which the sign of the cross might be used or omitted at discretion ; a communion service, at which the faithful might sit if their consciences forbade them to kneel.” And thus many of the religious dissensions which distracted and divided men's minds might be happily composed. But it was not to be. The Cavaliers, if they had learned anything from their defeat, had not learned moderation. Nor had the Church learned, from her long seclusion from her pride of place, by graceful concessions in things indifferent, to conciliate her adversaries, and effect a general unity in things cardinal and indispensable. And the people were weary of the Puritan rule; too weary to draw any distinction between Presbyterian and Independent. They were both schismatics, both hypocrites; for then, as now, the people judged by the outward appearance; and in that there was much to offend. While oppressed and persecuted, the Independents had kept themselves pure. There was nothing to attract men to their communion, save a love of the truths they held. But when they became supreme in the State, no man could rise to office, still less to eminence, except by their favour. Many who were not of them adopted their garb, affecting a godliness they had not. It was not hard for the most profligate of men to discard starch from his ruff, to assume sadcoloured clothes, to disfigure his countenance, and cant of comfortable Scriptures and precious experiences. Many passed for Puritans whose secret lives were full of corruption, and vice, and all uncleanness. The world is not a wiee world, nor much given to discrimination, for which, indeed, it has but little time. And so, according to its wont, it judged the whole body by its worst members, and pronounced the Independents to be as these hypocrites, and the Presbyterians even as the Independents. With Court and Commons against them, there was not much hope that the endeavours of the Presbyterian. Puritans to secure a scheme of comprehension would arrive at a successful issue.
THE HEIRS OF GOD.
BY THE REV. JAMES MARTIN, B.A. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."-Romans viii. 16, 17.
THIS passage occurs in connection with New Testament contains. The seventh one of the most complete and graphic des. chapter concludes with the cry of an earcriptions of the Christian life which the nest, heart-stricken man—"Who shall de
liver me?" This cry, however, is followed children of God.” Words, which were at once by the song of praise for deliverance written unquestionably for the comfort and obtained—“I thank God through Jesus encouragement of all who believe, have Christ our Lord;" and the eighth chapter been so misinterpreted or misapplied by opens with the new position of one who many Christians, that they have found in has been delivered. The threatening cloud them a cause of fear and trembling rather and overwhelming burden have now both than of confidence and joy. They have passed away; "there is no condemnation taken as their starting-point the assurance to them which are in Christ Jesus." This that, if they were Christians, the Spirit first deliverance is but the beginning of the would bear witness with their spirit. They end, the first in an infinite series of bless- have looked within to find the witness that ings. Many of these may be ours now ; should settle the anxious question,-“ Am but the highest of them the unalterable I a child of God ?" And then, not finding conditions of our earthly existence will what they sought, they have given way at always prevent our enjoying here.
once to the bitterness of disappointment, if Already does the Christian, to whom the not of despair. Spirit of God has been given, enjoy much What is it, now, that so often causes of the fruit of his union with Christ. He even true Christians to arrive at so differis “made free from the law of sin and ent a result from that to which the apostle death.” He is “spiritually minded,” he intended to lead them? Evidently this. is " in the Spirit,” and “the Spirit of God In their search for the Spirit's testimony dwells in him." His whole life is changed, they begin with preconceived notions (and he " walks not after the flesh, but after the often very mistaken ones) of what the naSpirit.” “He has received, not the spirit ture of that testimony ought to be. The of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of thing they seek for is generally some adoption, whereby he cries, Abba, Father.” striking and unquestionable evidence that But this is only the pledge of far greater they love Christ,—that they are “new things to come; for “ if he be a child, then creatures in Christ Jesus, "—that sold is he an heir, an heir of God, and a joint things have passed away, and all things are heir with Christ."
become new;" perhaps some inward half Of such importance was all this in the audible whisper, “ Thou art mine." And apostle's esteem, that he pictures creation when they find (as they often will) coldness itself as earnestly longing for the ultimate and carelessness, the old man still strong, result. Though man alone has sinned, man and old things still there in great abundhas not been debased alone. The creation ance, the conclusion is often rashly drawn: itself has been made subject to vanity, and there is no witness of the Spirit there, I is still waiting for the manifestation of the cannot therefore be a child of God. children of God. What final deliverance But the evidence sought for in such cases is in reserve for it we cannot tell. In what as these, is not that which we are directed manner it will share the glorious liberty of to seek for, as the ground of our hope that the children of God it were perhaps vain to we are " the children of God." Nor is it inquire. It is enough for us to know that I in fact such evidence as any Christian can whilst the whole creation is described as in safely rely upon ; for there probably never some wondrous sense looking at man, and | was a Christian in whom it could always be longing for his manifestation as a son of found. We do not mean by this that the God, the hopes of creation, as well as our | Spirit of God does not in all these ways own, rest upon the fact that we are the produce at times, in the heart and life of children of God, the heirs of God, and every Christian, an unmistakable testijoint-heirs with Christ-a fact to which mony that he is a son of God. In every the Spirit of God itself bears witness glow of Christian love, in every hope of when it enables us to cry, “Abba, Father.” Christian faith, in every act of Christian
Before we proceed to speak of the fact to obedience-in a word, 'in every fruit of which the Spirit bears witness, we shall holiness, every evil principle subdued and examine
good one implanted, we recognise not only I. THE NATURE OF THE WITNESS WHICH the Spirit's work, but the Spirit's witness THE SPIRIT BEARS.—Many an anxious that we are children of God. But none of thought has been caused by this unquali- | these are so permanent that a Christian can fied statement that the Spirit does “bear l always find in them the evidence that he is witness with our spirit that we are the l « born of God." The best of Christian
lives are fluctuating. Like the onward, self-willed and wayward, and many a pass. path of a vessel, which rides at one momenting feeling arises in his heart, which bears on the crest of the wave and then goes but little resemblance to the warm affecdown again into the trough of the sea, the tion of a child. But, even at the worst, Christian course continually oscillates be estrangement, enmity, has not returned; tween opposite extremes. Firmness and and though mixed up with strange, disfear, zeal and indolence, love and lukewarm cordant feelings, “the Spirit of adoption" ness, alternate in the lives of the holiest of -the child-like spirit-is still there. He men. And if, when we look for steadfast sometimes fancies that the face of God is ness, earnestness, and love, we are sure at hidden from him. He even cries,-“Why times to find wavering, sloth, and luke hast Thou cast me off ?” “ Will God be warmness, the conclusion seems irresistible, favourable no more ?” But amidst all this that in none of these are we to seek the he only feels that a Father's face is hidden; constant, standing evidence to which the not that the face of an enemy has appeared apostle refers.
instead. And though in bitterness of spirit * It is the more to be wondered at that he cry out to God, he calls him “Father" Christians should continue to look at these still. things for the evidence they desire, since In all this, then, which never leaves a the apostle has so clearly described in the truly Christian man,—this consciousness adjoining verse the permanent evidence for that the commands of God are not the which we may always safely look. “We fetters they once appeared to be, this total have not received," he says, “the Spirit of deliverance from guilty fear, this simple bondage again to fear, but we have received child-like confidence, which, when the way the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, is darkest and the heart most trembling, Abba, Father. The Spirit (thus) witness can still look up with the word “Father" eth with our spirit that we are the children on the lips, we find the unvarying testiof God.” In this passage he points out, mony of the Spirit of God. Other evinot only an effect which can only be pro dence the Christian has at times, but this duced by the Spirit of God, but an unvary. is always there. The feeling bears testiing effect which the Spirit of God never mony to the fact. And with this standing fails to produce. Human nature, before it evidence, “the Spirit beareth witness with has been changed by the Spirit of God, can our spirit, that we are the children of never throw off the feeling that the com
God." mandments of God are grievous, and the Let us now pass on torestraint imposed by those commandments II. THE FACT TO WHICH THIS TESTIan unwelcome bondage. Moreover, it never MONY IS BORNE.-" The Spirit itself bearlooks fully in the face of God with any eth witness with our spirit, that we are the other feeling than that of guilty fear, and children of God." This child-like confitherefore can neither render the cheerful dence is not a delusion. It is the testimony obedience of a child, nor with loving confi of God's own Spirit to the actual admission dence call God Father. Now, in all these of the believer into the family of God. The respects, a believer in Christ presents a crowning purpose of the work of Christ is permanent contrast to other men. “We to make us sons of God. “As many as have not received (and never do receive) received him, to them gave he power to the Spirit of bondage again to fear.” With become the sons of God. And here is the all the fluctuating feelings of a Christian, proof that the power has not been given in he never changes so much that he takes no vain. pleasure in serving God, or shrinks from But what is this sonship, this relation of the duties God imposes, as from a hard, children, which Christ secures for us, and oppressive task. The Spirit of bondage to which the Spirit bears witness ? The cannot thus come back to a truly Christian word adoption, which occurs in the 15th man. His faith may often fail. Doubts verse, though a very favourite word, is very and fears (of himself) may trouble and inadequate to explain the actual relation in darken his mind. But he never shrinks which a Christian stands to God. All that from God with guilty fear. He who has | it expresses is true, but at best it only exlooked with a believing heart at the cross presses half the truth. The Christian is of Christ, can never again be haunted by something more than an adopted child. those guilty terrors which once accom- 1 For what is adopti in? When a man panied the thought of God. He is still i who is childless adopts a son, he takes one who is not his own but another's child, I the race in its forefather was in the highest calls him his son, gives him the legal status sense a child of God, when God created of a son, makes him thus the heir of his him in his own image, and breathed into estate, and trains him to forget that he him the breath of life. And what altered ever had another parent, and call him alone this relation ? The loss of all that higher his father. All this truly represents what I life which came from God, and the recepGod bas done for the believer in Christ. tion of much which came, not from God, Till he received Christ as his Saviour he but from the devil. But what if this was not, and could not become, a son of disastrous work be all undone, if, beside God. But God has revoked the sentence the removal of guilt and the forgiveness of which cut him off from his family, has given sin, all that ever came from the wicked one him the legal status of a child, declared him is taken away, and the higher life that his heir, and taught him to call him Father. came from God be entirely restored, will He has thus adopted the outcast, and made he not be truly a child of God once more? him a child.
In " them that believe" this is accomBut here the analogy ends. A man may plished. The Spirit of God roots out and adopt another as his child, but he can never destroys all that has not come from God, really make him his son. He can never and quickens, restores, and implants only alter the fact that he is the child of another that which has. Every mark of the fali, man. Nor can he exterminate the natural every blemish that sin has produced, ungod. feelings which attract so mysteriously the liness of every kind, he takes away. On parent and the child. And should the true the other hand, he imparts and matures parent claim her own again, where can the every form of godliness instead. And when child be found in whose heart there would his work is complete, and we are presented be no response to a real mother's love ? faultless, there will be nothing in us, and God makes us children. We are not only nothing on us, which has not been the pure called sons, we are sons. There is reality creation of God bimself. It is by no mere in this relation; there is only the name in figure of speech then that the Christian is the other. Legally, he reinstates us in all called a child of God; for it is impossible the privileges of children. But he does | to conceive of any relation more close, more much more. He gives us his Spirit. “ Here- | vital, or more real, than that which exists by we know that he abideth in us by the between the Christian and his God. Spirit which he hath given us." He makes Created by the Father, redeemed by the us like himself; the Christian is “renewed Son, and sanctified by the Spirit, we shall after the image of Him that created him.” not only be altogether like God, but alto. Nor is this all. Man was not always an gether from God, and what is this but to outcast from the family of God. He was | be, in the truest, fullest sense, “ the children once a child of God. No individual man God”? can be so now till he is “born again :" but
(To be continued.)
BELIEVERS EXHORTED NOT TO GRIEVE THE HOLY
BY THE REV. W. WALTERS. “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."Eph. iv. 30.
I. YOUR ATTENTION IS INVITED TO THE FACT STATED IN THE TEXT-BELIEVERS ARE SEALED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT UNTO THE DAY OF REDEMPTION.
1. The figure is borrowed from the custom of sealing letters and other documents. Men affix their seal to that which they acknowledge and approve. They seal also that which they desire to preserve in safety. We find the expression used in the New Testament with both these significations. On one occasion,
when the multitude followed Jesus because of the loaves and fishes, he said unto them, " Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you : for him hath God the Father sealed." Here we have the idea of acknowledgment and approval. By the voice which spake from heaven, and the descent of the Spirit after his baptism-by the miracles of his life and afterwards by his resurrection from the dead-Jesus was sealed, acknowledged, approved as the Son of God. In the Apocalypse one angel cries to the four, “to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till ye have sealed the servants of our God in the forehead.” Here we have the idea of safety.
Both the above-named uses may be regarded as indicated in our text. 2. The sealing of which the text speaks consists, not in visions, or ecstacies, or persuasions, but in the production of Christian graces-in the accomplishment of such results as shall satisfy the individual himself, and others also, that he is a child of God. As a seal produces its impression on the substance which it stamps, so the Holy Spirit produces its impression on the hearts of all believers.
3. Thus we are declared to belong to God, and to enjoy his approval. Formerly we belonged to Satan. We bore his image. God could not acknowledge us. We were children of wrath, even as others. “ But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” He declares his act of grace. We profess the relationship. He endorses the profession. He is not ashamed to own us. “ This people,” he says, “ have I formed for myself.”
Let us rejoice that, whatever others may think of us however a thoughtless world may treat us with reproach-God is not ashamed to be called our God, nor to call us his people. “ This honour have all his saints.”
4. We have remarked that documents were sealed for safety, as well as for acknowledgment. The sealing of the Holy Spirit secures the safety of believers. No weapon formed against them shall prosper. Greater is He who is for them than all they who are against them. Rejoice, brethren, in this truth. You have already the earnest of your final and complete victory. Never despair. You are safe till “ the day of redemption." ,5. The “ redemption" here spoken of is the resurrection of the body from the grave at the last day; and the full glorification of the believer, when body and soul shall be re-united, and thus enter heaven. The apostle, writing to the Romans, says, that all those who have the first-fruits of the Spirit wait for their adoption, even the redemption of the body. In the first chapter of this Epistle to the Ephesians, he says we are " sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” By " the purchased possession" we understand the whole body of believers; by their “redemption," their final and complete glorification. We are therefore safe for ever.
11. NOTICE NOW THE EXHORTATION USED IN THE TEXT. We are entreated not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
It may be observed, in passing, that this is one of the many passages in Scripture which prove that the Holy Spirit is not an influence, or an attribute, but a distinct Divine person.
In considering the apostle's exhortation, we shall point out two or three ways in which the Spirit may be grieved ; and then endeavour to dissuade you from grieving him. .,1. The Spirit is grieved whenever we commit open sin. The context furnishes illustrations of this fact. If we indulge in falsehood or deceit, we grieve the
pirit; for he is a Spirit of truth and sincerity. If we yield to anger or any kindred emotion, we grieve the Spirit; for he is a Spirit of peace, meekness,