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to men of low estate; or take an interest in the affairs of the humble and poor, as well as in those of persons of a higher rank in life; since God accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of His hands.72
Such is the conduct which Christianity inculcates upon its professors, and which those who are influenced by the consideration of the mercies of God vouchsafed to them, are bound to follow. Let us seek grace from God to enable us to live such Christian lives, as it is here shown we ought to do, that we may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things, and may manifest that we have not received the gospel of the grace of God in vain. It is only as we are influenced by the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we shall fulfil this our bounden duty and reasonable service. This grace we must seek by humble and earnest prayer, if we would
Having now briefly noticed the various exhortations contained in the Epistle for this day; let us revert more particularly to those which are presented to us in the text. As the last of these exhortations may be considered to be closely connected with those which precede it, we may regard it as a direction to be importu
72 Job xxxiv. 19.
73 Titus ii. 10.
nate in supplication at the throne of grace, in reference both to the present circumstances, and to the future hopes of the children of God.
The character of the child of God here on earth is that of a suppliant or petitioner, one who is continuing instant in prayer. That which compels him to have continual recourse to the throne of grace, is the state of affliction or tribulation in which he is usually placed in some respect or other in this world. This was especially the state of the primitive Christians. The apostle therefore found it needful to exhort the Thessalonians, That no man should be moved by these afflictions, for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.74 And while he besought those among whom he had gone preaching the kingdom of God, to continue in the faith, he did not refrain from reminding them that in that case affliction would attend them, that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. So our blessed Saviour also declared to His disciples, In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.76 The first Christians were exposed to a great deal of affliction and persecution in consequence of their
74 1 Thess. iii. 3, 4.
75 Acts xiv. 22.
76 John xvi. 33.
Christian profession. It was therefore needful to admonish them to be patient in tribulation. The apostle addresses the Hebrews as having endured a great fight of afflictions; partly, whilst ye were made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used." And in the persecutions to which they were exposed, he says to them, Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves, that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance." Thus it appears that it was because of their rejoicing in hope of good things to come, that they suffered patiently what they were called to endure from the ungodly world around them.
Blessed be God, we are not required in our day, and especially in our own country, to risk either our lives or our property by a profession of genuine Christianity. On the contrary, a profession of true religion, where consistency of character is maintained, is rather honourable than otherwise; for however despised it may be by some persons in secret, it is usually honoured in public. True religion is established by the laws of the land; and we can worship God according to His holy word, or as He has commanded us, while none dare to disturb or make us afraid. Yet still it will always be true,
77 Heb. x. 32-34.
in some respects, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;78 for the world cannot love those who, like their Divine Master, testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.79 The true Christian by his life and conduct, as far as it is regulated by the word of God, condemns the world. He affords to the children of this world a practical proof that they are wrong. They cannot but feel convinced that the course which he is pursuing is so very different from theirs, that both of them cannot have the same termination; and therefore they endeavour to persuade themselves that his religion is hypocrisy, and they call his good conduct folly. At the same time they often attempt to make him odious by some evil name, that they may excuse themselves from adopting his principles, or following his practice. But among us it is, through the goodness of God, a light cross which His children have to bear. Let us not, on that account, relax our diligence or our efforts; or restrain prayer before God; but rather let us ardently pursue our heavenly journey, thankful for the temporal as well as the spiritual blessings which we are permitted to enjoy, while we are sojourners in this world.
But the world is not the only enemy of the believer in Christ. From the effects of the
78 2 Tim. iii. 12.
79 John vii. 7.
opposition of the ungodly he may in some measure hide himself, by avoiding to come in contact with them, or by having no more intercourse than is absolutely necessary with the children. of this world. There is a nearer and more subtle foe within him, which is an unceasing source of trouble and anxiety; that is, the flesh with its affections and lusts.80 These war against his soul. Here is a fight with one's self; between our earthly passions and desires, and our bounden duty to fulfil the will of God. On this subject the apostle said to the Galatians, The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other. And to the Romans, I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. This made him exclaim, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?82 But while he groaned, being burdened with a body of sin and death, he could also add, I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord; or, as he said at another time, Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ,83 because he was persuaded
80 Gal. v. 24. 81 Gal. v. 17. 82 Rom. vii. 21-24. 83 1 Cor. xv. 57.