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If you think that you do love Him in some measure, however feebly, ask yourselves again, What influence does the exhortation in the text have over you? Do you consider how you ought to walk and to please God? Do you inquire continually with regard to your conduct, Is this pleasing to God? Are you anxious to be pleasing to Him at all times, to live as in His sight, as under His eye, realising His presence, that you may live to His glory? This may be called the criterion, the test of the Christian character. Let it be our anxious desire to please God in all things; to be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, shining as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life, that He may stablish our hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.84 Let us be diligent in prayer for the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit to be vouchsafed to us, that we may love the Lord Jesus and keep His commandments, that we may avoid all sin in thought, word, and deed, and may abound more and more in what is pleasing to God; that we may glorify Him in body, soul, and spirit, here on earth, and be made partakers of His everlasting salvation when time shall be no more.
83 Philippians ii. 15.
84 1 Thessalonians iii. 13.
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT.
THE CHRISTIAN'S EXAMPLE.
Ephesians v. 1, 2.
BE YE THEREFORE FOLLOWERS OF GOD, AS DEAR CHILDREN; AND WALK IN LOVE, AS CHRIST ALSO HATH LOVED US, AND HATH GIVEN HIMSELF FOR US, AN OFFERING AND A SACRIFICE TO GOD FOR A SWEET SMELLING SAVOUR.
THE season of Lent being regarded as a time for special humiliation before God, and renunciation of the dominion of our spiritual enemies, and particularly of self-denial respecting the evil desires and propensities of our fallen nature, the same topic is brought before us in the Epistle for this day, as that which was considered on the last Sunday.
The Epistle commences with an exhortation to the children of God to be conformed to the image and likeness of their heavenly Father, as that likeness was exhibited by our Lord Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God.85 The word rendered followers literally means imitators. If we are the children of God, our Saviour says to us, Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect; or, Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful; that is, Be imitators of Him, that thus you may manifest yourselves to be the children of your Father which is in heaven, by the likeness which you bear to Him. To such conduct the apostle had directed the particular attention of the Ephesians at the close of the preceding chapter, Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. The children of God will thus be imitators of their heavenly Father. Such He calls His dear, His beloved children. How wonderful is it that the God of heaven should so denominate any of the sinful children of men. How grateful ought they to be for this high distinction conferred upon them; and what anxiety does it become them to evince, that they should walk worthy of God, who hath called them unto His kingdom and glory; 88 or that they should, as it is expressed in
85 Col. i. 15. 86 Matt. v. 48, 45. 87 Luke vi. 36. 88 1 Thess. ii. 12.
the text, Walk in love: and especially so since they have such a pattern to follow as is here exhibited: As Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. What love was this! It was love strong as death; love which led Him to give up Himself to a painful and shameful death, that He might make reconciliation for iniquity, and be the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.90 With what gratitude of heart does it become us ever to reflect upon this love of Christ at all seasons, but especially during this season of humiliation, in which we are called upon to look forward to the commemoration of the great event of His bitter death and passion, as the substitute for His guilty and rebellious creatures.
The apostle makes mention of the sacrifice of Christ for sin, in order to enforce his exhortation to self-denial and mortification of the deeds of the body. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints. Such things are not to be the subject of conversation, much less to be indulged in by those who are a holy people unto the Lord their God.91 Their minds are not to be allowed to dwell upon these subjects; their tongues are not to be employed in speaking of what is so
89 Dan. ix. 24. 90 Heb. v. 9. 91 Deut. xiv. 2. 1 Pet. i. 15.
contaminating. Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which is not convenient; but rather giving of thanks. Filthy, idle, and loose conversation is altogether unbecoming a Christian profession. Instead of the mouth overflowing with any thing of this description, the Christian has abundant cause for expressing his gratitude or thankfulness to his heavenly Father for His unbounded goodness and mercy towards him. Talking on the subjects referred to is to be avoided, because of the dreadful consequences of living in the practice of the crimes here forbidden. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous or libidinous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ or of God. The heathen world was overrun with these abominations; and it was therefore necessary to impress the subject deeply upon the minds of those who were dwelling in the midst of people who openly and shamelessly committed them, that the end of these things is death, not only temporal but eternal; entire exclusion from the kingdom of God. But how needful was it also that this strong language respecting the evil and danger of those sins should be left on record in the word of God; for, alas! how are countries, called Christian, overrun with these vices, in like manner as the heathen world was, if not quite to the same excess.
As these sins are so gratifying to the corrupt