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If the word of God itself be only the Spirit taking of the fulness of Christ, and shewing it in all possible forms and varieties to the mind and heart of man; what else ought the system of theology to be, than an endeavour of the church to give the same subject, the only subject, even Christ, such a form and representation as may be profitable to every day and generation of men. If they pretend to teach any thing besides Christ, they pretend to teach what is beside and beyond the comprehension of man : for in Christ all that can be comprehended of God is summed up. If they think that any thing is taught of God, without teaching Christ, or any thing apprehended of God, otherwise than by apprehending it in Christ, they err grievously, subverting the foundation of truth, and building up a fabric of speculation which hath no reality; of falsehood, which hath no being. For example, the words election, effectual calling, redemption, justification, sanctification, adoption, &c. have no religious meaning, nor power of truth in them, till they are referred to Christ, and understood as revealing certain features of his character, certain parts of his fulness, which is the fulness and character of God. They are mere verbiage, idle, and unmeaning words, worthless, and worse than worthless terms, until they have been expounded in the person of Christ, and seen alive in him, and felt as revealing something of the living and true God. And they will profit no man's soul, in the way of morality and religion, until they have been so re-collected into the person of Christ, and seen in living vital action in his glorious work. Religion is the commerce and intercourse of an intelligent creature, with an intelligible God, of an accountable creature, with a holy, governing, and judging God; it is the transaction of a person with a person, not of a person with words, nor yet with things, but with God, who gives himself forth in word first of all, that afterwards that word may become flesh, living flesh ; so that in learning words we have learned nothing, unless we make them flesh, living flesh. The Scripture is all alive with personality : systems of theology are altogether, or almost emptied of iť. Let it not be so, O my tongue, O my pen, with any thing which you utter or indite.
II. THE GOOD SHEPHERD'S CHARGES. He who had taken to himself so wondrous a name, wherein is concentrated the fulness both of the moral and the natural world, doth next proceed to the work of coun. selling, rebuking, and exhorting his servant the angel of the Laodicean church, with whose works he was altogether and thoroughly acquainted. And first, he states in few words, the evil condition of him and his church ; " I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot ;"—then he threatens the punishment proper to such an offence; “ So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth;"—then he presents the cause of this miserable state of the church ; " Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (ver.17); --fourthly, the counsel; “ I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich ; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see" (ver. 18) ;--fifthly, the discipline ; “ As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten : be zealous therefore, and repent" (ver. 19);—and, lastly, the abiding of his love ; “ Behold, I stand at the door, and knock : if any ma
the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (ver. 20). The merest glance at these, the six heads of this charge, will at once reveal, that the temptation of this bishop and his flock arose froin worldliness ; from “ riches and the increase of goods.” Fulness of bread had fattened his heart : like Jeshurun, he was waxed fat, and kicked against the Lord : like the rich man in the parable, he had said to his soul, Soul, take thine ease;" he looked round about him, upon his fulness, and said, “I have need of nothing." His light was quenched, or all but quenched, by the damp and heavy atmosphere which exhaled from the earth. It shone very dim, and was near to be utterly extinguished. This is a new temptation among the seven, and precisely that which the church now underlieth. It prevaileth mostly in what is called the religious world; a name wonderfully descriptive of the
truth, and includeth all those who are called the orthodox Dissenters, togetheriwith as many of the established churches as cleave to the Evangelical party. It is the spirit gradually arising to the ascendant, gaining fast upon the Reformation principles, which are fast breaking down, and disappearing, and successfully opposed only by the despised few, who, in all quarters of the church, are standing for the name of Jesus, and living upon the hope of his appearing. The two seeds of the Philadelphian and the Laodicean church are, as it were, struggling together in Rebekah's womb : the one is the child of promise, the other the child born after the flesh; the one is looking for the inheritance to come, the other making the best of the inheritance wbich is present. Seeing tlien, according to our scheme of succession, and looking also to appearances, this Laodicean charge hath chiefly to do with that sin which doth most easily beset us in this day, in the arms of which, most part of the reputable pastors in this land are lying asleep, indulging themselves with the dreams of security and wellbeing, it is the more necessary that we be faithful and plain-spoken in opening this part of our subject; on our guard both from the temptation to extenuate, because it may hit our friends, and to set down aught in malice, with the view of hitting our enemies. And we are the more stirred up to be very simple and sincere, because we know how many of the people of God are drawn into the snare, and suffering great loss themselves from the atmosphere of worldliness and self-sufficiency wherein they dwell. I pray thee, O God, for whose glory I un. dertook this work, that thou wouldst enable me to be very clear-sighted and charitably minded in opening this last of the charges of our great and good Bishop. And now, taking up the whole subject, according to the order of the six heads laid down above, we have first to treat of
1. The Ground of Complaint. Which is expressed in these words : " I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; so then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will
thee out of my mouth." The exact force of this figurative mode of speech, is contained in the exhortation, “Be zealous therefore, and repent.” The thing of which they are called to repent, is want of zeal ; for which I be.
lieve the words “ lukewarm," and " neither cold nor hot," are equivalent expressions. They are taken from a fact universally known, that meats or drinks in the middle state between hot and cold, are not palateable, and even in some cases nauseous. So that when physicians wish to increase nausea, and produce vomiting, they make use of lukewarm water. And no good housewife ever yet produced meat in this state of being neither cold nor hot, without apologizing to her guest, and giving some suffi. cient reason for such a trespass against the rules of hospitality. This well-known fact, Christ taketh advantage of, in order to represent a corresponding state in the moral world ; the state of indifference to truth and false. hood, to God and mammon, to Christ and Belial. And he keepeth up the figure by threatening to “spue them out of his mouth;” in which manner we are inclined to reject such ill-prepared meats. And as a man would naturally say over such victuals, he says over these lukewarm Laodiceans, “ I would ye were either cold or hot.” This is the origin of the figurative language, and now what is the religious state which he would express by it.
This will be best discovered by explaining the two opposites, between which it lies as the point of indifference. To be hot, is “ to be zealously affected” in the good cause of Christ, to receive him with all our heart, to make our boast in him, to take up arms for him, and in his strength to overcome all the
This is what he so much commands and requires in the Gospel, in words like these: “ No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God:" “ If a man come after me, let him deny himself, and take up
his cross daily and follow me :" “ He that loveth Fa. ther or mother, more than me, is not worthy of me.” These, and the kindred expressions of the Gospels, call for the surrender of the whole heart and soul and strength and mind to the service of the Lord; indicating, as I understand it, the state expressed in the text, by the word “ hot.” It is not zealotry, which is expressly forbidden in these words, “ Charity is not rash” (Gr. “ zealeth not;" or “ is no zealot "); but entire devotedness, warm love, steady attachment to Christ. It answereth nearly to the state of mind recommended in these words ; " not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;" and in these other words, “What thy hand findeth to do, that do with all thy might." As heat in the natural world is that in. Auence through means of which all things grow, and increase, and bear fruit; in the absence of which the earth returns to its barrenness, and all nature is unclothed of its beauty; so in the spiritual world doth it express that condition of the soul when it becomes prolific of generous thoughts, strong impulses, and noble undertakings for the glory of God and the good of man. Therefore they speak of the fire of patriotism, fervid piety, warm devotion, and burning love; the heat of action, the thoughts that melt, the words that burn. And yet this condition is as far removed from the fever of passion and zeal, as is the genial heat of summer and autumn to the scorching wind of the desert. The body is not fit for any of its functions, save when it glows with natural warmth, and poureth out a continual stream of beat ; which departing, behold what paleness, what livid hues, what morbid symptoms, what inactivity, what torpor, what death comes over it. And so it is with the soul, when it ceaseth to be kindled and lighted up with the holy flames of love, its beauty, its enjoyment, its utterance, its energy, and its action, all depart away. And not till it is fostered, and cherished, and warmed, by the love of God, dosh it begin to fulfil its proper function and office again.
Of the state signified by being hot I take the Ephesian church, or the church in the state of its first love, to be the example among the seven. And by being exemplified in it rather than any of the rest, I do perceive this great lesson to be taught, that it is the first estate of a converted soul; as it were the love and the longings with which Christ is conceived in us, the hope of glory. And because that which is the first in time, becomes ever afterwards the fountain. head of action, and the nourishment of all succeeding graces, it is to be believed that love in the soul is the mother-affection of the Christian ; love to God, and the Lord Jesus Christ; love to all the creatures of God, and to all the members of Christ. When this love is present in the soul, there is great warmth of devotion, zeal of obedience, glowing of desire ; such as are expressed in divers parts of the Song of Songs which is