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of all that we expect and look for. That love of God is his gift—his best gift: possessing that, we possess a part of what he has promised; and the possession of a part now gives assurance that we shall enjoy the whole hereafter.
There is a passage in St. Paul's life, which shows us the whole of this process, and illustrates his meaning by example: why he glories even in tribulations. He and Silas were brought before the magistrates at Philippi, and after suffering many stripes, were cast “into the inner prison, and their feet made fast in the stocks.” This was tribulation : but tribulation endured with patience: with patience which nothing could produce but a stedfast faith thus tried and proved. Such caperience gave just ground of hope, that their “light affliction which was but for a moment, should work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” But as hope often flatters to deceive, why might not their expectations be delusive, and they, after all, ashamed, “disappointed of their hope?” Because they had a present proof of the certainty of God's promises, and the faithfulness of his word: a proof they could not doubt of for it was in themselves; they had an inward consciousness of its reality. The lore of God was so shed abroad in their hearts, that instead of complaining and mourning, they “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” And so strong was this feeling, that “at midnight, Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” Certainly this could be no natural feeling.
* Acts xvi. 22–24.
The natural feeling would be to dislike and desert a cause, which had brought them into trouble. But instead of thus being ashamed of their cause, they were “filled with joy and peace through the power of the Holy Ghost.” This must be the work of God upon their hearts. And therefore he concludes, that their hope was no delusion. Its justness was proved, as surely as the reality of life is proved by the existence of warmth or motion. Hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Well worthy to be observed is the caution of St. Paul, in all that concerns that vast object, the salvation of the soul. He takes nothing for granted. He feels his way (so we may express it) at every step.
We glory in tribulation. So he says. But not out of a vague conceit, that they who in this world have “ had evil things,” must be recompensed in another: but because tribulation serves to prepare him for happiness, and to show his meetness for it. He “rejoices in hope:” but his hope must have a foundation too : it must be confirmed by the Spirit of God shedding its influence upon the heart, and “witnessing with his spirit” that he is one of God's children; for it is God who has inspired him with filial love, and enables him, from the midst of his tribulation, to cry, “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”9
So it ought to be, in all that concerns the soul. We ought not to be content, in regard to our everlasting inheritance, unless we know our title-deeds, and are sure that they are valid.
9 Ps. cxix. 75.
THE MERCY OF GOD IN THE ATONEMENT, AN ARGUMENT FOR THE CONTINUANCE OF HIS MERCY TO THE END.
RoMANs v. 6—11.
6. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
The object of St. Paul here, is to inspire the disciples with confidence. Confidence, not in themselves, but in the divine mercy. This confidence is needful, both for comfort and for persevering exertion. And the ground which he takes for their encouragement, is the surest of all grounds: the goodness which God has already shown. See how he has proved this: how he has given evidence of good-will towards men. For what was their state? The state of the heathen, who had “not liked to retain him in their knowledge,” and were worshipping, instead of Him, the works which their own hands had made 4 The state of the Jews, his own people; who had indeed the “form of godliness” among them, but none of its “power” Yet such was the world which God so pitied, as to provide the means by which it might be “reconciled to himself.” If indeed it had been otherwise: if the heathen had been trying to “find God,” through the glimpses which were given them: had they acted up to their conscience, and the light of reason: had there been anything like a general desire, however faint, to learn more of Him, “ in whom they had their being;” we might have wondered less that God should visit his people: should set up a light, a “sun of righteousness,” for those who were mourning over the darkness of their ways and of their hearts. But though it was not so;when we were yet without strength, alienated from the only source of strength, God fulfilled his appointed purpose: in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Learn from this, says the apostle, the assurance of God's favour. If he opened a door of reconciliation, when there was no movement on man's part: much more are we sure that he will turn away from none who, encouraged by his offer and cheered by his invitation, are looking towards his kingdom. If when enemies he made a way for sinners to approach him, how certain is it that he will meet them when they are so approaching, and receive them, and protect them to the end ' If when the prodigal was ungrateful and undutiful the father still retained his love for him, and brought him to his senses: that same father would not neglect him when reconciled: would not cast him out, or expose him again to the evils from which he had taken pains to recover him. The more we reflect on the extent of God's mercy, the surer this confidence appears.
7. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradcenture for a good man some would even dare to die.
8. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while tre were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Thus Paul continues his argument, that none may faint, or be “weary in well-doing.” If Christ showed such compassion for us, if God so commended his lore toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, alienated and estranged from him both in heart and life, Christ died for us; how much more will he use his grace and power now, to save those unto the end whom he has justified and reconciled to God!
Christ suffered, to pay our ransom. As many as claim by faith the benefit of that redemption, are reconciled to God by the death of his Son; justified by his blood. Being by nature children of wrath, they are hereby made the children of grace.
But between reconciliation and salvation, there is an interval. And one who trusts in Christ for remission of sins past, may yet be in perplexity when he thinks of the enemies which stand between him and heaven. The world and its temptations: the flesh and its weakness: the devil and his snares, may fill him with fear and trembling. To cheer and encourage such, comes the argument of the apostle. Much more being reconciled, we shall be sared by his life. Saved by his life. For he who “was in the beginning with God, and was God,” “ever liveth at the right hand of God, and maketh intercession for