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only through that faith that we can so perform them that they shall be acceptable to Him. We must first be grafted upon the right stem, and become branches of the true vine, before we can bring forth fruit pleasing to God through his Spirit working in us.
To this, then, look constantly and habitually, as to the foundation. See that it is securely laid. Have you a just sense of your own exceeding misery, as shown in the estrangement of the natural heart from God; and of God's exceeding mercy, as shown in the incarnation of his Son ? To increase this sense, of helplessness on the one side, and of mercy on the other, is the way to “abound in the works of the Lord.” No principle of holiness is so strong, as that arising from the atonement which He made for sin : no principle of charity so cogent, as “ the love of Christ constraining
to imitate his wonderful example, and to comply with the declarations of his will. t. Because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them.”
JESUS DECLARES UNTO THE JEWS THE CONSEQUENCES OF
JOHN viii. 24.
24. “ I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins : for if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your
sins." HERE was an awful consideration, little understood. Jesus was looking forward to that time, not now far
2 Art. xiii. “ Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ."
3 2 Cor. v. 14.
distant, when He should ascend again to the glory which He had with the Father “ before the world was : to that presence where is “fulness of joy :” to that place where is "pleasure for evermore. And there are those who shall be with Him there. He has assured us, that where He is, there also shall his servant be: and that to him that overcometh, He will grant to sit with Him on his throne. But to these who now opposed and rejected Him, He openly declares, “ Ye shall seek me, but ye shall not find me.' Whither I go, ye cannot come.
For two plain reasons. They had refused to seek admission in the way that God proposed. And they were in their characters unfit for the kingdom of heaven.
1. They had rejected the offer made them. Jesus had expressly said, “Whoso believeth on me, I will raise him up at the last day.” But they denied the authority of his words, set aside the testimony of his miracles, treated Him with disdain and scorn, instead of respectful inquiry, and now went about to kill Him. Therefore He said, “ Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” And if they would not come unto Him, who is the “ Author of eternal life," where was their hope ? They had closed the door against themselves.
To them, and to all, there is but one mode of access to the place where the Lord Jesus is, and will for ever be. He is “ the way, the truth, and the life ; no man cometh unto the Father but by Him.”
2. Such is the Father's will. But there is a reason for it. They who are to dwell in heaven, must be prepared for heaven.
Their evil nature must be renewed and purified. They must “put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts ; and must put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” “Ex
Eph. iv, 22.
cept a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
But all this was utterly distasteful to the scribes and Pharisees, and other opposers of our Lord. That He required holiness, and rebuked ungodliness, was the real objection against Him. He demanded the worship" of spirit and of truth :” they assumed a “ form of godliness,” pretended to outward sanctity, while within they were “full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” How could such stand“ before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in his temple ?”3 So base was their state of heart, that they took no interest in the conversion of sinners, or the restoration of health to wretched sufferers. How could such dwell with Him, whose character it is to be “full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering, and of great goodness ?” They “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, and would not suffer them that were entering to go in;" how should they be admitted into it themselves ? They were unjust and violent, and extortionate and cruel : how could they have place with Him who loves justice and mercy ? They exalted themselves and despised others : where was that meek and contrite spirit which God receives and approves, because it is the only state which befits a frail and guilty man?
Here then was a second reason, why they must be for ever excluded from that « new heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Their dispositions, their characters, were a barrier against them. They were from beneath, He was from above : they were of this world ; He was not of this world. So that where He was, they could not come. A moral gulf lay between them and Him. He was now offering to lead them across it, and to place them on the side of heaven: but they rejected the hand which He stretched out; and they would soon find the barrier impassable for
2 Matt. xxiii, 28.
3 Rev. vii. 15.
4 Matt. xxiii. 13.
If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in
This was not more seriously important to the Pharisees than it is to ourselves. “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle, who shall dwell in thy holy hill ? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart : in whose eyes a vile person is contemned ; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord.” In those who are to dwell in heaven, there must be a suitableness to the nature of heaven. “For what fellowship hath light with darkness ?” what communion has that which is from beneath with that which is from above ? that which is of this world with that which is not of this world ? Though it is not the will of God “ that
that any should perish,” we cannot but perceive that the character of the wicked excludes them from heaven : and their character remains what it is; because they “ hate to be reformed,” and “cast the words of God behind them.' Too late, there may be a time of sorrow and re
Jesus said unto them, I go my way and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your
sins. The accepted time must be seized, the day of salvation not neglected. Such is the awful warning elsewhere pronounced to these same people. “When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye shall begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; He shall answer and say
I know you not whence ye are.' Where I am, ye cannot come.
5 Ps. xv.
6 Luke xiii. 25.
JESUS PROMISES FREEDOM TO THOSE WHO RECEIVE THE
JOHN viii. 32.
32. “ And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
The truth shall make you free. Such is the effect which Jesus here ascribes to the words which He had delivered, to the doctrines which He came to reveal. They confer FREEDOM. We are hardly aware, how far the world in general is from being free. The Jews were not aware of the bondage in which they were held, as appears by their answer, which will afterwards come to be considered. They did not perceive that they were servants of sin. They did not perceive that Satan was their master, and kept them beneath his yoke. That yoke has many branches. Open and indulged sin is one : the first, from which THE TRUTH, “the truth as it is in Jesus,” releases man.
But there is another chain by which men are tied and bound till they have obtained the same deliverance.
They are enslaved by the power of THE WORLD.
The cares, the treasures, the honours, the manners of the world, keep multitudes in a state, which may be justly termed a state of bondage. They are harassed by apprehensions that their store should grow less instead of greater : lest themselves, or their children, or their families, should be reduced to a worse condition than they were born to. Or they are in bondage to the opinions of men, and the customs which prevail : deterred from what they feel to be right, or seduced into what they feel to be wrong, or at least restrained from seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, through dread of their friends, their neigh