1 Peter 1.
How blessed is it, beloved, to dwell on that "abundant mercy," that eternal love of our God, which has "called us unto His kingdom and glory," giving us a "lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, ""to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away - reserved in heaven for us! How blessed, too, to consider our security, our eternal security - "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time!" The word "kept" is in the original a very strong word, and implies most clearly the situation of the church as engarrisoned, enclosed, guarded, protected by the power of God against all the powers of darkness. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:18.)
But while many would take advantage of this precious truth - while many say they will be "kept" any how, we would reply, "Nay, we are kept through faith." It is only as we are living by faith, realizing the power of faith - faith which "overcometh the world" - that we realize what is that power of God by which we are "kept." (1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 5:4, 5.)
Beloved, we would that the world should see what we are, as well as that we should know what we shall be! "Now are we the sons of God!" Oh, let us consider what the relationship is, and what we ought to be as "sons of God," as "obedient children!" (1 Peter 1:14.)
Where ought we to be living? With God! in God! not "in the world." What ought we to be doing? Loving and keeping the words of Jesus; not "fashioning ourselves according to the former lusts in our ignorance;" then would He come, and the Father would come, and make their abode with us. (John 14:23.) "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
But, beloved, what is the Church doing? Is it living in heaven as it ought to be? Is it dazzling the world with the glorious manifestation of the holiness and power of God? Is it reflecting the brightness of His image, and thus being "the light of the world"? No! believers are grovelling as in the mud, disgusting the world itself with their religion. Oh, believe me, it is better not to be professors at all! Such religion makes infidels.
Alas, alas! how has the Church lost her strength, her power, her comfort! how has she lost the mind of God! thrown herself out of her right position! Instead of bearing testimony against evil; instead of believers being as Christ upon earth, what have they done? Why, joined with the evil, joined with the world, encumbered themselves with worldly trammels, bound their feet with manacles! Instead of waiting for that which is here spoken of as "ready to be revealed in the last time," in eager expectation for the coming of their Lord (as they ought to be, and would have been, if faithful), what are they doing? Most of them wishing to delay His coming, willing, yea, gladly willing, to put it off, if they could, another eighteen hundred years.
Does not this show, beloved, that we are living upon something here? that we have, or are desiring to have, a portion here? I believe there is nothing so calculated to unearth us as the realization of the coming of Christ. We see the effect of it in the Church eighteen centuries ago. They did not calculate the probable number of years that might elapse ere their Lord's return; they were expecting, they were desiring that it might be in their time. That will be the day of "salvation" to the Church; that will be the time of the Church's glory. We shall see our Lord "face to face;" "we shall be like Him. Those who have gone before are happy, unspeakably happy - "with Christ;" but they are not yet as happy as they will be, not yet "like" Jesus, not yet "conformed unto His image." They are still waiting the coming of the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:18.) And this, beloved, is what we should all be looking for; for this should we be found ready, as those who have their loins girt about and their lamps burning.
Oh, let us then imitate the example of those who ran in an earthly race, and for an earthly prize! they looked well to their feet that nothing might impede their course; they kept their eye fixed on the laurel; and shall we, we who are running for an incorruptible crown, for an unfading inheritance, shall we, ought we to loiter by the way, turning aside for very the veriest bauble that we meet with on the road? When we have such glory before us, shall we be attracted by the tinsel of Satan's glory, setting our affections on dust and ashes, that which will be food for the flames at the coming of Christ? Sad truth for the worldling, that all he has gloried in, all he has been heaping together for himself, he is only laying up in store against the day of the wrath of God.
Beloved, it is impossible for us to grasp at things "before" and "behind" too. Were we "pressing forward towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus;" were we "reaching forth unto those things which are before," we must be forgetting those behind. Were we looking up, gazing. with the eye of faith on our portion above, could we be groping in the dirt of this world for what we might find there? Faith is an anticipating grace; faith is a substantial reliance on the verities of God.
We cannot now comprehend what it is to be "heirs of God." "Heirs of God!" Oh, what a thought! The utmost expansion of faith cannot attain unto it. Like the queen of Sheba, who, much as she had heard of the glory of Solomon, when she came, declared that the half had not been told her, so dazzled was she with all that she beheld; so will it be with us when we shall "see the King in His beauty," when we shall "behold the land which is very far off." Oh, gladly would my soul now bask in the beams, in the full effulgence of eternal glory - that glory which shall as far exceed all other glories as the brightness of the meridian sun surpasses every lesser light! Oh, beloved, how shall we be then amazed at the recollection of things which now have power to draw off our attention and distract our thoughts!
Beloved, let us give heed to this word: "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." When the Edomite asked reproachfully, "Watchman, what of the night? watchman, what of the night?" the watchman said, "The morning cometh." So, beloved, when in these "last days" we find "scoffers walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming?" we may joyfully reply, "The morning cometh." "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." Let us not be satisfied with, putting off a little evil here, and a little evil there; but let us obey the command of God the Lord, when He says, "Come out, come out, and be separate from it all." Let us not suffer a hair's breadth of evil to stand in our way! let us deliver ourselves from that worldly burden that weighs down the heads of believers, and prevents them from looking up and seeing that their redemption draweth nigh! "Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless." Let us show to the world that "our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ who shall change our vile bodies, and fashion them like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" - let "us stand fast in the Lord!"
Language fails us, it is utter beggary when we attempt to describe the future glory of the saints, or what it will be to be "like Jesus;" we cannot get further than the apostle did, when he said, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see him as He is." Yet all the revelation of that future glory is intended by our God to have its present practical influence on our souls, just as John adds, "and every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
Oh that the power of God may be more manifest in us! Oh that we may rise out of the dust, rise in all our proper glory, and show the world what are our hopes and expectations, show that eternity is written upon them, show that eternity is written too upon our actions, beloved, as well as upon our hopes!
When every thing that the world is now rejoicing and glorying in shall become the object of God's wrath and fiery judgment, when they shall call on the rocks and hills to fall on them and hide them in vain, the saints shall prove that their crowns are incorruptible, and their inheritance that which fadeth not away.
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."
O Saviour! Whom absent we love;
Whom not having seen we adore,
Whose name is exalted above
All glory, dominion, and power
Oh come and display us as Thine,
And leave us no longer to roam,
Let the light of Thy presence, Lord, shine,
Let the trumpet soon summon us home.
When that happy morning begins,
When we in Thy glories shall shine,
Nor grieve any more by our sins
The bosom on which we recline;
Oh then shall the mists be removed,
And round us Thy brightness be pour'd!
We shall meet Him, Whom absent we loved,
We shall see, Whom unseen we adored.
And then never more shall the fears,
The trials, temptations, and woes,
Which darken this valley of tears,
Intrude on our blissful repose.
Or, if yet remember'd above,
Remembrance no sadness shall raise,
They will bring but new thoughts of Thy love,
New themes for our wonder and praise.