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the sinner. Hence he who fears God, as he hates sin, so he flies from it, carefully abstaining from every appearance of evil, and hating even the garment spotted by the Aesh.
"The fear of the Lord," is said, by an inspired writer, "to be the beginning of wisdom: "It naturally follows, when the fear of God is fixed in the mind, the person who enjoys it, is made truly wise: "wise unto salvation." But let it only be remembered, how the human mind is blinded by sin and the god of this world; and we shall again see the necessity of spiritual illumination; for as the things of the Spirit of God, the things which make for our everlasting peace, can only be spiritually discerned; and only known by the light of God shining into the mind, it cannot be supposed, that any one will have a proper regard for, or seek after the enjoyment of them, till he is made acquainted with their nature and value. And as the carnal mind is enmity with God, and nothing under heaven can remove that enmity but divine grace communicated to the soul, how can we expect that any one should have a proper regard for spiritual and everlasting things, or should be properly acquainted with, or have a sacred regard for, the holy precepts of God's word, til he is renewed in the spirit of his mind, by the power of the Holy Ghost. All the exertions of nature to keep the law of God, will be in vain, and the most powerful and convincing arguments we can use with fallen man, to love the divine law, will fall to the ground, till under a deep sense of his own guilty condition, he comes to the blood of Christ for a free pardon; and by the clearest conviction of his utter inability to fulfil the duties commanded in the word of God, he comes to the Redeemer, and by a living faith receives that grace which purifieth the heart, and so strengthens the soul, as to enable it to run in the way of God's 'commandments.
We must, whether we will or not, take Christ and the riches of his grace into the account, or we shall try to build without a foundation; we shall try to fly, to aspire after God, and to delight in the enjoyment of him, but we shall find that we have no wings, our souls will cleave to the dust, and we cannot mount upwards; we may try to run in the way of God's holy precepts, but we shall find we have no strength, and it will be found a certain truth:
They that are in the cannot please God." But let the grace of God be communicated, and the captive soul is brought into a state of glorious liberty; "The Son makes
us free, and we are free indeed; "free from the galling yoke of sin and the devil; free to serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." The commandments of God are no longer grievous; but we can say with the Psalmist, "O how I love thy law, all the day long is my study in it." The fear and the love of God reign in the heart, and the man walks in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless: He orders his whole life and conversation according to the holy precepts of the gospel of Christ; this is the character of those who fear God.
Secondly, We have the conduct of the people of God described; "They spake often one to another."
Here two things are observable, 1. They separated themselves from the ungodly, and united one with another in holy fellowship; and 2. They frequently met together for spiritual purposes, that they might strengthen each other's hands in the Lord.
In obedience to the word of God, they separated from the ungodly; so the followers of God have done in all ages. "A companion of fools shall be destroyed," saith Solomon. And who are such fools as ungodly men? Sin is of an infectious nature, and men generally become such as the company they keep. The holy Apostle, deeply sensible of this, exhorts us to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to reprove them :" And let men say what they will, he who is a volunteer in associating with the wicked, and can delight in their company and conversation, gives a melancholy proof that he is of the same spirit and temper with them, and will finally have the same portion.
Those who feared the Lord united in holy fellowship with each other; Thus they have always done, down to the present day. "Ye are not of the world," saith our blessed Lord to the disciples, "but I have chosen you out of the world." And in the Acts of the Apostles, we are told, that those who then embraced the gospel, "continued stedfast in the Apostles' doctrine, and in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayer." It would be endless to quote all the Scriptures which might be recited, to shew the necessity as well as the usefulness of this conduct; but these are quite sufficient.
Man certainly is a social creature; he is formed for society. Every description of men are naturally led to associate with each other; they well know the necessity, and ex
perience the benefit of it. It is true," the children of this world are in their generation, (generally speaking,) wiser than the children of light;" yet in this particular the children of God are as wise as they. Their own reason, the holy word of God, and universal experience, unitedly tell them, it is their duty and interest, to unite together as the heart of one man, that they may mutually assist each other, in the way to the kingdom of God.
Being united, "they spake often one to another." From hence we learn, they frequently met together, not only to hear the word preached, and for social prayer; but "they spake one to another." They met together for spiritual conversation, that they might mutually edify one another. It is exceeding easy to observe, except something of this kind is done, there are a variety of exhortations in the writings of St. Paul which cannot be improved as they ought. Such as these, "Bear ye each other's burdens." "Let the strong bear the infirmities of the weak." Strengthen ye each other's hands in the Lord." "Provoke one another to love and good works." "Exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day ;" and many such like duties are recommended to us in the Scriptures. How often are we called upon to declare the loving-kindness of the Lord, and to make known what he hath done for our souls: "Q that men would praise the Lord for his goodness," saith the Psalmist, and declare the wonderful works which he doth for the children of men." And again: "O let your songs be of him, and praise him, and let your talking be of all his wondrous works." Can any thing be more reasonable than that the children of God should know the state of each other's minds? How else shall they be able to give suitable advice one to another? Does not God, in the general, help man by man; and is it not his express design, that we should edify, or instruct one another? When those who fear God are met together, in order seriously to enquire into each other's spiritual state, and to be informed how the Lord is carrying on his work in their minds, how often do they find, that as iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the countenance," and much more the conversation, “of a man his friend." The advantage arising from meetings of this kind is exceeding great: One person has been wrestling with God in prayer, the sacred fire of divine love is kindled in his heart, he comes among his christian brethren full of faith and holy love, his words are quick and powerful, and he is an instrument in the hand of the Lord, of
kindling the sacred flame in the minds of those who are pre sent. An increasing measure of spiritual light is given to another; having freely received, he as freely gives, and communicates this to his brethren. One is tempted and much distressed, and is ready to say, "Was there ever sorrow like unto my sorrow? If I am a child of God, why am I thus ?" He freely opens his mind among his christian friends, and not only finds that some of them have been tempted in like manner, but he is greatly strengthened and encouraged, by their scriptural counsels and fervent prayers. The spirit of prayer powerfully rests upon one, he is favoured with free access to the throne of grace, and pours out the holy breathings of his soul before the Lord, and all who are present enjoy the benefit, perhaps in as high a degree as himself; so graciously does the Lord deal with them. If unbelieving Thomas is not present with his brethren, when Jesus appears in the midst of them, and fully convinces them of the reality of his resurrection; no wonder if he continues in unbelief: And if others of the same cast with him, will not be prevailed upon to associate with the people of God, but will keep at a distance, they must abide by the consequences, and it is most probable that they will be found in a barren and thirsty land.
Did we only consider our many weaknesses and infirmities, I am inclined to think we should see we stand in need of Il the help we can get, either from God or man. And howit is that pious people satisfy themselves, when they willingly refuse those spiritual privileges, which a kind and gracious God hath put in their way, is not for me to say. However there are a few, even in these degenerate days, who are like minded with those in the time of Malachi, who speak often one to another, and who can chearfully sing,
"What a mercy is this,
"How unspeakably happy am I?
"With thy people enroll'd,
"With thy people to live, and to die.”
"The Lord hearkened and heard it :" he approved of their conduct, he saw they were acting agreeable to his will, and taking such measures as had a direct tendency to bring his wise and gracious purposes concerning them to good effect. It appears, from every part of the sacred Scriptures,
that the designs of God towards them who fear him, are designs of peace, and not of evil; he intends to promote, in every possible way, consistent with his own infinite justice and holiness, their present and eternal happiness. All his precious promises, and gracious declarations, bear witness to this truth. It must be well-pleasing to God, to see his people workers together with him, in using those means and taking those measures which he hath appointed, for the accomplishment of his own designs, and as he hath promised, "that where two or three are met together, in bis Name, there he will be in the midst of them;" and " in waiting upon him, they shall renew their strength," we may rest satisfied, that he is well pleased to see us attentive to our duty, paying a proper regard to his institutions; and having his glory in view, and our own salvation at heart, looking for the accomplishment of his blessed designs, and the fulfilment of his promises.
"And a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and thought upon his Name." Here we see the merciful condescension of the blessed God, how he stoops to the weakness of the human understanding, and speaks to us after the manner of men. We know that properly speaking, there are no books in heaven; the infi. nitely wise and all-seeing God has no need of any book of remembrance; but the expression is strongly figurative, and from it we understand, the Lord approves of, and will never forget the conduct of his people, in this respect. In this expression there is a manifest allusion to the custom made use of in the courts of kings, where public records are kept; not only of the praise-worthy deeds of particular persons, that they may receive a suitable reward, at a proper time; but also of the bad conduct of others, that they may be punished according to their desert. An instance of this sort we have in the case of Mordecai, the Jew. When by the merciful interposition of God, the king, who had consented that the Jews should all be destroyed, could not sleep, and to amuse him, the book of records was brought out, there it was found written, that Mordecai had been the instrument of saving the king's life, when two of his chamberlains had conspired against him; and by this wonderful providence, the whole body of the Jews were preserved from destruction. So here, for the comfort and encouragement of those that fear the Lord, who thus speak one to another, they are told that their conduct is kept upon record in heaven, and shall meet with its proper reward, in due time.