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1. Wherein true conversion consists
[There are two leading points comprising the whole of conversion, and absolutely inseparable from it; these are, a returning unto God through Christ, and a serving of God from a principle of love. We have seen, that the conversion of the Jews will be eminently distinguished in both these respects: and a work of grace is universally characterized by the same marks. Let us then enquire, have we returned to God in Christ, and to God through Christ, relying wholly on the mediation and intercession of that once crucified, but now exalted Saviour? Are we also willing to put ourselves under his government, as we are to experience his salvation; not ac. counting any of his commandments grievous, but yielding to them that cheerful obedience, which is the genuine offspring of faith and love? It is for this end that God's perfections are manifested,h his promises revealed, his blessings given.k And if the glory of the Lord have ever risen upon us, our hearts will cherish this holy fear, and experience this devout enlargement.']
2. That none are in so desperate a state but that they may vet be converted to God
(Certainly the state of the Jews is, to all appearance, as desperate as that of any human being; so obstinately do they adhere to their own delusions. But they shall, like the returning tide, “flow up to the mountain of the Lord's house,” as soon as ever the attractive influences of divine grace shall operate upon them. Let none then despair of others, as though they were too far gone from God; or of themselves, as though they were too blind, and too obdurate. The way of mercy is open unto all; nor are any gone beyond the hope of redemption, but those who are summoned into the invisible world. We say not indeed that a person's day of grace cannot be passed, while yet he remains in this world: but no man can be sure that he himself, or that any other individual, is thus given up by God; and therefore every one has encouragement to return to God through Christ. There is forgiveness with God that he may be feared. And Christ will be the head of all those who commit themselves to his government. Let us then “fear the Lord and his goodness;" let every instance of it, whether temporal or spiritual, be an incentive to us to love and serve him: and let us seek, each of us in our day, to become monuments of that grace, which will hereafter be so gloriously displayed in the conversion of the whole world.]
h Exod. xxxiv. 6, 8. and Ps. XXX. 4. k Heb. xii. 28.
i 2 Cor. vii. 1. 1 Isai. lx. 1,5.
ccxix. THE MILLENNIUM.
Isai. xi. 9. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea.
THE generality of mankind ascribe a far greater de. gree of moral influence to civilization, than the state of the heathen world in its most refined ages will justify. We are willing however to admit, that some good effects are to be traced to this cause. But to renew and sanctify the heart is far beyond its power: this is the province of religion, even of that religion which is revealed to us in the gospel. The prophet has been describing in most beautiful language the change that shall one day be wrought on the face of the earth; and he traces it to the propagation of the gospel, and the extension of divine knowledge, as its true and only source; “ The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,” &c. for “the earth shall be full of the know. ledge of the Lord.”
In these words he shews us
It cannot be more justly or comprehensively described than in these words, “the knowledge of the Lord”
[Many indeed even of those who call themselves Chris. tians suppose that religion is altogether comprehended in doing to others as we would be done unto. But, though it must be acknowledged that this is an important branch, yet is it far from being the whole, since it relates only to the duties of the second table, and leaves out all the duties which we owe to God. We must rather say, that the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus is the sum and substance of religion; because in this is contained that vital energy, which puts forth itself in all the fruits of righteousness. It is in this light that the scriptures continually represent it. The prophet Isaiah says, “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many. Jeremiah cautions us against " glorying in any thing, but in the understanding and knowing of God” as displaying justice and mercy in the person of Christ.b' Our Lord himself affirms that, “ to know God, and Jesus Christ as sent by him, is life eternal."
Pc And St. Paul, in his nervous mode of expression,
* Isai. liii. 11.
• Jer. ix. 23, 24.
c John xvii. 1.
“ counts all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.”d]
But by “ the knowledge of the Lord” we must of necessity understand a practical and experimental knowledge of him.
[Were a speculative knowledge sufficient, Balaam and even the devils themselves might vindicate their claim to religion; since he could boast, that he knew the knowledge of the almighty,” and indeed prophesied of Christ in very exalted terms;e and they could say to Christ, “ We know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” But the only knowledge that can be considered as constituting religion, is that which the apostle so emphatically described and so earnestly desired; “ I count all things but dung, that I may win Christ, and know him in the power of his resurrection, in the fellowship of his sufferings, and in a conformity to his death.” St. John, with a simplicity peculiar to himself, confirms this truth, saying, “ Hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments: he that saith, I koow him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”h]
Painful as the general want of this religion is at present, we shall be comforted in considering II. In what manner it shall hereafter prevail
The comparison, which the prophet makes between the diffusion of true religion and the waters of the unfathomable and boundless ocean, leads us naturally to observe, that the knowledge of the Lord in that day will be 1. Universal in its extent
[Improbable as this event may appear, there is scarcely any other so frequently and so plainly foretold in the prophetic writings as this. David, in a Psalm where he not only speaks of Christ, but even personates him, says, “ All the ends of the earth shall remember themselves and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him; for the kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the governor among the nations:"i and, in another Psalm, which is altogether on this subject, he says,
" Christ shall have dominion from sea to sea; all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him." To cite what Isaiah speaks to this effect, would be to repeat whole chapters. Jeremiah, confirming at the same time the truth we have before insisted on, that true religion consists in the knowledge of the Lord, says, “ In that day they shall no more teach every man his neighbour, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest of them, saith the Lord."m Daniel assures us, that the kingdom which God himself will then erect, shall break in pieces all adverse powers, and fill the whole earth.":n Zechariah tells us, that “ Holiness to the Lord shall be written upon the very bells of the horses; that the most common things in every place shall be consecrated, as it were, to God in their daily use: and that there shall then be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts." The apostles also, and our Lord himself, add their testimony; St. Paul affirms, not only that “the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought in,” but that “ the Jews shall be again engrafted on their own olive-tree:”p and our Lord says, that all, Jews and Gentiles, “ shall be one fold under one shepherd:"9 and St. John, passing over the interinediate space of time, represents the angels in heaven as already rejoicing in the accomplishment of this event, and saying, “ The kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."r] 2. Deep in its degree
d Phil. iii. 8.
e Num. xxiv 16, 17.
f Luke iv. 34.
[The knowledge which the Jews enjoyed was very contracted: ours, since the completion of the canon of scripture, is considerably enlarged; insomuch that the least of true Christians is, in respect of knowledge, greater than even John the Baptist, who was himself the greatest of all the prophets. But in that day the light will shine for brighter; and the knowledge of all true couverts will be, in comparison of ours, as the ocean's depth to a shallow stream. This also is declared with very abundant evidence in the prophetic writings. “ The vail that is spread over all nations, is then to be taken away." Nor are any, whose eyes are opened, to have an indistinct view of the truth: the prophet Isaiah says, “ The eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken: the heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.” In another place the prophet supposes
k Ps. Ixxii. 8, 11, 17. m Jer. xxxi. 34. p Rom. xi 25, 26. slatt. xi. 11.
i See 49th and 60th chapters. n Dan. ii. 44.
o Zech. xiv. 20, 21. 9 John X. 16.
r Rev. xi. 15. t Isai, xxv. 7. u Isai. xxxii. 3, 4.
men to have received a stroke or wound upon their that, by the healing of that wound, a vast increase of light shall shine into their minds; “The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound."* To mention no more passages, the same prophet represents the saints in that day as seeing Christ, not as in a shadow, like the Jews, nor as in a mirror, like us, but eye to eye, and face to face; “ Then shall they see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.""] INFER 1. What a glorious period will the millennium be!
[The time referred to in the text is often called the millennium, because it is to last a thousand years. And how blessed will be the state of the world during that period! How will the whole face of the earth be changed! The description of it in the preceding context, figurative as it is, will be almost literally accomplished: men, savage as the most ferocious animals, will be transformed into meek and lowly followers of the Lamb. No more wars, no more enslaving of our fellow creatures, no more public feuds or private animosities; all will be love; “ there will be none to hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain.'
O that the day were already come! O that “God would hasten it in his time!" But, if we cannot be privileged to see it, let us at least help it forward by every means in our power: let us diffuse the savour of the knowledge of Christ in every place; and exert all our influence to send the light of the gospel to the heathen world, till “ Ethiopia herself shall stretch out her hands unto God.”]
2. How thankful should we be for that little knowledge with which God, in his mercy, has favoured us!
[Surely God has not left himself without witness amongst us, but “has given testimony to the word of his grace," and evinced its quickening, transforming efficacy. Doubtless there are some amongst us, whose dispositions and habits were once as adverse to the gospel, as the wolf is to a lamb, or the leopard to a kid, who now harmoniously unite with the saints of God, and approve themselves to the world as new creatures. Till they knew the Lord, nothing could effectually tame their spirits, much less transform them into the divine image: but since the light of divine truth has shined into their hearts,
* Isai. xxx. 26.
, Isai. lii. 8.