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prudent, did as actually exist as if they had been made known to them; if this were not the case, they could not have been revealed unto babes. In a word, all the glorious truths of the everlasting gospel have had their existence in God, in all past eternity, and the whole system of the ministry of the gospel is designed to bring those things to light, to reveal them to mankind, by which the reconciliation of the unreconciled, blind and ignorant children of our everlasting Father in heaven, may and will be effected.
2. We may notice the ministers of the word of Christ as partaking of and reflecting his light to the world. This is the character in which our text views them.
As is observed in the notes, Christ gave to his disciples the words which the Father gave unto him, and sent them into the world as the Father sent him into the world. The Father sent Christ into the world to be the light of the world; Christ sent his apostles into the world to be a light also to the world, by communicating the same words to the world, at large, that the Father had communicated to him, and he to them. In communicating these words, the minister of Christ is a light to the people; but if he change these words, add to them, or diminish them, he becomes darkness. When, on account of Christ's speaking the words of life, many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him, Jesus said unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.' In the context, Jesus informs his disciples that the words which he spake to them were spirit and life; see St. John vi, 63, &c. Here we have a very plain account of the words which the Father gave to
Christ, and which Christ also gave to his apostles to preach to the world of mankind. They are the words of eternal life; they are spirit. In preaching the words of eternal life, the true minister of Jesus Christ is a light to the world. In preaching the words of spirit and life, the true minister of Christ is a light to man
It may be well to notice contrary words, in order to see the contrast. The opposite of eternal life is eternal death. The opposite of spirit and life is flesh and death. The words of eternal death we have heard from the lips of a ministry which, having lost the salt of the covenant of God, possesses no longer the savor of the word, and therefore has changed the words of eternal life, for words more consistent with the darkness and alienation of their minds.
As has been observed, the action of light is to make manifest things which do exist, and the duty of a witness is to testify of things which are. Thus the character of light, and the character of a witness is the same. It has been observed, that Christ was not the cause of God's love to us, but the witness to manifest, or commend that love to us; and it may be proper to notice likewise, as has been observed, that the mercy and grace, according to which we are called, was given unto us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but was made manifest by the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; who hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. As it is evident that the work of the Saviour was to make known to the world of mankind, the good things which were proposed in the eternal counsel of God's good pleasure, we ought not to suppose that those good things were granted us as favors pur
chased by Christ of the Father.
Nor is it the work of the true gospel ministry to initiate mankind into any scheme by which they may secure to themselves the love, favor or mercy of God; or whereby they may obtain an heirship with the sons of God. But the labor of the true ministers is to bear witness of those things which their eyes have seen, their ears have heard, and their hands have handled of the word of life. When the preacher forgets Christ, and preaches, exhorts and warns the people to secure an interest in Christ, and sets forth the awful consequences of neglect, he is very far from being a faithful and true witness. For the spirit itself, beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.'
When the devout Ananias was sent to Saul when blind at Damascus, he stood by him and said, 'The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.' And this testimony agrees with the words spoken by the Lord himself to Saul when he met him in the way, 'I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.'
In bearing the testimony of Jesus to the world of mankind, Paul had nothing to do but to bear witness of the things which he had seen, and those in which his divine master would appear unto him.
The Saviour of sinners never instructed Saul the persecutor, how to obtain an interest in his love; but he
revealed the love of the Father in his soul, by his quickening spirit, and sent him to bear witness to sinners of the love and mercy of God towards them. Thus he testifies, This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acception, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.'
The true ministry in which the apostles were the light of the world, may be learned from the account which St Paul gave to the Corinthians in the following words: And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.' In the true ministry of the gospel in which the servants of Christ are the light of the world, there is no imputation of sin to the world. It holds up to view the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world; it is a testimony of him, who says,' I came not to judge the world, but to save the world;' it' knows nothing save Christ and him crucified.'
3. The necessity of this light's shining clearly, the impropriety of its being obscured, are considerations which ever ought to lie with weight on the minds of those who are called by the grace of God, to bear witness to the truth as it is in Jesus.
1. The infinite importance of the things to be made manifest by this light, and to be testified of by the faithful witnesses, is of consequence in a due con sideration of this subject. These things are divine realities they comprehend the love of an infinitely wise and merciful God, his divine purpose which he purposed in himself concerning the final reconciliation of all things to himself, and the means by which he
2. The darkness, ignorance and consequent alienation of mankind from God, calls aloud for the light to be placed in a conspicuous place, that all may see. The misery of mankind in consequence of not knowing the truth, calls aloud for the true witness to be faithful in his testimony.
Mankind, deceived, led by carnal mindedness, and alienated from God, are represented as being in the prison-house, from which they are to be delivered by the testimony of the faithful and true witness, as expressed by the prophet, 'I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant to the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.' And in this is exemplified the truth of that scripture which saith, A true witness delivereth souls.'
Though we have great reason to rejoice, that there are any who are willing, by the help of divine grace, to bear that true testimony by which souls are delivered, yet we have reason to regret that the number is much greater who give a contrary testimony, which is too successful in blinding the minds of those who are already too much in the dark. And many there are, it is to be feared, who have the words of eternal life put into their mouths, yet are fond of making a poor excuse to palliate their neglect in not letting their light shine before
May he who walketh among the golden candlesticks, make his angels spirits, and his ministers flames of fire.