1 Thessalonians 4:1
Finally, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus to live in a way that is pleasing to God, as you have received from us. This is how you already live, so you should do so all the more.
Christian ProgressW.F. Adeney 1 Thessalonians 4:1
Chrysostom -- Excessive Grief At the Death of FriendsVarious1 Thessalonians 4:1
Living and Dead When Christ ReturnsMartin Luther1 Thessalonians 4:1
ExhortationB.C. Caffin 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 2
The Importance of Living in Harmony with the Divine WillT. Croskery 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 2
SanctificationR. Finlayson 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5
A Deepening ConsecrationS. B. Bossiter.1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
A Fuller ConsecrationC. Simeon, M. A.1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Abounding More and MoreH. K. Burton.1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Earnest Exhortations to a High SanctityG. Barlow.1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
How to Walk So as to Please GodG. Burder.1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Of Abounding More and MorePlain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times."1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Pleasing GodB. Pugh.1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Pleasing God IsD. Thomas, D. D.1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
So Ye Would Abound More and More1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
The Christian's Walk and its ObjectW. H. M. H. Aitken, M. A.1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
The Necessity of ProgressBp. Westcott.1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Walking So as to Please God1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

The practical part of the Epistle begins at this point.

I. MARK THE AFFECTIONATE MANNER OF THE APOSTLE'S ADDRESS. "We beseech you and exhort by the Lord Jesus." He does not speak in the language of command, much less assume the air of a lord over God's heritage, but meekly and affectionately in the way of entreaty. But there was all the force of authority in the very entreaty because it was grounded in the Lord Jesus as its source and element.

II. THE IMPORTANT NATURE OF HIS REQUEST. "That according as ye received from us how ye ought to walk and please God, ye would abound yet more."

1. It is the duty of a minister to enforce moral duties as well as gospel doctrines. Scripture knows nothing of antinomianism except to condemn it. It is necessary for ministers to expound duty as well as doctrine.

2. It is possible to please God in holy walking. This does not imply that the saints' acceptance depends upon themselves, but that God is pleased with what a believer does in faith from a principle of love, in the grace of Christ, for the Divine glory. "The Lord taketh pleasure in his people." Even when our hearts condemn us, "he upbraideth not" (James 1:5).

3. It is necessary to increase in godliness. "So ye would abound yet more."

(1) The apostle recognizes their begun sanctification. The best texts add the words, "even as also ye walk."

(2) He enforces the necessity of making further increase in holy walking. There must be an "exercising of themselves unto godliness," a resolute "going on unto perfection" in the exercise of every grace, in the discharge of every duty, "perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).

III. ENFORCEMENT OF THE EXHORTATION. "For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus."

1. The apostle's position was purely ministerial, for he merely delivered what he bad received from the Lord.

2. The moral duties he enjoins are based in the gospel of Christ, which supplies the motives to a full-hearted obedience. - T.C.

Furthermore then, we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you
Purity is the perfection of the Christian character. It is the brightest jewel in the cluster of saintly excellencies, and that which gives a lustre to the whole. It is not so much the addition of a separate and distinct grace as the harmonious development of all. As Flavel has said, "What the heart is to the body that the soul is to the man; and what health is to the heart holiness is to the soul." In the prayer just offered the apostle indicates that God will fill them with love to this end. He now urges the attainment. Human agency is not destroyed but stimulated by the Divine.Observe —


1. Religion is a life. A "walk" implies continual approach to a goal. Religion is not an ornament, a luxury, a ceremony, but a life, all penetrating, ever progressing, but sometimes concealed.

2. Religion is a life modelled after the worthiest examples. "As ye have received of us." The Thessalonians not only received the wisest counsels from their teachers but they witnessed their holy and consistent lives; and their attention was constantly directed to the all-perfect example — Christ Jesus. It is the tendency of all life to shape itself after the character of its strongest inward force. The love of God is the mightiest power in the life of the believer; and the outer manifestation of that life is moulded according to the pattern of the inner Divine ideal.

3. Religion is a life which finds its chief joy in the Divine approval. "And to please God." It is possible, then, so to live as to please God. What a powerful incentive to a holy life. Donne, on his death bed, said, "I count all that part of my life lost which I spent not in communion with God, or in doing good."

4. Religion is a life capable of vast expansion. "So, ye would abound," etc. God has made every provision for our increase in holiness. There is no limit in our elevation but our faith.

II. THAT THE NECESSITY OF A HIGHER SANCTITY IS ENFORCED BY DIVINE AUTHORITY. "For this is the will of God even your sanctification."

1. A higher sanctity involves a conformity to the Divine nature. God is holy, and the aim of the believer is to be like Him. There is to be not only an abstinence from impurity but a positive experience of purity. By faith we participate in the Divine nature, and possess qualities analogous to the Divine perfections — mercy, truth, justice, holiness.

2. A higher sanctity is in harmony with the Divine will what God proscribes must be carefully avoided; what He prescribes must be done. His will is here emphatically expressed; it is supported by abundant promises of help; and it is declared that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. The will of God is at once the highest reason, the strongest motive, and the final authority.

3. The Divine will regarding a higher sanctity is enforced by duly authorized messengers, and well understood precepts (ver. 2). The apostle did not assume authority in any dictatorial spirit. He delivered unto others what he had received. These precepts were well known. Obedience should ever be in proportion to knowledge. Knowledge and practice are mutually helpful to each other. To know and not to do is to incur the heaviest condemnation. "Not My will, but Thine be done."

III. THAT THE POSSESSION OF A HIGHER SANCTITY IS REPEATEDLY URGED BY EARNEST EXHORTATIONS. "We beseech you, brethren, and exhort you." Doctrine without exhortation makes men all brain, no heart; exhortation without doctrine makes the heart full, leaves the brain empty. Both together make a man. The apostle laboured in both. Here we have a fine example of the combination of a tender, brotherly entreaty, with the solemn authority of a divinely commissioned ambassador. Some people, says a certain writer, are as thorns; handle them roughly and they pierce you; others as nettles; rough handling is best for your safety. A minister's task is an endless one. Has he planted knowledge? — practice must be urged. Is the practice satisfactory? — perseverance must be pressed. Do they continue in well-doing? — they must be stimulated to further progress. The end of one task is the beginning of another. Lessons: The believer is called to the attainment of a higher sanctity —

1. By the voice of God.

2. By the voice of His faithful ministers.

3. And by the aspirations of the life divinely planted within him.

(G. Barlow.)

A superstructure is nothing without a foundation; neither is a foundation anything without a superstructure. Each, indeed, has its appropriate place, but both are alike important; for if, on the one hand, the superstructure will fall without a foundation, so, on the other hand, it is for the sake of the superstructure alone that the foundation is laid. St. Paul, "as a wise master builder," was careful at all times to lay his foundation deep and strong; but, having done this, he was careful also to raise upon it a beauteous edifice, such as God Himself would delight to inhabit. This is evident in all his letters; and hence in this to the Thessalonians, having been the instrument of their conversion, he would excite them to the highest possible attainments in universal holiness.

I. HIS APPEAL He had not sought to amuse them by curious speculations; nor had he given them maxims whereby they might please and gratify their fellow creatures. His object had been to bring them to such a holy and consistent "walk" as would be pleasing and acceptable to their God. What kind of a walk that is it will be profitable for us to inquire.

1. Walk in Christ by a living faith.

2. Walk after Christ by a holy conversation.

II. HIS ENTREATY. In this the apostle acknowledges that the Thessalonians had already done well; but he wishes them to redouble their exertions in their heavenly path. Let us notice here —

1. The fact conceded.

2. The duty urged. He might well have enjoined these things in an authoritative manner, but "for love's sake he rather besought them." He calls them "brethren," and as brethren he entreats them —

(1)By the consideration of all that Christ has done and suffered for them.

(2)By the consideration of all the interest He yet took in their welfare.

(3)By the consideration of the honour He would derive from them.

(4)By the consideration of the glory that will accrue to Him in the day of judgment.

(C. Simeon, M. A.)

I. THE IDEA OF A DEEPER CONSECRATION IS A FAMILIAR ONE. Moses was set apart for special work. Aaron and his brother priests were consecrated. Paul as an apostle, and others, were separated by the Holy Spirit. That is the Old Testament idea of consecration — "setting apart a person or thing for sacred uses." The person might not at first be holy in himself; but because of his daily association with sacred things, holiness was required of him. In New Testament times holiness of person and holiness of service move along together. Conversion is the dedication of oneself for the first time to God. A revival of religion is a rededication to more faithful service. The discipline of sorrow, meditation, the work of faith and labour of love, etc., still further deepen its spiritual life, and strengthen its activities.

II. THERE ARE OCCASIONS WHEN THE CALL FOR DEEPER CONSECRATION IS CLEAR AND LOUD. Such was the preaching of the Baptist, and of Peter and Paul, summoning to repentance. A great popular excitement that moves deeply a people is providential preparation. An exigency in life when one is hurled from his self-dependence down upon his dependence upon God; a responsibility that compels one to put up new bulwarks to faith and a new criticism upon life; a calamity that opens all the doors and windows of life — those things teach you of your exposure and of your need that some pavilion drop its curtains around you. These indeed are felt to be Divine exhortations to higher, closer walk with God.

III. THIS DEEPER CONSECRATION IS NOT NECESSARILY THE DOING OF NEW THINGS, BUT DOING THE OLD THINGS BETTER. The advice of Paul to the Thessalonians was to abound more and more in the very things in which they had been active. We can fritter away strength in variety. We can make the moral nature nervous by seeking continually a new excitement. Perfection and finish are not gained in trying new things, but by repetition. We become perfect penmen by making the same letters over and over again. Skill in the mechanic arts, in sculpture and in painting, is gained by repetition of the fundamentals of each. Wear the channels of the old religious routine deeper then. Lean with more entire self-abandonment upon the tried methods of Church activity. The Christian teacher will find the occasion of deeper consecration in the deeper work along the old lines of fidelity, study, and prayer. The officers of the Church will find their open door into more satisfactory life along the tried ways of tender consideration, faithful regard to vows, bearing still better responsibilities. The Christian father and mother will find their life growing less troubled and worldly if they make the family altar a place of greater regard, and the religious oversight of the family a matter of more constant attention. "Which things also ye do, but I beseech you, abound more and more." Depth comes in running constantly in the old curriculum.

IV. YOU ARE TO BE LED TO THIS DEEPER CONSECRATION BY AN OLD MOTIVE. "I beseech and exhort you by Jesus Christ." It was the love of God in Jesus Christ that first broke your heart from the ways of sin, and it is this same love that must lift the life to higher and finer activity.

V. THE DANGER TO WHICH THIS CONSECRATION IS EXPOSED. The danger of routine, of system, of familiar acquaintance with Biblical truths, the very thing the worth of which we have been advocating.

1. Simply because consecration must run in the old channels and be drawn on by the same motive, there is danger that we miss the vital contact with the Lord Jesus, that the spirit dies out while the system goes on. Church and prayer meeting attendance may degenerate into a profitless habit. Your soul may be satisfied with the form and die for want of sustenance. Class teaching may become as spiritless as school teaching — the mere teaching of the lesson. Great alarm about our own spiritual condition should smite us when we find ourselves doing Christian duties for the sake of getting rid of them and of appeasing the conscience.

2. Then, again, the performance of Christian duties leads us into expressions of faith and desire that they may become stereotyped. Biblical language is the fittest medium by which to express our prayer and our faith. And the quickened soul can find comfort and relief for itself in repeating the same form. But let the fire die out, and living contact with Jesus shrink, and the form of words will remain, and we will have the startling inconsistency of devout expression enveloping a shrivelled and dead heart.

3. There may be movement in Christian life but no progress. Like the water wheel that turns round in the same place that it did ten years ago, may be the Christian life that runs the weekly round of Church services. Like the door that swings on the same hinge, but never moves from the door post, may be the Christian life excessively busy, continually in and out, but never advancing into the interior truths of God's Word. Christian life is not a treadmill round; Christianity is not meant to teach us how to talk, but to teach us how to walk, and walking is orderly, constant progress towards a terminus, a glory. The path of the just shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


1. Let there be an act of consecration; a holy hour when we surrender ourselves anew to God. We know that specious argument of the evil one about "resolving and re-resolving, and doing the same." We know that timidity of the honest mind that shrinks from a new self-dedication where it has so often failed; and yet how is life to be lifted up to finer issues unless there is the strong desire and resolve of the spirit? We do not drift into consecration and holy life?

2. Assist the memory. We fail in our consecration because we forget. Business engrosses the mind. A multitude of cares drives out the one special thought of the heart. Time slips along, weaving into the web of life new things with bright or dark colours. The very success of the first efforts of consecrated days has a subtle danger. Against this flood of insidious attack we must rear a defence that shall remain with us. I have known a book, for instance, selected because its contents and aim were along the line of the consecrated purpose, to be to the memory a continual reminder. I have known a text of Scripture chosen for its appropriateness to some individual weakness or to fill up the gaps of failure, or to string the soul to its best music hung as a motto on the wall, that every time you looked you were reminded of the weakness, the failure, the hope of your life. I have known men who have sat down and drawn up for themselves rules of life, meeting their deficiencies and aspirations by specific regulations, making their daily activity run along these prescribed channels, and their biographies have proved how good, how conscientious, how holy they were. I need only mention the names of Jeremy Taylor and Jonathan Edwards. I have known a voluntary service given to some spiritual meeting whose regular recurrence was continual reminder, or to some charity whose blessed work was constant call for service, or to some personal visitation of the poor and the sick.

3. Assist the spiritual nature by renewed study of the character of Jesus. The sculptor who is to make a model of your face and head, the painter who is to paint your portrait, asks of you many sittings, and the more sittings you can give him the more perfect will be bust or portrait. The daily study of Jesus will fashion the life after the glorious model.

(S. B. Bossiter.)


1. You young Christians have just got a walking power. There was a time when you thought you could stand, and you tried, but fell helplessly by the wayside. But Jesus of Nazareth passed by and said, "Wilt thou be made whole." You responded in faith, and like the man at the Gate Beautiful you found a new energy and walked and leaped and praised God.

2. This new power was given you to enable you to realize that "they that wait upon the Lord shall...walk and not faint." The sun may be very hot, and you ready to give way, but remember this promise; and remember it when the goal of the journey seems a great way off. Don't be discouraged.

3. Paul had given these Christians directions how to walk. He did not leave them to wander about in the darkness. We, too, have directions. Look up the word "walk" in your concordance. We are to —(1) "Walk by faith." We do not behold the form of Jesus leading us on to victory, nor is our reward visible, but we apprehend both by Faith.(2) "Walk in the Spirit," opposed to which is "walking after the flesh," by worldly considerations, and a desire for gratification.(3) "Walk in wisdom." Do not give unnecessary offence, or obtrude your religion in a disagreeable way. The perfect Christian is a perfect gentleman.(4) "Walk honestly," or rather honourably. There is a certain un affected dignity that belongs to the friend of God, and commands the respect of men. The child of the heavenly royal household cannot stoop to social meannesses, or commercial sharp practices.(5) "Walk circumspectly," i.e., accurately. Be particular about little things, little vanities, self-indulgences, worldlinesses, sins of tongue and temper. There are some who have only a vague, not an accurate notion of what a Christian's walk ought to be; others walk timorously always expecting to make mistakes. Some strike out wildly never thinking of where they are going; others go painfully as though they were walking on egg shells or glass bottles. Let us avoid these two mistakes — not to allow ourselves to be so bound and hampered as to lose our spiritual liberty; but not to disregard trifles which put together make such a great thing in the end.

II. THE MOTIVE. "To please God." We shall not walk rightly without a right motive. God looks at that as well as at the effect.

1. What are you going to live for? To be happy? To get to heaven? You may get both, but these are not what you were sent into the world for.

2. If you want to find out what should be the object of your life, look at Jesus. From first to last He lived simply to please the Father. He came to do the Father's will, and He did it.(1) You may do a man's will because you are his ,servant paid to do it, and therefore your duty to do it, or because he is your friend and you delight to do it. Between these two classes of motives lies the difference between the law and the gospel.(2) There are two ways of seeking to please God, We often notice in earthly relationships that there is less of conscious anxiety to please where love and confidence are strongest, while on the other hand strenuous efforts to please are frequently the results of misgivings as to the disposition of the person they are designed to please. The same may be said of our relationship towards God. There are some who really wish to please Him, and yet say, "I wonder whether this or that has pleased Him." But the blessedness of the Christian position is this, that we are accepted in the Beloved so that He can regard us with complacency in order that we may go on to please Him.

3. Let the thought of pleasing God ever take precedence of the thought of pleasing ourselves and others.

4. You are pleasing God much if you are trusting Him much. To doubt Him is to cast a reflection on His changeless love.

(W. H. M. H. Aitken, M. A.)

I. WITH FAITH. Without this "it is im possible to please" Him.

II. WITH HUMILITY. He abases the proud, show ing His abhorrence of them, but exalts the humble because He delights in them.


1. Active. "To obey is better than sacrifice." "Children, obey...for this is well pleasing unto the Lord."

2. Passive. When in sickness, trial, etc. Nothing is more acceptable than the spirit which says, "Thy will be done." "The servant that doeth not his Lord's will shall be beaten with many stripes."

IV. IN COMMUNION WITH HIS PEOPLE. "They that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard." Would He have done so had He been indifferent or displeased? "Where two or three are met together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."

V. BENEVOLENTLY. "With such sacrifices God is well pleased."

(G. Burder.)


1. Negatively. Not as if we could do anything in its own nature pleasing to God (2 Corinthians 3:5).

2. Positively. So that He may accept us in Christ (Matthew 3:17).(1) Our persons (Ephesians 1:6).(2) Our actions (1 Peter 2:5; Luke 2:14).

(a)So as not to be angry with us for them.

(b)So as to be favourable to us (Proverbs 8:35; Zephaniah 3:17).

(c)So as to give us a reward (Matthew 6:4; Matthew 10:42).


1. He is so great and mighty (Jeremiah 5:22).

2. So just.

3. So gracious (Psalm 130:4).

4. His pleasure is the highest happiness (Psalm 30:5; Psalm 63:3).

5. This is the end of Christ's incarnation and our profession (Acts 3:26; 2 Timothy 2:19).


1. In general (Hebrews 11:5).

(1)We must be renewed (Romans 8:8).

(2)Do what He has commanded.

(3)Therefore do it that we may please Him.

(4)Do it with understanding and discretion (1 Corinthians 14:15).

(5)With cheerfulness (2 Corinthians 9:7; Psalm 40:8).

(6)In faith (Hebrews 11:6).

(7)To His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

2. Particularly, these things please Him —

(1)Repentance (Ezekiel 33:11; Psalm 51:17).

(2)Humility (Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2; 1 Peter 5:8).

(3)Trust in His promises (Psalm 147:11).

(4)Submission to His providences (1 Samuel 3:18; Psalm 39:9).

(5)Prayer (1 Kings 3:10; 1 Timothy 2:1-4).

(6)Frequent meditations upon Him (Psalm 19:14).

(7)Justice (Micah 6:7, 8; Psalm 51:19).

(8)Mercy and forgiveness (Psalm 103:9-11; Matthew 6:14).

(9)Charity to the poor (Philippians 4:18).

(10)Thankfulness (Psalm 69:30, 31).

IV. USE: Endeavour to please God. Consider —

1. Otherwise you cross His end in making you (Proverbs 16:4).

2. So long as He is displeased you are in danger of hell.

3. If you please Him you need please none else (Proverbs 16:7).

4. Nor take care of anything (Matthew 6:33; 1 John 3:22).

5. He will bless all His providences to you (Romans 8:28).

6. Pleasing God is the work of heaven (Psalm 103:20, 21).

7. Please Him here, and enjoy Him hereafter.

(Bp. Beveridge.)

There are in the world self-pleasers, men-pleasers, God-pleasers. The last only deserve our imitation.

I. GOD CAN BE PLEASED. That being the case —

1. He notices our conduct.

2. Observes the character of our actions.

3. Has a disposition with regard to men.

II. HE CAN BE WELL PLEASED (Colossians 3:20). Those please Him best who are most like in character and action to Him in whom He was "well pleased."

III. HE CAN BE EASILY PLEASED. He requires no impossible services. His approbation is not wrung from Him with difficulty.

IV. HE CAN ALWAYS BE PLEASED. "He waiteth to be gracious." When the Christian walks in the way of His commandments, he walks with God.

V. HE OUGHT TO BE PLEASED. This is required by —

1. Himself. His commands all amount to this. His glory is promoted by this.

2. Man. Pleasing God is the directest way of securing the welfare of the world.

3. Our own well being. To please God is to have a tranquil conscience, the approbation of the God, an endless reward.

(B. Pugh.)

I. POSSIBLE. He has been pleased with men — Enoch, Noah, Daniel, etc. This is wonderful — wonderful that the Infinite should condescend to notice any one individual so insignificant as man. Still more wonderful that He should be pleased with anything that man can do. God is a pleasable Being, and man can contribute something to His pleasure.

II. INCUMBENT. "Ye ought." Why?

1. Because He is the absolute Proprietor of your existence. He has a right to everything you have.

2. He is the most righteous of sovereigns. He does not require you to do anything that is not right and just.

3. He is the most tender of fathers. The only way to please yourselves is to please Him.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)


1. Negatively. Not as if we could do more than is required. For —

(1)We cannot do all that is required (Psalm 119:96).

(2)We can do nothing as it is required (2 Corinthians 3:5).

(3)Yet if we could it is no more than our duty (Luke 17:10).

2. Positively.

(1)Endeavour to go beyond others (1 Corinthians 12:31).

(2)Be more serious in pleasing God than in anything else (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Romans 12:11; Matthew 6:33).

(3)Every day excel ourselves and grow better (2 Peter 3:18).


1. In works of piety towards God; in —

(1)Godly sorrow for sin (2 Corinthians 7:9-11)).

(2)Turning from our present lusts (Romans 6:12).

(3)Faith in Christ for pardon (Ephesians 1:7); for grace (Acts 3:26; John 15:4, 5; Philippians 4:13).

(4)Dependence on God's mercy (Proverbs 3:5).

(5)Making Him our only joy and love (Matthew 22:37).

(6)Prayer (Romans 12:12).

(7)Hearing His Word (Luke 4:16), and receiving His sacrament.

2. In works of equity to our neighbour —

(1)Wronging none (Matthew 5:44).

(2)Endeavouring the good of all (Galatians 6:10).

(3)Being charitable to the poor (1 Timothy 6:18; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8).


1. We are commanded (Hebrews 6:1; 2 Peter 1:5, 6; Ephesians 6:10; 1 Corinthians 15:58).

2. Unless we grow better we shall surely grow worse.

3. We can never abound too much; nor indeed enough (Philippians 3:11).

4. The more we abound the more glory we shall have (Luke 19:16-19; 1 Corinthians 15:41, 42).


1. Often think of spiritual things —

(1)Of God (Psalm 63:6; Psalm 139:18).

(2)Of Christ.

(3)Of the world to come (Amos 6:3).Conclusion:

1. Motives.

(1)We have abounded in sin too long (1 Peter 4:3).

(2)Our life is continued for that end.

(3)The more we abound the more comfort we shall have.

(4)Abounding is the best sign of the truth of grace (James 2:26).

(5)Heaven will make amends for all.

2. Uses.(1) Of reproof.

(a)To those who never please God, but abound in sin.

(b)To those who take more pains to abound in riches than in graces.(2) Of examination. Compare your present with your past.

(3)Of exhortation. "Abound more and more."

(Bp. Beveridge.)

Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times."
If any one wishes to see what it is to begin well in Christian faith and practice and at the same time what care should be taken not to depend too much on mere beginnings however praiseworthy, he cannot do better than examine carefully these two Epistles to the Thessalonians. The apostle seems hardly to know how to say enough of their faith and charity, or of the noble and self-denying way in which they had received the gospel (see 1 Thessalonians 1:5-8; 1 Thessalonians 3:7-10). There could not well be more promising converts; and yet the very next words show how anxious he was that they might not trust in their first promising conversion, "Praying exceedingly that we might see your face": to what purpose? not for his own pleasure, but "to perfect that which was lacking in their faith." The same feeling runs through the whole of the letter; his joy in what they had done is everywhere tempered by a real and serious anxiety lest they should stop short and begin to think that they had done enough.

I. Now, with regard to the absolute necessity of continual improvement, it appears in the first place from this circumstance THAT IF WE RIGHTLY VALUE THE FIRST GOOD BEGINNING, WE MUST FROM THE VERY NATURE OF THE CASE GO ON FROM ONE DEGREE OF HOLINESS TO ANOTHER. Men may very well do something which looks like repentance upon poor imperfect worldly reasons, and may deceive themselves and others into a notion that they are true Christian penitents; as, for example, intemperance may be left off for health or character's sake, or a quarrel may be made up with a view to our worldly interest, or the fear of approaching death may drive men against their will to long-neglected ordinances of religion; and it is no wonder if such a repentance as this very soon begins to stand still: if, having reached such and such a point, the man imagines himself good enough, and takes no more pains to be better: but this is quite contrary to the nature of true repentance upon Christian principles.

II. This is yet more absolutely necessary, because, IF MEN DO NOT IMPROVE THEY ARE IN PRACTICE SURE TO GO BACK. They cannot stay where they are; they must either grow worse or better. For it is the nature of all strong impressions to act vehemently on the mind at first, and after a little time to fade away as it were and gradually become weaker and weaker. Thus the fear of God and the dread of sin and punishment, in which repentance usually begins, if we do not resolutely and on purpose endeavour to keep them up, are sure to lose their force on our minds.

III. IT MAY HELP US IN JUDGING MORE TRULY OF OUR DUTY IN THIS RESPECT IF WE PUT OURSELVES AS NEARLY AS WE CAN IN THE PLACE OF THESE THESSALONIANS, WHO HAD LEARNED CHRISTIANITY FROM THE LIPS OF ST. PAUL HIMSELF. For, indeed, we are very nearly in their place; we, like them, have received of the apostles how we ought to walk and to please God. The only difference is, that they received this knowledge by word of mouth, we by reading the apostolic letters and listening to the apostolic Church. Now what sort of a spirit and temper should we have judged these Thessalonians to be of, if we found that as soon as their teacher was gone away to Athens, they had become careless about his instructions, thought much of what they had done already, and took no pains whatever to improve? Whatever censure we pass on them we must acknowledge surely to be due to ourselves, in such measure as we neglect the duty of amending daily because our Teacher is out of sight. Yet this is what we are sure to do, if we be not constantly exhorted and reminded of it; nay, there is great reason to fear that all exhortation may prove in vain.

1. For, first of all, having been bred up from our cradle in the knowledge and understanding of our Christian duty, we are apt to fancy ourselves familiar with the practice of it too. We are convinced in our minds that we know it well enough; and this of itself inclines us to be too soon satisfied with our accustomed way of doing it.

2. Again, a sincere Christian will be on his guard that he make no dangerous comparisons between himself and his neighbours. It will never do to take it for granted that we keep our place in respect of piety and goodness — that we are no worse than we were, in fact — because we are no worse in comparison with them. It may be that all around you are gone astray from God, and in the way to everlasting ruin: if such turn out to be the case, you may excuse and flatter yourself now that you are no worse than they; but it will be little comfort to you in the day of account, when you find that your condemnation is as bad as theirs.

(Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times.")

It is a sure law that, as Luther said, "He who is a Christian is no Christian." He who thinks that he has gained the fulness of the faith has lost it. Progress is a requirement of spiritual vitality; and the recompense of past progress is the assurance of progress to come. In the words of a famous Hebrew saying, "The reward of a precept is a precept." He, that is, who has fulfilled one commandment is allowed to receive another. He who has reached one height of truth catches a glimpse of a loftier height beyond. Each attainment in the Divine life becomes the occasion for the revelation of fresh duty. The crown of labour for a being such as man is not rest but longer and nobler toil. It is true, we know, that to him that hath more shall be given. And it is no less true that of him that hath done much shall more be required. Each achievement of the successful worker was indeed God's gift. And what we receive, what we realize, what we gain — however we call the process — is not for contemplation, or for hoarding, but for further service. What is reaped supplies the seed corn for a richer harvest. The gifts of God answer to His requirements, and the requirements of God answer to His gifts. "Grace for grace" — grace to be used in return for grace already used — is the law which regulates God's blessing; "from strength to strength" is the description of the Christian's course. "We must abound more and more." We must seek untiringly for signs of growing nearness to God, and show what we have found. The trained eye learns to see beauties which were once undistinguished. The trained ear learns to interpret voices which were once inarticulate. And is it so — do we confidently trust that it always will be so — spiritually with ourselves? Are we able as the years go on to fix our eyes more steadily on God, shrinking with livelier sensibility from sin more than from suffering, realizing our fellowship one with another in Him with a more intense vividness, looking, and showing that we look, beyond the wild confusion of the hour to the one will of peace and righteousness which cannot at last want accomplishment? Are we able to listen to the Divine wisdom conversing with us as with sons in the words of apostles and prophets, speaking to us in our own tongues, interpreting our own thoughts, answering the questions with which our hearts are full? Are we able to rest with increasing peace in the contemplation of Him who is perfect light, and to bring before Him who is perfect compassion the unceasing prayer of sympathetic remembrance for all with whom we are united as fellow workers in the present and as fellow heirs of the future? Are we able to pause in the solemn stillness of thought till we are alone with God, and to offer ourselves to the fire of His love; that so little by little all may be consumed in us — all passion and pride, all self-seeking and self-trust — which does not minister to His glory, which does not, that is, make clearer to men His infinite perfection? Are we able to regard the world in its unspeakable vastness, life with its inevitable sorrows, nature with its contrasts (to our eyes) of beauty and terror, or grace and mocking grotesque ness, as even now gathered up in Christ, and seek for ourselves the development of every faculty by which we may be taught to spell out better the One Name written in all that is finite? We tremble perhaps as we put such questions to ourselves. But they stir us at least with a sense of what our faith is. They make plain to us to what we are called. They show an obligation to progress, a capacity for influences of which, it may be, we are habitually unmindful. They condemn us perhaps. But the sentence of condemnation is the message of hope. It is a revelation of God's love as well as of man's failure. The strength for service and the opportunities for service are still given to us through the gospel.

(Bp. Westcott.)

An aged Christian man who had been much benefited through life by God's blessing, after thankfully referring to his more than fifty years of health, prosperity, and abounding mercies, remarked, "I am convinced that if I have to be any happier than I have been or am, I must get more religion." The Hindus have a legend that a very little man once got a promise from a great king that he should have as much territory as he could overstep in three strides. Then the little man began to grow till his head reached the sky, and at last, when he took his three strides, with the first he overstepped all the land, with the second he overstepped all the seas, and with the third he compassed all the heavens. If we grow in knowledge, in wisdom, in grace, and in everything that is good, as we ought, we may at length be able to compass much that will be most advantageous to ourselves and to others.

(H. K. Burton.)

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