deliverance from hostile hands, that we may serve Him without fear,
I. IT BEGINS IN SPIRITUAL EMANCIPATION. "We being delivered out of the hand of our enemies." In order to "walk in newness of life," we must be rescued from the thraldom of sin. And there is a twofold deliverance that we need. One is from the condemnation of our guilt; for we cannot rest and rejoice in the love of God while we are under a troubled sense of the Divine displeasure, while we feel and know that our "sin has separated between" ourselves and our heavenly Father. The other is from the bondage of evil. So long as we are "held in the cords of our sins," we are helplessly disobedient; it is only when we have learnt to hate sin, and, loathing it, to leave it behind us, that we are free to walk in the path of righteousness. This double emancipation is wrought for us by the Lord whose way the son of Zacharias was to prepare. By faith in him, the great Propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2), we have full and free forgiveness, so that all the guilty past may be removed from our sight; and in the presence of a crucified Redeemer "the flesh and its affections are crucified," we die to our old self and our old iniquities, the tolerance of sin is slain, we hate that which we loved and embraced before, we are "delivered out of the hand of our enemies."
II. IT PROCEEDS ALONG THE PATH OF FILIAL SERVICE. We "serve him without fear." Here are two elements - obedience and happiness. As soon as we unite ourselves to our Lord and Savior, we live to serve. "None of us liveth to himself;" "We thus judge,... that we who live should not live unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us" (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). And this is the only true life of man. The animal may live for itself, though even the higher animals live rather for others than for themselves. But all whom we should care to emulate live to serve. It is not the sentence passed, it is the heritage conferred upon us, that in Christ Jesus we live to serve God - to serve him by direct worship and obedience, and also, indirectly, by serving the children of his love and the creatures of his care. And we serve in love; and therefore without fear - without that fear which means bondage; for "perfect love casteth out fear." It is with no hesitating and reluctant step that we walk in the ways of God; it is our joy to do his bidding; we "delight to do his will: yea, his Law is within our heart" (Psalm 40:8). "We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;" our spirit is the spirit of happy childhood, which runs to fulfill its Father's word.
III. IT MOVES TOWARDS PERFECT EXCELLENCE OF CHARACTER. "In holiness and righteousness before him." Here are three elements of the Christian life.
1. A holy hatred of evil; leading us to condemn it in ourselves and in others, and prompting us to expel and extirpate it to the utmost of our power.
2. The pursuit and practice of all that is equitable; endeavoring to do and to promote that which is just in all the relations in which we stand to others, or they to one another.
3. Piety; doing every right thing as unto Christ our Lord; living consciously "before him;" so that all our rectitude of heart and excellency of behavior is something more than a habit of life; it is a sacrifice unto our Savior.
IV. IT PERSEVERES EVEN TO THE END. "All our days." There is no break in our course. Our upward and onward path may be undulating, but it is continuous, and is ever making for the summit. We do not retire, or resign, or abdicate, in this noblest work, in this sacred office of being "servant of the Lord," "king and priest unto God." Having loved his own, our Master loved them unto the end (John 13:1); and loving him whom we have not seen, and rejoicing in him with unspeakable joy, we are faithful unto death, and we know that
"To him that overcometh
Being delivered out of the hand of our enemies.
(Memoirs of the late Bishop Gobat.)— In a Western cabin, far away from all other residences, there sat a Christian mother rocking her babe to sleep. The husband and the father had been called suddenly off on business, and there had been no defence provided for that house that night in the wilderness. As the mother sat there in the cabin rocking her babe to sleep, miles away from any other tenement, glancing to the floor she saw a ruffian's foot projecting from under the table. Having rocked her child to sleep she put him in the cradle, and then knelt down and said: "Oh I Lord, keep this child; keep me. Oh! Thou who never slumbereth, watch over our cabin to-night. Let no harm come to us. If there be those abroad who wish us ill, bring them to a better mind. The Lord have mercy upon all wanderers, all who do deeds of violence and death. Bring them to Thyself — bring them to pardon and to heaven." As she arose from the prayer the ruffian came out from under the table and said: "There will be no harm to you to-night. Pray for me, I am the wanderer that you spoke of. Pray for me." Years passed on, and that Christian woman sat in a great meeting called in the interest of reform. There was a great orator that day to be present, and as he preached righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, his eye fell upon the countenance of that woman. His cheek was blanched and he almost failed in his speech. At the close of the meeting they joined hands, and a few words of conversation passed, and some one said: "Why, where did you form the acquaintance of that orator?" "Never mind," she said, "I have known him many years." Who was it watching the mother that night? Who was it watching the babe? Who was tit that brought the ruffian to God in repentance for his sin? Who is it that watches all our cradles, and all our tables, and all our homes, and all our way? Blessed be His glorious name for ever. He is a shelter to which we may all run. He is a fortress in which we may all be safe.
Might serve Him without fear.I. The conveyance made in this covenant — "That He would grant unto us," &c.
II. The benefits secured to us in this conveyance. Let us then attend —
I. TO THE CONVEYANCE MADE IS THIS COVENANT. In this two things may be observed.
1. The parties in whose favour this conveyance is made. Us, the seed of Abraham. So in this gospel, the Covenant is held out to you all, as heaven's blank bond for grace and glory, that whosoever will, may fill his own name in it, by applying the same to himself in the way of believing.
2. The manner of the conveyance. It is by way of grant or gift, for so the word is. But observe the gift is to us, and so it is to be understood in respect of us, to be a free gift. In respect of the Lord Jesus, it is not so. All the benefits of the covenant, to be bestowed on His spiritual seed, are made over to Him on a valuable consideration. God gives us to serve our Redeemer, because Christ served Him perfectly in our room and stead.
II. To THE BENEFITS SECURED TO US IN THIS CONVEYANCE, even the sum of the benefits of the covenant of grace.
1. The principal benefit, which stands here under the notion of the end, namely, serving the Lord. "That He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve Him." O that men would learn this lesson, that any service we do to God, if right service, it is a benefit of the covenant, bestowed On us, for Christ's sake. Then would they learn that God is not debtor unto them for it, but they are debtors to free grace on that very account. And the more they do for God, and the better that they do it, they are always the deeper in debt to free grace, (Ephesians 2:8, 9, 10). This benefit of the covenant, that we might serve Him, imports three things:
1. The privilege of God's service. God is a master of infinite glory and power, so that to be admitted into His service is the greatest privilege. How do men value themselves, in that they are of an earthly king's household, servants to one who wears a crown? But what a small thing is that, in comparison of this, to be the fellows of angels, in being taken into the service of Jehovah, the Lord of heaven and earth. It is a great part of heaven's happiness. "For there His servants shall serve Him."
2. Strength and ability for His service. "And I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk up and down in His name, saith the Lord." "He that abideth in Me, and I in him," saith Jesus, "the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing." "For His grace is sufficient for us, and His strength is made perfect in weakness."
3. Acceptance of the service. For without faith it is impossible to please God. Concerning this covenant service, two things are further to be remarked.
1. The kind of service to God, in which sinners are instated by the covenant of grace; for there is a great difference of services. Now —(1) This is not bond service, the service of slaves, who work their work for fear of their master's whip. "Wherefore we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but we have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father."(2) It is not hired service, so much work for so much wages. But —(3) It is an honorary service. So the word used by the Holy Ghost, in the text, signifies to minister, which is an honorary kind of service, such as kings and priests had when put into their office. Thus Christ hath made His people kings and priests unto God. They are a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ. Let us now attend —
2. To the qualities of the service. They are these:(1) It is universal, which the service of these remaining under the first covenant never is. "Then shall I not be ashamed, when [ have respect unto all Thy commandments." We are to serve Him in holiness and righteousness. These answer to the whole holy law as a rule of life. That grace is held forth in the covenant, which you are to embrace for sanctification, as well as justification. And it is a full covenant for that purpose, as for all other purposes of salvation.(2) It is a perpetual and lasting service. The first covenant required a lasting service, but secured not man from breaking the service. But the second covenant secures the perpetuity of the service, that, however fickle the believer is, yet he shall serve the Lord all the days of his life. It imports that he shall serve the Lord for ever and ever, in heaven, after death. We are now to consider, secondly, the subordinate benefit, namely, deliverance from our enemies, which stands here as a mean in order to the end, namely, God's service. "That we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve Him." It is evident from the structure of the words, both in our version, and in the original especially, that the service is the end of the deliverance, and the deliverance the means of the service. As God said of Israel in Egypt, so doth He say of all His people; "Let My son go, that he may serve Me." They cannot serve the Lord till once they be delivered.This may also direct you in your management of this solemn occasion of grace and salvation.
1. If ever you would be capable to serve the Lord, seek that you may be delivered from your spiritual enemies, taken out of their hands who keep you in bondage.
2. If ever you would obtain that deliverance from your spiritual enemies, seek it in the covenant, in a way of believing. "And if the Son make you free, you shall be free indeed." Lastly, Seek that deliverance, that you may serve the Lord. Many seek deliverance by Christ, that they may live at ease in the embraces of their lusts, free from the fear of hell.
(T. Boston.)I. THE COVENANT DELIVERANCE BESTOWED. We, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies. I shall reduce these to four.
1. They are delivered from the law. Not from the law as a rule of life in the hand of a Mediator, standing in the covenant of grace; but from the law as a covenant, under which all men are in their natural state (Romans 6:14, 15). They are delivered from the curse of it. From the commanding power of it. For how can it have a commanding power over them who are not under it? But they are as completely freed from it, as death can make a wife free from her husband.
2. From sin. Though they are not free from the indwelling of it in this life, and molestation by it, yet they are freed from its guilt of eternal wrath, by which it binds over the sinner to the revenging wrath of God. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." They are freed also from the dominion of sin. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace."
3. From death. Our Lord's words are, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep My saying, he shall never see death." Lastly, from Satan, though not from molestation by him in this life; yet from under his power and dominion. Let us now —
II. Take notice of the covenant service, WHICH IS THE DESIGN OF THIS DELIVERANCE; and not only the design of the deliverance, but also of the deliverer: which, therefore, shall certainly take effect in the delivered. I take it up in three things, according to the text. They shall serve the Lord —
1. As sons serving their Father. Love to their Father will set them to work.
2. They shall serve Him universally. "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect to all Thy commandments." They will serve the Lord internally and externally.
3. They will serve Him constantly. "I have inclined my heart to perform Thy statutes alway, even unto the end." Let us —
III. SHOW THE NECESSARY CONNECTION BETWIXT THE COVENANT DELIVERANCE AND COVENANT SERVICE.
1. None can serve the Lord in this right manner, till once in the first place, they are delivered: no more than a dead corpse can rise and serve you (Ephesians 2:1-10).
2. The soul being once thus delivered, will certainly serve the Lord " in holiness and righteousness before Him."
Use 1. The sanctification of sinners is the chief subordinate end of the covenant of grace, or of the gospel, standing next to the glory of God.
Use 2. They in whom the spirit of legalism, hypocrisy, and apostasy reigns, have no part nor lot in this matter. Lastly, as ever you would evidence yourselves God's covenant people, partakers of this deliverance, serve no more the devil and your own lusts.
(T. Boston.)I. The first blessing resulting from the Incarnation of Christ is DELIVERANCE FROM OUR ENEMY. Man's worst enemy is the devil and sin. In one sense it may be said we are not freed from these, for temptation besets the path of the Christian all through life; and the best and holiest men must with shame confess that they day by day offend. Yet is it true that since the coming of Christ the power of the devil on earth is much diminished, our Lord having seen him like lightning fall from heaven, and having by His descent into hell triumphed over the dismal powers of despair and hell. Strong as temptation is, we know that no one is tempted beyond what he is able to resist, and if he have recourse to the passion of Christ he will obtain not only a victory but a crown.
II. The next result of Christ having come in the flesh is, THAT WE MAY SERVE HIM WITHOUT FEAR. To every son of Adam sufficient grace is given to save him, though, alas I we see too many neglect so gracious a gift. But if the work of Christ be thus enabling, what an obligation it lays on all to occupy with that precious talent. God has done all this to enable you to render to Him that service, which is not only perfect freedom, but the true end and happiness of the creature, the very purpose for which all things were called into being. And this service is without fear. The relation with God into which we are brought through His Divine Son is a filial one. We have received the adoption of sons, and therefore the more we act as dutiful children, the more we shall love our kind parent; and when love is perfect, then, we are told, it casts out fear. The fear thus cast out is distrust of God's goodness and mercy, or the dread of ever being separated from His holy care. But we are not for a moment to believe that any supposed advance in the spiritual life entitles us to take liberties with the honour of Him, at whose sight the whole earth trembles.
III. THIS SERVICE IS IN HOLINESS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS. Holiness has been defined to be purity and strength, the clean heart and the strong will dedicated as an offering to God; and righteousness is the same as justice, and may be taken either for that one great quality, whereby we render both to God and to man what is due, or else for that habitual charity, which contains the whole cycle of the Christian duties.
IV. THIS SERVICE IS PROGRESSIVE AND CONTINUOUS — "All the days of our life."
1. No man is really safe till his trial is over. A blight may come over the soul; temptation, hitherto successfully resisted, may at length be succumbed to; conscience drugged, the soul may finally be lost.
(1) (2) (3) (4) 2. We must be ever advancing. It takes a long and a weary time to destroy the traces of old gin, and form ourselves upon the model of the new man. Even at the end we shall be far short of the ensample proposed to us, but there is comfort in the thought that even if we are not now what we ought to be, there is no necessity for staying as we are. God is ever calling us, and aiding us in our faintest efforts to obey that call. He mercifully deals with us both by prosperity and by adversity, if we only will submit to His loving discipline. (Bishop A. F. Forbes.) (H. R. Burton.) (Dr. Finney.) (H. W. Beecher.)
(2) (3) (4) 2. We must be ever advancing. It takes a long and a weary time to destroy the traces of old gin, and form ourselves upon the model of the new man. Even at the end we shall be far short of the ensample proposed to us, but there is comfort in the thought that even if we are not now what we ought to be, there is no necessity for staying as we are. God is ever calling us, and aiding us in our faintest efforts to obey that call. He mercifully deals with us both by prosperity and by adversity, if we only will submit to His loving discipline. (Bishop A. F. Forbes.) (H. R. Burton.) (Dr. Finney.) (H. W. Beecher.)
(3) (4) 2. We must be ever advancing. It takes a long and a weary time to destroy the traces of old gin, and form ourselves upon the model of the new man. Even at the end we shall be far short of the ensample proposed to us, but there is comfort in the thought that even if we are not now what we ought to be, there is no necessity for staying as we are. God is ever calling us, and aiding us in our faintest efforts to obey that call. He mercifully deals with us both by prosperity and by adversity, if we only will submit to His loving discipline. (Bishop A. F. Forbes.) (H. R. Burton.) (Dr. Finney.) (H. W. Beecher.)
(Bishop A. F. Forbes.) (H. R. Burton.) (Dr. Finney.) (H. W. Beecher.)
(Bishop A. F. Forbes.)
(H. R. Burton.)
(H. W. Beecher.)