Plain Sermons by Contributors to, Tracts for the Times
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,…
A Christian, by God's ordinance, is no longer allowed to consider himself as standing alone in the world, but as one among many in a holy family. And this puts all his duties in a peculiar point of view, not always regarded as it ought to be, even by serious and well-meaning men. This piece of instruction is conveyed in the text by the words "peculiar people." The title was at first applied to the holy seed, the Children of Israel, when God had redeemed them to Himself by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. The natural condition of all mankind is no better, you see, than a slavery, out of which we needed to be bought and redeemed, before we could be capable of the mighty blessings which God in His mercy had prepared for us: just as the Jews needed deliverance from Egypt, before they could be brought into Canaan. This slavery the whole world, both Jew and Gentile, were continually making worse, by the bad habits in which they indulged, and the power which they allowed evil spirits to gain over them. Christ died to redeem the sinner from those chains of evil custom, which have wound themselves so round him by length of time, that he feels as if shaking them off would be losing a part of himself. Christ died to redeem the drunkard from his drunkenness, the impure from his debauchery, the unkind from his malice, the godless and careless man from his love of this present world. Observe now to what purpose the Son thus made us free. Not to leave us in such a condition as many seem to delight in imagining, the moment they hear of freedom and liberty — not to turn us out into the world, loose and independent of all restraint — but to make us more dependent on Him, more closely confined within His laws, for every day and hour that we live as Christians. In a word, the peculiar, chosen people, whom Christ vouchsafed to redeem to Himself, were meant, above all things in the world, to be always "zealous of good works"; not only rather good than evil, such as might pass well enough in the world, but "zealous," eager, earnest in good; every man striving and trying to be every day better than he was yesterday. And in order that each particular Christian might answer the better this intention of our gracious Redeemer, He has not left us to stand, as it were, separate and apart from one another, but has appointed that all who believe in Him should make up one people, one household, one body; should feel a deep interest one in another, as if their welfare were bound up together: so that "whether one member suffer, all the members should suffer with it; or whether one member be honoured, all the members should rejoice with it." The whole plan of the Christian Church is, in short, as entirely opposite to the natural pride and self-sufficiency of man as anything can well be imagined. It will not let you for a moment dream that you can stand alone and be independent. If any be tempted to the irreligious fancy of saying, "they never made the promise; others made it in their name, and they cannot be bound by it"; certainly it is in their power, if they will, to disavow and break their word given to God: but let them remember that at the same time they cast away all the privileges of their Christian calling. By the very act of coming to the Holy Communion, you renounce, before God and man, that proud unchristian notion of standing alone, being independent. You yourself profess to stand in continual need of all the means and instruments of grace; the prayers, the intercession, the good example, of your brethren; all the helps which the Son of God has so graciously provided in His Church and household. And surely, as to zeal in good works, every one who thinks at all on the subject knows that one chief purpose of the Holy Communion was to encourage and strengthen men in that.
(Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,