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A D EVERY MA THAT HATH THIS HOPE I HIM PURIFIETH HIMSELF, EVE AS HE IS PURE. — I, St, Jokft^ iii. 4. O thoughtful person can contemplate the rapid increase of desperate and outbreaking sin throughout Christendom, without thinking of the words of Our Lord, Iniquity shall abound : the love of many shall wax cold. The constantly-growing disregard of all Divine ordinances in Church and State, the deepening contempt of the holy ministry, the strengthening of the spirit of lawlessness, all suggest, to the reflecting man, that the world may even now be groaning in the birth-throes of the Man of Sin, who will presendy appear, and head up in his Digitized by VjOOQ IC
i8o Preparation for Christ's Return. own person all the elements of opposition to the cause of the Lord, and bring a deeper woe upon the Church than she has yet experienced. I say with all sincerity, The enemy cometh; and my appeal is to Scriptural prediction on the one hand, and to the swiftly-developing movement of wickedness on the other.
I ask you at this time not only to consider the perils which are so thickly closing around us, but to lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh. This gathering storm is the precursor of the Morning of Joy, of the great Advent when Jesus shall appear again with power and great glory. While multitudes, by their departure from God's way, are preparing to hail, follow, and adore antichrist, faithful ones, though in every form of separation, are united in preparing to meet their Lord. Through all dangers these last will pass triumphant, and be counted worthy to stand before the Son of Man. It is with the intense desire that you, beloved, may be of this number, that I
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Preparation for Christ's Return. i8i have endeavored to lead you to think both of the present peril and of the coming glory. I beg you now to consider the preparation for the appearing of the Lord. It is a subject of immediate moment to all who believe the Lord will ever come, who acknowledge that there is before us the possibility of appearing with Him, whether such may see any signs of the coming day or not. Far more important than even the most accurate discerning of the signs of the times is this preparation to see Jesus as He is. Beloved, said St. John, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be ; but we know, when He
shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. This is the hope held out before every baptized man: To be like Him, pure as He is pure, holy as He is holy, glorified as He is glorified, — not merely to be forgiven all our sins, not merely to be saved from the curse of the outcast, not merely to be delivered from the woe of outer darkness, but to receive a Digitized by VjOOQ IC
1 82 Preparation far Christ's Return. crown of righteousness, to be partaker in an exaltation so immeasurably beyond all power of description or even of imagination, that the beloved disciple, knowing how impossible to conceive its grandeur, saith. It doth not yet appear what we shall be. The analogies are but faint. The foregleams are but as the gray light of the earliest dawn to the clear burst of sunlight when the day breaketh. It is to be like Christ, — ^but who hath seen Him in His exaltation ? Saul of Tarsus saw Him at mid-day, and fell to the earth blinded by the sight. St. John, on the Isle of Patmos, saw Him, and fell at His feet as dead. This glory, on which natural eyes cannot rest, of which the heart of man cannot conceive, is the hope possible to all who have been baptized into Christ, and have put on Christ. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Perhaps the exact meaning of St. John would be more apparent by enlarging somewhat the
translation. Every man that hath this hope
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Preparation far Christ's Return. 183 is one who purifieth himself, even as Christ is pure. That the intention of St. John is to represent purification as the means of gaining this assurance of hope, is clear, I think, from the seventeenth verse of the fourth chapter: Herein is our love made perfect that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as He is, so are we in this world. The ground of confidence in the day of His appearing is becoming like Him in this present world. The possession of the hope in himself is because he purifieth himself as Christ is pure. What, then, is the representation ? It is of a man placing before himself the image of Christ, and becoming day by day changed into the same image ; from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. This is the sum, but it is a representation that should be considered more in detail. The one, then, purifying himself even as Christ is pure, makes the life of the Incarnate Lord the rule of his life in all things. True, the standard is immeasurably Digitized by VjOOQ IC
1 84 Preparation for Christ's Return. high, for it is the character of Him who knew no sin. But this is the measure whereby he guages his thoughts and words and acts. His standard of prayer is the One who prayed without ceasing, and in His agony of supplication sweated from His holy brow, as it were, drops of blood. In self-denial and self-sacrifice he has ever before him the One who had not where to lay His head, — the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. In deeds of love, his pattern is the One who went about doing good, — ^the Friend of the poor and the outcast In sorrow for sin, he reaches forth to apprehend, if it be possible, the unfathomable woe of Him, who, bearing the sins of His brethren, uttered, from the lowest depths of a tortured, tempted, sin-burdened humanity, one loud cry of desolation, " My God, My God ! why hast Thou forsaken Me ! " Thus, in all things in this life, Jesus is his pattern. With this pattern before him, he is engaged in a life-long, ceaseless struggle, in the strength of God, for victory over Digitized by VjOOQ IC
Preparation for Christ's Return. 185 all evil. But can he ever be said to be as Christ in this present world ? Even with this lofty aim and constant conflict, are not the failures many, clings not the carnal
nature still, resisted though it may be for years? Can any man ever be said to be pure as the Lamb of God? And if a wellfounded hope of a share in His glory in the day of His appearing rests on being pure as He is pure, must not the hearts of us all sink in despair as we think thereof? To this let it be answered, in the first place, that whoever- makes the life of our Lord his constant study and pattern, bears such a witness in this world that Jesus alone is pure and spodess, as to make *that character still a living reality. The confessed failures witness to the absolute holiness, measured by which they are failures; and thus one imitating Jesus, though with feebleness and imperfection, bears about with him the image which he is beholding. As the life of Jesus, when on earth, witnessed that He was the Son of God, so the testimony Digitized by VjOOQ IC
1 86 Preparation for Christ's Return.
of the imitation of Him makes the same confession. In this manner, if in no other, the one who, in God's strength, is ever pressing on in the earnest strife to be as Christ, is, in his degree, as He is in this present age. But, secondly, far more than this. Do we not know that, by the power of the Holy Ghost, a gift is bestowed in baptism
which is no less than the nature of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven ? It is this Chrisdy nature, which, as we hold up before us the example of Christ, grows and strengthens more and more, nurtured by the same Holy Ghost who implanted it at the first It is of this new nature that St John speaks. ow are we the sons of God ; not by natural birth, surely, but by the new birth. As we grow in this new life, so are we more and more like Him in this world, and pure as He is pure. And now let us examine for a moment the manifest connection between this purifying and the hope of glory. Although the Digitized by VjOOQ IC
Preparation for Christ's Return. 187 promise is absolute to the one who purifieth himself, ^the connection is by no means arbitrary and casual. Is it not a fact that only the one who longs and toils to be holy, can appreciate and wish for this great exaltation? Is it not true that such as are here described alone hope to awake in His likeness? The promise, so ineffably grand, seems unreal to the carnal and natural man ; and the more gorgeous the descriptions, the more listless and indifferent is he. But take the one who purifieth himself; who, feeling the deadly burden of the law of his members, is consciously engaged in a warfare against unseen and bitter foes,
who strives after holiness, who follows the example of Christ. How is it with him? Is he indifferent to the promise of perfect victory? Does the joy set before him — the fruition of all for which he now struggles, the joint heirship with Christ in His coming kingdom — fail to arouse his highest desires and most eager expectations? Digitized by VjOOQ IC
1 88 Preparation for Christ's Return. And now, my beloved, I hasten to apply these few thoughts to our own lives, and to ask the question : Are we preparing in this, the only way, for the great appearing of Christ? The preparation consists in cherishing the life of Christ within us. Are we doing this with all earnestness and godly zeal? Oh, my beloved, I must declare my conviction that we are too worldly, too trifling, too self-seeking for those who would awake in the likeness of Christ, and be satisfied with it Like children, we have been wasting these golden moments, and, notwithstanding our knowledge is great, we are in fearful peril of losing all the promised blessedness. When business shuts out prayer, when worldly pleasure paralyzes self-denial, when love of ease and luxury keeps us from works of mercy, when the means of grace are neglected — and this, too, while the time is rushing on, bringing us all nearer to the great and awful day — oh, let us not be deceived !
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Preparation for Christ's Return. 189 When such is our record, can we say that we have this hope? The great peril now besetting the Christian man is a worldly Christianity, more popular, more attractive, more seductive than ever before. This would fain give you the name of Christian, and all the privileges of the Christian life without any of its toils and struggles and self-denials ; it would offer you a crown of righteousness without a cross of self-sacrifice; it would delude you with the promise of a joyful resurrection without a present imitation of Christ; it would relieve you of much prayer that you might more indulge yourself in the pomps and vanities of this world; it would teach you to sneer at fasting while a slave to appetite ; it would bless you while you trifle away this solemn time of preparation; it would delight you with the whisper that gain is godliness, that pleasure is purity, that self-seeking is the Christian life, that already the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ Digitized by VjOOQ IC
190 Preparation for Christ's Return.
Against this overwhelming tendency which affects very much of the visible Christianity of this age, I have felt it my duty solemnly to warn you. This apostate Christianity is alluring even us with its syren voice. Against all its fascinations let us place, as an ever effectual answer, these words of St John: "Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is pure," The uncertainties of this life, the fear that these feeble words have failed to turn aside those who most need their warning, cause me to close with a saddened heart But, seeing the signs of the times, necessity was laid upon me. If the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned ; if the sword come and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
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