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BY JOEL HAWES, D. D.
1 John 2: 28. And now, little children, abide in him; that when he shaL appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
The term little children is used in the text, as a term of affectionate endearment. It fell gracefully from the lips of the loved and loving Apostle John, now far advanced in life, — as ripe for heaven as he was in age, and in all the graces of the Christian character. He felt for those whom he thus addressed all the affection of a father for his children. He regarded them as fellow disciples of Christ, children of God and heirs with him to an inheritance in heaven. Most of them were doubtless much younger than himself, and many of them were probably in their youthful age, having as yet but little experience in the christian life, and exposed to the temptations and dangers incident to persons in their situation. The venerable Apostle, writing to them, just on the verge of hfe, soon to take his departure to his home in heaven, naturally gave vent to his feelings in language expressive of tender affection and earnest
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desire for their highest and best good. Having in the context referred to certain dangers and trials to which the persons addressed were exposed, and indicated the way and the means of overcoming them, he urged on them an important duty, expressed in the most tender and impressive exhortation, — And now httle children abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
In contemplating this portion of scripture, three leading thoughts claim our attention, — An event to be prepared for, a duty enjoined in reference to that event, and the reasons or motives by which that duty is enforced. I shall speak of each of these topics in their order. And,
I, The event referred to, for which preparation is to be made, is the coming of Christ, — that we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him, at his coming. Let us contemplate this great fact, the second coming of our Lord as it is set before us in the light of God's word.
And here, I may remark in passing, that for all the knowl-
edge we have of this fact, the winding up of this world's probation, and the events which are to attend and follow it, we are wholly indebted to revelation. Reason unaided, can not penetrate into the future even to tell us what shall be on the morrow ; much less can it make known to us the time and manner of the end of the world, or the scenes which are to precede and attend that great and solemn event. All is hidden from us except so far as Divine revelation has lifted the curtain and given us light on this subject of momentous interest. Of momentous interest it certainly is, beyond any other event that ever occurred in the history of our race. — I mean the coming of our Lord to judge the world.
The first coming of Christ, as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, was a great event. It was for centuries foretold by prophets, and looked forward to with intense desire by all, who, like Simeon of old, waited for the consolation of Israel. And when the Saviour did appear on earth, all heaven, it would seem, was moved by the event. A company of angels were commissioned to announce the fact to men ; a strange star appeared in the heavens to guide inquiring sages from the distant East to the manger where he was laid in his infantile weakness and dependence. And truly it was a scene of deep and moving interest when the Son of God, who had glory with
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the Father before the world was, veiled that glory in our humanity, became a man of sorrows and aquainted with grief, and during his whole sojourn on earth, submitted to privations and sufferings, to shame and reproach, in every form, from those whom he came to save, crowning all by the sacrifice of the cross. Nor is it strange, considering who he was, and on what errand he came into the world, that mighty signs and wonders should mark his advent, and signalize every part of his mission on earth. Again and again, angels were sent forth to minister unto him ; again and again the Eternal Father bore witness to him, proclaiming with loud voice from heaven, — This is my beloved Son ; hear ye him. And at his crucifixion, the sun, the earth, the opening graves and rising dead, united their testimony to the majesty and glory of the Son of God, as the Saviour and Sovereign of the world.
These scenes are passed. They marked the first coming of the Son of God upon earth and his departure from it. But the scenes yet future, which gather around the second coming of Christ, are far more grand and awful than those just adverted to. Let us consider them for a moment. The fact of his second coming to close the world's probation and fix, in righteous judgment, the eternal destinies of men, is clearly set
before us in the Scriptures, and always in language peculiarly solemn and impressive. Thus Enoch, the seventh from Adam, foretelling his judicial appearance, said — Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment upon all. And John, in the opening of the Revelation, exclaims — Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him ; and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. The everlasting judge himself assures us of his coming, with this preface, — Behold I come quickly ; that is suddenly, unexpectedly, in a manner fitted to rouse universal attention. Hear also the declaration of the two angelic messengers who appeared to the Apostles on the Mount of Olives after the ascension of Christ in their presence ; — Ye men of Galliiee ; why stand ye gazing up into heaven ? This same Jesus which is taken from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. The Apostle Paul, referring to this great event as a source of comfort to those who had recently lost Christian friends in the church of Thessalonica, says, — The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with the voice of the archangel and the trump of
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God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which
are alive and remain shall be caught up together with him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air ; so shall we ever be with the Lord. So also, in his second epistle to the same church, he says ; The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them who know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all them that believe. Again, in the epistle to the Hebrews it is said, — As it is appointed unto men once to die and after that the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him, he shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
To this second coming, our Lord himself refers when in his last discourse to his disciples, he said, — In my Father's house are many mansions ; if it were not so, I would have told you ; I go to prepare a place for you ; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am, there ye may be also. But the passage which contains the fullest account of the second coming of Christ is in the 25th chapter of Matthew, where our Lord speaks at length of the process and results of the final judgment. It opens thus : When the Son of Man shall come in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory,
and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats. I need not quote the whole passage. It declares, in the plainest terms, the coming of our Lord to judge the world, and also the results of the final trial of the two classes of persons summoned before his tribunal, and closes with the solemn announcement that the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.
Let it be remembered now that this grand and awful scene, the final judgment, is before us ; we shall all witness it, not as spectators merely, but as persons directly concerned in it. And in what way may we be prepared to meet it with confidence and hope, and not be overwhelmed with disappointment and despair in the great day of the Lord's coming ? Our text informs us. And now little children abide in him, that when he shall appear we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
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II. Let us, then, as proposed, secondly, consider the duty here enjoined, that of abiding in Christ. What is meant by this duty, or what is it to abide in Christ? The language is of
frequent occurrence in the New Testament, and is full of deep, significant meaning. To speak of one as abiding in. Christ implies of course, that he is already in him ; in him by a new spiritual birth ; in him by having been made a new creature in Christ ; for it is said, if any man be in Christ he is a new creature ; and this change, this internal spiritual change, we must all experience, before we can be in Christ in any such sense as will give us confidence in the day of his final coming. To be in him in the true scriptural import of the phrase is to have a real vital union with him in faith and love and holy obedience ; it is to have him formed in the soul, as the Apostle speaks, the hope of glory, inspiring us with his spirit, actuating us by his grace, conforming us to his will and making us fruitful in all holy living to the glory of his name. In a word, to be in Christ and abide in him is to be engrafted into him, as the Saviour teaches in the fifteenth chapter of John, as the branch is engrafted into the vine, so that we shall derive our spiritual life from him, and be nurtured and strengthened and made steadfast in our Christian course unto the end, or until we are finally fitted for, and received into heaven.
Having thus stated what it is to be in Christ and to abide in him, let us next consider the necessity of this to fit us for the second coming of our Lord ; to prepare us to witness that grand and momentous event without fear and without the overthrow of our hopes. And surely in the great day of the
Lord's coming we shall need something to rest upon as a ground of confidence firmer and more abiding than anything the world can afford us. Suppose that day present, the day for which all other days were made ; the point where will be concentrated all your interests for eternity, and from which you are to take your departure for heaven or for hell, according to the sentence pronounced upon you from the great tribunal. Can it be doubted that in the presence of such a scene, many in this assembly would be thrown into the greatest consternation, overwhelmed with fear and dread ? But what is future will one day be present, and the time will come when we shall behold the scene of the final coming of Christ in judgment actually transpiring before our eyes, and when we shall realize in our inmost souls that our all for eternity is pending on the
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will of him in whose immediate presence we shall stand to be tried and judged. Now, it is of having confidence in that day, of not being ashamed or confounded before our judge at his coming, that the Apostle speaks in our text, and he exhorts us to one thing, if in that day we would have peace of mind, and confidence and hope, and that is, that we abide in Christ.
Let us see how this will avail to keep us in calmness and hope on that great and dreadful day. And
1. Abiding in Christ we shall have no fear of condemnation in the day of his final coming. For we are assured there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus. Their debt of guilt is canceled; the penalty of the violated law is blotted out, and the soul found in Christ, abiding in him is justified freely by his grace, is pardoned and accepted in him and has nothing to fear from, the process and issues of the trial at the last day. The great cause of dread on that day will be a consciousness of guilt unpardoned, of sin unforgiven ; but this taken away, as it will be in respect to all who abide in Christ, they will look up with serene confidence and hope, to the judge on his throne, and feel that they have nothing to fear from the decisions of his tribunal.
2. Abiding in Christ you will feel assured, when summoned into his presence at the last day, that you have a friend in your judge, an advocate and intercessor ; and having chosen him, according to his word, as your Saviour and your all, you can securely leave your cause in his hand, in firm confidence that all will be well with you forever. Your sins forgiven, your soul united to the E,edeemer, who now appears your Days-man, your Mediator, to answer the demands of justice, and assert his claims to you as one for whom he died ; clothed in his right-
eousness and sealed by the Spirit as an heir of heaven, — what can there be in the scenes of the last day to shake your confidence or cloud your mind with fear ? Nothing, nothing ; all will rather exalt your confidence, your joy and your hope, in the full assurance that the day of your complete redemption has come, and you are saved forever. I may add,
3. That found abiding in Christ, his promise is given, his truth pledged, that all your dearest interests are safe for eternity. Having loved you and given himself to die for you, and you having chosen him as your Saviour, and united to him in an abiding, spiritual union, the scenes of the last day will only consummate the work begun in your behalf on earth, will ful-
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fill all the precious promises of the Saviour's love toward you; pronounce your full discharge before the great tribunal, and bid you welcome as blessed of the Father to an immortal inheritance prepared for you in heaven. So it will be with all who abide in Christ. He is their all and in all ; their Lord and Saviour ; their righteousness and strength ; he redeemed them by his blood, and his redemption of them will be consummated at his second coming and they will be bidden welcome to the
eternal joys of his kingdom.
Let me now, in conclusion, direct your attention for a moment, to some of the reasons or motives, which enforce the duty of abiding in Christ, and so having confidence when he shall appear. And
1. Let it be impressed on your mind that his coming to judge the world is an absolute certainty. The time of his coming is unknown ; it is a secret with God ; it may be near at hand, or it may be afar off; we do not know. But the fact that he will come hereafter to raise the dead and sit in judgment on the whole race of man, is as certain as the word of God can make it. It is appointed unto men once to die and after that the judgment. This is the decree of heaven; and nothing can reverse it. Consider then, that just so. certain as it is that you must die, so certain it is, that you will stand before the Son of God in judgment, and will see with your own eyes all the grand and awful scenes which are to atttend his coming at that day. Contemplate the duty before you in the light of this solemn fact, and let the certainty of the coming of Christ to judge you and all mankind at his bar, urge you, one and all, to be found in him, to abide in him in life, in death, and so be accepted of him in the great day of final decision.
I may just add, in this connection, that now is the time to
seek and form that union with Christ, that abiding in him which is necessary to secure_your confidence at his final appearing. For if found out of Christ at death — and you may die any moment — you will be found out of him at the judgment, and the consequence, in either case, will be fear and trembling, endless despair and wo.
2. To enforce still further the duty we are considering, let me remind you again of the august and solemn scenes connected with the coming of Christ to judge the world. I have before spoken of these scenes and need not enlarge here. ' I .advert to them now as suggesting the most solemn and weighty
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motive to the duty enjoined in this text. Think then of the end of time, of the closing up of this world's probation ; of the eternal Judge coming in the clouds of heaven, with mighty angels ; of his raising the dead ; of his gathering them all before his bar ; of his laying open the characters and disclosing the deeds and deserts of all, as the ground of the sentence to be pronounced on them, and then of his assigning to each and to all their final condition as saved or lost, in heaven or in hell. Remember that these scenes are before you ; you may forget
them ; you may neglect to prepare for them ; but you can not escape them ; you must meet them ; must bear a part in them, as awaiting the final audit, with its issues, before the bar of Christ your Judge. Is there then anything so important as that you should prepare, while you may, for the coming of the great day of the Lord ? Should not every one of you, now moving on to judgment, inquire with all seriousness, how you may have confidence in that day and not be confounded before your judge at his appearing? And there is but one answer to that inquiry ; it is that you be found in Christ, abiding in him as your Lord, your Saviour and your all. This duty is enforced,
3. By the consideration that Christ is presented in his gospel as an all-suflicient Saviour ; and abiding in him, you may rest assured that you will be able to witness the scenes of the last day with perfect peace. There is one name, and but one given under heaven among men whereby you can be saved from wrath in the great day of the Lord's coming. That is Christ. He is an all-sufficient refuge, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation, and abiding in him you have the assurance of eternal truth that you shall never be moved. Safe beneath the pavilion of his everlasting love and faithfulness, you can hear the voice of the archangel and the trump of God calling the dead to judgment ; you can see the earth on fire and the heavens rolled together as a scroll; the judge
descending with his mighty angels, and all nations gathered before his bar, waiting the decisions of his judgment seat; you can witness all this, and in all this, as one of the immense throng before the great tribunal, rest in perfect confidence that you are safe, and safe forever. And that because you are shielded in the almighty power and everlasting love of Christ your Redeemer. Found in him you can adopt the language of the Apostle and apply every word of it to yourself, even when on 33
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your trial at the last day, — Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth ? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again ; who is even at the right hand of God ; who also maketh intercession for us. And this care and love which the risen and exalted Saviour now exercises in behalf of the redeemed, will not be withdrawn, but consummated at the final judgment, and they will then enter into the joys prepared for them in his eternal presence in glory. Weigh well this motive, and let all be persuaded by it to be found abiding in Christ, that so they may have perfect security and confidence amid the solemn scenes of the last day. It must be added,
4. Security amid those scenes can be derived from no other source. View the coming of the Lord as present, and yourself before his bar, awaiting your final trial ; and whence could you look for confidence, whence find peace and hope in such an hour? Insensibility and carelessness will then be at an end; unbelief and presumption will then be impossible ; all will be felt to be solemn reality, stirring the deepest feelings of the soul and waking all the faculties of the mind into the most intense activity. Will mere morality avail to give you confidence in that day, or self-righteousness, or any form or profession of godliness, however fair and commendable in appearance, if you are found without Christ, having never known what it is to be in him and to abide in him ? Nay, these and all other refuges will vanish in a moment in the presence of the great tribunal, and having nothing to rest upon, other than your own deeds, or your own deservings, you will sink down in utter despair, overwhelmed with the consciousness that you are lost, and lost for eternity. And O, how terrible the conviction of guilt which will then penetrate and weigh down the soul, the guilt of having neglected Christ, of refusing to set your hope in him and to receiv'e him as your Saviour; substituting for God's method of saving you, devices and schemes of your own, all utterly fallacious and worthless.
We fall back then on this great truth ; you can have confi-
dence in the day of Christ's coming, only as you abide in him ; be in him first by a vital union with him in faith and love, and then continuing in him as your Lord and Saviour, your righteousness and your all, faithful unto death. This is God's method of saving sinners and of inspiring them with confidence in the great day of judgment and account. It is plain and definite.
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There is no other. This is all-sufficient, free and open to all. I set it before you this day, and invite you all to avail yourselves of it, that so you may have confidence^ and not be ashamed and confounded before the Lord at his final appearing to judge the world.
What then is the great question which in view of this subject should coihe home to the mind of each one of my hearers. It is this, — Do I know, experimentally, what it fs to be in Christ ? and what it is to abide in him in faith and love, as the Lord my righteousness and strength, my Saviour and my all ? Remember that in deciding this question you must go beyond mere profession and form ; beyond mere morality and outward respect for religion and its ordinances ; you must go down into the heart and inquire into the working of the inner spirit,
and know whether Christ is in you the hope of glory ; whether his love rules in the inner man, and his grace controls the habits, the aims and the pursuits of life. This inquiry, involving as it does the soul's immortal well being, claims the most serious attention of every person present, and urges you, one and all, as you would have confidence in the day of the Lord's coming, to decide it on grounds that will abide by and sustain you in hope, when the heavens and the earth shall be no more, and the condition of all men as saved or lost will be fixed forever.
I here leave the subject with the prayer that when the Lord the judge shall appear, the message now delivered you in his name shall be approved of him, and that you to whom it has been addressed may be found abiding in Christ, ready to welcome his appearing, and to enter at his call into his kingdom of everlasting blessedness.
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