1Th_2:11-12. Ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
NEXT to the example of our blessed Lord, there is none so worthy of imitation as that of St. Paul. He appears to have been so entirely cast into the mould of the Gospel, that he was a living image of all that it requires. In the ministerial office especially he was almost a perfect pattern. His intrepidity, his singleness of heart, his self-denial, his fervent zeal for God, and tender love to man, never were surpassed, nor ever equalled by any human being. Respecting the purity of his intentions, and the probity of his conduct, he could appeal to all among whom he had laboured, yea to God also: no less than eight times in eleven verses does he repeat this appeal; so conscious was he that he had exerted himself to the utmost of his power to promote the welfare of his fellow-creatures, and the glory of his God.
In the appeal before us we may notice,
The duty of Christians—
The first great duty of those to whom the Gospel comes, is to believe in Christ [Note: 1Jn_3:23 and Joh_6:28-29.]. But yet even this is subservient to a higher end, even to the attainment of holiness, and the glorifying of God by a heavenly conversation. The Christian is not to be satisfied with low attainments, but to walk worthy of his God; to walk worthy of him,
As his Governor—
[God has given us a law which is a perfect transcript of his mind and will. This law is to be the rule of our conduct. In obeying it therefore we must not select the easier parts, and overlook the precepts which are more difficult: we must not attempt to reduce the standard to our practice; but rather endeavour to raise our practice to the standard. We should not inquire, How little can I do, and yet escape punishment? but rather, What can I do to please and honour my Divine Master? How shall I commend to others his government? How shall I convince them that his service is perfect freedom? How shall I illustrate his perfections by my own conduct? How shall I make my light so to shine before them, that all who behold it shall be constrained to glorify my God, and to take upon them his light and easy yoke?]
As his Benefactor—
[God has “called” his people, not by the word only, but also by “the effectual working of his power:” he has called them to be subjects of “his kingdom” on earth, and heirs of “his glory” in heaven [Note: Eph_2:19. 2Th_2:13.]. This distinguishing grace calls for every possible expression of love and gratitude. Our one inquiry therefore should be, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits that he hath done unto me? How shall I walk worthy of such a Benefactor? Shall not my soul overflow with love to him? Shall I not “delight myself in him;” and “present myself a living sacrifice to him;” and strive incessantly to “glorify his name?” Shall I think any thing too much to do or suffer for his sake? Shall I not seek to be “pure as he is pure,” and “perfect as he is perfect?” Surely, “as He who has called me is holy, so should I be holy in all manner of conversation [Note: 1Pe_1:15.].”
This is the Christian’s duty; thus to argue, and thus to live.]
In order to enforce this subject yet further, we will consider,
The duty of ministers—
It is through the exertions of ministers that God carries on his work in the hearts of his people. Ministers are set apart on purpose to teach men their duty, and to urge them to the performance of it. They stand related to their people as a parent to his children: and in the exercise of their high office, they are to address them with parental tenderness, and parental authority.
“Suffer ye then the word of exhortation,” while we endeavour to impress upon your minds a due regard for holiness: and permit me, however unworthy of the sacred office, to address you,
In a way of affectionate entreaty—
[“God has called you unto holiness:” and “this also we wish, even your perfection.” Consider then, I beseech you, how much is to be attained by your advancement in holiness.
Consider, how it will contribute to your present happiness.—Experience must long since have shewn you, that there is no comfort in religion, when we are living at a distance from God, or in the indulgence of any besetting sin. We hope too you have found how “pleasant and peaceful are the ways” of godliness, when we are steadfastly walking in them. Go on, and you will have continually increasing evidence, that “in keeping God’s commandments there is great reward.”
Consider also how your piety will promote the good of others. We speak not of the benefit that will arise to society from the good offices you do them: but of the effects which your good example will produce. If your life be not “such as becometh the Gospel of Christ,” the world will despise religion as a worthless unproductive thing: and those who profess godliness will be apt to catch the infection, and to sink into lukewarmness. But if you “walk worthy of your vocation,” you will “by your well-doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men;” you will constrain them to confess, that the principles which operate so powerfully on your souls, must needs be good; and you will perhaps win many, who would never have been won by the word alone [Note: 1Pe_3:1.].
Consider further how it will advance your eternal happiness. What though there be no merit in your works, shall they not be rewarded? Shall not every one reap according to what he sows [Note: Gal_6:7-8.]; and that too, not according to the quality only, but the quantity also, of his seed? Yes; “every man shall be rewarded according to his own labour [Note: 1Co_3:8.]:” he shall “reap sparingly or bountifully, according as he has sown [Note: 2Co_9:6.];” and every talent that is improved shall have a correspondent recompence in the day of judgment [Note: Mat_25:28-29.].
What further inducement can you wish for? Only reflect on these things, and surely I shall not have “exhorted” you in vain.]
In a way of authoritative injunction—
[St. Paul, when least disposed to grieve his people, said to them, “As my beloved sons, I warn you [Note: 1Co_4:14.].” And in the text he tells us, that he “charged” them in a most solemn manner, and testified
.] unto them. Behold then, we testify unto you that the holiness which we inculcate is of prime importance, and indispensable necessity.
Consider that nothing less than this will prove you to be real Christians. If you are “Israelites indeed, you must be without guile.” If fire descend from heaven into the bosom to consume your lusts, it will burn till all the fuel be consumed. The contending principles of flesh and spirit will never cease from their warfare, till the flesh be brought into subjection [Note: Gal_5:17. 1Co_9:27.]. “If you are Christ’s, you have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts [Note: Gal_5:24.].” Deceive not yourselves; for, “whomsoever you obey, his servants you are [Note: Rom_6:16.].” If you are born of God, you will not harbour any sin [Note: 1Jn_3:9.], or be satisfied with any attainment [Note: Php_3:12-14.]; but will seek to be “righteous, even as God is righteous [Note: 1Jn_3:7.].”
Consider that nothing less will suffice to comfort you in a dying hour. When you come to that solemn season, things will appear to you in a different light from what they now do. The truths, which have now gained your assent indeed, but float in your mind as though they were devoid of interest or importance, will then present themselves to your mind as the most awful realities. What will you then think of cold and lifeless services? What bitter regret will seize you, and terrible forebodings too, perhaps, when you look back upon a partial obedience, and an hypocritical profession? O that you may not fill your dying pillow with thorns! O that you may serve the Lord in such a manner now, that in that day you may “enjoy the testimony of a good conscience,” and “have an abundant entrance into the kingdom of your Lord and Saviour [Note: 2Pe_1:10-11. with Psa_37:37.]!”
Consider, lastly, that nothing less will avail you at the bar of judgment. We repeat it, that you will not be saved for your works: but we repeat also, that you will be dealt with according to your works. It will be to little purpose to have cried “Lord, Lord,” if you are not found to have done the things which he commanded [Note: Mat_7:21-23. with Luk_6:46.]. God has said, “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully [Note: Jer_48:10.];” nor will either our self-commendations, or the applause of others, avail us, if the heart-searching God do not bear witness to our integrity [Note: 2Co_10:18.].
Behold then, as in the sight of God, we testify these things; and charge you all, that if you would ever behold the face of God in peace, you make it the great object of your life to walk as becometh saints, and to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”]
[The Apostle contented not himself with general exhortations; but addressed himself to individuals; even, as far as he could, to “every one” of his people. Let me then apply my subject more particularly to you, dispensing to each his portion in due season.
Are there among you those who make no profession of religion?—Think not that you are excused from that strictness which is required of the saints. As the creatures of God, you are bound to obey him; and as “bought with the inestimable price of his Son’s blood, you are bound to glorify him with your bodies and your spirits, which are his [Note: 1Co_6:20.].” Nor should it be any consolation to you that you make no profession of religion; for, if you have not been called to be subjects of God’s kingdom, and heirs of his glory, you are vassals of Satan, and partakers of his condemnation.
Arc there any who, by reason of their unsteady walk, are ready to doubt whether they have ever been effectually called? Let me both “exhort and charge” them not to leave this matter in suspense; but to obtain of God that “grace that shall be sufficient for them.” Let me at the same time suggest some considerations proper to “comfort” and support their minds. They would ask perhaps, How shall I gain the object of my wishes? How shall I walk worthy of my God? I answer, “Walk in Christ [Note: Col_2:6.],” in a continual dependence on the merit of his blood, and the assistance of his good Spirit. By his blood ye shall be cleansed from guilt: “by his Spirit ye shall be strengthened in your inner man,” and enabled to do whatever He commands [Note: Php_4:13.].
Finally, let all, whatever they may have attained, press forward for the prize of their high calling, and endeavour to abound more and more.]