Col_3:17. Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
SUPPOSING the existence of one Supreme Being to be acknowledged, our obvious duty towards him must be, to exercise such a dependence on him, as shall evince a consciousness, that “in him we live, and move, and have our being [Note: Act_17:28.].” This being what, for distinction’s sake, I will call natural religion, we may see what must, of necessity, be required of us under the Christian dispensation. By the Gospel we are informed, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator and Governor of the universe; and, consequently, must be entitled to all that regard which, as Theists, we pay to the Supreme Being. But He is further revealed to us as the Redeemer of the world; and, consequently, as standing in a still nearer relation to us, as our vital Head; from whom we derive all supplies of grace and peace, and to whom we must ascribe all the blessings which we enjoy, whether in time or in eternity. What, then, is evangelical religion? It is not an assent to certain principles, however accurate those principles may be: nor is it a practice of certain duties, however commendable those duties may be. It is a habit of mind, by means of which Christ’s universal agency is acknowledged, and the whole soul goes forth to him; receiving every thing from his fulness, and improving every thing for his glory.
To unfold this more clearly, I will endeavour to shew, what, under the Gospel dispensation, should be the habit of our minds,
In all that we do for God—
In my text, we are told to do every thing “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Now, by this expression, I understand that we should do every thing,
From respect to his authority—
[St. Paul says, “We command you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly [Note: 2Th_3:6.].” It was by the authority of Christ that he issued that command; and from a respect to that authority was that command to be obeyed. In like manner must we have respect to Christ in every thing that we do: for he has said, “Then are ye my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” It must be a matter of indifference to us what man may enjoin, unless it have the sanction of our blessed Lord’s authority also. We must always ask ourselves, What does the Lord Jesus Christ require of me? That I will do, at all events, and under all circumstances. If it be approved of man, I will do it, not so much to please man, as to please the Lord: and if it be disapproved by man, I shall still do it, because it will please my Lord: nor will I be diverted from the path of duty, though the whole world should combine to oppose my progress. My Lord’s will being clearly ascertained, I shall need nothing to encourage my exertions, nor will I suffer any thing to obstruct them.]
From love to his name—
[We read of “receiving a child in Christ’s name,” and of “giving a cup of water in his name [Note: Mar_9:37; Mar_9:41.]:” that must import that we do it from love to Christ. And this should be the one spring of all our actions: “The love of Christ should constrain us [Note: 2Co_5:14.].” It is not necessary that there should be in our minds, on all occasions, a long train argumentation to call forth this principle: a mother needs not such a process to call forth her love to her infant offspring: if an occasion fall for the exercise of that principle, it is ready for action at all times, and at a moment’s notice. And so should it be with us, towards our Lord Jesus Christ: there should be in us such a deep and abiding sense of our obligations to him, that, in every thing we say, and in every thing we do, we should desire to please him.]
In dependence on his grace—
[The Prophet Micah says, “All people will walk every one in the name of his god; and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever;” that is, in an entire dependence upon him. Now, to whom must we look for direction in all our ways, but to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has engaged, as our Shepherd, to go before us [Note: Joh_10:4.], and who has told us in all things to follow his steps [Note: 1Pe_2:21.]?” And on whom shall we rely for assistance in our difficulties, but on him who has directed us to be “strong in the Lord [Note: Eph_6:10.],” and assured us that “through his strength we shall do all things [Note: 2Co_12:9. Php_4:13.]?” And through whom can we hope for acceptance, but through Him, our Mediator and all-prevailing Intercessor [Note: Eph_3:18. 1Jn_2:1-2.]?]
For the advancement of his glory—
[When Peter and John had healed a man that had been lame from his mother’s womb, the spectators were ready to ascribe the miracle either to “the power or holiness of those” who had wrought it: but the Apostles instantly gave the glory to the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name, and by whose power alone, it had been wrought: “His name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom you see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all [Note: Act_3:6; Act_3:16.].” Thus, whatever it be that we either say or do, we must consult his glory, and labour to advance it. Nothing is too insignificant for us to attend to in this view: “Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we must do all to the glory of God [Note: 1Co_10:31.].” If it be thought that it would be presumption to suppose that any thing we can do can by any means advance his glory, we quite mistake: for, in his last intercessory prayer, he said, “All mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them [Note: Joh_17:10.].”]
The same habit of mind must be cultivated, also,
In all that God does for us—
There may be many occurrences which, to flesh and blood, are painful: yet, in them must we see nothing but an occasion of praise and thanksgiving. Job blessed God as well for taking away his property as for bestowing it [Note: Job_1:21.]. And thus must we also “in every thing give thanks,” knowing that “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us [Note: 1Th_5:8.].”
We, in all circumstances, have occasion to praise our God—
[Those things which have the most painful aspect are yet in reality the fruits of love: for “whom God loveth, he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth [Note: Heb_12:6.].” Indeed, the beneficial tendency of our afflictions is often as clear and visible as if it were pointed out to us by a voice from heaven. For who does not see how trials wean us from the world, and purify us from our dross? We are told, and we find it true, that “tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, even a hope that maketh not ashamed [Note: Rom_5:3-5.].” But, independent of this, so great are the blessings of redemption, that they ought to swallow up, as it were, every other consideration; and to fill our souls with unutterable joy and gratitude, even in the midst of all the troubles that either men or devils can inflict upon us. In the first chapter of this epistle, the Apostle puts this in a most striking point of view. He supposes the Colossians to be oppressed with heavy and long-continued afflictions: and “he prays for them,” that they may be “strengthened with all might, according to God’s glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, who bath made them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who hath delivered them from the power of darkness; and hath translated them into the kingdom of his dear Son, in whom they had redemption through bis blood, even the forgiveness of sins [Note: Col_1:11-14.].” Must they under their trials be content with exercising “patience?” no: or “long-suffering?” no: they must be filled with “joyfulness;” and be so borne up by a sense of God’s mercy, and by the wonders of redeeming love, as to have not a word to utter but in a way of praise and thanksgiving. This then, beloved, is to be the frame of your minds at all times; as it was of Paul and Silas, when in the prison and in the stocks “they sang praises to God at midnight [Note: Act_16:25.].”]
In doing it, however, we must still have respect to the Lord Jesus Christ for the acceptance of our very best services—
[Continually is this inculcated in the Scriptures of truth. “We must give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Eph_5:20.].” Praise is “a sacrifice which must be offered” on him as our altar; and “be presented by him” as our great High Priest, even as the animals were under the Jewish law [Note: Heb_13:15.]; and it is therefore called “the calves of our lips [Note: Hos_14:2.]:” nor can any sacrifice, however holy, be “acceptable to God, but as offered to him through Jesus Christ [Note: 1Pe_2:5.].” This is particularly to be borne in mind at all times. We must “never sacrifice unto our own net, or burn incunse to our own drag [Note: Hab_1:16.],” but do on earth as they are doing in heaven. Not a voice is heard in heaven which does not give glory to God and to the Lamb: nor on earth should a soul be found that does not say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise.”]
Let me now observe,
If this be religion, how little is there of true religion upon earth!
[Where do you find men of the character above described? How few are there, how very few, in whom this is found to be the prevailing habit of their minds! An attention to doctrines is frequent; nor is regard for moral duties uncommon: but such views of Christ, such respect to his authority, such love to his name, such dependence on his grace, such zeal for his glory, and, withal, such an overwhelming sense of his love as swallows up every other feeling; where are these found? In how very small a measure are they possessed by the very best amongst us! and how far are the generality from possessing them at all! Yet it is by this standard that all Christian experience must be tried. My dear brethren, get your minds rightly instructed in this matter; and then will you be able to form a right judgment, both of your own state and of every thing around you.]
If this be true religion, how happy a man is the true Christian!
[Doubtless the Christian must be conscious of innumerable defects, and must find cause in himself for the deepest humiliation. But, in proportion as he has attained this experience, tell me whether he be not happy? tell me whether he be not a far happier man than the possession of the whole world could make him? I know that an ignorant ungodly world will deride this as enthusiasm: but the passage which I before cited, in reference to natural religion, is amply sufficient to shew that this experience is most rational, and indispensable to the Christian character. What are the feelings of one who, in the daily habit of his mind, “lives, and moves, and has his being in God?” Precisely such are the Christian’s feelings towards the Lord Jesus Christ, only elevated by a sense of redeeming love. “Believe ye then in Christ;” and “abide in him” by the exercise of faith and love: and let him be “your life:” yea, “live altogether by faith in Him who has loved you, and given himself for you.” Then will you “rejoice in him even now, with a joy that is unspeakable and glorified,” and soon be partakers of “all the fulness of joy at God’s right hand for evermore.”]