32501 Bestowed upon us by God
There are these two things that seem naturally to be understood by this by us so that our heart is filled with much of the holy ardour of a spirit of true piety. It will be like the glory of God, who is not only the Sp for the ministers of the gospel, but is the Head and Lord of the glorious angels, whom they adore, and who communicates to them the brightness in which they shine, and the flame with which they burn, and is the glorious luminary and sun of the heavenly world, from whence all the inhabitants of that world have their light and life, and all their glory.
In this Sun of righteousness is that light, whose brightness is such that the light of the sun in the firmament in comparison of it is as darkness. For he is the infinite brightness of God’s glory; and of him it is said, Isa. 24:23, “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount of Zion, and in Jerusalem, before his ancients, gloriously.” And accompanying this bright light in him is the infinitely intense flame of love.
There is no love to be compared to his; nor ever was love both to God and man so manifested, as has been in what Christ has done and suffered. Readers, by being burning and shining lights, for those who want to follow to become the sons of God, of whom we read that he is light, and that he is love. 1 John 1:5, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” And chap. 4:16, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us: God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
Therefore it must be that we by being burning and shining lights, are acceptable and amiable in the sight of God, as he delights in his own image and in the image of his Son. And hereby also they will be honourable and amiable in the sight of men, all such as have any sense of that which is truly excellent and beautiful. And it is the way to have their ministry pleasant and delightful to those of this character that sit under it. If we have the fire without the heat, and entertains our auditory with learned discourses, without a saviour of the power of godliness, or any appearance of fervency of spirit, and zeal for God and the good of souls, he may gratify itching ears, and fill the heads of his people with empty notions. But it will not be very likely to reach their hearts, or save their souls.
But if, on the other hand, we will be driven on with a fierce and intemperate zeal, and vehement heat, without light, he will be likely to kindle the like unhallowed flame in his people, and to fire their corrupt passions and affections; but will make them never the better, nor lead them a step towards heaven, but drive them apace the other way. But if we see ourselves as both a burning a shining light, this will be the way to promote true Christianity amongst the people, and to make them both wise, good, and cause religion to flourish among them in the purity and beauty of it.
When the divine fire and heat reach us and others in the spirit of gospel, their light will be like the beams of the sun that do not only convey light, but give life. And converts will be likely to spring up under their ministry, as the grass and the plants of the field under the influences of the sun. And the souls of the saints will be likely to grow, and appear beautiful as the lily, and to revive as the corn, and grow as the vine, and their scent to be as the wine of Lebanon; and their light will be like the light of Christ, which is the light of life, John 8:12.
If the sun should shine upon the earth with the same brightness that it doth now, yet if it were without any heat, it would give life to nothing. The world would be a desolate wilderness, with nothing growing in it. The death of every living thing must be the consequence. And the sun’s light could be of no service to us, but to cause us to see our own and others’ misery, without being able to help ourselves or them. On the other hand, if the sun diffused the same heat that now it does, but the world was destitute at the same time of any light, it would be equally unserviceable. Mankind having no light to guide them in their business, in tilling the field, or gathering the produce of the earth, we should be like the Egyptians in the three days’ darkness, who saw not one another, nor rose from their place. And thus also death would be the unavoidable consequence. But by light and heat accompanying one another, the whole face of the earth becomes fruitful, and is adorned, and all things are quickened and flourish and mankind enjoy both life and comfort.
Thing proposed in handling the doctrine, to apply these things to all here present, that Christ has called to the work of the people to spread the gospel, observing how much it concerns such to endeavour to be burning and shining lights.
Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure."
—I John 3:1-3
We need again and again to be reminded of the truth contained in these verses, God directs our especial attention to this little portion by prefixing the word, "Behold!" As if He meant to say," My dear children, the whole of the revealed will of God, the whole of the Holy Scriptures, which I put into your hands, is of importance to be considered, to be pondered and to be read from time to time; but there are certain portions which, by reason of your spiritual infirmity and by reason of the difficulties in which you find ourselves spiritually whilst passing through this vale of tears, you need especially to read from time to time, you need especially to ponder from time to time; and therefore, by reason of your weakness, seek the way forwards.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God"; "Beloved, now we are the children of God,"-for the same alteration is here to be made. "Now!" This little word, "now," is especially to be considered, to be laid hold of, and to be greatly pondered. It means this, while yet in the body-that is, while still in weakness, beset with many infirmities in many regards, and very ignorant in that state of weakness and helplessness in which to a greater or less degree are all true believers in the Lord. We are nevertheless children of God; for though we are not all like John, who wrote this Epistle, or like Paul, or like Peter.
Yet we are notwithstanding all our many infirmities and weaknesses and failures and shortcomings, as assuredly as we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls, we are already, even while yet in the body, really and truly the children of God! A precious truth is this! And on this little word, "now," we have to lay hold by faith, to ponder it in our hearts again and again and again, and not to let it go, nor to suppose that we only become children of God when we die, or when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again.