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promise all the faithful believed, who died before the birth of Christ; and by this faith they obtained salvation. But what they believed would in time be fulfilled, we believe is fulfilled; namely, that .Christ is come; that the Gospel is revealed and published; and, that the blessing which was looked for, is spread over the world. .Now, as we believe those things are fulfilled, which the fathers once believed should come, our faith is made stronger, and our redemption more certain: and therefore, our salvation is now nearer than when we believed.
Here it may be necessary to observe, that as the fathers had the same faith in Christ, who they believed would come, as those have who believe that he has come, therefore, in many places in the scriptures, those who were before the incarnation of Christ, took upon themselves the person of those who came after it; and those who came after it, often assumed the person of those who were before it 1 hence Paul saith, "Now is our salvation nearer than when we (that is, the Fathers) believed." We must not, however, understand this as referring to nearness of possession; for as the Fathers had the same faith, and the same Saviour as we have, salvation was as near to them as it is to us. But Paul hath reference to the nearness of revelation ; those things being fulfilled which were promised, the Gospel being proclaimed and preached to all, and salvation is said to be nearer, than when those things were hidden, or known only to few.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: The meaning of this passage is, that the night of spiritual darkness, which had hitherto enwrapt the world, is passed away, and that the glorious gospel day has dawned upon us; that the salvation which was promised to Abraham through Christ, hath shone forth, by the preaching of the Gospel, throughout the whole world; giving light unto all men, and raising all out of sleep; showing forth true and eternal things, and enabling us to walk safely, as those who walk in the light. Of this spiritual day, David speaketh, Psalm cxviii. "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
The sun that causeth this day, is the Saviour Jesus Christ; for as many as believe in him, receive the beams of his divine grace and righteousness; as God saith, Mai. iv. "Unto them that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings." And again, Christ saith, John ix. 5, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." The scriptures do also in many other places beautifully set forth the glory of that light which should come into the world by the Gospel.
The Gospel, or glad tidings, is so called, because it is a gracious message of God's good will to man. It is that which quickeneth, maketh joyful, willing, obedient, and ready to do good works. It maketh known all things that are necessary for our good. It teacheth us what God is, what we are ourselves, whence we came, and whither we go. It bringeth to view the past, and openeth to us the future. By this light we are shown how we ought to conduct ourselves in all things, and toward all men.
But notwithstanding so great light come into the world by the Gospel, satan has deceived us, miserable creatures. We have neglected to search for truth by this light, whereby all things would have been made clear and manifest to us, and have sought for it in the speculations of philosophers and heathen men, who have not so much as by a dream known aught of these things; and thus we have suffered ourselves to be blinded by the traditions of men, and have fallen back again into darkness!
Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. As Christ is the sun, and the Gospel the day,- so faith is the light by which we ought to see and watch in that day: for although the sun should shine and make it day, yet it would profit us nothing if our eyes did not perceive the light. And although the Gospel is to be preached throughout the whole world, yet none will be enlightened, except those that by the sight of faith perceive its divine radiance, and arise out of sleep. But to those that continue to slumber, this sun, and this day, can bring no profit; they can receive no more light therefrom, than if no sun or day had shone.
It was observed in the beginning of this discourse, that the apostle in this text treateth not of faith, but of works, the fruits of faith: and that he doth not speak to those that are destitute of faith, but to such as have already believed, is evident from what he saith in the text: "And that knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we be lieved." Now those that are destitute of faith, cannot know these things ; neither can it be said that salvation is near unto them.
But it may be asked, what reason, or what necessity there was, that the apostle should write these things to the faithful, inasmuch as they were already known to them 1 Here let me remind you of what was said in the beginning of the exposition of this text; that the office of preaching consists of two parts, doctrine and exhortation. Now a man cannot attain to such a state of perfection, that it will not be necessary that he should be reminded of those things which he has been taught by faith; for the devil, the world, and the flesh, (enemies which never grant truce, nor slack their assaults,) are continually besieging him; and unless he be encouraged to watch and stand at his post, he will become slothful and negligent, he will fall into sleep, and thus be taken unawares.
The life of a christian is represented as a warfare; and as men when they engage in battle have need of drums and trumpets to dispel their fears, and inspire them with courage, so those who engage in this spiritual warfare against satan, the world, and the flesh, have need of continual exhortations and admonitions; in order that their courage may not flag, and that they may persevere valiantly in the fight. The apostle, therefore, exhorteth his brethren to cast off the works of darkness, and to put on the armour of light.
As the Gospel is the day, Christ the sun, and faith the light by which we see, so tlie armour of light, implieth good works; or those that come of faith. Such are the works of prayer, of meditation, of searching the scriptures, of love toward the brethren, and of charity and honest dealing toward all mankind. On the contrary, the works of darkness, are those which come of man's own reason; such as infidelity, unbelief, and the many evil deeds which men do, by reason of the absence of the light of faith.
Over this darkness, the devil doth preside; for Paul, in the epistle to the Ephesians, calleth satan the prince of darkness; and signifieth that he exerciseth rule over those that are without faith, and refuse to be obedient to God. The same apostle saith, 2 Cor. iv. "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world (that is, satan) hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
Let us walk honestly as in the day. It is a common saying, that the night is without shame; and this is in a measure true: for men often do those things in the night which they fear to do in the day, lest their acts should be discovered, and they brought to shame or punishment. The Apostle therefore saith, Let us walk honestly as in the day. And after this manner should every christian walk; doing nothing of which he may be ashamed, although the whole world should witness his deeds. He that so liveth, that he is unwilling his works should be known to men, goeth contrary to the light of faith, and is unworthy of Christ; for Christ saith, John iii. "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."
Thus ye see how necessary it is, that we be admonished and exhorted to watch, lest we fall into temptation, and do the works of darkness; for how few there are among christians at the present day, who live so circumspectly, that they can consent to have all their works published openly to the world! »Yet if we do not so live, we are no better than hypocrites; for although we may conceal our works from men, we cannot conceal them from God; and at the last day, they will be disclosed before both men and angels.
It therefore behooveth a christian so to live, as he desireth to appear in this last great day; when he shall be summoned to give an account of the deeds done in the flesh. Paul saith, "Walk as the children of the light: the fruit of the spirit is goodness, righteousness, and truth." And again, Rom. xii. "Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." And also 2 Cor. i. "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world."
Such a life as the apostle describeth is never