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way of salvation, through the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people, by the remission of their sins. (verse 77.) That is, thou shalt begin the office, and minister the word, whereby is taught and learned how we are saved. Which salvation or blessedness consisteth in this, how we may obtain remission of sins, and become partakers of the grace of God: not how we may become famous through abundance of riches, glory, and power on earth, as the Jews have hitherto understood it; for where remission of sin is, there is merit, reward, or satisfaction; otherwise it could not be called remission of sin. We are therefore to understand how God forgiveth us our sins without works or merit, and saveth us by mere grace and mercy, by the following verse: Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us. (verse 78.)
Here it appeareth, that those who teach and observe laws, works, and merit, strive against the mercy of God, and knowledge of salvation. For he doth not say that forgiveness of sin hath come by the prayers and works of the fathers, or of any of the saints, but through the tender mercy of God. This forgiveness of sin which cometh to us by mercy, is without our merit: for Christ the Lord, who is our Mediator, hath obtained it for us. God required that satisfaction should be made for our sins, and that his honour might be preserved; here we were able to do nothing; Christ alone was able to make the atonement. Therefore it is said, Through the tender mercy of our God, the day-spring from on high hath visited us. It is evident that it was not by our merit, but through mere mercy, that Christ came and offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins, that we might obtain eternal salvation. He is called the day-spring from on high, which signifiethhis divinity ; for he proceedeth from the Father, as the beams do from the sun.
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace, (verse 79.) These words of Luke, agreeth with those of Isaiah; where he saith, the people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light, &c. Here he referreth to Christ, who was to be the light of the world; who, by the gospel, was to enlighten the hearts of those that were held captive by Satan, and bring them to God; yea, and guide our feet into the way of peace. Thus ye have heard how Zacharias hath set forth the gospel and kingdom of Christ, with all the fruits and conditions thereof. It is a kingdom of grace, and of forgiveness of sins; also of peace, joy, quietness, salvation, and goodness. God grant that we may become thoroughly acquainted with this kingdom, and be made the happy partakers thereof. Amen.
Philippiajis, Chap. iv. verses 4, 5, 6, and 7/
4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be careful for nothing': but in every thing' by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
This text is but short, nevertheless it abounds with true christian doctrine. In the first place, we are instructed how we ought to behave ourselves toward God : and in the second place, how we ought to conduct ourcelves toward our neighbours. Rejoice in the Lord always. This joy is the fruit of faith; as witnessed by St. Paul, when he saith, Gal. v. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, 'gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance," &c. It cannot be that a person rejoiceth in the Lord, who hath not yet believed in him! Therefore, where there is no faith, there can be nothing but fear, trembling, horrour, and sadness, as often as they think on God, or hear his name mentioned. Yea, hatred and enmity toward God remaineth in such hearts; being void of faith, they find themselves defiled with sin, and therefore remain in unbelief.
The wicked are troubled, cast down, fearful, and greatly terrified, thinking that the vengeance of God every moment hangeth over them. Solomon saith, "The wicked flee when no man pursueth." Again, it is said in Deut. xxviii. "The Lord shall give thee a trembling heart, and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee." Such a heart can have no joy in the Lord; it always feeleth that the revenging hand of God is heavy upon it. This joy belongeth to the righteous; to those that are upright in heart. It is said, Psalm xxxii. "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous ; and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart." It is manifest that this Scripture was not written for sinners, but for the righteous. Sinners must first be shown how they may be delivered from sin, and obtain God's favour: which, when they have learned, and obtained, it followeth that they of their own accord rejoice in the Lord, being delivered from remorse of conscience.
If any demand, how one may be delivered from remorse of conscience, and have God become merciful unto him, we will answer, He who seeketh after these things, must not begin with his own works, (as do the papists,) tormenting his conscience and increasing the wrath of God, but let him despair of himself and all his works, and embrace the promises of God in Christ, having faith that he •hill receive whatsoever is promised in the gospel The promises of the gospel are, that Christ should make an atonement for our sins, and become our high priest, mediator, and advocate before God: that we may not doubt but that our sins are forgiven through his merits, and that we are reconciled to God.
When such a faith possesseth the heart, and the gospel is thus received, God appeareth pleasant, and altogether lovely. The heart enjoys his grace and favour, and hath a strong confidence in him: it is quiet, and free from the fear of his vengeance: it is cheerful, and exulteth in the goodness of God, manifested through Christ the Saviour. From such love proceedeth faith, joy, peace, gladness, giving of thanks, praise, and a marvellous delight in God our heavenly Father, who dealeth so kindly with us, and poureth forth his grace in such abundance upon those who do not deserve it .
This is the joy of which St . Paul speaketh, when he saith, Rejoice in the Lord always. He doth not tell us to rejoice in gold or silver, gluttony or drunkenness, in health, knowledge, wisdom, power, glory, friendship, favour, nor in good works, or whatsoever is without God; for these afford but deceitful and vain joy, which cannot satisfy the heart. The joy which believers have, is putting their trust in God, committing themselves to his care, and relying upon him as their kind and tender Father.
Whatsoever joy is not after this sort, the Lord contemneth and rejectetli. Jeremiah saith, chap. ix. "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me." And Paul saith, 2 Cor. x. "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." We must rejoice ilways. Some will rejoice when all things go according to their wishes; but when adversity cometh, they change joy for sadness and sorrow. But it is said in the xxxiv Psalm, "I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth." Who shall hurt him unto whom God is merciful 1 surely sin shall not harm him, neither shall death or hell: wherefore it is said, Psalm xxiii. ** Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."
And again Paul saith, Romans viii. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ 1 shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword 1 I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Again I say, rejoice. This repetition of the apostle confirmeth his exhortation: and truly not without cause ; for we live in the midst of sin and tribulation, which move us to sadness and heaviness. Wherefore the apostle, endeavouring to comfort us, exhorteth us to rejoice in the Lord always, though we sometimes fall into sin. Joy in the Lord ought always to have the first place in our hearts, and overcome the sorrow and sadness occasioned by reason of our sins. We must always think of what is written in 1 John ii. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins."
The apostle hath already informed us how men ought to behave themselves toward God; namely, that they serve him with a cheerful heart, and rejoice in him continually. He now declareth in few words, how the believers ought to behave themselves toward men; saying, Let your moderation be known unto all men. That is, be joyful toward God, always rejoicing in him; but toward men, be of a patient