Divine holiness is best exhibited in the cross of Jesus. Not hell itself, as dreadful and eternal as is its suffering — the undying worm, the unquenchable fire, the smoke of the torment that goes up forever and ever — affords such a solemn and impressive spectacle of the holiness and justice of God in the punishment of sin — as is presented in the death of God’s beloved Son!
“Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nothing your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Let us not therefore judge one another any more; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14:5, 10, 13
The exercise of private judgment is the natural and inalienable right of every individual. Sanctified by the Spirit of God, it becomes a precious privilege of the believer. He prizes it more than riches, claims it as one of the immunities of his heavenly citizenship, and will surrender it only with life itself.
Christian love will avoid infringing, in the least degree, upon this sacred right. I am bound by the law of love to concede to my brother, to its fullest extent, that which I claim for myself. I am moreover bound to believe him conscientious and honest in the views which holds, and that he maintains them in a reverence for the word, and in the exercise of the fear of God. He does not see eye to eye with me in every point of truth—our views of church government, of ordinances, and of some of the doctrines are not alike.
And yet, discerning a perfect agreement as to the one great and only way of salvation—and still more, marking in him much of the lowly, loving spirit of his Master, with an earnest desire, in simplicity and godly sincerity, to serve Him—how can I cherish or manifest towards him any other than a feeling of brotherly love? God loves him, God bears with him; and Christ may see in him, despite of a creed less accurately balanced with the word of truth than mine, a walk more in harmony with the holy, self-denying, God-glorifying precepts of that truth. With an orthodoxy less perfect, there may be a life more holy.
With less illumination in the judgment, there may be more grace in the heart. How charitable in my interpretation, then, how loving in my spirit, how kind and gentle in my manner, should I be towards him. How jealous, too, ought I to be, of that independence of mind, in the exercise of which he may, notwithstanding, have arrived at conclusions opposite to my own.
Cherishing these feelings, Christians who differ in judgment, will be placed in a more favorable position for the understanding of each other’s views, and for the united examination of the word of God. Diversity of judgment, through the infirmity of our fallen nature, is apt to beget alienation of feeling; and consequently, the development of truth is hindered. But where harmony of affection is cultivated, there will be a greater probability of arriving at more perfect agreement in sentiment, thus walking in accordance with apostle’s rule—”I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you: but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.”
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18.
Who that has felt it will deny, that “fear has torment”? The legal fear of death, of judgment, and of condemnation- the fear engendered by a slavish view of the Lord’s commandments- a defective view of the believer’s relation to God- imperfect conceptions of the finished work of Christ- unsettled apprehensions of the great fact of acceptance- yielding to the power of unbelief- the retaining of guilt upon the conscience, or the influence of any concealed sin, will fill the heart with the torment of fear.
Some of the most eminent of God’s people have thus been afflicted: this was Job’s experience- “I am afraid of all my sorrows.” “Even when I remember, I am afraid, and trembling takes hold on my flesh.” “When I consider Him, I am afraid of Him.” So also David- “What time I am afraid, I will trust in You.” “My flesh trembles for fear of You; I am afraid of Your judgments.” But “perfect love casts out fear:” he that fears is not perfected in the love of Christ.
The design and tendency of the love of Jesus shed abroad in the heart is to lift the soul out of all its “bondage through fear of death,” and its ultimate consequences, and soothe it to rest on that glorious declaration, triumphing in which, many have gone to glory, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” See the blessed spring from where flows a believer’s victory over all bondage-fear- from Jesus: not from his experience of the truth, not from evidence of his acceptance and adoption, not from the work of the Spirit in his heart, blessed as it is- but from out of, and away from, himself- even from Jesus.
The blood and righteousness of Christ, based upon the infinite dignity and glory of His person, and wrought into the experience of the believer by the Holy Spirit, expels from the heart all fear of death and of judgment, and fills it with perfect peace. O you of fearful heart! why these anxious doubts, why these tormenting fears, why this shrinking from the thought of death, why these distant, hard, and unkind thoughts of God? Why this prison-house- why this chain? You are not perfected in the love of Jesus, for “perfect love casts out fear:” you are not perfected in that great truth, that Jesus is mighty to save, that He died for a poor sinner, that His death was a perfect satisfaction to Divine justice; and that without a single meritorious work of your own, just as you are, poor, empty, vile, worthless, unworthy, you are welcome to the rich provision of sovereign grace and dying love.
The simple belief of this, will perfect your heart in love; and perfected in love, every bondage-fear will vanish away. Oh, seek to be perfected in Christ’s love. It is a fathomless ocean, its breadth no mind can scan- its height no thought can scale.
“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Galatians 6:7-8
It is a self-evident truth, that there can be no harvest where no seed has been sown. But the fact that there is coming a moral harvest in each individual life- a future reaping of present sowing- is a truth equally demonstrable. The life that now is, is the seed-time of a life that is to come. The future of human destiny derives all its complexion and its form from the present of human character.
The spring does not more certainly deepen into summer- nor the summer fade into autumn- nor the autumn pale into winter- nor the winter bloom again into spring, than does our present probation merge into our future destiny, carrying with it its fixed principles, its unchanged habits, and its tremendous account.
And what, my dear reader, are you sowing? I wish this question to have all the earnestness and force of a personal appeal. With what seed, again I ask, are you sowing for the future? If you are unconverted, nothing is more true than that you are sowing to the flesh! You may be rigidly moral, deeply intellectual, profoundly learned, exquisitely refined, outwardly religious, generous, and amiable, and yet all the while you are but sowing to the flesh, and not to the Spirit. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and nothing but flesh. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” it is spiritual and divine, heavenly and holy; and, what is more, it is imperishable.
No lowly seed of divine truth, or grace, love, or service, sown in this present life of suffering and toil, shall ever be lost. All other things shall perish- the world with its loveliness and love, the “lust, of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life,” all shall pass away and vanish; but not one seed of grace implanted in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit shall ever perish. The Divine image once restored to the soul shall never more be obliterated. Nothing done by Jesus, or for Jesus- no sin laid down, no cross taken up, no holiness cultivated, no labor wrought, no service done, no cup of cold water given- nothing, the fruit of love to God and of faith in Jesus Christ, shall ever be lost.
Oh, who does not earnestly desire that in his heart and life may be sowing the good incorruptible seed, that shall, though long buried and concealed, yield a golden harvest of future joy, bliss, and glory?