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that the obedience they render may not be servile, but may spring from a sincere affection—may contain within it reverence and love ; for there can be no honour, in the proper sense of this word, in which love does not mingle. The life and soul of all the divine precepts, however, is their spiritual
But because the literal sense of the Word is the foundation of the spiritual, therefore the literal observance of the commandments is a necessary foundation of all genuine spiritual life. To suppose that we may receive and obey the divine precepts in their spiritual sense, without having first received and obeyed them according to the sense of the letter, were as absurb as to imagine that a temple might be erected in the air without any foundation whereon to rest; or that a man might attain to the enjoyment of spiritual life without first being gifted with natural life.
The chief reason, therefore, why it is so important that the precept to honour father and mother be faithfully observed in its literal sense, is, that a foundation may thus be laid in the child's mind for the future observance of this precept in its spiritual sense. It is chiefly on account of the spiritual sense that this commandment has place in the Word, for the family was designed to be an image of heaven, and when duly ordered and governed it is such an image. The parents together represent—one, the love, and the other, the wisdom of the Lord ; and the children who look up to and reverence their parents, and suffer themselves to be instructed and led by them, represent the angels, for the angels are all of them children of the Lord. They are all begotten by Him, and are in His likeness. They are all bound together in the bonds of a true brotherhood, like the members of one family. They all have one and the same Heavenly Father, whom they unitedly look
up to, reverence, love, and obey. “Honour thy father and thy mother.” To honour any one, according to the spiritual sense, is to love him, for love is the spirit, life, and soul of all true honour. There is no such thing in heaven as honour without love; therefore love is the essential thing which the angels understand by honour. By the Father whom we are commanded to honour, in the spiritual sense is denoted God—God as revealed under former dispensations and in the literal sense of the Word ; and we honour Him when from love we obey the literal sense of the Word, when we do and shun, from religious principle, whatever the truth of that sense requires. But in the highest sense, by the Father, whom we are commanded to honour, is signified the Lord Jesus Christ, especially with reference to that inmost principle in Him—the Divine
Love. He is the Heavenly Father revealed unto men; for He came to bring the Father forth to view; and He said to Philip—"He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, then, Show us the Father ?” And many times did He declare that the Father dwelt in Him, for Divine Love was His inmost and essential life.
The Divine Love, therefore, as brought forth and manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Heavenly Father, and is what is signified when it is said—“Call no one your father upon earth, for One is your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus Christ, then, as to that infinite and redeeming love which dwelt within Him as His animating soul, is the Heavenly Father whom we are required to honour-so revealed in the Word as now laid open. It is He who is for ever seeking to form His own image in each one of our hearts. It is He who strives unceasingly to create our souls anew in His divine likeness. It is He who begets within us, and is therefore the father of, all good affections, all pure desires, all noble purposes, all true thoughts, all heavenly dispositions and feelings. He is the Source and Author-the spiritual and everlasting Father of whatever there is of heaven in any human heart. Is there—can there be—one Christian or heavenly grace that is not begotten by Him? His life is love--pure and unselfish-the love of others out of Himself; and whoso dwells in love dwells in Christ and Christ in him. He also dwells in heaven and heaven in him ; for heaven is a state of disinterested love.
l Because the Lord Jesus Christ is our Heavenly Father, therefore all who have been reformed and re-created after His image and likeness, are called in Scripture “sons of God,” “ heirs of the kingdom," " chil. dren of the Father which is in the heavens ;” and because of their moral likeness to Him, or the similarity of their love to the Divine Love, they are said to have the Father's name written in their foreheads.
A natural father, if he be good and wise, loves his children tenderly; and because he loves them, he seeks continually to make them good and happy. He desires that they may love and perform kind offices for each other, and thus increase each other's happiness. Whatever he does to or for his children, is done for the purpose of making them wise and good; for he knows that in no other way can they be made happy. All that he gives and all that he desires—all his reproofs and all his chastisements, have no other end than this.
But what is an earthly father's love compared with that of the Heavenly Father? It is as a drop to the ocean—nay, as an atom to the universe. But as the drop resembles the ocean in nature and
quality, so an earthly father's love for his children may give us some idea of the nature, though not of the strength and amplitude, of the Heavenly Father's love for His. The former resembles the latter as a candle resembles the sun, or as a particle of dust that floats in our atmosphere resembles the huge round earth on which we live. The Lord's love is infinite. He for ever seeks the salvation and happiness of all finite intelligences. He desires that men may love one another, and do good to one another, because thereby the happiness of all is increased. For while we are doing good and communicating happiness to others, we are, by that very effort, rendered in a higher degree receptive of the Lord's love, and of the happiness which that love ever imparts, agreeably to the law expressed in these words—"Give, and it shall be given unto you.” And when the Lord visits us with His chastisements—when He permits our natural feelings to be severely bruised and crushed-when sickness, disappointments, losses, bereavements, and tribulations manifold are permitted to throng our pathway, it is the same infinite love that moves Him still. He never lifts the rod, nor permits it to be lifted on us, but for our eternal good. It is for the purpose of subduing some evil within us, or of weakening its power, and thereby making us wiser and happier through all eternity. Amid our earthly trials and sorrows, we are all too prone to forget that it is through much tribulation that we must enter the kingdom of heaven. We are prone to forget that “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”
But how are we to honour our Heavenly Father? I have said that there is no true honour without love. And we learn to love our Heavenly Father just as a child learns to love its earthly father, that is, through obedience to His commandments. There is no other way. “If
ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love,” is the statement of an eternal and universal law. We must cultivate and strengthen in our hearts a love of the Lord, by habitually doing that which is well pleasing in His sight. And the first step to be taken in this direction is, to shun, as a sin against Him, the indulgence of all such feelings and dispositions as are forbidden in His Word, or such as are not in agreement with the laws of neighbourly love. This is the way to acquire a genuine love of goodness--yea, a love of Him who alone is good. Keeping His commandments is the way, and the only way, that we can learn truly to honour our Heavenly Father, for in this way only can we learn to love Him. And this demands self-denial, self-renunciation, self-sacrifice, self-crucifixion.
Nor need we wait for great occasions of self-denial, in order to learn (Enl. Series.—No. 104, vol. ix.]
this lesson. Great occasions are of rare occurrence. To the mass of men and women they never come at all. Besides, in the degree that our acts of self-denial become conspicuous, and attract the gaze of an admiring worla, in the same degree is there danger that more of earth than of heaven will mingle with the feelings that prompt them. But, if we would learn to honour and love the Lord, and are in earnest about it, we shall find that just such occasions as are needed for teaching us this lesson, present themselves every day, and almost every hour. They occur in our families, in our fields, in our shops, in our counting-houses, and in all the common walks and relations of life. In giving of our means to mitigate the sorrows of the distressed—to comfort some neighbsur's heart, or in some way to help forward the kingdom of Christ,-in bearing with meekness and patience the little and manifold annoyances which daily occur in our families and in our business,-in refraining from ill-natured remarks about persons who chance to be uncongenial to us, who think differently from us, or w.io may, perhaps, have done us wrong,-in foregoing some pleasure, or denying ourselves some luxury or gratification, or suffering some inconvenience for the good of a neighbour, our children, or domestics—in these and a thousand similar ways we may, every day and hour of our lives, be learning the great lesson of self-denial. And while we are learning and practising this lesson provided always that we act from religious principle-we are learning to honour and love our Father in the heavens; for we are strengthening and exalting, and therefore honouring, in our hearts, that pure and unselfish love which seeketh never its own, but always the good of others.
It is, then, by obeying the Heavenly Father's voice,-yielding to the promptings of His unselfish love,-doing His will in little things, that we learn truly to honour Him; just as children learn to honour their natural father by obeying him in little things.
But we are con manded to honour our mother as well as our father. And who is our mother, according to the spiritual import of this word ? Who should she be, but that star-crowned and sun-encircled womanthe wife of the Lamb the Lord's own church ? “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren ?” exclaimed the Divine Saviour, when speaking from His state of humiliation. “ And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said : Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” The church of Christ, then, is our spiritual mother ;-the doers of the Heavenly Father's will the Lord's own disciples.
But there are, we know, professed disciples and genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus. There are some who are Christians merely on the outside, and others who are Christians within as well as without, Christians in reality, as well as by profession-Christians through and through, even to their heart's core. But the spurious and the genuinethe tares and the wheat, are all mixed together in this world, and only the
eye of the all-seeing One can discriminate between them. For the Lord alone knoweth the internals of men. He only looketh upon the heart. And to those officious servants who are so anxious to separate the tares from the wheat, and who in their hearts eagerly inquire—"Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?" the Lord's answer forever is—“ Nay: lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.” This, then, is the declared will of the Master: that both the wheat and the tares-the genuine and the professed disciples—the children of the kingdom and the children of the wicked one, be permitted to remain a mixed company, until that great harvest-time when the internal quality
, of all hearts shall be revealed. And any attempt, on our part, to separate them sooner, or the indulgence even of the thought that such a thing is possible, can produce only mischief.
Where, then, it will be asked, is the spiritual mother whom we are commanded to honour ? Where and what is the church of Christ? I answer : As there are obviously two classes of disciples, or of people who call themselves disciples, so there are and must be two kinds of churches. As those who profess themselves the followers of Christ are evidently not all His true followers, so those who profess to be of His church are not all of His true church. There is, then, the professed church, commonly known and spoken of as the church visible, composed of a mixed multitude, including all who profess themselves the followers of the Lord Jesus; and there is also the true church, commonly known and spoken of as the church invisible, including none but those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life—the Lord's own sheep. This latter is called the invisible church, because its members are unknown to man,-because its limits, therefore, cannot be defined with precision. Is it asked, now, which of these churches, the visible or the invisible, we are required to honour ?—for one is undoubtedly superior to the other. I answer—both; just as we are required to obey the Lord's commandments in their lower as well as in their higher senses.
Every company of Christian believers organized for purposes of worship, instruction, and mutual edification in spiritual things, is a Christian church-a visible, but not a true church; for I suppose that