in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our lives.
I. IT BEGINS IN SPIRITUAL EMANCIPATION. "We being delivered out of the hand of our enemies." In order to "walk in newness of life," we must be rescued from the thraldom of sin. And there is a twofold deliverance that we need. One is from the condemnation of our guilt; for we cannot rest and rejoice in the love of God while we are under a troubled sense of the Divine displeasure, while we feel and know that our "sin has separated between" ourselves and our heavenly Father. The other is from the bondage of evil. So long as we are "held in the cords of our sins," we are helplessly disobedient; it is only when we have learnt to hate sin, and, loathing it, to leave it behind us, that we are free to walk in the path of righteousness. This double emancipation is wrought for us by the Lord whose way the son of Zacharias was to prepare. By faith in him, the great Propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2), we have full and free forgiveness, so that all the guilty past may be removed from our sight; and in the presence of a crucified Redeemer "the flesh and its affections are crucified," we die to our old self and our old iniquities, the tolerance of sin is slain, we hate that which we loved and embraced before, we are "delivered out of the hand of our enemies."
II. IT PROCEEDS ALONG THE PATH OF FILIAL SERVICE. We "serve him without fear." Here are two elements - obedience and happiness. As soon as we unite ourselves to our Lord and Savior, we live to serve. "None of us liveth to himself;" "We thus judge,... that we who live should not live unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us" (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). And this is the only true life of man. The animal may live for itself, though even the higher animals live rather for others than for themselves. But all whom we should care to emulate live to serve. It is not the sentence passed, it is the heritage conferred upon us, that in Christ Jesus we live to serve God - to serve him by direct worship and obedience, and also, indirectly, by serving the children of his love and the creatures of his care. And we serve in love; and therefore without fear - without that fear which means bondage; for "perfect love casteth out fear." It is with no hesitating and reluctant step that we walk in the ways of God; it is our joy to do his bidding; we "delight to do his will: yea, his Law is within our heart" (Psalm 40:8). "We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;" our spirit is the spirit of happy childhood, which runs to fulfill its Father's word.
III. IT MOVES TOWARDS PERFECT EXCELLENCE OF CHARACTER. "In holiness and righteousness before him." Here are three elements of the Christian life.
1. A holy hatred of evil; leading us to condemn it in ourselves and in others, and prompting us to expel and extirpate it to the utmost of our power.
2. The pursuit and practice of all that is equitable; endeavoring to do and to promote that which is just in all the relations in which we stand to others, or they to one another.
3. Piety; doing every right thing as unto Christ our Lord; living consciously "before him;" so that all our rectitude of heart and excellency of behavior is something more than a habit of life; it is a sacrifice unto our Savior.
IV. IT PERSEVERES EVEN TO THE END. "All our days." There is no break in our course. Our upward and onward path may be undulating, but it is continuous, and is ever making for the summit. We do not retire, or resign, or abdicate, in this noblest work, in this sacred office of being "servant of the Lord," "king and priest unto God." Having loved his own, our Master loved them unto the end (John 13:1); and loving him whom we have not seen, and rejoicing in him with unspeakable joy, we are faithful unto death, and we know that
"To him that overcometh
All the days of our life.
(Christina G. Rossetti.)
(John Munro Gibson.)
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