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And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.—1 John iii. 3.
WE have showed you—
1. That the love of God, in acknowledging us for. his children, can not be sufficiently considered and admired by us.
2. That though God hath admitted us into the glorious estate of his children, yet little of this glory is seen in our present condition in this world.
3. That though the glory of adoption be now obscured, yet we are certain that at the appearing of Christ we shall see him as he is, and be like him.
Now having showed what knowledge and certainty of it we have for the present, the apostle comes here to show how this hope worketh; and so this first argument receiveth new strength. If God hath made us children, and children that may expect so great a happiness for their portion, we should endeavour to purify ourselves more and more, that we may both be like our heavenly Father, and also show our thankfulness for so great a privilege: ‘And every man that hath this hope in him,’ &c.471
In the words observe three things—
[1.] That a christian is described by his hope, and that hope specified or restrained to the tenor of the christian faith, ‘Every man that hath this hope in him.’
[2.] This hope is described by the effect of it, ‘He purifieth himself.’
[3.] And this effect by the pattern of it, ‘Even as he is pure,’ that is, Christ.
From which I shall make this observation—
Doct. That the hope of this blessed estate hereafter should put us upon a serious endeavour after purity of life, and a more exact conformity to Christ here.
In the handling of this I shall observe this method—
1. I shall discourse something concerning this hope.
2. Of the purity or likeness to Christ, which is the effect of it.
3. The respect or connection between both these, or how the one is inferred from the other.
I. A christian is described by his hope. Hope is a special act of the new life, and an immediate effect of our regeneration: 1 Peter i. 3, ‘He hath begotten us to a lively hope.’ As soon as we are made children, we begin to think of a child’s portion. The new nature was made for another world; it came from thence, and carrieth the soul thither. The animal life fits us to live here, but the spiritual life hath another aim and tendency; it inclineth and disposeth us to look after the world to come, and the happiness which God hath provided for us in the heavens. All men hope for something as their happiness. The new creature liveth upon things future and unseen; for our happiness now consists not in fruition, but hope, and hope carrieth us to something beyond this life, which is our comfort and support during the absence and want of the chiefest good, and the troubles we meet with by the way. Men are as their potent principle is, flesh or spirit: Rom. viii. 5, ‘They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, and they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.’ The flesh inclineth us to present things, the Spirit to future things. I shall a little open the nature, and show you the necessity of this hope.
1. The nature of it; it is a certain and desirous expectation of the promised blessedness: the promise is the ground of it; for hope runneth to embrace what faith has discovered in the promise: Titus i. 2, ‘According to the hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, hath promised before the world began.’
[1.] The expectation is certain, because it goeth upon the same grounds that faith doth, the infallibility of God’s promise, backed with a double reason, both of which do strongly work upon our hope. First, The goodness of Christ; he would never proselyte us to a religion that should undo us in this world, if there were not a sufficient recompense appointed for us in another world: 1 Cor. xv. 19, ‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.’ Surely religion was never intended to make us miserable, but happy. The design of true religion is to persuade us of God’s being and bounty. Secondly, The simplicity, and faithful and open plainness which Christ ever used; this is pleaded, John xiv. 2, ‘In my Father’s house are 472many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you: I go to prepare a place for you.’ His disciples, that were intimately acquainted with him, knew his fidelity, that he told them all things as they really were, and would never flatter them into a vain hope. All his disciples that live now may be confident of it as well as they; he lets us know the worst of the case at first, and doth not allure the senses and court the flesh, but telleth us, that, if we will follow him, we must row against the stream of our natural desires: Mat. xvi. 24, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me;’ and Luke xiv. 20, ‘If any man come to me, and hate not father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.’ Therefore the believing soul, finding so much goodness and plainness in Christ, doth certainly expect what he hath promised. Those that conversed with him in the flesh had abundant proof of it; and we that read his doctrine may observe the same goodness and mercy, and also the same simplicity and plainness of heart. And so, upon the solemn declarations of this word, which he has left in pawn with us, we may be confident of that life and immortality which he hath not only brought to light in his doctrine, but assured us of in his covenant and promise.
[2.] The expectation is earnest and desirous, because it is as great a good as human nature is capable of. To see and enjoy God, and to be made like him, what can we desire more? Now to have such a happiness in view and prospect, must needs make us lift up our heads, and wait, and look, and long, till it comes. On this account the saints are said to ‘look for his appearing.’ Titus ii. 13, and ‘long for his appearing,’ 2 Tim. iv. 8, or love it as the most desirable thing that can befall them. With respect to this double property of our expectation, as it is certain and earnest, confident and desirous, you may discern in believers several contrary affections and dispositions of heart; as
(1.) There is both rejoicing and groaning: Rom. v. 2, ‘We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God;’ 2 Cor. v. 2, ‘We groan earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. They rejoice because they are under hope, they groan because they have not yet attained. We rejoice because the state to come is so excellent and glorious, and offered to us upon such sure and gracious terms; we groan because the present state is so mean and miserable, mean as to our sight of God and conformity to him; and miserable because of the afflictions incident to us: ‘Being burdened, we groan,’ 2 Cor. v. 4. We rejoice because the estate is so sure and certain; we groan because we are yet conflicting with difficulties, and but making our personal title and claim. We rejoice because at length we shall see God and be like him; and where this hope is lively and strong, it is such a pleasure and such a joy as none but that of actual possession can exceed. ‘We rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory,’ 2 Peter i. 8. We groan because nothing can be so great a burden as the relics of the old nature to a renewed heart: Rom. vii. 24, ‘Oh, wretched man that lam! who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Afflictions are against our carnal interest, but the remainders of sin are against our nature, that new nature which God hath implanted 473in us, and which hath a tender feeling of what is displeasing to God; therefore it is the sorest burden that can be felt.
(2.) There is another seeming contrariety of effects ascribed to hope, and that is, desiring and waiting, longing to enjoy, yet patient in tarrying God’s leisure till we do enjoy. Hope is described by both; earnest desire, which showeth our esteem of the benefit, Phil. i. 23, and yet patient, tarrying the Lord’s leisure: Rom. viii. 25, ‘If we hope for it, then do we wait with patience for it.’ Both are consistent, as in 2 Peter iii. 12, ‘Waiting for and hastening to the coming of the Lord.’ Contrary words, tarrying and hastening, and different effects, but coming from the same grace. Hope would fain enjoy, yet there is a time for labours, difficulties, and troubles; there is a longing expectation, yet a patient waiting; the time seems long, but the reward is sure. There are desires which quicken us to use all means to attain it, that is hastening; yet we are with patience to tarry God’s leisure, while we are exercised with difficulties, that is waiting. They are glorious blessings we expect, when God will open the door, and let us into the enjoyment of them; but we must stay our time, and therefore with patience we submit to God’s pleasure.
2. The necessity of this hope, which is twofold—
[1.] To support us under our difficulties; how else could we subsist under the manifold troubles of the present life? Hope is compared in scripture to two things—a helmet and an anchor. Both signify the great use and service of it, as to the encountering our present troubles. As you would not go to sea without an anchor, nor to war without a helmet, so you cannot live in the present world without hope: 1 Thes. v. 8, ‘Take to you the helmet of salvation, which is hope.’ Among the pieces of the spiritual armour, faith is compared to a shield, which covereth the whole body, but hope to a helmet, which covereth the head. This makes a believer hold up his head in all straits and difficulties. The policy of the devil is to darken or weaken the hope of eternal life, and then he knows he shall the sooner overcome us. Therefore the care of a christian should be to keep on his helmet, to keep the hopes of his blessed estate lively and fresh, and this will make him bold and undaunted in all oppositions and troubles. Again it is compared to an anchor: Heb. vi. 19, ‘Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.’ As the anchor holds a ship in a tempest, so doth this hope keep the mind in a constant temper amidst the stormy gusts of temptations. Oh, how would a christian be tossed up and down, and dashed against the rocks, if he were without his anchor! He that knoweth not what shall become of his soul when he dieth, whether he shall go to heaven or hell, cannot endure great afflictions with patience and comfort, but he that knoweth death to be the worst that can befall him in the most troublesome times, can possess his soul in patience; he knoweth what he is born to, and what he shall enjoy when he comes home to God, and therefore his heart is calmed and quieted within him.
[2.] To quicken our diligence, and put life into our endeavours and resolutions, that we may not faint in the way to heaven: Acts xxiv. 16, ‘Herein ‘(or hereupon; upon what? upon this encouragement) ‘I have hope towards God, that there shall be a resurrection both of the just 474and unjust.’ So Acts xxvi. 6, 7, ‘Unto which promise our twelve tribes, serving God instantly day and night, hope to come.’ Certainly the happiness is so great, that it deserves our best labours; and so sure, that our labour will not be in vain in the Lord; and so near, that it is but a little striving more, and looking longer, and we shall obtain: therefore surely we should follow our work close, night and day. All the world is led by hope; it is the great principle which sets every one a-work in his vocation and calling. The merchant trades in hope, the husbandman ploughs in hope, and the soldier fights in hope. Why doth the merchant travel to and fro, and run through all the known parts of the world? Hope of gain invites him, and the improvement of his stock by traffic with several nations. Why doth the husbandman till the ground, and continue his labours with such diligence and assiduity, in heats and cold, by night and by day, in showers and fair weather, and so carefully ply his business in all seasons? The harvest, and the hope of a good crop, wherewith he and his family may be sustained, engageth him. What allureth the soldier to the burden and toil of war, to expose himself to the long watches of the night, the wounds and death of the camp, and the manifold inconveniencies of that sort of life? Hope of prey and booty, or of honour and reputation over cometh all. So what sets the christian a-work, notwithstanding the difficulties which attend his service, the temptations which assault his constancy, the calamities which attend his profession, but only hope? You see to what to turn your eye, and direct your pursuit; it is the everlasting fruition of the ever-blessed God. Those that do not look for any great matter, no wonder if their endeavours be remiss and sluggish: 2 Peter iii. 14, ‘Wherefore, beloved, seeing you look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.’ No labour and care can be too much to approve ourselves to God, to get the soul to be without spot, and the life without blame, that we may be every way qualified, and found of him in peace, and so admitted into the joy of our Lord.
Secondly, This hope: it is not said he that hath hope in him, but he that hath this hope; it is not a sensual enjoyment which is propounded as our blessedness, but seeing God as he is, and being like him; if our hearts be set upon the vision and likeness of God, we will be purifying ourselves more and more. It is not a sensual paradise, but a pure sinless state. All religions propound a hope, but none such a hope as the christian religion doth: so pure, so sublime, so adequate and full to the wants and desires of the creature. Mahomet, like a man absolutely engulphed in the dissoluteness of the flesh, did accordingly propound a suitable happiness to his followers. He telleth them of a paradise watered with fair and delightful fountains, which shall flow as gently as if they were of liquid crystal; and that they shall repose themselves under the shadow of stately thick-leaved trees, which of their own motion shall entwine themselves into pleasant bowers; where they shall eat all sorts of delicious fruits in their season, and be recreated with the melody of birds warbling among their branches; where they shall be attired with magnificent apparel, bedecked with jewels and pearls, and have wives transcendently beautiful, and be feasted with rich banquets and 475wines served in large goblets of gold. I am loath to rake further in this puddle. In all this do you hear, christians, the voice of a beast or a man? With these baits of wantonness and carnal pleasure he sought to inveigle the minds of his followers. This is a hope fit to make brutes of us, and turn us wholly into flesh: but Christ hath propounded another manner of hope; we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; not only a state of perfect blessedness and glory, but a conformity to Christ in purity and holiness, which is begun here, and perfected there. We shall see the Lord whom we have served, loved, and pleased, and shall be like him; similes, non pares, not equal with him, but like to him; you shall be pure and holy, as he is holy. This is the hope which Christ propoundeth, and wherewith a believer comforteth himself; this is a hope that doth not debase the spirit of a man, but raise it to the greatest excellency and perfection it is capable of.
Thirdly, This hope in him. If we expect to receive it from God, we must receive it upon God’s terms, and according to his manner of promising it. Now he promiseth it not absolutely, but conditionally, to the pure and holy, and to none else; for it is said, Mat. v. 8, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ Now the pure in heart are they that hate sin, and love righteousness. And again, Heb. xii. 14, ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.’ To see God is to behold his glory, the privilege reserved for us in heaven, where all unspeakable joys and eternal delights are communicated to us by the sight of God. Now we can never hope for this from God’s hands, without holiness, or some conformity to him begun here; this is absolutely, and indispensably required of us. Hope in him is hope according to his word, such as he alloweth and warranteth, and raiseth in our hearts; for he doth not speak of an imaginary hope, but a solid hope, such as is justifiable by God’s promises; not a lazy, but a lively hope.
Fourthly, Observe the quantity of the proposition; it is not particular nor indefinite, but it hath an expression of universality affixed; every man that hath this hope. It is not spoken of some eminent saints, who shall have a greater degree of glory than the ordinary sort of christians, but of all who have any interest or share in it. You might imagine else, that common christians might get through in the throng, though they be not so careful of exact purity and holiness as others are. No; every man that hath this hope; which is to show that our hope is groundless and fruitless if we be not always purging both heart and life; it is a dead, not a lively hope, a hope that hath neither comfort or virtue in it, if it doth not run out into holiness, and a continual endeavour to mortify and subdue sin. Some wicked men live in a direct counter-motion to their hopes; they hope well, that that God that made them will save them; but they live as if they fled from heaven and salvation, and were galloping apace to hell. They abandon the company of God, as if his sight were a trouble, and his presence a burden to them, and the everlasting sabbath they shall keep with God were a misery, and not a blessedness. For these to hope, it is as if they went to heaven backward, with their backs turned upon it. And if any presume upon their good estate, and grow remiss and negligent in holy 476duties, they cut off their claim; for this is the constant universal rule of all that have this hope, that they are always purifying and cleansing themselves from sin, and using the means that conduce to the obtaining what they hope for; otherwise it is a hope that will leave us ashamed: Rev. xxi. 27, ‘There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth.’ No unclean thing, no loathsome and filthy creature can enter into heaven.
II. The purity and likeness to Christ, which is the effect of this hope; he purifieth himself as Christ is pure.
1. Here is an act done on the believer’s part, he ‘purifieth himself/ or a serious endeavour of purity and holiness. God giveth the new nature, first infuseth the habits of grace, and then exciteth them; and being renewed and excited by God, we set ourselves to seek after holiness and purity in heart and life. It is God’s work to cleanse the heart; but we must not be idle. We are said ‘to cleanse ourselves,’ 2 Cor. vii. 1, to ‘purge ourselves from these,’ 2 Tim. ii. 21. How can a man that is unclean by nature, purify himself?
Ans. (1.) No question it is our duty, and must be charged upon us to purify ourselves. I say, this debt of duty lieth upon us, and we must discharge it as well as we can. ‘Wash you, make you clean,’ Isa. i. 16; and ‘cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded,’ James iv. 8. The scripture calls upon man to cleanse his own soul.
(2.) God hath promised to purify the souls of his people: Ezek. xxxvi. 25, ‘I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness.’ God giveth the Holy Spirit to cleanse us, to abide in us as a living spring: though the waters of the fountain be muddy, yet the living spring worketh itself clean again. Christ purchased it for us, Eph. v. 25-27, Titus ii. 14.
(3.) Though God be the author and supreme agent, yet we are to act under him, and by the strength and power of his grace to go on with the work. First he worketh upon us, and then with us and by us: he doth not work upon us, as a carver upon a dead stone; he gave the grace, but we having life, must use it and act by it.
(4.) We have the more encouragement, having not only internal principles, but many outward helps. The ordinances: John xv. 3, ‘Ye are clean, through the word which I have spoken to you.’ Providences: Isa. xxvii. 9, ‘By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit to take away sin.’ He suiteth his providences and afflictions to the improvement of our spiritual condition. Well, then, we must purify ourselves in a true and proper sense, mind this work, implore the Lord’s grace, and improve the appointed means.
2. It noteth a continued act; it is not he hath purified, but, he purifieth himself; he is always purifying, making it his daily work to clarify and refine his soul, that it may be fit for the vision of God, and the fruition of God. By nature we are altogether become filthy and abominable, Ps. xiv. 2; and after grace received, ‘Who can say, My heart is clean; Prov. x. 9. There is a great deal of corruption still remaineth. By grace we cease to be wicked, but we do not cease to be sinners. Indeed, time will come when we shall have no sin, but now 477we cannot say that we have none: the old corrupt issue that hath long run upon us, is not yet dried up; and therefore we must be still purging and purifying the heart. And for the life, our Lord telleth us, John xiii. 10, ‘He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet.’ Though God’s children do not wallow like swine in the puddle, yet by walking up and down in a dirty world they defile their feet anew. Again, where this likeness to God is begun, the soul purifieth itself till it attains the perfection thereof, and must never be satisfied till it gets more of it. Though you be not perfect, yet you must live as those that aim at, and would be so. Therefore a sincere, hearty, and constant desire of inward cleanness, both to have, and keep it, and increase it, is the fruit and effect of this lively hope. And these being the months of our purification, we must still be following our work, ‘Cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God,’ 2 Cor. vii. 1. Perfection in holiness is our mark to aim at, as well as complete happiness, and all our actions and endeavours must be levelled at this mark and scope.
3. It noteth a discriminating act, ‘He purifieth himself.’ It is not said, should purify of right, de jure, but de facto; he is, and will be in this work. It is not laid down here by way of precept, or as a rule of duty, which yet would be binding upon us, but as an evidence and mark of trial, whereby the heirs of promise are notified and distinguished from others. Indulgence to sensual pleasures, or a liberty of sinning, hath no consistency with this state of blessedness; and if any should let loose the reins upon the pretence of his assurance of the love of God, and confident hopes of eternal life, he showeth that his hope is but a presumption or a groundless hope. The main business of the apostle here is to distinguish the children of God from others. All his children resemble their Father in purity and holiness, which was the proposition to be proved.
4. It noteth an unlimited endeavour, ‘He purifieth himself.’ He doth not say from what, he leaveth it indefinitely, because he would include all sin, and exclude none. There must be an endeavour after universal purity. A man may purify himself from wantonness, and leave covetousness behind; from sensuality, and leave pride and envy behind: James i. 21, ‘Wherefore lay apart all filthiness, and superfluity of naughtiness.’ Many serve their lusts in a more cleanly manner than others, but yet they serve them, and so become inapt for the sight and fruition of God. Therefore the true believer purifieth himself from carnal vanities, worldly affections, sensual inclinations, envious detractions, proud imaginations. We must not distinguish; a habit of purity worketh out all—all malice, all guile, all hypocrisy, all envious evil speaking, 1 Peter iv. 1. If you will have me descend to particulars, let me warn you of two things—first, fleshly lusts, 1 Peter ii. 11; and, secondly, worldly lusts, Titus ii. 12.
[1.] Fleshly lusts. Some run into excess of riot, polluting themselves with gluttony, drunkenness, uncleanness, and do not keep their vessels in sanctification and honour. Now these that are all for sensual satisfactions, or fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, are wholly strangers to such a hope. Is that soul clarified for the sight and likeness of God that is only employed to cater for the body? or is that body fit to be 478made like Christ’s glorious body which is only used as a strainer for meat and drink to pass through, or as a channel for lusts to run in, that is not kept in sanctification and honour? 1 Thes. iv. 4, 5. Surely these wallow in the mire, and bid defiance to this pure hope.
[2.] Worldly lusts. It is ‘pure religion to keep ourselves unspotted from the world,’ James i. 27. Then a man’s heart is pure when it is firmly fixed upon and principally aimeth at the chief good and last end, which is eternal happiness in the enjoying of God; when it desires and intends it so as to be able to command and control all other desires. Any inordinate adhering to the creature, so as to rejoice in it apart from God, is a defilement to the immortal and high-born soul, that was made for God and blessedness to come. Alas! to many a poor despicable wretch worldly vanity is more than the sight of God.
5. This purity is described by the pattern of it, ‘As he is pure.’ Christ is our pattern in the glorious state, and therefore also in the sanctified and renewed state: Rom. viii. 29, ‘That we might be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might have the pre-eminence in all things.’ First in grace, then in glory. Hereafter ‘we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’ Therefore now we must purify ourselves as he is pure. Besides, he is the perfect pattern and example of all purity; all other patterns of godly men will fail us in something or other, but Christ will fail us in nothing, when we set his pattern before our eyes; 1 Cor. xi. 1, ‘Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.’ Besides, there should be no disproportion in the mystical body; the head and members should be all of a piece: 1 Peter i. 15, ‘Be ye holy, as he that hath called you is holy, in all manner of conversation.’ You would take it as a great dishonour if your face should be pictured, and set to the body of a swine or any filthy beast; a monstrous disproportion in Nebuchadnezzar’s image, where the head was gold, the breast silver, the thighs brass, and the feet part iron and part clay. The world should know from us that we have a pure and holy saviour; but alas! we represent a strange Christ to them.
III. I now come to the connection between both these.
1. You may take notice of the suitableness of our heart to the object, or the things believed and hoped for. That which we hope for is conformity to Christ, a pure immaculate state of bliss. Men are as their hopes are; if they pitch on carnal things, they are carnal; if upon worldly things, they are worldly. Our affections assimilate us into the objects they fix upon. Thus the psalmist saith of idols, Ps. cxv. 8, ‘They that make them are like unto them, so are all they that put their trust in them;’ brutish, senseless, a sort of stocks and stones, as the idols themselves are. A Turkish paradise might breed a brutish spirit in us; but if we look for a pure estate, to love God with all the heart, and to serve him without spot and blemish, the temper of our souls and hearts will be answerable; such a meetness and worthiness will be found in us, Col. i. 12. If it be good to be pure and holy and without sin, why do not we set about it?
2. It is the condition indispensably required of us; it is not an indifferent thing whether we will be holy, yea or no, but absolutely necessary. Heaven is the portion of the sanctified, Acts xxvi. 18. Many things are ornamental that are not absolutely necessary; as, for instance, 479wealth, and wisdom with an inheritance, which make us helpful and useful; so for gifts of learning, knowledge, and utterance. Many have gone to heaven that were not learned, but never any went to heaven without holiness. No; it will not be had at a cheaper rate. As to the wicked, that will not submit to these terms, nor leave their sins, the Spirit says of them, Rev. xxii. 11, ‘He that is filthy, let him be filthy still.’ It is not a permission or persuasion, but a dreadful commination, and denunciation of as sad a judgment as can light upon a poor creature.
3. It is the beginning of our blessedness; it is begun here, or it will never be perfected there. And how is it begun? Why, in such a sight of God as produceth an endeavour after purity and holiness. A man ‘that sinneth hath not seen God, nor known him,’ 1 John ii. 11; and ‘he that doeth evil hath not seen God,’ 3 John 11. And it is carried by the renewing and purifying the inner man: 2 Cor. iv. 16, ‘The inner man is renewed day by day.’ A present gradual participation of the divine likeness is the surest pledge of everlasting blessedness, and the greatest justification of your hopes you possibly can have.
4. Out of gratitude since God hath advanced us to so great a privilege: ‘Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!’ Hath God put such honour upon us that we should be his children, provided such a blessed estate for us hereafter, and shall not we prepare to receive it? 1 Thes. ii. 12, ‘That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you to his kingdom and glory;’ 1 Thes. iv. 1, ‘Furthermore then, we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.’ In gratitude we are bound to consider what will please or displease God. If we expect our happiness from him, it is our concernment to serve and please him.
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