Imatges de pÓgina
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or, as it might be rendered, although a man strive", although he wrestle, and fight, and run, weary himself, and excel others; yet, after all, he loses the prize, he is not crowned, unless he strive lawfully, unless be strictly conforms to the prescribed regulations : he will be judged unqualified, though in other respects skilful and diligent, unless he runs in the limits marked out, fights with the usual weapons, and observes in all points the discipline of the place. We are bound in duty, at the saine time that we proclaim the race, and point out the prize to your view, to tell you, that without faith and holiness t there can be no acceptance. And we cannot but be grieved to see how little these cautions are regarded by multitudes. Some are labouring, as it were, in the fire, to establish a righteousness by their own works, and refuse to believe in Christ for salvation. Others, who profess indeed to believe in him, call themselves his people, and affect to speak highly of his Gospel, yet eventually deny him by their works and conversation. But unless you can alter the sure determinations of the word of God, there must be an alteration in yourselves, or else when you think you have attained, and shall confidently demand the prize, you will hear him say, “I know you not whence ye are; depart

all ye workers of iniquity I." There is a circumstance in this resemblance which I would not pass over, because it is peculiar to the Christian race. The ministers or heralds are not only to invite others, but are likewise to run themselves. To this the apostle alludes, when he says, “ when I have preached to others, I should be myself a

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from me,

- Lest,

* 2 Tim. ii. 5. † Mark xvi. 16.; Heb. xii, 14. Luke xiii. 27,

cast-away*;" or be disapproved of the judge for breaking those regulations himself which he had been authorized to propound to all. We have need to preach to ourselves no less than to you, and to entreat your prayers for us, that we may stand perfect and complete in the whole will of God. And the caution

may

be

proportionally extended to every one that is intrusted with any measure of gifts for the edification of the people of God. Keep close to his word; pray for his Spirit; be diligent and temperate in all things; and maintain a watchful jealousy over your own hearts: these are the means by which the Lord keeps his people from falling. But trust not to any outward talent, calling, or usefulness; for it is possible for a man to be instrumental to the good of others in families and societies, and yet to come short of the kingdom himself at last.

III. I have observed, that a great concourse of spectators attended at the ancient games. The Christian, in his race and warfare, has likewise innumerable

eyes upon him, a great cloud of witnesses. We are exhibited a spectacle to the world, to the whole universe, both to angels and to ment. Though he may be placed in an obscure situation, yet his neighbours at least will observe him, to see how his profession and practice agree. Invisible beings attend him in every step; the good angels | rejoice over the returning sinner; and it is probable, by God's appointment, support and refresh him in ways which are beyond our apprehension. The powers of darkness watch him with subtilty and envy, and

go

to the utmost bounds of their cominission, in their endeavours, either to divert him from his course, or to make it uncomfortable to him. How should this

į Cor. ix. 27.

t i Cor. iv. 9.

#Luke xv. 10.

thought both animate and humble every sincere soul? Be not discouraged, because to appearance you are almost left to serve God alone. If the vail of flesh and blood could be drawn aside, you would see you are not alone; all the host of heaven are on your side; the glorious company that are before the throne of God, day without night, rejoicing, are engaged in your cause, and drink of the same fountain from which you are supplied. The spirits of just men made perfect, who are now all eye, all ear, all love, were once as you are, partakers of the same infirmities, sorrows, and cares ; and you ere long shall be as they are, clothed with light, and freed from every burden. And Jesus, the Lord of angels, the King of saints, beholds your toil and conflict with complacence, and says, "Hold that fast which "thou hast, that no man take thy crown*." He is always near to succour, strengthen, and to save. Rejoice, therefore, that you run not as unnoticed, but rejoice with trembling. Be ashamed to think how disproportionate your efforts are to the company that behold you, and to the prize that awaits you. Remember likewise other eyes are upon you; Satan envies your privileges, and scorns your profession: he is every minute waiting permission to sift you as wheat † he is incessantly spreading snares for your feet, and preparing his arrows against you; therefore be not highminded, but fear, and give all diligence so to run that you may obtain.

IV. The judge who presides at the end of the race is Jesus, the judge of all. He holds forth the prize full in view to the eye of faith, and shall shortly crown the conqueror with his own hand. How sweetly does the

*Rev. iii. 11.

Luke xxii. 31.

apostle spiritualize upon this circumstance! “ I have

fought a good fight, I have finished my course; I "have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for “ me a crown of life, which the Lord, the righteous "judge,” (who does not decide by appearances, nor can be influenced by partiality, as is too frequent amongst men,)“ shall give me at that day; and not to me only, “ but to all who love his appearing*.” Pe of good cheer, believer ; your case may be misrepresented, or misunderstood by men; but the Lord, the righteous and unerring judge, will vindicate, approve, and reward in the great day, when he shall come to be glorifed in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.

Thus much concerning the resemblance of the Christian life to a race, to which the apostle alludes. I shall briefly take notice of some particulars in which the resemblance fails; and a very interesting and important difference may be observed.

J. In the reward. The bodily exerciset, (employed in the games, for to these the apostle refers,) profited little : a crown of oak or laurel, or some such bauble, was their highest aim, and this the most of the competitors came short of; for though all ran, but one received the prize. Of little more value, and equal uncertainty, is the prize that has engaged the time and thoughts of many. But godliness, (the whole course and conflict in which the believer is engaged,) is profitable for all things, or in every view, having promises to support the life that now is, and to crown that which is to

He that overcometh, saith the Lord, shall “ inherit all things. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. I will give him to eat of the tree of life,

come.

2 Tim. iv. 7, 8. VOL. II.

† 1 Tim. iv. &.

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plead guiltless to every part of this charge? Must we not all stand silent and self-condeinned ? and if

you are a transgressor, what can you do, either to repair the dishonour

you

have offered to the Divine Majesty, or to prevent the contagious effects of your own evil example ? Nothing can be more false, than a too frequent form of speech amongst us.

When a man of some amiable qualifications in social life tramples without fear upon the laws of God, how often is it said, by way of extenuation, he is no one's enemy but his own? when indeed his practice declares him to be an enemy of God, an enemy to his holiness and government ; and he is a most mischievous enemy to all who live under his influence, and within the circle of his ac. quaintance, by tempting and encouraging them to sin, to the hazard of their souls. Things standing thus with all men by nature, with what language can we answer the law's demands? Must we not adopt the pathetic confession of the prophet ? " For this our heart is faint; “ for these things our eyes are dim. The crown is fall

en from our heads: wo unto us that we have sinned*!"

2. The necessity and value of the Gospel; otherwise how can you escape the penalty, and stand acquitted before the supreme Judge? If you refuse this, “there remaineth no other sacrifice for sint." But if

you humble yourself, and apply to Jesus, there is yet hope. He died for sinners, the chief of sinners, and the greatest of sins. For his sake, all manner of sin and blasphemy is pardonable : “he is able to save to “the uttermost.” But he must do the whole, and have all the glory. Believe in his name. . This is the first step; without grace derived from him, you can

Lam. v. 16, 17.

+ Ileb. x. 26.

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