« AnteriorContinua »
that are needful to the body ? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Now consider, 'ye that profess an attachment to the peculiar and distinguishing doctrines of the gospel, that the eyes of many are upon you, and that the world will judge more of the nature of these doctrines from your conduct, than from any arguments that may be adduced in proof of their moral and practical tendency. If your private life is at variance with your public profession of religion; if ye are covetous in your desires of those things which perish in the using, unjust in your dealings, faithless to your promises and engagements, discontented with your situation, censorious in your conversation, peevish or passionate in your temper, and easily provoked, envious of the prosperity of your neighbour, or ready to take advantage of his ignorace or necessities: If your private life is thus at variance with your public profession of religion, will not the world remark the glaring inconsistency ? Will not this cause your good to be evil spoken of, and open the mouths of the profane in blasphemy? But we hope better things of you, at least of many of you, and things that accompany salvation. The time was, when you were ignorant of God's righteousness, and went about to establish a righteousness of your own. You had then, it may be, a form of godliness, and were strict observers of the outward and ceremonial parts of religion. You went with the multitude that kept holy day, and sat before the Lord as his people. But how different are your views of sin and duty,
and of the extent and spirituality of the divine law, since you knew the grace of God in truth, from what they formerly were! Sin then sat light on your conscience, and you hated it no farther than as it exposed you to the wrath of God. You shunned the light, lest your deeds should be reproved, and you counted him your enemy who told
you the truth. But now you wish to know the plague of your hearts; to have the truth, however painful, told to you; to know more of the evil of sin in general, and of your own sins in particular; and you regard that sermon as the most useful, which humbles you the most before God, and exalts the Saviour the most in your estimation. And it is for this reason that you love a faithful heart-searching ministry, and esteem it as one of heaven's best blessings to men. You are not afraid, like those who cannot endure sound doctrine, to have your peace disturbed, your feelings hurt, your pride wounded. Fearful lest there should be any lurking evil in your heart, any idol spared, any duty omitted, you desire to know the whole truth, the whole counsel of God, that by doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, you may be built up
in holy faith, and thoroughly furnished unto every good work.
And now, brethren, we beseech you, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that ye abound more and more in all knowledge and prudence; that ye
fol. low on to know the Lord fully; that ye give all diligence to make your calling and election sure;
and that ye add to your faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. You have lately witnessed a good confession in public; but it is by the performance of secret duty, by communion with God in his providences, as well as in his ordinances, by reading, meditation, self-examination, and prayer,
that the life of God must be cherished in the soul. You must study to walk with him, to set him continually before you, to take his law for a light unto your feet and a lamp unto your paths, and to exercise yourselves daily in keeping consciences void of offence both towards God and towards man. The more you attend to the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, fidelity, and the love of God, the more will you adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour, the more will your comforts abound in this life, and the higher will be the station you will occupy, and the glory in which
appear, when Christ shall come again to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.
And now, brethren, we commend you unto God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
ON FINAL PERSEVERANCE.
PHILIPPIANS, I. 6.
Being confident of this very thing, that He which
hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
A DISPOSITION to consider and enquire seriously respecting the concerns of eternity, is highly commended in scripture, and many special promises are made to it. The evangelist Luke styles the Bereans noble, because they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, to see whether those things were so: therefore, it is added, many of them believed.
Persons of this disposition will no doubt meet with difficulties and with trials in the course of their enquiries and of their religious profession ; but these are honourable to themselves as men of honest and upright minds in search of the truth, and beneficial to them as Christians, that the trial of their faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, may be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. A great point is gained, when, through divine grace, the enquirer has surmounted the natural reluctance of the human mind to begin the enquiry about the way of salvation. In the course of his proceeding, he will have his comforts as well as his trials, his encouragements as well as his difficulties. He is not without his companions both in labour and in consolation. He advances humbly but firmly towards the mark, till he obtain the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; and he cannot all the while but feel wonder, humility, and gratitude to God, recollecting that the time was, when, like many others, he refused instruction, and on putting the question, What is truth? went out without waiting for an answer.
The Christians at Philippi feeling themselves unspeakably happy in being brought out of the darkness of heathenism, conceived, it seems, a strong desire that their countrymen should share in the same felicity. For, while the apostle preached the gospel to the inhabitants of Thessalonica, the metropolis of Macedonia, the Christians at Philippi sent once and again pecuniary aid to him, that the success of the gospel might not be hindered by its preachers becoming burdensome to the Thessalonians. The same attention they shewed to the apostle, and for the same reason, while he preached the gospel in Corinth, 2 Corinthians, xi. 9. A similar disposition will or ought to be shewn by all who have the honour of God and the good of their fellow-creatures sincerely at heart. Their faith in the gospel, if they do indeed believe it, must imply, that, next to God's unspeakable gift, it is in their estimation the best gift that