Imatges de pÓgina

rejoice with them too; if to petition for the mercy, to give thanks for it too, Luke xvii. 17, 18.

Motive 1. Consider it is the special command of your head, Gal. vi. 2. it is a "fulfilling of the law of Christ," viz. the law of love. Our Lord Jesus loved his people so as to die for them, therefore he requires them particularly to love one another. His compassion to them was without a parallel, therefore he will have them full of bowels towards each other; he bare the burdens of the whole, the burden of guilt, and curse due to them for sin, therefore he will have them bear one another's burden. Here is the special reason why it is called the law of Christ.

2. Ye have the example of the head for it, John xiii. 15. "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." He is touched with all their afflictions, Isa. lxiii. 9. If any annoy them, he reckons himself persecuted, Acts ix. 4. A most tender sympathy he has with them" for he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye," Zech. ii. 8. And as for their temptations, he is not unconcerned about them, Heb. iv. 15. Imitate your head, O members of the body: sympathize with them whom Christ sympathizes with, lest ye pour contempt on those whom Christ honours, and forget the afflictions of those whom he tenderly remembers.

3. The trials and distresses of others are designed for your good, as was said before. Our merciful Father, in compassion to the rest, teaches them at the expence of one. Does it not then require your sympathy, that others are afflicted for your sake? Col. i. 24. Should not ye answer the design of providence, in exercising of those duties and graces which providence lays afflictions and temptations on others to bring forth into exercise on you? He lays the rod on your fellow-members, to bring you and many others to the throne of grace.


4. What is thy brother's case to-day, may be thine to-morrow. Is he under affliction now? Thou mayest be in the same hereafter, or in another as hard for thee to bear, as it is for him now to bear his. Is he under temptation? As fast as thou seemest to stand now, thou mayst be as low under the same or a worse, to-morrow, he is to-day, Gal. vi. 1. 1 Cor. x. 12. Refuse him not that help of thee, which thou mayst need of him ere long. There is no trouble, no temptation, which befals one member of the body, which another can certainly secure himself from.

Lastly, It is necessary to evidence thy being of the body, 1 Cor. xii. 26. Col. iii. 12. How can it be accounted a live member, that has not sympathy with the rest in pain? but that Christian sympaVOL. III.

2 T

thy of bearing one another's burden speaks union with the members of the head. That hardness, selfishness, and carelessness about the trials and temptations of others, which is found in many, cannot but darken the evidences of good people so far as it prevails, and cast them as naught in whom it reigns.

6. Edify one another by Christian conference, Eph. iv. 29. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." 1 Thess. v. 11. "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another." In so far as the body is made up of several Christians, they ought to have suitable conference, for the edification of one another as members, as they are brought together by divine providence. It is the duty of joint members of any lawful society, to treat among themselves of the interests of it and its Fellow-travellers to one place are to be useful this way to one another. Christians are a society by themselves, the communion of saints, they are fellow-travellers towards Zion: Christian conference is the native result of the relation. I shall branch out this in these things.


1. Those who by providence are cast together ordinarily, whether in a family or neighbourhood, so as they must ordinarily converse together, should labour to be useful to, and edify one another by their communication, Heb. iii. 13. "But exhort one another daily while it is called, To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." Religion should be carried by us into all our relations, and however we be posted in particular societies, we should always remember our general calling and relation, as visible members of the mystical body, that we converse together as becometh saints.

2. Occasional meetings of Christians together should be thus improved. There is a commandment "to speak of those things while men walk by the way together," Deut. vi. 7. We find the two disciples going to Emmaus thus exercised, and a happy issue of their conference, Luke xxiv. 14, 15. Were men's spirits habitually heavenly, even occasional encounters would produce something of this sort betwixt fellow-Christians.

3. Christians meeting together on holy and spiritual sacred occasions should, in a special manner, be thus improven, as on Sabbathdays, and at sermons. Then it is the day calls for it, and the Lord's word and ordinances minister matter of Christian conference. Days have been, when people going to or coming from ordinances, have been sweetly employed this way, Psal. Iv. 14. and between sermons, either went alone for prayer and meditation, or gathered together for

Christian conference. But, alas! this is much decayed, and among none more perhaps than among us. I often see people standing busy speaking together, after the public worship is begun, and with my eye or voice, must labour to break off the conference, the which if it were not worldly, would surely be broken off by the beginning of the public worship. The worldly discourse in our churchyard has been, and is an offence and stumbling-block to strangers, and is like to turn to the reproach of the place, whereby God is highly dishonoured. This is a horrid profanation of the Lord's day, an open contempt of it and his ordinances, which speaks the gospel sapless and tasteless to you, and is a presage of a stroke, Neh. xiii. 18. Alas! how think ye one should preach to people making such preparation for hearing? How shall ye profit by preaching after such communications? Is. Iviii. 13, 14. How shall we pray for God's blessing on your labours and substance, or look to be heard, when ye sacrilegiously rob God of his own day at this rate? I beseech you, for the Lord's sake, and your own souls' sake, and as ye would not provoke the Lord to leave me as an idol-shepherd among you, who shall have no power to profit your souls, reform this practice, and either go by yourselves for prayer and meditation, or converse like Christians.

4. Fellow-Christians should communicate their cases one to another, as far as Christian prudence will allow, and strengthen, instruct, and edify one another, Psal. lxvi. 16. The wise man observes, that "two are better than one; for if the one fall, the other will lift him up," Eccles. iv. 10. And happy are they who thus have a friend in need. How many might have instruction in what they know not, the edge of temptations blunted, their hearts warmed, and their souls bettered, by a mutual communication of cases, troubles, temptations, and experiences?

Lastly, Appointed private meetings of several Christians together, for prayer and Christian conference for their mutual edification, provided it mar not family-worship, nor be improved to the prejudice of public ordinances, as they are warranted by the word of God, so might be of good use (if rightly improved) to the advancement of religion, Acts xii. 12. Mal. iii. 16. Col. iii. 16. By this means Christians might improve both in gifts and grace, in knowledge and love, and they have been blessed of God to these holy ends unto many: and ordinarily, in parishes where the gospel begins to thrive, they are set up almost as naturally as the birds draw together in the

What the worthy author here complains of is far from being a singular case, but may too justly be applied to most other places.


spring and, where the gospel work is going back, they decay, owing their fall, either to coldrifeness in God's matters creeping in, or to the fiery heat of division.

Motive 1. The necessity and usefulness of it is great. It is necessary and useful for the honour of God, 1 Pet. ii. 9. for the good of our brethren, Rom. xiv. 19. and for our own good, Prov. xi. 25 The tongue is called our glory, because it is the instrument of glorifying God, and so doing good to others: and, without this, men are chargeable with laying up their talents in a napkin, hiding their light under a bushel.

2. The thriving or decay of religion goes hand in hand with it. Look to the times wherein religion prospered, and you will find that "they who feared the Lord spoke often one to another;" and as that wore away, so religion decayed. Nearest the heart nearest the mouth. Where the fire is burning on the hearth, the smoke is going forth of the chimney. Where religion is lively in the heart, it will - appear in men's converse.

Lastly, Times of abounding sin and approaching wrath is a special season for it, and calls the fearers of God to set about it, Mal. iii. 16. Such is the day in which we live, "wherein iniquity abounds, and the love of many waxeth cold." God is removing the pillars, and his judgments are abroad in the world, and lesser strokes are sent as forerunners of greater.

7. and lastly, Be ready to assist the needy members, and to communicate of your worldly goods to the poor in the body. 1 John iii. 17, 18. "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth." Rom. xii. 13. " Distributing to the necessity of saints, given to hospitality." It is much to be regretted, that many of the poor, especially the vagrant ones, have no semblance of piety or membership in the body of Christ. Yet even these have a right to supply from us, because they are God's creatures. But the poor saints have a double right to it, not only as God's creatures, but as members of Christ, and therefore the church is bound particularly to see to them, Gal. vi. 10. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." The Lord in his wisdom has seen it meet to make some of his members poor in the world, not only for their own trial, but the trial of their brethren, who are obliged to supply them, Deut. xv. 11. "For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy

brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in the land," Matth. xxvi. 11. This duty I branch out in five particulars.

1. Seasonably act towards the relief of those members who are fallen into decay in the world, as ye have opportunity, Lev. xxv. 35. "And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him, yea, though he be a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with thee." As the keeping of a man that is stumbling from quite falling down, is much alike with helping him up when he is fallen; so the relieving of a man at the brink of poverty, is much alike with relieving him in it. This duty I take to be aimed at, Luke vi. 35. "But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again." And if it were more exercised, there would be fewer poor than there are.

2. Abound in private distributions towards the poor members, at your houses, or otherwise, as you have occasion, Matth. vi. 3. Heb. xiii. 16. "But, to do good, and to communicate, forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." Occasions of this nature are ordinary, which try what sort of stewards we are of the good things of this life which providence has put into our hand. It was Job's comfort in his poverty, that when he was wealthy, he communicated of what he had to the poor, Job xxxi. 19. and downward.

3. Conscientiously give in to the Sabbath's collections, to be distributed by the church. God has appointed these, and the Lord Jesus has appointed church-officers for taking care of the poor in the church, Acts vi. 1, 3. And what they are to give out is to come into their hand by the church-collections, 1 Cor. xvi. 2. "Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." So this matter of the Sabbath-day's collections is not to be looked upon as a business of mere fashion, but as a divine ordinance in the church, which should make people, out of conscience towards God, to give into it, in a suitable proportion to the substance God has put in their hands.

4. Grudge not extraordinary distributions, towards the relief not only of those of other congregations, but of other churches, whom you never saw, nor will perhaps see in the face, Rom. xv. 26. "For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia, to make a certain contribution for the saints which are at Jerusalem." This is a duty of the communion of saints; for all the churches and congregations of saints in the world make but one body of Christ, and they who are at the greatest distance from you are your brethren. Why should any then think themselves unconcerned with their distress?" Lastly, Be ready to give of your substance for pious uses, towards

« AnteriorContinua »