« AnteriorContinua »
the scripture describes, and which connects the various parts of Christianity into one consistent whole.
We may likewise observe, that the least degree of those holy tempers, which are common to believers is inconceivably more valuable to the possessor, than those shining gifts and accomplishments, by which some are distinguished, but which may exist without living faith. Such were the gifts of tongues and prophecy, miraculous powers, or apostolical authority, which might exist apart from saving grace: and such are learning, genius, eloquence, and other admired endowments, which men covet, envy, or ostentatiously display.
But next to the possession of that holiness which inseparably accompanies salvation; we should desire and seek such gifts, as may qualify us for the duties of our several stations; and we should pray earnestly, that “ Our love may abound yet more and more in “ knowledge and in all judgment; that we may approve
things that are excellent; that we may be sincere " and without offence, till the day of Christ: being “ filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by “ Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God."*
PHILIPPIANS I, 27.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gos
pel of Christ.
St. Paul wrote his epistle, as well as some others, from his prison at Rome: and it is manifest that the Lord was with him, as he had been with Joseph in similar circumstances; which rendered his confinement unspeakably more pleasant, than a splendid palace with a guilty conscience and ungovernable passions. Instead of dejection, murmurs, or resentment, we find the apostle uniformly employing the language of cheerfulness, confidence, and exultation. He declares that “ to him to live was Christ, and to “ die “gain." All his credit, interest, business, and pleasure in life, consisted in communion with Christ, and earnest endeavours to glorify him and promote his cause: and he was sure, that death, in whatever form it should arrest him, would prove his richest advantage.- What a blessed religion is this, which can turn the king of terrors into a kind friend, and the loss of all terrestrial things into the most valuable of acquisitions! What, my brethren, can wealth, reputation, authority, genius, or philosophy propose, which is comparable to this? Why then should
hesitate to sell all, and purchase the Pearl of great price?
But though the apostle had a longing “ desire to
depart and be with Christ, as far better;" yet he was willing to continue on earth, “ for the furtherance and
joy of faith” of his beloved people.—As if a par. doned rebel should voluntarily submit to the inconveniences and sufferings of a dungeon, in order to recommend the clemency of his prince to other crimi. nals; or be helpful to those, who having likewise received mercy, were for some important purposcs retained a while longer in confinement.
Hence he took occasion to exhort the Philippians in the following words, “ Only let your conversation be, “ as it becometh the gospel of Christ; that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of
ye stand fast in one spirit, with one “ mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel; “ and in nothing terrified by your adversaries.”From the part of this exhortation, contained in our text, I shall endeavour,
I. To give a compendious view of the gospel of Christ.
II. To shew, that this gospel, when rightly understood and truly believed, will produce a correspondent conduct and conversation.
III. To mention some leading particulars in which“ a conversation becoming the gospel"? more especially consists.
your affairs, that
IV. To make some remarks on the emphati. cal word “ Only." I. I would attempt to give a compendious view of the gospel of Christ.
We know that the word rendered gospel signifies glad tidings; and a preacher of the gospel is a messen. ger or herald, bringing and publishing good news. “ How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of “ them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad “ tidings of good things?"'*
The Ephesians, having formed the design of build. ing the celebrated temple of Diana, were at a loss where to procure a sufficient quantity of the finest marble, to accomplish the plan: and it is recorded, that a certain person, in this emergency, found a quarry at no great distance, exactly suited to the pur. pose. Running therefore without delay to inform the citizens of this fortunate event, he was saluted, and af. terwards called, Evangelus or The bringer of good tidings; a name of exactly the same import, with that rendered a preacher of the gospel, or an evangelist. But though his tidings were infinitely less important and joyful than our's; it may be questioned, whether any whole city ever thus gladly welcomed the message of salvation: and we know that in general it meets with a very different reception.
Good tidings often derive a great part of their value, from their suitableness to the case of those who hear them. The promulgation of good laws and the
* Isai. lii, 7. Rom. X. 15.
impartial administration of justice, though valuable blessings in themselves, can give no pleasure to condemned malefactors; but a report of the king's cle. mency, or an assurance of a pardon, would suit their case, and tend to cheer their drooping hearts. An act of grace is glad tidings to confined debtors, though it may give umbrage to their creditors: and the arrival of a facet with provisions in a time of urgent famine,
a occasions a joy, of which such as live in plenty can form no adequate conception. We must therefore un. derstand something of our own condition, before we can cordially welcome the gospel of Christ: and inattention or mistake, in this respect, forms, one grand reason, why so many slight the message of salvation. But lectures on moral duties, separated from the doctrines of grace, no more meet the case of lost sinners; than extracts from the statute-book can give comfort and hope to condemned criminals.
We may know something of our situation by facts; and the scripture further explains the humiliating and alarming subject. It cannot be denied that the world is full of crimes and miseries; this is equally certain, whether men believe or disbelieve the Bible. Even they who are averse to the doctrine of human depravity, when applied to themselves and their connexions; shew by the caution with which they transact their affairs, that they consider mankind in general as basely selfish: and he who at first disdains this sentiment, as unjust and illiberal, will be at length constrained to adopt it, or become a prey to designing men. Hence it is, that incautious young persons, having been repeatedly deceived, often grow suspicious