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pleasure, improvement in knowledge, the friendship of great men, and the like; but do you seek after Christ.
(3.) Having found Christ, recommend him to others. Do not betray him, as Judas did, and as Herod wanted the wise men to do; but like the woman of Samaria, endeavour to draw others to him. Win others to him, who has won you to himself. Every believer should, publicly or privately, be a preacher of Christ.
(4.) Let us not make religion a cloak for wickedness. Let it rather want a cloak, and appear undisguised, than have such a disguise as this. Hypocrisy is more hateful to God and man, than bare-faced iniquity; and a portion with hypocrites seems to be expressive of the greatest degree of future misery. Those may gain the loaves and the fishes who follow Christ for them; but their gain in this world will be their loss in the next. Matt. xxiii. 14.
Behold Him in a stable born,
Behold Him in a manger laid,
Behold Him from a virgin sprung,
Who heaven, and earth, and all things made!
Herod, to kill the Prince of Life,
But God preserves his darling Son,
Reconciliation to God.
2 COR. V. 20.
We pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
RECONCILIATION, says one, is a harder work
than salvation. It is more difficult to reconcile an enemy, than to save a friend. There is less opposition between grace and glory, than between nature and grace; the former being gradual and partial, the latter specific and total. Hence the apostle says, If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Rom. v. 10.) Reconciliation here refers to the state, but in our text, to the habitual frame and temper of the mind. The former was effected by Christ: the latter is attempted by his ministers, who are therefore called his ambassadors; implying that they are royal messengers, who derive their authority and receive their commission from him. To him they look for direction, and would faithfully discharge the trust he reposes in them. It also implies, that as an ambassador represents the person of the prince, so they represent the person of Christ. Hence we are exhorted in Christ's stead; that is, as if he were personally present amongst us. If properly called, we regard ourselves, however mean and unworthy, and how little soever qualified, as his
substitutes and representatives, and should thus be regarded by you. We do what he himself did when upon earth, and what his infinite and condescending grace would incline him still to do, were he to return to earth again. Hence Christ takes the respect paid to his ministers, as paid to himself; and looks upon the insults offered, and injuries done to them, as offered and done to himself. (Luke x. 16.) So that the work of a minister, though arduous, yet is very honourable. Lastly, it implies that ministers, as ambassadors, are accountable to their Lord and Master. He gives them a commission, and he will one day enquire how they have executed it. He sends them upon an important errand, and will know how they have succeeded; and as they are faithful or unfaithful, as their labours are effectual or otherwise, they will give up their account at last with grief or joy. It is a small matter with them to be judged of man's judgment; for he that judge th them is the Lord.
Now the chief business of these ambassadors, that which employs their heads, their hands, their tongues, their hearts, is to carry on the great work of reconciliation. We pray you, (says the apostle) in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. When a minister has finished his address to the throne of grace, the people naturally expect he is going to preach; but indeed he is going again to pray. Before, he prayed that God would shew himself reconciled to them: now he prays that they would be reconciled to God. When men are at variance, the weak generally seek first for peace; but it is otherwise in the quarrel between God and us: here the Creator stoops to the creature. That God, whose power could crush us into atoms, whose angry looks would sink us into the lowest hell, offers a parley with sinful clay; intreats us to lay down our arms, and yield our stubborn and rebellious hearts to his love. And shall not the terrors of his wrath affright us from continuing in a state
of hostility? Shall not his tenderness and compassion effectually win us to a compliance with his demands? He that could destroy us, now courts us! Oh let him not be unsuccessful in his suit! He that might say, depart, says, return! May we one and all reply, Behold we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God!
I. I shall attempt to shew what ministers, as Christ's ambassadors, are to do in order to sinners being reconciled to God.
They are not to be silent, but to speak: and as they are ambassadors of Christ, he should be the principal subject of their ministrations. Him they should both study themselves, and preach to their people. He is the author of their ministry, and he should be both the matter and end of it. In him all the doctrines of the gospel centre; to him all the invitations of it lead; by him all the promises of it are confirmed, and all the blessings of it bestowed. But more particularly,
1. In order to sinners' reconciliation to God, it is necessary for ministers boldly to declare, and faithfully to open the natural enmity of their hearts against him. Yes, oh sinner, thou hast a mortal enmity to God: it is rooted in thy nature. Thou fliest from his presence, opposest his will, harbourest his foes; nay, thou wouldst, if it were possible, pluck him from his throne, and put an end to his being! Thou secretly wishest that there was no God; and what thou wishest, thou wouldst accomplish, if it were in thy power. The greatest saint does not hate sin as thou hatest God. They have hated me, says Christ, and my Father also. The carnal mind is enmity against God; enmity in the abstract, and in the highest degree. Every sin is an act of rebellion against God; and if men were suffered to pursue their own inclinations, there are no lengths of sin into which they would not
run; no acts of sin, however horrid and flagitious, that they would not commit. The reason why carnal men are insensible of their enmity, is, either their inattention to the workings of their own minds, or the object of their hatred being invisible. They cannot hurt or injure him; so that, as a very judicious writer expresses it, their hatred sinks into indifference, and they let him alone because they cannot do otherwise. But however their enmity may be concealed or disguised, it is total and universal. It is interwoven with the very being of a natural man, diffused through all the powers and faculties of his soul, and discovers itself in all his actions. Col. i. 21.
2. Ministers are further to teach and assert, that though the ground-work of our reconciliation was laid in the eternal counsels of God, yet that it is actually brought about in time, by the effectual operations of the divine Spirit. This reconciliation on God's part, without which there could have been none on ours, is effected in a way of complete satisfaction. (Ephes. ii. 13.) But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who were once afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Jews and gentiles are also reconciled unto God, in one body, upon the cross. The law being fulfilled, and justice satisfied in the person of Christ, the offended Deity now says, Fury is not in me. This is reconciliation on God's part, with respect to which we have nothing to do, but firmly to believe, cordially to embrace, and then triumphantly exult and rejoice in it.-Reconciliation on our part is begun and completed by the grace of the Spirit. He slays the enmity of the heart, subdues the obstinacy of the will, and sanctifies the carnal affections; gives a spiritual sense of the glory and excellence, unparalleled beauty and loveliness, of the divine Being; so that we are made to resign ourselves up to him as our lawful Sovereign; and at the same time choose and cleave to him as our supreme good, and everlasting portion.