« הקודםהמשך »
How completely amiable doth the Lord Jesus appear when viewed in this light! How safe and happy are they who are vitally united to him! “ The young lions do lack and suffer hunger ; but they that fear the Lord shall not want any good thing.” “O sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of bis saints : Let Israel rejoice in him that made and redeemed bim; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King." These reflections are just and natural ; but as I must not stay to enlarge upon all the uses that might be made of this subject, I shall at present confine myself to what appears most important and seasonable ; namely, a few advices to Christians in general, and more especially to those who have newly entered upon a religious course. And,
1st. I would forewarn you of the opposition you are likely to meet with in your way heavenward. You have begun a warfare ; and “every battle of the warrior is with confused poise, and garinents rolled in blood." Corruption will no doubt assail you from within ; but I am to warn you of danger from another quarter. We read, that when Jesus was born, “ Herod the king was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." In like manner, when Christ is formed in any heart, all hell is in an uproar, and the malignant brood of the old serpent upon earth will not fail to spit out their venom against that person as lavishly as they can. The wicked among whom you live will mock and ridicule you; and it is probable that your former companions in sin will taunt you with past and pardoned faults, (for pardoned they
you have come to Christ) and will exert ther ut. most strength and cunning to mar your confidence, if they cannot carry you back into the same excess of riot with themselves; nay, with hellish spite they may even
forge lies to blacken your character, that they may not seem to have suffered any loss by your revolt from their party. All this you have reason to expect; and I speak of it beforehand, that when it happens, you may not be surprised or discouraged, as though some strange
and unusual thing had befallen you. It is, and always hath been, the lot of God's children; and when you suffer in this manner, you have the honour to suffer in the best of causes, and with the best of company. “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you;" it hated your Lord before it hated you, and the servant is not greater than his Master. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, and because Christ hath called you out of the world, upon these accounts the world hateth
you. Rejoice, there fore, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven."
2dly. Maintain a constant sense of your own weakness. Remember that caution of the Apostle, “ Be not high-minded, but fear.” You can only work to purpose when you work upon a present strength: the grace you receive to-day will need a fresh supply of
grace to revive and actuate it to-morrow; for Christ always dispenseth bis peculiar gifts in such a way as to remind bis people of their constant dependance upon him, and to render them diligent in the use of all the means he hath appointed for promoting the divine life in their souls. At the same time,
3dly. Think honourably of your Lord, in whose service you are engaged. Believe it, whatever Satan may suggest to the contrary, that his heart is kind, and his hand liberal. It is of the highest importance to have just conceptions of Christ, and to know what mercy and strength are laid up for us in him. Look not so much to your enemies as to the Captain of your salvation ; set his promises against their threatening, his omnipotent grace against their impotent malice. Be ye therefore bold and very courageous; victory is insured to you; it is already sown in that new nature you have got; and ere long the Prince of Peace, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, shall bruise Satan underneath your feet, and put that triumphant song into your mouths, “ Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the pow. er of bis Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.”
4thly. Remember, that all this sufficient grace is only to be obtained by prayer and supplication: “For this,” saith God, “ will I be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them." Paul, you see, besought the Lord thrice before he received the answer in my text. Prayer keeps the communication open between the head and the members; it is the messenger that goes from earth to beaven, and returns with all necessary blessings from thence. Beware, then, of neglecting this necessary duty. Pray in faith, pray in the name of Christ, pray without ceasing; and beg of Christ to teach you to pray aright, that you may ask and receive, and then your joy shall be full.
Now, brethren, I commend you to 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.” And to him who is able to keep us from falling, whose grace is sufficient for all his people, at all times, and in all circumstances, to the only wise God and our Saviour, be glory and honour, dominion and power, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 THESSALONIANS ii. 4.
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with
the Gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
WHEN we compare ourselves with the primitive Christians, we are obliged to confess, that, in every respect, we fall greatly short of their attainments. We seem to be creatures of a lower rank, incapable of reaching the same degree of perfection with them : And indeed it is to be suspected, that through a false and vi. cious modesty, we look upon these ancient worthies as examples which, though we ought to imitate, we can never hope to equal. Hence we rest satisfied with any distant resemblance we can attain, thinking, that if we are not altogether unlike to them, it is all that a modern Christian can expect.
This is a gross and most pernicious mistake. The gate of heaven is no wider now than it was seventeen hundred years ago. The law of God extends as far as it did when the apostles lived; and I know of no indul. gence granted to us wbich did not exist in the earliest times of Christianity. The church of Rome indeed bath taught, that some eminent Christians have done more than was strictly necessary for their own salvation. But po such doctrine is to be found in Scripture: Nay, on the contrary, we are told, that when we have done all, we are still upprofitable servants, and have done no more than what was our duty to do. To this day, therefore, we are bound to the same strictness and purity, to the same mortification and self-denial, to the same zeal and steadfastness, wbich distinguished the primitive Christians; and it is impossible to devise any excuse for our degeneracy from their bright example. They were all men of like passions with ourselves: they had the same corrupt nature to strive against, the same temptations to resist, the same enemies to overcome. Their advantages for performing their duty were not greater than ours: on the contrary, besides all that they possessed, we have the benefit of their example and experience. God's hand is not shortened, the blood of Christ hath lost none of its virtue, his intercession is no less prevalent, nor is the power of his Spirit in the least impaired by length of time or constant exercise. “He is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever:" So that we are entire. ly without excuse, if we do not both aim at, and actu. ally attain the same degrees of holiness and purity with any of those that have gone before us.
Let us then consider all those persons celebrated in Scripture bistory, as examples which we not only ought to copy after, but may, through God's grace, hope to equal: and, instead of being dazzled with the lustre of their virtues, let us search into the principles which influenced their conduct, that, by cherishing these, we may be animated to go and do as they did.
The Apostle mentions, in the text, one of distinguish. ed efficacy, which I propose to make the subject of this discourse: A supreme desire to please God, who trieth the heart, without regard either to the praise or censure of men. It was this which supported him under the ig. nominious treatment he met with at Philippi, which he mentions in the second verse of this chapter, and encou.