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the love of Christ!" It might justly have been feared, that if the Son of God was to visit this earth, it would have been for a very different end, even to display the glory of divine justice, by executing vengeance upon those ungrateful creatures who had risen up in rebellion against the God that made them. But behold, and wonder! he came to save, and not to destroy: “ For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through bim might be saved.” Nay, he came to destroy those enemies who had vanquished us, and to rescue us out of their hands. “Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him?" My brethren, however coldly we may think or talk of these matters, angels, whom they less concern, contemplate them with ecstacy. They shouted for joy when the world was made; but they raise a higher note to celebrate the redemption of mankind. And shall men be silent while angels sing? O let us contend with those blessed spirits in the praises of our own Redeemer: He is their Lord, but he is our Saviour. Let our souls, and all that is within us, be stirred up to bless him; and let us, even at this distance, begin that grateful, triumphant song, “ Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever."
2dly. This doctrine yields the strongest consolation to every sincere Christian. He is engaged in a cause that must prevail; he follows a leader whom no might can withstand; he contends with a subdued and vanquished foe, who hath already received the mortal wound, and ere long shall be cast down and trampled under his feet. And will not this inspire you with courage and fortitude? You fight under a General whom Sa
tan feareth; and though he uses every artifice to make others unbelievers, yet he himself believes and trembles. Remember the battles and victories of your Redeemer; consider the virtue of his blood, and the efficacy of his Spirit. Let faith behold bin in his present exaltation at the Father's right band, pleading your cause, and ob. serving your conduct; covering your heads, and healing your wounds; while he prepares for you those crowns of glory that shall never fade away: and then cry out with the Apostle in holy triumph, “ If God be for us who shall be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of God? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? Nay, in all those things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Be bold, O Christians! in the cause of righteousness. Let the wicked blush; they have reason to do so; their work is base, and their wages dead. ly: but surely the disciples of Jesus bave no cause to be ashamed, whether they consider the nature of their service, or the reward that attends it. And what a reproach is it, that the slaves of Satan should act more vigorously for their master than we do for ours? Their cause is not only bad in itself, but desperate too, as to any prospect of success: whereas the interest for which we contend, is so just and honourable, that the very attempting to support it is glorious; and unless we were to suppose, that Omnipotence may become weak, and the Creator be overmatched by the workmanship of his own hands, we are sure of victory. What theu should we fear? Be strong, 0 believers! and of good courage; you fight the battles of the Lord of hosts; and greater is he that is with you than all that can be against you. Say not that you are the sons of the Most High, and born from above, unless you can prove your descent, by dar.
ing to be holy in spite of devils and men. The battle may be hot, but it cannot last long. Death will soon come, and tell you, that your warfare is accomplished; and angels, who now minister to you with joy, will car. ry you bome in triumph to your Father's house; and the Redeemer, by whose blood and Spirit you overcome, will put the crown upon your heads, and “ grant unto you to sit with him in his throne, even as he also overcame, and is set down with the Father in his throne.”
3dly. The stability of the gospel.church is a necessary consequence of the doctrine in my text. Ziou's King shall have a seed to serve him as long as sun and moon endure. The church he hath purchased with his blood, is built upon a rock against which the gates of hell shall never prevail. The heathen may rage, and the people imagine vain things; the kings of the earth may set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their corils from us: But he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision; and at length he shall speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. The proudest of his enemies shall lick the dust, when he ariseth to plead the cause that is his own; and therefore bis people may well rejoice under the heaviest pressure of affliction, and look by faith through the darkest cloud, to the complete redemption of Israel from all his troubles. “ For Jerusalem shall be a bur. densome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth should be gathered together against it.”
4thly. This important subject suggests a variety of useful instructions to all who bear office in the church of Christ; and more especially to those who labour in
word and doctrine. To us is committed the ministry of reconciliation, that by the manifestation of the truth as it is in Jesus, the eyes of sinners may be opened, and they turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. We are commanded to preach the word, to be instant in season and out of season, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine.” “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repen. tance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the share of the devil, who are taken captive by him at bis will."
This, my fathers and brethren, is the great aim of the sacred office we bear; to which, not our public ministrations only, but every part of our conduct, ought to be subservient. Let us keep this aim continually in our eye, as a lamp to our feet, and a light unto our path; and, in particular, let us place it full in our view when we are assembled together in the name of our Lord, to deliberate and judge in matters which belong to bis spiritual kingilom; remembering, that as all our authority is derived from him, so the exercise of that authority can be no further valid than as it is regulated by his will, and subordinated to the purpose for which the Son of God was manifested ; and consequently, that every act and decision of an opposite tendency, shall be finally disowned and reprobated by him who came to destroy the works of the devil. Amen.
PHILIPPIANS i. 27.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel
It will be to little purpose to inquire what kind of conversation becometh the gospel of Christ, till we be satisfied, in the first place, that this charge, which was originally addressed to the Philippians, may, with equal propriety, be addressed to us.
The qualifying particle only, with which the Apostle introduces the exhortation, plainly denotes, that, in his own judgment, the demand be made was no less moderate than it was just: Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ. This is all I require; and you cannot with decency ask, nor in reason hope, that less should be accepted. To this conclusion he was naturally led by the character and circumstances of those to whom he wrote. His epistle was inscribed, not to unbelieving Jews or Gentiles, but to saints in Christ Jesus; to men who had been converted to the Christian faith, as we learn from the foregoing part of the chapter. And it is material to observe, that as Christianity had been treated with peculiar indignity at Philippi, where Paul and his companion Silas were, by order of the magistrates, publicly scourged and cast into prison, therefore the profession of the gospel, in such a place, was justly entitled to the most favourable construction: for nothing less than a deep conviction of its truth