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or weigh the mountains, than your transgressions. And though all the fault was on your side, yet you were not the first in seeking reconciliation, but God. You were too bad to be forgiven without a Mediator, and none would suffice for that office but Immanuel. Yet God himself provided the ransom, not you. Though repentance is requisite, and cannot be too particular, yet yours has been, in many instances, only implied: God himself also brought you to repentance, or you would never have discovered penitence to this day, though you had such abundant reason for it. In many things you daily offend, and need constant forgiveness, and renewed discoveries of it. Nor can you be in a healthy state of soul, without daily realizing this truth ; and surely you cannot realize it, without being deeply affected with it.
Now then, is it possible you should duly estimate pardoning mercy, and be properly affected with it, so as to live a life of faith and repentance, and yet find it hard to forgive? Is there a professor, who, after all, says, Well, after all, I know a person whom I cannot and will not forgive? If so, then take an oath of it; but let me word it for you. “I, a guilty sinner, (who trust I have been forgiven all trespasses, through the atoning blood of God's incarnate Son, and who durst not approach the throne of grace, or offer up one petition, or speak one word to God, if I did not view the Lamb that was slain, standing in the midst of the throne,) I vow that I will never forgive this offence of my fellow-christian, or fellow-sinner, though his offence to me, when compared to my offences against God, is less than a hundred pence compared to ten thousand talents; and now I call him that died for me, on Mount Calvary, and who shall judge me at the last day, to witness that I will keep this resolution, let the consequence be what it may, even though it should prove all my hope of being in a pardoned state delusive.” If it would shock you to express this resolution, let it shock you to execute it! “ Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering.” If you do not daily use the words of the Lord's Prayer, show that you pray in the spirit of it, and that you could use it without cursing yourself!
What a Show the excellence of the religion of Christ. remedy against all malevolence, envy, pride, contention, sullenness, revenge!
THE DESIRES OF THE FAITHFUL MINISTER,
Phil, i. 8. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all, in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul had been the first instrument of publishing the gospel at Philippi, being invited over from Asia to Europe, by a vision, in which a man appeared, entreating him, saying, “ Come over into Macedonia, and help us; from which he gathered that the Lord had assuredly called him to preach the gospel there. And though the Apostle was shamefully entreated and persecuted at Philippi, yet God was pleased to give testimony to the word of his grace, and to gather a number of saints into church order, who were furnished with bishops and deacons, and so walked together in the fellowship of the gospel, as to give ample evidence that God had begun a good work among them, and made them partakers of the same grace of which the Apostle himself was a subject. In the text, Paul solemnly attests the tenderness of his affection toward them, and his longing desire for their welfare.
First: I would beg leave to offer some general remarks on the import of this passage.
Wherever we make great professions of friendship, and especially of Christian love, we ought to be able to appeal to God for the truth of it. This should be done, not lightly, or too frequently; but with much seriousness, and on proper occasions. It becomes ministers of the gospel to feel a peculiar affection for those among whom God has called them to labor ;; and especially where their labors have been attended with some degree of success. An experimental acquaintance with the tender compassion and love of Christ
Jesus, will, above every thing else, endear to us his people, and the souls of men. As the love of Christ is the most effectual motive, to induce us to seek the spiritual welfare of others, so it should be considered as our pattern to regulate the exercises of our love to them.
When we take a view of our Lord's conduct as a minister, in the days of his flesh, we perceive in him a pattern of the most sincere and tender benevolence and compassion. Christ himself, in his ministerial character, did not make the decrees of God an excuse for omitting the use of means, with any who attended on his ministry. Although he acknowledged the doctrine of sovereign grace, rejoiced in it, and openly taught it to the people ; yet he did not, on that account, restrain his feelings for them that rejected his ministry. Herein Paul was a true follower of Christ; and we should also act in like man
Therefore, Secondly, I would consider the object of the Apostle's earnest longing, and endeavour to apply the subject to ourselves.
Certainly, my feelings for you, ought to resemble his. And what your minister should earnestly desire for you, you should easrnestly desire for yourselves, and for each other. The Apostle was here more immediately addressing himself to those, in whom he saw very satisfying evidence that God's Spirit had begun a good work on their souls. see, by his Epistle to the Galatians, how he felt for those, of whom he was more in doubt: Gal. iv. 19, 20. And we see, by Col. i. 27–29. how he felt for his hearers in general; and so, by Rom. iii. 2. and by Acts xxvi. 29. As Christ Jesus wept over Jerusalem, so Paul wept over the enemies of the cross, who either opposed or disgraced it. Phil. iii. 18.
And, doubtless, if I am at all a partaker of the same grace with this Apostle, I shall long after you all in the bowels of Christ Jesus : i. e. I must long for the eternal salvation of you all : to see evidence that you are delivered from hell, or secured from the wrath to come, and made heirs of eternal Jife. Truly you are all, by nature, children of wrath, even as others, and justly exposed to God's anger. There is no
But we may
room to hope you will escape eternal misery, without an interest in Christ's mediation. Nor can there be room to hope, that you are interested in him, except you repent and believe the gospel. I long, therefore, to see, that you are brought to a thorough sense of the evil of sin : and, as you cannot know sin but by the law, I long to see you convinced of the extent and spirituality, and at the same time of the equity and excellence of God's law; that, every mouth being stopped, you may cordially own yourselves guilty before God. Then will you renounce all dependance on your own righteousness, and submit to God's method of saving sinners ; humbly accepting of Christ as your only Saviour, and uniting with him in the ends of his mediation. I long to see evidence that Christ is precious to your souls; that you account all things but loss for him; that you have received him in all his offices; and so walk in him, as to prove that your faith is genuine. Examine therefore, whether ye be in the faith.
Merely to have evidence of their being safe, would not satisfy the benevolent heart of the Apostle, as appears from the following verses. He longed greatly for their evident growth in grace; for their more extensive knowledge of divine truth; that they might be solid, judicious Christians; that they might abound in love themselves, in love to God, to all saints, and to the souls of men; in genuine, disinterested, active benevolence, conquering sordid selfishness and the love of the world. He longed that they might be kept from sin, and from yeilding to temptation ; from bringing any scandal on their profession, by the indulgence of vile affections and bitter passions. He longed that they might positively glorify God, being filled with the fruits of righteousness. He longed that their conversation might, in all respects, be as becometh the gospel of Christ. Surely it becomes those, who profess that he died for them, to live to him. It becomes those who believe sin was so evil as to require his death to atone for it, to crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts. It becomes those who say they are risen with Christ, to set their affections upon things above, where Christ sitteth, at the right hand of the Father. The
Apostle longed that they might so work out their salvation with fear and trembling, as to give ample evidence of God's working in them, to will and to do according to his good pleasure. That they might be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation : real, living images of Christ. Gal. iv. 19. Col. i. 27. In short, as he set no bounds to the progress he desired to make in the ways of God himself, so he wished them to be like-minded. As he said to the Corinthians, (2 Cor. xiii. 3.) This also we wish, even your perfection. So Col. i. 28. Heb. vi. 1.
My dearly beloved friends, though I know myself to be very defective in love to Christ, and love to souls, yet I trust I can in sincerity adopt the Apostle's language, and solemnly assure you, that I greatly long for you in the bowels of Christ. Woe, indeed, will betide me, if I do not ardently desire your eternal felicity. But, surely, God is my record, that I feel an anxious concern, for such as I apprehend are in an unconverted state. I pretend not to discriminate absolutely, who are in that state. I may mistake in my hopes of some; and I should be glad to be mistaken in my fears of others. But I cannot doubt there are some unregenerate souls among my hearers, even among those that have long sat under the faithful preaching of the gospel. Alas! have you spent most of your time under the gospel, and never received the truth in the love of it? Are you still strangers to prayer, to faith, to repentance, to the joys and the sorrows of a Christian ?
Perhaps less affected with the gospel than you used to be years ago! How am I grieved at the thought! What guilt have you accumulated ! How unlikely is your conversion! Yet it is not impossible with God. I have known a few instances of men being born again when they were old.
Others of the unconverted are younger. But you also are exposed to sudden destruction. You live every day in danger of hell. Nobody knows how soon you will be cut off. Alas! ye children of disobedience, I tremble for you! “ To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
Some of you have parents who long for your salvation, far above every thing else which they can desire.