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cheaper is this under the gospel, than under the former dis. pensation. Solomon offered 22,000 oxen, and 120,000 sheep : Hezekiah 1000 bullocks, and 7000 sheep; his princes 1000 bullocks and 10,000 sheep, at a single feast; besides stated sacrifices, daily, weekly, monthly, and annually: to say nothing of the building of the temple, for which David prepared so liberally. These expenses were for the true God. But I have read an authentic account of a Hindoo Rajah, who spent near 30,000 rupees in one feast, in honor of Kalee, the goddess of destruction : and many of the richest Hindoos have reduced themselves to poverty, in the service of their idols : while others torture their bodies, and even sacrifice their lives, for those that are no gods. And in this country, how much more expensive is the service of sin, than the service of God! How many lavish away sums in gaming, dissipation, and folly, who would grudge a hundredth part for the furtherance of the gospel !
Let all true Christians unite together as closely as possible. Act conscientiously wherein you differ from others; and co-operate cordially as far as ever you can.
May the erection of this place of worship be indeed subservient to the furtherance of the gospel. May our friends who have set it forward ever so conduct themselves as to give no just ground of umbrage to their fellow-christians. And God grant that many who have hitherto been inattentive to the great truths of religion, may be here impressed with a sense of the worth of the soul, the evil of sin, the need of pardoning mercy, and renewing grace; and be led into the knowledge of Christ Jesus, whom to know is life eternal. So that in the day when the Lord maketh up his people, it may be said,
" This and that man was born here."
Phil. i. 29. For unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.
There are two things implied in the text which seem at first sight very extraordinary. First, the Apostle speaks of
faith in Christ as that which could only be obtained by divine donation. Secondly, he speaks of suffering for Christ's sake, as if this also were a high privilege and especial gift of grace. Many are ready to suppose that the former needs no higher cause than a man's own free will : and perhaps more would be ready to think the latter rather a misfortune than a blessing.
Let us consider, First, The difficulty of believing.
Why could not the Philippians have believed without its being given them of God? And why cannot others? We will consider what renders it difficult to believe other reports, and that will illustrate the necessity of the arm of the Lord being revealed in order to the gospel's obtaining credit.
Some facts are not believed because they are not published. But the gospel is authorized and commanded to be made known among all nations for the obedience of faith. That commission, it is true, has not yet been fully executed; but it had been at Philippi; and to you also has the word of salvation been sent. But the text evidently imports more than barely that God gave them the means of faith. Some reports are not easily believed, because the matter of them is unreasonable. The things are incredible, or are not supported by sufficient evidence. But that is not the case here. Christians are not taught of God to believe any thing but what is worthy of all acceptation : all being ascertained by divine Revelation, and by no means contrary to right reason, though including many important truths which mere reason could not have discovered. Men sometimes scruple believing a report on account of the character of the person who asserts it. But in this case, surely, there is no ground for hesitation or dissent. Yet, where none of the preceding causes exist, men are often prevented from believing the truth by ihe influence of groundless prejudices, especially in cases wherein the passions are much interested. And this is the principal source of the difficulty in regard to sinners cordially believing the gospel. Men are prejudiced in various ways against the truth. The most fruitful source is a carnal heart, full of pride, selfishness, aversion to God, and attachment to various idols. The heathens had many prejudices; the
Jews had others; and modern sinners, in a land of light, have different ones; but many are common to all the unrenewed ; such as prejudices against God and his law; in favor of sin, of self, and of the world ; against the gospel, and its professors, and the cross of Christ. How can a man, blind to the divine glory, see his obligations? Believe the law of God to be so extensive, spiritual, and strict? Or, that it is perfectly holy, just, and good, in being so ? How can he believe sin to be so infinitely evil, as to need such a Saviour? How is it possible that a man who does not admit that he deserved death himself, should see wisdom, justice, or goodness, in Christ's suffering death for him? Can a man full of pride, believe his own righteousness would be of no avail to justify him, or recommend him to mercy? Can a man, full of self-justification, take Christ for his priest? A man full of self-conceit, acknowledge Christ as his teacher? or full of sin and rebellion, own Christ as his king? An enemy to the divine law cannot admire him who magnified it, or be well pleased with him for his righteousness' sake. An enemy to divine grace cannot be willing to own it as the alone source of his salvation. How can a man, in voluntary captivity to sin, wish to have it mortified, and totally subdued ? How can one who loves the world as his chief good, be willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and become a pilgrim and a stranger on the earth? The method of salvation revealed in the gospel is opposed to every bias of the carnal heart. Its import is so humbling; its tendency so holy, so spiritual, so heavenly. If the native disposition of man is quite depraved, it is no wonder that they who cannot brook subjection to the divine law should reject the gospel. For the law and gospel have one Author. We need not wonder, then, that faith in Christ should be represented as so great a thing, and be ascribed to divine influence.
Secondly: Consider the advantage of suffering for Christ.
Sufferings cannot be pleasing in themselves. Yet it is found to be a natural effect of ardent love, that persons take a kind of pleasure in their sufferings for a peculiar friend ; and can we wonder that love to Christ should have a similar effect ?
Readiness to suffer for another, both shows the sincerity of our love, and gives weight to our testimony respecting the worthiness of that person. Thus, when persecutions for the gospel, or other afflictions, are endured with a proper spirit, they are an evidence of our sincerity, and tend to the honor of Christ. And again, our Lord is farther honored, as the believer acknowledges that it is by virtue of strength and consolation derived from him, that he is enabled patiently to endure. Sufferings are especially a trial of faith in God's promises, both those of present support and succour; and those which relate to a future state of happiness in the invisible world. They show how fully we are convinced of God's veracity, and how entirely we trust him. When they are not inflicted immediately by the enemies of Christ, on account of the attachment we bear him, he may yet be glorified, and his people benefited by the manner in which they conduct themselves under sufferings. The happiness of the believer in a future state will be in some respects heightened by his present sufferings for his blessed Lord. 2 Cor. iv. 17.
Thirdly: Consider the propriety of ascribing both faith and sanctified sufferings to divine donation, and the merits of Christ.
Faith is the gift of God; not only by revealing the objects of faith in his word; or providentially sending the gospel into a particular country or neighbourhood ; bearing clear attestation to it at first by miracles; or raising up and assisting ministers. But he also works in a more immediate way; opening the heart, as he did Lydia's, making it honest and good. God is able so to operate on the most depraved mind, as to give the truth a weight it had not before. He can incline the heart to relish and embrace the truth; he can change the corrupt bias of the heart; so that truth once denied, or assented to in a cold, superficial way, shall be realized, relished, and felt in all its glorious importance. We plead, not for setting aside means and motives, but for the power of God to superadd such efficacy as shall insure their success; being persuaded, by scripture and experience, that without this, human perverseness will be sufficient to render
them ineffectual. Surely they must be strangely attached to a supposed course of nature, who cavil at the idea of God's interposing by any immediate influence, to cure the most unnatural disorder of sin. And as God can do this, so Christ has deserved, not only that salvation should be proclaimed in his name, among all nations; but also that he should certainly have a seed to serve him, to be his followers, his reward. And also that they should show their attachment to him by suffering for his sake; and that they should be supported through all these sufferings; and that all should terminate in his honor and their advantage, both here and hereafter.
If this view of things be well considered, you need not wonder that faith should be represented as man's duty, and yet as God's gift. The strength of a man's prejudices against the truth is no excuse for his rejecting it; yet these as certainly render divine interposition necessary to his happiness as any other kind of difficulties, and more clearly evince that interposition to be gratuitous. Examine your faith. Prepare for sufferings. Give God the glory. Pray for increasing faith and fortitude.
THE MIND OF CHRIST.
PHIL. ii. 5.
Surely it is a glorious idea of true religion, that it calls us to be imitators of God : and it is a blessed advantage that evangelical religion presents to us the example of God incarnate, who was found in fashion as a man, and exemplified the most difficult duties, in such circumstances as most powerfully to recommend them.
In this context, we have a charming specimen of what is so frequently displayed in Paul's Epistles, the connexion between evangelical truth and vital holiness; the richest discoveries of the gospel improved to practical purposes; the