صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

tends to promote present comfort too. The happy and comfortable influence of vital godliness is made manifest ; present communion with God; peace of conscience ; joy in the Holy Spirit; support under trials and death itself. The name of Jesus is as ointment poured forth.

The immortal hope of heavenly happiness is evinced to be just and well founded. Souls are called off from perishing and lying vanities, to inherit substance, and seek treasure in heaven.

Dear brethren, let ministers earnestly seek the more ample fulfilment of this declaration. Pray for us, that it may be so.

Let us give thanks to God, who only causeth us to triumph, as having shown us the glory of Christ, and given us an heart to unite with him, and rejoice in him.

Let us be ashamed we have no more lived up to our privileges; have had no more triumphant confidence in him ; and done no more to spread the savor of his knowledge.

Let every Christian put in for a share in this joy and labor. And let us think what a glorious triumph we shall have at last.

[ocr errors]



2 Cor. ii. 3. Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistles of Christ, ministered by us; written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.

PERHAPS, some of my hearers may have been ready to think, that too much stress has been sometimes laid on the distinction between real and nominal Christians. Yet surely, a little serious reflection must convince you that such a distinction is necessary.

This will especially appear, by considering the metaphorical expressions by which the nature of genuine Christianity is illustrated. Lights of the world, the salt of the earth; and here, the epistles of Christ. Can these epithets be applied with any propriety to all who are born in a Christian land ? to all who belong to any external

denomination ? to all strict churchmen? to all staunch dissenters ? Alas! by no means. You ask perhaps, Can they be applied to all who join themselves to churches gathered out of the world, and united in voluntary profession? Oh, that they could ! Yet we receive none but those of whom we hope well at the time, though God alone can search the heart. And we appeal to those who have not made the same verbal profession, that we earnestly warn those who are communicants, not to rest satisfied with once putting on Christ, but exhort them so to walk as to evince that they abide in him.

This is the principal object I now have in view. I do not mean to enlarge on all the circumstances of the beautiful metaphor, adopted by the Apostle; but chiefly to use it in a practical manner, to assist my hearers in examining whether it can be fairly applied to themselves. The Apostle had been alluding to some teachers of doubtful Christianity, who endeavored to obtain letters of recommendation to introduce them to others; a practice not to be universally condemned, but which he found had sometimes been abused, and which he considered unnecessary for himself and his intimate associates, as the evident fruits of their ministry were the best attestation of their mission, and of Paul's apostleship.

The doctrine of the text appears to be this: When a thorough change in the heart is manifested by the life, it is not only the best recommendation of those who have been honored as instruments in producing it, but is suited to make known to all candid observers, the mind of Christ, and the true nature of his religion.

First: What should we expect to find written in the epistles of Christ ?

If it were said that a volume of his letters was recently found, you would expect them to contain his sentiments, and to accord with what the evangelists assure you of in that respect. Need I say you would expect to see the being of God written in them very plainly? Why that is a truth which every body admits. Oh that every one did but realize it! Peter tells us, that David spake concerning Christ, in Psalm xvi. “ I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for

he is on my right hand, that I shall not be moved; therefore did my heart rejoice,” &c. Now, if you are the epistles of Christ, surely you have the mind of Christ. It is not only a present, but a pleasing idea. They on whose heart it is deeply engraven, love to act as if they saw him who is invisible.

What should you expect to see written as to the equity of the divine requirements ? Christ himself said, “ Lo, I come to do thy will, O God; thy law is in my heart.” Oldtestament saints were described as “the people in whose heart is my law.” The New-testament promise is, “ I will write my law in their hearts.” It is said of the Messiah, “ He will magnify the law, and make it honorable.” And can you find it vilified in his epistles ? Surely not.

Surely not. Christ explained its spirituality ; taught its summary; declared he came not to abrogate, but to fulfil it ; and said, “ Heaven and earth should sooner pass away, than one jot or tittle of the law should fail.” Surely then, like sentiments of the extent and spirituality, the excellence and equity of the divine law, must be inscribed on the hearts of his people, and will show their influence in the life. Christ did not complain even of its awful penalty, nor dare they do so. Though most dreadful, yet it is most just.

What would you expect to find written as to the evil of sin ? If they had seen the sufferings of the damned, could they make a deeper impression than the sufferings of Christ ? If they expected the wrath of God to come upon themselves, could this show the evil of sin more than the agonies of the beloved Son of God ? Ought not faith to make nearly as deep an impression as if you had been eye-witnesses of that sight ? Nothing could obtain remission but blood : no blood could atone but Immanuel's.

What would you expect to find written as to the source of salvation? Can they who have seen sin to be so exceedingly sinful, ascribe their salvation to any thing but sovereign grace? Will they who are the epistles of Christ be offended, as the men of Nazareth were ? Luke iv. 29. Or, like those apostate disciples, of whom it is said,

“ From that time they went back, and walked no more with him.”? John vi, 66.



Or will they not feel as Christ did, (Luke x. 21.) and cheerfully subscribe to his declaration—“ Ye have not chosen me; but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain : that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."? John xv. 16.

What would you expect to find written as to Christ himself, and the whole plan of salvation by his obedience unto death? He declared that it was the Father's will, that all should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He plainly thought it was no robbery to be equal with God. He suffered Thomas to own him as Lord and God. He suffered Peter to ascribe omniscience to him. He professed to have come from the Father, and to be in heaven; to have all power in heaven and earth ; to be able to forgive sins, and to bestow eternal life ; to be the resurrection and the life; the way, the truth, and the life. He declared that he “laid down his life for the sheep; that he shed his blood for many, for the remission of sins.” And if you could read the hearts of his disciples, would you not see written there, “He is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely."? I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”?

What would you expect to find written as to the claims of the Redeemer? Will not their hearts accord with them? Thine they were, and thou hast given them to me. Thank God for that! Yes, we are not our own, but the property of our Lord. We are bound to deny ourselves, to take up the cross, and follow him. We are not of the world, even as he was not of the world. We wish to be conformed to his image more and more, and never shall we be satisfied till we awake in his likeness. Would you not expect to find Christ's new commandment written on their hearts ? John xiii. 34, 35. To see that they love one another, with a pure heart fervently ? Love, not in word only, but in deed and in truth, even as he loved us. His love was not niggardly, but generous ; it made him lavish of his very blood. 1 John iii. 16. In short, would you not expect to find such things written in these epistles ; that, by reading them attentively,

you might know something of Christ's mind about every thing that is of great consequence ? Especially you would expect to find something written there about heaven, where Christ now is : its nature; its chief enjoyments; its sufficiency to make up for all losses, trials, and sufferings now endured.

SECONDLY : What shall we learn from this representation ?

Learn the internal, experimental, practical nature of true Christianity. It is seated in the inner man : it takes possession of the heart; but it must, and if it be genuine, it will

appear in the life; so that men will be forced to see somewhat of its happy effects. Men of every language may read this. Some, indeed, are dark and blind ; some jaundiced with prejudice: none see its full beauty, but those who are divinely enlightened. But others are constrained to respect what they still dislike.

Learn how we should be concerned to examine ourselves. Is this description applicable to you? What evangelical truth is legible in your life?

life? Wherein does the tenor of it differ from what it would have been if you had never known Christ? What higher ideas must any çandid observer form of Christ from you?

Let all professors, especially, lay this to heart. Do not let any have reason to say,

This is a blank espistle, a forged epistle, an epistle scarcely legible; or it is miserably blotted. Bring the matter home to particulars, " If any one be in Christ, he is a new creature." They that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts. They are risen with Christ, and have set their affections on things above.

If you could read in the conduct of a young professor, nothing is of so much importance as dress ; or in the conduct of an old professor, nothing is of so much importance as money; or in the conduct of others, the company of the

gay and dissipated, or even of the licentious, is preferable to the company of serious Christians; would you take these for epistles of Christ, or for forgeries? Would you not at least think that Satan had interlined them?

« السابقةمتابعة »