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that sacred fire which he kindles in the believing heart. If we have hitherto been remarkably unsuccessful, we should seriously inquire, on what account the Lord contends with us? And especially we should examine, whether we have not depended on our own supposed abilities, or sought our own honour ; instead of relying simply on the Holy Spirit, with a readiness of mind to ascribe to him all the glory of every successful attempt ?
They who would enjoy the benefit of an able and faithful ministry should be instant in prayer for their pastors. If this were more attended to, we should doubtless be enabled to set forth the true * and lively word of God; both by our preaching
and living,' with far greater effect; and should be in all respects much more useful.—But our fervent supplications should not be confined to those with whom we are more immediately connected ; for we ought to pray continually for the “pouring “out of the Spirit from on high" upon every part of the visible church, and upon all orders and descriptions of men throughout the world. We should make this a prominent part of our daily prayers,
in our closets and families; entering particularly into the various circumstances in which mankind are placed. We ought to entreat the Lord to render all his ministers faithful, holy, and successful ; “ to " send forth Jabourers into his harvest;" to unite all Christians in the bonds of brotherly love; to prosper all means used for the conversion of Jews, Mohammedans, Pagans, or infidels, and to “fill “ the earth with truth and righteousness.”
We shall not probably live to witness this glorious scene: yet the Lord may bless some means
which we use, in making way for that grand triumph of his cause. Thus David zealously prepared materials for the temple, though assured it would not be built in his day. If we have little else in our power, either to serve our generation, or to sow seed for the good of posterity; we may perform an important service by our persevering prayers : and, whenever the Lord shall « “his Spirit from on high,” to make his gospel victorious over all opposition, his people will certainly go
forth to meet him with their united fervent supplications.
pour out SERMON XX.
PHILIPPIANS I. 27.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the
gospel of Christ.
St. Paul wrote this epistle, as well as some others, from his prison at Rome: and it is manifest that “the “ Lord was with him," as he had been with Joseph in similar circumstances ; which rendered his confinement unspeakably more pleasant, than a splendid palace with a guilty conscience and ungovernable passions. Instead of dejection, murmurs, or resentment, we find the apostle uniformly employing the language of cheerfulness, confidence, and exultation. He declares that “to him to live “ was Christ, and to die gain." All his credit, interest, business, and pleasure in life consisted in communion with Christ, and in earnest endeavours to glorify him and promote his cause : and he was sure that death, in whatever form it should arrest him, would prove his richest advantage.What a blessed religion is this, which can turn the king of terrors into a kind friend, and the loss of all terrestrial things into the most valuable of acquisitions! What, my brethren, can wealth, reputation, authority, genius, or philosphy propose, which is comparable to this? Why then should you hesitate to sell all, and purchase “the pearl of
But, though the apostle had a longing “ desire " to depart and be with Christ, as far better :" yet he was willing to continue on earth, “ for the “ furtherance and joy of faith" of his beloved people. As if a pardoned rebel should voluntarily submit to the inconveniences and sufferings of a dungeon, in order to recommend the clemency of his prince to other criminals ; or to be helpful to those who, having likewise received mercy, were for some important purposes retained a while longer in confinement.
Hence he took occasion to exhort the Philippians in the following words, “Only let your conver“sation be, as it becometh the gospel of Christ; “ that whether I come and see you, or else be ab“sent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand “fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together “ for the faith of the gospel ; and in nothing ter“ rified by your adversaries.”—From the part of this exhortation contained in our text I shall endeavour,
I. To give a compendious view of the gospel of Christ :
II. To shew that this gospel, when rightly understood and truly believed, will produce a correspondent conduct and conversation :
III. To mention some leading particulars in ' which “a conversation becoming the gospel" more especially consists :
IV. To make some remarks on the emphatical word “ only."
I. I would attempt to give a compendious view of the gospel of Christ.
We know that the word rendered gospel signifies
glad tidings ; and a preacher of the gospel is a messenger or herald, bringing and publishing good
“How beautiful upon the mountains are “ the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, “ and bring glad tidings of good things ?”
The Ephesians, having formed the design of building the celebrated temple of Diana, were at a loss where to procure a sufficient quantity of the finest marble, to accomplish the plan: and it is recorded that a certain person, in this emergency, found a quarry at no great distance, exactly suited to the purpose. Running therefore without delay to inform the citizens of this fortunate event, he was saluted, and afterwards called, Evangelus or The bringer of good tidings ; a name of exactly the same import with that rendered a preacher of the gospel, or an evangelist. But, though his tidings were infinitely less important and joyful than our's, it may be questioned whether any whole city ever thus gladly welcomed the message of salvation : and we know that in general it meets with a very different reception.
Good tidings often derive a great part of their value from their suitableness to the case of those who hear them. The promulgation of good laws and the impartial administration of justice, though valuable blessings in themselves, can give no pleasure to condemned malefactors; but a report of the king's clemency or an assurance of a pardon, would suit their case, and tend to cheer their drooping hearts. An act of grace is glad tidings to confined debtors, though it may give umbrage to their