« PreviousContinue »
does not reject or turn from them on that account; but meditates on them, till he becomes more watchful, diligent, and fervent in prayer: and thus he finds that the whole of the word of God “ does good to him that walketh uprightly.”
2. The exhortations of the apostles were principally addressed to such as they believed to be real christians, children of God and heirs of heaven: and their prayers related to their spiritual growth and proficiency. Hence we may certainly conclude, that there is something in christianity, both desirable and attainable, beyond, or distinct from the present comfort and the eternal salvation of the individuals who have already embraced it. Indeed the salvation of one soul is an object of şuch magnitude, that no temporal interest is worthy to stand in competition with it; but the glory of God, in the credit and success of the gospel, and the everlasting state of immense multitudes as connected with it, are beyond comparison more important. That selfishness, however, which is natural to fallen creatures, does not yield to any system of doctrine; unless it be accompanied by the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit: but if a person can satisfy himself with the hope of his own salvation, without any habitual regard to the honour of the gospel, or the eternal interests of other men, he is entirely selfish, and as evidently destitute of the mind and spirit of Christ, as the man, who, enjoying his own abundance, cares not how many are pinched with want, even though they suffer through his injustice and oppression.
It is the constant aim and fervent desire of all the faithful and well-instructed ministers of Christ, to excite the minds of their beloved people to a generous regard for the credit of the gospel, and a compassionate longing after the conversion of sinners : and the design of this treatise is to concur with their endeavours for this purpose; and to stir up the pure
minds of believers, “ by way of “ remembrance;" in hopes that thus, they may be induced and directed to “ let their light shine” more abundantly“ before men; that they may “ see their good works, and glorify their Father “ who is in heaven:” or, in other words, “ to grow “in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and “ Saviour Jesus Christ. - To him be glory, noy ff and for ever. Amen."
! Matt. v, 16.
The particulars, in which the true believer's growth
in grace consists; as far as they are explicitly contained in St. Paul's prayer for the Philippians.
Growth implies the existence of all those things, in which an increase is experienced, perceived, or expected'; so that the persons, for whom the subsequent discussion is especially intended, are supposed to possess in some measure all those graces or holy dispositions, in which a further growth is represented to be highly desirable and actually attainable. In considering the subject, it would not perhaps be found expedient to examine exclusively any single exhortation or prayer contained in the sacred writings; or to adhere to the method, which a strict regard to a system might impose. It is however proposed in this section to confine our attention to the prayer, which St. Paul offered in behalf of the Philippians; except as other scriptures will be adduced in proof or illustration of the several particulars, which thus pass under our consideration, In the subsequent part of the treatise some other subjects will be noticed, which seem requisite to complete the design, but are not conveniently reducible to any of the clauses of this comprehensive text.' I would only further premise, that the prayers offered by the sacred writers, when under the immediate influence of the divine Spirit, are peculiarly suited to show us the real nature of that proficiency in genuine christianity, which their benevolent and zealous minds so ardently longed to behold in their beloved people, as above all things conducive to their true prosperity, and the glory of their God and Saviour. And in some respects they may perhaps be more adapted to produce conviction in every mind, than exhortations or précepts can be: because they convey the same instruction without giving so much offence, with less appearance of assuming authority, and with more conciliating demonstrations of affection and good-will.
1. “This,” the apostle, “I pray,
your “ LOVE may abound yet more and more.” The holy scriptures speak of love in the most exalted terms: “ Love is of God: and every one that “ loveth is born of God, and knoweth God: he * that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is “ LOVE." “ He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in “ God, and God in him.” “ Love is the fulfilling " of the law." " The end of the commandment," or of the revelation made by the Lord to sinful
men, (napayyedias) “ is love, out of a pure heart, and s of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.""
Nothing availeth in Christ Jesus, but faith, s which worketh by love." “And now abideth
faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest “ of these is love.” Faith alone justifies the -sinner, as forming his relation to Christ; and by faith alone the christian receives all needful grace from his fulness. Hope of eternal glory, grounded on the promises of God and sealed by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, is the anchor of the soul, and the helmet of salvation : but Love is the substance of that holiness and felicity to which we are recovered through faith and hope. The scaffolding is indispensibly necessary at the time: but when the edifice is completed, the scaffolding is taken down as an encumbrance. Thus faith will be lost in sight, and hope swallowed up in enjoyment, when love shall be brought to perfection; but love will remain for ever, the temper, the employment, and happiness of heaven itself.
Love is indeed that distinguishing essential of true religion
• Which hypocrites could ne'er attain,
every one that loveth is born of God." This declaration cannot mean that sinful men are, in every sense incapable of love ; but only that
ii Tim. i. 5.