Page images
PDF
EPUB

Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him: God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.” And St. Peter 1 Epist. i. 12. “ Of which salvation the prophets have inquiredunto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported unto you, by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” That is, “ justified by the Spirit.”

It follows: “ seen of angels :" which also may be well understood of “the mystery of godliness.” For St. Peter, in the place just cited from him, says of the ancient prophets,

o that they did minister the things,” which had been lately “reported :->which the angels desire to look into.” And St. Paul, Eph. iii. 9, 10. “ To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God----To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God."

Understand this article of “ God manifested in the flesh," or in the human nature of Jesus Christ.

And then we may suppose to be hereby meant the appearances of angels at our Saviour's nativity, their ministering to him after his temptation in the wilderness, and upon divers other occasions, and particularly their attendance on him at his resurrection and ascension.

« Preached unto the Gentiles:" that is, to all the world, not to Jews only, but to Gentiles also. This, as every one immediately perceives, may be properly said either of the mystery of godliness, or of the divine manifestation in the person of Christ. The doctrine of the gospel in its genuine purity, simplicity and fulness, was preached by Paul and others both to Jews and Gentiles. And “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them," 2 Cor. v. 19.

“ Believed on in the world.” It met with acceptance, and had great effects all over the world. This may be fitly understood of either of the two subjects so often mentioned. Says the apostle to the Romans, i. 5, 6. “ By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for his name. Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor. ii. 14. “ Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” And Col. i. 5, 6. “ We give thanks to God for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the truth of the gospel : which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, as it does also in you, since the day ye heard it, and knew the grace of God in truth.”

Finaliy, “ received up into glory." If this be understood of “the mystery of godliness," or the doctrine of the gospel, the meaning is, that it was gloriously exalted: inasmuch as thereby the knowledge of God had been spread over the earth, more than by reason alone, or any former revelation: and that it had a more powerful effect and influence than any other doctrine whatever, ' for enlightening, sanctifying, and saving men.

But this expression may be also very properly understood of “ God manifested in the flesh," meaning our Lord's glorious ascension. Acts i. 2. “ until the day in which he was taken up.” And ver. 11. “ they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up.” Indeed the phrase, “ received up into glory,” taken separately, might be very properly used concerning our Lord's ascension into heaven. The chief difficulty attending this interpretation is the place in which it is mentioned, last in order: whereas the ascension of Christ preceded several things here observed: “preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world.” However, possibly, this objection may be solved, by only supposing, that the apostle having begun with that particular, “God manifested in the flesh," meaning his appearance in the human nature of Christ, might chvose to conclude with that which put a period to our Lord's personal presence, and visible appearance among men in this earth: his triumphant ascension to heaven, and his reception there into glory, at the right hand of God.

Thus I have represented the several senses of these expressions, and according to my ability briefly explained the whole.

And I presume, that the truth of the observation, mentioned at the beginning of this discourse, may now be more apparent; that there is nothing in this text but what is perfectly agreeable to many other texts of scripture; and that the several particulars here mentioned, are articles of

[ocr errors]

faith received by all Christians in general; whether the subject here spoken of be“ the mystery of godliness,” or “God” himself.

Suppose the first. It is known and believed by all Christians, that the doctrine of the gospel was “ manifestel” to and among men, by Jesus Christ and his apostles: that it was “justified by the Spirit,” confirmed by miracles wrought by Christ himself, and by his apostles, and others afterwards : “seen of angels,” beheld by them with ready approbation, and with surprise and wonder: “preached to the Gentiles,” as well as Jews: “ believed on in the world,” received by men of all characters in all nations : “ received up into glory,” gloriously exalted, greatly honoured and magnified by that reception, and by its effects in the hearts and lives of men.

Suppose this to be said of God. It is also true, and received by all Christians in general. There was an especial presence, and most extraordinary manifestation of the Divine Being in the human nature, or person of Jesus Christ, who is therefore called Emmanuel, or God with us. The divine authority of Jesus was “ justified by the Spirit,” by many miraculous works, and by a very plentiful effusion of the Holy Ghost upon such as believed in him. He was seen and ministered to, “ by angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world,” and finally received up into glory” in heaven.

APPLICATION. What remains after this paraphrastical explication of the words of the text, is an application in two or three inferences.

1. We must here see reason for praise and thanksgiving to God for the revelation of his will, and for the manifestation of himself to us in Christ, and his gospel : especially if we ourselves have not only been favoured with this discovery, but have also heartily embraced it, and reaped

As our Lord said to his disciples, “ to whom it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” and who had diligently attended to the instructions afforded to them. “ Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them: and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them,” Matt. xiii. 16, 17.

2. We may hence perceive it to be a duty, especially incumbent upon the ministers of Christ, in his church, to support and defend the true doctrine of the gospel.

It is with this view that this matter is now mentioned to Timothy. And every thing here insisted upon is very proper to engage and influence those who are in a station at all resembling his. And it is with redoubled earnestness, that the apostle renews his exhortation to this evangelist, near the conclusion of the epistle, ch. vi. 13, 14. “I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession: that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

3. And lastly, The same considerations do also in a like manner direct the conduct of all Christians in general. They should be engaged to use their best endeavours to uphold and maintain the doctrine of the gospel, “ the mystery of godliness," which, confessedly, is very great.

It has been “manifested,” and has been fully justified by the Spirit, seen of angels, preached" to all nations, " believed” by men of all characters in every part of the world, and gloriously exalted by its happy fruits and effects.

After this there can be no reason to doubt of its truth. And they who have received it, ought to use all reasonable methods to preserve it pure and entire. It cannot be justly expected, that if we lose the truth, after it has been so delivered to us, God should again manifest it to us, or appoint a new series of like miracles and wonderful events to give it credit. Instead of indulging such vain expectations, we should diligently search the scriptures, and labour to know the mind of God contained therein. And “ we should give earnest heed unto the things which we have heard, lest at any time,” or by any means, “ we should let them slip,” Heb. ii. 1. And “ we should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints," Jude ver. 3. Which, as before said, will not be so delivered any more, as it once was, by Christ himself, and his apostles. Nor can any thing else be substituted in its room, that shall be equally excellent, important and beneficial.

253

POSTHUMOUS SERMONS

ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS.

THE EDITOR'S ADVERTISEMENT.

Of the following Sermons, the first four were fairly transcribed by the author, but probably had not undergone his last correction; the fifth and sixth (preached at the Tuesday Lecture in the Old Jewry) were not transcribed, but had upon them this remark : • Perused, and so far as • I am able to perceive, all is right; and I humbly conceive ought to be published:' the seventh was transcribed in part: the eighth and last is entirely printed from his notes, and may therefore, with the fifth and sixth, be considered as specimens of his usual compositions for the pulpit.

SERMON I.

THE RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF TIME.

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.-Eph. v. 16.

ye

We find this advice twice given in St. Paul's epistles: and in both places recommended as a branch of prudence and circumspection. So it is here: “ See then, that walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise: redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” And in like manner in the epistle to the Colossians : « Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time,” Col. iv. 5.

Some expositors suppose, that the right improvement of time is the direct meaning and design of the expression, as used in this place: and say, that · Redeeming is a metaphorical expression ' taken from merchants

, who diligently observe the fittest time for buying and selling, and easily 'part with their pleasure for gain. So do you also deny yourselves in your ease and pleasure, 'to gain an opportunity for doing good.' Again: • Time past, strictly speaking, cannot be ' recalled. But you are to redeem, or recover as far as possible, that time which has been lost .by a double diligence in improving what remains.'

Others think, that the proper meaning of the apostle's direction is, that the Christians to whom he is writing, Should secure themselves, by a prudent carriage toward all men, from the • inconveniences of those difficult times in which they lived:' or, “ “ redeeming the time;" that ‘is, gaining as much time as you can, prolonging your own tranquillity, and the opportunity of 'spreading the gospel. Observe a prudent behaviour toward unconverted Gentiles, and • unbelieving Jews; that they may be as little exasperated as possible, by your different senti* ments from theirs, or by your pure and holy life, whereby you seem to condemn and I shall however take occasion from these words to discourse of the right improvement of time, or “ redeeming” it in a more general sense. And I shall consider them as setting before us the same practice which Solomon recommends: “ Whatever thy hand findeth to do,” whatever lies before thee, which is useful or innocent, “ do it with thy might,” with vigour and perseverance: “ for there is no work, nor device, nor Knowledge, nor wisdom in the

reproach them." • Pool upon the place. The same upon Col. iv. 5. ► Lock upon the place. To that purpose, Peirce upon Col. iv. 5.

grave, whither thou goest,” Eccl. ix. 10.

And indeed, if we were to suppose this exhortation connected with what precedes, we might be inclined to think, that the apostle intended to stir up these Christians to care and diligence in general, as well as to circumspection in particular, and a prudent carriage toward those who were of different sentiments, for securing and prolonging their tranquillity, and keeping off those evils which some were inclined to bring upon them. This more enlarged, and general design of the exhortation may be argued, I say, from the context. Which, if we take it in more fully than we have yet done is this : “ Wherefore he says, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

The right improvent of time seems to imply two things: employing ourselves in that which is good, and doing that good with care and diligence.

1. I shall therefore in the first place show, what things we ought to be employed in.

II. And then, secondly, how we may best improve our time for those good things that lie before us.

III. To which I intend to add, in the third place, an exhortation.

I. The first thing to be considered by us is, in what things we ought to employ ourselves. Here I shall mention these several particulars.

1. “ The service of God.” For God is the creator of all things, and their Lord and sovereign. He it is who gives us all things to enjoy. And in him we live and move and have our being. We breathe in his air, and tread on his earth, and live upon the provisions he affords us. Every moment of our time produces fresh instances of his bounty and goodness.

He is the great governor of the whole world, not of one part or portion only, but of the whole universe; and therefore he is able, and does direct and overrule all things with a wise and almighty inspection and providence. A continued supply is made for us, and for all creatures in general. He also overrules the spirits of men, so that notwithstanding the unreasonable and exhorbitant desires of many, their violence does not break forth to disturb the general peace and tranquillity of the world: in which peace and tranquillity we have our share, and quietly enjoy ourselves, our goods, and our friends.

We should therefore very much employ our thoughts in admiring and adoring God; in praising him for his goodness, and in praying to him for the continuance of his favour and goodwill, and for every thing necessary to our comfort and happiness.

Some time will be fitly spent in secret, in meditating upon his glorious perfections, in contemplating his great and wonderful works, and in recollecting the many benefits bestowed upon us hitherto in the past stages of life.

And we should allow some time for the united and public worship of God, which is an obligation founded in reason, and is prescribed by revelation.

Can any of us think we have well employed our time in this world, if we have never, or rarely with seriousness and attention, thought of that Being, who is the most perfect, surpassing all the united perfections of the whole creation: without whom nothing would have been, of whom are all things, and by whom they subsist ?

2. We ought also to employ ourselves, and improve our time in securing and advancing our own spiritual interests. We should endeavour to know the state of our own souls : what are our chief passions; what our greatest temptations. It may require some time and care to form a right judgment of ourselves. There seems to be good reason to say that few men know themselves. The heart is deceitful. Many deceive others; some mistake and are deceived about themselves.

It may not be improper therefore to allot some time for this : to consider what is the bent of our mind, in what course we are, and whither it leads: and whether our behaviour is agreeable to our profession and principles.

Our mind is ourselves, and our chief care ought to be its culture and ornament. There is nothing of equal importance with this. When we remove hence, when death puts a period to our present state of action and existence, we leave behind us our estates and treasures, we drop our titles, and all external ornaments. •But we shall carry with us the same temper and disposition which we had here: and our works will follow us. Are we here unholy? We shall be hereafter lodged in the company of such beings, who will be torments to themselves, and tormentors to each other. Are we now proud ?' We shell then be abased. Are we humble? We shall then be exalted. Are we.pure in heart? We shall then see God. Are we merciful? We shall then obtain mercy.

It is incumbent on us therefore to employ some time in considering the nature and obligation of those virtues and dispositions of the mind, upon which so much depends; to confirm ourselves in the love and practice of them, and to watch against temptations that might ensnare us, and carry us off from the course which leads to happiness. It behoves us, as St. Peter says, " to give all diligence, to add to faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to that charity: and to make our calling and election sure. For,” says the same apostle,

" if

ye do these things ye shall never fall. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. i. 5, &c.

The obligation to these virtues seems not to lie far out of sight. But might be soon discerned, if men would be persuaded to attend, and to exercise their rational powers and faculties. However it is certainly obvious to all who are acquainted with the Christian revelation.

The importance of securing our eternal salvation is evident upon the first thought about such a matter. But we are surrounded by temptations. The things of this world make strange and sudden impressions upon us, and carry us away, sometimes, before we are aware. But he who frequently employs himself in considering the duties of his station, and the reasonableness of them, in observing the real excellence of holiness, and every branch of it, and impressing on his mind the motives and arguments there are to the practice of it, is likely to be prepared for a time of temptation, and to stand and overcome in it.

Yea a few hours, at some one time, seriously employed in considering the duties of the present condition, and the vast moment of our behaviour in this world, with respect to another state of endless duration, may be of great service for securing our choice and determination in favour of virtue. - And having once found the benefit of serious consideration, it is very probable we shall be disposed to renew at some seasons the like exercise and employment of the mind.

3. Another thing, in which we ought to employ ourselves, is the business of our calling. We are not to neglect that out of sloth and idleness, nor from a pretence of minding the things of the spiritual life, nor for the sake of attending to the concerns of other men. For the business of our calling is a main part of our duty, and a fundamental obligation, upon which every thing etse depends. God has so formed us, that we have many wants, which are continually renewed upon us, and which, in dependence on Divine Providence, must be supplied by our own industry and care. What good reason have we to rely upon the charity of others, if we have strength to provide for ourselves? Or what right has he to the privileges of any community, who contributes nothing to its prosperity? Yea, what man, who has any spirit

, would choose to depend upon others, who can subsist by his own skill? And what wise and good man would willingly receive that, for which he has given no valuable consideration of care and labour ? I might insist, that sloth and idleness expose men to temptations of every sort.

But I choose rather to observe and say, that a man's weight and influence in this world must, for the most part, depend upon skill in some calling, and diligence in it: and that the very pleasure of life is advanced thereby. How insipid are amusements to those, who know not what labour either of body or mind is! Moreover, it is in itself very desirable to have wherewithal to give to those that need. Poor and indigent persons there will always be in this world of ours. Some are left orphans in their childhood, before they can help themselves. Some labour under the decays of age. Other some experience the waste and expence of continued sickness. Some are reduced by strange and unexpected accidents. Some are unjustly plundered by violence.

He who by care and diligence, and a prudent improvement of his time, and the several ad.

« PreviousContinue »