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repeatedly exhort their Christian brethren? And on what account they were so earnest about these things, with the persons of whose conversion and salvation they had the fullest confidence? It may however be requisite to make a few more introductory remarks.
I. The frequent and fervent prayers, with which the instructions of the inspired writers are interspersed, decidedly prove, that ' all holy desires, 'all good counsels, and all just works,' are from God; as our Liturgy well expresses it: or, in the still more emphatic language of inspiration, that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from "above, and cometh down from the Father of "lights." Indeed every prayer for wisdom, holiness, or ability to perform good works, evidently implies, that communications from the Fountain of perfection are necessary, in order to render us wise or holy; that we are warranted to expect such communications, notwithstanding our unworthiness; and that we ought to desire, seek, and depend on them, in all our undertakings. They, therefore, who form higher notions of the native powers, resources, and excellencies of fallen man, must be very inconsistent in presenting prayers to this effect: and their religion must be very different from that of the primitive believers, who expected " every good gift from the Father "of lights," through Jesus Christ, and by " the "supply of his spirit." From " the fulness of the "divine Saviour they all received :" that fulness still remains unexhausted and undiminished : and, would we emulate their superior attainments, imitate their bright examples, or aspire to a large
measure of their usefulness, the way is plainly marked out to us in the words of our Lord to his apostles; "He that abideth in me, and I in him, "the same bringeth forth much fruit; for with"out me ye can do nothing."*
But the apostles did not deem prayers, in behalf of their brethren, incompatible with exhortations to them, as their constant practice proves. Many professors of the gospel express their astonishment, that their opponents cannot find the doctrines of grace in the sacred scripture; and it is indeed a just subject of surprise, for they are written there as with a sun-beam. But is it not equally so, that any man, who seems to reverence and to examine the word of God, should overlook all the exhortations and admonitions with which it abounds, as if they had never been written, or as if we had no concern in them? Yet this is actually the case. Numbers are sure to object against every attempt to bring them forward, and to apply them with energy to the hearts and consciences of those, who are attached to the doctrines of grace; though without doubt they are, as much as these, a part of the " counsel of God," and as strongly marked in scripture.—Many allowances indeed must be made for a variety of prejudices; yet it should be remembered, that the pretended mother consented to have the child divided; whilst the real parent, in unfeigned affection, rather chose to risk the loss of her son, than accede to the proposal.-j- When professed Christians are disposed to mutilate the scriptures, it may reasonably be suspected that they do not cordially love them: but he who from his heart says to the Lord, "Thy word is very pure, there"fore thy servant loveth it," loves every part of the sacred volume, because it is all " very pure :" and even when he meets with passages, which excite his fears lest he should come short of the promised blessings, he 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 "doeth good to him that "walketh uprightly."
* John xv. 5. t I Kings iii. 26.
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II. The exhortations of the apostles were princi pally addressed to such persons 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 such 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 in the everlasting state of immense multitudes, as connected with it, is 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 influence 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 hope 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, now and for ever. Amen."
* Matt. v. 16.
THE PARTICULARS IN WHICH THE TRUE BELIEVER'S GROWTH IN GRACE CONSISTS, AS TAR AS THEY ARE EXPLICITLY CONTAINED IN ST. PAULS PRAYER FOR THE PHILIPPIANS. CHAP. I. VER. 9. 11.
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 which cannot conveniently be reduced 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,