Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

that the apostle ever imprudently exposed his life; yet he never scrupled to venture it when present duty required him to do so. His grand principle was, " To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." He could say, 'Death, come when, and as it will, is my "friend, my gain, my privilege; but my life is worth preserving as long as my Saviour shall be pleased to employ me. I was a condemned, a justly condemned traitor: I am most mercifully pardoned: I am even assured of high and honourable preferment hereafter in the court of my prince. But it is his pleasure that for some time, I know not how long, I should continue, as pardoned and reconciled, in the prison, and fare in many respects as the prisoners do; though I have many gracious visits, and kind tokens of remembrance, from my prince, to solace my hours and counterbalance my hardships. In this situation I am continued, in order to recommend his clemency to my fellow criminals, and to persuade them to submit and seek mercy: and to tend on and comfort such as have found mercy. This will not, however, endure very long: as far as I am concerned I should say, 'The sooner it ends the better;' but, when I consider the honour of my beloved prince, and the usefulness which attends my labours among my fellow prisoners, I am almost ready to say,' I care not how long.' I am willing to endure the hardships of the dungeon, for his honour and their benefit; yet my continuance in it is, surely, " not "dear to myself." '—

"So that I may finish my course with joy." The joy here spoken of, I apprehend, is not simply, or chiefly, the consolations which some Christians do, and others apparently do not, experience at the approach of death. However life may terminate, if Jesus " come and take us to himself, that where "he is there we may be also;" if he says, "Enter "into the joy of thy Lord;" if he admits us to "his presence, where is fulness of joy, and pleasures "at his right hand for evermore;" we shall cer"tainly finish our course with joy."

The word" course " implies a race. "1 run not "as uncertainly:" "Forgetting the things which "are behind, I press forward toward the mark, for "the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Je"sus."l "Let us lay aside every weight, and the "sin that doth so easily beset us; and let us run "with patience the race set before us: looking "unto Jesus." 2 Accordingly, just before his martyrdom, he says, "I have fought a good fight, I "have finished my course, I have kept the faith: "henceforth there is laid up forme a crown of righ"" teousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, "shall give me at that day." 3

To set out on the race, and then to turn back, or turn aside, or grow weary, or loiter and lose the prize, would be not "to finish the course with "joy-" So " run," brethren, "that ye may ob"tain."—

"And the ministry which I have received of the "Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of "God." That I may finish this ministry " with "joy»" w1tu faithfulness, with acceptance, with large success.—" Ye are my rejoicing in the day of "Christ." I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who hath

: Phil. iii. 13, 14. * Heb. xiii. 1,2. 3 2 Tim. iv. 8.

"enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, put"ting mc into the ministry, who was before a blas"phemer, and a persecutor, and injurious." "All "things are of God, who hath reconciled us to him"self by Jesus Christ, and hath committed unto us "tne ministry of reconciliation. Now then we arc "ambassadors for Christ, as though God did be"seech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, "be ye reconciled to God." St. Paul was chosen to be the servant and the minister of Christ; his steward, ambassador, witness, and representative; a pastor, a preacher of the gospel to the gentiles; an apostle, " not a whit behind the very chiefest "apostles. The dispensation of the gospel was committed to him; and "this grace was given "him" that he should preach among the gentiles "the unsearchable riches of Christ." He was a missionary, strictly speaking; but of a superior order. He had his commission and instructions immediately from Christ; and his grand business was, " to testify the gospel of the grace of God." A ministry of a similar nature, though inferior in authority, was committed to Timothy, whom the apostle, as with his dying breath, thus charges: "Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do "the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy "ministry ; for I am now ready to be offered, and "the time of my departure is at hand." l And a similar charge he sends to another minister, " Say "to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which "thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it."2 Oh that all who are called the ministers of Christ, whether rulers, or ordinary pastors, or missionaries, considered this as their grand business, and these exhortations as addressed to them! All, however, are not thus distinguished by office; but every Christian is the "servant of Christ, and has his prpper work; and, if he would " hope to finisfl his "course with joy," he must attend to that work, "heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;" "doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, "giving thanks to God, even the Father, by him." And, if this be his object, whether in the ministry or not, "happy is the servant whom our Lord "when he cometh shall find so doing."—I proceed,

11 Tim. iii. 5,6. 'Col. iv. 17.

VOL. VI. 2 I

III. To apply these considerations to the special occasion of our present assembling; and to improve the mysterious providence, that, out of the small number of those who can be induced to venture their lives in devoting themselves to the service of missionaries, one should be removed by death at the very-crisis when he was about to enter on his pious, zealous, and benevolent labours among the poor negroes.

The views and principles, and the language dictated by them, which have been considered, were not peculiar to the great apostle of the gentiles: but they were, and are, those of every true minister, in proportion to the degree of his " preparation of "heart" for the important service. St. Paul, indeed, after this lived, and laboured, and prospered, in his labours, during several years. "Bonds "awaited him," as it had been foretold, at Jerusalem; and for nearly five years he was a prisoner at Jerusalem, atgCeesarea, in the ship, at Melita, and in his own hired house at Rome. Yet all these events "fell out unto the furtherance of the gospel."1 He was afterwards liberated, and spent some time longer in his indefatigable labours: and then he finished his most useful life by martyrdom at Rome. But many of his brethren, who were like minded with him, were not permitted to continue on earth, to accomplish the object of their most fervent desires.

Who can doubt that Stephen, the first martyr, (to whose death Paul, when called Saul, had consented,) could have adopted the words of our text in their most enlarged meaning ? His brethren might thence, perhaps, infer that the Lord had some extensive and permanent "work and labour "of love" in which he purposed to employ his zealous servant. But, in his unerring wisdom, he had determined otherwise. Stephen is brought forth to our notice, in one chapter, as a man of almost angelic excellence; and " none could resist "the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake :" yet, at the close of the next chapter, (which is almost wholly occupied by the faithful testimony that he bore to his Lord,) we find that his persecutors were permitted to prevail against him; and death prevented that future usefulness, for which he seemed so peculiarly qualified. "He did well "that it was in his heart; " but the Lord saw good to receive him to himself, without further labours or usefulness. James, the brother of John, was no doubt equally zealous, and equally prepared for useful labours, with Peter: but, behold Herod is

1 Phil. i. 12—14. 2 12

« AnteriorContinuar »