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conversation which becometh the gospel of Christ: and reflection may enable every one to add to this specimen many others of a similar nature.—We proceed therefore,
IV. To make some observations on the emphatical word “Only."
Some persons think, that the apostle meant in this manner to intimate the reasonableness of his exhortations; and no doubt we have abundant cause to consider them in this light: yet I apprehend that this is
I not the import of the expression. It rather implies
. that nothing could prove injurious in the event to professed Christians, provided their conversation were consistent with their principles. And we may apply this general instruction to various cases, There may be wars, and rumours of wars, famines,
, pestilences, revolutions, and distress of nations with perplexity; yea, the sun shall be turned into darkness, the heavens shall be rolled up as a scroll, the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth with all its works shall be burnt up: but none of these events need alarm the consistent Christian: For “what shall
separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribula“tion, or distress, or persecution, or nakedness, or
peril, or the sword? Nay, in all these things we are “ more than conquerors through him that loved us.”* “ God is our Refuge and Strength; a very present
help in trouble: therefore we will not fear though " the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried “ into the depths of the sea.”+
Rom. viii. 35-39.
† Ps. xlvi. 1, 2.
Affecting changes may likewise take place in our families; our beloved relatives may be torn from us, our friends alienated, and our property lost; poverty, contempt, and sickness may oppress us; and we may fall under unmerited censure and reproach, so that even our brethren may mistake our case and character, as Job's friends did his: but“ if our conversa“tion be as it becometh the gospel of Christ,” none of these things can hurt us. The Lord will enable us to rejoice in the testimony of our consciencc; he will plead our cause, and vindicate our reputationr, he will not leave us comfortless, but will afford us proportionable supports: “ No weapon formed against us shall
prosper, and every tongue that riseth against us in
judgment we shall condemn;" and when we have been tried we shall come forth as gold purified from the furnace.
Changes may likewise take place in the church: many who have been useful to us, may be removed, and among them the very “ ministers by whom we believed:"
persons as we most looked up to, may
“ forsake Christ having loved this present * world;" or become zealous teachers of destructive heresies. But if our conversation be consistent with our profession: our own experience of the Lord's faithfulness, and the sanctifying efficacy of his word, will preserve us from fatal effects; and teach us by such events, to be more watchful, and simple in our dependence on divine grace. Some persons may be perplexed with difficulties,
, in respect of certain points of doctrine: but if they truly embrace the salvation of Christ, and walk wor
thy of it; they will be at length led to establishment in the truth. “ If any man will do the will of God, he “ shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." An upright heart and an obedient will directly tend to free the mind from the clouds of various prejudices and passions, to produce teachableness, and to improve spiritual discernment: and there are numerous promises of divine teaching to persons of this description. But they, “ who love darkness rather than light, be“ cause their deeds are evil,” are given up to strong delusions, and fall into final condemnation.
Difficulties also occur to many, in determining whether they be in a state of salvation or not: nor are they able, after much self-examination, to decide the important question. To these likewise we may say, “Only let your conversation be, as it becometh the
gospel of Christ:" and this will have a powerful, though gradual efficacy, in producing the desired satisfaction. “ Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the 6 Lord.” “ For the path of the just shineth more " and more unto the perfect day.”
The exhortation before us also points out, to those who are labouring to do good in their families and con. nexions, or in a more extensive sphere, the grand method of obtaining the desired success: and when the interest of the gospel in any place seems greatly declined; the consistent conduct of the few, who adhere to it, will have the happiest effects in promoting a revival.--Finally some persons are harassed with apprehensions of future trials and temptations, or with the dread of death: but let all such trembling believers attend to the apostle's exhortation; and they may rest
assured, that the grace of the Lord Jesus will be sufficient for them; and his strength be perfected in their weakness. “ For I am persuaded that neither death,
nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things, present, nor things to come; nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to
separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ " Jesus our Lord."
Seeing we address ourselves to those only, who expect to be thought Christians; the exhortation may be applicable to every individual. Let a becoming conversation
that you are Christians in reality. But alas, what gloomy reflections crowd into the mind, when this subject comes in our way! Do the generality of nominal Christians live as becomes the gospel? Is not the conversation of a vast majority diametrically opposite to the spirit and precepts of cur holy religion? Who can imagine that Christ will own such men as his true disciples? Who can doubt, but that it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for them? There are persons, who
, say, • When you instruct * us in our duty, we regard you: we are not infidels; • we have always believed the doctrines of Christiani* ty.' But let me ask you; have these doctrines properly influenced your heart and life? If they have not; then surely you have believed in vain! You would say to an antinomian professor of justification by faith alone, who lived an immoral life; “ Know, O vain “man, that faith without works is dead.” Beware then lest you slide into antinomianism of a more reputable kind. Faith and practice are not like grapes tied upon
a vine-branch; but like grapes growing upon a living vine. True faith receives the doctrines of the gospel into the heart, where they produce a change in the judgment, dispositions, and affections: thus the tree becomes good, and good fruit is the genuine consequence,
This is real Christianity; and all that comes short of this, however distinguished, is a mere name, notion, or form. But if we have thus received the
gospel; we shall be conscious, that we have in many things fallen short of a becoming conversation. Let us then
a humbly seek forgiveness of the past; and beg to be enabled henceforth so to abide in Christ," that we “ may bring forth much fruit,” “and walk worthy of
God, who hath called us to his kingdom and glory." Amen.
END OF VOLUME FIRST.