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However much, then, the people of God may be despised, they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.
How expressive are the words of our Saviour to his disciples: "Ye are the salt of the earth." Salt has two properties. By the one, it preserves from corruption the substance with which it is mixed; and by the other, it commuicates to that substance its own savour.-This two-fold benefit is derived to the world from true believers. Through their counteracting influence, the progress of corruption is retarded, and by their example, precept, and prayers, the savour of their spirit is diffused. This blessedness is the work of the Holy Ghost, and is produced through the consistency and persevering labours of the righteous.
The life of the believer is a patient continuance in well doing, a pressing forward toward the mark, a running the race set before him, a growth grace.
Hence, with much solicitude, Paul wrote to the Colossians to continue in the faith, and not to be moved away from the hope of the Gospel, which they had heard, and which was preached to every creature under heaven; "whereof," he adds, “I Paul am made a minister according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God, even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the Hope of glory, whom we
preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I labour, striving according to his working which worketh in me mightily."
As the heart of St. Paul was large enough to contain a whole world, with respect to his desires and prayers for the conversion of every human being to that state of spiritual happiness which he enjoyed; so, he was full of the tenderest sensibilities toward those to whom he had been made the honoured instrument in bringing to the knowledge of Christ.
With what PARENTAL TENDERNESS does he address his beloved converts at Thessalonica and Philippi: "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children; so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. Ye know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom of glory." "God is my record, how greatly I long after you all, in the bowels of Jesus Christ."
How exquisitely touching are these appeals to the sympathies of our nature. They speak directly to the heart. We can conceive of nothing more endearing than this tenderness of ministerial affection.
The blessed Apostle felt all the father towards
his spiritual children-he exhorted-he comforted -he charged each of them, that he might build them up in the faith of the Gospel.
His Epistle to Philemon is replete with feelings of Christian friendship; in which after having expressed his joy in hearing of his faith and love which he had towards the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints, he thus pleads for Onesimus, the runaway servant of Philemon, who, it appears, had robbed his master:-" Though I might be much bold in Christ to injoin thee that which is convenient, yet for love's sake, I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds. If thou count me therefore as a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account. I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it; albeit, I do not say to thee, how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord; refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience, I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say."
Can any thing be more lovingly persuasive, or more humbly solicitous than these appeals to the heart of Philemon. There is throughout the whole Epistle, a delicacy of sentiment and a pathos which strikingly mark the elevated and refined state of the Apostle's mind.
When parting with such a father in Christ, the elders of Ephesus might well weep sore, fall
ing on Paul's neck and kissing him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more!
Is this Saul of Tarsus, the murderer of Stephen, the blasphemer of Jesus, the persecutor of the sheep of Christ? What cannot grace effect! Well might Jehovah say: "Behold I am the Lord, the God of all flesh, is there any thing too hard for me?
The Gospel is truly a revelation of love and mercy; and those who dispense its blessings, and would wish to see them received by the world, must, with St. Paul, exhibit in their own spirit, the loveliness and loving-kindness of the Prince of peace.
This Apostle of Jesus Christ was well instructed in the mysteries of the kingdom. Though his heart was full of the tenderest feelings of compassion, yet, he knew how to use the terrors of the Law, as well as the persuasives of the Gospel.
With a masterly hand, he drew the contrast between the Law and the Gospel, showing with admirable precision the effects produced by each.
The Law is the ministration of death and of condemnation.
The Gospel is the ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness.
The Law is the letter which killeth. The Gospel is the spirit which giveth life. The Law, as a covenant of works, though glorious, was done away. The Gospel, as a covenant of grace, by reason of the glory that excelleth, is of perpetual duration. By the Law is the knowledge of
sin. Through the Gospel is the knowledge of salvation. The Law worketh wrath. The Gospel imparteth peace. The Law exhibits God as a consuming fire. The Gospel reveals him as a reconciled Father.
What the Holy Spirit has joined together, let not vain man pretend to separate. The Spirit makes use of the Law and the Gospel in working faith, and it must be the work of preachers to join the Law and the Gospel together. They must awaken and wound by the Law, and they must comfort and heal by the Gospel. By the Law they must strike with terror such as are insensible, and rouse such as are sleepy; and by the Gospel they must pour the soft healing oil of the covenant into the wounds of those who are broken in spirit, and are sinking under the weight of their misery.
This is rightly to divide the Word of Truth, according to the charge given by the Apostle to Timothy: "Study to show thyself approved of God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth:" that is, dispensing it suitably and agreeably to the state and temper of the hearers.
The promises of the Gospel are not to be laid open to sinners, who are slumbering on beds of sloth, but they must be awakened by the threatenings of the Law. On the other hand, the corroding medicines of the Law are not to be applied to such as are ready to be swallowed up with excess of sorrow, but to them must be administered the strengthening, reviving cordials of the Gospel.