Page images
PDF
EPUB

better tendency, than to draw them off from Christ and his Apostle, and to bring them under that yoke of bondage which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear, and from which Christ had redeemed and made them free. His views again were just the reverse of theirs, even to bring them to Christ, and to maintain them in the glorious liberty of the fons of God, by carrying them on to that perfection set forth in him. And his earneft zeal for accomplishing this great object, is such as a tender and affectionate father feels for his little children, when he sees them in danger of perishing, or like the anguish of a woman in the pains of childbirth.

We need not stand on the address he makes to them as little children. It carries great tenderness of affection in it; but has nothing fingular, as it was the ordinary title by which the Apostles addressed the young converts to Christianity. But when he styles them “my little children," his affection to them, and their duty to him, are both set in the most affecting light, and could hardly miss to strike such of them as listened to the new teachers, in a very sensible manner; especially on what he

adds,

[ocr errors]

adds, that as he had formerly begotten them
in Christ by the gospel, 1 Cor. iv. 15.
he was now put to the fame pains anew,
through their folly and thoughtlessness: for
the word he uses does not so properly signify
travailing in childbirth, i. e. the actual
bringing forth children, as the pains and
forrows that attend it. Such were the feel-
ings of this great apostle on this new emner-
gency; the best pattern a gospel minister can
form himself upon, as Christ is the great
pattern for a Christian; his work is never
done, nor his solicitude and pains at an end,
until Christ is formed in those under his care,

The expression is strong and bold: too bold the learned and wise men of the world have thought it; and much learned pains have been taken to bring it down to their standard. The Apostle himself tells us, that though he did not speak the wisdom of this world, nor of the men of this world, that yet he spake wisdom, and the wifdom of God too, I Cor. ii. 6. 7. Nor may it be doubted that he spoke, as the apostles first preached, Acts ii. 4. “ as the “ Spirit gave him utterance." The lowest construction that the words, with all the help of figure and metaphor, can - VOL. III.

Sf

bo

be brought down to, is, their being formed into the image, and a thorough resemblance of Jesus Christ, the only proper standard of all perfection and worth; an excellency not to be attained by studying the morals of Epictetus, or Marcus Antoninus; nay, nor by copying out every virtue we can find in Jesus Christ himself, and forming ourselves upon them: For all this, even fuppofing it could be done, would amount to no more than a fyftem of pure morality; and though it is impossible that any one can be a good Christian without morality, yet the most perfect mere moral virtue, (if such a thing could be on any other principles than the Chriftian), would never make a Chriftian; at most it could only be forming one's self on Christ, which could in no sense be called forming Christ in them.

They come somewhat nearer the Apostle's sense, who explain it, by the true doctrine of the gospel being firmly settled in their minds; (if by this they mean, the firm faith and belief of the testimony God has given, and the record he has made concerning his Son): for indeed where-ever that is found, the work the Apostle aims at is

is i done,

done. But then it must be remembered, that however the gospel of Christ is the mean by which the thing is done, yet it does it not in a merely rational or moral way, (tho? indeed the Christian faith is the most rational thing in the world; just as rational as it is to believe, that the God of truth is not a liar or a cheat), but it doth it by the ministration of the Spirit. There are numberless instances of people. very firmly of the Christian opinion, and who cannot be reckoned either infidels or unbelievers, and yet their belief hath hardly so much influence on their hearts and spirits, as the faith of devils hath on them. These indeed “ believe, and tremble;” which is as far as the grounds of their belief can carry them. And the dead faith, as the Apostle James calls it, of these merely rational believers seldom goes further than to destroy these fears; while in all other respects it leaves them as much strangers to Christ, and the business on which he came into the world, as those who never heard of him. . We must therefore, of necessity, look further for the Apostle's meaning. Nor do we need to look far: he has it laid very fairly to our hands in this same epistle. They

who

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

..

who are Christians indeed, have put on Christ. He is in them, and by him God himself is in them, and dwells in them as his living temples. Being thus united to the great fountain of life, they live by him; nay more, it is not so properly they that live, as Christ that liveth in them. They who are thus joined to him are one fpirit with him ; and one fpirit argues one life, one mind, and one way of living. As I had formerly occafion to discourse upon this very intimate and astonishing union, I need fay nothing further here, but only remind you of what is written, 2 Cor. xii. 5. “ Examine yourselves, whether you be in " the faith; prove yourselves: know you “not your own felves, how that Christ is “ in you, except you be reprobates ?” And 1 John iv. 9. “In this was manifested the * love of God towards us, that he fent his * only begotten Son, that we might live by him;" who is emphatically styled by him, John vi. 33. “the bread of God which came “ down from heaven, and gives life to the * world.” This is what makes the Christian; and this only can do it: for Christ himself has assured us, “ that unless we eat “ the flesh, and drink the blood of the Son

« af

« PreviousContinue »