« PreviousContinue »
will in nowise cast out?' Behold a sinner | one that asketh receiveth: and he that seeketh that wishes to have nothing more to do with findeth: and to him that knocketh it shall be sin. O save him from the bondage of corrup- opened." Amen. tion, as well as from the burden of condemnation. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.""
RELIGION MAKES US PROFITABLE.
beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me.- -Philemon 10, 11.
THE Epistles are of three classes. Some are addressed to Christians at large-some to particular Churches-and some to single individuals.
Oh! be induced to do this, and to do this immediately. Here is a Saviour exalted to bless you with all spiritual blessings-and especially to bless you, by "turning every one of you away from your iniquities"—and there is no blessing like this. Seek him while he may be found: call upon him while he is near. For there is a time when if you call The Epistle before us is of the third class. he will not answer, and if you seek him early—And as it is inscribed to one person, so it you will not find him. The season for ob- is limited to one subject. It furnishes none taining these blessings is short and uncertain. of those glaring scenes which the pencil of Surely you need not be informed that you are sinners-but "the wages of sin is death." While you are strangers to pardon, you are only "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath." You are open to all the miseries of life, the sting of death, the torments of hell. Yea, you are exposed to a double condemnation; one from the Law which you have transgressed, and another from the Gospel which you have despised. And how is it that you do not lay these things to heart! How is it you do not fear lest every moment "the earth should open its mouth," and your souls "go down quick into hell!" How will you contrive to sleep to-night-when you know that if you die in your present state, God is under an oath to destroy you!
But "blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." He is blessed in his duties, for he is assured of acceptance and assistance. He is blessed in his enjoyments, for he tastes the lovingkindness of God in them. He is blessed in his trials, for they flow from love and are designed for his profit. Now he is delivered from the curse, he can bear the cross. He will not endure his troubles long; and he does not endure them alone.
the historian requires: but it is full of importance to a Christian teacher. It says nothing of the intrigues of statesmen, the contentions of senators, the exploits and mischiefs of heroes; but it yields topics of reflection much more interesting and useful to a serious reader. These are concisely expressed in the words which I have read.
We will therefore STATE THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE TO WHICH THEY REFER: and DEDUCE SOME REMARKS FROM THEM FOR OUR INSTRUCTION AND EDIFICATION.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE may be thus briefly stated. At Colosse lived Philemon. He appears to have been a person of some respectability, if not distinction. The Apostle calls him a fellow-labourer. He had a church in his house; and by his liberality often "refreshed the bowels of the saints."
With this Philemon lived a servant whose name was Onesimus. Onesimus like too many servants was ungodly, though he lived in a pious family and enjoyed religious means and privileges. He robbed his master, and with the purloined property made his escape. As it is usual for such criminals to go to some large populous place to avoid detection, Onesimus hastened to Rome, the capital of the world.
Thither Paul had arrived a little before in Here are some whom he has pardoned. consequence of his appealing unto Cæsar; He gave them to see and feel and confess and having hired a house, "preached the their sins. He discovered to them the scheme kingdom of God, and received all that came of salvation revealed in the Gospel. He en- in unto him." As he was the subject of conabled them to come with all their unworthi-versation in the city, Onesimus is informed of ness, smiting upon their breasts, and saying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner"-and believing, they passed from death unto life. They found rest unto their souls. They are now serving him, and they find his "yoke easy, and his burden light.'
"And I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every
him; and from curiosity or some other motive-perhaps he had heard his name or seen his person at his master's house, he goes to the Apostle's lodgings and attends his ministry. Probably Paul preached against thievery. However this may be, "the word was quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and mar
row, and was a discerner of the thoughts and | and a contrite spirit which God will not deintents of the heart." Onesimus is convinced spise." To return. and alarmed. He feels his guilt: and now dreads not only human but divine justice. He cannot get rid of his distress; but walks about the city crying to himself, "What must I do to be saved?"
At length he resolves to go and open his case to Paul-"He may afford me instruction and relief." He waits upon him. "Sir, I lately heard you preach, and I am one of the characters you described and condemned." -What is your name? "Onesimus."-What are you? "I was a slave."-And who was your master?" Philemon of Colosse."-Him I know. But what, Onesimus, brought you here!-Onesimus weeps" Oh! I cannot deny it, I cannot conceal it-I robbed my master and fled hither from justice. And ever since I heard that sermon, I can find no rest. My iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I cannot look up. My sin was the most heinous and aggravated: it was a good master I injured! How often did he admonish me! How earnestly did he pray for me!"
Persuaded of his sincerity, the Apostle would have taken Onesimus into his service, had it not looked like detaining what is deemed another man's property. He therefore conscientiously resolves to send him back to Philemon. And influenced by the same principle, Onesimus wishes to return-but fears the displeasure of his offended master; and is conscious that if he demanded reparation, it would not be in his power to make it. The Apostle therefore undertakes to plead his cause, becomes his surety, and sends along with him a letter of recommendation full of the most persuasive eloquence-and this is the principal subject "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds; which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me."
Hence let us derive the following REMARKS. First. Observe the humility, the tenderness, the kindness of the Apostle Paul. Great as he was, he exemplifies in his own practice what he recommends in his doctrine to others, See here what a victory grace obtains over "mind not high things, but condescend to nature! Onesimus goes and confesses him- men of low estate." He does not think it self a thief!-For he was now remote from beneath him to attend to the wants and wishes the scene of action; no person was there to of this poor slave, and to write a whole epistle impeach him? and if he had not acknowledg- on his behalf. The more the mind is raised ed the crime himself, it could never have been by intelligence and religion, the less will it known. This was no pleasant task. Nothing be impressed with those adventitious distinccould be more irksome to the pride of the tions which dazzle the multitude. True human heart. It is as common to cover as to greatness is always condescending and symcommit sin. Men, such is their injustice and pathetic. Are we mistaken? What do we self-love, men wish to appear better in the see yonder? Let us draw near. "He riseth eyes of their fellow-creatures than they really from supper, and laid aside his garments; and are; even better than they know themselves took a towel, and girded himself: after that to be. But when the Holy Ghost lays a bur- he poured water into a basin, and began to den upon the conscience, no diversion can re- wash his disciples' feet, and to wipe them move it. Divine grace produces self-abase- with the towel wherewith he was girded. So ment; and a true penitent will not only con- after he had washed their feet, and had taken fess his sin to God, but when called by cir- his garments, and was set down again, he cumstances, he will own it also to men, to said unto them, know ye what I have done his fellow Christians, to Ministers. And such to you? Ye call me Master and Lord; a disclosure may sometimes ease the mind of and ye say well: for so I am. If I then, a load of anguish, and teach the person to your Lord and master, have washed your whom the communication is made how to feet; ye also ought to wash one another's speak a word in season, and apply the remedy feet. For I have given you an example, that of the Gospel. We are therefore commanded ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, to "confess our faults one to another, and to verily, I say unto you, the servant is not pray one for another, that we may be healed." greater than his lord; neither he that is sent, Be it remembered however, that when such greater than him that sent him. If ye know a penitent thus acknowledges his sins-he these things, happy are ye if ye do them." will not do it as if he were relating heroical And who does them? Some imagine themdeeds or even actions of indifference-he will selves humble because their condescension not like some speak of his former wickedness has never been put to the trial. Others have with a kind of pleasure, arising from the ap- proved how very little they resemble our Lord prehension that they magnify divine grace, and Saviour by declining those instances in and render his conversion the more marvellous which their condescension ought to have apand certain, or at least with a tone and coun-peared. Alas! how many are there who tenance far from expressing deep humiliation "hide themselves from their own flesh;" and godly sorrow, but he will evidence, by who would think it beneath them to perform his feelings and his manner, "a broken heart, personally an office of humanity and charity
for the poor and needy; who would never stoop to write a letter for a menial domestic; who treat their servants no better than brutes -and often not half so well.
But servants should be considered as fellow-creatures and as humble friends. It is a scandal to a Christian, to suffer a servant to leave his house unable to read. Are you not to do good as you have opportunity? Shall we call that contemptible which God deigns to honour? Did not He who made thee in the womb make them? Has he not endued the low-born child, the beggar, the slave, with a portion of reason and immortality? Are they not the care of his providence? Are they not the purchase of the Saviour's blood? And has he not assured us that "it is not the will of our Heavenly Father, that one of these little ones should perish?"
Secondly. Let us learn how impossible it is to hinder the work of God: or frustrate the purposes of his grace.-"Whom I have begotten in my bonds." Nothing comes to pass by chance. What appears to be chance among men is nothing less than the providence of God permitting, appointing, arranging, overruling all events. "He doth according to his own will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou? His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure." And what a complication of occurrences and circumstances sometimes enters into the execution of his design: some of them apparently inconsistent with it, others seemingly subversive of it! But he grasps and guides them by an unerring hand: he harmonizes them and gives them a unity of tendency they reach their end: none of them are superfluous; none of them could be spared.-The very wrath of man praises him, and the remainder of it he restrains.
known "in the palace," and we read of "saints even in Cæsar's household." And, Onesimus! you will have reason to bless God for ever for his confinement and imprisonment there!
Do we lay too much stress upon this circumstance?-The salvation of one soul, the soul of a poor slave, is an event of far greater importance than the deliverance of a nation from civil bondage. "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.' Besides, Onesimus became a minister; the Apostle speaks of him as such in his epistle to the Colossians: Ignatius, in his epistle to the Ephesians, speaks of him as pastor of their church immediately after Timothy: and the Roman martyrology assures us that he was stoned to death in Rome under the reign of Trajan the emperor. There he entered a state of grace, and there also he entered a state of glory! How wonderful! At one time this man was there a wicked fugitive slave-and a few years after a preacher of the Gospel, a martyr for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ!
Thirdly. Therefore let us learn to despair of none of our fellow-creatures. Whatever time has elapsed; whatever means have been useless; whatever lengths a man has run, let us encourage ourselves with this thought, that other seasons may prove more favourable-that other instruments may prove more successful-that he is not gone beyond the reach of the divine arm; of the mercy of God to pardon; of the grace of God to change and sanctify.
This observation is for you, O parent, whose heart is bleeding over those undutiful and ungodly offspring, who despise your authority, your prayers, and your tears. "God is able, even of these stones, to raise up chil
Can a man stop the rolling tide? Can heren unto Abraham." retard the progress of the sun? The cause of God is in motion and will crush every obstacle. Nor is this all-he makes opposition an advantage: his enemies intend one thing and he another; and they serve an interest they despise and labour to repress: their schemes fulfil his plan; he turns them from their natural currents into secret channels prepared to receive them, and in which they flow along into "the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
Paul, persecuted in Judea, is driven to Rome. But though he "suffers as an evildoer, even unto bonds, the word of God is not bound." In these bonds he did wonders. His sufferings turned out to the furtherance of the Gospel. There he wrote many of his epistles. There he re-animated the timid by his example. He filled the capital with the savour of the Redeemer's knowledge. How many were called by his instrumentality we know not; but we find that his name was
This observation is for you, O minister, whose sabbath-day evenings are imbittered by the exclamation, "Lord, who hath believed our report!"-who are looking with despondency on that hearer who, after all your faithful warnings, is rejecting the counsel of God against himself. The desire of his eyes may be torn from him. Sickness may recall him from the wanderings of health. He may go into a new neighbourhood; he may meet with very different companions; he may hear another preacher; and he may so hear as that his soul may live. Is any thing too hard for the Lord? He can vary his means. His resources are endless. We are prone to give up characters too soon. Persons have been considered as abandoned of God at the very time he was going to display his power and the riches of his grace in their conversion.
This observation is for you, O sinner, who have to this hour been unhappy, or rather
criminal enough to live without God in the | Abraham by faith; "I will bless thee and world, but now that you feel a willingness to thou shalt be a blessing." return, are concluding that it will be in vain.
Finally. We remark that our being use No. "There is hope in Israel concerning ful does not depend upon our abilities and this thing." And "where sin has abounded, station. See Onesimus-a slave-profitable grace shall much more abound. That as sin-even to such men as Philemon and Paul hath reigned unto death, even so might grace—profitable to "thee and me." It is with reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
Fourthly. Conversion makes a man useful." Who was in time past unprofitable, but is now profitable." This is the case with every regenerate sinner. To render us profitable is the design of religion, and it is easy to see that it must be the effect of it. Religion is social and diffusive. According to our Saviour's language, the possessors of divine grace are the salt of the earth to keep it from corruption. They are the lights of the world to keep it from darkness; and this light is not to be concealed "under a bushel," but to be fixed on a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house." And their light is "so to shine before men, that they may see their good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven." The talents they receive from God look beyond themselves. The blessings they enjoy they are to communicate. They are to "comfort others with the comforts wherewith they themselves are comforted of God." Of their fortune they are only stewards, not owners. -They are commanded to "bear one another's burdens." And even in their prayers they are taught brotherly love-they are to plead for others as well as for themselves; they are to say, "our Father-forgive us our trespasses; and give us this day our daily bread." Divine grace never leaves us as it finds us. It produces a change the most wonderful and glorious and beneficial. "The wolf also dwells with the lamb: and the leopard lies down with the kid: and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child leads them. Instead of the thorn comes up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier the myrtle-tree. The wilderness and solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose."
Divine grace destroys those vices by which we are injurious to others. For the best charity I can exercise towards my fellowcreatures, says a good man, is to leave off sinning myself. It subdues the selfishness which is so common to our depraved nature; it enlivens and expands the affections; it leads us to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. It teaches and enables us to act with propriety in every capacity and relation in life. Every company and neighbourhood is the better for us: we are as "a dew from the Lord." And thus the promise is fulfilled in every child of R
the community as it is with the body. "The body is not one member but many. If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you." Thus we behold in the world and in the church, difference of rank, of office, of talents; but there is a connexion between the whole, and a dependence arising from it. And from this none are exempted; even "the king is served by the labour of the field."
Every man, whatever be his condition and circumstances, is of some importance in society-and we should labour to impress our minds with this reflection-especially in three
Let us remember it-when we are in danger of pride and disdain with regard to any of our fellow-creatures. The idol you adore is not every thing, and the wretch you despise is something. Perhaps he is more necessary to you than you are to him.
Let us remember it-when discouraged from exertion. Oh! if I had such opportunities and means, I would serve my generation. But if great faculties were necessary, they would be more frequently bestowed. Situations calling for ten talents are rare-those which require five are more common-but those which demand only one are to be found every where and every day. And in nothing are we so likely to be mistaken as in such conclusions. He that is "not faithful in little," has no reason to believe that he would be "faithful in much."
We should also remember it-when we are tempted to do good in unlawful ways. What I mean is this. Some suppose that they can only be useful in such a particular station or office, and hence they are ready to leave their present condition to rush into it. But, says the Apostle, "Let every man abide in the calling in which he is called of God." Things are so constituted, that if any man wishes to do good, he may do it in the circumstances in which he is placed; he has some influence. For instance-and to refer to the case before us-are you a servant? Jacob
claims and you will not miss your own.
Let this influence those who have com panions to choose; and also those who have connexions to form. Oh! young man, “fa. vour is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." Oh! young woman, devote thy self to nothing profane, sceptical, irreligious; marry, but “only in the Lord."
Secondly. If religion be profitable to others, it is much more so to ourselves. It sanctifies all our mercies. It sweetens all our trials. It teaches us "in whatever state we are, therewith to be content." "Its ways are pleasantness. Its paths are peace." "Yea, it is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
was a servant, and Laban, his master, said, | the firmest basis of morality: secure God's "I have learned by experience that the Lord has blessed me for thy sake." Joseph was employed by Potiphar, "and it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had, in the house and in the field." Hence, says the Apostle to Titus, "Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again, not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." And hence he says to Timothy, "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed." Here we see how much depends upon Christian servants: they may either recommend their religion or disgrace it. For the people of the world are not quite so blind as we sometimes suppose them to be: although incapable of entering into Christian experience, they can estimate the value of principles, by the goodness of their effects. And what can they think of the gospel, if the professors of it are as bad, or even worse than others; inattentive to the duties of their places, idle, gossippers, busy-bodies, heady, insolent, unfaithful to their trust? On this principle, I am sorry to say, that there are Some who have expressed a determination to have nothing more to do with religious servants. But they surely mean servants who are religious only in pretence-who raise hopes by their profession, which they disappoint by their practice and thus cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of:-for as to those servants who are really religious, they must be better than others-they must be "profitable."
Let us therefore conclude with two reflections.
First. If religion renders people, in all situations, valuable and useful, how deserving is it of encouragement! Let therefore all unite together to promote it.
Let governors and magistrates promote it. This is the way to have good subjects and citizens. Innumerable are the advantages which communities derive from it in civilizing, restraining, and sanctifying mankind. Human laws cannot extend far enough, in thousand cases interesting to the peace and welfare of a nation. They can never reach the heart. But religion lays hold of the conscience, and places a man, even when alone, under the eye of God, and in sight of endless happiness or wo.
No wonder therefore it should be called wisdom, and that Solomon should speak of it as he does. "Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding."
THE CURE OF BLIND BARTIMEUS.
unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the
To read the Scriptures superficially will not answer the purpose of a man who is desirous of being made "wise unto salvation. He will peruse them with reverence, he will explore them with diligence, and feel all a anxious and prayerful to have the end for which they were given realized in his own experience. And what is this end? The Apostle tells us. "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learn ing, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope."
Let masters of families promote it in their households. This is the way to have obedient servants, and dutiful children. Piety is
Our Saviour made every misery he beheld his own. "He took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." As he moved from place