Page images

He that was an enemy to God, is now brought into a state of amity and friendship. He that was averse to holy exercises, now delights in them. The bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, tamely and quietly submits to it. The methods of grace, and the paths of obedience, now appear in the most agreeable light; and what affords the greatest distress is, that any coldness and indifference should still subsist; that there should be any latent principles of enmity and aversion remaining. Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death! Rom. vii. 24.

3. Christ's servants are likewise to declare, that there is need of a farther reconciliation in those who are already reconciled to God. This epistle being directed to the church of God at Corinth, and the saints in all Achaia, it seems as if the apostle had a principal respect to those who were already brought into a state of reconciliation. As if he had said, Do not think that you have made such progress in the religious life, that there is no room for further improvement. Are you reconciled; it is but in part. Seek to be more so: labour after a greater conformity, and more profound submission to God. Press after greater measures of holiness, and seek to have not only every faculty, but even every thought brought into subjection to Christ. Be convinced of your remaining alienation, and aspire after higher degrees of fellowship and communion with God. Let that reconciliation which was begun in conversion, be carried on in progressive sanctification, till it is completed in glorification.

Be ye particularly reconciled to the absolute sovereignty of God. Deny him not, grudge him not that right which you yourselves exercise in disposing your favours as you please. Look upon his decrees as holy, just, and good; neither contradictory to his promises and invitations, nor discouraging to your endeavours. Let his chusing one and refusing another,

(a doctrine so disgustful to careal men) be a sweet and comfortable doctrine to you. Say not, Who hath resisted his will; (an expression which carries in it all the marks of fretfulness and discontent) but rather cry out in the humble language of Judas, not Iscariot: How is it, Lord, that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world!

Further: Be ye reconciled to the providences of God, so as neither to quarrel with him for what he has done, nor prescribe to him what he shall do. Say not at any time, as the virgin Mary did to Christ, Why hast thou dealt thus with us? But rather, as the multitude did upon another occasion, He hath done all things well. Dark providences shall be unravelled, and distressing ones overruled. God never acts without design. He has still some gracious end in view, and therefore it is your duty to acquiesce in all his dispensations. Clouds and darkness are round about him; but justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne. Psal. xcvii. 2.

Be ye also reconciled to all the requirements of God. His laws are founded upon the highest reason, as well as enforced by the highest authority. His positive institutions are few, easy to be complied with, and at the same time expressive of the most consummate wisdom. Say not then, when any command of God contradicts a bosom sin or darling corruption, this is a hard saying, who can hear it. But first seek an acquaintance with God's holy law; and then to have your temper conformed to it, and your actions determined by it. Declare at all times your approbation of it, even when sensible how far short you fall in your obedience to it. Thus did the apostle: For we know, says he, that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. (Rom. vii. 14.) If we are acquainted with the natural enmity of our hearts to every thing that is good, we shall bear with ministers when they pray us, nay, we shall continually pray to God



[ocr errors]

ourselves, that we may be more and more reconciled to him and his righteous law. The language of the christian should ever be, Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven.

Finally Be ye reconciled to the methods of divine grace, and the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. The more contrary the doctrines of the gospel are to corrupt nature, the more they exceed the stretch of human understanding, and tend to humble the pride of man, the more visibly they bear the stamp of divine authority, and should attract the christian's regard. Be ye then reconciled to the gospel, as a mystery far above your comprehension: yet a mystery of godliness, the manifest design of which is, to make you more like God, and meet for heaven. However repugnant the truths revealed in it may be to flesh and blood, or opposite to your worldly interests, yet cordially embrace them, strenuously defend them, and be ready, if called thereto, to seal them with your blood.

4. Ministers are faithfully to denounce the terrible judgments of God against those who live and die unreconciled to him. They are to tell their hearers, that if reconciliation do not take place in this world, it will not in the next; so that if they die in a state of enmity to the most high God, they will be ruined for ever! Overtures of reconciliation are made to them now; but it will not be so hereafter. Ministers will no longer pray for them, or preach to them. Those attributes which they have despised will appear against them. The curse of that law which they have broken will fall upon them; and the word of reconciliation itself, for so the gospel is called, will afford them no relief. God's hand shall find out all his enemies: He shall also wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses. There will be no power of resisting,

no possibility of escaping. Oh remember, No salvation! Nothing but ruin and destruction without reconciliation to God! Nay, if it were possible for you to go to heaven, yet you could not be happy, even in the presence of God, unless you loved him. But depend upon it, he will never suffer you to make the trial! No, he will ease himself of his adversaries he will bind you hand and foot, and cast you into prison! Your sinful enmity will then be a tormenting enmity. Now you are not sensible of it, but then you will feel it; and it will be that never-dying worm that will gnaw your guilty consciences to all eternity! As the perfection of love in heaven, (says the judicious Mr. Charnock) is a part of heaven's happiness; so the perfection of enmity in hell, is a part of the misery of the damned. Think then, oh think, How will you escape, if you neglect so great salvation!

II. Notice the manner in which ministers thus treat with sinners about their reconciliation to God.

1. With a perfect unanimity. However various their gifts and abilities may be, yet the subject of their ministrations is the same. The apostle says, "We pray you." We serve the same Master, are embarked in the same cause, and prosecute the same business your reconciliation to God. Thus it was prophesied: Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice: with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. They shall concur in the same sentiment, and unite in the same praises.

2. With warmth and affection. We not only direct and exhort, but "we pray you;" that is, we beseech and intreat you; we would fall down upon our knees to you, if we could thereby obtain our end. We have a deep sense of the importance of the subject, and a compassionate concern for your welfare. As in this place the apostle speaks of his prayers, so in ano

ther of his tears: I ceased not to warn every one of you, night and day, with tears. Acts xx. 31.

3. With spiritual power and authority. Hence he adds, "as though God did beseech you by us." When God speaks, he speaks with authority; and so should ministers, when they speak in his name. Truly, says the prophet, I am full of power, by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might. Great courage becomes a good cause. Mic. iii. 8.

4. With meekness, gentleness, and all the means of persuasion. "We beseech you." We use no coercive measures; we do not endeavour to frighten, but draw you to your duty. If you have any regard to your own welfare, our comfort, or the divine glory, we pray you, be ye reconciled to God!

The subject teaches us the three following things:

(1.) The dreadful corruption and depravity of human nature. Nothing worse can be said of the devil, than that he is an enemy to God. In this respect the carnal man seems to be worse than the atheist: the latter disbelieves the being of God; the former believes there is a God, and yet hates him.

(2.) The necessity of a divine change; not a change of the conduct only, but of the inward frame and temper of the mind. This must be effected by the almighty power of God. The conversion of a sinner is a greater miracle than the dividing of the sea, the making Jordan to stand on heaps, the casting down of the walls of Jericho, or raising the dead body of Lazarus. Not only every thing without, but every thing within opposes it.

(3.) How much are we indebted to the Lord Jesus Christ, without whom this reconciliation never would, nor ever could have taken place! His blood laid a foundation for it; his grace brings it about. Hence he is said to be our peace. Micah v. 15. Eph. ii. 14.

« PreviousContinue »