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The consideration of this solemn truth may well prepare us for, II. The exhortation grounded upon it1. Be sober
[Sobriety does not merely import temperance with relation to meat and drink, but moderation with regard to our desire of earthly things, or our enjoyment of them. Our minds are apt to be very strongly fixed on the things of time and sense; we are fascinated with the prospect of some pleasure, some honour, some emolument, for the attainment of which we labour day and night, and in the possession of which we are ready to say, “ Soul, take thine ease.” But should we do thus, if we considered how transient our enjoyment of. them will be? Should we not rather sit loose to the things of this world, seeking them as though we sought them not, and using them as though we used them note? Let us then cultivate this spirit'. We need not on this account relax our diligence in our earthly vocations; for diligence is our bounden duty, and will consist very well with the devoutest frame, and most ardent exertions in the Lord's service h: but “the affections must be set on things above, and not on things below."] 2. Watch unto prayer
[Prayer is indispensably necessary for the salvation of the soul." Without prayer, we can obtain nothing from God, no pardon of sin, no strength for obedience, no preparation for eternity. If we live without prayer, we shall die without hope. But it is no easy matter to persevere in prayer. We can complain to a fellow-creature with ease and fluency: but the moment we attempt to express our wants in prayer to God, our minds wander to the very ends of the earth, and our mouths are shut before him. Any trifling occurrence is sufficient to divert us from prayer: and we postpone this duty from time to time, under the idea of having some more favourable opportunity for the performance of it. But would it be thus with us, if we were duly impressed with the shortness and uncertainty of time? Even the most abandoned malefactors will weep and pray when their execution is drawing nigh: and should not we, if we felt that “the end of all things is at hand ?" Let us then watch against every thing that may either divert us from prayer, or distract us in it: yea, let us watch that our prayers be such as our necessities require, and such as God will accept. Let them be offered up with constancy, with fervour, and with faith. And the nearer we
& Eccl. ix. 10.
e 1 Cor. vii. 29–31.
f Phil. iv. 5.
approach to our latter end, the more " abundant let us be in supplication and thanksgivings."] APPLICATION
[To the elder part of this assembly one would think it should be needless to add any thing on this subject: for they who have already lived out half their days, must feel (one would imagine) that their “time is short." But, alas ! even the aged need to be reminded of this obvious truth, and to be stirred up to improve their few remaining hours. Yes, even they often become more worldly with their advancing years, and manifest as great a backwardness to spiritual duties as they did in the earlier part of their existence. If one of this character be present, may God impress upon his mind a sense of his guilt and folly, and awaken him from his slumbers, ere it be too late !
To the younger part, who dream of months and years to come, it is more obviously necessary to repeat the warning in the text. You are apt to think and say, “ It is time enough yet for me to seek after God." But “ have you made a covenant with death?” have you been assured that neither disease nor accident shall cut you off in the bloom of life? Look around you, and see how many of your own age are gone within your remembrancek. And what if death had seized on you, instead of them; where had you been at this moment? I entreat you, if you have any regard for your own souls, consider this. Put the question to your conscience, and answer it faithfully in the sight of God: and then look at the direction given you by God himself: “ Be sober,” and moderate in your attachment to the things of time; and “watch unto prayer,"
may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory."
k Here any recent deaths may be adverted to, and the circumstances of them, if peculiar, be specified.
THE DUTY AND OFFICE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.
1 Pet. iv. 8. Above all things have fervent charity among
yourselves : for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
THE divine authority of our religion is fully established. Its external evidences demonstrate God to be its author; nor are its internal evidences less convincing. The tendency of Christianity is to
assimilate us to God. All other religions have countenanced a vindictive spirit; but the religion of Jesus inculcates universal love. The New Testament lays the greatest stress upon this duty.
The injunction in the text proposes to our view, I. The duty inculcated
The term “ charity” is to be understood of Christian love
[Many confine the sense of this term to almsgiving ; but almsgiving is a very small part of what is implied in it. Charity includes the whole of our duty towards our neighbours a.] This charity or love is our indispensable duty
[Though an old commandment, it is enjoined as a new oneb. Obedience to it is a sure test of our conversion": it is a good evidence of conversion to ourselves d; it is a satisfactory proof to others also . A want of love manifests us to be in an unregenerate state'] It ought to be cordial and “fervent”
[Worldly courtesy is but a faint image of Christian love. Love, if pure, and subordinate to God, cannot be too fervent. Our love of ourselves is the rule of love to others : our Lord's love to us is the pattern also of this duty &.]
We should “above all things” cultivate this disposition
[Love is the greatest of all Christian graces h. If we attain to it, we fulfil the law of Christi. But if we be destitute of it, nothing else will profit usk.]
The children of God should maintain it “ among themselves":
[Benevolence is due even to our enemies. But there is an especial obligation in the saints to love each other?; their union with Christ, and with each other, demands it"]
To promote a more uniform attention to this duty, we will consider, II. The argument with which it is enforced
a Rom. xiii. 9. bi John ii. 7, 8.
C 1 John iv. 7, 8.
The Apostle's words may be considered as relating to, 1. The sins of others
[" To cover the sins" of others (extenuating what we cannot approve; concealing what we cannot but condemn; and throwing a veil over, not errors only, but “sins,” yea, even “a multitude” of sins,) is the proper office of love. From this office we should not depart, unless (as in the exercise of the ministerial or magisterial office) the honour of God, and the good of society, require it. A just regard to the great duty of love is of incalculable importance: first, to ourselves ; for how can we expect to have forbearance exercised towards us, refuse it to others? Next, to the church; for how can the church be edified, if its members do not walk together in love? And lastly, to the enemies of the church, who will not fail to harden themselves in their iniquities, if evil reports in the church, and consequent dissensions and animosities, afford them any occasion. But mutual forbearance will never be exercised as it ought, without a deeply-rooted principle of love. Therefore we should cultivate this principle in order to maintain a becoming conduct P.] 2. Our own sins
[We must not, for one moment, think that our love, however fervent, can merit the pardon of our sins. Yet our pardon may be, and certainly is, suspended on the exercise of this divine principle. To this the whole Scriptures bear witness ?; and the words in the original most naturally bear this sense". This sense of them also exactly accords with our Lord's description of the day of judgments. Moreover, in this view the Apostle's argument is far stronger than on the other construction of his words. Let it then operate as a strong incentive to mutual love; for “with what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again.] INFER
n 1 Cor. xiii. 7. The duty of love does not, however, preclude ministers from censuring, or magistrates from punishing, the sins of men: they perform those acts officially ; and in performing them, they obey, instead of violating, the law of love. But to men in their individual capacity, the text prescribes an invariable rule of duty. See Matt. xviii. 22.
• When we hate a person, we are ready on all occasions to speak of his faults; but this is not the way in which we treat those whom we tenderly love.
p Prov. x. 12. in our translation seems to countenance, and almost to establish, this sense of the text ; because it appears to have been cited by St. Peter. But the Apostles generally cited rather the Septuagint translation of the Scriptures : and in that the two passages do not at all correspond. The LXX. translate it thus: Mioog éyeipei νεϊκος πάντας δε τους μη φιλονεικούντας καλύψει φιλία. So that the apparent parallelism will not enable us to determine, with certainty, the sense of the text.
9 Matt. v. 7. and vi. 14, 15. and Prov. xvi. 6. See also Gal. vi. 7, 8. and 1 Tim. vi. 18, 19. contrasted with Jam. ii. 13. Daniel even goes so far as to counsel Nebuchadnezzar λυτρώσαι τας αμαρτίας εν ελεημοσύναις. .
1. How justly reprehensible are the generality of Christians !
[There is a proneness in all to receive and propagate reports; but none are willing to have their own reputation blasted. Yet there are few who do not scatter defamation. Let us all be ashamed of and resist this sinful propensity; let us watch against every temptation or desire to indulge it; let us regulate our conduct by the law of love; let us study the Apostle's description of charityų; and let us attend to the exhortation of St. John]
2. How worthy of acceptation is the Gospel of Christ!
[A sense of Christ's love to us produces love to him. When we love Christ aright, we shall love all his membersy. This is the invariable effect wherever the Gospel prevails. The knowledge of our own sins will make us tender towards others. The forgiveness we have received will incline us to forgive others. The extent of Christ's love to us will be the ground of our love to our fellow-sinners? Let the Gospel then bring forth this fruit in our hearts and lives; we shall then experience the truth of that Divine assertion _. In the exercise of love is the foretaste of heaven itself.]
r Kalúta åpapriav means to cover sins from the sight of God, so that they shall not be noticed in the final judgment. See Ps. xxxii. 1, 2. and Neh. iv. 5. In Jam. v. 20, they will also bear that sense : and if we could divest ourselves of prejudice, we should more readily put that construction upon them in that passage ; since it is not the converting of souls merely, but the love exercised in seeking to convert them, that entails this blessing on us. If we put a different construction upon them, we make them a mere tautology: but in the sense here affixed to them, they afford a strong additional motive for exertion.
s Matt. xxv. 34–46. “ Come, &c. For, &c. "_" Depart, &c. For, &c."
t Matt, vü. 2. u 1 Cor. xii. 447. x 1 John ii. 18. y 1 John, v. 1. z John xiii, 34.
a Ps. cxxxiji. 1.