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1.) Endeavour to get them pardon'd while you are young. For this you must fly to Chrift, and lay hold on his righteousness by faith, to justify your guilty fouls: you must accept of him and confent to him, who is your only propitiation and peace-maker with an offended God.
2.) Endeavour alfo to get your lufts subdued and mortify'd, and your fouls really fanctify'd. You must be regenerate, and born again, and become new creatures, and holy creatures; or it will be altogether impoffible, either that God fhould love you, while you are in this world, or receive you to his prefence hereafter: for without holiness no man can fee the Lord. For this you must earnestly beg and implore the affiftance of divine grace, to cleanse you from all your filthiness both of flesh and fpirit, and to inable you to perfect bolinefs in the fear of God.
3.) Habituate yourselves to acts of religion and piety while you are young. Ufe, we commonly fay, is a fecond nature, and old customs are hardly broke, whether they are good or bad. Thus the early practice of religion will make it become eafy, and in a manner natural to you, in your riper and advanced years. Those duties of felf-denial, which at first you may find fomewhat difficult, will by use and practice become not only very tolerable, but very comfortable; the refifting of tempta
tions will be eafier work every day than other; prayer will become in a fhort time the natural language and breath of your fouls, and you will find your hearts more and more ready to every good work. Thus religion and piety will grow up in you, as you advance in years; you will not have the iniquities of youth to imbitter your future days; then every new year that comes can bring you nothing but good, and every one will bring you nearer to heaven, and the full enjoyment of the confummate happiness of holy fouls.
The happy change; or, the profit of piety.
PHILEMON, verfes 10, 11.
I beseech thee for my fon Onefimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: which in time paft was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me.
HESE words are part of a fhort letter, written by the Apostle Paul to Philemon, on a particular occafion. It is not very certain who this Philemon was, any farther than that he was a chriftian, probably a man of fome note: fome have judged him to be a minifter in the church at Colofs, because the Apoftle falutes him with the title of his fellow labourer (ouvegyes) verfe 1. but this will not prove that he was a minifter, fince in other places, it is certain that private christians, and even women, who fome way or other ferved and promoted the caufe of chriftianity, are ftiled by the Apostle his fellow labourers, or helpers; thus Rom. xvi. 3. Greet Prifcilla and Aquila, my helpers (ovvisous) in Christ Je
fus. The occafion of Paul's writing this letter to Philemon was this. Onefimus a fervant to Philemon had robb'd his mafter, and run away from him; in his rambles he came to Rome, were Paul was at that time a prifoner for the gospel, and where providentially coming under this Apoftle's preaching, he was, by the bleffing of God, converted by it; upon which Paul fends him back to his mafter,. with this letter, to teftify the truth of his converfion, and to intreat his mafter Philemon to pardon him, and receive him again into his family.
This epiftle, though short, and though writ on fuch a particular occafion, is well worthy of a place in the facred canon; for it contains many profitable inftructions, which are of general use: as, That no true chriftian though of the meanest rank and worldly condition, is to be defpifed. Here we have a whole epiftle in the book of God, writ in favour of poor Onefimus, a fugitive flave, but now a gofpel penitent. Grace enobles the meaneft fervant, and renders him worthy to be loved and refpected by chriftians of the higheft honour with what affection and refpect does the great Apoftle Paul now fpeak of Onefimus! he calls him his fon and his bowels.
- We have likewife, in this epiftle, a memorable inftance of the richnefs and freenefs of the grace of God, for the encouragement of the meaneft and vileft finners to fly to him for
mercy. Some have interpreted this epiftle in an allufive way, applying it to the mediation and interceffion of Chrift for poor finners: we were like Onefimus, revolters from God's fervice, and had injur'd him in his rights; Jefus Chrift finds us, and by his grace makes a change in us, and then intercedes for us with the Father, that we may be received into his favour and family again. We may farther learn from this epiftle, with what af fection and joy true penitents fhould be embraced by the friends of Christ; there fhould be joy on earth, as well as there is in heaven, over a finner that repenteth; and we should be ready to ferve the intereft of such persons all that we can. Paul concerns himself even for the temporal, as well as for the spiritual intereft of Onefimus, and writes to his master. to intreat for his pardon, and kind reception. These and other useful inftructions are to be learned from this epiftle. In that part of it which I have chofe for my text, we have an account of the converfion of Onefimus, and the happy change that was hereby made in him, from a worthlefs and unprofitable wretch, to be a very useful and profitable perfon; in which Onefimus may be confider'd as an emblem of every true convert.
In this account, you may take particular notice of four things,
First, Onefimus's former ftate and character before his converfion, which in time past was