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greater, in proportion to their circumstances, than that of such persons as expect, in part at least, to atone for their own sins and to purchase heaven by their good works. But "we beseech you, bre"thren, to abound more and more."
We should also exercise meekness, forgiveness of injuries, and unwearied perseverence in endeavouring "to overcome evil with good:" for these things peculiarly become those who own themselves so deeply indebted to the pardoning mercy and abundant grace of God our Saviour.-An exact attention to every relative duty; a condescending, affable, and modest demeanour, "in "honour preferring one another;" a constant endeavour to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the "bond of peace;" to promote brotherly love; and to concur in every design for advancing the purity and enlargement of the Church, and the benefit of mankind, are evidently and eminently becoming the gospel of Christ.
To these we should add habits of strict sobriety and temperance; moderation and regard to expediency in the use of things lawful, and in every worldly pursuit; indifference about external decoration; an entire disregard to those frivolous amusements in which numbers waste their time and substance; a disinterested conduct, remote from all suspicion of covetousness; a strict government of the passions; and a tongue bridled and refrained from vain and improper discourse, but prepared to speak such things as are edifying and useful. These are evidently parts of that "conversation which becometh the gospel of
"Christ:" and reflection may enable every one
to add to this specimen many others of a similar nature. We proceed therefore,
IV. To make some observations on the emphatical word "only."
Some persons think that the apostle meant in this manner to intimate the reasonableness of his exhortations: and no doubt we have abundant cause to consider them in this light: yet I apprehend that this is not the import of the expression. It rather implies that nothing could prove injurious in the event to professed Christians, provided their conversation were consistent with their principles. And we may apply this general instruction to various cases.
There may be" wars and rumours of wars," famines, pestilences, revolutions, and "distress of "nations with perplexity;" yea, "the sun shall be "turned into darkness," "the heavens shall be "rolled up as a scroll," "the elements shall melt "with fervent heat, and the earth with all its works "shall be burned up:" but none of these events need alarm the consistent Christian; for "what "shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall ❝ tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? Nay, in all these "things we are more than conquerors through "him that loved us."1 "God is our refuge "and strength; a very present help in trouble: "therefore we will not fear though the earth be " removed, and the mountains be carried into the 5 depths of the sea."2
Rom. viii. 35-39.
Psal. xlvi. 1, 2.
Affecting changes may likewise take place in our families; our beloved relatives may be torn from us, our friends alienated, and our property lost; poverty, contempt, and sickness may oppress us; and we may fall under unmerited censure and reproach, so that even our brethren may mistake our case and character, as Job's friends did his: but, "if our conversation be as it becometh the gospel "of Christ," none of these things can hurt us. The Lord will enable us "to rejoice in the testimony "of our conscience;" he will plead our cause, and vindicate our reputation; he will not leave us comfortless, but will afford us proportionable supports: "No weapon formed against us shall prosper, and every tongue that riseth against us in judgment we shall condemn;" and "when "we have been tried we shall come forth as gold" purified from the furnace.
Changes may likewise take place in the church: many who have been useful to us, may be removed, and among them the very "ministers by whom we "believed:" nay, such persons as we most looked "forsake Christ having loved this pre"sent world:" or may become zealous teachers of destructive heresies. But, if our conversation be consistent with our profession, our own experience of the Lord's faithfulness, and the sanctifying efficacy of his word, will preserve us from fatal effects, and teach us by such events to be more watchful, and simple in our dependence on divine grace.
Some persons may be perplexed with difficulties, in respect of certain points of doctrine: but, if they truly embrace the salvation of Christ, and walk worthy of it, they will be at length led to esta
blishment in the truth. "If any man will do the "will of God, he shall know of the doctrine, whe"ther it be of God." An upright heart and an obedient will directly tend to free the mind from the clouds of various prejudices and passions, to produce teachableness, and to improve spiritual discernment: and there are numerous promises of divine teaching to persons of this description. But they, "who love darkness rather than light "because their deeds are evil," are given up to strong delusions, and fall into final condemnation.
Difficulties also occur to many in determining whether they be in a state of salvation or not: nor are they able, after much self-examination, to decide the important question. To these likewise we may say, "Only let your conversation be as it "becometh the gospel of Christ," and this will have a powerful though gradual efficacy in producing the desired satisfaction. "Then shall ye "know if ye follow on to know the Lord:" for "the path of the just shineth more and more unto "the perfect day."
The exhortation before us also points out, to those who are labouring to do good in their families and connexions, or in a more extensive sphere, the grand method of obtaining the desired success: and when the interest of the gospel in any place seems greatly declined, the consistent conduct of the few who adhere to it will have the happiest effects in promoting a revival.-Finally some persons are harassed with apprehensions of future trials and temptations, or with the dread of death: but let all such trembling believers attend to the
apostle's exhortation, and they may rest assured that the grace of the Lord Jesus will be "sufficient "for them;" and "his strength be perfected "in their weakness." "For I am persuaded "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor "principalities, nor powers, nor things present, "nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us "from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus "our Lord."
Seeing we address those only who expect to be thought Christians, the exhortation may be applicable to every individual. Let a becoming conversation prove that you are Christians in reality. But, alas, what gloomy reflections crowd into the mind when this subject comes in our way! Do the generality of nominal Christians live as becomes the gospel? Is not the conversation of a vast majority diametrically opposite to the spirit and precepts of our holy religion? Who can imagine that Christ will own such men as his true disciples? Who can doubt that it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for them?
There are persons, who say, 'When you instruct ' us in our duty, we regard you; we are not in'fidels; we have already believed the doctrines of Christianity.' But let me ask you, Have these doctrines properly influenced your heart and life? If they have not, then surely you have "believed "in vain!" You would say to an antinomian professor of justification by faith alone, who lived an immoral life, "Know, O vain man, that faith