« 前へ次へ »
require. Mutual sympathy, and a readiness to communicate to each other's wants, is necessary among friends: “ Have pity upon me, O my friends !” says Job. Friendship is a profession of love, and love should not only be professed, but acted upon.
3. We should prefer the interests and welfare of their souls to that of their bodies. Thus did Christ, the friend of publicans and sinners, when he was upon earth, and thus should all his followers do; and surely those will be most indebted to us for our friendship, whose everlasting felicity is promoted by it. Give me leave to mention two things under this head.
(1.) We should pray for our friends; thus did Job for his, though by their uncharitable invectives they had greatly added to the weight of his afflictions, and his prayers returned into his own bosom. Yet he obtained a blessing both for himself and them. If we can do nothing else for our friends, we can pray for them; and whatever else we have done, or can do, this should not be neglected.
(2.) We should faithfully reprove them when they do amiss. Not to do this is represented as an evidence of hatred : “ Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart; thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him;" and therefore to do it is an instance of the greatest love, and a wise and good man will esteem it so. “Let the righteous smite me,” says David, “ and it shall be an excellent oil;” but then we must do it in a friendly manner, secretly, and not so as to expose him; with meekness and tenderness, and not so as to irritate and provoke him; and at the most convenient season, when he is most likely to bear it, and be benefited by it.
4. We should carefully avoid all those things which may either break the bonds of friendship, or weaken them. We should not, by divulging his secrets, abuse the confidence that our friend has placed in us. We should guard against envy if providence has exalted him above us; and of coldness and neglect if he is sunk into a state of infe
riority to us. We should also shun the company of those who are given to calumny and detraction, for Solomon tells us that “ a whisperer separateth chief friends;" and, lastly, if by any notorious miscarriage, or unmerited provocations, they have forfeited our friendship, we should remember that we still owe them common charity, if prudence prohibits our former familiarity with them. Religion should restrain us from turning our love into hatred.
I conclude with two reflections:
1. What need of grace have we to enable us to act up to this, or any other character that we sustain! The duties of friendship, you see, are not few or easy; we should therefore implore the assistance of divine grace, that we may rightly perform them. Nor should we, as has been wisely said, make choice of many intimate and bosom friends ; for a multiplication of friends will involve a multiplication of duties, and, consequently, of difficulties.
2. Let those who are so happy as to have Christ for their friend be particularly observant of this rule with respect to him. O let us cultivate a more intimate acquaintance with him, set a proper value upon his friendship, give him the uppermost place in our hearts, make him the frequent subject of our conversation, avoid every thing that is offensive to him, frequent those places where we may meet with him, and long to be for ever with him!
To have boldness in the awful day of judgment, when wicked men shall lose all their courage, and call upon the rocks and mountains to cover them; and to be able to say, looking to Him who sitteth upon the throne, “ This is our God, we have waited for him; this is our God, and he will save us ;" must needs be a most desirable thing. But who are the persons that will be thus privileged? Those who take Christ for their pattern, and esteem it their honour and glory, as it certainly is their duty, to imitate his blessed example: “ That we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we, in this world.” It is true this may be understood of God, without any distinction of persons, to whom the saints bear a resemblance, whose moral perfections they exhibit, and of whose nature they partake; but it seems more natural to refer these words to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to render them according to some of the most ancient versions : “ As he was,” that is, as Christ was when he tabernacled amongst men, setting us an example that we should tread in his steps, so are we in this world.” Here it may be proper first to notice the persons of whom the apostle speaks, and then consider what he declares concerning them.
I. Concerning the former, he cannot be understood as speaking of persons in a state of unregeneracy, uninfluenced by the Spirit, and destitute of the grace of God, for these are so far from resembling Christ that they are the very pests of society—the plagues of mankind. So far from being of a public benevolent spirit, like Mordecai seeking the wealth of their people, and speaking peace to all their seed; they find no rest but in doing mischief, and their sleep is taken from them unless they cause some to fall.
Like Ishrael, their hand is against every man, this is their sin; and every man's hand against them, this is their punishment. They are wrathful, revengeful, and oppressive. “ They please not God,” as the apostle expresses it," and are contrary to all men.”
Others of this class are useless and unprofitable, mere cumberers of the ground, standing all the day in the market-place idle; to be serviceable to others is as remote from their desires as to be holy and happy themselves. If society is not injured, it is no way benefited by them ; they live to no purpose, if they do not live to a very bad one. Hence they are compared to briers and thorns, chaff, dross, salt that hath lost its savour, miry and marshy places, and the like. If they have a place in the church, they are mere cyphers there; if they are masters of families, their families are not profited by their prayers, instructions, or examples; their neighbourhood is never benefited by them, for they live entirely to themselves. “ Stand still, o Christian, and admire the change that omnipotent grace hath wrought in thee; from an unprofitable state thou art become profitable. Formerly no trust could be reposed in thee, but now thou art faithful; formerly thou wast slothful, now thou art active and industrious.
If they do that which is good in itself, or for the advantage of others, it is not from a good principle. Thus the earth helped the woman, not intentionally, but as circumcised, and Jehu executed the Divine commands in destroying the family of Ahab; but the former acted from a principle of covetousness, the latter of ambition. Herod heard John gladly, and did many things that were excellent and praiseworthy, but lust still reigned in his heart, and he would sooner cut off the prophet's head than part with Herodias.
Lastly. If they act for God, they will not suffer for him. If they embrace religion when honoured and esteemed, they will renounce it when it is held in contempt. If they follow Christ when the multitude sing “Hosanna to the Son David," they will forsake him when the general cry is, “ Crucify him! crucify him!” So that, by the words we in my text, apostles, ministers, and real Christians, must be meant; those only who, agreeable to the context, have a sincere and ardent affection to God, and an unfeigned love to the brethren.
II. I would notice what is declared concerning such : “ As he was, so are we in this world.” And
1. They are unknown. The apostle, speaking concerning the Jews, says, “ Had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;" they would have sooner died themselves, than have put him to death. Their malice was owing to their ignorance.
“ The light shone in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not;" and as Christ was unknown, so also are those that are his. They are not of the world, and therefore the world knows them not. It does not understand their true excellency, for though the king's daughter is all glorious, it is within; nor the principles from which they act, and the motives by which they are influenced. Hence their fervent love and ardent zeal are sometimes ascribed to a heated imagination; nor does it comprehend their sorrowful or comfortable experiences, for their life is a hidden one: “ They are a mystery to themselves, and more so to others.” The trials and conflicts, the joys and pleasures, of the christian life, are in a great measure concealed. The heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddleth not with its