Page images

most clearly be displayed. All the love, praise, and obedience, which God has received from this world, have been from the church. The name, the worship, and oracles of God have been preserved in the church. The church has ever been the ground and pillar of the truth. Revelation was gradually given to the church of God. Holy men, age after age, spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. These communications were made and committed to the church, and by her labours and efforts, the knowledge of God has been spread in the world. The church is continued by the conversion of sinners; and in every conversion, , God is glorified. God created, and continues to uphold the world for the sake of the church ; and when the whole number of his people is gathered from the ruins of the apostacy, he will no longer regard it. From the days of Adam, to the present, the church has lived, and will, until the consummation of all things. The deluge could not drown her, the flames of Sodom and Gomorrah could not consume her, the Egyptian oppression could not waste her, because God was in the midst of her.

2. Learn why God threatens and executes judg. ments upon the enemies of his church. Those who are opposed to the word of God, to the ordinances of God, are opposed to the church of God; because by the word and ordinances of God, sinners are converted; the church is edified and prepared for glory. To oppose the church, is to oppose the glory of God, the most wonderful and transcendant display of all his perfections. When a man speaks against the word and ordinances of God, he opposes the conversion of sinners; he opposes the church; he opposes the glory of God; he opposes the honour of Christ, the effect of his sufferings and death, and the salvation of sinners. When Elymas, the sorcerer sought to turn away the deputy from the faith, he opposed the conversion and salvation of sinners; the increase of the church, and the glory of God. This was a great sin ; therefore Paul addressed him and said, “Thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not eease to pervert the right ways of the Lord ?” God destroyed Egypt, when she oppressed and destroyed his church. “He will contend with them, that contend with her.” How dangerous to contend with God ?

3. We are here taught, that such as are engaged in spreading the word of God, and in promoting the conversion of sinners, are labouring for the glory of God. Fix your attention on Philip, the effect of whose preaching is recorded in our text. A severe persecution was raised against him, and the other apostles in Jerusalem ; he therefore complied with the direction of his master, “When they persecute you in one city, flee ye to another.” He went down to Samaria, carrying with him the gospel; he preached to this people, and multitudes of them were converted,

and there was great joy in that city:” And not only in that city ; but in all the churches of God; and not only in all the churches of God, but in heaven, among the angels of God. See then how the labours of one


man contributed to glorify God. He, who is the favoured instrument of converting but one sinner, not only saves a soul from death ; not only covers a mula titude of sins; but advances the glory of God, and creates joy in heaven.

4. In the view of this subject, we are enabled to understand the meaning of this petition in the Lord's prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” In Samaria, this petition was explained; was realized. When we use this petition, we pray for the spread of the gospel, the conversion of sinners, and the manifestion of the divine perfections. In Samaria, there was great joy, because they embraced the gospel. There the kingdom of God was set up. Here we see the words of the Apostle explained. “ The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” In that city; in that family; in that heart, where this kingdom is set up, there is great joy; and indeed the joy is not confined to that place, and that heart.

5. Our subject shows us, that those, who are labouring for the conversion of sinners, are labouring for the happiness of the universe. Indeed, so far as such are successful, the happiness of the universe is in fact increased : The perfections of God are displayed; angels are happier; and saints in heaven and earth are happier. What a cause are such engaged in? How extensive its connexions! How desirable its prosperity !

6. How ought we then to pray for the conversion of sinners? We have shown that this is a very desirable event, in all its connexions. The prayers, conversation and conduct of saints should daily remind sinners of the excellency of religion, and the misery and danger of their state.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]


EZEKIEL, xxxiii. 11.

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.

How true is it, that the foolishness of man first perverteth his way, and then his heart freteth against the Lord. The text gives us an amiable representation of the divine character. This representation is the more satisfactory as it is given by God himself. It was made, because the wicked in the days of this prophet'insinuated, that they were punished for the sins of their fathers; and that the calamities which they suffered, were inflicted on them without a just discrimination of characters. Rather than admit their ways to be unequal, they were willing to suppose there was an error in the divine administration; and that God had pleasure in punishing, and making his creatures miserable. That they were punished by the hand of

« PreviousContinue »