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he felt, in general, for the everlasting salvation of men, but because they were his own children, begotten in the gospel of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Considered in this view, as the declaration of St. Paul's affectionate interest in the objects of his former ministry, the language now under consideration suggests one or two reflections, of an affecting and profitable character.
And 1. Is there not something, my beloved hearers, calculated most powerfully to impress your hearts, in the view here exhibited of that solicitude, with which every faithful minister of Christ watches the progress of his spiritual fold?-Let me direct your attention, once more, to the representation of the Apostle before us. He hears of the members of this distant church, among whom he had once "gone preaching the kingdom of God,"* that they are still pressing onward to the mark, for the prize of their high calling. And what is the effect of these tidngs? His heart overflows with gladness; and, in the rapture of his emotions, he sends upward to heaven, whenever these children of his care cross his recollection, ejaculations of thankfulness and joy. Now the great Apostle of the Gentiles has furnished, in this statement of his own experience, an example of what all feel, who have been truly called by a gracious Providence to "the work of the ministry." The highest comfort and pleasure which a faithful ambassador of Christ enjoys, is to observe that any of those among whom he labors are indeed "walking in truth;"† and the spectacle of a people separated from the world, warmed with the love of Christ, and marching onward with undeviating step to a better country, fills him with emo
* Acts, xx. 25.
† I. John, v. 4.
tions which none of this world's objects ever can enkindle. Permit me, then, to present this truth to those within the congregation before me, "who profess and call themselves Christians," as an incitement to perseverance in the life of God, and to higher attainments in holiness. Are there some among you, my friends and brethren, who, through divine grace, have forsaken the corruptions that are in the world; and who, having been led by the mercies, and by the chastisements of Providence, to live near to the Author of all peace and happiness, are humbly seeking to "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing," to be "fruitful in every good work," and to “increase in the knowledge of God?"* Let it be some encouragement to your future labors after a closer walk with the Lord, and a more entire consecration to his service, to reflect that he who watches for your souls, as one that must give account, is marking your steady career; that he is in secret blessing the Fountain of all good, for those measures of grace to which you have as yet attained; and, in prospect of your growing ripeness for heaven, daily "rejoices with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." The believer, it is true, proposes to himself the love and favor of God, as the grand stimulus to animate him on his pilgrimage; but, notwithstanding this, we are warranted, by the example of the Apostle before us, in holding it forth as a legitimate encouragement to his perseverance, that he beneath whose ministrations he is sitting, smiles with new joy, at every fresh accession of faith, and love and holiness, among those to whom he "publisheth salvation."
There is another reflection suggested by the words of St. Paul now under consideration, upon which I may profitably,
* Col. i. 10
for a few moments, fix your thoughts. The Apostle, you perceive, while expressing to these believers of Philippi his interest in their welfare, makes incidental mention of the fact, that that church of his own planting formed one of the subjects of his constant prayers. Turn again to the inspired writer's language. "Always," he declares, " in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy:" and, while exhibiting this habitual remembrance before God of the people of his ministry, as a sample of the practice of every sincere shepherd, allow me to offer the circumstance to the meditation of those before me, who are living without an interest in that gospel of mercy, which is so repeatedly presented to their acceptance. My brethren, there are some amongst you who come, at the commencement of every successive week, within the sound of the message of salvation; who listen to its affectionate invitations: who hear its threatened judgments: and, after each of these appeals, go forth again to bury themselves in the pursuits of life-to mingle in its engrossing pleasuresand, amidst visible things, to banish God and the Saviour from all influence over the heart, and from all place within the memory. To such "forgetful hearers,"* it may, perhaps, not be unprofitable to urge the impressive statement just presented; and to say, that, amidst all your heedlessness of the way of life, and your devotion to those things whose end is death, there is one who bears you on his petitions to the throne of mercy; who prays daily for your spiritual illumination; who thinks, with sighs and tears, for those who, in the blindness of their imaginations, never think for themselves. This individual who thus implores in retirement for your salvation,
* James, i. 25.
is he who, by the appointment of Providence, proclaims to you in public, within these sacred walls, the message of love; and there is something in this consideration, so calculated to appeal to all the better feelings of the sinner's heart, that I cannot refrain from pressing it upon your contemplation. Where, among those that, in this sanctuary, statedly listen to the preached word, is the person who, unmindful of these truths, is given up in heart and practice to the vain pageantry of life? Be melted at the thought, that he who ministers to you in holy things is, with every day's succession, entreating the Lord of heaven, that, of his mercy, he will turn you from these ensnaring idols, to serve the living and true God. Where is the attendant upon these means of grace, who, when he retires from them into the world, is led away by the absorbing quest of gain? Think of him, whose voice utters your name in secret before the Hearer of prayer; and let the recollection lead you, through divine grace, to give your whole heart to Christ; to embrace the gospel, and to bow, as a willing captive, to the obedience of the truth. Where is the profane despiser of those solemn representations, which are unfolded by the messengers of Jesus, and in the pages of his word? My dear hearer, even you are not forgotten in our daily supplications; we ask that your eyes may be opened, to see the wondrous things of the gospel; and the tenderness of such a thought may, perhaps, one day, subdue your callous heart beneath the influences of the Spirit of God. Call to mind, amidst the cares and the frivolities of life, the fact, that he who invites you to Christ from this watch-tower of Sion, is petitioning for your rescue in the intercessions of the closet. Let it bring you to thought. Let it arrest your wandering
steps. Let it win you to that Fountain of living waters, whom you have been forsaking to hew out for yourselves "broken cisterns, that can hold no water."*
After this kind expression of his thankfulness, for the spiritual attainments of these his children in the Lord, St. Paul proceeds, in the last verse of the portion under review, to state an additional reason for his grateful joy on their account.—It is derived from the humble, but firm persuasion, that the same grace which, in past days, had brought them to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and had kept them thus far in the way of life, would carry them to the end in safety; and would bless their earnest prayers after the faith and holiness of the gospel. "Being confident," the Apostle declares, "of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," that is, until the termination of life; for the Apostle here uses the period of the last judgment instead of the hour of death, from a desire, manifested in various other portions of his writings, to keep ever before the view that day of irreversible retribution for the wicked, and of signal triumph for the believer. The idea, then, which St. Paul intends to convey, in the declaration before us, is simply this: that, in view of the all-sufficient grace of the Redeemer, he felt cheered with the prospect of their future destiny; that he could safely leave them in the guidance of Christ's sanctifying Spirit; and was persuaded, that nothing would, or could be wanting, on the part of Him "from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed," to perfect their growth in grace, and fit them for his kingdom of glory. The words before us, therefore, are, as you
* Jer. ii. 13.