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about their conversion, this being an object greatly to be wished. “ He that winneth souls is wise." they that turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars,” etc. But whoever would attain this end, must soften, dissolve, and annihilate men's prejudices against religion, by convincing them that it is a real thing, a good thing, and the best thing in the world.
(3.) Our last end to be pursued is to redeem the time or opportunity which remains for promoting their benefit and securing our own: the season for securing these objects cannot be long, at best
It may prove very, very, short
It therefore should be seized instantly, improved industriously, and pursued with an unwearied and a persevering constancy.
In short, he who would make the most of his brief opportunity for benefiting others and himself, especially those without, must
II. Adopt the advice here given : "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.”
Speech was given to man, as an immortal being : had he been intended for this life only, he might have done without it, as other animals do.
Though it must be acknowledged, it is a distinguished source of pleasure and enjoyment, because a great means of improvement and dignity.
But being designed for an immortal and exalted felicity, it was meet and necessary that he should be thus endowed ; and if we would train this gift in the best manner, it should always be with grace," with a good and benevolent intent, to others and to all.
(2.) It should always be of a gracious nature, if not always of grace as its theme. We cannot, strictly speaking, make grace our only theme, while we have to live in and by the world; but our speech may always be of a gracious nature, seeing we may always speak, even of earthly things, in such a way as to demonstrate that we are enlightened and benevolent, and wish to be approved by God and all good men.
And if our speech may always be of a gracious nature,
even when speaking of earthly things, how much more may it be so, when speaking of those that are heavenly! But
(3.) Then is our speech with most grace, when it is most seasoned with salt: when it is best calculated to check the corrupting tendency of ordinary conversation among worldly and wicked men, and to amend and elevate, if not wholly to change, its character, by making men ashamed of it. This godly course will lead us
III. To an important discovery; we shall learn how we ought to answer every man.
This knowledge requires an acquaintance with religion in its theory, which can only be obtained by reading and studying the Bible, or by hearing it read and expounded; by reading and studying other sound and sensible books on the same subject, and by conversation. This course of inquiry will not fail to spread out the theory of religion before us in all its beautiful proportions : and we shall have sufficient scope for the exercise of this knowledge, seeing we are to be ready always “ to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear.”
And where is the man that hath not objections to be met, doubts and difficulties to be solved, and fears and feebleness that call for help?
1. No man, that is no christian man, doth, or has any right to live to and for himself: on the contrary, he should endeavour to be useful.
2. God will make those useful, who scripturally endeavour so to be.
3. These two, works and words, never should be separated ; works may convince and give rise to resolution; but words, and words only, can declare what must be done in order to salvation.
Works, therefore, without words, will do but little for us ; but words without works will do less.
“Come over into Macedonia and help us.” (Acts. xvi. 9, 10.)
“FREELY ye have received, freely give," is a principle of action clearly inculcated in the New Testament. This is right in temporal things we know; for “whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him ?” And if we are to be ready to distribute, willing to communicate, in temporal things, how much more should we be so in spiritual ones! Whenever any are found in need of aid, especially of spiritual aid, as far as we are able, we are bound to assist them, and as soon.
It was on this principle that St. Paul furnished help so readily to this Macedonian applicant.
In discoursing on these words let us,
I. Consider what we may account to be a call to preach the gospel to the heathen.
II. How we may assuredly gather that it ought to be sent to any particular place in preference to others.
I. We have to consider what we may account to be a call, etc.
1. Christianity, or the love of God and man, inspired by the Holy Ghost, prompts to it; hence, if all were filled with the Spirit, no other prompter would be wanted.
2. Christ's command to his apostles may surely be considered as a call to the work. (Matt. xxviii. 19.) For commands and promises delivered to the representatives of the church, concern the whole church, as far as they are applicable to the states of its several members. Thus the promises and commands to Moses, concerned the Jewish church; and those delivered to the apostles, the christian.
(3.) Promises to encourage us in the work may be considered as a call to send the gospel to the heathen. Our judgment and experience tell us that it would be a good thing for the world, if it were converted; and the scriptures assure us that it shall be so, and stimulate us to attempt it, telling us that we shall assuredly succeed in the attempt.
But (4.) The very extent of the atonement itself, it being provided for all the fallen and perishing of mankind, ought to be considered as a call to christians to send the gospel to every intelligent creature in the world : for God would not have provided this atonement for all, if he had not desired and willed the salvation of all. And that this was provided for all, is expressly stated when it is said, that “ God sent not his son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
Nor are we left to infer that God wills the salvation of all, but are plainly and expressly told so; for in the New Testament we are exhorted to make supplications, prayers, and intercessions, with giving of thanks for all men, seeing this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” If then he will have all to be saved, he must will that ali men should have the gospel of salvation preached to them. But how may we
II. Assuredly gather that it ought to be sent to any particular place in preference to others? How? why
(1.) The place to which Paul's attention was now directed was a Roman colony, and Paul was a Roman citizen, thus showing us, that when a door is open to any fellow subjects in a heathen state, we have an especial call to give them the gospel.
And being fellow subjects, we have peculiar facilities in sending it.
(2.) The man in the vision represented the disposition of the people to be favourably inclined towards the gospel. “Come over and help us.'
When the people of any place are willing and desirous to have christian teachers sent to them, and when as Cornelius and his friends, they are gathered together to hear words of them whereby they may be saved, it surely may be considered a sufficient call to send the gospel to them..
(3.) The apostle and his friends were waiting for a calì, and were ready to go: thus when God provides men, who are willing and wishful to go, and we have places that are wanting such men, we surely ought to consider ourselves as called by that Providence which gave us the men to send them.
(4.) When we have success in any place, it surely demonstrates that we had a call to send the gospel to it, and that we are in the path of duty in continuing the gospel there, so long as the success remains.
We readily admit that men may be proselyted without being genuinely converted; proselytism, therefore, is no certain mark of success; but where a real work of conversion is in progress, which must be admitted to be of God, there we may boldly affirm that we have success, and are in the path of duty in continuing the gospel there.
“ Ye are our epistles, written by the Spirit of God.” These prove our mission as well as his. Abbe du Bois laboured thirty years in India, without making a single convert, according to his own confession; and we want no other proof that he was never sent of God.
(5.) Men's pressing need of help may fairly be interpreted as an infallible indication that the gospel ought to be sent to them. Some, perhaps, will say, that the heathen are as good as we are: but this is not true, their religion increases depravity; ours, as far as ever it acts, corrects it. Look at their degraded superstitions ; there is no longer a halo of glory thrown around their filth, their gore and vice. Seeing therefore that they are weary of the tyrant's yoke, and are anxious to break it from their necks, surely it is our duty to assist them in freeing themselves from it, and to claim them for the Lord. And let it be observed
(6.) That our gospel will help them. It is admirably adapted for the work; and there is nothing else that can help them. Hence then we gather that it is our duty to raise the means of sending this gospel by men of God to the heathen, and of aiding them by our prayers.