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our prayers, to unite our counsels. I will not anticipate what I have to offer to your consideration in the more private conference, on which we are quickly to enter. To form proper measures will be comparatively easy : To carry them strenuously into execution, will be the great exercise of our wisdom and piety : May proportionable grace be given to animate us, and to dispose them that are committed to our care, to fall in with us in all our attempts, for the honour of God, and for their edification and comfort !
We shall esteem it, my friends, a very happy omen, if your hearts be with ours on this occasion ; and if you help forward so good, and so necessary a design, by your prayers to God for us. If you are sincere and affectionate in them, we may humbly hope, that he, of whom we ask wisdom, will graciously impart it to us; and may assure ourselves, that you will not only bear with us in the plainest addresses to you, which fidelity may oblige us to make ; but will add all the weight of your countenance and interest, to support us in our applications to others, whether public or private. And I have a cheerful confidence, that all will not be in vain; but that he, who thus powerfully awakens our minds, will so succeed our labours, that many, whom we find under a sentence of condemnation, and ready to perish by it, will receive the forgiveness of their sins; will be recovered to a spiritual and divine life; and, as the happy consequence of all, will at length be fixed with us, and with you, in the regions of everlasting security and glory. Amen.
CHRISTIAN CANDOUR AND UNANIMITY
STATED, ILLUSTRATED AND URGED: A Sermon preached at a Meeing of Ministers at Creaton in Northamptonshire,
January 12, 1749-50.
TO THE RIGHT HON. THE COUNTESS OF HUNTINGDON;.
THAT EMINENT EXAMPLE OF THE
INCAPABLE OF WRITING ANY DEDICATION,
AMIDST ITS UTMOST INDULGENCE
HAS PRESCRIBED HIM;
SEEM AN ENCOMIUM ON HER;
TO INSCRIBE THIS DISCOURSE:
IN THIS CONNECTION,
AND BY EVERY READER,
HE CAN GIVE OF THE DEFERENCE,
WITH WHICH HE IS, HER LADYSHIP'S
Phil. ij. 1, 2.-If there be therefore any Consolation in Christ, if any Comfort of
Love, if any Fellowship of the Spirit, if any Bowels and Mercies; fulfil ye my Joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same Love, being of one Accord, of one Mind.
1F it indeed be, as it certainly is, a test of true eloquence that it is suited to strike powerfully upon the minds of all, however different in genius, education or rank, I cannot but conclude that every one here present, must already acknowledge these words to be a remarkable specimen of it, even before we proceed particularly to illustrate them; and, having felt something of their pleasing energy while we have been reading them, is ready to confess that the sentiment they contain is finely conceived, and pathetically expressed. But ill shall we answer the great design of the apostle, if we rest in the mere acknowledgment of this. His views were much more worthy of him whose minister he was: He laboured to diffuse, through the breasts of his fellow-christians, that spirit of love, which was in his own, as a constant spring of living water. And what more convincing proof can be given of the deplorable disorder of men's minds, than that such addresses, proceeding from such a man; yea, I will add, the yet more forcible address of his divine Master, and ours, should have produced so little effect? That such discord and animosity should so early, so long, I had almost said so universally prevail in the christian church, amidst all the incentives, amidst all the intreaties, amidst all the tender adjurations, as well as the godlike examples which the sacred oracles exhibit to charm us into the most endeared affection. But alas these 'incentives, and intreaties, these adjurations, and examples, are overlooked, as not having lustre enough to detain our attention : For we too generally seem to study our bibles, if we study them at all, for amusement or ostentation, rather than practical instruction. We fix on some curious incident or high speculation, and are first ingenious to explain it where it cannot be explained, and then impassioned to defend it, as if it were fundamental truth, till we beat out the sacred gold so thin, that every breath of air carries it away: Whilst the plain things which tend to inspire an hea. venly temper, and lead us on to the most exalted goodness, are slightly passed over ; as too obvious, and too vulgar, to engage our attention or excite our emulation. Thus we feed our pride by what was intended to humble it, and make that the prize of mutual contention, which was designed to be the band of love.
What wise man has not observed this? What good man has not lamented it? Yet alas who so wise as in all instances to have avoided it? Who so good as to have exerted himself to the utmost to cure it? A cordial however feeble attempt of this kind will now be made, and so powerful are the arguments, so alluring the motives suggested in the text, that if the Spirit of wisdom and of love so often, and I trust so sincerely invoked, may guide our meditations upon them, we may cheerfully hope for some yaluable effects.
And happy will it indeed be, if he may teach us to enter into these words, with a temper like that which the holy apostle St. Paul felt, when in his bonds for the sake of the gospel, and particularly for his zeal in asserting the calling and the liberty of the Gentiles to whom he wrote; he addressed them with this tender and pathetic intreaty. If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy; that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. It may be here proper to enquire,
1. To what the apostle is endeavouring to persuade the Philippians.
II. To consider in how tender a manner he addresses them, and what a variety of affecting arguments he pleads with them, and then
III. To conclude with some advices for maintaining and cultivating the temper he so pathetically recommends.
I attempt it, my reverend and dear brethren, with the greater cheerfulness, as from long experience I am persuaded, that all your hearts are one with mine, in every effort to spread christian love, and as that uninterrupted peace, and unalienated affection, which has so long reigned among ourselves will not only dispose you to receive what I shall say with unprejudiced minds; but will render it as agreeable to you, as it is in general needful to the christian world. Long have we beheld, and blessed be God, long have we felt, How good and how pleasant a thing il is for brethren to dwell together in unity *; long has the
* Psal. cxxxiii, 1.
odour of this precious ointment filled our little tabernacles with its perfume. May the dew descend on all the mountains of Sion, and the Lord more abundantly command the blessing, even life for evermore! That life of which fervent christian love is the earnest, the foretaste, the beginning!
1. We are to enquire to what it is, that the apostle endeavours so affectionately to persuade the Philippians. And here I might observe, it is in the general to fulfil his joy, and more particularly to do it by cultivating unanimity and love,
1. He urges them in the general to fulfil his joy, that is, to conduct themselves in such a manner as might cause him greatly to rejoice. This was in the general to be done by remembering their christian character, and walking worthy of it, or as he expresses it in a few verses below, by Working out their salvation with fear and trembling *, and by keeping themselves Blameless and harmless, and acting as the children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, that so they might shine as lights in the world, and hold forth with advantage the word of lifet. Paul, like the beloved disciple St. John, Had no greater pleasure than to see his children walking in the truthi, and therefore elsewhere says, We live, if ye stand fast in the Lord §.
Now before we proceed to what is more peculiar to our subject, let us pause for a few moments on this edifying, this animating consideration. Let us as it were in our devout meditations, pay a visit to this illustrious confessor in his chains at Rome, for he was now a prisoner there, that we may learn how his mind was employed in the midst of his confinement, his straits, and his sorrows—To enquire what would have afforded him the most sensible joy, so far as others could be instruments of affording it? Not that his eloquence should be admired, or his necessi. ties relieved, or his liberty restored, or his patience and magnani. mity applauded, but that his christian converts might behave in character; that the honour of their profession, and their own happiness might be most effectually secured. Only let your conversation be as becomes the gospelll, and then if bonds and imprisonments await me, Yea, if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all l; and I call upon you also to congratulate me: For none of these things move me, neither count I, in a cause like this, even my life dear unto me **. But it is evident that whatever may be compre
& 1 Thess. iö. 3,
* Phil. ii, 12. 1 Phil. i. 27.
+ Phil. ii. 15.
Phil. ii. 17.
13 John ver, 4.