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SERMON ON COLOSSIANS II. 2.
** That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.”-Col. ii. 2.
It has been observed, that a great described in the words of my text, majority of the trials to which the obviously involves three particulars. Apostle Paul was exposed came 1. Their union, being knit together upon him from his own countrymen, in love. II. Their knowledge, the and were especially excited in con- riches of the full assurance of under. sequence of his proclaiming to the standing. III. Their confession, Gentiles the gospel of Christ. Not the acknowledgment of the mystery merely were the Jews offended at of God, and of the Faiher, and of the doctrine of the cross, they were Christ. still more indignant at the declara- The Apostle desired, I. Their tion, that the wall of partition was union-That they might be knit broken down, and that the Gentiles together in love, Love to God and should be fellow heirs and partakers love to each other are distinguishof the blessings of the gospel of ing features and characteristics Christ. From such trials however of true Christians. It was the the Apostle in no wise shrunk- early exclamation of heathen obnay on the contrary he gloried in servers, see how these Christians them. I now rejoice in my suffer- love; and the existence and prevaings for you. I would that ye knew lence of this divine principle forms what great conflict I have for you, a good test and standard by which and for them at Laodicea, and for the vigour of true religion may be as many as have not seen my face estimated, either in individuals in the flesh- that their hearts might or churches. Where envy and be comforted, being knit together strife is, there is confusion and in love, and unto all riches of the every evil work. If ye hate and full assurance of understanding, to devour one another, see that ye the acknowledgment of the mystery be not consumed one of another. of God, and of the Father, and of The natural disposition of man Christ.' He wished not merely that continually urges him on to strife they should know of bis conflict and contention, but the renewed and his sufferings, but that they spirit leads to peace, and meekness, might enter into that consolation and forbearance, and love. The with which those sufferings were fruit of the Spirit. is love, joy, accompanied. And such is the peace, long-suffering, gentleness, desire of every faithful minister for goodness, faith, meekness, temthe people of his charge, he longs perance. There will be doubtless primarily indeed that they may be occasions where we must contend brought into a state of salvation; earnestly for the faith once de. being delivered from the power of livered to the saints; where we Satan, and translated into the king. must in any wise rebuke our dom of God's dear Son; but he brother, and not suffer sin upon next desires that they may enter him; and where we must follow abundantly into the consolations of the example of the Apostle, who, the gospel, and experience in an when Peter was come to Antioch, eminent degree, peace and joy in withstood him to the face believing
because he was to be blamed-but The consolation which the Apos- the necessity for such firmness in tle desired for the Colossians, as rebuke, arose from a defect of grace
in the offender, and the act of We may imagine that we are forrebuke, however in itself painful, giving their offences, while yet our may be dictated by the purest spirit minds are estranged in some deof Christian affection. If, indeed, gree from them, and the indulgence we possess this holy result of of this secret and distant aversion divine grace, and especially if we may offend that Holy Spirit who is possess it in vigorous exercise, we indeed the source of peace and sball press forward with eager haste consolation, and induce him to to save a soul from death--to re- withdraw his gracious comforts cover one who is erring and stray. from us. ing, and bring him back to the The Apostle, however, not only right way; and shall be willing to desired that the hearts of the Colendure the reproach of harshness lossians might be knit together in and uncharitableness, if only we love, but also in all riches of the full can save those for whom Christ assurance of understanding; that died. The importance of being they might thus experience enthus united in love, is urged larged knowledge as the source of incessantly upon Christians in the extended consolation. word of God. It is the command There are three distinct species of Christ. “A new command I of assurance spoken of in the word give unto you, that ye love one of God, with reference to which another, as I have loved you." It many entertain very confused, not is a precept continually repeated, and to say erroneous, views. The enforced by the Saviour's example, assurance of understanding, the “Let this mind be in you which assurance of faith, and the assuwas also in Christ Jesus. See that rance of hope. These, however ye love one another with a pure distinct in idea, are yet to a consid. heart, fervently.” It forms a erable extent united in experience; frequent subject of the Apostle's the defect, however, of understand. prayers. Even in the very Epistles ing will oft-times weaken faith — in which he records the existence the imperfection of faith will someof this divine principle, he earnestly times almost extinguish hope, and desires its increase. “This, I the combined defect of knowledge, pray, that your love may abound faith, and hope, will reduce the yet more and more in knowledge Christian to the very verge of and in all judgment." It is declared despair, expose him to dark and to be so important, that where love dreadful temptations; cause him to is absent, no true religion can exist. go heavily in anguish of soul, bring If a man love not his brother whom a reproach upon the good ways of he hath seen, How can he love God, and prejudice the world God whom he hath not seen ? against the gospel of Christ. It In order that our hearts may be may be expedient to dwell somecomforted, they must be knit what more at large on this assur. together in love. If we allow, my ance of understanding; and the brethren, harsh, severe, censorious rather since, on the one hand, it has thoughts and feelings to remain in a powerful effect in producing harour minds towards each other; if mony of affection, and on the other, we are not cultivating a spirit of to animate the mind to a good tender affection for our fellow men confession. By the understanding -our fellow Christians—there can here spoken of the Apostle obviously exist no real, no well-founded con- implies a clear perception of the solation. Let us then examine whole work of salvation, with rewell our own hearts; let us trace ference to its source in the sovereign and observe our feelings with grace of God; its plan as procured reference to our fellow Christians. · and effected by the humiliation,
atonement, exaltation, and inter- those who come unto God through cession of the Son of God; its him, and depend by faith on his application to the heart of the be sacrifice, and they in consequence liever, by the power, and grace, apply unto God with fervent prayer, and influence of the Holy Spirit; and experience some pleasing exits present effects and accompa. pectation of grace, mercy, and niments repentance, contrition, peace, as the result of such applifaith, devotion, love, gratitude, cation. But ere long temptations obedience; its future prospects and arise; the secret depravity of the blessedness-growth in grace, sup- heart is excited; the individual port under trials and temptations, discovers himself to be much more the final perseverance of the believer, guilty, much more depraved, much the sanctified effect of all dispensa. more destitute of every thing good tions causing all things to work than he had previously anticipated. together for his good—the public Hence his mind is filled with the recognition of his character when greatest alarm. He begins to he shall appear before the judgment consider bis own case as an excepseat of Christ—the final blessedness tion to the general rule; to con. when the Saviour shall say, “ Well clude that though Jesus Christ done, good and faithful servant, came into the world to save sinners, enter into the joy of your Lord;" yet that he either cannot or will not the consummation of that felicity, save bim; that though peradvenwhen transformed into the Re- ture he might have found mercy, deemer's likeness, we cast our had he come at some preceding crowns before the throne, and ex- period, complied with some former claim, “Thou art worthy, for thou call, improved some incipient conhast redeemed us to God by thy viction, yet that now he has lost blood.' The perception of all such his opportunity, his day of grace is distinguishing blessings as these past, the sentence is gone forthobviously enter into the idea of the Let him alone, Let no fruit go on understanding referred to in my him for ever; that now there retext. The language, however, of maineth nothing but a certain the Apostle goes farther. It is not looking for of judgment and of mere general perception, but full fiery indignation : and under this assured understanding which he impression and conviction he abides earnestly desires for the Colossians. perhaps for many days, and evinces The want of such an assurance of the most surprising ingenuity in understanding most materially im. evading all the attempts which are pedes and interrupts the believer's in any way made for the healing consolation. Many rest in general of his wounded spirit. Where, notions and persuasions, and never however, there is the full assurance attain to exact conclusions; when, of understanding such painful contherefore, seasons of difficulty and fiets are brought to a speedy tertemptation arise, the peculiar pres. mination; the believer perceives sure of the moment prevents their that the atonement of Christ is perception of the truth, and they fully commensurate to all the neare in consequence filled with cessities of guilty man; that the grievous terror and alarm. Thus, blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth for instance, many receive the from all sin ; that had it not been general doctrine of the love of God for the Redeemer's sacrifice, no sin to our fallen race, inducing the could have been pardoned, no sinner formation and carrying into effect could have escaped ; all-all, withof the plan of redemption by Jesus out exception- must have been Christ; and they entertain some condemned; but that now, in general idea of the salvation of virtue of that sacrifice, every sin
may be pardoned, every offender rest on this side the grave, trials may find mercy, the iniquity of no unaccompanied with pain and sufone is so great as tu justify despair, fering, with similar delusions, are but that every one coming to at times complacently dwelt on Christ shall be saved. That the in his mind; but when for peace Physician of souls came not to the he has great bitterness, when the lazar house of this lower world world, the flesh, and the devil merely to restore a few convalescent combine their force, when bodily patients to perfect health, but to affliction, perplexity of circumsave the dying, to seek and recover stances, loss or forsaking of friends, the lost, to purge away the most all combine, when the enemy comes inveterate leprosy and pollution; in like a flood, and the man has the and that he came as a voluntary, sentence of death in himself, then is yea a deterinined sufferer, that he he ready to cry, My God, niy God, might, according to the terms why hast thou forsaken me? then of the everlasting covenant, have hard thoughts of God intrude on the the privilege of bringing many sons mind, and the painful murmurings unto glory, and of taking these and complainings of Job are again very persons of whom he might and again repeated. When, bowhave said, How can I put thee ever, there is the full assurance of amongst the children? adopting understanding, the believer says, them into his own family, and This is the divine dispensation. It glorifying all his divive perfections is through much tribulation we in making them the monuments must enter the kingdom. Shall a of his grace and mercy to all inan receive good at the hand of eternity. Where the understanding the Lord, and shall be not receive is fully assured of these important evil. Wherefore shall a living man truths, the increasing discovery complain—a man for the punishof corruption produces deep humi. ment of his sins ? I will search and liation, excites to renewed faith and try my ways, and return unto the dependence on Jesus Christ, endears Lord. Perceiving how God ordithe Saviour to the soul, stimulates narily deals with his people, for to increasing gratitude and enlarged what purpose he allows them to affection, produces more unreserved be tempted and afflicted, he is devotion ; but has no tendency to not greatly noved as though some induce despair of God's mercy, or strange thing had happened unto to lead the individual to doubt the him, but endeavours to comply security of that foundation on which with the divine command ; who is he rests. It only shows more of among you that feareth the Lord, the adaptation of the gospel to his that obeyeth the voice of his serwants, displays more of the love vant, that walketh in darkness, and and mercy of Jehovah, constrains hath no light, let him trust in the him more to inquire what shall I Lord, and stay himself upon his render. We might adopt similar God. The riches of this fuil assureasoning with reference to various rance of understanding extend, other points of the believer's ex- indeed, very far beyond the effect perience ; in every part of which produced on the individual ; it not the full assurance of understanding only conduces to personal comfort, produces an equally beneficial and it also promotes usefulness in a very consoling result. The ideas of the eminent degree, directs and aniyoung Christian are often exceed. mates the believer in the path of ingly vague, and his expectations duty, enabling him to comfort and anticipations most unreason- others with the comfort with which able ; enjoyment without inter- he bimself also is comforted of God. ruption, victory without conflict, Hence the Apostle praying for the
Philippians, entreats that their love is this difference to be traced ? Is it might abound more and more in to be attributed to the sovereignty knowledge and in all judgment, of the divine will-or is it not rather that they might approve things to be ascribed to the more faithful which were excellent, that they and diligent improvement of the might at once clearly discern that means of grace in the one case, line of conduct in which they ought rather than the other, according to to walk, and might fill up every the rule of the kingdom, to him duty, and perforin every service that hath shall be given? Alas! which might in any way conduce much of the seed sown falls by the to the glory of God, and the wel way side, and is wholly unproducfare of man. How clearly for in- tive ; other seems to fall into stance will a parent who possesses stony or thorny places, and brings the full assurance of understanding forth no fruit to perfection; and train up his children in the faith much of that which is not finally and fear of God, in comparison of lost, appears grievously injured one whose views are indistinct, and or retarded by adverse circumwhose perceptions though right in stances. And shall any say the main, are still imperfect and that they are guiltless in this confused. In what fair and full matter? Do we not often hear proportion will the intelligent mi- as if we heard not? Do not pister, master, teacher, present to many quit the house of prayer, those over whom he is placed the and think it enough if they adopt glorious gospel of a crucified some general expression of approRedeemer; how will every doc bation, while they improve not the trine, every duty, every privilege, passing opportunity ? And even appear in its proper place--and how of those of whom better things may will the mind of those who are be hoped, how few comparatively thus trained be effectually fortified are searching the Scriptures diliagainst the devices of the enemy, gently, to see whether the things so that there shall be found amongst preached do accord with the divine them no room for error in doctrine, word. How few are praying earor corruption in life. Happy are nestly for the assistance of the the people who are in such a case, Holy Spirit; how few are endeayea blessed are they who are thus 'vouring entirely to walk according favoured with the clear and full to the rule of God's word; how discoveries of the word of life. Let few are anxiously striving to know it not however be forgotten, that the exact truth concerning themthese riches of the full assurance of selves, the full extent of the rule understanding are not, so to speak, of duty, the whole analogy and poured out indiscriminately upon proportion of faith. Brethren, all; but are mercifully communi- if you would attain the riches cated to the people of God in the of the full assurance of underuse of the appointed means of standing, it must be by diligence grace. There are diversities of and devotion, by the careful and gifts and of attainments, there is a continued study of God's word, by vast variety in the talents of the the serious comparison of what you faithful minister, and in the powers hear with what is written in this and perceptions of the individual book, by watching unto prayer, believer, but still it will often be striving against sin, being faithful found that there are in the same to the light you possess, and congregation, individuals of very labouring that whether you eat similar powers, whose actual per or drink, or whatsoever you do, ception of divine truths is widely, is you may do all to the glory exceedingly different. Now to what of God; by confessing Christ