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ambassadors, and have renewed their alliance, or rather, made their submission, upon the gracious terms he was pleased to propose. “ You, that were enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death."* And being reconciled, they are employed to manage his interests, to maintain his honour, and to propagate, as far as possible, the sentiments of loyal obedience by which they themselves are actuated. These views enter deeply into the christian character and calling. How can we give a more unequivocal evidence of a loyal and affectionate disposition towards the prince than by abetting his, in opposition to the disaffected party? As the case will not admit of neutrality—as he, in such a situation, who is not for the prince is necessarily looked upon as a rebel, so a cordial attachment to his interests cannot be more decisively expressed than by a determined [adherence] to those who cheerfully submit to his authority, and delight in his government. “ He that knoweth God heareth us." op
3. True christians are distinguished by some peculiar traits of resemblance to God and the Redeemer; and this enters into the grounds of that regard for them which the apostle speaks of in the text. They not only adore the divine nature, but are in some degree partakers of it; not only “ behold in a glass the glory of the Lord, but are changed into the same image from glory to glory.”. Their
* Coloss. i. 21, 22. + 1 John iv. 6. 2 Cor. iii. 18.
character makes a very distant, it is confessed, but yet a real approach, to the absolute rectitude of the divine, which they [constantly) study and imitate,
until they are presented before him unblamable in holiness. In regeneration, some traces of the paternal image are impressed ; and with that strange, that more than natural affection it becomes them to feel towards such a parent, they become “ followers of God, as dear children.”* If they profess to have fellowship with God, they evince that profession to be no empty boast, by walking in the light as he who is in the light. If they profess to know Christ, to have a sacred intimacy with him, they justify the pretension, in some good degree, by walking as he also walked, by doing righteousness as he also did.
To feel an attachment to christians on this account, is an unequivocal proof of a love of rectitude, a love of God, an attachment to those great moral properties in which the true beauty of the divine character consists.
Close with three remarks.
I. The criterion supplied in the text may be inverted. If we do not love Christ, other love will discover itself by the choice of our society.
II. It is not only a safe, but a useful criterion suggested in the text, which may be applied to great advantage. We may see the sun through the water when we cannot look upon it in its place in the heavens.
* Ephes. v. 1.
III. It should be our care to improve in this part of the christian character, to abound therein more and more.
Love is the characteristic of the christian.
ON THE DUTY OF INTERCESSION.
1 Tim. ii. 1.—1 exhort therefore, that supplications, prayers,
intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.
1. The reasons and obligations of prayer arise out of the fundamental principles of religion—the belief that there is a God, and that he is “ the rewarder of such as diligently seek him.” The duty of intercession, or praying for others, springs from the relation we stand in to our fellow-creatures. As the former is an essential part of piety, so the latter is a branch of benevolence, not less essential. To love our neighbour as ourselves is the fulfilment of the second table of the law. Unless we believe in the efficacy of prayer, we have no pretensions to the character of christians; but if we are convinced that the prayer of the righteous avails, we have no right to withhold from those we ourselves are bound to love this advantage, especially as it is a benefit which it is always in our power to confer without loss or detriment to ourselves. In almost every other instance, the favour we confer seems at least to come into competition with the claims of selfinterest; but in this there is no possible interference or intrusion.
Here only are we able fitly to imitate the Supreme Being, who imparts to all, without diminishing his own store. The duty of intercession is also recommended and enforced by this important consideration, that it opens a channel in which the benevolence of every individual may flow. To afford pecuniary relief is the privilege of the rich; to guide the councils of a nation, of the wise; to ensure victory by arms, of the powerful : but the most obscure person may intercede, and by this means promote the welfare of millions, and affect the destiny of nations.
2. That we are sled] to infer this duty from the general principles of reason and religion. It is implied in the social form of the prayer taught by our Lord, where we are commanded to address God as our Father. It is expressly enjoined by apostolic authority, in the passage now under consideration. It is also a duty exemplified by the practice of the most eminent saints. Abraham interceded for Sodom, Job for his friends, Moses for the people of Israel, Samuel for Saul, &c. Intercession formed a principal branch of the priestly function of the law. Our great High-Priest spent some of the most precious moments, near the end of his earthly course, in interceding with his Father, not only on behalf of his disciples, but of all who should “afterwards believe on his name.”
The apostle assures us, it is by virtue of his continued intercession in heaven that he is “ able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him ;" so that in his hands it is the refuge of the guilty, the hope of the perishing, a mysterious chain fastened to the throne of God, the stay and support of a sinking world.
II. The benefits of intercession; which may be considered in two lights: as they respect ourselves, and as they regard others.
1. As they respect ourselves.
(1.) It will have a happy tendency to increase our benevolence. As the love of God and of man make up the whole of religion, so there is nothing more likely to promote the love of our fellow-creatures than the bearing them in our minds before the throne of grace. How can we fail to feel concern for the happiness of those for whom we pray ?
Either our petitions must be full of hypocrisy, or our good wishes to them must be hearty and sincere. To pray for their welfare, and yet be indifferent, would constitute the grossest dissimulation. In venturing to address the Supreme Being in their behalf, we assume the character of advocates. To be indifferent to their welfare, is to belie the character and betray our trust. That criminal selflove, which is the great reproach of our nature, is grown to such a height, principally in consequence of our habitual inattention to the situation of others. We contemplate ourselves, and our own circumstances, till we almost forget there are any other