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His mercies bestowed upon us, if we are Christians indeed. This is a most powerful motive to excite us to abound in every good word and work, and to avoid whatever is displeasing to Him who has had mercy on us.
A most affecting appeal is here made to prevail upon believers in Christ to adopt that conduct which is suitable to a profession of true religion. Let us then consider attentively what is required by God of His people, who have obtained mercy from Him. Let us cultivate an abiding sense of the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, of our own unworthiness to partake of them, and of His goodness in showing such wonderful compassion and loving kindness to such sinful and undeserving creatures as we are. Let us earnestly implore the grace of the Holy Spirit to enable us to live and walk according to His blessed will; that our hearts and minds being renewed, our hopes may be surely there fixed where true joys are to be found. Let obedience to the revealed will of God mark our conduct; and especially let us manifest that humbleness of mind and love to the brethren, which are here enjoined upon us, to the glory and praise of our heavenly Father.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER.
Romans xii. 12.
REJOICING IN HOPE, PATIENT IN TRIBULATION, CONTINUING INSTANT IN PRAYER.
THE Epistle for this day is a continuation of the chapter from which that for last Sunday was taken. It points out the duties which pertain to those who are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. It directs them how they ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God;49 or as those who are built up a spiritual house,50 for an habitation of God through the Spirit.51
And first, with regard to such as are appointed to exercise the office of the ministry, to communicate to their fellow-sinners the glad tidings of salvation through Christ. Of these persons it is said, Having then gifts differing according to
the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith. It was necessary that these persons should be endowed with spiritual gifts for the discharge of the duties of their sacred office. These gifts differed according to the grace bestowed upon each. Wherever grace is spoken of as the gift of God, it is so described in order that we may be led to seek it diligently, and thus may obtain it from Him. The more importunately and perseveringly we seek it, the more we shall obtain ; for God is a liberal Giver to them that seek His spiritual gifts. They shall not wait upon Him in vain. The apostle here speaks of the grace given to him as a labourer in God's vineyard; in like manner as he says to the Corinthians, According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation.52 It was by the grace of God that he was employed to be a builder in erecting the spiritual temple of God. By the grace of God he was called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. He said, By the grace of God I am what I am; and His grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.53 Without this grace of God, no good can be done by ministers, nor benefit derived
49 1 Tim. iii. 15. 50 1 Pet. ii. 5. 51 Eph. ii. 22. 52 1 Cor. iii. 10.
by hearers. How earnestly then ought we all to pray for Divine grace to prevent and go before us continually, that ministers may exercise their gifts for the glory of God, and the good of the souls of their hearers. The apostle entreated his hearers, Pray for me that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, that therein I may speak boldly as I ought to speak. much more reason have we, who now minister the word of life, to beseech our hearers to implore the blessing of God on our behalf, that we may have grace given to us, whereby we may be enabled rightly to explain and apply His holy word, and that you may so hear that your souls may live.
It was by the gifts bestowed upon the ministers of the word that they were enabled to prophesy, or to preach the gospel. The nature of this office the apostle explains, by saying to the Corinthians, He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.55 The ministers of the gospel are therefore in the New Testament frequently called prophets; not as foretelling future events, but as preaching the word of God. It is said, Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them in the faith of the gospel of Christ. The apostle Paul divides
531 Cor. xv. 19. 54 Eph. vi. 19, 20. 55 1 Cor. xiv. 3. 56 Acts xv.32.
the ministers of Christ into three classes, first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers.57 These persons were to prophesy according to the proportion of faith, or rather, I conceive, according to the analogy of the faith; as St. Peter expresses the same idea, If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.58 Every minister should be careful to speak what is in strict accordance with the faith of the gospel, called by St. Jude, the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,59 or to build up his hearers on their most holy faith; that they may have a right understanding of Divine truth, according to the word of God, so as not to be turned aside, or tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.60 It is lamentable to see the instability which appears in some hearers of the word of God, through a want of establishment in the faith of the gospel; notwithstanding the advantages which they enjoy of sound instruction in the faith. When the right foundation has been laid, it is needful to take heed how we build thereupon, that we may not bring a reproach upon our Christian profession.
The apostle next speaks of those who were appointed to the office of deacon; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering. They were to be mindful of the duties imposed upon them by their office, as it is described in the sixth chap
57 1 Cor. xii. 28. 581 Peter iv. 11. 59 Jude 3. 60 Eph. iv. 14.