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There is a passage of a gentile philosopher, who lived in the Roman empire, soon after the rise of the Christian religion, whose study, as is supposed, was not so much the contemplation of the works of nature, as the rules of virtue, and who aimed to cultivate the manners of men. • You · perceive, says he, that the emperor gives you great peace, inasmuch as there are no • longer wars, and fightings, robberies and piracies, and you may travel safely from the east to • the west. But can he give you peace from fevers, from shipwreck, from fire, from earthquakes, * from thunder ? Can he give you peace from ambition ? No, he cannot. From grief? No, s he cannot. From envy? No, not from any such things. But the doctrine of the philosophers * promise you peace from these also. And what says it ? O ye men, if ye will hearken to me, then wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, you shall not be sad, you shall not be angry, you shall be free from tumultuous passions. He who has this peace, not proclaimed by Cæsar, (for how should he proclaim such peace ?) but proclaimed by God, according to ' reason: he, I say, who has this peace, is he not happy? Has he not wherewith he may be • satisfied ?'
So that Greek philosopher. And indeed this is great peace: to suffer afflictions, and not to be depressed by them: to meet with provocations and injuries, and not to be angry: to behold others preferred and advanced before us, and above us, and to be free from envy: to observe the practices of the crafty and designing, and not to admit within our breasts vexatious and tormenting jealousy: to live in a world, where some things are desirable, others grievous : and to be free from uneasy and tumultuous affections: not too much desiring the one, nor too much fearing and dreading the other.
This is great peace. Nor is there any so likely to give it as Christ.
4. Which brings us to the fourth particular : Christ's peace, or wish of peace and happiness, excels the peace of the world, as being more effectual.
He was to be soon parted from his disciples by death. But he would see them again. And if he lived, they should live also. John xiv. 19.
His doctrine, his life, his death, his resurrection and exaltation, tended mightily to confirm the faith and hope of eternal life; which would engage their affections for things heavenly, and take them off from things sensible and temporal: and thereby lay a foundation for peace and comfort, amidst all the vicissitudes of the present condition. And all they who believe in Jesus, and attend to his doctrine and example, have like advantages with those who conversed personally with him.
III. Application. I now conclude with a few reflections by way of application.
1. We may here observe, that our blessed Lord is great and admirable every where, and upon all occasions. We discern his most excellent temper and conduct in private and in public, with his disciples, and when retired from the world, as well as at other seasons.
2. Our Lord's conduct here, as well as upon other occasions, deserves our aţtention, and imitation.
Being about to be removed from his disciples by death, he takes leave of them in an affectionate manner. He gives them a valedictory blessing : or leaves with them a legacy and present of peace. Conceive it either way, it makes no great difference. Nor let us be concerned about imitating him in form only. Let our peace, as his did, exceed that of the world. Let our peace, our wishes of happiness to others, be more sincere, more fervent, more valuable, and more effectual, than that of most men. Especially let us attend to the third property, more valuable and important. Let us be above all things desirous, that they, whom we love in the flesh, may seek heavenly things in the first place. And if we set them an example of moderation for earthly things, as our Lord did, and at the same time are concerned for their temporal welfare, as for our own, and practise frugality, diligence and application: this will be the way to render our wishes for those who are dear to us, advantageous and effectual. Hereby we shall leave, and give to them that peace, which we wish and desire may be their portion : provided they do their part, and are not wanting to themselves.
3. Lastly, Let us each one reflect upon ourselves. Have we that peace, which Christ gave to his disciples? If not, let us inquire what is the reason of it: for, as our Lord said to his disciples, when they wished peace or prosperity to any house into which they entered, “ if the son of peace be there, their peace should rest upon it,” Luke x. 5, 6. In like manner, if we are true disciples of Jesus, if we love him, and keep his commandments
* Arrian. Epict. l. 3. cap. 13.
, “ his peace will rest upon us.” But if we are not humble: if we are not meek and self-denying, as he has required us to be: if we are proud and aspiring: if our prevailing aims and desires are selfish and worldly, without any fruits of generous love: we are not sons of peace, or Christ's disciples; nor does his peace belong unto us.
However, having once found where our fault or defect lies, let us be willing and careful to amend it. So wrath shall not abide upon us, but we may become sons of peace. We shah then enjoy comfort and peace of mind now, and hereafter enter into that undisturbed and everlasting rest and peace, which remain for all the people of God, of all places, and of ał times. Amen.
THE APOSTOLICAL BENEDICTION.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost,
be with you all. Amen.—2 Cor. xiii. 14.
I am not insensible of the difficulty of the subject, and that, possibly, what shall be proposed may not be satisfactory to all. I have been desirous, nevertheless, to explain this apostolical benediction ; which is very often, though not always and constantly, made use of in our assemblies, at the conclusion of our solemn and public worship.
As every word in it may require distinct observation, so there may be reckoned to be some special difficulty in settling the precise meaning of the last phrase,
" the communion of the Holy Ghost:” which is not found at the conclusion of any other of the epistles in the New Testament. And it is questioned by some, whether it does not intend those miraculous gifts which were then common, but were peculiar to the early ages of Christianity, and have for a long time ceased in the church. If that be the direct, and the sole and only meaning of the expression; then it will be argued, that this benediction, in all its fulness, cannot be fitly used in our assemblies in these times. For it is not reasonable to ask for ourselves, nor to wish-and pray for others, such things, as we have no ground to hope for, and which the circumstances of things in the world declare and manifest, that it is not the good will and pleasure of God to bestow. As this is a main difficulty in the words, we should have a particular eye to it.
In order the better to conceive distinctly of this matter, I shall mention these several following propositions.
I. It will be of use to compare this with the farewell, or valedictory wishes and benedictions at the end of the other epistles of the apostles.
I begin with those in the two epistles to the Thessalonians, which seem to be the first written epistles of St. Paul, and the most early scriptures of the New Testament. 1 Thess. v. 28. “ The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.” 2 Thess. iii
. 17, 18. “ The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is the token in all my epistles. So I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
And exactly the same in Rom. xvi. 24. “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” And before in ch. xv. 13, he had said: “ Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing." And ver. 33. “ Now the God of peace be with you all.
all. Amen." And ch. xvi. 20. “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
1 Cor. xvi. 23, 24. “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you
all in Christ Jesus. Amen."
your spirit.” Eph. vi. 23, 24. “ Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.”
Philip. iv. 23. “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
Col. iv. 18. “ The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.”
1 Tim. vi. 21. “ Grace be with thee. Amen." 2 Tim. iv. 22. “ The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen."
Tit. iii. 15. “ All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen."
Philem. ver. 25. “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."
In the epistle of St. James there is nothing very solemn, either at the beginning, or at the end. What he says at the beginning is this : « To the twelve tribes, which are scattered abroad, greeting.”
1 Pet. v. 13, 14. “ The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you, and so doth Marcus my son. Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen."
There is no salutation at the end of the second epistle of St. Peter.
St. John's third epistle concludes thus : “ Peace be to thee. The brethren salute thee. Greet the friends by name.'
Rev. xxii. 21. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
These are the conclusions, or the valedictory blessings, of the several epistles of the New Testament. Whereby we perceive, that none is more frequent, than that of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Sometimes it is shorter: “ Grace be with you all.” Or “ the God of peace be with you:” or peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus.
II. It may be of use to compare the valedictions at the end with the salutations which are at the beginning of the apostolical epistles.
For å valediction, or farewell, is nothing else but a salutation at parting. The chief difference seems to be in the form, without much difference in the meaning. At meeting it usually peace be to you.” At parting:
At parting: “peace be with you,” or abide with you. Another small difference may be observed. The wish at the end is more summary. Or, perhaps, there is none at all: the salutation at the beginning of a writing, or at first meeting, being reckoned sufficient. Besides that, possibly, in the midst of your discourse, or in the body of your epistle, or other writing, you have inserted divers good wishes.
I shall now recite some of the salutations at the beginning of the epistles, and in the present order of the books of the New Testament. You will in your own minds compare them with the valedictions, or farewell wishes at the end, which have been already recited.
Rom. i. 7. “ To all that be at Rome-Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Cor. i. 3. “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Cor. i. 2. “Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Gal. i. 3. “ Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.'
So also Eph. i. 2; and Philip. i. 2; and Col. i. 2; and i Thess. i. 1; and 2 Thess. i. 2.
1 Tim. i. 2..“ Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord.” So also 2 Tim. i. 2.
Tit. i. 4. “ Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour."
Philem. ver. 3. “ Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”'
1 Pet. i. 2. “ To the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia,—grace unto you, and peace be multiplied.”
2 Pet. i. 2. *« Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In St. John's first epistle there is no solemn wish or prayer, either at the beginning, or the
is : «
end. However at ver. 3, and 1, of chap. i. he says: “ That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us-And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
2 John ver. 3. “Grace be with you, mercy and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love."
3 John 2. " Beloved, I wish above all things, that thou mayest prosper, and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”
Jude ver. 2. « Mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied.”
Rev. i. 4. “ John to the seven churches in Asia, grace be unto you, and peace, from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits which are before the throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness.”
These are the solemn wishes or salutations at the beginning of the apostolical epistles, as under the preceding head we saw their solemn wishes and benedictions at the end.
Before I leave this second proposition I would observe, that there is nothing solemn, but only, as it seems, common in the wishes or salutations in the epistle, written by the apostles and elders at the council of Jerusalem. Acts xv. 23. “ The apostles, and elders, and brethren, send greeting unto the brethren, which are of the gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia.” And the conclusion at ver. 29, is only this : “ If ye keep yourselves from these things, ye shall do well. Farewell."
III. The wishes, prayers, or benedictions of the apostles, at the end of their epistles, are designed for Christians only.
Whether that be expressed or not, it is to be supposed, and understood. If St. Paul some. times says no more than “ grace be with you all, it may be reckoned equivalent to what is a more common form, the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Which can pertain to such only, as make a profession of faith in Christ, and are desirous of his favour. And sometimes this is expressed, as in St. Peter's first epistle. “ Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus." And St. Paul at the end of his epistle to the Ephesians. “ Grace be with all them that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity," that is, " in simplicity;” meaning, probably, such as embraced and adhered to the true doctrine of Christ, without the additional observances of the law of Moses, as necessary to salvation.
But if there be no limitation in the words of the benediction at the end of the epistles, (which, as before hinted, may be sometimes concise and summary) the introductions to the epistles teach us, to whom all the rest is directed, and to whom the blessings, or good wishes, at the end, do belong. For the epistles are all, or however all with very few exceptions, expressly addressed to believers. So: “ To all that be at Rome, called to be saints. Unto the church of God, which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours-Unto the church of God, which is at Corinth, with all the saints that are in Achaia." And in a like manner in other epistles. Beside that the whole train of the arguments and exhortations shew them to be written to Christians.
IV. The benedictions, or farewell wishes at the end of the epistles, which we are considering, are of a solemn kind, different from common salutations.
That they are not common greetings, is apparent at first sight. This may be argued also from the conclusions of several of the epistles, where there is a common friendly salutation, beside the solemn benediction. The first epistle to the Corinthians concludes in this manner: “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” The conclusion of the epistle to the Philippians is thus : “ Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren
which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they of Cæsar's heusehold. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” The last words of the epistle to Titus are: “ All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Giace be with you all. Amen.” Heb. xiii. 24, 25. “ Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. Grace be with you all. Amen.” We might a so argue from St. Paul's many salutations of particular persons in the sixteenth chapter of the epistle to the Romans. After which he shuts up all, saying: “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with
• If any find this Sermon too long to be read at once, here may be a good pause.
V. The meaning of the valedictory prayer or benediction at the end of this second epistle to the Corinthians seems to be to this purpose: • May the favour of our Lord Jesus Christ, and • the love and good will of God be with you, and abide with you. And may you partake of all * the blessings of the gospel, with all good things needful for you.'
Let us observe each expression.
“ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is so well known, that the word, which we render grace, signifies favour, that there can be no need to prove it. Hereby then is to be understood all that is included in having the favour of Jesus Christ.
“ And the love of God.” • And may you enjoy, and continue to have, the love, appro• bation, and good-will of God: whose good-will is the spring of all happiness, natural and spiritual, temporal and eternal.'
“ And the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all.”
« Communion,” or fellowship. The word is used several times in the New Testament, and seems to signify one or other of these two things. First, it sometimes denotes “communication,” or distribution. At other times it signifies partaking or “participation” of somewhat together with others. First, I
say, it sometimes denotes communication or distribution of somewhat to others. Rom. xv. 26. “ It has pleased them of Macedonia, and Achaia, to make a certain contribution," communion, communication, “ for the poor saints at Jerusalem.” It is the same word in the original, which is here rendered “ communion.” 2 Cor. ix. 13. “ Whilst by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God -for your liberal distribution to them," communion or communication, “and to all 'men.” Heb. xiii. 16. “ But to do good, and to communicate forget not.” The Greek is literally thus : “ But forget not well.doing, and communion,” or communication. For here too is the same word which we have in the text. And the words are well rendered : “ But to do good, and to communicate, forget not." These instances, not to mention others, shew that the word does sometimes signify communication, or distribution of some good to others.
It seems also to denote sometimes participation with others in some good. 1 Cor. 1. 9. “God is faithful, by whom ye were called to the fellowship” or communion “ of his
Son Jesus Christ :" that is, to a participation of the blessings vouchsafed in and through Jesus Christ. And 2 Cor. viii. 14. “ What fellowship has light with darkness ?" Gal. ii. 9. “ They gave unto us the right hands of fellowship :' or adınitted us to partake with them in the same office and work in which they were engaged.
Thus it also signifies a participation of good things with others. And both these senses may be included in the word, as used by St. John, and perhaps in some other places. 1 John 1. 2. " That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye may have fellowship with us :" that is, that ye may have like privileges with us. “ And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." And indeed we are servants of God, and followers of
Jesus Christ, and have received most delightful and most valuable communications from • above.'
By the “ Holy Ghost,” undoubtedly, is often meant in the New Testament, and throughout the scriptures, miraculous powers and gifts, or immediate inspiration, and divine revelation, in an especial manner. Acts vii. 5. St. Stephen, before the Jewish Council, says:
“ Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.” Or, ye have been always wont to oppose and disobey the divine revelations, and the messengers sent to you with them. As ye have now resisted Christ, so did your fathers the prophets in former times.
It is said in St. John's gospel, ch. vii. 39, that the “ Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified :” meaning, that the miraculous powers and gifts designed to be be. stowed upon the apostles, and others, who believed in Jesus, were not yet vouchsafed to them : the plentiful effusion of such gifts having been deferred till after Christ's ascension, as an evident proof of it all. Acts ii. 4. “ And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And it is well known, that miraculous gifts, in some degree and proportion, were bestowed upon most believers at that time. Acts v. 32. Peter, and the other apostles before the Jewish council : “ And we are witnesses of these things. And so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”
This is what the apostle may be thought to mean here: to wish that these Christians might