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seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles."*
I am, however, disposed to consider the counsel contained in the passage, as referring exclusively to private admonition. There are many considerations in support of this opinion. The commission of the Saviour is to preach the gospel to every creature; to invite all men to come to Him 66 that they may have life;" and to make no distinction in pressing home the truth on the conscience of men. And happy it is for us that none are excluded from the general invitation of free grace; no, neither the rich nor the poor, the learned nor the illiterate; every one may
come to the waters and live." Besides, the persons referred to under the images of the text, are not commonly found under the evangelical preaching of the word; and, if they were, they could not be excepted in the general dispensation of the truth. It is, therefore, in private that an opportunity of reproving such obstinate individuals may occur, and then, according to the exhortation of our Lord, we are not to loose our time, subject ourselves to insult, and expose divine things to their reproach and profanation, by attempting to do them good. O for "that wisdom which cometh from above," that we may know in this, and in all other respects, when "to speak, and when to keep silence." But how dreadful—how inconceivably dreadful, must be the situation of men thus abandoned! Ministers, friends, conscience, providence, the Spirit of God-all commanded to forsake them as obdurate and irreclaimable! Men that you cannot reprove, however gross their impiety, without the hazard of persecution and violence! What reason for thankfulness that we are not of their number!
I must, however, conclude.
The passage which we
Acts xiii. 46.
have been considering is fruitful in practical instruction. It embraces two topics, namely, the reformation of ourselves before we sit in judgment upon others, and the necessity of discretion as to the time, and method, and object of reproof. Both these duties are of great importance, and should be carefully studied and adopted by those who profess any regard to serious godliness. All religion should begin at home; and instead of being uncharitable and severe upon others, we should carefully inspect our own hearts, and labour, by divine grace, to amend whatever we find amiss there. Without this, what will all our pretended zeal—the profession of the name of Christ—and the profusion of gospel privileges which we enjoy, avail us at the last day? Dreadful will be the disappointment of multitudes at the bar of decision! Never forget, my brethren, that our corrupt hearts must be renewed by the Holy Spirit, before we can be holy in our lives, and our own darkness must be removed by the entrance of light into our minds, ere we can be in any measure qualified to instruct and reprove. And if, at any time, we find it our duty to minister reproof, let it be done with the utmost discretion; for, if given in a wrong spirit, like medicine taken improperly, it will probably do more harm than good. Thus saith a wise observer of human character: "He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee."* Reproof is always bitter to the heart; and pride, anger, with many other passions of a degenerate nature, will instantly rise at its touch. Tenderness, benignity, and the most sincere regard to the welfare of the individual whom we are compelled to admonish, should distinguish our deportment. O let us study
* Prov. ix. 7, 8.
the example of our divine and compassionate Redeemer, who instead of upbraiding the drowsiness of his brethren, while He reproved it, yet seized on whatever could extenuate it, saying, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." With such an example let us "go and do likewise." Amen.
MATTHEW vii. 7-11.
"ASK, AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN YOU; SEEK, AND YE SHALL FIND; KNOCK, AND IT SHALL BE OPENED UNTO YOU: FOR EVERY ONE THAT ASKETH RECEIVETH; AND HE THAT SEEKETH FINDETH; AND TO HIM THAT KNOCKETH IT SHALL BE OPENED. OR WHAT MAN IS THERE OF YOU WHOM IF HIS SON ASK BREAD, WILL HE GIVE HIM A STONE? OR IF HE ASK A FISH, WILL HE GIVE HIM A SERPENT? IF YE THEN BEING EVIL, KNOW HOW TO GIVE GOOD GIFTS UNTO YOUR CHILDREN; HOW MUCH MORE SHALL YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN GIVE GOOD THINGS TO THEM THAT ASK HIM?"
THIS exhortation to prayer, seems evidently intended to meet the conscious inability of man to discharge aright the important duties previously inculcated. The Saviour having exhibited a sublime code of Christian morals, refers his disciples to the all-sufficient source of strength, from which alone they are to be replenished with power for its observance. In this view the passage is deserving the particular attention of every individual of the human family. Man is too weak to undertake, and too ignorant
to perform, the exalted virtues of our divine religion, without the supply of the Holy Spirit, which is promised to them that seek it.
The discussion of such a subject will, I hope, obtain your undivided regard. Nothing can be more necessary; and, to dependant and needy beings like ourselves, nothing ought to be more attractive, than prayer. It is so valuable in itself, so scriptural in its character, and so important in its results, when properly offered, that whoever enforces its performance upon your consideration, proves himself a true friend to your welfare. Without further observation, therefore,
I SHALL AT ONCE PROCEED TO CONSIDER THE PRECEPT, AND ILLUSTRATE THE ENCOURAGEMENT
WE HAVE TO OBEY IT.
And while we meditate on these things, may the spirit of understanding and of a sound mind rest upon us.
I. OBSERVE THE PRECEPT,
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
From these words let us consider the nature of the duty, our obligation to perform it, and the motives by which it is enforced.
First. Its nature. The text presents us with a threefold view, or rather with the three branches which the exercise includes. The first is the most simple; it is asking of God for his blessing.—It supposes want, dependance, desire; it is not informing Him of what He knows already, but an application for relief, founded on our necessity and helplessness; it is an humble expression of our hope in his kindness and love, to bestow upon us what