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SERMON LII.

Acts xx. 32.-And now, brethren, I commend you

to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

There are few connections of a more endearing nature, than that which subsists between a Minister of Jesus Christ, and those “among whom he has gone preaching the kingdom of God." St. Paul was the man to feel this in the very highest degree. His natural temper was ardent and affectionate : and this, when brought under the influence of Christian principle, and expanded by his assurance of the love of Christ to his soul, became a very prominent feature in his religious character. All his epistles exhibit proofs of it; and the parting scene between him and his Christian brethren, as described in this chapter, shews that they were not behind hand with him, in the warmth of their attachment.

The relation in which the Writer and the readers of this volume stand towards each other, is the same in kind, though differing in some of its circumstances. I have not been able to divest myself of the idea-(why indeed should I have wished it?) that I was preaching to my flock : and now that I see the last page at hand, I cannot but feel that a separation is taking place between us.

How can we better shake hands, than with

St. Paul's farewell ? Make it, my brethren, the summary

of

your prayers for me—as it shall be also of mine on your behalf; and may

o the God of all grace” hear and confirm our mutual benediction !

Let us take the several parts of the text, in the order in which they stand.

Now, BRETHREN, I COMMEND YOU TO GOD!

Are we, then, brethren?' Yes—for we have all one Father, God; “who hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” 1

And therefore, though Paul was a Jew of Cilicia, and his hearers had been heathens of Ephesusalthough the Preacher may be the native of one country, and his congregation may be gathered out of all the families of the earth-still, all are members of one comprehensive family; bound, by the tie of a common origin, to a mutual regard.

But there is a brotherhood of a far dearer kind; namely, the affinity which subsists among God's spiritual children. Are we brethren in this sense likewise? It is the only really valuable, the only lasting connection. It is attained, by following one and the same Spirit-by trusting in one and the same Saviour_by honouring one and the same God: ARE WE brethren ?

In both characters, “I commend you to God.” If you be dead in sins, I intreat him to quicken your souls: if careless-to make you at length serions : if stouthearted-to pull down your self-will, lest iniquity be your ruin: if “trembling at his word” 2-to cause all his goodness to pass

:" quainted with Christ-to increase that blessed knowledge: if partakers of peace and joy in the gospel-to 1 Acts xvii. 26,

before

you:

2 Isa. Ixvi. 2. 3 Exod. xxxiii. 19.

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your love” also “abound yet more and more.” 1 In short, knowing my own insufficiency, either to judge what you most need, or to supply you with it, I would deposit you in the hands of that gracious Lord, “who is able to do for you exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think."!

you; human

I commend you, further, to THE WORD OF HIS GRACE as the only storehouse of information respecting his will, his promises, and his love. Few, even among real Christians, sufficiently value the word of God. Though they read it, their acquaintance with its contents is often very scanty and superficial. Now I acknowledge, that, when carelessly consulted, it is in many respects a dark and mysterious book. Nevertheless, knowing that it comes from God, you must be sure that it is a book of infinite concern. Your happiness or woe-your heaven or hell—are wrapt up in it. Preachers may mislead advisers may themselves need more instruction than you ask of them. But this blessed book is never wrong ; it cannot lead the meek inquirer into the slightest error; and in it are contained treasures of wisdom and knowledge, which they who seek shall assuredly find.

To the guidance of this Divine word I commend you, more especially, because it is “ the word of His grace.You look on it, perhaps, as a book of laws, commands, restraints, threatenings. It is so, unquestionably; but it is much more a book of

grace.

Its main design, its leading topic, is “grace and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” 3

Had it not heen for this grace, no part of it would ever have been written. There is no bible in 1 Phil. i. 9. 2 Eph, ii. 20.

I Cor. i. 3.

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hell, to demand obedience, or to threaten still deeper miseries : none for the angels, to guide their conductthe law of love, written on their hearts, renders it needless. For us alone is the word given ; that we might know, (what otherwise would have been hidden from us,) “ that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”] Now then I commend you to the knowledge of that grace; that you may discover its value--may seek the possession of it-and, believing in Christ the Giver of it, “may have life through his name.” 2

An excellent reason may be given, for our thus putting you under the protection of “ the word of His grace.' IT IS ABLE TO BUILD YOU UP.— Believers are often compared to a living temple, or house, formed to be " a habitation of God through the Spirit.”3 It is true, indeed, that the Lord is pleased to dwell in the heart of the contrite--content, as it were, to occupy that lowly cottage, till it can be purified, enlarged, and adorned. But God will not continue to reside, where he may not change and improve the habitation. To the Holy Ghost, therefore, is committed the task of building up the spiritual houseof enlightening, instructing, and sanctifying them that are “ born of God.” And the instrument which he employs for this end is “ the word of God's grace,” “the gospel of your salvation;" + either as held forth by preaching, or studied in your own secret chamber. Hence, when Jesus prayed for the sanctification of his disciples, he said—“Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth :"5 and St. Paul, having occasion to declare that Scripture was “the word, not of man but 1 2 Cor. v. 19. 2 John ss. 31. 3 Eph. ii. 22. 4 Eph. i. 13.

5 John xvii. 17.

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of God,” added this character of it- that “it effectually worketh in them that believe.” 1

Are you, then, real believers in God's word? If so, I commend you to a more intimate acquaintance with it. It will be to you, under the Spirit's teaching, a means of building you up on your most holy faith”?-of making you more heavenly-minded, more pure, more wise in the things of God, more zealous for the glory of Christ.

But, when we talk of building, the first thing to be secured is a good foundation. On what ground, then, are you resting ? On the vain belief of your own merit and goodness, strength and skill? Oh, look to yourselves—for thousands fail here. “ Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."' 3 The attempt, if made, will prove ruinous. Begin, therefore, by a godly and penitent faith in Jesus; that your building may stand on a rock, bidding defiance to every tempest and to every assault.

Now if the word do all this for you, it is able to do still more-able TO GIVE YOU AN INHERITANCE AMONG THEM WHICH ARE SANCTIFIED.

If it give you sanctification, which makes you meet for heaven, it thereby gives you a pledge of being admitted among the holy company who dwell there. It is the titledeed of that rich inheritance—the passport which you will deliver in at heaven's gate, saying—“ Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope !” 4 And God will look, and see upon it his own hand and seal; he will acknowledge its promises, all written with the finger of God; and sooner shall heaven and earth be dissolved, than one jot or tittle of those promises pass away.

I Thess. ii. 13. 2 Jude 20. 1 Cor. iii. 11. 4 Ps. cxix. 49.

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