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it prospereth;” yea, “A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men:” and, therefore, we need no letters of commendation from you, nor letters of commendation to you.
“Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men.” We are the pens that the Spirit of God uses to write his laws of faith, truth, love, and liberty on your minds; and we have heard a reason of your hope, and of your experience that worketh hope; and it agrees with ours, and with the written word; and therefore we know, dearly beloved, your election of God; “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Ghost; and in much assurance :” and God has made you manifest in our hearts; you have a share in our affections ; and thus, as our epistle, you are written in our hearts : and, as your conversion to God is manifested in our hearts, so all men may read
in your external reformation; your turning from idols to the living God; your separation from the world; your light and knowledge, shining in the midst of a crooked generation; your honest life and humble walk; your singularity and chaste conversation; the persecution you endure for Christ and conscience sake; which are manifest to all, and may be read by all men.
So that the very heathen may say, God hath done great things for you.
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ, ministered by us.” What
the Saviour himself taught in his ministry, he hath by his Spirit written upon your hearts; and, as the scriptures are a sealed book, so hath he sealed you, , upon your believing, with the holy spirit of
promise; and you shall, by and by, as the Lord's secret treasure, be carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom, as so many love letters and living epistles; and there be opened, and openly read and acknowledged, before all the celestial inhabitants.
“ Ministered by us.” Ye are the workmanship of us labourers; the seals of our mission and commission; the trophies of our victory, as good soldiers of Christ; and the crop and fruit of us plowmen and vine-dressers; yea, the sheaves of the harvest in which we labour; which those that go forth weeping and bearing precious seed shall, at their return to God, bring with them, as their joy and crown of rejoicing in that day. We shall present you to Christ at the beginning of the thousand years' reign upon the new earth, and Christ will present you to his Father in ultimate glory at the close of that period, when he delivers up, in full tale, all the subjects of his kingdom to the Father.
“ Written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.” The word of truth in the scriptures is written with ink, but the impressions on your hearts is with humbling grace; the bible was written by holy men with a pen, but your writing is by God himself, with the finger of his Spirit; and not in tables of stone, as the moral law was, but on the soft and fleshly tables of the heart; the stony heart being removed by a feeling sense of the pardoning love of God and a believing view of Christ; which lead men to contrition, meekness, humiliation, godly sorrow, and evangelical repentance; and make the impenitent, hard, and obdurate heart, soft, and susceptible of every divine impression.
“ And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward.” We trust, that what we have here asserted of your happy state, and of our success among you, is true. And this discernment of men and things we obtain by Christ, from whom all our wisdom, knowledge, and discernment comes. And it is to God-ward. The acknowledgment of our success, and of our blessed state, is to the honour of God; for I will not boast of any thing that God has not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient either by word or deed.
“ Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves.” We are not sufficient to communicate the Spirit, truth, or grace, of God to men; nor sufficient to discern, read, think, or judge, aright of a work of grace upon the hearts of men.
“ But our sufficiency is of God.” Our light, knowledge, and grace, that we have, are of God's free gift; and so is all the success that has attended our labours. And, as for our discernment into your hearts, and knowledge of the goodness of your state, they are of God also; which he gives us light to see, and knowledge to judge of, and a persuasion in our own hearts that our judgment of you is true. Moreover, he told me to speak boldly at Corinth, for he had much people in that city. And it was by us that ye were called. God may use others, even men of one talent, graceless men, to cast a little light upon his word, and on your minds, and to furnish his spiritual exchangers with some sound expressions for prayer and conversation; but he never uses nor honours these in converting souls to himself; for, if ye have ten thousand instructors, ye have not many fathers; I have begotten you through the gospel; therefore our sufficiency is of God;
“ Who hath made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit.” The New Testament is the covenant of grace, which was made between the Father and the Son. But, when Christ had performed the conditions of it, and it became sealed and ratified by his blood, and of force by the death of the testator, it then became a testament, valid, and of force; and no man may disannul, add thereunto, or make it void. It is of force to every heir of promise, who may come and receive the legacies, that are therein appointed by the Father, and bequeathed by the Son, to him.
An able minister of the new testament is one that has received the spirit of promise, one that has
felt and enjoyed the truths, blessings, and promises, of the gospel in his own heart, and so tells to others what God has done for his soul. He has the Spirit, and is a minister of the Spirit; he is a partaker of
grace, and a good steward of it; he is pardoned, and preaches forgiveness; he is justified, and preaches righteousness; he believes, and therefore speaks; he is quickened, and holds forth the word of life; he is free, and preaches liberty to others; he has made his own calling and election sure, and therefore shuns not to declare the whole counsel of God. Christ is revealed in him; and he bears him and preaches him amongst the Gentiles. He has felt the savour of his name as an ointment poured forth, and therefore is instru mental in making manifest the savour of his name in every place; he has salt in himself, and his words are seasoned with salt, to season others; he is illuminated, and lets his light shine before men; he is a candle on the stick, and gives light to all that are in the house. Such an one, in the hands of Christ, is an able minister of the new testament.
Not of the letter, which gives no life, no hope, no help; it brings nothing good to the sinner, but calls for every thing at his hands; it calls for love, for righteousness, for perfect and perpetual obedience; but gives no grace, inercy, nor salvation. A minister of the letter is a man dead to God, a miscarrying womb, and a dry breast to others; he is an instrument without life, giving uncertain sound; and a well without water, that