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ESTABLISHMENT, GROWTH, AND PERSEVERANCE.
COLOSSIANS 11. 6, 7.
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
As ministers are called in God's word the fathers of those that are converted by their ministry (1 Cor. iv. 14, 15.), so are they likened thus far to the mothers, that they travail as in birth of their people's souls, till Christ be formed in them; Gal. iv. 19. And as Christ saith, "A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world;" John xvi. 21. So while we are seeking and hoping for your conversion, and are as in travail of you till you are born again; not only our labour, but much more our fears of you, and cares for you, and compassion of you in your danger and misery, doth make the time seem very long to us; and O what happy men should we think ourselves, if all or the most part of our people were converted! And when we see but now and then one come home, we remember no more the anguish of our fears and sorrows, nor think all our la
bours ill bestowed, for joy that a Christian is new-born unto Christ. But yet for all the mother's joy, her work, her care, her sorrow, is not at an end as soon as she is delivered. Many a foul hand, and many a troublesome hour, and many a waking night, she must have with the child, whose birth she so rejoiced in; and after that, many a year of care and labour to bring it up, and provide for it in the world; and in her old age, when she expecteth from her children the love, and honour, and thanks, and comfort that was due to her as a mother, and for all her labour, and care, and pains, perhaps one child will prove kind, and of another she must take it well that he is not very unkind, and a third perhaps may break her heart; and yet she must still be a mother to them all. And so it befals us; when we have greatly rejoiced at the real and seeming conversion of now and then one of our hearers, our work with them is not at an end, nor may we lay aside our care and labour for them. We have for some years (usually) the nurse's work to do; and many a troublesome day and night, the weakness, the uncleanness, the peevish, childish exceptions, the querulous and quarrelsome disposition of our beloved converts, will put us to. And after all that, when they begin to go on their own legs, and think themselves sufficient for themselves without our help, many a fall and hurt they may catch, and many fallings out may they have with one another, to the great trouble of themselves and us. And when they are grown up to strength of parts and gifts, some that seem sincere may turn prodigals or apostates, and some fall a quarrelling about the inheritance, and make most woful divisions, in Christ's family; and some perhaps despise us that have thus spent our days and strength in studies, and prayers, and fears, and cares, and labours, for their salvation; yea, perhaps be ready to spit in our faces, and reproach our persons, yea, and our very office and calling itself, as the experience of these times of ours, seconding the experience of all ages of the church before us, doth, alas! too evidently and openly testify. And yet some will be faithful, and constant, and thankful to Christ and us. And that all might be so, for Christ's sake and their own, must still be our care, and desires, and endeavours. In these several cases, we find blessed Paul with his children in his Epistles, sometimes rejoicing with them in their steadfastness; sometimes defending himself and his
ministry against their unkind and childish wranglings; as with the Corinthians you may find him; sometimes he is put (but seldom) to a severe correction of the obstinate, delivering them up to satan, for a warning to the rest; sometimes he is fain to watch with them, as in their sickness, when they are infected with some dangerous error, or other disease; and is brought even to make great question of their lives, lest he hath laboured for them in vain, and themselves have run in vain, and lest they be fallen from grace, and Christ should profit them nothing; receiving himself no better requital of all his labours from them that once would have pulled out his eyes for him, than to be taken "for their enemy, because he tells them the truth; and the more he loveth them, the less to be loved of them;" as you may read in Gal. i. 6, 7. iii. 1.3, 4. iv. 11. 14-16. 19, 20. v.2.4.7. But with the most we find him, as one that is yet between hope and fear of them, directing and exhorting them to spiritual steadfastness, and growth, and perseverance to the end; and this is the work which we here find him upon with the Colossians in this text; which containeth, 1. A supposition of the work (the great work) already done; viz." They have received Christ Jesus the Lord." 2. An inference of further duty, and exhortation thereto, which in sum is their confirmation and progress. The parts of this duty are expressed in several metaphors. The first is taken from a tree or other plant, and is called our "rooting in Christ." After the receiving of Christ, there is a further rootedness in him to be sought. The second is taken from a building, and is called, "being built up in him," as a house is upon the foundation. All the work is not done when the chief cornerstone and foundation is laid. The third part is taken from those pillars and stronger parts of the building, which are firm upon the foundation, and it is called a being stablished or confirmed in the faith." And having made mention of faith, lest they should hearken to innovations and the conceits of men under pretence of faith, he addeth, " as ye have been taught," to shew them what faith or religion it is that they must be established in; even that which by the apostles they had been taught. And lastly, he expresseth the measure that they should aim at, and one special way in which their faith should be exercised, "abounding therein with thanksgiv
ing." The matter is not great, whether we take the relative to refer to Christ, and read it with the vulgar Latin, “ abounding in him with thanksgiving;" or as the Ethiopic, “ abound with thanksgiving to him ;" or whether we take it as relating to thanksgiving itself, as the Arabic translator, and some Greek copies have it, "abounding in thanksgiving;" or as the ordinary Greek copies, and the Syriac translator, referring it to faith," abounding in it (that is, in that faith) with thanksgiving." For in the upshot it comes to the same, "to abound in Christ," and, "to abound in faith in Christ," and, "to abound in a believing thanksgiving to Christ." And all this is comprehended in one foregoing general of "walking in Christ;" the whole life of a Christian being divided into these two parts, Receiving Christ, and, Walking in him. Here are these several terms therefore briefly to be opened. 1. What is meant by, "receiving Christ Jesus the Lord." 2. What is meant by "walking in him." 3. What by "being rooted in him." 4. What by "being built up in him.” 5. What by "being confirmed or stablished in the faith." 6. What by this directive limitation, "as ye have been taught." 7. What by "abounding therein with thanksgiving."
And for the first, you must observe the act and the object. The act is "receiving;" the object is "Christ Jesus the Lord." To receive Christ, is not only (as some annotators mistake it) to receive his doctrine, though it is certain that his doctrine must be received, and the rest is implied in this. But when the understanding receiveth the Gospel by assent, the will also accepteth or receiveth Christ as he is of fered, by consent; and both these together are the receiving of Christ; that is, the true justifying faith of God's elect. It is not therefore a physical, passive reception, as wood receiveth the fire, and as our souls receive the graces of the Spirit; but it is a moral reception, or reputative, which is active and metaphorical. This will be better understood when the object is considered, which is, "Christ Jesus the Lord." To receive Christ as Christ, or the anointed Messias, and as the Saviour and our Lord, is to believe that he is such, and to consent that he be such to us, and to trust in him, and resign ourselves to him as such. The relation we do indeed receive by a proper passive reception; I mean our relation of being the redeemed members, sub