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Gal. i. 23, 24. They had heard only, that he xvhich persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me. THE account of men's conversion to God is a very profitable subject of contemplation. It tends to
2053.] GOD GLORIFIED I HIS PEOPLE. 29 illustrate the infinite diversity of ways in which God deals with men, and draws them to himself. St. Paul, on various occasions, mentioned the peculiar manner in which he was turned to God, and brought to the obedience of faiths He adverts to it in the chapter before us, in order to establish beyond contradiction his divine mission. It is not my intention to enter into the circumstances of his conversion, any further than they are referred to in my text : from whence I shall take occasion to shew, I. What may be expected of every true convert — It is here taken for granted that he has embraced the faith of Christ — [This is to be taken for granted in all cases : for no man can be a Christian till lie has truly come to Christ, seeking mercy at God's hands through him, even through his obedience unto death. This is the distinctive difference between the Christian and others. Others may possess all that Paul himself possessed in his unconverted state : all his privileges of birth, all his attainments in knowledge, all his zeal in religion, and all his blameless morality ; and yet, after all, be
" in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." It is his deep contrition as a sinner, his utter renunciation of all self-dependence, either in respect to righteousness or strength, and his simple affiance in the Lord Jesus Christ, that must characterize him as a true believer ] This faith he will endeavour, to the utmost of his power, to advance — [If, like Paul, he have been " put into the ministry," he will " preach Christ" to his people ; yea, and will " determine to know nothing among them, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified''" If he be a private Christian, he will exert himself in every possible way to promote the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom. Has he wealth ? he will gladly assist in educating pious persons for the service of the sanctuary. Has he influence? he will endeavour to establish faithful ministers in places which seem to afford them scope for more extensive usefulness *= Many of the primitive Christians gave up all that they possessed, that, in so doing, they might * Acts ix. xxii. and xxvi. ^ 1 Cor. ii. 2. '^ If this subject be used on occasion of a Visitation, these hints about the exercise and advancement of the ministry should be considerably diversified and enlarged.
30 GALATIA S, I. 23, 24. [2053. help forward the cause of Christ : and though the same sacrifices be not requh'ed now, the same disposition is ; and every Christian in the universe should be able to say, " I count not even my life dear unto me, so that I may but finish my course with joy," and fulfil my duty to my Lord and Saviour.]
The tidings of the Apostle's conversion were soon spread far and wide ; and the conduct of those who heard of it will shew us, in reference to every other convert, II. What reason there is to glorify God on his behalf — In many views is the conversion of a sinner a ground of joy and thankfulness : 1. For the benefit accruing to himself — [He was but lately lying dead in trespasses and sins : now he is quickened to a new and heavenly life. He was " an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger to the covenants of promise : he is now a fellow-citizen with the saints and of the household of God." He was a child of Satan, and an heir of wrath : he is now a child of God, and an heir of heaven. Over such an one the angels in heaven rejoice"^: yea, over such an one God himself rejoices ; " killing for him the fatted calf, and making merry with him®." To this change of state must be added his change of nature also : and who can contemplate that, and not adopt the language of St. Paul, << We give thanks to God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, and for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven^?" It matters not who he be, or in what quarter of the globe he live ; the tidings of this change should draw forth from us the grateful sentiment which was expressed at the conversion of Cornelius ; we should " glorify God, saying. Then hath God to the Gentiles also granted repentance unto life^."] 2. For the honour arising to God — [By none except real converts is God honoured in the world : but by them he is admired, and loved, and served, and glorified. In them, too, do all his glorious perfections shine forth. Who can see a true convert, and not admire the forbearance, the mercy, the love, the power, that have been
exercised towards him. In the works of creation the wisdom and goodness of God are visible : but in the new creation, there is a combination of all those perfections, which had no ^ Luke XV. 10. e L^;ke xv. 32. with Zeph. iii. 17. f Col. i. 3, 4. g Acts xi. 18.
2053. J GOD GLORIFIED I HIS PEOPLE. 31 scope for exercise till man had fallen, and was redeemed by the blood of God's only-begotten Son. Can we wonder that the angels, on the first discovery of this work of mercy, burst forth into songs which they had never known before : " Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men'M" In truth, this is the one great theme of praise and adoration in heaven : and all who see the subject realized on earth, must, if they have any love to God, rejoice that persons are raised up, to give him the glory due unto his name.] 3. For the advantages that may be expected from it to the Church of God — ■ [The conversion of St. Paul, what a benefit was it to the whole world ! What a benefit will it be to millions through all eternity ! And, though none of us can bear any comparison with him, will any one pretend to estimate the good which the very least amongst us may be the means of effecting in the world ? The work of a minister does not cease with his personal ministrations ; but is ramified through a whole country, and augmented through all succeeding ages. And the poorest person, by a word spoken, or by his life and conversation, may, like aaman's maid, be the means of converting one, whose influence may extend through a whole kingdom. Every addition therefore to the Church of God, is a ground of joy, and should call forth the devoutest thanksgivings from all to whom the tidings of it are made known.]
Address — 1. Those who have never yet embraced the Gospel — [ ever has any one yet had occasion to glorify God for you. On the contrary, there has been reason to weep over you incessantly, even to the present hour You may not have been a persecutor of the Church ; but you have been an enemy of God and his Christ from your youth up: for "the carnal mind is enmity with God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." You, therefore, must be converted as much as he. It is not needful that you should be converted in the same way as he, or in the same sudden manner ; but converted you must be, or perish'. You must believe as he did ; and embrace that very Gospel which he preached. O, beg of " God to count you worthy of thi^ calling, and to fulfil in you all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the xvork of faith with power; that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be ylorijied in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ*^."] '' Luke ii. 14. ' J Iatt. xviii. 3. " 2 Thess. i. 11, 12.
3^ GALATIA S, II. 5. [2054. 2. Those who profess themselves to have received the Gospel — [See that ye " adorn the Gospel ; that ye adorn it in all things." Let the change be as visible in you, as it was in Paul. I mean not that ye are to affect the same ostensible character as he sustained; for ye are not called to that: but to live unto God ye are called ; and to exert yourselves, according to your opportunities and ability, to promote his glory in the world, ye are called: and therefore to all of you, without
exception, I say, " Let your light so shine before men, that they, beholding your good works, may glorify your Father which is in heaven'."]
1 Matt. v. 16.
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