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SE R M O N XII. ?
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the
gospel of Chrif.
IT will be to fittle purpofè to inquire what I kind of conversation becometh the gospel of Christ, till we be fatisfied, in the first place, that this charge, which was originally ad. dressed to the Philippians, may, with equal propriety, be addressed to us. . .
The qualifying particle only, with which the Apostle introduces the exhortation, plainly denotes, that, in his own judgement, the demand he made was no less moderate . than it was just : Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ. This is all I require'; and you cannot with decency alk; nor in reason hope, that less should be accepted. To this conclusion he was naturally led by the character and circumstances of those to whom he wrote. His epiftle
was inscribed, not to unbelieving Jews or Gentiles, but to saints in Christ Jesus ; to meni who had been converted to the Christian faith, as we learn from the foregoing part of the chapter. And it is material to observe, that as Christianity had been treated with peculiar indignity at Philippi, where Paul and his companion Silas were, by, order of the magiftrates, publicly scourged and cast into prison, therefore the profession of the gospel, in such a place, was justly intitled to the most favourable construction : for nothing less than a deep conviction of its truth and excellence, could be supposed to have induced any inhabitant of that city, to profess-a religion that inevitably exposed him to those contemptuous, as well as painful sufferings, which a generous and feeling mind would of all others most anxiously wish to avoid.
Surely, then, the Apostle could have no reason to suspect, that a demand fo moderate would either offend or surprise them: Let your conversation be as it becometh the gofpel of Christ. You have embraced the faith of the gospel, and continue to make
än open confession of it, without any allurements of a temporal nature, nay, in the face of the most obvious and alarming difcouragements; and therefore, as there can be no room to call in question either your belief of its doctrines, or your regård to its laws, I may, without presumption, hope tọ obtain your consent; when I only exhort you to act a consistent and uniform part; by fuiting your conversation to the religion you have chosen, and have the fortitude to avow.
It is true, and it ought to be gratefully acknowledged, that our present situation in these lands is very different from that of the ancient Philippians. Christianity, as reformed from the corruptions of Popery, is the established religion of our country: so that if a man believe the gospel of Christ, he may, with the most perfect safety to his person and property, make as public a confefsion of his faith as he inclines. But it is equally true, that no man is compelled by the terrors of persecution to profefs Christianity, if he do not believe it; nay the profefsion of incredulity itself, if it break not VOL. II.
forth into blasphemy, aggravated by sedition, doth not always prove an unsurmountable bar in the way to any office, civil or military,' which the perfon is otherwife qualified to fill, or hath interest to obtain: and therefore, though the mere profession of Christianity be not attended with any temporal inconveniences, yet as the want of fuch profession doth nor exclude a man from any temporal advantages, and as neither the profession nor practice of Christianity can be said, in the ordinary course of things, to help any man forward in the line of worldly promotion; hence it follows, that every baptised person, who hath not openly renounced “ the Lord that bought him," but still retains the name of Christian, and would complain of abuse and injury if his. title to that appellation were either denied or called in question, must be considered as acting from the freest choice in the profession he makes; and can have no reason to be startled, far less to be offended, when we address him in the words of this holy Apostle,
Lei y us conversation be as it becometh the gofi pei of Coriji.-Should it be otherwise with
any of us, the consequences are obvious ; and upon every supposition we can make, must prove equally fatal to our peace and to our honour.
If we believė not the gospel, why do we profess it ? -To lie in any case is shameful, how great foever the temptation may be : but to lie deliberately without any temptation at all, which; as I just now observed, is the present case ; nay; to persist in that lie from day to day, when telling the truth could not hurt nor endanger any secular interest whatsoever, is a baseness the most fuperfluous, and consequently the most contemptible, that can possibly be imagined.
On the other hand, if we truly believe what we profess, what an odious as well as disgraceful appearance must we make, when , our conversation is such as doth not become the gospel of Christ ? By “ holding the truch " in unrighteousness," and counteracting the dictates of religion, and the conviction of our own minds, we expose ourselves to the lashes of that self-reproach which will not fail to occupy every lucid interval be 1. U2 .