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“ They that turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.” Thou wilt gain the bleffing of those ready to perish ; and if thou shouldst not gain thy point, yet thy work shall not be in vain : Is. xlix. 4. “ Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain ; yet surely my judgement is with the Lord, and my work with my God."--But here some who are under difficulties may propose this
Question, How shall a person manage this duty ? I answer, Follow after the copy we have in the text, in these three particulars.
1. Speak to the commendation of him and his service. The world have mean and low thoughts of God; speak to his greatness, that the fouls of others may be awed by it ; to his goodness and loving kindness, that their souls may be stirred up to love him, hope in him, trust him. Speak to the advantage of his service, how comfortable, pleasant, and beneficial it is, Pfal. xxxiv. 6. 7. 8.
2. Prudently communicate your experiences of his goodness to you. Tell what you have seen, heard, tafted, and felt of him, that others may be excited to wait on him. Tell it to those who are absolute strangers to God, when there is any hope of thus doing them good, as in the case of the text; but otherwise we must beware of casting these pearls before swine. Tell it to fellow Chriftians who need to be strengthened : Psal. Ixvi. 16.
Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for
soul.” And tell it even to those who fee no beauty in ordinances : Zech. viii. 23. “ Thus faith the Lord of hosts, In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of
him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”
3. Confidently avow your choice of God and his service before the world. Let them fee that you have made your choice, and does not repent it. Say, with Joshua, chap. xxiv. 15. “ As for me and my house, we will ferve the Lord.” The being ashamed of confessing the Lord and his way before an evil generation, does much hurt to religion ; but a confident profession is a practical teRimony to it.--To these three may be added,
4. A conversation becoming the gospel, and those principles which you profess.- In the text,
The first thing we have is, Paul's intercourse with heaven, his communion with God: There food by ine, &c.
The second thing is, Paul's special relation to the God of heaven : Whose I am, and whom I ferve. We begin with the
First thing in the text, Paul's intercourse with heaven, his communion with God : There stood by me this night, the angel of the Lord. In this several things offer themselves to our notice, which we shall shortly explain.—There is,
I. The party employed to bring him the comfortable message from God: The angel of the Lord.
II. The peculiarity of this manifestation and intercourse with heaven.
III. The posture of the angel : He stood.
Let us then attend, I. 'To the party employed to bring him the comfortable message from God : An holy angel, who appeared to him in the ship. This was often the privilege of the saints in the Old Testament, and
fometimes in the New, in the first times of it. We are not, however, now to expect such appearances, The sacred volume is completed, and we are not to expect new revelations. Angels are employed to serve for the good and benefit of those that are the Lord's. We know little of the ministry of angels, but the scriptures are plain, that this is the privilege of all who are his : Psal. xxxiv. 7. “ The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” Heb. i. 14. “ Are they not all ministering fpirits, fent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of fal. vation.” And the angels being invisible, we know not how much we are indebted to them for their ministry; we will know it better afterwards, when we will be in no hazard of abusing it.
The improvement I would make of this is, to point out the dignity and advantage of the children of God. Kings' children have honourable attendants; these, however, are only men. But if thou be a child of the family of God, angels attend thee. They have a concern for thy welfare, to promote it, as devils are trying to hinder it. And these angels
will attend theę,-during thy life in this world. The scripture is plain, that God gives his angels charge concerning those who are his, to keep them while in the way. It is a promise of the covenant that has been fealed to us ; Psal. xci. 11. 12. « For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” As a father of a family charges the elder children with the care of the younger ones; so does God the angels, with the saints on earth, the young heirs of glory; and they diligently execute their charge, however little we know about it. This appears from the scriptures already quoted. The angels will attend thee at thy death, they will wait on thy foul removing from the body, and convey it away home to your Father's house in glory: Luke, xvi. 22. “ And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." When the child comes out of its mother's belly into this world, fome inhabitants here receive it, and take care of it; and when the soul of a believer comes out of the body, and is born into another world, the angels, inhabitants there, take it, and convey it away to their country. This honour have all the faints. Let us attend,
II. To the peculiarity of this manifestation and intercourse with heaven.--The angel food by me. They were all in the same ship, but none knew what paffed betwixt the Lord and Paul ; none saw nor heard the angel but Paul himself. And two things are here remarkable.
1. There were many strangers to God in the ship; but Paul was his own, and with him God keeps communion; but with none of them, though in the fame ship with him.-Whence observe, that there is a secret conveyance of intercourse with heaven to those who are the Lord's, in the midst of a crowd of persons who know nothing of the matter. Many a time matters go on betwixt God and a gracious foul, as betwixt Jonathan and David, when they only knew the matter, Sam. XX. 39. The Lord knoweth who are his, and who are not, however mixed the multitude may be, 2 Tim. ii. 19. Whatever fair appearances a hypocrite puts on, he can see through the disguise ; and however iniquity prevail in his own, he can difcern the pearl of faith and love in a dunghill of corruption. The arrow is shot at venture, but
the Spirit of the Lord directs it. Communion with God, and intercourse with heaven, lies in inward, not in external things : 1 Tim. iv. 8. “ For bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” Every person might see who went to the table, what visible thing was done there, who received the bread and wine. But what pafled in the retirements of the heart there, whose spikenard fent forth the smell, who received Christ into their hearts, whose faith and love were exercised, with whom the idol of jealousy was preserved, or who put the knife to the throat of it; the whole is a fecret betwixt God and the soul itself. The im. provement of this is, to learn, that it is a sad thing to have been where that intercourse with heaven was, and to have had no share of it; to be persons whom God goes by, and comes by, manifests his grace on the right hand, and on the left hand, while theyhave no share of it. We have no ground to doubt but communion with God was enjoyed by some in that church-yard, and at the Lord's table. O! what was your share of it? If you have had none, it is a token, either that you were dead in your sins, and in a state of alienation from God, and not come out of the devil's family, though you were by profession among God's children: Amos, ii. 3. « Can two walk together, unless they be agreed ?" Dead folk cannot converse with the living, nor dead fouls have communion with the living God. Habitual estrangement from communion with God, is a black mark of a graceless state, 2 Cor. vi. 16. Let that stir you up yet to come out from among them, and leave the congregation of the dead, while yet there is hope.- Or it is a token, that ye were asleep, and all out of case for communion with VOL. II.