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kened, his solicitude for their spiritual welfare was proportionably increased — he urged them without delay to repent and believe the gospel ; he exposed every false resting-place, stripped them of every excuse ; attempted to reduce them to the necessity of fleeing to Christ ; he shut them up to the faith ; the penitent, whose hearts were humbled, he directed to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. His object was to bring them into a state of acceptance with God; for while their hearts were unhumbled and their sins were unforgiven, they were every moment exposed to the divine displeasure ; no duty, however seriously performed, would be acceptable, for they that are in the flesh cannot please God. To bring about a reconciliation with their offended Maker, he pointed them to Christ, the Days-man, the Mediator ; assuring them that through this man is preached forgiveness of sins — that through Christ they could be justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.
In visiting such a city as Rome, a place of such immense business, where so much talent would be found, he knew enough of the world to expect that all would be interested in secular concerns some would be intent upon the accumulation of wealth, others would be equally engaged in the pursuit of pleasure - multitudes would be enlisted in the race of worldly honor: in order to do them good, he must arrest their attention, bring them to feel that they had other interests at stake; that he could show them a more excellent way to live; that the gospel he preached was from God, and had claims which it was reasonable to acknowledge and dangerous to deny. He could not expect them to receive his assertions without proof, nor forsake all and follow Christ, without evidence of their lost condition and his ability to save. He would therefore, as in the case of Felix, adapt his instructions to their character and circumstances; he would reason to carry the understanding ; preach the law, to enlighten the conscience and produce a sense of sin ; he would hold up the doctrines of the cross to remove a sense of guilt. He desired to come in the fulness of the blessing, converting them from the error of their ways. Outward attention, therefore, was not enough; regular observance of the Sabbath, though desirable, would not satisfy; he aimed at a radical, entire, and saving change — any
thing short of this, he knew, would leave them without the kingdom of God. The whole history of the apostle's labors will show how simple was his aim, how uniform his object; what he desired for his kindred, according to the flesh, he desired for all, that they might be saved. For this Christ came into the world, for this his gospel was preached; he could not therefore find time to indulge a taste for literature or the fine arts; the love of Christ constrained him, the personal ministry of Christ was his pattern; he went in search of the lost, and rejoiced when he could bring back a wanderer to the fold. The converted he gathered into the church. There is no evidence that he ever encouraged a sinner to hope in the mercy of God who lived in the neglect of duty: hence there is no evidence in the Acts of the Apostles that any were accounted Christians who did not own Christ before men. And when it is recollected that a profession of religion was a step that attracted notice and generally exposed men to persecution ; that for the most part laws were found in the statute-book authorizing the persecution of the saints, you will see that it required some energy of principle to be a Christian. The question of following Christ was not then agitated for weeks and months; it was decided promptly, in view of all the consequences.
Having gathered his converts into the visible church, he did not leave them to relapse into sin or sink into indolence. He urged upon them to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ; he represented the Christian life as a race to be run, the crown to be won was conferred only at the end — as a warfare which continued while we were in the flesh. He enjoined upon all the followers of Christ to forget the things that were behind, and press forward — to make progress in holiness. He assigned to each his appropriate duty, and gave no encouragement of divine approbation to such as shrunk from a just responsibility. His anxiety for men did not cease when they were gathered into the church. He watched over them with Christian faithfulness; he followed them with his prayers, aided them by his counsels, and gave them to understand that they would prosper in religion in proportion as they were active in duty and benevolent in their feelings. His daily prayer was, that they might know what was the hope of their calling, and what their peculiar dispensation.
3. He desired also to be instrumental in imparting to them the consolations of the gospel.
Their prospects while in a natural state were gloomy and uncertain. Sin, which had darkened their mind and filled them with ignorance, debased their natures and made them wretched. He knew he should find them a prey to distressing anxiety, exposed to many evils, the origin and design of which they did not understand, subject to disappointment, and while they possessed an immortal nature which stirring within led them to think of the future, ignorant of what was before them, unable to penetrate the gloom that rested upon the sepulchre, he had strong hopes that he should be able to relieve their fears and allay their anxieties by preaching to them the precious doctrines of the gospel ; he would especially point them to the doctrine of the resurrection, by which life and immortality are brought to light. By this doctrine, in connection with the atonement, he would inspire a hope beyond the grave.
Another source of the consolation he would impart arises from the assurance of an interest in Christ. I know, said the apostle, in whom I have believed. He desired others to know. He preached the doctrine of justification by faith ; of the witness of the Spirit that amidst the conflicts and trials of life, the Christian may enjoy the calm and steady expectation of future blessedness. The first Christians under the instructions of the apostles, having committed their souls to Christ, felt secure in their hopes, and instead of going back to lay a new foundation, instead of lingering about the threshold of salvation, they pressed forward, gave their prayers and efforts to the conversion of the world : in this way, without their care, their happiness flowed like a river. Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.
These blessings of knowledge, grace, and divine consolation, the apostle aimed to diffuse in all their fulness. They were blessings indeed. Could they be realized, could he be the happy instrument of imparting them, how would they render desirable such a visitant! Many of them had travelled into Greece to learn the arts, to acquire a knowledge of the sciences, but he came to confer upon them richer gifts -- spiritual blessings, without which they must perish permanent blessings, which would abide for ever. Worldly distinctions would soon be lost, earthly treasures would soon be scattered, or pass into other hands; but he came to make them rich towards God, to put them in possession of a title to an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. A visit originating in such motives, and aiming at such results, occupied the mind of the apostle ; and having been matured by prayer, was entered upon with confidence.
The grounds of this confidence we propose now to examine.
It is supposed that Paul was in Corinth when he projected this visit to Rome. He was sufficiently acquainted with the system of idolatry established throughout the heathen world, to know that he would meet with the most determined opposition. This system was identified with the whole structure of society; it pervaded all classes of the community; was strengthened by the instructions in elementary schools, was associated with all the domestic duties and enjoy ments; with all their civil and military institutions. In every place of public resort, in every temple of worship, he would find an altar to some idol God. Under such a system of delusion, he might expect to find a state of morals the most degraded ; in the midst of external splendor and gorgeous luxury, the affections would be debased and the conscience seared ; and while genius was admired and learning was cultivated, gross darkness rested on the mass of the people. If he listened to the dictates of reason, he would not visit such a stronghold of error to preach the gospel of Christ, whose spirit and doctrines were in direct opposition to every intellectual and moral habit. What could he hope to accomplish; a single individual, aided by a few obscure members of a church formed without patronage, without resources; human prudence would have dissuaded him from such an enterprise. If he had been influenced by a regard to reputation, he would have shrunk frorn such a step; he would not have hazarded his reputation; but while he knew the influence he must encounter from high places -- how firmly superstition was intrenched in the hearts and habits of the community, what violent prejudices would be awakened, what opposition would be made to the truth - though he might be regarded by some as an enthusiast, by others as beside himself, he was determined to go, and he did not fear to express an assurance of success.
And I am sure that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. In the strength of this confidence did he enter upon the execution of his plans. Neither the reign of superstition, nor the prevalence of prejudice ; neither the corruption of the people nor the power of princes, depressed his spirits or retarded his movements. His object was to bring the capital of that vast empire into subjection to the obedience of Christ.
The ground of his confidence rested on no sudden impulse, no unexplained impression : but,
1. Upon the promise of Christ.
He doubtless took great encouragement from the express language of prophecy: I have given the heathen to my Son for his possession. As I live, saith the Lord, All the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. These predictions might assure him that he would not labor in vain, nor spend his strength for naught; still, he could not learn from these whether God would specially bless his exertions, or whether the set time to favor Zion had come. When the Lord Jesus Christ gave commission to his apostles to Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every living creature, he said, Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. The import of this precious promise is, that a divine influence should accompany their preaching, rendering the truth effectual. Without this, although he might by his reasoning convince the understanding, or by his appeals touch their sympathies, still he could not change the heart. For Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but God giveth the increase. His great Master knew the obstacles he would be called to encounter; obstacles which would try his faith and tend to paralyze his energies : he therefore assured him of his success in the midst of his trials, when he called him to the apostleship; he said, I now send thee unto the Gentiles to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; as he received his commission from Christ, he felt assured he should not fail, for the promise had reference to the specific object for which he was sent. Through Christ's strengthening he could do all things; he could reclaim the wandering, fix the attention of the careless, subdue the pride of the heart, and bring down lofty imaginations; no stronghold could be so impreguable