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end. However at ver. 3, and 4, of chap. i. he says: "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us--And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."
2 John ver. 3. "Grace be with you, mercy and peace from God the Father, and from thẹ Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love."
3 John 2. "Beloved, I wish above all things, that thou mayest prosper, and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."
Jude ver. 2." Mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied."
Rev. i. 4. "John to the seven churches in Asia, grace be unto you, and peace, from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits which are before the throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness."
These are the solemn wishes or salutations at the beginning of the apostolical epistles, as under the preceding head we saw their solemn wishes and benedictions at the end.
Before I leave this second proposition I would observe, that there is nothing solemn, but only, as it seems, common in the wishes or salutations in the epistle, written by the apostles and elders at the council of Jerusalem. Acts xv. 23. "The apostles, and elders, and brethren, send greeting unto the brethren, which are of the gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia." And the conclusion at ver. 29, is only this: "If ye keep yourselves from these things, ye shall do well. Farewell."
III. The wishes, prayers, or benedictions of the apostles, at the end of their epistles, are designed for Christians only.
Whether that be expressed or not, it is to be supposed, and understood. If St. Paul sometimes says no more than "grace be with you all," it may be reckoned equivalent to what is a more common form, the "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." Which can pertain to such only, as make a profession of faith in Christ, and are desirous of his favour. And sometimes this is expressed, as in St. Peter's first epistle. "Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus." And St. Paul at the end of his epistle to the Ephesians. "Grace be with all them that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity," that is, " in simplicity:" meaning, probably, such as embraced and adhered to the true doctrine of Christ, without the additional observances of the law of Moses, as necessary to salvation.
But if there be no limitation in the words of the benediction at the end of the epistles, (which, as before hinted, may be sometimes concise and summary) the introductions to the epistles teach us, to whom all the rest is directed, and to whom the blessings, or good wishes, at the end, do belong. For the epistles are all, or however all with very few exceptions, expressly addressed to believers. So: "To all that be at Rome, called to be saints. Unto the church of God, which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours--Unto the church of God, which is at Corinth, with all the saints that are in Achaia." And in a like manner in other epistles. Beside that the whole train of the arguments and exhortations shew them to be written to Christians.
IV. The benedictions, or farewell wishes at the end of the epistles, which we are considering, are of a solemn kind, different from common salutations.
That they are not common greetings, is apparent at first sight. This may be argued also from the conclusions of several of the epistles, where there is a common friendly salutation, beside the solemn benediction. The first epistle to the Corinthians concludes in this manner: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus." The conclusion of the epistle to the Philippians is thus: "Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they of Cæsar's household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." The last words of the epistle to Titus are: "All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen." Heb. xiii. 24, 25. "Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. Grace be with you all. Amen." We might also argue from St. Paul's many salutations of particular persons in the sixteenth chapter of the epistle to the Romans. After which he shuts up all, saying: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all."
If any find this Sennon too long to be read at once, here may be a good pause.
V. The meaning of the valedictory prayer or benediction at the end of this second epistle to the Corinthians seems to be to this purpose: May the favour of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love and good will of God be with you, and abide with you. And may you partake of all the blessings of the gospel, with all good things needful for you.'
Let us observe each expression.
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is so well known, render grace, signifies favour, that there can be no need to prove it. derstood all that is included in having the favour of Jesus Christ.
"And the love of God." And may you enjoy, and continue to have, the love, appro'bation, and good-will of God: whose good-will is the spring of all happiness, natural and 'spiritual, temporal and eternal.'
that the word, which we Hereby then is to be un
"And the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all."
"Communion," or fellowship. The word is used several times in the New Testament, and seems to signify one or other of these two things. First, it sometimes denotes "communication," or distribution. At other times it signifies partaking or "participation" of somewhat together with others.
First, I say, it sometimes denotes communication or distribution of somewhat to others. Rom. xv. 26." It has pleased them of Macedonia, and Achaia, to make a certain contribution," communion, communication, "for the poor saints at Jerusalem.” It is the same word in the original, which is here rendered "communion.” 2 Cor. ix. 13. "Whilst by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God -for your liberal distribution to them," communion or communication, "and to all men.' Heb. xiii. 16. "But to do good, and to communicate forget not." The Greek is literally thus: "But forget not well-doing, and communion," or communication. For here too is the same word which we have in the text. And the words are well rendered: "But to do good, and to communicate, forget not." These instances, not to mention others, shew that the word does sometimes signify communication, or distribution of some good to others.
It seems also to denote sometimes participation with others in some good. 1 Cor. 1. 9. "God is faithful, by whom ye were called to the fellowship" or communion "of his Son Jesus Christ :" that is, to a participation of the blessings vouchsafed in and through Jesus Christ. And 2 Cor. viii. 14. "What fellowship has light with darkness?" Gal. ii. 9. "They gave unto us the right hands of fellowship :" or adınitted us to partake with them in the same office and work in which they were engaged.
Thus it also signifies a participation of good things with others. And both these senses may be included in the word, as used by St. John, and perhaps in some other places. 1 John 1. 2. "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye may have fellowship with us:" that is, that ye may have like privileges with us. "And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." And indeed we are servants of God, and followers of Jesus Christ, and have received most delightful and most valuable communications from ' above.'
By the "Holy Ghost," undoubtedly, is often meant in the New Testament, and throughout the scriptures, miraculous powers and gifts, or immediate inspiration, and divine revelation, in an especial manner. Acts vii. 5. St. Stephen, before the Jewish Council, says: "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." Or, ye have been always wont to oppose and disobey the divine revelations, and the messengers sent to you with them. As ye have now resisted Christ, so did your fathers the prophets in former times.
It is said in St. John's gospel, ch. vii. 39, that the “ Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified:" meaning, that the miraculous powers and gifts designed to be bestowed upon the apostles, and others, who believed in Jesus, were not yet vouchsafed to them: the plentiful effusion of such gifts having been deferred till after Christ's ascension, as an evident proof of it all. Acts ii. 4. "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." And it is well known, that miraculous gifts, in some degree and proportion, were bestowed upon most believers at that time. Acts v. 32. Peter, and the other apostles before the Jewish council: "And we are witnesses of these things. And so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."
This is what the apostle may be thought to mean here: to wish that these Christians might
'continue to partake in miraculous gifts and powers.' And if that be the meaning, it is argued that this benediction, or farewell prayer, is confined to those times, and cannot be reasonably used now.
For farther clearing up this point therefore, and enabling all to judge of it, so far as I am able, I would observe, that words are not always used in their fullest sense and meaning. If all believers in general at that time are spoken of as having the Spirit, yet, as to most of them, it was in a much inferior degree and measure than that of the apostles.
St. Paul says Col. i. 19." It pleased the Father, that in him all fulness should dwell." In Eph. iii. 19, he prays for those Christians, that "they might be filled with all the fulness of God." Nevertheless none can suppose, that he intends all the power and wisdom that was in Christ. The context does not lead us to think that the apostle intended any miraculous gifts at all. But he means, probably, what the evangelist John does, when he says, ch. i. 16, 17, “ And of his fulness have all we received, even grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ:" that is, the true grace of the gospel, with which all Christians ought to be well acquainted. And the apostle there prays particularly for the Ephesians, that they may be so.
In like manner, Eph. i. 17, 18, he prays for the same Ephesian Christians, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: that the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, ye may know what is the hope of his calling." And the rest, which there follows. Not intending, I presume, any new revelation, or immediate inspiration, or the infusing into them any wisdom miraculously but that in the right use of their reasonable powers and faculties, and recollecting what they had heard from him, and other preachers of the gospel, and attending to this his epistle, and other scriptures, or rightly improving any other means of religious knowledge, they might attain to and be settled in a right conception and understanding of the doctrine of the gospel, as it had been revealed by Christ and his apostles. Upon this place Mr. Locke might be fitly consulted.
Moreover, the phrase, the Holy Ghost, is, I think, plainly used for spiritual good things in general. Luke xi. 9-13. "And I say unto you: Ask, and ye shall receive -For every one that asketh receiveth. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or, if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? Which in St. Matthew is expressed by good things. And I shall likewise recite that context largely, that all may the better judge whether it is not exactly parallel. Mat. vii. 7—11. Ask, and it shall be given you For every one that asketh receiveth--Or what man is there of you, whom if his son shall ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or, if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Father which is in heaven, give good gifts to them that
ask him ?"
Prov. 1. 23. "Behold, I will pour out my Spirit upon you. I will make known my words unto you." It is not reasonable to think, that thereby is meant inspiration, in the highest meaning of the word. But only: If you will hearken unto me, and follow my counsels, you ⚫ will attain to wisdom, and good understanding.'
St. Paul says Eph. i. 3. "Blessed be God, which has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Which thanksgiving, I think, may be used by Christians still, though they have not exactly the same privileges with the Christians of the apostolic
Nor is it uncommon for the apostle, near the conclusion of his epistles, to offer up prayers or wishes in behalf of those to whom he writes, for the spiritual blessings of the gospel, or confirmation, and increase of virtue and holiness, and likewise for all that happiness which was then generally included in the word peace, comprehending both temporal and spiritual blessings. Of this some instances may be taken notice of. Eph. 6. 23. "Peace be unto the brethren, and love, with faith from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thess. iii. 16. "Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always, by all means. The Lord be with you all." And in this very epistle, the second to the Corinthians, the words near the conclusion may be
observed. 2 Cor. xiii. 11. "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.'
All these things may lead us to think, that this benediction needs not to be understood of miraculous gifts, and therefore may be still used.
Let me propose some other observations. The first two particulars, "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God," may still be desired for all Christians. Why then should the third particular be esteemed peculiar to some?
Farther, though the benediction at the end of this epistle is more particular, I apprehend, that it is no more than equivalent to those in the other epistles. For when it is said "grace be with you," or "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you," therein is included a wish of all needful blessings, suited to the circumstances of Christians at that time. And this has no
A frequent salutation at the beginning of St. Paul's epistles, as we have seen, is "Grace be unto you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ." But at the beginning of the epistles to Timothy and Titus he writes: "Grace, mercy, and peace be to thee." Which nevertheless can import no more than a wish of all happiness. And as much is included in the other forms. So likewise St. Jude's epistle begins after this manner. Mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied." But it may be supposed, that no more is comprehended therein, than in St. Paul's wish of "grace and peace."
"The communion of the Holy Ghost" therefore means a participation in all the blessings of the gospel, with all other needful good things.
"Be with you all," that is, abide with you. May these blessings be always your portion and happiness.'
VI. From what has been said by way of explication, we seem to have reason to think, that this valedictory wish and prayer may be still used. However, the preceding argument is referred to the consideration of the serious and inquisitive.
VII. Though this form may be still used, it needs not, it ought not to be always used.
As there are other forms of blessing in the New Testament, it is very fit that they also should be used. Otherwise some might have a superstitious regard for one portion of scripture above another; or indulge a weak and groundless apprehension, that something more extraordinary is proposed to them than is intended.
VIII. These benedictions, when used by us, are not to be pronounced in the way of authority, but only as a prayer, or wish of all good and happiness to others.
Indeed no man can bless authoritatively. No one man, more than another, can convey blessings to any. Nay, none can be blessed of God himself, or obtain true happiness, unless they will desire and seek it, and will be in the use of proper means to obtain it.
IX. What has been now said, may satisfy us about the manner of pronouncing these benedictions.
Some, of good judgment, have scrupled to pronounce them in the form of a wish for others; thinking that to be peculiar to the apostles, and as if so doing had in it an appearance of authority. Therefore they choose to say: "And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all." But to me this appears to be a mere scruple, without reason. For we may wish and pray for the same blessings for others, which we ask for ourselves. A writer at the end of an epistle, or a speaker at the end of a discourse, does properly express a prayer or wish of good for those to whom he has been writing or speaking. And if they will return the like prayer or wish, it will be very acceptable. You know very well that the apostles of Christ did often entreat the prayers of their fellow-christians, both for temporal and spiritual blessings, needful for them, and suited to their work, office, and particular circumstances.
X. The solemn salutations at the beginning, and valedictions at the end of the apostolical epistles, are not to be made use of upon common occasions. They are suited only to the solemnity of public worship, or some other occasions of great moment.
Upon the whole it seems to me, that the salutations at the beginning of the apostolical epistles may help us to understand the benedictions at the end. And if "grace and peace from God, and from Christ," at the beginning, imply a wish, or prayer of favour and blessing and all happiness: in like manner the same is the import of all the valedictions, or farewell-wishes, at the
conclusion. And I apprehend, that as to the sense, meaning and design, when applied to Christians, there is little difference whether the form be, "Grace be with you," or "may the God of peace be with you," or "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you," or the form in the text. For in each, and all, is intended to be desired and asked the best of blessings, and all needful blessings: that men may have, and keep themselves in the favour of Christ, and the comfortable persuasion of it: that they may always enjoy the love of God, and do all that lies in their power to secure it: that they may grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and his gospel, and that the protection of Providence may be over them. In a word, that they may prosper in all things: that, if their soul prospers, which is the principal thing, they may be in health also: and that through the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and the power of his spiritual and heavenly doctrine, their whole soul and body may be preserved blameless unto his coming.
APPLICATION. I shall now mention a thought or two by way of application.
The use of these benedictions at the conclusion of our public worship, may be reckoned to hold forth two instructions, both to ministers and people.
1. One is, that they ought to bear good will to each other, and sincerely to desire each other's welfare. So much certainly is implied in him who offers these prayers. And, as before hinted, it may be considered whether they ought not also to be sincerely returned.
2. These prayers and wishes teach us in a summary way, what we ought all to desire and seek after, even the favour of Christ, the love of God, the knowledge of the gospel, and the evidences of its truth, and all the spiritual blessings attending it.
If from time to time sincere wishes and prayers are expressed, that these blessings may be your portion, should you not desire and endeavour to obtain them?
And if these blessings are commonly wished and desired at the end of our religious services, does not this intimate that our public performances ought to be suited to promote the great ends of men's spiritual improvement, and their comfort and happiness here and hereafter? May these ends be always proposed by us! And may they be obtained! that our profiting may be apparent to ourselves, and to others.
OF PRAYING IN THE NAME OF CHRIST.
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. John xvi. 24. Our Lord is speaking to the disciples of his being soon to be taken from them, and of his seeing them again, though not to abide any long time personally with them. ver. 22, 23. "And ye now therefore have sorrow. But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you." At that time, after my removal, you will not be able to address yourselves directly to me, as you now do. But that needs not to give you much concern: for whatever petitions you present to the Father in my name, they will be heard and answered.'
Ver. 24-27. "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs. The time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs: but I shall show you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name. And I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God."
Our Lord speaks of praying in his name, in some other places, to which I now only refer. As John xiv. 13, 14. and xv. 16.
In order to illustrate this point, I would first show in general how that phrase, doing any thing in the name of another, is used in the scriptures. Secondly, I shall endeavour to show dis