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we be in a case to discharge any Christian duty towards others.
This scripture I mean to speak but a little to, and was something doubtful in speaking to it at all, not from any doubt of its pertinency, but from a mighty doubt of its fruit; for the duty called to in this verse is so neglected, that it is not readily to be hoped people will much mind it, when they hear of it, till at least they begin to know faith, the spring of it: but when I considered that these two things, love and good works, are so very scarce, and that Christian fellowship is so worn out of use amongst them that are called Christians, I thought something should be said of them, though I were never so afraid that little good would be done by it; and therefore for once I will speak a little to it.
In this yerse therefore lying before us, there is an exhortation to a duty that is very remarkably expressed by the apostle. There is, 1. The matter of the duty in general, to consider one another. “ Let us," would the apostle say, “ that “ are brethren, and that know the way to the holiest of all, “ who have some faith, a sprinkled conscience, and clean “ conversation, and have made profession of our faith, let 5 “ consider one another.” The original imports a narrow looking one to another.
2. There is the end that this duty is enjoined for; and that is, to provike us unto love, and to good works, so we read it; but the word in the original is far more significant than our translation carrieth it: Consider one another in order to a paroxysm, or high hot fit of love and good works, to stir up mightily thereto.
I would at this time speak a little to both these.
1. To the matter of the duty, Considering one another; then, 2. The end of it, provoking unto love, and to good works.
First, The duty, Considering one another. This implieth,
1. That there is a plurality of Christians. If so be there were but one Christian in one place, he would have nothing to do with such a place of scripture; he is only to walka wisely to them that are without, where the providence of God calls him; but this considering one another is no work for him.
power of the
2. It implies, that they are known one to another. When the apostle bids us consider one another, it necessarily im. plies, that we may know one another; and truly Christians are easily known one to another. I do not mean them that go with the herd, that call themselves Christians out of compliment, or fashion, or are Christians by reason the place where they were born professeth Christianity ; if this be all, it is no easy matter to know them: but such as have the
of God at work on their heart; and even here it is not so hard a matter for one Christian to know another.
3. Here is implied, and follows in the text, their meeting together; this is a part of their profession, Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is. This considering, that implies these things, is spoken with respect to our Lord the head, with respect to ourselves, and with respect to our brethren. The same apostle bids us consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession Christ Jesus, chap. iii. 1. That is a blessed consideration, with respect to patience in suffering: Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds, Heb. xii. 3. As if the apostle would say, “ If you " would use to ponder how Christ was used in the world, “ and how many foul tongues were employed against him, “ ye would think little of all the contradictions you meet “ with.” For one sinner to contradict another sinner, is no great matter; for a sinner to contradict a saint, no great matter neither : but for wicked sinners to contradict the sam viour, is the wonder. We are bid to consider ourselves, that if any see another overtaken in a fault, we might restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering ourselves, lest we be also tempted.
Now particularly what this considering of others is, will you hear of it, and mind it a little more, what that Christian duty of considering Christians aright is. You know, that considering is a serious employment of the mind; this employment is about other folks, and this employment musc be about every thing in them and about them that we can discern. These I would reduce to three heads, their good,
their bad, and what is indifferent, neither good nor bad in itself, but as it is guided.
1st, In considering of other Christians, ye should consider their good. I will not say, that always it is the wisest work for a man, in considering himself, to begin with considering his good; but I dare say, it is the wisest work in considering others, to do so. Our Lord, in the seven letters he wrote to the seven churches in Asia, begins always with their good, if there were any good in them, and commends them, before he takes notice of, and reproves for their faults. A Christian is very ill considered, if all his good and the best things in him is forgot. Amongst those good things that are to be considered, in order, to provoke unto love, and to good works,
(1.) We should consider the grace of God that is in them, when it becomes visible, and visible it will be, if of the right kind. Barnabas saw the grace of God among them at Antioch, Acts xi. 23. The apostles saw the grace of God that was given to Paul, Gal. ii. 8, 9. Sirs, communion of saints is one of the articles of our creed, as we call it; and there is so much spoken of it in the word, and it is so great a blessing, that it is a thing impossible, that grace in saints should not be knowable by saints. If no man could know the grace of God in any other but himself, that man indeed might have communion with God, but he could have no communion with the saints. The main thing that we are to regard and to consider in Christians, is the truth of the
grace of God in them, their shining in the image of their heavenly Father, and their partaking of the Spirit of Jesus. Whereever these characters and signatures are, a spiritual eye can discern them.
(2.) We should consider the station they have in the body of Jesus Christ, and that also is discernible; I mean, what state, what place, what room, the Lord hath called them to, or placed them in; not with respect to their office in the church, that is a thing of another consideration ; but with she spect to honourable service. The Lord gives his grace in various measures to his people, and in some it is a matter
very remarkable, that quickly after the Lord hath begun to communicate of his grace to them, he intends to prove them in a higher sphere than ordinary; we must consider, what marks the Lord hath put on them that we know to be Christians of a more than ordinary stature, and usefulness, and service in the body of Christ, of which the apostle speaks so much, 1 Cor. xii. almost throughout.
2dly, We are to consider Christians in their bad things. Can there be any provoking unto love and good works, in seeing of their bad things ? Yes, a great deal. Amongst the bad things in Christians, I reckon,
(1.) Their sins and their infirmities; these are to be tenderly regarded, and looked upon, their weakness, their stumbling; the apostle calls much for a spirit of meekness towards such; a great deal of tenderness must be used. Happy are they that can represent and express the tender heart of Jesus Christ towards sinners in a Christian-like tenderness, towards sinning and stumbling believers. See what tenderness the apostle requires as to this, 1 Cor. viii. There is a poor weak Christian, it may be, stumbled, when he saw people making use of what was ordinarily bought in the market; it may
a great deal of the meat that was sold there, had first been shown before their idols, and presented in their temples, and the poor weak Christian scrupled this, and thought it a sad thing for a Christian to make use of his liberty this way: says the apostle, Through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? ver. 11. For my part, says he, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend, ver. 13.
(2.) We should consider folks temptations and afflictions, we should look on them so as to provoke unto love, and to good works. The more tempted and afflicted they are, the more need have they of pity from the Lord their head, and of compassion from all their brethren. The apostle Paul expressed this tenderness of spirit, and oh for some measure of it among us! 2 Cor. xi. 29. Besides all his own sufferings, of which lie names a great many, as perils by sea and land, and from his own countrymen, as well as heathens, nay, all sorts of distresses, besides all these things, he had the care of all the
churches devolved upon him. What sort of care was this think you? Was this like the Pope's care that he pretends to have over the face of the earth, wherever the name of a Christian is ? This was not thought of by the apostle; the care of all the churches was only a care of tenderness and sympathy, like the care of a mother to her children, when any of them are sick : Who is weak, says he, and I am not aveak? Who is offended, and I burn not? What a brave spirit is here! Did not a distress come upon any Christian, the apostle knew of, but his heart felt the smart of it?
3dly, There are some things that we are to consider in Christians, that are in themselves neither good nor bad, but are of an indifferent nature, yet are to be considered, and are of great use to provoke to love, and to good works.
(1.) There is a consideration to be had of a Christian's education, of the place of his conversation, and of the means and helps that he hath or wants. There is a great matter in this. I do not say, that always such Christians are of the best complexion, as to their inner man, that are born again under the greatest advantages of the gospel means; only this is that I drive at, that the truth of the grace of God may be planted in the heart of a poor creature, where the means of grace have been but small, and his helps and advantages but few. Now, a great deal of tenderness is to be exercised towards such a one. The apostle takes frequent notice of it, as to himself, though indeed the grace of God to him was extraordinary, Acts xxii. I do not mean, that the apostle does think to extenuate his sin before God by the mentioning it, but rather he mentions it to enhance the grace of God that took hold of him; that it was a sufficient ground for ab.ating the severity of censure from other Christians, when they reflected upon his former conversation.'
(2.) We should in things indifferent consider their natural temper. Tempers of mind vary as much as features of the face. We commonly observe it with great wonder, that there are not to be seen in a whole kingdom two faces so exactly alike, but that we discern some difference: and there is as great a difference in the natural tempers of folks minds. Where the grace of God is grafted upon a good natural temper, it does set it