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THE VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN RECEIVING THE CROWN.

2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.--I have fought a good fight, I have finished

my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day : and not to me

only, but unto all them that love his appearing. Such

was the triumphant language of an apostle, at the close of a tedious and painful warfare with the powers of darkness; just as he was giving the last blow, laying the vanquished eneé my at his feet, and stretching out his hand to receive the rewards of victory. The end crowns the work. To enter the lists is brave; to stand the shock of repeated onsets is braver still; but it is the height of bravery to dare the enemy, in the immediate view of the last grand assault of all. Happy man, whose courage thus grew with his dangers, who deemed himself a conqueror when others pronounced him conquered, and triumphed over the king of terrors, when he yielded up

his life into his hands! A more striking instance of the mighty power of religion is perhaps hardly any where to be met with. Nor is it possible, I think, to hear the apostle, circumstanced as he was, express himself in this manner, without feeling a persuasion that there is a truth in religion, and that this great and good man was really possessed of it.

It is generally agreed that this was his last epistle, and that it was written, as the postscript tells us, when he was brought before Nero the second time, that is, (as we may from several circumstances reasonably conjecture) when he was under sentence of death. Indeed he says himself, in the words immediately preceding the text, that he was now ready to be offered, and that the time of his departure was at hand : phrases that

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very strongly express his apprehension of suffering a violent death, and that it was now very near approaching. He was already poured out, as the word is a, alluding to the custom of libations in sacrifices, and his departure was at hand, or instant b. So that we view him just coming forth, as it were, to execution, with all the solemn appendages of death immediately before his eyes. Awful moment! Men in common, and with very good reason, are greatly shocked at such appear

Yet, here and there we meet with a person who, through a vehement passion for fame, or else by mere dint of fool-hardiness, supports with some appearance of resolution. But where is there an instance of any one behaving as the apostle did, with such fortitude, and at the same time with such composure and joy, on any other principles than those of true religion? He does not despise death, and yet is not subdued by the dread of it. The solemnity of the great eyept strikes his imagination, but it does not deprive him of self-possession. In short, what had past, and what was to come, af, ford him such quiet in the reflection, and such joy in the prospect, that the terrors of the last enemy, though perceived, are utterly incapable of shaking his resolution. And thus the no ble declaration he had made to the Ephesians, when he took his final leave of them, he bravely resumes even in the article of death. • None of these things move me, neither count į my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God c.'

Now in the text, considered as the dying words of the apostle, there are two things which demand our attention : I. The pleasing reflection he makes on his past temper and

conduct; and II. The full assurance he expresses of the rewards of hea

yen, Each of these I shall explain and illustratę, and then at tempt some improvement of the whole.

I. As to the apostle's past temper and conduct, there are three particulars he recollects with pleasure—that he had Arrivdou.

b špísnxa

c Acts xx. 24.

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fought a good fight ;-that he had finished his course ; and that he had kept the faith. And, in regard of each of these particulars, we are to consider him both in a private and publie capacity; as a Christian and a minister.

FIRST, He had fought a good fight. The phrase is manifestly agonistical, and alludes to the games that were practised among the Greeks and Romans. And as it is general, and signifies any kind of strife or contention, it may refer indifferently to either of those exercises, wherein they disputed for the crown or reward. It will be proper however to confine our view here to the idea of a fight or combat. So the same apostle tells the Corinthians, that he strove for the mastery; and that he fought not as one that beateth the air a.

Now the Christian life is often, and with great truth, compared in Scripture to a warfare. And the enemies which the apostle had in his private capacity to contend with, were such as are common to all good men. No sooner do we become the disciples of Christ, but we enter the lists with sin, Satan and the world, very numerous, powerful and subtle adversaries. We

e wage war with the appetites, passions and corruptions of human nature, with flesh and blood, with principalities and powers, with spiritual wickedness in high places-enemies who would fain enslave our immortal minds, overpower the dictates of reason and conscience, carry us away into captivity to sin, and so plunge us in temporal and everlasting shame and misery. Time would fail me were I to attempt a description of the continual conflict in the breast of a Christian, between grace and corruption, sin and sense, his love of God and his propensity to folly and vanity: were I to represent to you the powerful aids which the evil passions of the heart receive from Satan, the god of this world, who is ever watching his oppor

: tunity to seduce us into sin; and from sensible objects with which we are surrounded on every side, and which have a mighty influence to draw us into unwarrantable and dangerous compliances. Time would fail me were I to remind

you

of all the secret gins and snares laid for the ruin of the Christian, which are not to be detected and counteracted without the

a I Cor. ix. 25, 26.

utmost vigilance and sagacity; and of all the open attacks made on his integrity, purity and piety, which are not to be resisted without great resolution, firmness and obstinacy: were I to recount the many bitter menaces of his desperate adversaries, the sudden and violent assaults they sometimes make upon him, the deep wounds he receives from their sharp and poisonous arrows, and the numerous discouragements, fears and sorrows he endures.-Such then is the fight in which the Christian is engaged, a sharp and bloody, a long and tedious fight- -a fight that is not to be dispensed with, but at the peril of the life, the liberty and the happiness of the immortal soul

-nay, a fight that will not admit of a parley, but should be maintained incessantly, from the very moment a man commences a Christian, to the very instant he passes into heaven as a conqueror. This fight then the apostle fought, entered upon it with great vigour and earnestness, maintained it with increasing ardour and resolution, and was now just giving the decisive blow.

But there were extraordinary difficulties he had to contend with in the character of a minister and an apostle, to which we may reasonably suppose he had his eye in this expression; Every Christian is indeed required, not only to look well to himself, to his own personal interests; but to defend the cause of truth and religion, against the contempt and opposition it meets with from a vain and wicked world. This he is to do, if not by public instruction and reasoning, yet by his influence and example. But the ministers of Christ are obliged to stand in the front of the battle, to meet the enemy in the gate, and to receive the first and principal shock. The most public and dangerous post is assigned to them. So that they, of all others, are to contend earnestly for the faith onee delivered to the saints ; and, uninfluenced by the frowns or flatteries of the world, to endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ. And how the apostle fought this fight, amidst peculiar circumstances of self-denial, temptation and persecution, I need not tell

you. It was indeed, as to him, a bloody fight. Almost every kind of opposition he met with that can be imagined. From the time of his conversion to his martyrdom he was in one continual conflict. • I know not,' says he to the Ephesians, 'the things that shall befal me at Jerusalem ; save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afilictions abide me a. And this fight he maintained to the last, with unwearied labour and invincible resolution, surrounded on every side with the most powerful enemies, Jews, Greeks and Romans, men of every character, rank and circumstance of life, supported by the evil passions, prejudices and customs of the world, by the civil magistrate in many places, and by the powers of darkness. Nevertheless he was not intimidated. He did not yield for a moment. He prevailed.—But, before I dismiss this head, a little notice must be taken of the epithet he gives to this fight or contention, in which he and his Christian brethren were engaged. He calls it a good fight. And it is so on many accounts.

It is a good cause in which, as the disciples of Christ, we are engaged. The cause of God and truth, of virtue and holiness, of liberty and religion. A cause in which the honour of Heaven, the welfare of mankind, and our own truest interest, are immediately concerned. It is not a contention for worldly wealth, dignity and dominion, for the applause of men, or the uncertain and unsatisfying emoluments of the present life; but a dispute about matters of infinite moment matters which have an immediate reference to our well-being here and hereafter-a dispute whether God or Satan shall have the empire of this world, whether truth or error shall prevail among mankind, and whether grace or sin shall bear sway in our hearts. Surely this therefore must be a good fight. It is a cause truly noble, and, in respect both of justice and importance, challenges all the disputes in which the bravest heroes, whose actions history has recorded, have ever engaged.

It is a good fight, if we consider at whose instance we resolve upon

it, and under whose banner it is we are enlisted. Christ is the great and good Prince, who hath on our behalf declared war with sin and the powers of darkness, hath lifted up his standard against these mighty enemics, and invited us

a Acts xx, 22, 23.

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