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which they had listened to the suggestions of false teachers, had greatly awakened his fears, that his hopes respecting them were not well founded. It was therefore again, that he felt the deepest solicitude tbat Christ might be formed in their hearts.
These words invite us to contemplate,
What was the object, in the first place, which awakened the sympathies of the apostle?
His anxiety respected those who, by their errors in sentiment, or the unchristian spirit which they indulged, gave but too much reason to fear, that they had never been the subjects of the new birth, and that their goodness had been like the morning cloud and the early dew. The apostle felt an agony of soul, that Christ might be forined within them. It is common with the Scripture writers to speak not only of believers being in Christ, as they are interested in his righteousness, and find in him an ark of safety, but also of Christ's being in them. Hence, the apostle Paul informs us, that he lives, because Christ lives in him: and he assures the Colossian Christians, that Christ in them was their hope of glory. This indwelling of Christ, was the thing contemplated by the apostle in the text. Christ formed in the heart of the Galatians, was the object of his solicitude. But let us proceed to a more particular illustration of this subject.
1. Christ may be said to be formed in men, when his moral image is traced in their hearts.
This is agreeable to the language of Scripture, and to the common language of mankind. On this principle, John the Baptist is called Elias, or Elijah, for this reason, because the spirit and temper of that zealous prophet were manifested in his life. in like manner, without being misunderstood, we might call one among the ministers of the Gospel, a Paul, another a Peter, and a third a John, all understanding these names to designate the particular spirit, by which those, to whom they were applied, were actuated. When therefore, the apostle speaks of Christ's being forined in men, it is obviously proper to understand him as speaking of the temper which reigns in their hearts, and is exHibited in their lives. The apostle earnestly desired to see the spirit, which ran through the whole life of his Divine Master, copied in the disposition and cbaracter of those to whom he was writing. This conformity to Christ had been produced in his own heart, when God was pleased, at first, to reveal his Sun in him. He was formed to a new and heavenly temper. The spirit, which was breathed into his soul, was a Christlike spirit. In this respect the apostle was not singular, Christ is formed in all bis followers. He dwells in their hearts, and so far as they are sanctified, they illustrate and display his holy image. Of course, the same apostle observes with reference to all the people of God, «Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." And in another place, he distinctly pronounces the absence of Christ, or of his spirit, from any one, as utterly incom. patible with being his disciple. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." Hence, as an apostolic injunction, he urges Christians to let the same mind be in them which was also in Christ
Jesus. And, in agreement with this sentiment, the apostle Jolin observes, “de that saith he abideth in him, ought liimself also to walk even as he walked.” The babitual temper of the Christian is indeed the temper of Christ. He possesses, though in a measure infinitely short of the all-perfect original, the same meek and inoffensive character, the same forbearing, forgiving disposition, the same deadness to the world, and insensibility to its frowns and datteries. He is actuated by the same ardent love to God, and desire to promote his glory. The same zeal for his honor burns in his heart. The same disinterested love for mankind, rendering him regardless of dangers, anxieties, and labors, presses him forward to every work of kindness and charity to the souls and bodies of men. When the holy temper of the blessed Jesus is thus portrayed in the hearts and lives of men; when they become possessed of that new heart, which makes its possessors bumble, patient, benevolent, forgiving, heavenly minded, and devoted to God: in a word, when they possess and cherish that temper which renders them Christlike, they afford convincing evidence that Christ is formed in their hearts. They are created anew," when they are formed after the image of him that created them. Their likeness, in deed, is but partial and imperfect. A disposition very unlike to that Af their Divine Master is often manifested in their lives. Instead of keeping their eye steadily fixed upon the perfect pattern which is set before them, they are too prone to copy after the example of the world, and to imbibe the spirit of the proud, the unforgiving, and those whu are lovers of their own selves. Still, some faint traces of resemblance to Him who is formed in their hearts, is to be discovered in the spirit and lives of all his followers. And amid all their imperfections, their consolation is, that when he who is their life shall appear, they will not only be with him where he is, and behold his glory, but will more and more be changed into the same image; they will be like him in a still higher sense, for they will see him as he is.
2. Christ may be said to be formed in men when he dwells in them by the power of his grace.
He is the believer's life. “I live," says the apostle, “because Christ lives in me, and the life which I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God," He lives in the hearts of his people--not only by bis example, but by bis efficiency in producing all that holy sensation and regard, which exist in the renewed heart. “Without me," he says, "ye can do nothing." His heavenly influence is indispensable to the production and promotion of the spiritual life in the soul. He is the Author of that life which is created in the regenerate, and it is by his invigorating influence that they are enabled to live and act in it spiritual manner. The apostle was anxious to see his Galatian friends, those for whom he had indulged such elevated hopes, returning to their allegiance to Christ, giving him the throne in their hearts, and bringing forth the fruit of the operation of his Spirit, He earnestly desired to see their corruptions subdued, and their attachment to the world moderated. In short, he wished to discover in them the proper evidence that the Savior dwelt in their hearts, exerting a holy influence over their lusts, and bringing all their affections into captivity to the
obedience of Christ. That this might be the case with sinners in Galatia, the apostle assures them, he travailed in birth for them. We are
11. To contemplate the nature and grounds of the anxiety expressed in these words.
By the pains of a travailing woman, the Scriptures uniformly intend to represent a high degree of anguish. And yet, by expressions which evidently allude to these pains, the apostle exhibits the agony of his heart, because he plainly perceived, by the lives of many in the church of Galatia, of whom he had cherished the most pleasing hopes, that Cbrist was not formed in them. He did not mean to express a mere desire that this might be the case, but a deep concern because it was not. The image of Christ was not enstamped on their hearts. The throne in their affections was occupied by a different sovereign. T'heir deplorable condition, while possessed of a different temper, and acting under another influence, greatly affected his heart. His eyes ran down with tears, because they kept not God's law.
The great anxiety of the apostle was rendered evident by the labors which he attempted, and the sufferings which he endured on their account. His solicitude strengthened bis hands to labor for their salvation. The toils and sufferings with which he was familiar, and endured for their sakes, and those under similar circumstances of distress and exposure, were abundant. For their sakes, he travelled from country to country, preached from house to house, exposing himself to storms and tempests, and encountering the bitter enmity of all his countrymen. To the interests of souls perishing in sin, who had either not heard of a Savior, or had refused to acknowledge his authority, he was sincerely devoted. Neither stripes nor imprisonments could detet him from bis work. Even his life he counted not dear to himself, so that he might fulfil his ministry, and testify that Gospel, which alone is the power of God unto salvation. It may also be noticed, that the anxiety of the apostle was a settled concern for all who were placed in the reach of his ministry. His language is, “I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you.” It was not a mere flow of feeling that soon exhausts itself, and then loses sight of its object. It was a solicitude which nothing could abate, an anxiety which continually pressed upon him, and urged him forward in his work, imtil Christ should be formed in their hearts. Though their worldly circumstances might be ever so prosperous, and though their affection for him might be raised to the summit of his wishes, his solicitude on their behalt' would not be removed, or diminished, so long as they remained strangers to the power of divine grace, and the example of Christ was not copied in their lives. He was sincere in his concern for them; and so long as the ground of it continued, so long his tender heart would be affected.
Are any ready to inquire why the apostle was so anxious in view of the state of those whom he was addressing: Why he was in a kind of agony, which did not admit of bis being comforted, so long as they continued in their present situation? The reasons might be drawn out into various particulars. But I shall comprise them all in two general considerations.
1. The apostle considered the loss which they would experience.
Christ had come into the world to save sinners. He had divested himself of the glory which he had with the Father, and had sacrificed bis precious life on the cross, to procure pardon and eternal life for those who were sunk in the deepest wretchedness, and who were wholly unable to extricate themselves. But in order to participate in the benefits of his death, it was necessary that they should receive him into their hearts. Yet the apostle saw that Christ had never been formed in them. His holy temper and character were not reflected in their lives. It was evident their characters were formed after another model. They were servants of another master. What then were they about to lose? The whole benefit of Christ's purchase. To them, he perceived all the sufferings of the Son of God, his obedience and bitter death, were likely to be in vain. Pardon, sanctification, peace of conscience, communion with God, and eternal life, all lost. He well understood the import of that fearful sentence of exclusion from the blessings of the Gospel, “But I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper." Could a mind so tenderly benevolent as that of Paul, contemplate the immense loss which they would experience, without emotions of unutterable anguislı? But this was not all that oppressed his mind. He considered
2. The sufferings to which they exposed themselves.
The loss of heaven, with all its immense blessings is indeed infinite. But this was not all which they had to apprehend. The apostle saw that those among whom he had faithfully laborer, and to whom he had preached Christ as the only foundation of hope, were in the greatest danger, not only of losing the blessings of salvation, but of suffering the positive effects of the divine displeasure. It is not merely a fact that except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven, or taste of its joys, but also, that he must lie down in everlasting sorrow. Under this impression the apostle manifested his anxiety for them to his friends at Galatia, And under the same impression, he warns his Hebrew brethren against the consequences of disregarding the offers of the Gospel. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Much of the anguish, which he experienced in the present instance, probably arose from his fears that those for whom he felt so tenderly concerned, would perish forever. They were in imminent danger of falling into the hands of the living God, under the displeasure of that almighty Being, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. He beheld them cast out of the presence of God into outer darkness, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth, sinking into everlasting destruction, a destruction too, aggravated by their abuse of the distinguished light which had shone around them, and their misimprovement of unexampled privileges. It was this which filled his heart with anguish; which led him to refuse to be comforted until Christ shoald be formed in their hearts, and tliere was reason to hope that they would escape the displeasure of an avenging God. This was indeed sufficient ground for the solicitude which he expressed. For with whatever inconsideration and lightness any may speak on the subject of damnation, who can dwell with devouring fire, who can inhabit prerlasting burnings?
The subject which we have considered makes us acquainted with the great object of the faithful minister of the Gospel.
He is indeed often calumniated. Selfish and sinister motives are attributed to him. He is charged with being influenced by a love of gain, by a thirst for popular applause, or a desire to obtain the means of subsistence in the easiest manner, and many other severe and croet speeches are uttered against him. But however such allegations may apply to some who take upon themselves the sacred office, the faithfal minister of Christ is chiefly concerned for the souls of his people. He travails in birth for thein until Christ is formed in their hearts. Nothing short of this effect of his ministrations can satisfy him. He rejoices in their worldly prosperity; wben the fruit of their labor is given them. He rejoices in their friendship, and in the peace and harmony which may prevail among them. But these are not the bighest objects of bis desire. He cannot be satisfied until they are subjected to Christ, and have become his willing people, and until his spirit and character are portrayed in their lives. Though every other circumstance respecting them is as he could wish it: though their barns may be filled with plenty, the voice of health is heard in their dwellings, and though peace and quietness prevail among them, and he is so happy as to have secured their friendship, and is daily receiving from them its numerous accompaniments, still, while he perceives thein t be without Christ, the most painful emotions are awakened in his heart. He knows that while in this situation they are without hope, and that except Christ be formed in them, they must perish forever. Hence be mourns over their dangerous condition, and earnestly prays that they may be convinced of sin, and experience the renewing of the Holy Ghost. His heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. O that there were in them, a heart to love God and keep his commandments, is the ardent aspiration of his soul. Such is the object of the faithful minister of the Gospel, an object from the pursuit of which he cannot be diverted. For this he studies and prays. For this he labors, both in public and private, in the sanctuary and from house to house,
In view of this subject, let all be excited to serious self-cxamination.
Let us carefully inquire whether the holy image of the blessed Jesus is impressed upon our souls. Are we like him in our temper, and in the habitual exercise of our hearts? Do we take him for our pattern, and imitate him in all his moral perfections? Do the same motives govern us, and are we actuated by the same holy, humble, meek, inoffensive, forgiving, and benevolent spirit? In a word, does Christ live in us, subduing our corruptions, purifying our hearts, and sweetly constraining us to yield a cheerful and uniform obedience to his holy commandments? If the image of Christ is thus enstamped upon our hearts, and if our lives evidence the reality of his heavenly initgence, then are we his disciples indeed, and when he shall appear in glory, we also shall appear with him and live and reign forever in his king dom. But if our hearts are not formed after this model, if Christ's likeness is not traced in our souls, let us seriously consider how deplorable is our case. Every benevolent being travails in birth for us. They perceive at how great a sacrifice we are maintaining our sinful