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Through the gospel also we obtain peace in our consciences—

Who can declare the value of this to a heavy-laden soul?— It surpasses all estimation as well as all understandingd—]

In the next world

[The gospel does not enrich us merely like other estates—> We can hold earthly things no longer than this present

life—

But the benefits of the gospel continue with us for ever— We have a more ample possession of them in the next

worldThen we shall have a glorious, and incorruptible inheritance, of which earthly crowns and kingdoms convey a very

faint idea—

What is spoken of the Christian's present portion may still

more properly be spoken of that which he will hereafter en

joye

Well therefore might St. Paul represent the gospel in such

exalted termsf—]

The gospel kingdom may also be compared to a pearl

as ADORNING

[Pearls are considered as ornamental to the body— But infinitely more does the gospel adorn the soul—j

It changes the life [Even the most abandoned of men have yielded to its power—

And that figurative representation has been realized by them*—]

It purifies the heart

[The most inveterate corruptions have been mortified by ith

And the most heavenly dispositions implanted in their steadi—]

It transforms into the divine image [It finds men altogether "alienated from the life of God"—

And bearing the character of Satan's childrenk—

But it renews them in all their faculties—

And restores them to the very image of their Godi

This effect is ascribed to it by St. Paul himselfm

How just then is that expression of the Psalmist!"—

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And with what propriety may the Christian exult with the prophet!0—]

With such views of the gospel we can be at no loss to determine ,

II. How it will be regarded by those who know its value

It is not possible for them to regard it with indifference—

1. They will seek it with diligence
[Merchants spare no pains in the pursuit of gain—

Much less will they who know the value of the gospel
They will study that book wherein it is contained—

seek instruction from those who are best qualified

to explain its mysteries—

cry to God for the teaching of his Spirit—

Nor will they be satisfied with obtaining a superficial knowledge of the truth—

They will follow the direction of Solomoni'— And account its blessings a rich compensation for their trouble—]

2. They will part with all for it

Their carnal enjoyments

[It calls them to sacrifice their dearest interests— And to give up their nearest relatives for Christ's sake-"— Nor will they exclaim against this as "an hard saying"— They will not act like the rich youth who forsook Christ>-— They will rather part with any thing, however precious, or however necessary5—]

Their self-righteous hopes [There is nothing which men are more averse to renounce than their own righteousness—

But a discovery of the gospel will humble them—

It will constrain them to use the language of the prophet'—

Every Christian will resemble Paul in this"—]

Their very life itself

[The love of life is inherent in us all— But the gospel teaches us to overcome it— It requires- us even to hate our lives in comparison of Christ*—

A view of it will enable us to do this—

And will cause us to say like the holy apostle5,—]

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Questions

1. What is the daily object of our pursuit?

[Are we seeking knowledge, wealth, pleasure, honour, &c. or the establishment of this kingdom in our hearts?—

Let us fear lest we never should obtain this invaluable pearl—

And let us follow the direction of our blessed Lord1—]

2. What have we parted with for the gospel's sake? [We are not persecuted now as in former ages—

But every man is called to make some sacrifices—

What then have we forfeited for the sake of Christ?

If we were suffered to retain only one thing, what should that one thing be?—

Remember, God requires a single eye, and an undivided heart"—]

3. If you have purchased this pearl, what are you doing with it?

[ft is not to be locked up, as it were, in a cabinet—* You must indeed keep it carefully as a rich treasure— But you must also wear it about you as an ornament— It should have the effect on you, that converse with God produced on Mosesb— In this way you will commend it to the world— And will most acceptably comply with our Lord's direction«—]

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CCXL. THE NET.

Matt. xiii. 47—50. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which. when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just; and cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

MEN are forcibly impressed by similes taken from things with which they are well acquainted. Hence the various parables are suited to those classes of the community, who are conversant in the occupations to which Vol. III. L

they relate. The greater part of them refer to the different employments of husbandry, because our Lord sojourned chiefly among persons engaged in agricultural pursuits. But he was also frequently called to instruct fishermen; to whose more immediate use he adapted the parable before us.

In order to elucidate- the text we observe that

I. A great variety of persons are gathered by the gospel

into the visible church

The gospel is preached promiscuously to all

[When a net is cast into the sea, the fisherman knows not what success he shall have: he may toil all the night and catch nothing; or may inclose a number that can with difficulty be drawn to shore.* However skilful he may be in his trade, he is dependent wholly on the good providence of God.

Thus the gospel is published to all without any respect of persons. Nor can the preachers of it comihand success: if Paul or Apollos labour, it is God alone that can render their endeavours effectual to the salvation of men.b]

There are however many, for the most part, brought by means of it to a profession of religion

[Where nothing but morality is preached, the people all remain stupid and unconcerned about their souls: but where Christ is truly exalted, some will feel the constraining influence of the word,0 and be drawn out of the vain world to an attendance on the duties of religion. But of these there will be various kinds: some will go no further than the mere form of godlinessd—Others will seem to enjoy somewhat of its life and power, while in reality they have no stability in the ways of God,e or, though they persevere in their profession of religion, they do not walk worthy of their high caliingf —-.

There will be others, however, who are truly upright before God, and who "adorn the gospel of God our Saviour in all things"—

All these persons will be collected into a visible church: all will profess an attachment to the gospel: and all will feel some kind of confidence respecting their final acceptance before God.]

But

II. Of those that are gathered, there will be an awful

separation in the day of judgment

a Luke v. 5, 6. "> I Cor. iii. 7. c Jer. xxiii. 22.

d 2 Tim. iii. 5. e Ver. 20, 21. > Ver. 22.

Fishermen will not encumber themselves with fishes that are worthless; nor will God receive to himself all that are gathered by the gospel.

There will be a separation made in the day of judgment

[God makes use of men to collect persons into the visible church; but he will employ "angels" as his agents to "separate the bad from the good." Nor will they, when acting under the direction of the Most High, be liable to the smallest error. No fisherman can distinguish between the most different sorts of fish more clearly than the angels will, between the weakest of the saints, and the most refined of hypocrites. Not one that is truly good, shall be cast away; nor one that is really bad, be preserved—]

That separation will be inexpressibly awful [Here the parable was inadequate to convey the truth; and therefore our Lord added a further explanation of it. Fishes that are cast away suffer no otherwise than in meeting death a little sooner than those that are reserved in vessels. But it is not thus with souls that are cast away; for they shall be "cast into a furnace of fire, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth for ever" O fearful end! how inconceivably different from that of those who shall be treasured

up in vessels as " meet for their Master's use!" ]

Infer

1. How diligently should we attend the ordinances of the gospel!

[Ministers are made " fishers of men;" and their one employment is to "catch men."« Now it is in the ordinances that they go forth to cast their net: and if persons do not attend the ordinances, there is no probability of their ever being drawn to God.b Let not any trifling matters then be suffered to detain us from the house of God: for we cannot tell the precise time at which God has designed to inclose us in his net. And what a loss should we sustain, if through absence we deprived ourselves of that benefit! Let us then not only come to the house of God, but beg him to instruct his servants how to cast the net in the most advantageous manner,i for our benefit, and for his glory.]

2. How careful should we be not to rest in an unsound profession of religion!

[It is not every one that is gathered by the gospelvthat shall enjoy its saving benefits. Many there are who approve of the truth, and take pleasure in hearing it proclaimed,i5 who

t Matt. iv. 19. Luke v. 10. b Rom. x. 17.

'John xxi. 6. k Ezck. xxxiii. 31, 31.

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