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III. Victory to the oppressed

The former part of the text refers to the apostolic and millennial periods; but the latter will not be accomplished till the day of judgment-To that season in particular St. Paul applies the words before us; taking him for our guide, we are in no danger of misinterpreting their import, whilst we say, that God will rescue us


1. The power of death

[Death is even now disarmed of its sting; and the king of terrors is made our friend-They who through the gospel are enabled to live to Christ, may justly account it "gain to die:" not life only, but even death itself, is numbered among their treasures-Such is their victory over it, that it is an object of hope and desire rather than of terror and aversion"— And when it comes, they are not so properly said to die, as to "fall asleep in Jesus"-Nor will its apparent triumphs be of long duration; for that which swallowed up mankind with insatiable avidity, shall itself" be swallowed up in victory," and not a vestige of it ever again be found among the saints of God-]

2. The sorrows of sin

[While we continue in the body there will be occasion for us to ،، go on our way weeping "-But even now the sorrows of believers are widely different from the sorrows of the world: instead of corroding the heart, they bring a peace along with them; and the persons who are most affected with them, so far from wishing to get rid of them, desire to have them more deep and abiding-But ere long they shall sully the face no more; but shall be "wiped away by the hand of a compassionate Father, and be followed by an harvest of eternal joy1-]

3. The reproaches of the world

[There is scarcely any thing which an ungodly world will not say or do, to asperse the character of the godly, and to destroy their peace-But God in this world so far "takes away their rebuke," as often to manifest himself to them, and to interpose visibly on their behalf *—But in a little time "He will bring forth their righteousness as the noon day;" and they who were regarded as the filth of the world and the off-scouring of all things," shall be openly acknowledged as the children of the living God-]


1 Cor. xv. 54.

h Phil. i. 23.

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Phil. i. 21. 1 Cor. iii. 22. 1 Rev. xxi. 4. and vii. 16, 17.

* Ex. gr. Joseph, Daniel, the Hebrew youths, &c.


1. To those who are living at a distance from God

[Whatever you may promise yourselves from the enjoy ment of this world, you in reality are feeding only on husks; and however you may boast of attainments in philosophy, there is a vail on your hearts that hides from you all spiritual knowledge-Besides, whatever satisfaction you feel, or whatever reputation you enjoy, death will speedily swallow up both you and it, and will consign you over to everlasting shame and misery-Say, then, whether you have not made a wretched choice; and whether the mourning and despised Christian be not in a far happier state than you?-It is not however too late for you to repent: the invitations of the gospel are sent to you as well as to others; and if you put away your vain excuses, and return to God as prodigals, you shall find a cordial welcome, and feast this very hour on the fatted calfO that the "scales may fall from your eyes;" and that, being brought from darkness unto light, you may be turned from of Satan unto God!"-]

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2 To those who are come to God's holy mountain

[You find that the promises of the gospel have not disappointed you-If you are not "satisfied with the plenteousness of God's house," it is not because the provisions are withheld from you, but because you want a better appetite for them-"Be not straitened in yourselves ;" and be sure you never shall be straitened in your God: "open your mouth wide, and he will fill it"-Above all things remember to feed continually on "the body and blood of your beloved Lord; for his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed1"_ And soon you shall be called to the banquet above, where your Lord shall gird himself and come forth to serve you' Then shall all these promises receive their full accomplishment; and you shall possess that "fulness of joy which is at God's right hand for evermore"]

1 John vi. 54, 55.

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Isai. xl. 1, 2. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and ry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.


THE ministerial office is fitly compared to that of a steward; who divides to every one his proper portion". The execution of it calls for much wisdom and discretion, because there must be a diversity both in the matter and manner of our addresses corresponding with the different. states of the people to whom we minister. To some we must of necessity proclaim the terrors of God's law, however painful such a discharge of our duty may be: but the great scope of our ministry is to comfort the Lord's people, and be "helpers of their joy." The commission here given to the servants of Jehovah leads us to observe, that

I. God earnestly desires the comfort and happiness of his people

There are a people, chosen by the Father, redeemed by Christ, and sanctified by the Spirit, who are eminently the Lord's people. And that God is peculiarly solicitous to promote their comfort, appears

1. From the commission which he gave to his beloved Son

[He sent his Son into the world to execute his eternal counsels-And our Lord himself, in his first public address to the people, declared, that the comfort of mourners was a principal object of his mission

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2. From the end for which he sends his Spirit into the hearts of men

[God sends his Spirit to testify of Christ, to witness our adoption into his family, and to seal us unto the day of redemption-In performing these offices he comforts our souls-And he is, on that very account, distinguished by the name of " the Comforters"-]


3. From the titles which the Father himself assumes [He calls himself" The God of consolation "," and "the Comforter of all them that are cast down i". -He compares his concern to that of a Father pitying his child, and to a mother comforting with tenderest assiduities her afflicted infant-Yea, he assures us that his regards far exceed those of the most affectionate parent in the universe"-]

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4. From

b Deut. vii. 6. 1 Pet. ii. 9. d John xv. 26.

h Rom. xv. 5.

Isai. lxvi. 13.

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4. From the solemn charge he gives to ministers

[He sends his servants" to turn men from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God "." And he especially charges them to "strengthen the weak hands, to confirm the feeble knees, and to say to them that are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not; your God will come and save you "Thrice is that injunction repeated in the text: and in the execution of this duty we are justly called, "The helpers of your joy P."]

5. From the dispensations both of his providence and grace

[When he suffered his beloved Son to be tempted in all things like unto us, it was with a view to comfort us under our temptations 1. And when he comforted St. Paul under his multiplied afflictions, he still consulted the comfort of his church and people': yea, however he diversified his dispensations, he had invariably the same gracious object in view.]

As a further proof of his regard for our comfort, we may observe that

II. He has made abundant provision for it, in his word

The message which we are commanded to deliver to his people, contains in it the richest sources of consolation. We proclaim to them, that

1. Their "warfare is accomplished

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[This, as referring to the captives in Babylon, foretold their deliverance from captivity. But it chiefly relates to the deliverance of the church from the bondage and misery to which they were subject under the Mosaic dispensation. The burthensome yoke of ceremonies was to be abolished at the coming of Christ, and to be succeeded by " a law of perfect liberty -A similar deliverance every soul experiences, as soon as ever it believes in Christ: the chains of sin, wherewith it was bound, fall off*; and, though there yet remain many conflicts to be endured, yet is Satan's power irrecoverably broken; and the once captive sinner is brought into the glorious liberty of God's children-What rich consolation must this of necessity administer to the weary, and heavyladen *!-]

2. Their iniquity is pardoned

[The Lord's people, not excepting the least or meanest of

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P 2 Cor. i. 24.

• Ib. 6.

* Rom. viii. 2.

them, have all their iniquities forgiven What consolation then can they want? Let their circumstances in other respects be ever so afflictive, they may be of good cheer" for we have the united testimony of prophets and apostles, that they are truly blessed -]

3. They have received mercies that far overbalance all their afflictions

[The prophet does not mean that the Lord's people are punished beyond their deserts (for this were contrary both to scripture and experience 4) but that their mercies far exceed any judgments which may have been inflicted on them on account of sin. God will punish his people (and it is necessary that he should) but their enjoying of his favour, and their prospect of his glory, are mercies, in comparison of which their troubles are not worth a thought-Indeed their very chastisements are mercies in disguise; and have been acknowledged as such by those who have endured them in an abundant measure-]

Let us LEARN then from this subject

1. The genuine tendency of the gospel

[The gospel is generally considered as a source of melancholy, and consequently, as inimical to men's happiness. But the very reverse of this is true. It calls men indeed to repentance, and, in this view, may be considered as an occasion of sorrow: but it is a salutary sorrow that will be followed by joy: nor can any one duly reflect on the expressions of the text, without acknowledging, that a reliance on God's promises and oath revealed in the gospel, is, as it was intended to be, a source of "strong consolation," to all the people of God. Let this absurd prejudice then be put away, and the gospel be received by us with gratitude and joy.]

2. The wonderful difference between those who embrace, and those who disregard the gospel

[Can that be said of carnal and worldly men, which is here spoken of the Lord's people? Are their chains broken? their sins forgiven? their comforts greater than any judgments that await them? No: they are yet in bondage to sin and Satan; their sins are all" sealed up in a bag" against the day of judgment; and the wrath of God is shortly coming upon them to the uttermost. Then it will appear how great a "difference

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