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must often repeat the same things, giving line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little.
Ministers are to edify their hearers by explaining, urging and applying the great truths of the gospel. They are to warn every man, and teach every man in all wisdom, that they may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. They are in meekness to instruct, not only such as love the truth, but those also who oppose it, if peradventure God will give them repen
Private Christians should edify one another. They who are strong must bear the infirmities of the weak. who have knowledge must condescend to men of low estate, inform their understanding and correct their mistakes.
Much disputing about religion contributes little to godly edifying. Disputes are usually intended rather for gaining a victory, than for giving or receiving useful information; and they are oftener conducted with worldly pride and confidence, than with Christian meekness and fear. Hence they terminate in bigotry and alienation, rather than in knowledge and charity. But if Christians, laying apart disputation, would freely and affectionately converse together on the important subjects of religion, they might greatly assist one another in their spiritual concerns and mightily advance the common interests of truth and holiness. Some have more knowledge and greater abilities than others; and even weak Christians, deeply experienced in religion, may often communicate useful and important thoughts to their wiser brethren. We should always "be ready to give an answer to every man, who asks a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear."
2. Reproof, conducted with prudence, is useful to edifying.
It is a command of the law of Moses, "Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy brother, and not suffer sin upon him." It is a command of the gospel of Christ," If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him."
Christians are to watch over one another, not with jealousy and hatred, but with candor and love-not that they may espy faults where there are none, or publish those which they find; but that they may give seasonable counsel and reproof, when there is occasion, and thus aid each other's repentance and amendment.
Reproof is a duty too much neglected. A main cause of the neglect, is the disagreeableness of the of fice, and the fear of offending. One reason why it so often offends, is the imprudent manner and urchristian temper with which it is administered. The man who seldom reproves another but in a passion, will always be suspected of prejudice, when he attempts to reprove and therefore will rarely meet with success. But if Christians would use more openness and freedom in conversation, would be more meek and gentle in their manner of address, and would themselves act more agreeably to the reproofs which they give to others, they would find the work more easy, less offensive, and attended with better effects.
3. Exhortation is good for the use of edifying.
Exhort one another daily," says the Apostle," lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Comfort yourselves together and edify one another. Consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. We are "to warn the unruly, comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, and be patient to all
4. Christians may often edify one another by communicating things, which they have experienced in the course of the religious life.
We are not to make the experience of others the standard by which to judge of our state; nor our experi
ence the standard by which to judge of their state. A communication of experiences with this view, far from being useful to, is inconsistent with godly edifying. This is to put human experience in the place of divine truth. Neither ought we to communicate to others the secret exercises of our minds, for the sake of gaining their esteem and applause. This is the same vanity which made the Pharisees pray in the cor ners of the streets, and sound a trumpet when they did their alms. Nor ought we to demand from others an account of their secret exercises for the sake of judging their hearts. We are to judge nothing before the time. Secret things belong to God. There are ma
things, in the experience of every good man, which are not proper to be communicated to the world. We are bound to hope favorably of all, who having made a good profession, appear to walk agreeably to it. Concerning the real piety of our brethren we can have no evidence, but what is external. Whatever information they give us of the secret exercises of their hearts, the information is external; it is, at most, but a verbal profession; and we may as well distrust their sincerity in this, as in any other profession which they make.
But then, there are many cases in which it is exceedingly useful for Christians to lay before others their temptations, fears, doubts and infirmities, in order to obtain suitable counsel and advice. They who are consulted may, in such cases, often strengthen and comfort their brethren by informing them what trials and conflicts they have experienced, and in what manner they rose above them. And while they thus encourage their brethren, they may gain fresh supplies of strength in their own souls. This friendly communication awakens mutual intercession, enlivens Christian affections, and warms a godly zeal.
5. Conversing on religious subjects in general, is good for the use of edifying. VOL. III.
This tends to the mutual improvement of Christians in divine and spiritual knowledge. It stirs up their remembrance of things already learned. It confirms their good resolutions. It rouses into action the slumbering principles of piety and virtue. It counteracts the deadening influence of earthly objects. It relieves the soul from the distractions of worldly cares. "As iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for want of knowledge."
We see the way in which we are to edify one anoth. er. It is by avoiding all corrupt communication, and by using that which is good, and which may minister grace to the hearers. Therefore, as the Apostle directs, "let us walk in wisdom toward all men; and let our speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that we my know how we ought to answer every man."
We are called to be saints. We profess to be the servants of Christ, and members one of another. We have covenanted together for mutual edification and comfort. We often meet in the same temple, take into our lips the name of the glorious Jehovah, and of the holy Saviour. Here we implore the same blessings for each other, as for ourselves. Here we employ our tongues in prayers and praises to the holy and merciful Creator, in the name of a crucified, risen and interceding Mediator. We often recal the pleasing remembrance of this Mediator, by taking into our mouths the symbols of his body and blood. And shall corrupt communication proceed out of mouths, which have thus been employed? Let not blessing and cursing, purity and corruption, issue from the same lips. Let all our conversation be good for the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of Redemption.
THIS passage stands among the practical instructions and cautions, which the Apostle addresses to the Ephesian converts, and which occupy a large part of his epistle to them. From an analysis of the context it will derive no special elucidation, and we hope it will need no other than what may be given in the course of our observations upon it.
I. It is here supposed that there is a divine influence necessary to the salvation of fallen men. No doctrine is more plainly taught in the gospel than this.
The conviction of sinners, and their renovation to a holy temper and life, and the progress and perseverance of the saints in their religious course, are in scripture attributed to the Spirit of God, in such terms and phrases, as plainly import the necessity of his influence to effect these important purposes.
The operations of the Spirit, spoken of in scripture, often intend those extraordinary communications, by which the prophets and apostles understood the deep