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“That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection.” Philippians 3:10

The apostle, in the verses before the text, had been cautioning the Philippians to “beware of the circumcision,” Judaizing teachers, who endeavored to subvert them from the simplicity of the gospel by telling them they still ought to be subject to circumcision and all the other ordinances of Moses.  So that they might not think he spoke out of prejudice and condemned their tenets because he himself was a stranger to the Jewish dispensation, he acquaints them that if any other man thought he had whereof he might trust in the flesh or seek to be justified by the outward privileges of the Jews, he had more: For he was “circumcised the eighth day; of the stock of Israel (not a proselyte, but a native Israelite); of the tribe of Benjamin (the tribe which adhered to Judah when the others revolted); an Hebrew of the Hebrews (a Jew both on the father’s and mother’s side); and as touching the law, a Pharisee,” the strictest sect amongst all Israel.  To show that he was no Galileo in religion, through his great though misguided zeal, he had persecuted the church of Christ; and “as touching the righteousness of the law (as far as the Pharisees exposition of it went, he was) blameless,” and had kept it from his youth.  But, when it pleased God, who separated him from his mother’s womb to reveal his Son in him, “What things were gain to me,” (he says) those privileges I boasted myself in and sought to be justified by, “I counted loss for Christ.”

So that they might not think he repented that he had done so, he tells them, he was now more confirmed than ever in his judgment.  For, says he, “yea doubtless (the expression in the original rises with a holy triumph) and I do count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”  And that they might not object that he professed and did not live it, he acquaints them with the proofs of the sincerity of these professions, because, for the sake of them, he had suffered the loss of all his worldly things and was still willing to do more; for, “I count them but dung so that I may win (or have a saving interest in) Christ and be found in him (as the manslayer in the city of refuge) not having my own righteousness which is of the law (not depending on having Abraham for my father, or on any works of righteousness which I have done, either to atone or serve as a balance for my evil deeds) but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”  A righteousness of God’s appointing and which will also be imputed to me, if I believe in Christ, “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection;” that I may have an experimental knowledge of the efficacy of his resurrection, by feeling the influences of his blessed Spirit on my soul.

In these words two things are implied.

FIRST, That Christ is risen indeed from the dead; and that it was necessary for him so to do; and, SECONDLY, That it highly concerns us to know and experience “the power of his resurrection.”

FIRST, Christ is indeed risen. That Jesus should rise from the dead was absolutely necessary;

1. FIRST, It was necessary on his own account. He had often appealed to this as the last and most convincing proof he would give them that he was the Messiah, “There shall no other sign be given you, than the sign of the prophet Jonas.”  And again he said, “Destroy this temple of my body, and in three days I will build it up.”  These words his enemies remembered and urged it as an argument to induce Pilate to grant them a watch to prevent his being stolen out of the grave: “We know that deceiver said, whilst he was yet alive, after three days I will rise again.”  So that had he not risen again, they might have justly said, we know that this man was an impostor.

2. SECONDLY, It was necessary on our account. “He rose again” (says the apostle) for our justification;” or that the debt we owed to God for our sins might be fully satisfied and discharged.  It had pleased the Father (for ever adored be his infinite love and free grace) to wound his only Son for our transgressions and to arrest and confine him in the prison of the grave as our surety for the guilt we had contracted by setting at naught his commandments.  Now had Christ continued always in the grave, we could have had no more assurance that the payments for our sins was satisfied any more than any common debtor can have of his creditor’s being satisfied whilst his surety is kept confined.  But he being released from the power of death, we are thereby assured, that with his sacrifice God was well pleased, that our atonement was finished on the cross, and that he hath made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the world.

3. THIRDLY, It was necessary that our Lord Jesus should rise again from the dead, to assure us of the certainty of the resurrection of our own bodies. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body was entirely exploded and set at naught among the Gentiles, as appears from the Athenians mocking at and calling St. Paul “a babbler and a setter forth of strange doctrines” when he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.  And though it was believed by most of the Jews, as is evident from many passages of scripture, yet not by all; the whole sect of the Sadducees denied it.  But the resurrection of Jesus Christ put it out of dispute.  For as he acted as our representative, if he our head be risen, then must we also, who are his members, shall rise with him.  And as in the first Adam we all died, even so in him our second Adam we must all, in this sense, be made alive.

As it was necessary, upon these accounts, that our blessed Lord should rise from the dead; so it is plain beyond contradiction that he did.  Never was any matter of fact better attested; never were more precautions made use of to prevent a cheat.  He was buried in a sepulcher hewn out of a rock, so that it could not be said that any digged under and conveyed him away.  It was a sepulcher also wherein never man before was laid; so that if any body did rise from thence, it must be the body of Jesus of Nazareth.  Besides, the sepulcher was sealed; a great stone rolled over the mouth of it and a band of soldiers (consisting not of friends, but of his professed enemies) was set to guard it.

And as for his disciples coming by night and stealing him away, it was altogether improbable.  For it was not long since, that they had all forsaken him and they were the most backward in believing his resurrection.  And supposing it was true, that they came whilst the soldiers slept; yet the soldiers must be cast into a deep sleep indeed, that the rolling away so great a stone did not awake some of them.

And our blessed Lord’s afterwards appearing at sundry times, and in divers manners, to his disciples, as when they were assembled together, when they were walking to Emmaus, when they were fishing: nay, and condescending to show them his hands and feet, and his appearing to above five hundred brethren at once, put the truth of his resurrection out of all dispute.

Indeed, there is one objection that may be made against what has been said, that the books wherein these facts are recorded were written by his disciples.  But who are more proper persons than those who were eye-witnesses of what they related and eat and drank with him after his resurrection?  “But they were illiterate and ignorant men.”  Yet they were as good witnesses of a plain matter of fact as the most learned masters in Israel.  Nay, this rendered them more proper witnesses.  For being plain men, they were therefore less to be suspected of telling or making a lie, particularly, since they laid down their lives for a testimony of the truth of it.  We read indeed of Jacob’s telling a lie, though he was a plain man, in order to get his father’s blessing.  But it was never heard since the world began, that any man, much less a whole set of men, died as martyrs for the sake of an untruth when they themselves were to reap no advantage from it.

No, this single circumstance proves them to Israelites indeed, in whom was no guile.  And the wonderful success God gave to their ministry afterwards when three thousand were converted by one sermon and when twelve poor fishermen in a very short time were enabled to be more than conquerors over all the opposition men or devils could make was as plain a demonstration that Christ was risen, according to their gospel.

But what need we of any further witnesses?  Believe you the resurrection of our blessed Lord?  I know that you believe it, as your gathering together on this first day of the week in the courts of the Lord’s house abundantly testifies.

What concerns us most to be assured of, and which is the SECOND thing I was to speak to, is, Whether we have experimentally known the power of his resurrection; that is, Whether or not we have received the Holy Ghost and by his powerful operations on our hearts have been raised from the death of sin to a life of righteousness and true holiness.

It was this, the great apostle was chiefly desirous to know.  He was satisfied that the resurrection of Christ’s body would avail him nothing unless he experienced the power of it in raising his dead soul. A chief end of our blessed Lord’s rising from the dead was to enter heaven as our representative and to send down the Holy Ghost to apply that redemption he had finished on the cross to our hearts, by working an entire change in them.  Without this, Christ would have died in vain.  For it would have done us no service to have had his outward righteousness imputed to us, unless we had an inward inherent righteousness wrought in us.  Because, being altogether conceived and born in sin and consequently unfit to hold communion with an infinitely pure and holy God, we cannot possibly be made meet to see or enjoy him till a thorough renovation has passed upon our hearts.

Without this, we leave out the Holy Ghost in the great work of our redemption.  But as we were made by the joint concurrence and consultation of the blessed trinity; and as we were baptized in their name, so must all of them concur in our salvation: As the Father made, and the Son redeemed, so must the Holy Ghost sanctify and seal us, or otherwise we have believed in vain.

This then is what the apostle means by the “Power of Christ’s resurrection,” and this is what we are as much concerned experimentally to know, as that He rose at all.  Without this, though we may be moralists, though we may be civilized, good-natured people, yet we are no Christians.  For he is not a true Christian who is only one outwardly; nor have we therefore a right because we daily profess to believe that Christ rose again the third day from the dead.  But he is a true Christian who is one inwardly; and then only can we be stilled true believers when we not only profess to believe but have felt the power of our blessed Lord’s rising from the dead by being quickened and raised by his Spirit (when dead in trespasses and sins) to a thorough newness both of heart and life.

The devils themselves cannot but believe the doctrine of the resurrection and they tremble.  But yet they continue devils, because the benefits of this resurrection have not been applied to them, nor have they received a renovating power from it, to change and put off their diabolical nature.  And so, unless we not only profess to know, but also feel that Christ is risen indeed, by being born again from above, we shall be as far from the kingdom of God as they: our faith will be as ineffectual as the faith of devils.

Nothing has done more harm to the Christian world; nothing has rendered the cross of Christ of less effect, than a vain supposition that religion is something without us.  Whereas we should consider, that everything that Christ did outwardly must be done over again in our souls or otherwise, the believing there was such a divine person once on earth who triumphed over hell and the grave will profit us no more than believing there was once such a person as Alexander, who conquered the world.

As Christ was born of the Virgin’s womb, so must he be spiritually formed in our hearts. As he died for sin, so must we die to sin.  And as he rose again from the dead, so must we also rise to a divine life.  None but those who have followed him in this regeneration or new-birth shall sit on thrones as approvers of his sentence when he shall come in terrible majesty to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

It is true, as for the outward work of our redemption, it was a transient act and was certainly finished on the cross, but the application of that redemption to our hearts is a work that will continue always, even unto the end of the world.  So long as there is an elect man breathing on the earth, who is naturally engendered of the offspring of the first Adam, so long must the quickening spirit, which was purchased by the resurrection of the second Adam, that Lord from heaven, be breathing upon his soul.  For though we may exist by Christ, yet we cannot be said to exist in him till we are united to him by one spirit and enter into a new state of things, as certainly as he entered into a new state of things after that he rose from the dead.  We may throng and crowd about Christ, and call him “Lord, Lord,” when we come to worship before his footstool; but we have not effectually touched him till by a lively faith in his resurrection, we perceive a divine virtue coming out of him to renew and purify our souls.

How greatly then do they err who rest in a bare historical faith of our Savior’s resurrection and look only for external proofs to evidence it?  Whereas were we the most learned disputers of this world and could speak of the certainty of this fact with the tongue of men and angels, yet without this inward testimony of it in our hearts, though we might convince others, yet we would never be saved by it ourselves.  For we are but dead men, we are like so many carcasses wrapped up in grave clothes till that same Jesus, who called Lazarus from his tomb and at whose own resurrection many that slept arose, doth raise us also by his quickening Spirit from our natural death, in which we have so long lain to a holy and heavenly life.

We might think ourselves happy, if we had seen the Holy Jesus after He was risen from the dead, and our hands had handled that Lord of life.  But more happy are they who have not seen him, and yet having felt the power of his resurrection and therefore believe in him.  For many saw our divine master on earth who were not saved by him; but whosoever has thus felt the power of his resurrection has the earnest of his inheritance in his heart, he has passed from death to life and shall never fall into final condemnation.

I am very sensible that this is foolishness to the natural man, as were many such like truths to our Lord’s own disciples when they were only weak in faith before he rose again.  But when these natural men, like them, have fully felt the power of his resurrection, they will then own that this doctrine is from God and say with the Samaritans, “Now we believe not because of thy saying,” for we ourselves have experienced it in our hearts.”

And O that all unbelievers, all letter-learned masters of Israel, who now look upon the doctrine of the power of Christ’s resurrection or our new birth as an idle tale and condemn the preachers of it as enthusiasts and madmen, did but thus feel the power of it in their souls, they would no longer ask, how this thing could be?  But they would be convinced of it, as much as Thomas was, when he saw the Lord’s Christ; and like him, when Jesus bid him reach out his hands and thrust them into his side, in a holy confession, they would cry out, “My Lord and my God!”

But how shall an unbeliever, how shall the formal Christian come thus to “know Christ, and the power of his resurrection?” God, who cannot lie, has told us, “I am the resurrection and the life, whosoever liveth and believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  Again, says the apostle, “By faith we are saved, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.”  This, this is the way, walk in it.  Believe, and you shall live in Christ and Christ in you; you shall be one with Christ and Christ one with you.  But without this, your outward goodness and professions will avail you nothing.

But then, by this faith we are not to understand a dead speculative faith, a faith in the head; but a living principle wrought in the heart by the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, a faith that will enable us to overcome the world and forsake all the affection for Jesus Christ.  For thus speaks our blessed Master, “Unless a man forsake all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”  And so the apostle, in the words immediately following the text, says, “being made conformable to his death;” thereby implying, that we cannot know the power of Christ’s resurrection unless we are made conformable to him in his death.

If we can reconcile light and darkness, heaven and hell, then we may hope to know the power of Christ’s resurrection without dying to ourselves and the world.  But till we can do this, we might as well expect that Christ will have concord with Belial.  For there is such a contrariety between the spirit of this world and the Spirit of Jesus Christ that he who will be at friendship with the one must be at enmity with the other: “We cannot serve God and mammon.”  This may, indeed, seem a hard saying and many, with the young man in the gospel, may be tempted to go away sorrowful.  But wherefore should this offend them?  For what is all that is in the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, but vanity and vexation of spirit?

Could our own wills or the world have made us happy, He never would have sent his own dear Son Jesus Christ to die and rise again to deliver us from the power of them.  But because they only torment and cannot satisfy, therefore God bids us to renounce them.  Had anyone persuaded profane Esau not to lose so glorious a privilege merely for the sake of gratifying a present corrupt inclination when he saw him about to sell his birth-right for a little red pottage, would not one think that man to have been Esau’s friend?  And just thus stands the case between God and us.  By the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are new-born to a heavenly inheritance amongst all them which are sanctified; but our own corrupt wills would tempt us to sell this glorious birth-right for the vanities of the world, which, like Esau’s red pottage, may please us for a while but will soon be taken away from us.  God knows this and therefore bids us renounce them for a season rather than for the short enjoyment of them to lose the privilege of that glorious birth-right, which is had by knowing the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

O the depth of the riches and excellency of Christianity!  Well might the great St. Paul count all things but dung and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of it.  Well might he desire so ardently to know Jesus and the power of his resurrection.  For even on this side of eternity, it raises us above the world and makes us to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  Well might that glorious company of worthies, recorded in the Holy scriptures, supported with a deep sense of their heavenly calling, despise the pleasures and profits of this life and wander about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, in dens and caves of the earth, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.  And O that we were all like minded!  That we felt the power of Christ’s resurrection as they did!  How should we then “count all things as dung and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord!”

How should we then recover our primitive dignity, trample the earth under our feet, and with our souls be continually gasping after God?  And what hinders but we may be thus minded?  Is Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, altered from what he was?  No, “he is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  And though he is exalted to the right hand of God, yet he is not ashamed to call us brethren.  The power of his resurrection is as great now as formerly, and the Holy Spirit, which was assured to us by his resurrection, is as ready and able to quicken us who are dead in trespasses and sins as any saint that ever lived.  Let us but cry, and that instantly, to Him that is mighty and able to save; let us, in sincerity and truth, without secretly keeping back the least part, renounce ourselves and the world; then we shall be Christians indeed.  And though the world may cast us out and separate from our company, yet Jesus Christ will walk with and abide in us.  And at the general resurrection of the last day, when the voice of the archangel and trump of God shall bid the sea and the graves to give up their dead and all nations shall appear before him, then will he confess us before his Father and the holy angels, and we shall receive that invitation which he shall then pronounce to all who love and fear him, “Come, ye blessed children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.

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“Brethren, pray for us.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:25

If we inquire, why there is so little love to be found amongst Christians, why the very characteristic by which every one should know that we are disciples of the holy Jesus, is almost banished out of the Christian world, we shall find it, in a great measure, owing to a neglect or superficial performance of that excellent part of prayer, INTERCESSION, or imploring the divine grace and mercy in behalf of others.

Some forget this duty of praying for others, because they seldom remember to pray for themselves: and even those who are constant in praying to their Father who is in heaven are often so selfish in their addresses to the throne of grace, that they do not enlarge their petitions for the welfare of their fellow Christians as they ought; and thereby fall short of attaining that Christian charity, that unfeigned love to their brethren, which their sacred profession obliges them to aspire after, and without which, though they should bestow all their goods to feed the poor, and even give their bodies to be burned, yet it would profit them nothing.  Since these things are so, I shall from the words of the text (though originally intended to be more confined) endeavor, to show, first, that it is every Christian’s duty to pray for others as well as for himself; secondly, show, whom we ought to pray for, and in what manner we should do it; and thirdly, I shall offer some motives to excite all Christians to abound in this great duty of intercession.

I. First, it is every Christian’s duty to pray for others, as well as for himself.

Now PRYER is a duty founded on natural religion; the very heathens never neglected it, though many Christian heathens amongst us do: and it is so essential to Christianity, that you might as reasonably expect to find a living man without breath, as a true Christian without the spirit of prayer and supplication.  Thus, no sooner was St. Paul converted, but “behold he prayeth,” saith the Lord Almighty.  And thus will it be with every child of God, as soon as he becomes such: prayer being truly called, The natural cry of the new-born soul.  For in the heart of every true believer there is a heavenly tendency, a divine attraction, which as sensibly draws him to converse with God, as the lodestone attracts the needle.

A deep sense of their own weakness, and of Christ’s fullness; a strong conviction of their natural corruption, and of the necessity of renewing grace; will not let them rest from crying day and night to their Almighty Redeemer, that the divine image, which they lost in Adam, may through his all-powerful mediation, and the sanctifying operation of his blessed spirit, be begun, carried on, and fully perfected both in their souls and bodies.

Thus earnest, thus importunate, are all sincere Christians in praying for themselves: but then, not having so lively, lasting, and deep a sense of the wants of their Christian brethren, they are for the most part too remiss and defective in their prayers for them.  Whereas, was the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, and did we love our neighbor in that manner, in which the Son of God our savior loved us, and according to his command and example, we could not but be as importunate for their spiritual and temporal welfare, as for our own; and as earnestly desire and endeavor that others should share in the benefits of the death and passion of Jesus Christ, as we ourselves.

Let not any one think, that this is an uncommon degree of charity; an high pitch of perfection, to which not every one can attain: for, if we are all commanded to “love our neighbor (that is every man) even as ourselves,” nay to “lay down our lives for the brethren;” then, it is the duty of all to pray for their neighbors as much as for themselves, and by all possible acts and expressions of love and affection towards them, at all times, to show their readiness even to lay down their lives for them, if ever it should please God to call them to it.

Our blessed Savior, as “he hath set us an example, that we should follow his steps” in every thing else, so hath he more especially in this: for in that divine, that perfect and inimitable prayer (recorded in the 17th of St. John) which he put up just before his passion, we find but few petitions for his own, though many for his disciples welfare: and in that perfect form which he has been pleased to prescribe us, we are taught to say, not MY, but “OUR Father,” thereby to put us in mind, that, whenever we approach the throne of grace, we ought to pray not for ourselves alone, but for all our brethren in Christ.  Intercession then is certainly a duty incumbent upon all Christians.

II. Whom we are to intercede for, and how this duty is to be performed, comes next to be considered.

1. And first, our intercession must be UNIVERSAL. “I will, (says the apostle) that prayers, supplications and intercessions be made for all men.”  For as God’s mercy is over all his works, as Jesus Christ died to redeem a people out of all nations and languages; so we should pray, that “all men may come to the knowledge of the truth, and be saved.”  Many precious promises are made in holy writ, that the gospel shall be published through the whole world, that “the earth shall be covered with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea:” and therefore it is our duty not to confine our petitions to our own nation, but to pray that all those nations, who now sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, may have the glorious gospel shine out upon them, as well as upon us.  But you need not that any man should teach you this, since ye yourselves are taught of God, and of Jesus Christ himself, to pray, that his kingdom may come; part of the meaning of which petition is, that “God’s ways may be known upon earth, and his saving health among all nations.”

2. Next to the praying for all men, we should, according to St. Paul’s rule, pray for KINGS; particularly for our present sovereign King George, and all that are put in authority under him: that we may lead quiet lives, in all godliness and honesty.  For, if we consider how heavy the burden of government is, and how much the welfare of any people depends on the zeal and godly conversation of those that have the rule over them: if we set before us the many dangers and difficulties, to which governors by their station are exposed, and the continual temptations they be under to luxury and self-indulgence; we shall not only pity, but pray for them: that he who preserved Esther, David, and Josiah, “unspotted from the world,” amidst the grandeur of a court, and gave success to their designs, would also preserve them holy and unblameable, and prosper all the works of their hands upon them.

3. Thirdly, you ought, in a more especial manner, to pray for those, whom “the Holy Ghost hath made OVERSEERS over you.” This is what St. Paul begs, again and again, of the churches to whom he writes: Says he in the text, “Brethren, pray for us;” and again, in his epistle to the Ephesians, “praying always, with all manner of supplication; and for me also, that I may open my mouth boldly, to declare the mystery of the gospel.”  And in another place, to express his earnestness in this request, and the great importance of their prayers for him, he bids the church “strive, (or, as the original word signifies, be in a agony) together with him in their prayers.”  And surely, if the great St. Paul, that chosen vessel, that favorite of heaven, needed the most importunate prayers of his Christian converts; much more do the ordinary ministers of the gospel stand in need of the intercession of their respective flocks.

And I cannot but in a more especial manner insist upon this branch of your duty, because it is a matter of such importance: for, no doubt, much good is frequently withheld from many, by reason of their neglecting to pray for their ministers, and which they would have received, had they prayed for them as they ought.  Not to mention, that people often complain of the want of diligent and faithful pastors.  But how do they deserve good pastors, who will not earnestly pray to God for such?  If we will not pray to the Lord of the harvest, can it be expected he will send forth laborers into his harvest?  Besides, what ingratitude is it, not to pray for your ministers!  For shall they watch and labor in the word and doctrine for you, and your salvation, and shall not you pray for them in return?  If any bestow favors on your bodies, you think it right, meet, and your bounden duty, to pray for them; and shall not they be remembered in your prayers, who daily feed and nourish your souls?  Add to all this, that praying for your ministers, will be a manifest proof of your believing, that though Paul plant, and Apollos water, yet it is God alone who giveth the increase.  And you will also find it the best means you can use, to promote your own welfare; because God, in answer to your prayers, may impart a double portion of his Holy Spirit to them, whereby they will be qualified to deal out to you larger measures of knowledge in spiritual things, and be enabled more skillfully to divide the word of truth.

Would men but constantly observe this direction, and when their ministers are praying in their name to God, humbly beseech him to perform all their petitions: or, when they are speaking in God’s name to them, pray that the Holy Ghost may fall on all them that hear the word; we should find a more visible good effect of their doctrine, and a greater mutual love between ministers and their people.  For ministers hands would then be hold up by the people’s intercessions, and the people will never dare to vilify or traduce those who are the constant subjects of their prayers.

4. Next to our ministers, OUR FRIENDS claim a place in our intercessions; but then we should not content ourselves with praying in general terms for them, but suit our prayers to their particular circumstances. When Miriam was afflicted with a leprosy from God, Moses cried and said, “Lord, heal her.”  And when the nobleman came to apply to Jesus Christ, in behalf of his child, he said, “Lord, my little daughter lieth at the point of death, I pray thee to come and heal her.”  In like manner, when our friends are under any afflicting circumstances, we should endeavor to pray for them, with a particular regard to those circumstances.  For instance, is a friend sick?  We should pray, that if it be God’s good pleasure, it may not be unto death; but is otherwise, that he would give him grace so to take his visitation, that, after this painful life ended, he may dwell with him in life everlasting.  Is a friend in doubt in an important matter?  We should lay his case before God, as Moses did that of the daughters of Zelophehad, and pray, that God’s Holy Spirit may lead him into all truth, and give all seasonable direction.  Is he in want?  We should pray, that his faith may never fail, and that in God’s due time he may be relieved.  And in all other cases, we should not pray for our friends only in generals, but suit our petitions to their particular sufferings and afflictions; for otherwise, we may never ask perhaps for the things our friends most want.

It must be confessed, that such a procedure will oblige some often to break from the forms they use; but if we accustom ourselves to it, and have a deep sense of what we ask for, the most illiterate will want proper words to express themselves.  We have many noble instances in Holy Scripture of the success of this kind of particular intercession; but none more remarkable than that of Abraham’s servant, in the book of Genesis, who being sent to seek a wife for his son Isaac, prayed in a most particular manner in his behalf.   And the sequel of the story informs us, how remarkably his prayer as answered.  And did Christians now pray for their friends in the same particular manner, and with the same faith as Abraham’s servant did for his master; they would, no doubt, in many instances, receive as visible answers, and have as much reason to bless God for them, as he had.

5. As we ought thus to intercede for our friends, so in like manner must we also pray for OUR ENEMIES. “Bless them that curse you, (says Jesus Christ) and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.”  Which commands he enforced in the strongest manner by his own example: in the very agonies and pangs of death, he prayed even for his murderers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”  This, it must needs be confessed, is a difficult duty, yet not impracticable, to those who have renounced the things of this present life, (from an inordinate love of which all enmities arise) and who knowing the terrible woes denounced against those who offend Christ’s little ones, can, out of real pity, and a sense of their danger, pray for those by whom such offenses come.

6. Lastly, and to conclude this head, we should intercede for all that are any ways AFFLICTED in mind, body, or estate; for all who desire, and stand in need of our prayers, and for all who do not pray for themselves. And Oh!  That all who hear me, would set apart some time every day for the due performance of this most necessary duty! In order to which, I shall now proceed,

III. To show the advantages, and offer some considerations to excite you to the practice of daily intercession.

1. First, It will fill your hearts with love one to another. He that every day heartily intercedes at the throne of grace for all mankind, cannot but in a short time be filled with love and charity to all: and the frequent exercise of his love in this manner, will insensibly enlarge his heart, and make him partaker of that exceeding abundance of it which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!  Envy, malice, revenge, and such like hellish tempers, can never long harbor in a gracious intercessor’s breast; but he will be filled with joy, peace, meekness, long-suffering, and all other graces of the Holy Spirit.  By frequently laying his neighbor’s wants before God, he will be touched with a fellow-feeling of them; he will rejoice with those that do rejoice, and weep with those that weep.  Every blessing bestowed on others, instead of exciting envy in him, will be looked on as an answer to his particular intercession, and fill his soul with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Abound therefore in acts of general and particular intercessions; and when you hear of your neighbor’s faults, instead of relating them to, and exposing them before others, lay them in secret before God, and beg of him to correct and amend them.  When you hear of a notorious sinner, instead of thinking you do well to be angry, beg of Jesus Christ to convert, and make him a monument of his free grace; you cannot imagine what a blessed alteration this practice will make in your heart, and how much you will increase day by day in the spirit of love and meekness towards all mankind!

But farther, to excite you to the constant practice of this duty of intercession, consider the many instances in Holy Scripture, of the power and efficacy of it.  Great and excellent things are there recorded as the effects of this divine employ.  It has stopped plagues, it has opened and shut heaven; and has frequently turned away God’s fury from his people.  How was Abimelech’s house freed from the disease God sent amongst them, at the intercession of Abraham!  When “Phineas stood up and prayed,” how soon did the plague cease!  When Daniel humbled and afflicted his soul, and interceded for the Lord’s inheritance, how quickly was an angel dispatched to tell him, “his prayer was heard!”  And, to mention but one instance more, how does God own himself as it were overcome with the importunity of Moses, when he was interceding for his idolatrous people, “Let me alone,” says God!

This sufficiently shows, I could almost say, the omnipotency of intercession, and how we may, like Jacob, wrestle with God, and by an holy violence prevail both for ourselves and others.  And no doubt it is owing to the secret and prevailing intercessions of the few righteous souls who still remain among us, that God has yet spared this miserably sinful nation: for were there not some such faithful ones, like Moses, left to stand in the gap, we should soon be destroyed, even as was Sodom, and reduced to ashes like unto Gomorrah.

But, to stir you up yet farther to this exercise of intercession, consider, that in all probability, it is the frequent employment even of the glorified saints: for though they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, and restored to the glorious liberty of the sons of God, yet as their happiness cannot be perfectly consummated till the resurrection of the last day, when all their brethren will be glorified with them, we cannot but think they are often importunate in beseeching our heavenly Father, shortly to accomplish the number of his elect, and to hasten his kingdom.  And shall now we, who are on earth, be often exercised in this divine employ with the glorious company of the spirits of just men made perfect?  Since our happiness is so much to consist in the communion of saints in the church triumphant above, shall we not frequently intercede for the church militant here below; and earnestly beg, that we may all be one, even as the Holy Jesus and his Father are one, that we may also be made perfect in one?

To provoke you to this great work and labor of love, remember, that it is the never ceasing employment of the holy and highly exalted Jesus himself, who sits at the right hand of God, to hear all our prayers, and to make continual intercession for us! So that he who is constantly employed in interceding for others, is doing that on earth, which the eternal Son of God is always doing in heaven.  Imagine therefore, when you are lifting up holy hands in prayer for one another, that you see the heavens opened, and the Son of God in all his glory, as the great high-priest of your salvation, pleading for you the all-sufficient merit of his sacrifice before the throne of his heavenly Father!  Join then your intercessions with his, and beseech him, that they may, through him, come up as incense, and be received as a sweet-smelling favor, acceptable in the sight of God!  This imagination will strengthen your faith, excite a holy earnestness in your prayers, and make you wrestle with God, as Jacob did, when he saw him face to face, and his life was preserved; as Abraham, when he pleaded for Sodom; and as Jesus Christ himself, when he prayed, being in an agony, so much the more earnestly the night before his bitter passion.

And now, brethren, what shall I say more, since you are taught of Jesus Christ himself, to abound in love, and in this good work of praying one for another.  Though ever so mean, though as poor as Lazarus, you will then become benefactors to all mankind; thousands, and twenty times ten thousands, will then be blessed for your sakes!  And after you have employed a few years in this divine exercise here, you will be translated to that happy place, where you have so often wished others might be advanced; and be exalted to sit at the right hand of our All-powerful, All-prevailing Intercessor, in the kingdom of his heavenly Father hereafter.

However, I cannot but in an especial manner press this upon you now, because all ye, amongst whom I have now been preaching, in all probability will see me no more: for I am now going (I trust under the conduct of God’s most Holy Spirit) from you, knowing not what shall befall me: I need therefore your most importunate intercessions, that nothing may move me from my duty, and that I may not “count even my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God!”  Whilst I have been here, to the best of my knowledge, I have not failed to declare unto you the whole will of God: and though my preaching may have been a savor of death unto death to some; yet I trust it has been also a savor of life unto life to others; and therefore I earnestly hope that those will not fail to remember me in their prayers.

As for my own part, the many unmerited kindnesses I have received from you, will not suffer me to forget you: out of the deep, therefore, I trust shall my cry come unto God; and whilst the winds and storms are blowing over me, unto the Lord will I make my supplication for you.  For it is but a little while, and “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ;” where I must give a strict account of the doctrine I have preached, and you of your improvement under it.  And O that I may never be called out as a swift witness, against any of those, for whose salvation I have sincerely, though too faintly, longed and labored!  It is true, I have been censured by some as acting out of sinister and selfish views; “but it is a small matter with me to be judged by man’s judgment; I hope my eye is single; but I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, pray that it may be more so!  And that I may increase with the increase of grace in the knowledge and love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And now, brethren, what shall I say more?  I could wish to continue my discourse much longer; for I can never fully express the desire of my soul towards you!  Finally, therefore, brethren, “whatsoever things are holy, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any consolation in Christ, if any fellowship of the spirit,” if any hopes of our appearing to the comfort of each other at the awful tribunal of Jesus Christ, “think of the things that you have heard,” and of those which your pastors have declared, and will yet declare unto you; and continue under their ministry to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling:” so that whether I should never see you any more, or whether it shall please God to bring me back again at any time, I may always have the satisfaction of knowing that your conversation is such “as becometh the gospel of Christ.”

I almost persuade myself, that I could willingly suffer all things, so that it might any ways promote the salvation of your precious and immortal souls; and I beseech you, as my last request, “obey them that have the rule over you in the Lord;” and be always ready to attend on their ministry, as it is your bounden duty.  Think not that I desire to have myself exalted at the expense of another’s character; but rather think this, not to have any man’s person too much in admiration; but esteem all your ministers highly in love, as they justly deserve for their work’s sake.

And now, “brethren, I commend you to god, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance amongst all them that are sanctified.”  May God reward you for all your works of faith, and labors of love, and make you to abound more and more in every good word and work towards all men.  May he truly convert all that have been convinced, and awaken all that are dead in trespasses and sins!  May he confirm all that are wavering! And may you all go on from one degree of grace unto another, till you arrive unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; and thereby be made meet to stand before that God, “in whose presence is the fullness of joy, and at whose right-hand there are pleasures for evermore!”  Amen!  Amen!

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Fire my brethren, not only burns and purges but you know it separates one thing from another, and is made use of in chemistry and mechanical business. What could we do without fire? It tries metal to purge it: God Almighty knows, we are often purged more in one hour by a good sound trial, than by a thousand manifestations of his love. It is a fine thing to come purified, to come pardoned out of the furnace of affliction; it is intended to purge us—to separate the precious from the vile; the chaff from the wheat; and God, in order to do this, is pleased to put us into one fire after another, which makes me love to see a good man under afflictions, because it teaches something of the work of God in the heart.

I remember some years ago, when I first preached in the north of England, at Shields near Newcastle. I went into a glass house, and standing very attentive. I saw several masses of burning glass of various forms: the workmen took one piece of glass and put it into one furnace, then he put it into a second, and then into a third: when I asked him, “Why do you put this into so many fires?” he answered, “Oh, sir, the first was not hot enough, nor the second, and therefore we put it into the third, and that will make it transparent.” Taking leave of him in a proper manner, it occurred to me, this would make a good sermon: Oh, thought I, does this man put this glass into one furnace after another, that we may see through it? Oh may God put me into one furnace after another, that my soul may be transparent; that I may see God as he is.

My brethren, we need to be purged; how apt are we to want to go to heaven upon a featherbed; many go lying upon beds of pain and languishing which is the King’s highway thither. You know there are some ways in London called the King’s road, and they are finely graveled, but the King’s road to heaven is strewed with crosses and afflictions. We are all apt to think well of being Christians; it is very pretty talking of being Christians, till we are put into one furnace after another; think it not strange, saith the apostle, concerning the fiery trial which is to try you. What must I do? The grand thing is to learn to glorify God in the fire. Wherefore glorify ye the Lord in the fires.

When do we glorify him? When we endeavor to get such grace from the Lord, that we may not dishonor him when we are under the cross, and therefore we glorify God in the fire when we quietly endure it as a chastisement.

We glorify God in the fire when we bear it patiently. It is a dreadful thing when we are saying with Cain, My punishment is greater than I can bear. But the language of a soul that glorifies God in the fire is this, shall I, Lord, shall I a sinful man, complain for the punishment of my sins? It is a glorious thing when we can say with a good man, one of whose particular friends told me more than once, that when he was racked with pain, and groaning all night with trouble, he would often say, “Lord, I groan; Lord, I groan; Lord, I groan but Lord Jesus, I appeal to thee, thou knowest I do not grumble.” Then we glorify God in the fire, when, though we feel pain and anguish, we at the same time say, Lord, we deserve this and ten thousands times more.

We glorify God in the fire also, when we are really and fully persuaded God will not put us in the fire but for our good, and his own glory.

We glorify God in the fire when we say, Lord don’t let the fire go out till it has purged away all my dross. Then we glorify God when we wish for the good of the fire, and not to have it extinguished; when the soul can say Here I am my God, do with me as seemeth good in thy sight: I know I shall not have one stroke but thou wilt give me a plaister and let me know wherefore thou contendest with me.

We glorify God in the fire when we are content to say, I know not what God does with me now, but I shall know hereafter. Do you tell your children that are five years old the reason of things, no; and do you think God will tell us? What shall this man do? saith the disciples; what is that to thee? saith Christ, follow thou me. You glorify God in the fire, when you are content to walk by faith and not by sight.

You glorify God in the fire when you are not grumbling, but humbly submitting to his will. A humble spirit walks not in sulkiness and stubbornness. There are some spirits too stout; they will not speak. When that awful message was brought to Eli, what does he say? It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good; let my children be killed, whatever be done it is the Lords doing only, Lord, save my soul at last.

We glorify God in the fire when in the midst of the fire we can sing God’s praises. Thus the children of Israel glorified the Lord; the song of the three children in the fiery furnace is a sweet song as are all that are made in the fire. Oh all the works of the Lord, praise and magnify him forever! Then we glorify God in the fire when we rejoice in him, when we not only think but know it best and can thank God for striking us; can thank God for whipping us; can bless God for not letting us alone; thank God for not saying, let him alone: this is to glorify God in the fire. Not only so, saith the apostle, but we glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience.

In a word, we glorify the Lord in the fire when we have in exercise patience, meekness, humility; learning more to distrust ourselves, having a deeper knowledge of our own weakness, and of God’s omnipotence and grace. Happy when we can look back and say, thus have I been enabled to glorify God in the fire.

Happy you that have got into Christ’s fire! Happy you that have found his fires in your souls! I believe many souls have: Oh [may the] Lord Jesus Christ help you to glorify him in whatever fires he shall be pleased to send you, and into what furnaces he shall be pleased to put you: we shall then sing “the church triumphant.” Much better than we sing tonight; we shall see Jesus Christ ready to help us when we are in the furnace. Oh that this thought may make every poor sinner say, by the help of God I will be a Christian; by the help of God if I must burn, it shall be burning with the love of Christ. I will say then, Oh Lord, glorify thyself by snatching me as a brand from the devil’s fire. Oh that this might be the cry of every heart!

Excerpted and edited from George Whitefield’s Sermons, Vol. 1.

The current formatting and editing is copyrighted by Jim Ehrhard, 2000. You are permitted to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author; (2) any modifications are clearly marked; (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction; and (4) you do not make more than 100 copies without permission. If you would like to post this material to your web site or make any use other than as defined above, please contact Teaching Resources International

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