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ners, who are sometimes driven to fear they have exceeded the possibility of pardon. The Lord therefore, hath not only made proclamation in his holy word, throughout both volumes of Scripture, of the extensiveness of his grace, in pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin; but in the example of the recovery of the chiefest of sinners, hath illustrated also the glorious truth, in the most sovereign display of it. We are called upon to attend to the most striking similitudes in all the works of nature, wherein the Lord makes representation to his more astonishing acts of grace. Sometimes to consider the vast abyss of the congregated waters of the ocean; in which, if the loftiest mountain of the earth were cast it would be lost to sight. So the Lord speaks in relation to sin; and hence the prophet exclaims, in the contemplation: "Who is a God, like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again. He will have compassion upon us. He will subdue our iniquities : and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." (Micah vii. 18, 19.) And sometimes the Lord illustrates the sovereignty of his grace, by a comparison taken from the highest heavens; and saith: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways; and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa. lv. 7, 9.)

And as by similitudes of this magnificient nature, the Lord proclaims his mercy: so by real instances,

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in the recovery of the most flagitious of sinners, the Lord hath manifested the same. I have not limits left me to enlarge, by an enumeration of the several histories which the word of God hath recorded, and held forth to the church by way of encouragement in this particular; yet will I advert to one, which the Old Testament exhibits to us as striking and as consolatory, as the one which we have been looking at under the New; I mean the instance of Manasseh; than which nothing can be more pointed in illustration of the sovereignty of grace.



The history of Manasseh is short, in relation to his recovery by grace; but long, in relation to his sin; for it is said, that he was but twelve years old when he began to reign; and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. Through the greater part of this time, he lived in the most awful state of transgression before God, and to man. I refer the reader to the Scriptures, for an account. We have it first recorded, 2 Kings xxi. And a duplicate of the same, 2 Chron. xxxiii. Happy for the church, the Holy Ghost hath also related in the same Scripture, the account of his recovery by grace. He stands forth therefore, as is designed by the Lord, a monument of sin, and of sovereign mercy; and thereby becomes a full confirmation of the whole tenor of Scripture, and of that momentous truth, when it is said, that "where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. v. 20, 21.)

I can never sufficiently entreat the church of our most glorious Christ to ponder well these things; neither can I use arguments sufficiently strong and expressive to shew the vast and infinite importance of them. For it is, to the light and superficial im

pression men receive of sin, and its baleful malignity, must be ascribed, and can only be ascribed, the light regard they have to the person and redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whereas, if in the account of one man, whether Paul, or Manasseh, as seen in a state of nature, we behold the portrait of all; and stood convinced, that the being of sin, and the very essence and inherency of sin, is the state of every son and daughter of Adam, by the fall; such a view, taught of the Lord, would induce corresponding affections in the heart; and the consequence, through grace, would be, to have the lowest apprehension of ourselves, and the highest affection to the person and redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the discovery both of the ruin, and the remedy, can only come from God.


I have just room to add a short conclusion from the whole; namely, to bless God, in his Trinity of persons, for such " abundant grace, (as Paul, calls it,) shewn to him, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." I would desire also, to bless God the Holy Ghost for having made the record of it to have been thrice repeated in his holy Scriptures; and for having caused the memoir to be handed down with such gracious testimony, to the present hour. And I would humbly look up to the God of all grace, that the Lord may bless it and continue to bless it, to the latest period of the church, as he hath in the several ages that are past; and cause it to be a sweet savour in the souls of his people, to numbers now on earth; yea, and to many yet unborn; as it hath comforted and refreshed the souls of numbers, which are now in heaven. Amen.






"Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon, our dearly beloved, and fellow-labourer;

"And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus, our fellow-soldier; and to the church in thy house :

"Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1, 2, 3.)


PERHAPS, in all the annals of history, and amidst all the variety of correspondences which have been carried on by individuals, or by communities, from one generation to another, there never hath been a more sweet, simple, and unaffected, form of letterwriting, (and independent of the inspiration which shines in the several sentences) than what is contained in this Epistle of the apostle Paul to his dearly beloved Philemon. And, if it were not where it is, (as I have elsewhere remarked, in my "Poor Man's Commentary," folded up in the sacred pages of divine truths, it would be classed among the first productions of nature; be carefully deposited in every museum of literature, and recommended by all


the admirers of the fine arts, as the most correct standard of letters. But while this view of the Epistle becomes matter of reproach on this ground, to such as despise or overlook its beauties, merely because it is Scripture; there is yet an infinitely higher cause for which the church of God prizeth it; namely for its spiritual contents. And had not the subject of it been considered by the Almighty Author of inspiration as of great importance to the church; it never would have formed a part in the sacred canon; neither have been so carefully preserved among the records of the divine treasury; and handed down, as it hath been, to the present hour, as a blessed portion of God's holy word, " to make wise unto salvation, through faith, which is in Christ Jesus."

The leading purport of this Epistle, from Paul to Philemon, appears to have been principally to this design. Onesimus, a servant of Philemon, in the former part of his life, had been unfaithful to his master; and, as it should seem from certain expressions here and there in Paul's letter, had fraudulently taken his goods, and run away from his service. In his wandering, the God of all grace in his providence so ordered it, that his steps were directed to Rome; where Paul at that time was. And though the apostle was a prisoner for the cause of Christ; yet, as we read, in the book of the Acts, he dwelt in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ; with all confidence, no man forbidding him. (Acts xxviii. 30, 31.) To this ministry of the apostle Onesimus was brought. And the Lord blessed the word to his conversion. And thus, that precious promise of the Lord, in this man's instance, as in numberless others, was graciously fulfilled: "And


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