The New Zealand Evangelist
Substance of a Farewell Address to the Wesleyan Congregation, Wellington, Feb. 4
Substance of a Farewell Address to the Wesleyan Congregation, Wellington, Feb. 4.
2 Cor. xiii. 11. Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
The Church at Corinth was planted by the Apostle Paul. He had great success there as “in every place;” for although the Jews “opposed themselves and blasphemed,” yet not so all; for “Crispus, the Chief ruler of the Synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house, and many of the Corinthians” with him. So satisfactory was the state of things, that Paul “continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them,” and gathering souls to Christ. Soon after he left the city, the Church's spiritual prosperity declined. Discipline was strangely neglected. The grossest sinners were tolerated in communion, and the consequences may readily be anticipated. When the garden of the Lord is neglected, its fences dilapidated and thrown down, noxious weeds suffered to luxuriate among page 218 the flowers and pleasant plants, it will soon become a wilderness and a desert. And so it was with the Corinthians. What made the matter worse was their ignorance of this. They were in their own estimation happy Christians, prided themselves in their gifts and knowledge, and considered themselves in advance of their Christian neighbours.
The Apostle, not able to visit them, rebuked them sharply by Epistle; exposed their sin, and enjoined humiliation and repentance. But although he thus administered severe and pointed reproof, his love toward them did not cease. Nay his rebukes were rather a proof of his love. He was a cruel, as well as foolishly indulgent parent, whose “sons made themselves vile and he restrained them not.” It is no proof of friendly regard to hide from my brother his faults. So the Apostle out of love administers reproof to the Corinthians, and intermingles tokens of his attachment. He tells them of his anxious wish to see them, of his purposes to do so, which were thrice frustrated, and at the close of this his second Epistle salutes them by the fralernal title which they had scarcely deserved, or desired, “Finally, brethren, farewell,” &c.
Our circumstances on the present occasion are greatly different from those of the Apostle, and the people he addressed. Rebukes, sharp and severe as those contained in these Epistles, have not been needed, and we trust will never be. But the language of the text seems appropriate. At all events your preacher uses them in all sincerity as the expression of his own feelings towards you.
I. The affectionate valediction, "Finally, brethren, farewell." How many sad remembrances are called up by that word farewell! It is a word with which most of us are familiar. We remember the sorrowful day when amid the tears and sighs and shakes of the hand of our relatives and friends the farewell was exchanged, and our dear earthly connexions were for ever severed. Happy we, if in the spirit of the poet we may sing.page 219
“Strangers and pilgrims here below,
This earth we know is not our place;
But hasten through the vale of woe,
And restless to bebold thy face,
Swift to our heavenly country move,
Our everlasting home above.”
The separation though painful is sometimes necessary, and often beneficial to all concerned. But it is of little moment where our temporary lot may be cast, if we “can read our title clear” to the eternal mansions, and persevere in the search after “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
1. In the word farewell the wish includes all temporal good. “Beloved,” as said “the elder unto the well-beloved Gaius,” I wish above all things that thou mayst prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” May all the blessings consequent upon obedience, as promised by Moses to the children of Israel, Deut. xxviii. 2—13 be yours! “In the city, in the field, in your families, in your cattle, your kine, and the flocks of your sheep, in your basket, and your store, when you come in, and when you go out, may you have prosperity! In all these temporalities farewell!
2. But in saying farewell, we wish you all spiritual blessing. “God give you of the dew of heaven!” May the graces of the Holy Spirit flourish in full vigour, and without blight or drawback come to maturity in you, so that all and every one of you may “be perfect and entire wanting nothing.” May the house of prayer which you are commencing speedily advance towards completion! May no accident occur to any who shall be engaged in its erection! And especially may “the glory of this latter house be greater than that of the former” may “the Lord of Hosts fill this house with glory.” In all your spiritual interests, farewell!
3. May you fare well in eternity! What is the good of all this world if we fail as to our everlasting welfare? Surely nothing is so important, nothing so nearly concerns us as to secure” a lot among the page 220 blest.” With this blessed hope in possession we are happy any where, under any circumstances, even amid painful trials, separations and bereavements. Without it we are not, cannot be happy, although all about us may be prosperous. Oh! if we win heaven, the ruggedness of the road, the toils and anxieties of the conflict, will at once be forgotten in the rest, the victory, the triumph of immortality. “Brethren, farewell in your temporal, spiritual, and eternal interests.
I. The Hortatory Directions given by the Apostle:—
I. “Be perfect,” —The word signifies maturity, full vigour, the manhood of Christianity. “Quit yourselves like men.” Have the full use of your spiritual faculties. Possess all the parts of the Christian character; and have them not in sickly, waning existence, but in full vigorous health. As to your acquaintance with, and belief in, Christian doctrine “be perfect.” Seek to be no longer” unskilful in the word of righteousness,” mere babes in sound doctrine. Become of “full age,” so that ye may digest the “good meat” of the Gospel, and “have your senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” In order to this, there must be a daily, prayerful examination of the sacred volume, a regular, serious attendance upon all and every of the ordinances of God, as we have opportunity, and a habit of thought and meditation upon the holy truths we read and hear. He that soweth bountifully in these matters, shall reap also bountifully in a well-informed judgment concerning, and a thorough reception of the “faith of God's elect.”
As to your Christian experience, be perfect. Endeavour after a full conformity to the will of God, a total renewal in the spirit of your mind. Seek that all the graces enumerated by St. Peter, 2nd Epistle, chap. i 5—7, may not only be “in you,” but “abound,“that ye may be “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.” Pray that the old man in you may page 221 be crucified, that you may be “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” and so fulfil “the first and great commandment;” “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” In your outward character and conversation, be perfect. Carry out the idea of a full-grown Christian in your intercourse with your brethren and the world. In all your relations of life, act out the Christian. Let your religion make you more dutiful and respectful as a child, more diligent and careful as a servant, more loving and yielding as a wife, more thoughtful and affectionate as a husband. Be a consistent, upright, courteous Christian towards all.
2. “Be of good comfort.“—Have in possession the enjoyments, the consolations, the “good comfort” of religion. It is your birthright. “Comfortye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably,” or “to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned,” &c. Why should you not be comfortable and happy? Does not God love you? Has not Christ died for you? Is not the Holy Spirit helping you?
“Why should the children of a King
Go mourning all their days?”
“Be of good comfort.”—Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound.” Lift up your heads, shew the happiness of the Gospel. Do not, by your melancholic deportment, justify the libellous statements of the ungodly, that religion is a gloomy thing. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness.”— Shew in your happy life that this is ever so. “Be of good comfort.”
3. “Be of one mind.“—You are one in Church fellowship. You maintain an outward union. Be united in heart and mind. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Why may not this goodness and pleasantness be always exhibited? But small sacrifices will again page 222 and again be required in order to it. Obstinacy in maintaining an opinion will, perhaps, be found a great draw-back; so also will hastiness of temper, or a disposition to make merry with your brother's failings and infirmities. If, also, some of you are careless as to the means of grace, neglectful of the more special privileges which we enjoy; and unwise, nay, decidedly sinful in the selection of your company, your books, or your amusements, it is obvious that your conscientious brother or sister cannot feel that oneness of spirit with you which is here enjoined.
4. “Live in peace.“—The Christian, being justified by faith, has “peace with God.” The religion of which he is the happy possessor, brings also
“Sweet peace, wherever she arrives:”
so he is prepared for, and expected to “follow peace with all men.” Every effort should be made for this. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you,” says the Apostle, “live peaceably with all men.” “If it be possible,” sometimes it is not, when in order to peace we must sacrifice principle, when for this peace we must tolerate sin in our neighbour. Better be at open war than have peace with such unscriptural truckling to the world. But in every thing else, be willing to suffer, yield, give way, for the sake of peace. “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.” Love and kindness will generally melt when an opposite course would only harden.
III. The Encouraging Promise.—“The God of Love and peace shall be with you,” which comfortable words include every thing necessary for your spiritual and eternal welfare.
1, The God of Love and Peace.—So he is in his own nature. “This is his name forever, and this is his memorial throughout all generations.” In this attractive aspect he revealed himself to Moses in the cleft of the rock.—Exod. xxxiv.6,£7. By this blessed name he is known throughout the entire Scriptures.page 223
“God is Love “— “loving to every man”—“good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Oh, what a delightful name to the Christian! From him, the obedient, humble follower has every thing to hope for, and nothing to fear.
2. The God of Love and Peace shall be with you; not bless and serve you at a distance. Not only will he forgive all your iniquity, and change your heart from sin to holiness; but he will dwell in the heart he has renewed. “If a man love me,” says Christ, “he will keep my words, and my father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Do trials and afflictions await you? Encourage yourselves “in the Lord.” “He shall deliver you in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch you.” Are you exposed to severe persecutions for the sake of Christ? Be of good cheer. Even “in the midst of the burning fiery furnace,” the presence of the Almighty shall be your safeguard and deliverance. Do you fear the approach of the King of Terrors? “Give to the winds thy fears. Hope, and be undismayed.” Your heavenly Father “will never leave” you, especially not when you most need him. “In the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,” the “Good Lord“will “deliver” you, and “an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
3. But you will perceive the connexion between the promise and the directions. If we attend to the exhortation, we may be assured of the fulfilment of the promise. Duty and privilege, promise and precept, are invariably associated in the word of God. We may not realize the blessing, unless we faithfully follow the prescriptions. “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace;” and then, most assuredly, “the God of Love and peace shall be with you.” Neglect the injunction, and you will as certainly fail of the promise. “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation.” Farewell, then, brethren! page 224 Let us pursue the Christian path with steadiness and perseverance, and then, though separated for a time, we shall be happily re-united in Eternity! Amen.