Hebrews 13:18
Here is a new and unexpected relation between the shepherd and the sheep; for as a shepherd the author of this Epistle must be viewed, whoever he may be. The shepherd instinct, striving to guard Christians from error and backsliding, is manifest in every page. But while there is authority, the authority of one who sees with a clear eye right into truth, there is also, as expressed in this request, a most touching sense of need. The guiding and comforting of Christians is an awful burden. To be in any way charged with the diffusion and enforcement of the truth keeps the heart continually on the strain. There are so many things to say, so little time in which to say them, and such lack of the best words, as makes one say, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Hence the earnestness with which one who is busy from the heart in working for Christ asks for the intercession of others. Only a man himself knowing the power of prayer could utter such a request. A prayerless man will never have an inward impulse prompting him to say, "Pray for us." Note where this request comes in - just at the end of the Epistle. As if the writer intended his friends to feel that he would first of all do all he could for them before he asked anything from them. If indeed they had profited by his instructions then, both intellectually and spiritually, they would be in the fittest mood to pray for him. - Y.







Pray for us.
I. SOME CONSIDERATIONS TO ILLUSTRATE AND CONFIRM THE NECESSITY OF SUCH PRAYER.

1. The awful responsibility of the ministerial office.

2. We are men of like passions with yourselves, with bodies requiring to be kept under, and with souls to save.

II. SOME SUITABLE HEADS OF PRAYER.

1. First of all, pray that "utterance may be given unto us, that we may open our mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel." The full and free declaration of " the gospel of the grace of God" is the crowning part of the Christian minister's office.

2. Again, "pray" for your minister, that in dispensing among you the Word of God, he may be enabled rightly to divide it. Much spiritual wisdom is required here.

3. But, again, "pray for us," that the truths which we preach to you may be so deeply impressed upon our own souls by the Spirit of God that they may always exert a commanding influence over our life, conversation, and whole deportment, and thus become the springs of a holy and consistent walk.

4. Again, "pray for us," that we may be made conquerors over our peculiar temptations as ministers — that we may never speak to you "smooth things" merely for the sake of pleasing you.

5. Yet, again, "pray for us," that we are bold and faithful witnesses for Christ, God would keep us lowly and humble in ourselves, and enable us to ascribe all that we are, and have, and may become, to His free favour.

III. The truth is simply this: a minister cannot be blessed without his flock being made to experience a correspondent share of blessing. YOUR PRAYERS FOR ME WILL BE CROWNED WITH INTEREST TO YOURSELVES. You will find your own souls growing in grace " and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." You will find yourselves daily becoming more ripe for " the inheritance of the saints in light." Thus it is that God graciously orders that our labours of love for one another should be reflected upon ourselves.

(H. Cadell, M. A.)

We trust we have a good conscience.
I. WHAT CONSCIENCE IS.

1. It is an inbred faculty of the soul, "a noble and Divine power, planted of God in the soul, working upon itself by reflection": or thus, "the soul of a man recoiling upon itself." A faculty, I call it, because it produceth acts, and is not got and lost as habits are, but is inseparable from the soul, immovable from the subject, as neither acts nor habits are. In the understanding part it is a judge, determining and prescribing, absolving and condemning de jure. In the memory it is a register, a recorder, and witness, testifying de facto. In the will and affections, a jailor and executioner, punishing and rewarding. Say we not in common use of speech, which is the emperor of words, My conscience tells me I did or did not such a thing, which is an action of the memory? My conscience bids me do, or forbids me to do this or this, which is but an action of the will. It smites me, it checks me, it comforts or it torments me: what are these but actions of the affections recoiling upon the soul?

2. God hath given it more force and power to work upon men than all other agents whatsoever. It, being internal and domestical, hath the advantage of all foreign and outward.

3. It being individual and inseparable, there is no putting of it to flight or flying from it. It was bred and born with us; it will live and die with us. Agues a man may shake off, tyrants and ill masters a man may fly from; but this saith (as Ruth to Naomi), "I will go with thee whithersoever thou goest." It hath more immediate deputation and authority from God (of whom all principalities and powers receive theirs) than angels, kings, magistrates, father, mother, or any other superior. It is only inferior to God.

II. WHAT A GOOD CONSCIENCE IS.

1. The goodness of it is the peace of it; for stirring, accusing, and galling consciences are consequents of sin, and presuppose some evil.

2. They, secondly, prove good unto us only by accident, and God's goodness, which maketh them as afflictions, gather grapes of thorns; yea, all things work to the best of His beloved, as physicians do poison in their confections

3. And thirdly, they do not always produce this effect. Sometimes as sicknesses and purgations, they are in order to health, as in the Jews (Acts 2). Oftentimes as in Cain, Judas, Ahithophel, they destroy their owners. Good consciences, therefore, properly to speak, are only quiet ones, excusing and comforting; but here take heed the devil, the great impostor of our souls, put not upon our folly and simplicity, three sorts of quiet ones, as he doth to most: the blind, the secure, and the seared. What, then, is a good conscience? That which speaks peace with God's allowance, which is a messenger of good things between God and us, that upon good grounds is in good terms with God. It lies in the lawful peace of it, and not in integrity and freedom from sin.

(T. Adams.)

We remember the old story of the mariners who, because they followed the direction of their compass, thought they were infallibly right, until they arrived at an enemy's port, and found themselves suddenly seized and made slaves. They did not take into consideration the possibility that any agency had tampered with the needle. Yet the wicked captain had, on purpose to betray the ship to enemies, so carefully concealed a large loadstone near the needle as to make it untrue to itself, and thus be the means of their ruin. Something not very unlike this is often true of conscience. Conscience may be perverted as truly as any other faculty of the soul — so perverted as even to mislead and destroy, while it is relied upon to direct in the path of safety. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways o! death." We are warned, then, to take care of the conscience. See that there is no prejudice, no passion, no evil influence that is perverting it, and gradually making it untrue to itself, and therefore unsafe. We must examine the basis of our conscientiousness. Is there a concealed loadstone which is attracting the needle from its true polarity heavenward, toward spiritual foes and spiritual bondage? This is a vital question for every man.

There is no friend so good as a good conscience. There is no foe so ill as a bad conscience. It makes us either kings or slaves. A man that hath a good conscience, it raiseth his heart in a princely manner above all things in the world. A man that hath a bad conscience, though he be a monarch, it makes him a slave. A bad conscience embitters all things in the world to him, though they be never so comfortable in themselves. What is so comfortable as the presence of God? What is so comfortable as the light? Yet a bad conscience, that will not be ruled, it hates the light, and hates the presence of God, as we see Adam, when he had sinned, he fled from God (Genesis 3:8). A bad conscience cannot joy in the midst of joy. It is like a gouty foot, or a gouty toe, covered with a velvet shoe. Alas! what doth ease it? What doth glorious apparel ease the diseased body? Nothing at all. The ill is within. There the arrow sticks.

(B. Sibbes.)

A good conscience is to the soul what health is to the body; it preserves a constant ease and serenity within us, and more than countervails all the calamities and afflictions which can possibly befall us.

(T. Addison.)

It will be found that men are sensitive to right and wrong, not so much by reason of the direct impact of intellectual decision as by reason of intellectual decision transmitted through another faculty or emotion. Take an illustration out of my own experience — for it is always allowable, I believe, for a man to dissect his own sins. When I came to Brooklyn, feeling a certain independence, I refused to return marriage certificates to the authorities. There was no law which compelled me to do it, and I was not going to return them for mere form's sake. By and by a law was passed that all clergymen should return marriage certificates to the Board of Health, but I did not do it then; I did not see any reason for it, and I was not going to trouble myself about it. But after the first year of the war, on two or three occasions it happened some woman would come to me and say, "My husband was killed on the battlefield; the Government owed him for bounty and back pay; but I cannot get the money unless I can prove that I was married to him: will you not give me a certificate? "I had none. I had made no return of their marriage, it did not take more than one argument like that to convince me that I ought to make returns of certificates of marriage. I said to myself, "If the bread of the poor is often to be determined by the fact of a marriage; if the fact of a marriage is a question of humanity, and can settle what is right and what is wrong, then my duty in the matter is clear"; and I believe I have not failed to return the certificate of a marriage since that day. The mere abstract law would not affect any conscience; but since my conscience was approached through sympathy, through benevolent feeling, you could not bribe me to neglect my duty in that regard. My conscience has strength on that side.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Willing to live honestly.
I. IN ORDER TO ILLUSTRATE THE EXCELLENCY AND IMPORTANCE OF THIS VIRTUE OF HONESTY, WE SHALL POINT OUT SOME OF THE FOUNTAINS FROM WHENCE THE OPPOSITE VICE FLOWS, OR SOME OF THE CHIEF CAUSES OF DISHONESTY. Opposites frequently illustrate each other to great advantage. The beauty and charms of Christian virtue gain strength by arousing in us an abhorrence of immoral practices. Honesty will appear more honourable by awakening a proper hatred of the odious deformity of dishonesty. With regard to the chief springs of dishonesty, they may be contemplated. Under a general consideration, dishonesty arises from the same common source with all other kinds of iniquities. It arises from the awful depravity of the human heart. But the more particular causes of dishonesty are such things as these —

1. Slothfulness, idleness, and an aversion to labour and the business of our calling.

2. Avarice or covetousness.

3. Luxury and extravagance.

4. Pride and selfishness.

II. SOME CONSIDERATIONS AND MOTIVES TO INDUCE US TO BE CONSCIENTIOUSLY HONEST IN ALL OUR EMPLOYMENTS, BUSINESS, AND CONVERSATION WITH OUR FELLOW-MEN. Can we now think a dishonest thought, contrive a dishonest scheme, or be guilty of a dishonest action? Consider the right every man has to enjoy his own, by the laws of nature, reason, religion and society, in respect to his person, property, and character. These blessings are the benefactions of heaven to all. Their right to the undisturbed possesssion of them is founded upon the grant of the God of nature and of grace.

1. Will the Almighty Sovereign see His creatures and His children rifled of their immunities and blessings, which His goodness and bounty hath conferred upon them, and not conceive resentment? Will He not whet His glittering sword, and His hand lay hold on vengeance?

2. Further consider, sincerity and honesty are the very bonds which hold society together. The religious observation of these virtues are the great means to advance its real interests. A dishonest person is a public nuisance, and may be viewed as a common enemy to mankind.

3. Consider the practice of dishonesty is prohibited in a thousand instances in the Word of God. The Divine wrath is revealed against it, both in His declarations, and in many examples recorded in the sacred history.

(A. Macwhorter, D. D.)

The religious tradesman complains that his honesty is a hindrance to his success; that the tide of custom pours into the doors of his less scrupulous neighbours in the same street, while he himself waits for hours idle. My brother, do you think that God is going to reward honour, integrity, highmindedness, with this world's coin? Do you fancy that He will pay spiritual excellence with plenty of custom? Now, consider the price that man has paid for his success. Perhaps mental degradation and inward dishonour. His advertisements are all deceptive: his treatment of his workmen tyrannical; his cheap prices made possible by inferior articles. Sow that man's seed mad you will reap that man's harvest. Cheat, lie, advertise, be unscrupulous in your assertions, custom will come to you. But if the price is too dear, let him have his harvest, and take yours. Yours is a clear conscience, a pure mind, rectitude within and without. Will you part with that for his? Then why do you complain? He has paid his price; you do not choose to pay it.

(F. W. Robertson.)

Of the Rev. S. F. Bridge, independent minister, his son says: His integrity was unbending. One circumstance in connection with domestic life demonstrated this sterling feature. A kind friend used sometimes to send a parcel of clothing, and on this occasion, in a coat pocket, a five-pound note was discovered. Many, even of the Lord's people, might have appropriated the money, and thought it "quite a providence." But father did not so. There are timely provisions and there are baits which test God's family. He knew the. donor's habits, and would not take for granted that the note was intentionally submitted in a delicate manner, so he promptly sent it back with an explanation. I well remember how dear mother — her name was Martha — urged with tears that he should write first, and ascertain whether it had not been enclosed as a gift; but, although the value of five pounds was multiplied by the many mouths to be fed, she soon endorsed father's way as the right one. I believe this matter was never known save to the Lord, the family, and the gentleman himself. That five pounds (lid not reach us again.

(Sword and. Trowel.)

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