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SERMON VIII.

On Christian Friendship.

Cant. v. 16. This is my beloved, and this is my friend.

3. IF PERSONS are the true friends of Christ, their obligations to him appear exceeding great to them.

It is the nature of true friendship to operate thus. This above all things tends to make persons sensible of the obligations they are under to their friend, and to be ready, and even delight, to acknowledge them. The more we esteem and love any one, the greater does his kindness to us appear, and the more are we affected with it, and, consequently, the more sensible shall we be of the obligations we are under to him; and the more shall we be pleased and delighted in being thus obliged.

This takes place in the friendship we are now considering, to a degree beyond any parallel. No obligations in the universe are so great as those of Christ’s friends and servants to him. They are enhanced to an amazing degree, and become infinite every way. They are enough to fill the soul with wonder and astonishment, 129and swallow up all thought. And his friends are not without a sense of this. They feel themselves bound to Christ by the strongest ties, which are beyond all expression. He has bought them by his own precious blood, and what obligations do they acknowledge themselves to be under, to be wholly and forever devoted to him, with the utmost strength of their hearts!

If you are the friends of Christ, this has been often a very affecting theme to you. You have felt and acknowledged your obligations to Christ, with an ardour of soul inexpressible, and with a great degree of sweetness and delight. And you have said, many a time, “What shall I render to the Lord and Saviour for all his benefits?” And you have found you had no returns to make answerable to the immense obligations you are under to him.—This leads to observe,

4. The friends of Christ never think they have done enough for him, but always, in their own view, come vastly short of what they owe to him.

This is always the attendant of true friendship among men, especially where one is a great friend to another who is much his superior every way, and to whom he is under great and peculiar obligations. He is not afraid of doing too much for his friend; but always comes short of what he would be glad to do, being ready to purpose and do more than he does. And he is not apt to magnify what he has done, and think he does a great deal, as he does it with so much pleasure, and his obligations appear so great; but he is disposed to think it little, or even nothing; and if his friend appears to take great notice of it, he is ready to wonder at it, and think he greatly magnifies it. He thinks he is to blame that he has done no more, and is uneasy with himself on this account, and wonders that such notice should be taken of what he has done.

But in the case before us, this takes place in a higher degree than in any other; as the Christian’s friend is so much more worthy and excellent than any other, and he is under so much greater obligations to him, and 130 his defeats and short comings are so much greater and more aggravated than in any other case. All the Christian does, and renders to Christ, links into nothing, in his view, and he looks upon it as amazing condescension in Christ to take any notice of it, or accept it. He can heartily and feelingly espouse the language of a certain great friend of Christ, who was once in our world, but is now in heaven with him: “What I would, that I do not; and what I would not, that I do.” I am infinitely in debt to my glorious friend, but pay nothing. All my returns I make to him are so little, and so much below the obligations I am under, that they are altogether unworthy his notice. O that I could give away to him my whole self forever in one pure, constant, ardent flame of love. And even this would be so little, worthless a gift, that it is great grace and condescension in him to accept it. If I was called to the greatest sufferings in his cause, and to lay down my life for him, this I should count the greatest privilege; but how little would this be towards paying the debt I owe! how little compared with what he has done for me!

There are many professed Christians, who naturally think they do a great deal for Christ, and that he is much in debt to them for it; while they are really doing little compared with what many others do. And the very reason why they have so high an opinion of what they do is, because they count Christ’s service hard, and at bottom have no true love to him. But the true friends of Christ, from the great love they have to him, are disposed to look upon all they can do or suffer for him as little or nothing.

5. The friends of Christ are ready to espouse his cause at all times, let it cost them what it will.

This is the nature of true friendship; it will lead persons always to appear on the side of their friend, to espouse his cause, and promote his interest. Solomon observes, that a friend loveth at all times. This is applicable to the case before us: a true friend of Christ loveth at all times, is ready to stand up in his cause, and 131 espouse his interest, let who will oppose it. He is not ashamed of his friend, and will not account his name, estate or his life dear to him, if he is called to give any or all of them up, to testify his love to Christ. He is tenderly affected and hurt when Christ is slighted and dishonoured, and will do all he can to wipe off the reproach. And if Christ must be dishonoured and reproached, he is willing to suffer reproach with him; and desires not to fare better in the world than Christ and his cause do.

6. The true friends of Christ desire and long to have others become his friends.

Their benevolence to Christ, and to their fellow men, will both influence to this. They want all should love and honour Christ, out of love and benevolence to him; and they earnestly desire that others may enjoy the happiness of this friendship, as friends to them. Under the influence of this they are praying for others, that they may be brought to know Christ, and so become his real friends and servants. And they are taking all the proper ways they can think of to recommend Christ to others, both in words and conduct, by holding forth light, and matter of conviction of his worth and excellence.

7. The true friends to Christ know that they are naturally enemies to him, and continue to have a great degree of opposition and enmity in their hearts to him, even now.

There are many professed Christians who are Insensible that they are, or ever were, in any degree real enemies to Christ. They think mankind in general, and themselves in particular, are much misrepresented and abused, if any one declares them to be naturally enemies to Christ. This, we are obliged to think, is owing to their not being real friends to Christ. If they were, they could not be so insensible of that which opposes him. It is no wonder that he who is not a friend to Christ should be blinded in this matter, and wholly overlook his opposition and enmity to Christ; but that a true friend to him should be thus blinded is perfectly 132 unaccountable, and even impossible. All sin is most direct opposition to Christ, and enmity against him, whether it be in us or in others. But the Christian world is full of sin; and all men are naturally wholly given to it, and therefore really hate Christ. And even his best friends, in this world, have a great degree of corruption, and many sinful exercises of heart. And all this is real enmity to Christ, it being not the less so because they have a degree of love to Christ. Therefore it seems impossible that a friend to Christ should be insensible of this.

When any one has no true love and friendship for another, but greatly undervalues, dislikes and hates him, and yet imagines he is his true friend, he must of consequence be in a great degree stupid and blind to the slight and contempt that is cast upon him, and will naturally think he is treated well enough; and may look upon that as an act of respect to him, in which really a slight is put upon him, and is an act of enmity against his true character. But he who is a true friend to another, and esteems, honours and loves him to a great degree, for what he is in himself, and in a view of his true character, will be quick to discern and feel every slight that is put upon him, and every thing that opposes his character. So it is in this case; the true friend of Christ knows the whole world lies in wickedness, and that all men are naturally in arms against Christ, and are proclaiming their enmity against him; that he himself is naturally a rebel and enemy to him; and that there is a great degree of the same thing in his heart now, of which he mall never be wholly cured, till he is perfectly cured of all sin. In this view the friends of Christ loathe and abhor themselves, humble themselves before him, and lie in the dust at his feet, judging and condemning themselves, acknowledging their own guilt and ill-desert, and exceeding vileness and odiousness, and feeling themselves wholly without the least excuse. They know that the carnal mind, even every thing that is in man naturally, is enmity against Christ, and that the friendship 133 of this world Is enmity against him; that they are no further friends to Christ than they are new creatures, having put off the old man with his lusts, and put on the new man: and, O, how do they long for deliverance from this body of sin and death, to be perfectly like Christ, and turned into a pure, holy flame of perfect love to him!

8. The true friends of Christ think much of him, and his name is as ointment poured forth, having a sweetness and fragrancy, which often fills their hearts with an holy warmth and fervour, and sweet, heavenly delight.

Our dearest friends have always a place in our hearts: we are apt to have them much in our thoughts: every thing about us, and every occurrent, almost, will suggest the idea of them to our minds, which we are apt to carry with us wherever we go.

And surely there is something like this in the friendship we are considering. No person has reason to think he is a friend to Christ, unless he thinks much of him, and the pleasing idea he has formed of him is apt to be present, and is familiar to him.

The friend of Christ has really more concern with him, than with any other person in the universe; and more passes between him and Christ, than between any one else. To him his heart naturally goes out, when alone, in exercises of love, devotion and prayer; and of him he thinks much, even in company; for none can so divert him as to erase the sweet idea of his best beloved from his mind. And whatever he does in word or deed, he does all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Christ is in him the hope of glory; and the life he lives is a life of faith on the Son of God.

9. The friends of Christ do trust in him wholly for righteousness and strength. They trust in his merit and worthiness only, to recommend them so as to find acceptance with the Father of the universe, and to all that favour they need. They know they have no worthiness 134of their own, but infinitely the reverse of it; that they are in themselves most unworthy, odious and ill-deserving; and they know that Christ has merit and worthiness enough to recommend them; and they see wherein it consists. Their knowledge of the true character of Christ, and sense of his worthiness, excellency and amiableness, in which their love and friendship to him consists, is a sufficient foundation for their trust in him to recommend them to the offended Lawgiver. They see the reason why he is so worthy and acceptable to the Father; and do not wonder that he is ready to pardon and shew the greatest favours to those who are his friends, and for whom he has undertaken as their friend and patron, interposing and employing his merit and worthiness in their behalf. They therefore see the safety there is in relying upon him for this, however unworthy they are in themselves; that they need nothing but to be united to him, so that he shall be their friend, and properly espouse their cause, in order to have all the favour they want, and to be “accepted in the Beloved.” And the higher their love and friendship to Christ arises, and the greater sense they have of his excellency and Worthiness, the more strongly do they rely upon him for righteousness; the more clearly do they see the propriety, wisdom and glory of this way of the sinner’s finding acceptance with God, and with the more cheerfulness and delight do they trust in him, “desiring to be found in him, not having their own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” In short, the more they love Christ, the more fully do they see their destitution of all righteousness and worthiness of their own; yea, the infinite distance they are from any such thing, even their infinite vileness and ill-desert; and the more clearly do they behold the sufficiency of his worthiness to recommend them; and the more pleased are they with being saved in this way, as the wisest and most sweet and excellent of any they can imagine.

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If a person wants a favour of any one, which he has forfeited, and of which he is utterly unworthy, having justly incurred his highest displeasure; and there is another, a third person, whom he highly esteems and loves, and knows he is most worthy and acceptable in his eyes whose favour he wants; he will naturally desire that this his beloved friend should espouse his cause, and interpose the influence and merit he has with the offended person, to procure his pardon and favour. And if he knows that this his much esteemed and most dear friend has actually undertaken thus to mediate in the behalf of offenders, and in this work has done much to please and honour the offended, injured person, even enough more than to countervail the injury and damage he had sustained; he will naturally rely wholly upon his merit and worthiness with the offended person, for that acceptance and favour he wants. And his receiving it in this channel, wholly by the interposition, merit and worthiness of his highly esteemed and well beloved friend, will render it doubly sweet to him, at the same time that it will greatly endear to him his very worthy friend. And hence we may observe, that it is agreeable not only to the practice of mankind in such cases, but to the reason and nature of things, that such a friend should, by his merit with the offended person, procure pardon and favour to the offender, who applies to him and trusts in him, to do such a kind office for him; and that it may be reasonable and proper that such a favour should be given him purely out of respect to the merit and worthiness of his friend, to whom he is united, and in whom he trusts for this, which it would not be proper and wise to grant in any other way.

Thus the friend of Christ sees that “the Lord is well pleased for his righteousness sake,” and says, with unspeakable satisfaction and pleasure, “In the Lord have I righteousness;” yea, with immensely more pleasure than the angels have in being accepted in their own righteousness. And the honour and glory that the Mediator, 136their dearest friend, has, by thus becoming the righteousness of his people, and procuring pardon and acceptance for them, is exceeding satisfactory and pleasing to his friends. They are abased and humbled to the lowest degree, and made to take their proper place, in a sense of their own infinite unworthiness and guilt: Christ, their friend, is exalted, as having merit and worthiness with God sufficient to cancel their guilt, and recommend them to the greatest dignity and blessedness. And with this they are well pleased, and rejoice to take their own place, sink down low at the foot of Christ, and to exalt and honour their glorious Friend and Redeemer. And in this way they at the same time exalt and honour themselves in the highest degree.

They who are at heart in no degree friendly to Jesus Christ, never thus trust in him for righteousness; nor can they be reconciled to this method of pardon and salvation. Whatever profession they may make, and however orthodox they are in speculation, they do not really understand this matter; it is foolishness unto them, and their whole hearts do in all their exercises most directly and strongly oppose it; and they are at bottom seeking after righteousness, as it were by the works of the law. The friends of Christ trust wholly in him also for strength, by which they may persevere in love and friendship with him; being sensible that they have no sufficiency of their own, and that there is not the least ground of dependence on themselves. In this sense, they go through this wilderness to the world above, leaning on their beloved; knowing that though of themselves they can do nothing, yet through Christ strengthening them they can do all things.

III. Let what has been said on this subject be improved to recommend Jesus Christ to all as the best friend, and as a motive to enter into friendship with him, and make him their friend without delay.

You have been attending to the unspeakable privileges and blessedness of this friendship; you have had enough laid before you abundantly to convince you 137 that this is the most important and happiest friendship in the universe; that they are indeed blessed and made happy forever, who are true friends to Jesus Christ. They enjoy a much higher degree of happiness in this world, than any other persons ever did, or ever can do.

And you are all now invited into this friendship, who have hitherto lived strangers to it; you are none of you excluded; but Christ is offered to you all in the character of an almighty and most excellent friend; and nothing is wanting but the free consent of your hearts to give yourselves up to him, in this character, become friends to him, cleave to him, and love him, in order to his being your friend. You cannot fail of having him your friend but by rejecting the most kind offer he makes to you. If therefore any under the gospel perish at last for want of an all-sufficient friend, who is able and ready to do all for them they can want, even in the most extreme case, and is infinitely the best, most sweet and excellent friend in the universe; it must be because they have persisted through their whole life in refusing his kind offer to be their friend, and pressing invitations, urged by the strongest motives imaginable, to choose him as their friend.

All that has been said on this interesting, pleasing subject conspires to shew the folly and misery of such. But to all this a few words more may be added, in an address to such who have hitherto rejected this Heavenly Friend.

Consider how happy they must be who have entered into this friendship; who love, and are beloved by, such an infinitely excellent and amiable friend. Much has been said in the preceding discourses to set forth the happiness of such. But the particular consideration which is suited to lead you to conceive of this matter, is, the happiness of other friendships; at least the happiness which men are eagerly seeking and pursuing in them.

The blooming, sprightly youth commonly sets out soon in the eager pursuit of happiness, in love and friendship. 138For this he has the most keen taste, and can conceive of no higher enjoyment than this. To love and be beloved by a friend which he shall choose out from all the rest of mankind, and prefer to all the rest, to enjoy such a friend in the most agreeable circumstances, is the height of all felicity in his view. And even the hope and prospect of it will give a degree of high enjoyment, such as it is, and prompt him to go through almost any difficulty and hardship, in order to be united with and enjoy such a friend.

Your observation and experience with respect: to this may serve to convince you of the exalted happiness of the friendship I am inviting you into. What are all the excellencies and charms, either of body or mind, of the most lovely persons on earth, compared with those of Jesus Christ! You want nothing but a taste and relish for his beauties, in order to lower your relish for all mere human friendships, and to make you long for real enjoyment in the most noble and substantial friendship; and the highest enjoyment of earthly lovers (to obtain which they would be willing to give away all the riches of both the Indies) would appear to you to be mean trash; a low, despicable, fading nothing. They who, in a high taste for friendship, are pursuing happiness in earthly loves, are always disappointed in a greater or less degree. Either they never get possession of the beloved object, or, if they do, they find not those excellencies they expected, having greatly overrated them in their imaginations; or the enjoyment does not answer their expectations; and the happiness they find is short-lived, and attended with many troubles and undesirable things, and soon dies away. And often the short-lived comfort gives place to a keen and lasting misery, which leaves the poor creature in absolute despair of that happiness which had been expected, and so eagerly fought after. But in the friendship now proposed to you, your highest expectations shall be immensely outdone. The enjoyment of your friend shall not fade, but increase. You will find 139 his beauty and excellency greater than you conceived; and that the one half was not told you. You shall exist in the bloom and vigour of eternal youth. Your taste for love and friendship shall not die, but increase, and be a thousand times as high and keen as that of the most passionate, doating earthly lover: and this shall be completely satisfied in the enjoyment of your beloved, under all imaginable advantages, and with every desirable circumstance, while his beauties shall sparkle in your eyes, and more and more charm, and fill you with unutterable transports of the most solid and lasting joy, and he will give himself wholly to you forever.

O let them who have a high relish for earthly love and friendship improve this to help their conceptions of the happiness of the love and friendship now recommended; and let them hence be excited to seek after this enjoyment, by choosing Jesus Christ as their friend. Let them know that it is only because their taste is vitiated and perverted, that they are not pursuing this love with as much eagerness and high expectation as the fond youth is hurried on in earthly amours.

And let the youth, in particular, be invited into this friendship. It is pity the morning of your days, the bloom and vigour of life, should be spent in the eager pursuit of that which will not profit, but end in disappointment and misery. It is pity you should not give yourselves up to Jesus Christ, the heavenly friend, in your early days, and let him have your first love. He is calling upon you to give your hearts to him, in this noble and exalted friendship. You shall find all the sweetness in this that you expect, and are pursuing elsewhere, and ten thousand times more. And this shall sweeten all other friendships to you, that are worthy to be desired and pursued. This will lay a foundation for a virtuous, noble friendship with others, which shall grow more and more refined and sweet, and shall end in something happy and glorious, beyond all our present conceptions.

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Again, consider the base ingratitude and wickedness there is in slighting and rejecting the offers of this friendship with Jesus Christ, and the dreadful consequence of it. If you do not enjoy all the blessings of this friendship, it will be wholly your own fault, and the consequence will be unutterable misery. You must answer for the wickedness you are guilty of in rejecting Christ, which is in proportion to his greatness, worthiness and excellence, his kindness and lore, and the happiness you hereby refuse. You are spurning at, and trampling upon, the most tender love, of the most worthy and excellent personage, who offers to receive you into the embraces of the dearest love. And O, what will be the consequence of this! Why, Christ, the great and celebrated friend, who now offers to take you into a dear and everlasting friendship, and become your most loving friend forever, if you will consent to it, will become your peculiar and greatest enemy; yea, your implacable enemy forever. He will hate you, and heap mischiefs on your head, without the least degree of pity or regard to your interest. He will cast you into outer darkness, and tread you down in his wrath, and trample you in his fury. His hatred, wrath and vengeance towards you will be great and dreadful in proportion to his love and kindness to his friends. And all his friends will most heartily, join with him in this; and not one of them will exercise the least love and pity towards you. All your friendships you are entering into and pursuing now, will wholly cease soon, and turn into the most tormenting hatred and enmity. The higher your love and friendship with others rises, which is consistent with your being enemies to Christ, and the more connections you have with inch, the greater enemies and plagues will you be to one another forever. And the time will soon come when you shall know you have not a friend in the universe, and that you yourself know not, nor ever will know, what true friendship means; being justly cursed, and given up to an unfriendly heart, full of pride, hatred, envy, malice, revenge, 141cursing and bitterness, in consequence of your refusal to enter into a friendship with Jesus Christ, Consider how hard and cutting it is now to be hated, and have the ill will of others, and find yourself friendless when in calamity and distress, and you stand in need of help; and let this teach you a little what you must feel if you ever come to the case just described. And as you would avoid all this evil, of which we can have but a faint idea now, be persuaded to attend to the most kind offer which Christ makes to you. O run, fly into his arms, which are now stretched out to you, and he will embrace you forever. Are you in the utmost danger of sinking into hell, his almighty, everlasting arms shall be underneath you, to hold you up, and raise you to the highest heavens. Are you most miserable and wretched, run to Christ, and he will deliver you out of all trouble, and effectually secure you from all evil; yea, he will turn evil into good, and bring the greatest good to you out of the greatest calamity and evil. He is, in the most eminent sense, the friend and brother who was born for adversity. He is able and ready to help in the most adverse, evil case, where no other friend can help and deliver. This is his peculiar work, and which is his glory.” He is anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, to bind up the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those that are bruised, to comfort all that mourn, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

O, how much do you want such a friend as this I How miserable must you be without him! What a comfort will such a friend be in the various calamities in this life! His name is as a strong tower: the righteous, his true friends, run into it, and are safe. How much will you want such a friend, when you come to die! one who has conquered death, and taken away his sting, and turned him into a friend to his people: and 142over such the second death shall have no power. What have you to object against entering into this friendship without delay? Have you any objections against Christ, as not being such an one as you want and desire? O, let not one of you say so! How shall we bear to have our dearest and most excellent friend thus spoken against, and set at nought! O ye friends of Christ, do not your hearts bleed when your best beloved friend is thus contemned and wounded! And do you not pity these poor, deluded creatures, who are thus abusing the kindest friend of sinners, to their own eternal ruin! Surely this is the language of your hearts, O sinners! You have a thousand objections against him. He has in your eyes no form nor comeliness, no beauty, that you should desire him; therefore he is despised and rejected by you.

Or do you object against yourselves, as too mean, guilty and unworthy to be received and loved by such a friend, so that it would be presumption in you to think of entering into such a near union and friendship with him? This objection is altogether groundless: was it not so, he never would have admitted one of the fallen race into this happy, high and noble friendship; for this objection, if it were one, lies with infinite weight and strength against them all. Do you find that Christ has any where made this objection against any, in his word? Surely no! so far from this, that he has done and said every thing he possibly could, to shew that this is not the least objection with him, and never did, nor ever will, make it against the most vile, guilty wretch among mankind, who is willing to be his friend, and chooses him for his friend and redeemer. Your guilt, vileness and misery will be many ways an advantage to this peculiar friendship, as has been shewn; and will be so far from being a dishonour to this glorious Friend of sinners, though be take you into the nearest and dearest relation and friendship with himself, that it will turn greatly to his honour and glory. Let this 143then rather be an argument with you to give yourselves up to him without delay, as your almighty, wonderful, excellent friend.

IV. Let the professed friends of Jesus Christ be hence led seriously to consider their distinguishing privileges, and high and peculiar obligations. Your profession and calling is a holy, high and heavenly one indeed. How amazingly dreadful to be found at last, after all your profession and hopes, those to whom Christ will say, “I never knew you: Depart from mc, ye workers of iniquity!” O give all diligence to make your calling and election sure. Cleave to this infinitely excellent and glorious friend with your whole hearts, and in all your ways. O love him, and he will love you; he will manifest himself unto you, in all the wonders of his love and grace; he will come unto you, and take up his abode with you. Shall the friends of Christ suffer themselves to get at a distance from him, and let their hearts sink down into a great degree of indifference and coldness towards him I Shall they cleave and bow down to some other friend, which courts their affections! Shall they turn away from him, and seek to make friendship with this world, which is enmity against Christ? If there are any such, they may with great propriety be addressed in the words of Absalom to Hushai: “Is this thy kindness to thy friend! Why wentest thou not with thy friend?” What fault have you found in him, that you treat him so? Are you not, in a sense, betraying him into the hands of his enemies? Shall he be thus wounded in the house of his professed friends!

Oh hearken to his sweet and charming voice, while he calls to you in such melting language as this: “Look unto me, my spouse, from the lion’s dens, from the mountains of the leopards. Return unto me, for I am married unto you. Hearken, O daughter, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him.” O, if you 144have a spark of true love and friendship for him, how can you forbear saying, and resolving with your whole heart, “I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better with me than now.” Take with you words, and turn to the Lord, your Friend and Redeemer: say unto him, “Take away all our iniquity, and receive us graciously into thy favour, and the most kind embraces of thy love: so will we render thee our whole souls in the most ardent love, gratitude and praise.” He will then heal your backslidings, and love you freely.

Let the dear friends of Christ hold fall their profession without wavering, and follow on to know the Lord. Cleave to him, let it cost you what it will; and hold yourselves in readiness to part with all, even your own lives, for him. If ye suffer in his cause, as his friends and followers, happy are ye. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for his sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, if there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love to Christ and to one another. If ye be indeed risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Sec your affection on things above, not on things on the earth: and when Christ, the chief shepherd and your friend, shall appear, you shall appear with him in glory; and ye shall receive a crown of everlasting glory, and reign with him in his kingdom forever. Amen.

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