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longer content to pray in words for that grace, which you never use to the improvement of your heart and life; to hear these directions which you never attempt, nor perhaps intend to follow; to be convinced by the preacher of the importance of those duties, which you never design, or never seriously endeavour to practise,
CONSTANCY IN OUR CHRISTIAN PROFESSION.
1 TIM. VI. 12.
Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life,
whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
The expression of the fight of faith, or, more properly, the contest of faith, is an allusion to the athletic games of ancient Greece; the
preparation for which required much self-denial and endurance; and the prize of which was an object of competition to the noblest and the richest of her sons. With their ambition and exertions St. Paul elsewhere compares his own, and those of the Christian competitors for the rewards of eternity; who were temperate in all things, and brought their bodies into subjection, to obtain not a corruptible crown, but an incorruptible. And therefore the Apostle's exhortation in the text, Fight the good fight of faith, enjoins upon his young disciple the exercise of all those qualities of temperance, patience, firmness, and resolute perseverance, which, if they were necessary to ensure the mastery in a contest with flesh and blood, were still more indispensable to him, who had to wrestle against principalities and powers ; against the rulers of the darkness of this world ; against spiritual wickedness in high places.?
A similar allusion to the same contests of strength is again made by St. Paul, in his second Epistle to Timothy, with a like anticipation of reward; I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course ; I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day. The successful competitor in the games reached forth his hand, to receive from the judge, or umpire, the crown of victory; and therefore St. Paul, after encouraging his youthful friend to fight the good, or honourable fight of faith, tells him to grasp the promised recompense, or prize ; lay hold on eternal life. So he describes himself to the Philippians, as pressing towards the mark, or goal, for the prize ; and as here it is eternal life whereunto thou art called, so there it is the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Lastly, as in the case of a striving for those honours, which, however trivial the intrinsic value of the prize, elevated the successful competitor to the highest pitch of popular fame, the candidates were obliged to make beforehand a public declaration of their country, and parentage, and determination to enter the lists, in presence of the most august assembly of the heathen world; so the Apostle thinks fit to remind the Christian candidate for heavenly honours, that he had not only been called to a participation in them, through the appointed means; but that he had professed himself, in public and solemn manner, one of that chosen body of resolute men, who had embraced the faith, and taken up the cross of Christ, and were prepared to encounter all hardships and difficulties, in their struggle for an imperishable and unfading crown of glory.
11 Cor. ix. 25.
? Eph. vi. 12.
The profession, to which the Apostle here alludes, was made by Timothy, upon his ordination to the presbytery ; but his exhortation is applicable to every one who bears the name of Christian : certainly to every one who pretends to any part or lot in those privileges, which are implied in that name; for all such have professed a good profession, before many witnesses.
In the first place, all have been baptized. That being the form of admission into his Church appointed by the Lord himself, we can hardly attribute the privileges and hopes of membership to any who refuse or neglect that sacrament. But this, it may be said, when administered to infants, cannot with truth be designated as a profession of Christianity. Now, in the first place, such a profession is made in the name, and on the behalf of the infant, by his sponsors; and unless he retract that profession, upon arriving at the age of discretion, he does virtually recognise it, and take it upon himself. He would, in fact, recognise such an implied profession, even if none had been made for him in terms by his sponsors; for, since the Gospel requires it of all who would become Christians, and all must become Christians by baptism,) it follows, that every one who is baptized, and afterwards bears the character of a Christian, may be considered as having virtually, by his acquiescence in the relation so laid upon him, made a distinct profession of faith in Christ, and of fidelity in his