« AnteriorContinuar »
THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER DELINEATED UPON EVAN-
Christianity is not that mechanical sort of thing that some of the advocates of it have described it to be. It is most certainly a holy system of truth blended together in one centre of union, from which it can never be separated. But we are also to view it as a system of truth which is chosen by God for to bring about the best end, namely, his own glory, in the personal sanctification of his children. The nature of evangelical truth is plainly delineated by the practical results which attend the reception of it. There is not a single fact in the gospel of our salvation but what is connected with the honour of God, and the best interest of the brethren of the Son of God. Whatever duties God has commanded his servants to practice, while his glory is the chief thing that is intended by doing of his will, yet he has connected their felicity with a just observance of his authority. God will not command the performance of any thing which is unjust and unnecessary. The obedience which God demands from his creatures is always agreeable to the nature of the relationship in which they stand to him. Thus when God speaks to the saints in New Testament language, it is on the ground of a relationship which he has constituted in the person of his Son, and unto which he has supremely adopted them in him. "In keeping of thy commandments there is great reward."
We have before considered the nature of the relationship subsisting between the children of God—we will now consider the mutual interest which they have in each other, together with the reciprocal claims which they have one upon another.
The interest in the whole body of christians is indivisible. One heart and one way are promised to the heirs of life, and the promise has never been falsified. Whatever we see in the family of heaven contrary in its nature to the spirit of the above promise, we are not to attribute it to God or to the evangelical dispensation of truth, by which his children are brought into the way everlasting, for there can be no alteration now made in the plan of wisdom, nor is there variableness in the execution of it. The imperfection of the church in the present state of .existence, is the sad effect of her apostacy from God. But I have not immediately to describe the faults of true believers, but I am to prove that their spiritual interest in Christ and in|each other is one. When the great apostle undertook to do this, he tells us "that we are members of his body, of his flesh, and his bones." And when he would shew the interest the church in all her members have in one another, he, like a wise scribe in the kingdom of heaven, informs us, "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ; for by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." It is very clear to an attentive reader of the bible, that there is no clashing interest among the genuine followers of the Lamb. The various unscriptural notions which float on the brain of many thoughtless professors of christianity, is no argument against this sentiment. We relinquish error in principle and in practice, just so far as we are enlightened by the Spirit and word to discover the evil nature of it. It is truth alone that sanctify and satisfy the mind of a good man. By the light and influence of it, the interest the saints have in each other is seen and felt; and we can never behold a true believer in the Lord Jesus, but we are reminded by the sight of him, of that holy root of life who is the fertilizing cause of fruitfulness to all who are comprehended i.i him.
Orderly conduct is the effect of good principle used in a just manner. Every wise governor will choose the best means to execute his will, and he will give to the people over whom he presides a wise and just code of laws, for their mutual benefit. Jehovah alone is the Lord of the conscience; his natural rectitude is revealed to us in the law which he has given to us, and he demands from us obedience to his commands. It is not to be resolved into the temper and convenience of the subject, whether he will obey the precepts of God; to neglect them is to despise him, as well as the breach of them is sin against him. If there is another to whom an appeal can be justly made, then the tribunal from which we appeal is an inferior and not a superior seat of justice: but there is no one equal to the King of saints, and it would therefore be an act of the greatest folly to look for a superior. We have an eternal King, to whom the saints owe perpetual and eternal allegiance. It is their honour to be under such a governor, who, while he maintains his immutable claims, and establishes his just right in them, through his atoning blood, he never exacts from them the performance of any thing which is unrighteous. The cross of the once crucified Redeemer is the foundation of his mediatorial throne, and there is not a blessing which he sends to us from the last, but what he had before purchased for us upon the first. The sceptre of government which he holds in his hand he sways over the people which he rules, in the saving virtue of his atoning blood. The regal office of Christ Jesus is a pleasing one to his subjects, for he being united to them, feels for them in every condition of life; and although he is independent of them, and they are subject to him in every thing, he imparts to them grace to sanctify them to worship at his footstool, and to persevere in the faith. The government of Christ is very extensive; it not only takes cognizance of the actions of life, but it also takes notice of the internal spring of all our conduct, and our actions by him are pronounced good or bad, according to the nature of the principle out of which they arise. No one of the subjects of the King of saints is exempted from or raised above obedience to his statutes. There have been a few persons who have professed to be completely emancipated from authority to Christ; but there is not a good man under the canopy of the skies who dare to pursue such a sentiment to all the lengths which it would lead him. I have thought that good men, who are redeemed from the curse of the law, and who are sanctified by the Holy Ghost, these are the only persons in the world who are prepared to attend to the claims of law, as a rule of active sanctification before God; nor am I disposed to surrender my opinion upon this very important subject, because I think it is founded in the nature of the eternal God. . How solemn a thought it is, that our righteous Sovereign should appear in our law place at the bar of justice, to pay our debts, and to obtain for us a legal right to be released from captivity, and to be blessed with heavenly liberty. This is what we never could deserve The Spirit's application of it to the conscience will melt the heart into compunction for sin, and the man who is thus distinguished of God will not be disposed to cast off the yoke of his authority, and reject his commandments. The goodness of this sentiment has outlived all the opposition by which it has been assailed; and we conclude that the family of heaven are subject to one divine Governor, and that the holy law of God is to them all one spiritual rule of action.
The rites of God's house are by him appointed to be observed for his own glory and the real advantage of his dependent children. Ever since the introduction of moral evil into our world, the sons of men have been accustomed to run into dangerous extremes. There are some persons who profess to be so very highly sanctified, that the rites of the house of God are too low, legal, and mean for them to attend to them. On the other hand, there are many persons who think when they have attended in a formal manner to these things, that they have done all that God can equitably require from them. And there is a probability that such persons will make God a debtor to them for the services which they have performed, and they will expect heaven as a recompence due to them for their toil. There is a third class of persons who are waiting in the courts of God's house with a little desire that they may be blessed of him, but their minds are very confused, and their judgment of things is very weak; these people rashly conclude, that if their own peculiar feelings have not been described, that the minister has not preached the gospel, and that for them to attend on such a man's ministration is unprofitable and vain. But we may say, that for any one to attend the house of God and not to know upon what principle he is found in it, is a piece of conduct altogether unworthy of a good man. In the institutions of God's appointment, he is pleased to reveal his grace to the heirs of life. The word of truth preached by his servants is the means by which the mind is enlightened, strengthened, and the sorrowful bosom is comforted. By faith we drink the streams of mercy that flow from Christ the fountain of life. The means of grace are then the vehicles by which there is an actual conveyance of the fulness of Christ, made to the household of faith. A little experience of true godliness will put us in possession of practical proof of the truth of this remark. Let us simplify—when a good man enters the courts of his Father's house, beset with numerous evils, conscious of his weakness and imperfection, yet while he is there, a little heavenly light is shed upon his understanding, and the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost; his affections are kindled, his hope is animated, his prospects brighten, and his fears are removed; and he has a powerful experimental enjoyment of the virtue of the sacrifice of Christ, and he reclines sensibly upon the bosom of eternal love. Tell me, if these appointments of heaven have no connection with the person of the great Mediator, would such divine and spiritual effects attend the observance of them? When men use good things in a bad manner, they do not prove the worth of the things which they use; so when good men attend the house of God, and do not keep in view the design of his ordinances, they will make great mistakes concerning those things which are of great importance. Gospel ordinances are the common privilege of all the family of God; none of his children are excluded. In the use of them, he has promised to bestow great blessings upon them; nor do they wait upon him in vain. Some complain that they have not obtained any good from God in his house, and it is usually thought that no benefit is imparted by him to his children except their spirits are filled with holy joy and peace; but there are as marly mistakes made on this subject, as there are upon any religious question that may be agitated. We must ever remember, that holy consolation is the consequence of a supernatural knowledge of God in Christ. For when the mind is filled with heavenly light, and we have scriptural views of the person of the Son of God, and of the work of redemption which he has accomplished, spiritual pleasure will fill the heart, and the man who is thus favoured will be happy in the embraces of his Redeemer. But if we take another view of the subject, and we consider some other branches of truth that are revealed to us by the Holy Ghost, the spirituality of the law is unfolded to our view, our carnality, defilement, helplessness, extreme poverty and wretchedness, is not the discovery of these to us a real benefit? In the moment of sober reflection, such a man will find that he has obtained much more benefit than he thought he had or could have obtained by a mere excitement of natural feeling. Besides this, if we were to admit that a believer is found engaged in the service of God, and he has not in any sense been profited, it would involve a consideration something Tike this: —viz. that God has chosen a means to accomplish a certain end, and yet it is not sufficient for it. There are many ways in which we are benefited by using of the means of grace. We are repeatedly converted from erroneous thoughts and actions. By the belief of the truth we are confirmed and established on the one foundation of our hope;—but I forbear pursuing the idea further, and 1 would observe that here God designs to meet his people and to supply all their wants.
There are numerous duties to be performed by the servants of God. The genuine christian is a man of principle; wherever he goes, there is a real difference between him and the man of the world. When you enter the house of a christian man, there is an air of sanctity encircling of the family; for it is not possible that any one can dwell where God is daily worshipped, and domestic duties regularly performed upon evangelical principles, but the necessary result of it will appear. It is not intended by this remark to affirm, that the family which attend the good man when he bows at the domestic altar he has set up in his house to God, will become spiritual by his services; no :—but you will there see something different from what you ever behold in the house of a man who is under the dominion of vice. In whatever light you view a good man, you will see something in him that will commend the religion of the Son of God; he is not to be played with in the order of his house, in his conduct to his children, and to his servants; he is decidedly the friend of God. You will not find him a tyrant, neither is he a flexible creature who is driven about by every gust of wind which blows upon him; when he has decided any thing that is difficult, he will firmly adhere to scriptural authority; entreaties will not move him to neglect the performance of his duty, nor will threats intimidate in the discharge of it. Having received Christ Jesus the Lord as his all, he walks in him. In the world, when he is lawfully employed in his vocation, he will not be pointed at as a man professedly travelling to heaven with his heart fast glued to the earth as his only portion. The integrity and uprightness of his principle and his conduct will gain for him the respect of all honest men. The performance of the common duties of life will not exempt him from those which he owes to the followers of Jesus. They have a peculiar claim on him, which arises out of their heavenly relation to the Lord. A good man whose mind is well informed, and whose heart is richly tinctured with the spirit of truth, is a real blessing to any church of Christ, and a great advantage to the society with which he is connected. Feeling the force of the truth, " ye are not your own," bis moments are spent with the design of glorifying God " with his body and with his spirit which are his."
Every part of the gospel has something peculiarly enriching to the mind, as it is filled by the Holy Ghost with the perfection of Christ. The mind which is enlaid with the principles of eternal truth, the spirit of it will adorn the life. That man who drinks the streams of living waters will by so doing imbibe a large degree of the temper of the Lord of glory, and he will cherish a real esteem for, and a sacred delight in the saints. A christian man who is growing up into Christ in all things, is prepared to bear the infirmities of his weaker brethren; and, whenever it is necessary, he will aim to lead him
Vol. VII.—No. 77. R