« AnteriorContinuar »
THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER DELINEATED UPON EVANGELICAL PRINCIPLES.
NINTH ESSAY. The more we examine the holy scriptures, the more forcibly are we convinced that christianity is holy in its nature and tendency. If the scheme of grace and wisdom revealed in the holy volume is not beneficial to the heirs of grace, it cannot be a disclosure of mercy and truth from God to man, but it is a spiritual manifestation of the living Jehovah in the person of his Son ; and it is productive of great good to the sinner, and much glory to his great name. In all the ways of God he is shewing the absolute perfection and independency of his being, together with his sovereignty over the creatures that he has formed. There is no confusion in the arrangement of divine wisdom, nor in the execution of it. The nature of the doctrines of the gospel are misconceived by many persons, or they would not misrepresent them as they do, nor employ such arguments as they do to seduce weak minds from that attention to them which they merit from all that fear the Lord. By the light of truth we see our way to God, and by the influence of it we are sanctified to worship him without any confidence in the flesh. In proportion as the mind is enriched by the Spirit of truth, we are separated increasingly from the evil of the world. It cannot be otherwise; for by it we learn that the good will of God towards his people is made known to them in the use of the means which he has chosen for them to use, and by which he is training them for an eternal state of glory. The eternal God of love is manifesting his delight in his people as they are comprehended in the person of his Son ; and, as we perceive that we are humbled to take our station at the feet of the great Redeemer, and learn of him, so as to become before men in a practical manner what we really are in his judgment. There are uumerous theoretical professors of the gospel who are as ignorant of the nature and genius of the things which they believe as an Egyptian or a Chinese. Such persons often cause the ways of God to be evil spoken of; because while they pretend to be religious there is no principle of spiritual life and fruitfulness in their hearts, and when they obtain the end for which at first they clothed themselves in the garments of eternal sanctity, they can as easily put off the dress which they have worn as they thoughtlessly decked themselves without knowing of the worth and excellency of true godliness. But he who is arrayed in the garment of salvation, has within him a vital spring of spiritual activity, which,
like his person, is in the keeping and under the protection of the Son of God.
The mystery of vital union to the person of the Son of God, is not known nor regarded by the man of the world, but it is the real source of fruitfulness and devotion to God. The manner in which religion is described by many who represent the subjects of it, as performing various services by which they are desirous to recommend themselves to the notice of God, is contrary to the word of truth ; for those who worship in the spirit are first approved and sanctified in and through Cfirist Jesus, before they carry their services to God, and lay them upon that altar which is greater than the worshipper and the gift which is presented upon it. It is of great importance for the true believer to keep this fact constantly in view. Many persons who did not consider it in the day of their religious minority to be of such vital importance as it is, have when their judgment in divine things was matured, learned that Christ is the holy root of activity from whence they have derived all their fruitfulness. The ministers of the gospel too frequently forget this solemn fact when they exhort their hearers to perform the numerous duties which God has commanded them to practice; and it is quite certain that the pride of the human heart is not offended thereby, for it supposes that the hearer has a natural power within, that only requires to be excited to arouse it to activity. This is one of the reasons why we have so many professors of Christianity in the present day, who are ignorant of the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. The christian man is employed for, and publicly consecrated to God. Religion is not a matter of trivial consequence. We cannot be devoted to God by means of a sponsor. We are redeemed by a Sponsor, but we cannot be personally sanctified by one; nor can we be actively devoted to God by any such paltry means. Every thing which in the judgment of God may be called religious, is the act of the man who is truly set apart for his honour. Baptism being a personal act whereby the person baptized publicly professes his faith in the eternal Trinity of persons in the one Jehovah, can never be rightly attended to but by faith; because the person baptized voluntarily gives himself up to God in this holy ordinance, which he commanded his children to observe. Indeed, a good man cannot in this respect adopt the mechanical method so much in practice at this time, viz. of performing of duties in the person of another. We find it to be our interest to mingle with the followers of Jesus, and with them to visit his throne, and to ask mercy at his hands for the whole church which he has redeemed to God; but while a brother is addressing of the Divine Majesty, and imploring of him to manifest his friendship to his waiting children, we are actually engaged in the same service, although we are employed in an audible manner, for whatever he asks of God according to his will that is ever needed by the holy brethren, and they will add to it their hearty amen. Besides this, as we are enlightened to discern that God has an immutable right in his people, they under the influence of the sceptre of Christ surrender themselves to his government. Divine favour is the principle upon which every spiritual man worships God. The act of giving of himself to God is sacred, there is something in it different from the semblance of the thing as much so as there is in the substance and the shadow which is reflected by it. He who thus bows to the decision of God is called by him to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ the Lord, for God has a right to his person by choice, purchase, and possession. Every act of spiritual homage presented to God is offered to him upon the basis of relationship which he has constituted in Christ his Son, and by it he is glorified, and his children are favoured to have spiritual communion with him in the path of duty. Many of the followers of the Lamb think that they have no communion with him, but when they are filled with rapturous joys and elevated frames of mind ; and this idea is cherished by many men who call themselves ministers of the Son of God; but if there is no intercourse between God and the soul but what produces such effects as these, there is very little imparted to us of the immeasurable fulness of Christ. By neglecting of the distinction there is between conscious fellowship with God and the conveyance of his favour to the christian, by which he is kept as a priest in the house of his Father, presenting of his daily and hourly services to him upon the common family altar, much confusion exists, and the weak christian is greatly perplexed while he is doing of the will of God. It is very pleasant and truly desirable to taste the liberty connected with our union to the Lord Jesus; but that is imparted in a sovereign manner to the heirs of grace in the degree of it for their good and his glory. And when we are not saved from the perplexity and confusion of our minds in the path of duty, we are preserved in the fear of God, and he disposes us to regard his honour as the end of our existence.
To act in character is becoming of every saint; therefore vanity and levity are abandoned by him. Reverence for the character of God, delight in the way of righteousness, abhorrence of sin, and love for purity, are prominent features of true religion. Repentance for sin is not a thing attended to to-day, and then resigned for ever. No! the clearer our views of the work of redemption are, the deeper will be our abhorrence of these crimes, which occasioned the holy Redeemer so much sorrow, and were the procuring cause of his death. True concern for the honour of God as a legislator, appears in a penitential confession of sin to him. It is not an ostentatious pretension to humility to acknowledge that we are smitten at heart with grief, because of the offences which we have committed against God. The grace displayed through the work of the cross will ever melt the hardest heart, and cause it to feel compunction for sin by which the law of God is violated. He who confesses sin sincerely, and through the Spirit, and by faith takes up his discharge from condemnation in the sacrifice of Christ, practically establishes the authority of the law, and he confesses the rectitude of the divine government. Vol. VII.—No. 82. 2 N
There is much more in the spiritual acts performed by a believer than is usually thought of. Because the works which he does are no part of his justification before God, many people ignorantly conclude that they are of no consequence in his sight. Godly sorrow for sill we are told, " worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of." The authority of God is revered in every walk of life; whether the sun of prosperity shines, or the clouds of adversity envelope the believer, he is still an admirer of the divine conduct. He obtains repeated proofs of the love of God, and he entreats heavenly wisdom for direction that he may escape every evil way. He has given his person and all he is and has to God, and the surrender that he has made is approved in heaven.
The relation existing between the Creator and the creature, necessarily leads to conclude, that the latter must ever remain dependent upon the bounty of the former, and a spiritual union between Jehovah in Christ and his seed, never elevates the heirs of life above a state of entire recumbency upon his mercy. It is unreasonable to suppose that any man can do any thing without divine aid. The humanity of our adorable Lord will never possess a native and inherent independency, although it is raised into union with his divine person, so that it will never be subject to change. If in this display of divine wisdom, and exertion of divine power in the union of the human nature of Christ to his divine person, none of the divine properties are communicated to it, but it is still a creature, although the most exalted of all his creatures, yet upheld by bis divine nature in existence. We cannot admit that any of the feeble saints are independent, or, that they can exist happily, but as they are upheld by divine power as joint heirs with Jesus Christ. The dependent stale of the saints is not degrading to them. The provision that God has made for his children in the covenant of grace has anticipated their poverty and wretchedness. The wretched case of the prodigal son, when he came to his right mind, was not any worse for his knowledge of it; but the thought of his father's house, and the bread which there was to spare in it, disposed him to return to it in that way which was honourable to his father, and exactly in agreement with the degraded condition in which he was found; so the keen sense of want that is felt by the returning sinner, does not make his case more desperate, but he is thereby prepared to receive what God has spiritually provided for his necessitous children. The riches of grace are expressly for the use of the saints, nor can they ever be exhausted. A dependent state, and immense riches are connected, for God has so ordained, that those v. ho cannot confide in themselves, should in Christ his Son have all spiritual good richly conferred upon them.
To mind the things of the Spirit, is the interest and the happiness of the people of God. "To be spiritually minded is life and peace." There is no employment that is so truly dignified, as that in which the christian is engaged. Senators may think that the station which they fill is truly honourable, and so it is, but the services which they perform, cannot secure to them the approbation of their Sovereign, or the commendation of their country. After a life of toil and fatigue, they frequently retire from public business, wounded beyond description by those whom they have aimed honourably to serve. But the service of God has the greatest honour connected with it in this world; and when the days of a christian's sojourning in this vale of tears shall terminate, his Father will receive him to the mansion prepared for him in the kingdom of heaven. The disposition of mind with which the believer serves God is spiritual. However excellent morality is amongst men, where there is nothing else, it never can raise us to commune with God, according to the evangelical dispensation; nay, the principle out of which perfect morality, in a state of innoeence arose, could not qualify our upright father Adam to have fellowship with God in the person of the great Redeemer. Permanent friendship and genuine fellowship between two parties, ever involves a unity of design and sameness of disposition; and as we now have intercourse with God through a Mediator, it necessarily follows, that the saint is made like to Christ in the temper of his mind. The grace displayed by God in the spiritual formation of the mind to bare his image is wonderful. A creature so full of enmity as man is against God, to be effectually vanquished by him, and to be saved from sinning against him, so as to love him whom he before hated is marvellous. There is not any thing else in existence which can dethrone iniquity and save the sinner, but the love of God as it is revealed by the Holy Ghost through the blood of the cross. The conquest which is made is wonderful, and the temper of mind which is conveyed to the sinner is beyond all price. To be privileged to call God Father, and to be encouraged to do so by his word and Spirit, is the greatest favour that can be received by any one under the canopy of the skies; but every saint has the honour thus to be discriminated by his adopting Father.
The love of God in Christ Jesus, is that which kindles and keeps alive the affection of his children. He who possesses a good degree of spiritual mindedness, will discover much attachment to God and the church. Indeed, without it, how can we walk honourably through this world; for whatever may be done when the heart is not engaged in it, it will soon cease; and when God requires the performance of spiritual things, the empty professor will suddenly disappear. To ask God to bestow the blessings of the eternal covenant, when there is no love for them, is hypocritical and wicked. When, therefore, we entreat God to bestow upon us the good that he has promised to communicate, we have some knowledge of the worth of the thing which we seek, and we esteem it highly. If we ask of God the favour to satisfy us that our names are written in the Lamb's book of life, it is because we have some knowledge of the importance of its being there recorded, and an affectionate desire that we may inherit all things which are connected with being inscribed by the finger of