Imágenes de páginas

signalized himself in general estimation,-yet he willingly renounced a dependence upon all, that he might win Christ, and be sound in him, not having his own righteousness, which was of the law, but that righteousness which is through the faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is of God by faith. He felt the force of the alternative, between the former and the latter righteousness. He knew that the one admitted of no measurement with the other; and that whatever appearance of worth it ld in the eyes of men, when brought to their relative and earthly standard, it was reduced to nothing, and worse than nothing, when brought to the standard of Heaven's holy and unalterable law. Jesus Christ has in our nature fulfilled this law; and it is in the righteousness which he thus wrought, that we are invited to stand before God. You do not then take in a full impression of Gospel security, if you only believe that God is merciful, and has forgiven you. You are called farther to believe, that God is fighteous, and has justified you. You have A warrant to put on the righteousness of Christ as a robe and a diadem, and to go to the throne of grace with the petition of Look upon me in the face of him who hath sulfilled all righteousness. You are furnished with such a measure of righteousness as God can accept, without letting down a single attribute which belongs to him. The truth, and the justice, and the holiness, which stand in such threatening array against the sinner who is out of Christ, now form into a shield, and a hiding-place around him. And while he who trusts in the general mercy of God does so at the expense of his whole character, he who trusts in the mercy of God, which hath appeared unto all men through the Saviour, offers in that act of confidence an homage to every perfection of the Divinity, and has every perfection of the Divinity upon his side. And thus it is, that under the economy of redemption, we now read, not merely of God being merciful, but of God being just and faithful in forgiving our sins, and in cleansing us from all our unrighteousness. Thus much for what may be called the judicial righteousness with which every believer is invested by having the merits of Christ imputed to him through faith. But this faith is something more than a name. It takes up a positive residence in the mind as a principle. It has locality and operation there, and has either no existence at all, or by its purifying and reforming influence on the holder of it, does it invest him also with a personal righteousness. Now, to apply the conception of our text to this personal righteousness, the first thing we would say of it is, that it admits of no measurement whatever with the social worth, or the moral voye. or any other of

the personal accomplishments of character which may belong to those who have not the faith of the Gospel. Faith accepts of the offered reconciliation, and moves away from the alienated heart those suspicions, and aversions, and fears, which kept man asunder from his God. We would not say, then, of the personal righteousness of a believer, that it consisted in a higher degree of that virtue which may exist in a lower degree with him who is not a believer. It consists in the dawn, and the progress, and the perfecting of a virtue, which, before he was a believer, had no existence whatever. It consists in the possession of a character of which, previous to his acceptance of Christ, he had not the smallest feature of reality; though to the external eye, there may have been some features of resemblance. The principle of Christian sanctification, which, if we were to express it by another name, we would call devotedness to God, is no more to be found in the unbelieving world, than the principle of an allegiance to their rightful sovereign, is to be found among the outcasts of banishment. It is not by any stretching out of the measure of your former virtues, then, that you can attain this principle. There needs to be originated within you a new virtue altogether. It is not by the fostering of that which is old,—it is by the creation of something new, that a man comes to have the K.'. righteousness of a disciple of the

ew Testament. It is by giving existence to that which formerly had no existence. And let us no longer wonder, then, at the magnitude of the terms which are employed in the Bible, to denote the change, the personal change, which in point of character, and affection, and principle, takes place on all who become meet for the inheritance of the saints. It is there called life from the dead, and a new birth, and a total renovation,-all old things are said to be done away, and all things to become new. With many it is a wonder how a change of such totality and of such magnitude, should be accounted as indispensable to the good and creditable man of society, as the sunken profligate. But if the one and the other are both dead to a sense of their Lawgiver in heaven, then both need to be made alive unto him. With both there must be the power and the reality of a spiritual resurrection. And after this great transition has been made, it will be found that the virtues of the new state, and those of the old state, cannot be brought to any common standard of measurement at all. The one distances the other by a wide and impassable interval. There is all the difference in point of principle between a man of the world and a new creature in Christ, that there is between him who has the Spirit of God, and him who has it not, -and all the difference in point of performance, that there is between him who is without Christ, and can therefore do nothing, and him who can do all things through Christ strengthening him. There is a new principle now, which formerly had no operation, even that of godliness, and a new influence now, even that of the Holy Ghost, given to the prayers of the believer;-and under these provisions will he attain a splendour and an energy of character, with which, the better and the best of this world can no more be brought into comparison, than earth will compare with heaven, or the passions and the frivolities of time, with the pure ambition and the lofty principles of etermity. And let it not be said, that the transformation of which we are now speaking, instead of being thus entire and universal, consists only with a good man of the world in the addition of one virtue, to his previous stock of many virtues. We admit that he had justice before, and humanity before, and courteousness before, and that the godliness which he had not before, is only one virtue. But the station which it asserts, among the other virtues, is a station of supreme authority. It no sooner takes its place among them, than it animates them all, and subordinates them all. It sends forth among them a new and pervading quality, which makes them essentially different from what they were before. I may take daily exercise from a regard to my health, and by so doing I may deserve the character of a man of prudence; or I may take daily exercise apart from this consideration altogether, and because it is the accidental wish of my parents that I should do so; and thus may I deserve the character of a man of filial piety. The external habit is the same; but under the one principle, the moral character of this habit is totally and essentially different from what it is under the other principle. Yet the difference here, is, most assuredly, not greater than is the difference between the justice of a good man of society, and the justice of a Christian disciple. In the former case, it is done unto others, or done unto himself. In the latter case, it is done unto God. The frame-work of his outer doings is animated by another spirit altogether. There is the breath of another life in it. The inscription of Holiness to God stands engraven on the action of the believer; and if this character of holiness be utterly effaced from the corresponding action of the good man of society, then surely, in character, in worth, in spiritual and intelligent estimation, there is the utmost possible diversity between the two actions. So that, should the most upright and amiable man upon earth embrace the Gospel faith, and become the subject of the Gospel regeneration,-it is true of him, too,


that all old things are done away, and that all things have become new. Thus it is, that while none of the Christian virtues can be made to come into measurement with any of what may be called the constituticnal virtues, in respect of their principle, because the principle of the one set differs from that of the other set, in kind as well as in degree, yet there are certain corresponding virtues in each of the classes, which might be brought together into measurement, in respect of visible and external And it is a high point of obligation with every disciple of the faith, so to sustain his part in this competition, as to show forth the honour of Christianity; to prove by his own personal history in the world, how much the morality of grace outstrips the morality of nature; to evince the superior lustre and steadiness of the one, when compared with the frail, and fluctuating, and desultory character of the other; and to make it clear to the eye of experience, that it is only under the peculiar government of the doctrine of Christ, that all which is amiable in human worth, becomes most lovely, and all which is justly held in human admiration, becomes most great, and lofty, and venerable. The Bible tells us to provide things honest in the sight of men, as well as of God. It tells us, that upon the person of every Christian, the features of excellence should stand so legibly engraven, that, as a living epistle, he might be seen and read of all men. It is true, there is much in the character of a genuine believer which the world cannot see, and cannot sympathize with. There is the rapture of faith, when in lively exercise. There is the ecstacy of devotion. There is a calm and settled serenity amid all the vicissitudes of life. There is the habit of having no confidence in the flesh, and of rejoicing in the Lord Jesus. There is a holding fast of our hope in the promises of the Gospel. There is a cherishing of the Spirit of adoption. There is the work of a believing fellowship with the Father and with the Son. There is a movement of affection towards the things which are above. There is a building up of ourselves on our most holy faith. There is a praying in the Holy Ghost. There is a watching for his influence with all perseverance. In a word, there is all which the Christian knows to be real, and which the world hates, and denounces as visionary, in the secret, but sublime and substantial processes of experimental religion. But, on the other hand, there is also much in the doings of an altogether Christian of that palpable virtue which forces itself upon general observation; and he is most grievously untrue to his master's cause, if he do not, on this ground, so outrun the world, as to force from the men of it, an o testimony. The eye of the world cannot enter within the spiritual recesses of his heart; but let him ever remember that it is fastened, and that too with keen and scrutinizing jealousy, on the path of his visible history. It will offer no homage to the mere sanctity of his complexion; nor, unless there be shed over it the expression of what is mild in domestic, or honourable in public virtue, will it ever look upon him in any other light, than as an object of the most unmingled disgust. And therefore it is, that he must enter on the field of ostensible accomplishment, and there bear away the palm of superiority, and be the most eminent of his fellows in all those recognized virtues, that can bless or embellish the condition of society; the most untainted in honour, and the most disinterested in justice, and the most alert in beneficence, and the most unwearied in all these graces, under every discouragement and every provocation. We have now only time to say, that we shall not regret the length of this discourse, or even the recurrence of some of its arguments, if any hearer amongst you, not in the faith, be led by it, to withdraw his confidence from the mere accomplishments


of nature, and if any believer amongst you be led by it not to despise these accomplishments, but to F. them on, and to animate them all with the spirit of religiousness, if any hearer amongst you, beginning to perceive his own nothingness in the sight of God, be prompted to inquire, Wherewithal shall I appear before him? and not to rest from the inquiry, till he flee from his hidingplace, to that everlasting righteousness which the Saviour hath brought in ; and if any believer amongst you, rightly dividing the word of truth, shall act on the principle, that though nothing but the doctrine of Christ crucified, can avail him for acceptance with God, yet he is bound to adorn this doctrine in all things. And to: that one may acquiesce in the whole o

such a demonstration, without carrying it personally home, we leave off with the single remark, that every conviction not prosecuted, every movement of conscience not followed up, every ray of light or of truth not turned to individual application, will aggravate the reckoning of the great day,+ and that in proportion to the degree of urgency which has been brought to bear upon you, and been resisted, will be the weight and the justness of your final condemnation.

The Principle of Love to God.
“Keep yourselves in the love of God.”—Jude 21.

It is not easy to give the definition of a term, which is currently and immediately understood without one. But, should not this ready understanding of the term supersede the definition of it, what can we tell of love in the way of explanation, but by a substitution of terms, not more simple and more intelligible than itself? Can this affection of the soul be made clearer to you by words, than it is already clear to you by your own consciousness? Are we to attempt the elucidation of a term, which, without any feeling of darkness or of mystery, you make familiar use of every day? You say with the utmost promptitude, and you have just as ready an apprehension of the meaning of what you say, that I love this man, and bear a still o: regard to another, but have my chief and my best liking directed to a third. We will not attempt to go in search of a more luminous or expressive term, for this simple affection, than the one that is commonly employed. But it is a different thing to throw light upon the workings of this affection,--to point your attention to the objects on which it

rests, and finds a complacent gratification,and to assign the circumstances, which are either favourable or unfavourable to its excitement. All this may call forth an exercise of discrimination. But instead of dwelling any more on the significancy of the term love, which is the term of my text, let us forthwith take it unto use, and be confident that, in itself, it carries no ambiguity along with it. The term love, indeed, admits of a real and intelligible application to inanimate objects. There is a beauty in sights, and a beauty in sounds, and I may bear, a positive love to the mute and unconscious individuals in which this beauty hath taken up its residence. I may love a flower, or a murmuring stream, or a sunny bank, or a humble cottage peeping forth from its concealment, or in fine, a whole landscape may teem with such varied graces, that I may say of it, this is the scene I most love to behold, this is the prospect over which my eye and my imagination most fondly expatiate. The term love admits of an equally real, and equally intelligible application to our fellow-men. They, too, are the frequent and familiar objects of this affection, and they often are so, because they possess certain accomplishments of person and of character, by which it is excited. I love the man whose every glance speaks an effusive cordiality towards those who are around him. I love the man whose heart and whose hand are ever open to the representations of distress. I love the man who possesses such a softness of nature, that the imploring look of a brother in want, or of a brother in pain, disarms him of all his selfishness, and draws him out to some large and willing surrender of generosity. I love the man who carries on his aspect, not merely the expression of worth, but of worth maintained in the exercise of all its graces, under every variety of temptation and discouragement; who, in the midst of calumny, can act the warm and enlightened philanthropist; who, when beset with many provocations, can weather them all in calm and settled endurance; who can be kind even to the unthankful and the evil; and who, if he possess the awful virtues of truth and of justice, only heightens our attachment the more, that he possesses goodness, and tenderness, and benignity along with them. Now, we would have you to advert to one capital distinction between the former and the latter class of objects. The inanimate reflect no love upon us back again. They do not single out any one of their admirers, and, by an act of preference, either minister to his selfish appetite for esteem, or minister to his selfish appetite for enjoyment, by affording to him a larger share than to others, of their presence, and of all the delights which their presence inspires. They remain motionless in their places, without will and without sensibility; and the homage they receive, is from the disinterested affection which men bear to their loveliness. They are loved, and that purely, because they are lovely. There is no mixture of selfishness in the affection that is of sered to them. They do not put on a sweeter smile to one man than to another; but all the features of that beauty in which they are arrayed, stand inflexibly the same to every beholder; and he, without any conscious mingling whatever of self-love, in the emotion with which he gazes at the charms of some external scenery, is actuated by a love towards it, which rests and which terminates on the objects that he is employed in contemplating. But this is not always the case when our fellow men are objects of this affection. I should love cordiality, and benevolence, and compassion for their own akes; but let your own experience tell low far more sweetly and more intensely the love is felt,

when this cordiality is turned, in one stream of kindliness, towards myself; when the eye of friendship has singled out me, and looks at me with a peculiar graciousness; when the man of tenderness has pointed his way to the abode of my suffering family, and there shed in secrecy over them his liberalities, and his tears; when he has forgiven me the debt that I was unable to discharge; and when, oppressed as I am, by the consciousness of having injured or reviled him, he has nobly forgotten or overlooked the whole provocation, and persists in a regard that knows no abatement, in a welldoing that is never weary There is an element, then, in the love 1 bear to a fellow man, which does not exist in the love I bear to an inanimate object; and which may serve, perhaps, to darken the character of the affection I feel towards the former. We most readily concede it, that the love of another, on account of the virtues which adorn him, changes its moral character altogether, if it be a love to him, solely on account of the benefit which I derive from the exercise of these virtues. I should love compassion on its own account, as well as on the account that it is I who have been the object of it. I should love justice on its own account, as well as on the account that my grievances have been redressed by the dispensation of it. On looking at goodness, I should feel an affection resting on this object, and finding there its full and its terminating gratification; and that, though I had never stood in the way of any one of its beneficent operations. How is it, then, that the special direction of a moral virtue in another, towards the object of myo benefit, operates in enhancing both the sensation which it imparts to my heart, and the estimate which I form of it? What is the peculiar quality.communicated to my admiration of another's friendship, and another's goodness, by the circumstance of myself being the individual towards whom that friendship is cherished, and in favour of whom, that goodness puts itself forth into active exertion ? At the sight of a benevolent man, there arises in my bosom an instantaneous homage of regard and of reverence;—but should that . homage take a pointed direction towards myself—should it realize its fruits on the comfort, and the security of my own person, should it be employed in gladdening my home, and spreading enjoyment over my family, oppressed with want and pining in sickness, there is, you will allow, by these circumstances, a heightening of the love and the admiration that I formerly rendered him. And, we should like to know what is the precise character of the addition that has thus been given to my regard for the virtue of benevolence. We should like to know, is it be altogether a pure and a

[ocr errors]

praise-worthy accession that has thus come
upon the sentiment with which I now look
at my benefactor, or, if by contracting
any taint of selfishness, it has lost the high
rank that formerly belonged to it, as a dis-
interested affection, towards the goodness
which beautifies and adorns his character.
There is one way, however, in which
this special direction of a moral virtue to-
wards my particular interest, may increase
my affection for it, and without changing
the moral character of my affection. It
gives me a nearer view of the virtue in
question. It is true, that the virtue may just
be as lovely when exercised in behalf of my
neighbour, as when exercised in behalf of
myself. But, in the former case, I am not
an eye-witness to the display and the evo-
lution of its loveliness. I am a limited be-
ing, who cannot take in so full and so dis-
tinct an impression of the character of what
is distant, as of the character of what is
immediately beside me. It is true, that all
the circumstances may be reported. But
you know very well, that a much livelier
representation is obtained of any object,
by the seeing of it, than by the hearing of
it. To be told of kindness, does not bring
this attribute of character so forcibly, or so
clearly home to my observation, as to re-
ceive a visit from kindness, and to take it
by the hand, and to see its benignant mien,
and to hear its gentle and complacent voice,
and to witness the solicitude of its inquiries,
and to behold its tender and honest anxiety
for my interest, and to share daily and
weekly in the liberalities which it has be-
stowed upon me. When all this goes on
around my own person, and within the
limits of my own dwelling-place, it is very
true that self is gratified, and that this cir-
cumstance may give rise to sensations,
which are altogether distinct from the love
I bear to moral worth, or to moral excel-
lence. But this does not hinder, that along
with these sensations, a disinterested love
for the moral virtue of which I have been
the object, may, at the same time, have its
room and its residence within my bosom.
I may love goodness more than ever, on
its own account, since it has taken its spe-
cific way to my habitation, and that, just
because I have obtained a nearer acquaint-
ance with it. I may love it better, because
I know it better. My affection for it may
have become more intense, and more dé-
voted than before, because its beauty is now
more fully unfolded to the eye of my ob-
servation than before. And thus, while we
admit that the goodness of which I am the
object, originates within me certain feelings
different in kind from that which is excited
by goodness in the general, yet it may
heighten the degree of this latter feelin
also. It may kindle or augment the love
bear to moral virtue in itself; or, in other

words, it may enhance my affection for worth, without any change whatever in the moral character of that affection. Now, before we proceed to consider those peculiar emotions which are excited within me, by being the individual, in whose favour certain virtues are exercised, and which emotions are, all of them, different in kind from the affection that I bear for these virtues, let us farther observe, that the term love, when applied to sentient beings considered as the object of it, may denote an affection, different in the principle of its excitement, from any that we have been yet considering. My love to another may lie in the liking I have for the moral qualities which belong to him; and this, by way of distinctness, may be called the love of moral esteem or approbation. Or, my love to another may consist in the desire I have for his happiness; and this may be called the love of kindness. These two are often allied to each other in fact, but there is a real difference in their nature. The love of kindness which I bear to my infant child may have no reference to its moral qualities whatever. This love finds its terminating gratification in obtaining, for the object of it, exemption from pain, or in ministering to its enjoyments. It is very true, that the sight of what is odious or revolting in the character of another, tends, in point of fact, to dissipate all the love of kindness I may have ever borne to him. But it does not always do so, and one instance of this proves a real distinction; in point of nature, between the love of kindness, and the love of moral esteem. And the highest and most affecting instance which can be given of this distinction, is in the love wherewith God hath loved the world; is in that kindness towards us, through Christ Jesus, which he hath made known to men in the Gospel; is in that longing regard to his fallen creatures, whereby he was not willing that any should perish, but rather that all should live. There was the love of kindness standing out, in marked and separate display, from the love of moral esteem; for, alas! in the degraded race of mankind, there was not one quality which could call forth such an affection in the breast of the Godhead. It was, when we were hateful to him in character, that in person and in interest we were the objects of his most unbounded tenderness. It when we were enemies by wicked works, that God looked on with pity, and stretched forth, to his guilty childrén, the arms of offered reconciliation. It was when we had wandered far in the paths of worthlessness and alienation, that he devised a message of love, and sent his Son into our world, to seek and to save us. And this, by the way, may serve to illustrate the kind of love which we are required to bear to our enemies. We are re

« AnteriorContinuar »