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fulness of faith, and abundance of good works, is moreover but a mere delusion. For there is in reality a moral impossibility lying directly in the way of every endeavour to put off the old man with his deeds,' without putting on the new with his works of righteousness. Of all the muscles in the human frame, the heart is the most active: by night and by day, asleep and awake, it is incessantly at work, like a clock, wound up at our creation, to tick and beat, and keep pace with time, till it runs down at death. So is it with the mind. We cannot cease thinking if we would, any more than, by stamping on the earth, we can stop its motion. It is an awful consideration too, that this mind, this heart of the spiritual man, is wound up, once for all, at its beginning, to beat, and go, and hope and love, or hate and fear, and suffer or enjoy, to all eternity. Sleep does not suspend its action, and death, or the long slumber of the grave itself, is no interruption to its activity. Energy is its nature, and working is its mode of existing. Mere cessation therefore from sin is a logical contradiction. We are always either sinning on, though it may be in a different way, or perfecting holiness in the fear and the service of the Lord. Our blessed Lord tells us that we cannot serve both God and Mammon; but gives us, at the same time, to understand, that just as little can we serve neither, for he immediately adds that,' if we hate the one we will love the other.' How familiar do we find this princi'ple in the mouth of the apostle. But God be thanked,' says St. Paul in his epistle to the Romans, 'that ye were once the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart, that form of doctrine which we delivered unto you; being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. We have therefore every sort of authority for assuring ourselves, that so long as we have not entered with full earnestness of purpose, and perseverance of endeavour, on a career of practical godliness, and the diligent discharge of active duties, we are not yet delivered from the yoke of sin, but drudging on as before-under new names and altered appearances, perhaps, in the bondage of Satan.
It is a most remarkable fact, moreover, and may be stated as the crowning illustration of the principle in question, as well as the strongest incitement to the practice of all good works, that our blessed Lord in his description of his own judgment-seat, has confined his condemnations entirely to sins of omission or unfruitfulness in the service of the cross. Not a single count in the whole indictment, with which he has already been pleased to serve us, consists of crimes, or positive iniquities, or
of any actual sin whatever, either small or great; for the whole judgment turns upon the things that have not been done: to the confusion of those who think it enough to lead a harmless life, and go down to the grave unstained with the guilt of positive iniquities.
With this indictment already before us, let us be wise in time to consider our latter end; and prepare our pleadings for that hour of awful trial. And O! if we would rejoice in having an advocate in our Judge himself, let us seek to secure an interest in his pleading before we go hence. To this end, the like mind must be in us, as was likewise in Christ Jesus: for if we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his.' Let us look to his life of labour and love, while he sojourned among our fallen race, in the form of sinful man: and though he thought it no robbery to make himself equal with the Father, yet, stooped to be a servant,' and to go about from door to door continually doing good.' There was no indolence in his love; no rest in the energies of his Spirit; no pauses in the working of his mind. Even when he slept his heart was awake, and when his disciples awoke him in the storm, he reproved them for their want of faith, but not for disturbing their Saviour's repose. Let us look to him as he sits in glory on the throne of heaven. Is there any pause in the workings of his mind? O one long serious look of the soul at its God, should cure it for ever of sloth, and consume every thought of ease or indolence in a fire of shame. If God cease for a moment from working, our hearts must cease to beat; if he take his rest in heaven, we must die of hunger. If our exalted Redeemer relax his efforts to work out our redemption; if he cease from working in us to will and to do of his good pleasure, then begins our backslidings on the way to Zion, to end in tumbling over the precipice, it may be with our face to heaven. There is nothing above us, or around us, or beneath us, in a state of repose— all heaven, and earth, and hell, and every atom of dust, is continually at work-and shall we be idle? Idle we cannot be, but shall we be idle in serving? O let our working be all on the right side. Of all sloth may we most abhor that of the soul; and of all services be most ashamed as well as afraid of sloth in the service of Him, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity; and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well,' Isa. i. 16, 17. THE nature of God is essentially pure, and consequently abhorrent of all pollution. In the metaphors of scripture, he represents himself as of purer eyes than to behold evil, or to look upon iniquity,' and upon the flesh of our hearts has he impressed the same picture of his nature in strokes of inextinguishable fire. It is from this inherent sense of the divine purity that arises the uneasiness of all moral defilement; the vain, the persevering endeavour of guilt to shun the eye of God. No sooner had the first taint of sin settled upon the hands and the hearts of our first parents, than this repugnance between the two principles of purity and pollution, began to manifest itself in action; and at the first sound of their Creator's step in the garden, they fled in shame and fear to hide their guilt in a bush. The same uneasiness of sin and shrinking of the unclean soul from the light of the divine eye, has ever since familiarized itself in the experience of all transgressors; even to the fearful excess of banishing the very memory of their Maker from their thoughts, and saying in their hearts, there is no God.'
Unto this God, however, all flesh must come; and however intolerable we may feel, or imagine, the purity of his holy eye, it is even now, in the midst of our sins, continually upon us, observing not only our doings, but the innermost secrets of our souls; for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them, saith the Lord.' We are, therefore, only saying 'peace, peace, when there is no peace,' and muffling ourselves up in a night, which the Lord is all the while making round about us like unto the day, when we strive to shun the brightness of his eye, and seek in sin an ease incompatible with a sense of the divine presence.
And yet, if left to our own resources, this is in sad reality the only course left open to us; for just as little as the leopard can change his spots, or the Ethiopian his skin; can they that are accustomed to do evil learn of themselves to do good.'
What inexpressible reason then have we for thankfulness in learning that, while we are flying from the God, unto whom nevertheless all flesh must come, and seeking a most treacherous peace by shutting him out of our thoughts, he is just as diligent pursuing us with kindness, and seeking to reconcile us to himself, by a way that we
have not known.' But O! let us read his mercy
aright, and tremble at the thought of perverting it to our double condemnation. It is the sinner, let us never forget, and not sin, with which God is willing to be reconciled; and in the seeking to raise us from our low estate, to his own habitation, he begins with assimilating our nature to his own. Let this renewal of our nature then be our immediate aim; and while our thoughts travel to the rest that awaiteth the people of God, let us beware of overlooking the way that leads to its blessed repose. O! there is a heaven upon earth sufficiently worthy of our first ambition; and that is the growing likeness to God and participation of the divine nature; which is the brightest promise of the life that now is, as well as the surest earnest and foretaste of the glory that is yet to be revealed.
It is surely, moreover, a most abundant source of gratitude that God has himself opened up this way of return, and brought the renovation of his own image in our souls within the bounds of possibility. Hopelessly polluted as we are, even beyond the power of imagining a remedy for the pain of our own defilement, is there not a surprise of joy in learning that, in the fulness of grace, there is a fountain prepared for the washing of the heart, which is continually sending forth its purifying streams to our habitations, with an abundance and a power equal to the need of all? Do we not hear as it were the sound of many waters, even of the river that flows around · the throne of the Lamb, in the voice of our God commanding us to wash and make ourselves clean?'
The very peremptoriness of the command implies the abundance and sufficiency of the means. It is issued with the tone and the authority of an absolute king; and just so much the more joyous in its sound, because we know it is the King invisible, immortal, and eternal, who is here issuing the imperial edicts; and know therefore, likewise, that from the inexhaustible resources of his grace have issued the means of obedience before the command was uttered. Wash you, and make you clean,' saith the Lord. Are we asking where is the water? O there is a sound not only as of flowing water, but of blood too, in the words; for the speaker is the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Is it then the pollution of guilt, the blot of our many transgressions, that dismays us? There is one short and simple sentence in holy writ sufficient to cure us of this fear, The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.' But O! when our guilt is washed clean away, and, through the expiation of the
cross, we are blest with the free pardon of all our | end in self-condemnation; for in the very sentence transgressions; do we shudder at the review of our that enjoins the duty of a self-searching inquiry, own unaltered hearts; and from the bitter experi- does the prophet, without any alternative conence of the past, omen for the future nothing but dition, exhort us to immediate repentance. And a running up of new debts; with a long succes- such a verdict, alas! may we always, without the sion of broken resolutions going away one after gift of inspiration, foretell as the issue of every another, 'like the early cloud and the morning inquiry into the state of our hearts. Hence arises dew?' 'Wash you, and make you clean,' saith our natural repugnance to enter upon this duty the Lord; cease,' he continues, 'to do evil, learn at all, as well as our tendency to deal dishonestly to do well.' Once more, there is strength and not with ourselves in carrying it through; for just as weakness, comfort and not fear in the command, the heart is 'desperately wicked,' so is it 'deceitfor it is the edict of the same God who hath said, ful above all things.' I will create a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within you.' To despair of our own strength then, is to charge God with weakness; and to omen nothing but a register of broken resolutions, is to doubt the faithfulness of an Almighty Saviour; for his grace is sufficient for our need; and his strength is made perfect in our weakness. Let us look unto God with the earnestness and importunity of prayer in our faces and our hearts, and the holy eye that is continually upon us, will strengthen us for the fulfilment of his will. Put away,' says our King, the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; and if in our humble but sincere endeavours to do his bidding, we seek unto his sufficiency of grace for the needful strength; then shall the consciousness that all our doings are before his eyes, be unto us a source of strength; and ours in the end be the blessedness promised to the pure in heart, ⚫ for they shall see God.'
If we would estimate the importance and necessity of such an inquiry, however, we can have no surer or safer measure than just this reluctance of our nature to engage with it; and we can hardly have a more sufficient proof that our ways are wrong, than the tendency to deceive ourselves in comparing them with the will and the ways of God. Let us come close up then to the light of the searching scripture before us; and learn, as the preface to its revelation, that even in a state of grace, and in the very act of coming up from the wilderness, under the holy banner of our faith, we have a continual tendency to backsliding; and that even after the call of the Spirit has made itself effectual, in turning our hearts round to the bright and morning star; times without number must we hear and obey the self-same voice crying, 'turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?' The sinner's road to heaven is not a straight one; nor is there much exaggeration of figure in calling it from beginning to end a continual turning. O! if in the moment of its first and decisive conversion, the heart were truly turned right round to God, like the sunflower to the rising sun; were all its sensibilities brought immediately under the
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again benignity of the divine countenance, and into close
to the Lord,' Lam. iii. 40.
'To know one's self' was regarded by an ancient sage as the beginning and the end of wisdom. In selecting this maxim as the motto of his philosophy, he signifies at once the importance and the difficulty of the lesson it conveyed. But when we take eternity into the account, and the simple, but vast, consideration that the present life is but a school for the next, the importance of the lesson in question is immeasurably dilated; and it consequently stands out before us, in the pages of scripture, in a greatness of size, and interest, which it never could assume in the writings of a heathen, whose wisdom aimed no farther than the grave. In the scripture before us, it is very remarkable too, that the result of the inquiry is here taken for granted; and we are given to understand, before we commence it, that it must
and clear contemplation of the divine glory; then might we suppose that direct as the path of the turtle-dove in the air, or of the fiery chariot that bore Elias to heaven, would be the course of that heart through all the thorny perplexities of life to its home in the habitation of holiness.' Such in the course of time and the history of ages has been the path of one single soul, unto whose first prayer our Lord answered, 'to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.'
But O! let those who defer their first repentance till the day or the night of turning their face to the wall, bethink themselves, that many times must their repentance be repented of, and their tears washed away with tears ever purer and purer, before they shall hear a voice from the cross crying unto them, 'To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.'
bear about with us the dying of our Lord Jesus Christ; or forget that it is and must be a way of holiness? When we sin then we know that we
On a large and conspicuous scale do we see this tendency to backsliding, even in the right way of Zion, illustrated in the wanderings of the Israelites between the Red sea and the promised land. By are swerving either to the right hand or to the a direct route, such as the way of the caravans, they had a journey to perform of about fourteen days. The Ishmaelites, in their way to Egypt with Joseph and their spices, were probably not so long upon the road. But the children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light; and it is one thing to go down to Egypt, and another to go up to the Holy Land. Instead of a fortnight, the Israelites, and among them Joshua and Caleb, were forty years on the road to Canaan. So far from proceeding in a straight line, their route was a series of circles. Like a chain, their course indeed, as a whole, was straight, but the parts of which it was made up were round links. A great portion of their travelling was in the backward direction of the very land from which they were flying; and hardly a single day did they proceed in the right line for the heritage of Abraham.
And where, and who is the saint amongst us, who with his hand at the plough has never looked back, nor from his own painful experience been taught to remember Lot's wife.
How many, and alas! how varied, are the delusions with which we have to contend! In the spiritual world it happens to us, as in the physical, that we often lose our latitude, without knowing it; and travel far and fast in a wrong direction, with the full persuasion that we are steadily advancing towards our journey's end. Strange too, that, when we are once on a wrong road, and especially when we begin to suspect it, we generally quicken our pace, as a bird hasteth to the snare and knoweth it not.' And O! stranger still, we are then afraid to ask the road of any one we meet; and rather proceed right on, under the cover of a fond delusion, to the mouth of the grave, than brave the truth, and retrace our steps to the chamber of the rising
We have thus a thousand motives to continual circumspection, watchfulness, and trying of our
O! the moment our perplexities begin about the great highway of holiness, it is time to suspect we are straying; and the moment we begin to suspect, we may be sure we are wrong. It is a plain and free though not a beaten road; and indicates at every step the place to which it leads-even the palace of our great King. It is marked, moreover, all the way with drops of blood, as of a lamb slain for the remission of sins. Can we mistake our road to Zion, as long as we
left. And O! just as in the physical world, so in the spiritual, whenever we find ourselves entangled with briars, or tearing our flesh among thorns, we may be sure we are off the road. Such thorns running themselves into the flesh, are in reality the voice of God crying, 'turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die; this is the right way, walk ye in it; or search and try your ways and turn again to the Lord.' Thus instead of a living man complaining for the punishment of his sins, let us obey the voice that speaks in all such punishments; and, searching and trying our ways, let us turn again to the Lord. And just as it is the Lord who thus intimates our deviation, unto the Lord let us address the prayer, 'Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.'
Haring therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, 2 Cor. vii. 1.
IT is surprising to find, among professing Christians, how very few there are who so much as aim at the perfection implied in their own profession. The ambition, that, even in childhood, works its daily wonders on the little theatre of temporal life, seems to forsake us the moment we enter upon the great career of the soul, and add the incitements of eternity to those of time. Thus do we find holiness generally regarded as an attainment beyond our reach; and the title of saint as a dignity at which none but fanatics would think of aspiring. It is no uncommon thing to hear the Christian delinquent pleading in defence of his infirmities that he is no saint, and this with a tone of complacency, rather than of sorrow, implying plainly enough that he has no desire to be one. So low indeed does the breath of our spiritual aspirations move, that in our religious vocabulary saint and hypocrite have become almost synonymous terms; and it is the ambition of many rather to shun than to sexà the reputation of sanctity.
All the while, however, the word of God abideth sure and stedfast, that without holiness ne man shall see the Lord,' and hence do we know that just in as much as we suffer our aim to fall short of a pure and perfect sanctity in the inner
man, as in the outward life, does it at the same ing. time fall short of heaven. It is remarkable too that no sooner do we fix our thoughts on the mansions of heaven, and contemplate with earnest eye, that holy of holies into which our great High Priest has entered, to prepare the way for our admission, than we feel this truth in all its force, and most clearly comprehend that unto saints alone can the gates of that blessed abode and the fellowship of its righteous inhabitants ever be laid open-that 'there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth,' and that they who stand before the throne of the Lamb with palms in their hand, are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'
If such then be the actual experience of our own hearts, are we, in taking our aim beneath the requirements of scripture, conscience, and reason, actually renouncing the promises of the life which is to come, and giving up heaven as a prize too high for our ambition? 'O, no!' is the ready reply of every nominal Christian, and readiest is it ever in the mouth of those who are loudest in denouncing the very reputation of sanctity; refusing for themselves, and denying to their neighbours, the appellation of 'holy brethren;' and crying down the name of saints from the face of our spiritual world. There is here then some deadly delusion and contradiction of sinners,' at work about our hearts; and by the manifest inconsistency of its fruits with our profession, warning us to keep closer to the light of divine truth, that in so doing we may learn, in the very beginning of our Christian course, to take our aim aright, with the clear understanding, that just as God never promises more than he is both able and willing to give, so will he never take less than he asks.
In the promises before us we find a source of incitements sufficient, not only to raise our aim to the highest, but to keep us in the right course, for following it up in our life and conversation to the end. These promises are, in substance, no less than the restoration of our fallen nature to the rank of divinity. In this blessing is manifestly comprehended every gift and blessing in the power of God to bestow; for it is making us heirs of his own infinite riches, and joint heirs with his Son Jesus Christ. We have here then a promise of the highest order, and consequently implying on our part obligations to a corresponding extent. For so is it with all the promises of God. Unto every one of them is annexed a duty, and the duty is always in harmonious proportion with the bless
Hence are we taught, in the very same breath that conveys this gracious promise, to aim at the perfection of holiness as the condition of its fulfilment. It is immediately preceded by a peremptory summons to tear ourselves loose from our unequal yoking with unbelievers, break off all fellowship with unrighteousness, come out from among sinners, and be separate from them, and never more to touch the unclean thing; and then it is immediately followed up with the strong exhortation of our text, let us therefore cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God! We are required in a tone of authority, softened and sweetened by affection, not to content ourselves with aiming at the remission of sins alone through the blood of Christ, but at the extirpation of every bitter root and sinful inclination from our hearts, to take up the cross, and deny ourselves to all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and dying daily unto sin, live daily more and more unto righteousness. The fear of God is the beginning, and likewise the end of wisdom. But in its own end it is the holy fear of offending a righteous and living Father, and the holy awe that hangs over the soul at the thought of approaching the habitation of divine holiness and glory, with a stain upon its raiment. Let us aim then at the highest in all things-in character, as in privileges; and at perfection in holiness as well as in bliss. God may pardon us for coming short of our aim; but to aim short of his requirements, to purpose less than implicit obedience, and perfect purity of heart and holiness, even as God himself is pure, is in reality making up our minds to fall short of heaven in the end, and sink, it may be, in the very act of laying our hands on its gates, for there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth.' Soon do we learn from experience in the ways of the life which now is, to aim even beyond our purpose, that we may be more certain of coming up to it; and though the children of the world are wiser in their generation than the children of light, let us beware at least of reversing in spiritual things our own natural wisdom, and, while actually meditating an entrance into the habitation of God's holiness and glory, aiming short of it, by satisfying ourselves with a standard beneath the requirements of gospel-purity. Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should seem to come short of it.'