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THE UNSPOTTED PURITY OF THE CHRISTIAN
Titus ii. 11-15.
For ihe grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath
appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, ani godly, in this present world. Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak and exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
We proceed next to consider the unspotted purity of the Christian morals, for the purpose of impressing more vividly on the minds of the young, the internal excellency of Revelation.
In this branch of our subject we have two advantages.
It is more level to the comprehension of man than the preceding topics. The doctrines which we con
sidered in our last Lecture, are in themselves matters of pure
Revelation. Not so the morals. Here we are in some measure at home. For though Christianity lays down the rule of them in a new
extent and purity, employs her own means to make them praciicable, connects them with her revealed doctrines, and enforces them with her peculiar sanctions; yet the
precepts themselves are intelligible to man, address his conscience, fall in with all his convictions as an accountable creature, and have been, in many of their branches, acknowledged in every age and in every part of the world.
A second advantage is the confessions of unbelievers; who with one mouth are compelled to admit the beauty of the Christian morals. They object, indeed, as we might anticipate, to some of the details of them; and they have no real desire, as we shall show, to promote the interests of morality. But their acknowledgments are therefore the more important, when they allow that “the gospel is one continued lesson of the strictest morality ; of justice, of benevolence, and of universal charity,"i and when they declare they would preserve Christianity, for the sake of its moral influence on the common people.
With these points in our favour, let us considerTHE EXTENT AND PURITY of the Christian morals. The manner in which they are RENDERED PRACTICABLE. Their INSEPARABLE CONNEXION with every part of the Revelation, and especially with its peculiar doctrines. And the SANCTIONS by which they are ultimately enforced.
1 Bolingbroke-Herbert, also, Shaftsbury, Collins, Wool. ston, Tindal, Chubb, applaud the Christian Morals. Hume and Gibbon admit the same.
2 The text contains a summary of each of these particulars · -1. The extent and purity of the gospel precepts; Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts--live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world-zealous of good works,
I. The EXTENT AND PURITY of the Christian morals will appear, if we consider that,
1. They embrace all that was really good in the ETHICS OF HEATHEN SAGES, and in the dictates of natural religion; and re-enact them with greater clearness and authority. The scattered fragments of moral truth which original Revelation, or the responsible nature of man, or the labour and study of philosophers, have dispersed up and down the world, are found to be comprehended in the Christian code. Truth, justice, fortitude, integrity, faithfulness, chastity, benevolence, friendship, obedience to parents, love of our country, and whatever else is praiseworthy, have all their place; only cleared of base admixtures, directed to their proper ends, and clothed with necessary authority for swaying the conscience.
2. There is, in the next place, a COMPLETENESS in the Christian code of precepts. They insist on every virtue and duty for which man was originally formed; and forbid every vice and sin contrary to his real relations and obligations. There is nothing wanting as it respects man's intellectual or moral powers; nothing omitted of the duties which he owes to himself, to his neighbour, and to Almighty God: nor is there any thing impure or debasing intermixed with its code. All is holy and consistent; in opposition to the Heathen and Mahometan morals, where
2. The manner in which they work : purifying unto himself a peculiar people.
3. The connexion with the doctrines of Revelation : —The grace of God which bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men, teaching us. Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity.
4. The sanction :-the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, to judge the quick and dead; and in what the closing words of the passage imply; These things speak and exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
whatever is good itself, is lost amidst the pernicious usages with which it is incorporated.
3. Then the Christian morals erect the only true and unbending STANDARD OF DUTY to God and man; a standard so high, and yet so reasonable ; a standard so unknown to any other religion, and yet, when revealed, so obviously agreeable to the sovereignty of the ever-blessed Creator, and the relation in which man, the work of his hands, stands to him; a standard so intelligible to the meanest capacity, and yet so far surpassing the imagination of the highest, as to have the strong impress of a divine hand upon it. Yes; when our Lord uttered those memorable words, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” he raised the true and intelligible standard of morals, which places even a child in a Christian country far above, in this respect, the greatest moral philosophers of the ancient or modern world. 4. It follows from this, that the Christian code
MANY FALSE VIRTUES of heathenism, and INSISTS ON MANY REAL ONES unknown to it. Christianity rejects from its catalogue of virtues, vanity, pride, the love of fame, jealousy of honour, resentiment, revenge, hatred of enemies, contempt of the low and miserable, self-confidence, apathy under suffering, and patriotism in the sense of pushing conquest and upholding the interests of one nation to the hatred aud injury of others; and she inserts humility, meekness, the forgiveness of personal injuries, self-denial, abstraction of heart from earthly things, sympathy with the poor and mean, renunciation of confidence in sell, cheerful resignation under affliction.
3 Matt. xxii. 37-39. 4 The form of the argument from the mere purity and clear
5. Indeed, the Christian religion chiefly dwells on the MILD AND RETIRING VIRTUES, in opposition to ibose which are of a more hardy and obtrusive character. She omits not, indeed, courage, vigour of resolution, eagerness of zeal, fortitude, perseverance, contempt of danger ; but she dwells chiefly on lowliness, patience, silent and meek returns for ill
usages, gentleness, compassion, allowances for the prejudices and failings for o:hers. It is a consequence of this, that she founds her code on humility and self-denial, though she avoids moroseness, austerities, and whatever might verge towards melancholy and misanthropy. By laying man low, and giving him a just impression of his unworthiness before God and man, and then, by teaching him to “ deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, she fixes the only firm foundation of consistent morality, and especially of the milder virtues. But whilst all other religions, when they attempt this, fall into foolish and absurd injunctions, severities without reason, privations which vex without purifying man, Christianity is as lovely as she is self-denying. She is friendly, and tender-hearted, and full of the social and domestic affections and sympathies.
6. Once more, the Christian religion requires an
PROXIMATE CAUSES OF
ness of the Gospel morals, is thus illustrated by an able American writer :-" There are certain primary principles of jurisprudence, beneficial to mankind under all circumstances. But no actual system of human jurisprudence has recognized such principles, and such alone. Every where private cupidity, political ambition, ecclesiastical or professional superstition, prejudices of education, old habits, personal interests, encumber municipal law with idle forms, unmeaning distinctions, &c. If a code were to be presented professedly from heaven, and if it were found on examination, to embody all that was excellent in human laws, to avoid imperfections, to supply deficiencies, to suit every form of civil polity, and all understandings, &c., would such a claim be without foundation ?"Verplank.