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Evil, and demands what is right in motive and intention, as well as in the overt act. Human laws chiefly deal with the manifest action, when capable of proof. They argue back very feebly to the intention, which they still do aim at reaching as they can. The divine law lays the restraint upon the intention, the first element of the moral nature of man ; the divine law considers nothing to be virtuous, unless the motive as well as the material action be right; the divine law regulates the inward wheels and structure, of which the outward movement is the indication; the divine law demands an abstinence from every appearance of evil, from the proximate causes of crime, from the scenes, the places, the books, the persons which create the temptation. The divine law forbids doubtful indulgences, questionable pleasures, the approach towards the line of demarcation between virtue and vice, and bids men cultivate a decided intention and study of obeying God.
7. Accordingly, Christian morality regards all outward forms of devotion and piety as MEANS TO A HIGHER END, and as only acceptable to God when connected with that higher end. In this it stands opposed to all false religions, which invariably connive at the substitution of ceremonies and ablutions, for moral duty. What should be the end of religion is lost in the means. Christianity knows nothing of such compromise. “Bring no more vain oblations," is the remonstrance of the Lord by his prophet with the hypocritical people of his day—“incense is an abomination unto me; your new moons and your appointed feasts, my soul hateth ; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.”
8. Further, the Christian precepts all hang together and AID EACH OTHER; and, indeed, are necessary the one to the other. This is a-mark of a divine
5 Isaiah i, 13, 14.
system. The morality of the gospel coheres, depends each part on every other, and springs out from a few main principles. Humility is essential to self-denial, and both to benevolence and compassion : these last are indispensable to the love of our neighbour as ourselves; and all are required to subdue rancour, envy, ambition, hatred : and when these are subjugated, the mild and retired virtues flourish; whilst the same genuine love to our fellow-men keeps them from falling into moroseness, and from being leavened with misanthropy. And thus the completeness of the Christian code, and the high standard which it erects, answer to the beautiful harmony of the various particular graces in the actual character of the Christian disciple.
9. For this is the last remark which I offer under this head. The Christian morals go to form A PARTICULAR SORT OF CHARACTER, of such excellence as no other system of ethics ever aimed at. Some of the separate duties of the gospel were not unknown to heathen philosophy ;-fortitude, chastity, truth, justice, equanimity, the doing to others as we would they should do unto us, &c.; but the extent and purity of the Christian morals appear, as in the other points already mentioned, so especially in this, that they go to form a character perfectly attainable, and yet altogether new and lovely-a character in which humility and self-knowledge are so interwoven with meekness, spirituality, disregard to earthly things, denial of selfishness in all its forms, prompt and sympathizing benevolence, active zeal in advancing the temporal and spiritual welfare of mankind, patience under sufferings, forgiveness of injuries, persevering effort in every good word and work, as to form a temper and conduct so excellent and praiseworthy, and yet so unknown to heathen moralists, ąs to stamp upon Christianity the seal of its heavenly origin. And this is the more remarkable, because Christianity considers
all separate acts of virtue as essentially defective, unless they are directed to the formation of this very character, and are adorned with—what is completely understood to be the summary of moral excellencethe Christian spirit and temper.
II. But it may naturally be asked in what WAY DOES THE GOSPEL PROCEED TO MAKE THESE PRECEPTS PRACTICABLE—what is the course she
pursues —where does she begin, and what plan does she recommend to her disciples ?
1. Christianity, then, BEGINS WITH THE HEART OF MAN. This is implied in many of the preceding remarks. She forms the lives of men by forming their dispositions. She implants every principle deep in the soil, lets it take firm root there, and thus bring forth fruit, wholesome, seasonable, abundant. We call all this Christian morals, from the common language of mankind; but the truth is, it is holiness, obedience to God, SPIRITUALITY; which as much exceeds what unbelievers call morality, as a living man surpasses a picture. No other religion but that of the Bible takes cognizance of the heart; and yet that is the place where all effective morals must begin; and therefore, no other religion but that of the Bible pursues the wise and practicable course. Other morals end in theory; Christian morals lead to solid and positive action.
2. In the next place, the gospel aims at achieving its object BY THE FORMATION OF HABITS, which are a second nature, or rather, the effect of that new nature, which, as we saw in our last Lecture, and shall soon see again, Christianity infuses. It works not by occasional impulses, or by acts without principles; but by principles carried out into acts, and thus creating determinate and holy habits—the only way to
0 And. Fuller. Gospel its own Witness.
operate, effectually and permanently, so far as we can judge, on a creature like man; in whom repeated acts, whether of corporeal skill, intellectual effort or moral virtue, produce a facility by repetition, and recur on the recurring occasion with augmented ease, and with less labour of reasoning and delay in comparing opposing probabilities. It is thus the racer (both in a natural and spiritual sense of the word) acquires vigour in his course, the wrestler in his struggle, the soldier in his combat, the scholar in his discipline.?
Holy habits result in the formation of what we mean - by CHARACTER, which is the end Revelation has in view in its morals.
3. Christianity, further, directs men to aim at the VERY HIGHEST ATTAINMENTS, WHILST SHE ENCOUWEAKEST EFFORTS.
Never did any religion but the Christian lay man so low in abasement and self-humiliation, and yet at the same time raise him to such a height of holy pursuit, and cheer him with such encouragements under his weakness and failures. Thus it unites every thing requisite in the moral machinery which is to operate upon man. It applies a mighty lever, so to speak, which lifts him up from the depths into which he was sunk, and places him on the elevated course where he is to run
It says to him, “ Be ye holy as God is holy;"& and then adds, “ Come unto me, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." It bids man aim at the standard of supreme love to Almighty God, and of love to his neighbour for God's sake ; and yet assures him that it will not “ break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax." 10 It never says to him, You have done enough, you have attained a sufficient measure of holiness; and yet it never says to him, “Your faulty efforts are un
? Butler, llorsley, &c. 8 Lev. xi. 44. 2 Pet, i. 15, 16. 9 Mlatt, xi. 29, 30. 10 Isaiah xlii. S.
acceptable, your imperfect beginnings are useless.' In short, it animates the advanced disciple to higher attainments, and condescends to the infant scholar in his incipient efforts : it never lowers its standard, on the one hand, nor discourages the feeblest essays, on the other; but unites the loftiest aim with the most genuine humility in the temper of its aspirants : and thus carries the clearest testimony within itself of a divinely-inspired code.
Again: Revelation works its practical precepts by KEEPING ALOOF FROM SECULAR POLICY and inferior ends. There is a superiority, a freedom from low objects and concerns and partizanships, a separate and elevated and undeviating purpose in Christian morals, which exempt them from the scuffle of human passions and local ambition. There is no trimming, no time-serving, no eye-service, no acceptance of persons, no yielding to the interests of this or that party, of this or that individual ; no subserviency to petty projects or human contrivances; nothing like the schemes of heathen morality, where all was made to bend to state policy and the ends of national aggrandizement. Christian morality knows nothing of this. She teaches rulers and subjects their mutual duties; but in terms applicable to all governments and every form of polity. She ever keeps in view, not the interests of a favoured few, but the general welfare and salvation of mankind as the creatures of Almighty God.
Christianity sets men to work, also, by delivering her code IN THE FORM OF MAXIMS AND CLEAR, DE CISIVE PROHIBITIONS, rather than by systematic treatises reasoned out in detail. Thus she is brief and intelligible. The ten commandments, who cannot remember? The vindication of them, in the sermon on the Mount, from the false glosses of the Jews, who cannot understand ? The exposition of the Christian temper, in the twelfth chapter of the Romans, where