« AnteriorContinuar »
will make a man miserable ; but much will make him bappy. It is by following the Lord fully, like Caleb and Joshua, that we enter into the gospel rest.
Thirdly : Every degree of holiness tends to an increase of spiritual knowledge, which in return produces more holiness. It has been a question much disputed, whether holiness leads to the knowledge of the truth, or the knowledge of the truth to holiness ; but both are true: He, that doeth God's will, shall know of his doctrine ; and beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord. The influence of each upon the other, is as that of capital and interest in trade. Capital is a stimulus to interest, and interest increases capital. The influence which humility has, for instance, upon a discovery of the mind of God in his word, and upon the increase of true religion in the soul, is beyond all calculation. God will guide the meek in judgment; the meek will he teach his way. He giveth more grace to the humble.
Fourthly : Holy acts tend to form and strengthen holy babits, which constitute the highest degrees of holiness.-In one sense every person who is the subject of true religion possesses a holy habit : religion with him, is not occasional, but an habitual pursuit. But the term is more properly applied to those fixed dispositions of the soul, which are the effect of repeated exercises. God has so formed the mind, that a number of acts of the same kind, whether good or evil, shall give a tone or direction to it : by this. righteousness is encouraged and sin is punished. Every exercise of repentance goes to form an habitual tenderness of conscience, and abhorrence of that which is evil : and every exercise of faith tends to a life of faith on Him who loved us, and gave himself for us. The more we read the boly scriptures, the more we shall imbibe their spirit, and be formed by them, as by a model. It is thus that the word of Christ dwells richly in us in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. It is worthy of notice, that the general strain of apostolic exhortation is directed to habitual religion. Simplicity in giving, diligence in ruling, cheerfulness in showing mercy, love without dissimulation, abhorrence of evil, cleaving to that which is good, being kindly affectioned one to another, with
Trotherly love, in honour preferring one another; not slothful in, business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord : rejoicing in hope patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer ; distributing to the necessity of the saints, given to hospitality ; are all expressive, not of one or two particular acts, but of a life of devotedness to God, and kindness to men. And whatever acts the apostles exhorted to, they were considered only as so many steps in a race, each of which contributed to its success, or to the winning of the
Fifthly : Holy habits are friendly to a life of communion with God, by which the soul becomes more and more meetened for the inheritance of the saints in light. —He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in God, and God in him. The ecstasies of some whose walk is manifestly carnal, worldly, fleshly, and even devilish, arise from a fire of their own kindling. But he whose consolations are accompanied with a close walk with God, and render him more and more watchful, diligent, and circumspect, he it is that walks in the light of God's countenance. The enjoyment be finds in the commandments of God, enlarges his heart : and his heart being enlarged, he runs with greater pleasure in the way of his commandments.
From the whole we see (1) The vast importance of a right beginning in religion. If we be wrong in the outset, the further we go the further we are off : but entering in at the door of the sheepfold, we shall go in and out, and find pasture. The reason why so many are not progressive in religion is the want of this. Having no connexion with Christ, they bring forth no fruit, and, as dead branches, are taken away : having no oil in their vessels, the lamp soon expires. (2) The importance of every act of holiness, or duty performed with an eye to the glory of God. It tells, as I may say, in the divine life. It tends to accumulate a store of heavenly wealth, and to meeten us for employments and enjoyments in another and better world.
ON EVIL THINGS WHICH PASS UNDER SPECIOUS NAMES
There is something in the nature of evil, which if it appear in its own proper colours, will not admit of being defended or recommended to others : he, therefore, who is friendly to it, is under the necessity of disguising it, by giving it some spécious name in order to render it current in society. On the other hand, there is something in the nature of good, which, if it appear in its own proper colours, cannot well be opposed : he, therefore, who wishes to run it down, is obliged first to give it an ill name, or he could not accomplish his purpose. This species of imposition, it is true, is calculated only for superficial minds, who regard words rather than things ; but the number of them is so great in the world, and even in the church, that it has in all ages been found to answer the end. In the times of the prophet Isaiah, there were those who called evil good, and good evil, who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter : but as the woe of heaven was then denounced against the practice, it becomes us to beware of going into it, or being imposed on by it.
It is not the design of the writer to trace this abuse of language through any part of bistory or politics, or any other worldly department ; but merely to notice a few terms which are very current in our religious circles :-such as moderation, liberality, charity, &c. on the one hand ; and bigotry, narrowness of mind, and ill-nature, on the other.
There is a spirit gone forth in the present age, which is calculated to do more barm to the church of God than the most erroneous doctrine that has been advanced since the days of the apostles. It bears a favourable aspect towards those systems of divinity which depreciate the evil of sin, the freeness of grace, the dignity of Christ, and the glory of his righteousness, as the only ground of acceptance with God ; so much so, that it is seldom known to oppose them. Or if, for the sake of preserving its reputation, it
. strikes an occasional blow at them, yet it is with so light a band as never to hurt them. It takes no decided stand on this side or that, and thereby obtains admission among all parties. If the friends of Christ meet together, it wishes to meet with them, though it be only to oppose every measure which may bear hard upon its favourite designs, and would take it very unkind to be treated as an intruder. If his enemies be assembled, it will also be there ; and is no untrusty brother be in company, will commonly manifest itself to be then most in its element.
Now, let a spirit of this kind make its appearance in any other department than religion, and observe bow it will be treated. In the year 1745, for instance, when the great question in the country was, Shall we support the reigning family, and the constitution ; or shall we admit the Pretender, with popery and arbitrary power in his train ? what would have been thought of a man who should bave pretended to be on neither this side nor that ; but, talking against war, and in favour of moderation, liberality, and charity towards the unhappy youtb, wbo by landing on our shores bad greatly endangered his life, made use of all his influence to oppose every decided measure tending to drive bim from the country ? “Sir, (they would bave said,) you are on the side of the Pretender, and deserve to be taken up as a traitor.' And bad he complained of their bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and ill-nature, his remonstrance would have deserved no regard. But is the cause of God and TRUTH of less importance than the temporal prosperity of a nation? Surely not!
If, indeed, our differences consist merely in words ; or though they should be things, yet if they do not affect the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, considering the imperfections which attach to the best of men, a spirit of moderation or forbearance is here in character. When we have frankly spoken our minds, we may with a good conscience leave it, and join with our brethren, notwithstanding, in the work of the Lord. But in differences which respect the principles abovementioned, compromise would be treason against the Majesty of heaven. There were cases in which an apostle allowed that every one should be fully persuaded in his own mind: but there were cases also in which the doctrine
of Christ was given up ; and if any man came as a minister without this, Christians were directed not to receive him into their houses, nor to bid him God speed. Such conduct in the present times would raise a great outcry of bigotry and illiberality : a plain proof this, that what passes among us under the names of moderation and liberality is in a great degree antichristian.
What is moderation? The scriptures recommend a yielding and gentle disposition in things wherein our own name or interest only are concerned.--Such is the moderation enforced by Paul : but when the continuance of the truth of the gospel was at issue, be refused to give place, even for an hour. The scriptures also recommend forbearance in Christians one towards anotber : but this is far from that spirit of indifference wbich would confound truth and error, religion and irreligion, the friends of Christ and the men of the world. "
What is liberality? The term denotes freedom, or enlargedness of mind. It is applied in the scriptures merely to that simple, sincere, and bountiful spirit, which communicates freely to the needy, and stands opposed to a sinister, close, contracted, and covetous disposition. The application of it to sentiments may be proper, when used to describe that enlargedness of miod which arises from an intimate acquaintance with the scriptures, and an extensive knowledge of men and things. A rigid attachment to modes and opinions merely of human authority, is often seen in per. sons who have read but little, and thought less. Had they seen more of the religious world, and heard more of what is to be said against the notions in which they happen to have been educated, their tenacity, we may commonly say, might be abated : in other words, they might be more liberally minded, and moderate in their censures against those who differ from them. But to attribute all attachment to principles, and even modes of worship, to illiberality of mind, is itself illiberal. If an attachment, whether it be to one or the other, be the effect of impartial research, and a firm persuasion that they are the mind of God as revealed in his word, it is so far from indicating a bigoted, contracted, or illiberal mind, that it may arise from the contrary. The more we understand of divine truth, the more our minds will be enlarged, and the more