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Christian ought to be ; and they never get beyond, even if they attain, the regulation of their lives and conduct upon this self-devised standard of truth. They can never be said to have “finished their course," for, in truth, they have never entered on it. Or they begin it, and turn aside in some other direction, mistaking the path. “Ye did run well,” says St. Paul, to the Galatians, “ who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth ?"*
Let us then, with this thought before us, leave for a while our own private judgment of what is pleasing to God or not, and turn to consider the picture which Scripture gives us of the true Christian life, and then attempt to measure our own life by it. He alone who gives us eternal happiness, has the power of determining the conditions for attaining it. Let us not take it for granted that we shall know them by our own common sense. Let us betake ourselves to Scripture to learn them.
Now it is very certain, that the New Testament abounds in notices, suggestions, and descriptions of the temper and mode of living of the disciples of Christ ; that is, as they were characterized at the time when it was written. The idea of a Christian, as set forth in Scripture, is something very definite. We may conceive we have some general notion from Scripture what a Jew was, but we know much more what a Christian was. As a Jew had a very peculiar character, as an Englishman has a character all his own; so the Christian, as described in the inspired writings, is like himself, and unlike any one else. He is not like Pharisee, not like Sadducee, not like Herodian, not like Greek, not like Roman, not like Samaritan ; but he is like a follower of Christ, and none but him. Now, whether Christians at this day need be like what Christians were in the primitive times, is a further question. I want, in the first place, to consider what the primitive Christians were like, as represented in Scripture.
* Gal. v.7.
As an historical question, as a matter of fact, thus cnly I would consider the subject; afterwards will be time enough for us to apply it to our own case, and to settle how far it is necessary for men of this day to conform their lives to the pattern given them once for all by inspiration.
Now so far is certain, that this one peculiar Christian character and life, and none but it, is attributed in Scripture to our Lord, to St. John Baptist, to the Apostles, and to Christians generally. Very different is our Lord from St. John Baptist ; very different St. John frem the Apostles ; very different the Apostles from private Christians. John came in the.garb of an ascetic, dressed in a garment of camel's hair, and eating locusts and wild honey. Our Lord came eating and drinking; He lived in the world as St. John in the desert. The Apostles were the teachers of grace, as St. John of repentance; and Christians in general were hearers, not preachers ; numbers of them besides were women, and still more unlike Christ and St. Jolin and the Apostles: and yet on the whole one, and one character only, distinguishes all of them in Scripture; Christ Himself, and the Baptist, and St. Peter, and St. John, and St. Paul, and the Christian multitude, men and women. And now to draw out what that character is; though, in doing so, I shall say nothing, my brethren, but what you know well already, and shall be doing little more than quoting texts of Scripture. And yet you have heard these texts so often, that perhaps they fall dead upon your ear, and they leave you as they found you, impressing no definite image of their meaning upon your minds.
1. Now the first great and obvious characteristic of a Bible Christian, if I may use that much abused term, is to be without worldly ties or objects, to be living in this world, but not for this world. St. Paul says “our conversaticn is in heaven,'* or in other words, heaven is our city. We
.* Phil. iii. 20.
know what it is to be a citizen of this world; it is to have interests, rights, privileges, duties, connexions, in some particular town or state; to depend upon it, and to be bound to defend it; to be part of it. Now all this the Christian is in respect to heaven. Heaven is his city, earth is not. Or at least, so it was as regards the Christians of Scripture. “Here," as the same Apostle says in another place, “ we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come."* And therefore he adds to the former text, “ from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the very definition of a Christian, one who looks for Christ; not who looks for gain, or distinction, or power, or pleasure, or comfort, but who looks “ for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” This, according to Scripture, is the essential mark, this is the foundation of a Christian, from which every thing else follows; whether he is rich or poor, high or low, is a further matter, which may be considered apart; but he surely is a primitive Christian, and he only, who has nu aim of this world, who has no wish to be other in this world than he is; whose thoughts and aims have relation to the unseen, the future world; who has lost his taste for this world, sweet and bitter being the same to him ; who fulfils the same Apostle's exhortation in another Epistle, “ Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth, for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”+
Hence it follows that watching is a special mark of the Scripture Christian, as our Lord so emphatically sets before us : “Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. . . . Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”I “At midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him.... Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."'* “Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping; and what I say unto you, I say unto you all, Watch.”+ And St. Peter, who once suffered for lack of watching, repeats the lesson; “ The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.”
* Heb. xiii. 14.
+ Col. iii. 2-4.
Matt. xxiv. 42. 44.
And accordingly, prayer, as St. Peter enjoins in the last text, is another characteristic of Christians as described in Scripture. They knew not what hour their Lord would come, and therefore they watched and prayed in every hour, Jest they should enter into temptation. “They were continually in the Temple praising and blessing God.”'s “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women."|| “ They, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.”9 “ They were all with one accord in one place,"** at“ the third hour of the day.” Again, “ Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.”++ “ Cornelius, . .. a devout man, ... which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway," saw “in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God;"11 and he says himself, “I was fasting until this hour, and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house." “Peter went up upon the house-top to pray about the sixth hour.” “At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God."“And they all brought us on our way with wives and children, till we were out of the city; and
* Matt. xxv. 6. 13.
+ Mark xiji. 35-37.
# 1 Pet. iv.7.
we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed."* This habit of prayer then, recurrent prayer, morning, noon, and night, is one discriminating point in Scripture Christianity, as arising from the text with which I began,“ our conversation is in heaven.”
In a word, there was no barrier, no cloud, no earthly object, interposed between the soul of the primitive Christian and its Saviour and Redeemer. Christ was in his heart, and therefore all that came from his heart, his thoughts, words, and actions, savoured of Christ. The Lord was his light, and therefore he shone with the illumination. For, “ The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.”+ And, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things : and an evil man out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things.”I Or, as Christ says elsewhere, “ Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”'s Observe this well, my brethren ; religion, you see, begins with the heart, but it does not end with the heart. It begins with the conversion of the heart from earth to heaven, the stripping off and casting away all worldly aims; but it does not end there; it did not end there in the Christians whom Scripture describes, whom cur Lord's precepts formed : it drew up all the faculties of the soul, all the members of the body, to Him who was in their heart. Let us then now go on to see in what that inward Christianity issued; what Christians then, in that early time, locked like outwardly, who were citizens of heaven within.
2. Christians, then, were a simple, innocent, grave,
* Acts xxi. 6.
† Matt. vi. 22, 2:3.