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In stating with brevity, yet with some degree of precision, the peculiarities of the Christian temper and character, as produced, under the powerful influences of the Holy Spirit, from the seed of divine truth received into the heart by living faith, we shall sometimes be led to deduce coincident parts of them from different principles: some things therefore, which were touched upon in the former Essay, may be here again resumed in another connexion. This will especially be perceived in relation to that subject, with which I shall introduce the delineation of the Christian temper, as it more particularly respects our brethren and neighbours: namely, · I. Indifference to the world and the things of the world.-Patience, contentment, gratitude, and cheerfulness have been shewn to be the genuine effect of that confidence in God and submission to his will, which arise from a real belief of the doctrines contained in the holy scriptures : but they receive a collateral support also from just views of the vanity of all earthly things, and the importance of eternal: whilst these are likewise essential to a proper frame of mind and tenour of conduct towards our neighbours. For what is most productive of immorality and mischief among mankind? Does not an inordinate eagerness in the pursuit of worldly objects occasion a vast proportion of the crimes and miseries which fill the earth ? This has not only led men idolatrously to forsake God, and wilfully to rebel against him; but it has also prompted them to become the oppressors and murderers of each other, in every age and nation; and thus to fill the earth with “ lamentation, and “mourning, and woe.” Nor can it reasonably be expected that any effectual remedy will ever be applied to these evils, unless men can be generally convinced, that the objects of their fierce contentions are mere.“ vanity and vexation of spirit,” and that nobler blessings are attainable. This has been so obvious to reflecting minds, that many sects of philosophers, and the inventors of various
11 John ii. 15–17.
superstitions, have in this respect manifestly proposed the same end as Christianity does, but the means have been so injudicious and inadequate, that they have only taught their followers to sacrifice one evil propensity to another; and to restrain sensuality or avarice, that they might more advantageously gratify the lust of dominion, or thirst for human applause.
But, when the apostle exclaimed, “ God forbid “ that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord « Jesus Christ ;" he subjoined, by whom the “ world is crucified unto me, and I unto the “ world.” The world and every thing in it, even “ the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the
pride of life;" and whatever was suited to gratify
2 Gal. vi. 14.
the appetites, the senses, the avarice, the ambition, or the vain glory of man, seemed to him no more attractive than the distorted defiled countenance of a crucified melefactor: while he was also entirely willing to be looked upon by all worldly men, with that contempt, pity, or aversion, which such an object is suited to inspire.2 Indeed, the doctrines that relate to the incarnation of Christ; the birth of Emmanuel in a stable; his obscure education, and life of labour till he entered on his public ministry; his subsequent poverty, hardship, reproach, and suffering, till he expired a sinless sacrifice on the eross; together with the circumstances of his followers, and the treatment which they met with ; are directly suited to mortify every corrupt affection of the human heart, and to create an indifference about all those objects which unbelievers idolize. The doctrine of the cross, when spiritually understood, gives us such a view of the deplorable condition into which sin has plunged our species, and of the hopeless misery to which the most prosperous ungodly man is every moment exposed, as must tend to lower all earthly distinctions in the believer's estimation; and to break the fatal association in his mind between the ideas of happiness and of worldly prosperity : for he cannot but see that a confluence of all earthly comforts does not in the least avail to preserve the possessor from death and hell, or even to keep off the dread of them. That near view likewise, which faith presents to the mind, of the reality and speedy approach of an eternal and un
changeable state, cannot but damp his ardour and abate his assiduity, in pursuing those things which must so soon be left for ever; whilst the substantial possessions, the incorruptible honours, and the unalloyed pleasures, which are proposed to his hope, tend to draw off his affections from “ things “ on the earth,” and to fix them "on things above, “ where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God."! For, as this globe appears to us, who live on its surface, to be very unequal by the interchange of mountains and valleys; yet, could we rise above it and view these at a distance, such inequalities would appear inconsiderable compared with its vast magnitude ; and, as we looked down upon it from a still greater and greater distance, they would by degrees entirely vanish from our sight: so, to the carnal mind, the difference between rich and poor, prince and beggar seems immense; but, in proportion as our judgment and affections become spiritual, the disparity diminishes, till the distinction seems wholly to disappear. All are sinners and mortals ; all must stand before the impartial tribunal of God; all are under condemnation according to the law; all are invited to accept of the salvation of the gospel ; and all must be eternally happy or miserable, as they are found in the company of believers or of unbelievers. Thus indifference to the world and its honours, friendship, wealth, decorations, splendour, and indulgences, whether of the senses, the appetites, or the passions of the mind, is the genuine result of evangelical principles : it is uniformly proportioned to the degree in which we are
1 2 Cor. iv. 18. Col. iii. 1-4.
really influenced by them; and every tendency to covetousness, ambition, or vain glory; and all dissatisfaction with a mean or precarious provision, and desire of things more elegant or luxurious than those which providence has allotted to us; is a proof that we are not fully cast into the mould of the truths which we profess, A Christian is a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth: he wants accommodation during his abode in this foreign land and his journey to his heavenly home; and he cannot but prefer things pleasant to those which are painful: yet this is not his object, nor can he consistently loiter, turn aşide, or disquiet himself about such matters; much less can he“ seek great
things," at the expense of disobeying his Lord, disgracing his own character, or interrupting his own comforts. There is indeed a certain place assigned to him in society, and perhaps he cannot fill this place with propriety without some externals which are of little value, and which many of his brethren have not: but he cannot consistently glory or rejoice in them, or prefer himself to others on that account; nay he will rather deem them snares and incumbrances, which may retard his course, and seduce him into conformity to the world. His duty may also call him to fill up a superior situation in society, and to possess authority or wealth, as the steward of God for the good of others; or he may be engaged in any lawful business : but his principles will render him superior to the love of the world, and teach him moderation, both in the pursuit of apparent advantages, and in the use of his possessions; they will dispose