Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and glory; and arrayed in the youth and beauty of heaven. The world around you will be convulsed with its last agonies. How will you

feel to be able, while multitudes are calling to the rocks, and to the mountains to fall on them, and to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb, steadfastly, and serenely, to enjoy the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing, of the great God, even your Saviour Jesus Christ!

You must be judged. How blessed will it be to be. hold you all summoned to the right hand of your Judge; the place of his friends and followers; the seat of distinction; the goal of immortal glory!

The final sentence you must hear. What emotions will you experience, should the Judge of the quick and the dead address to all of you those enrapturing words, “ Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom, prepared for you from the foundation of the world!” How solemn, how angelic, will be the fight, to ascend, with you in his immortal train, to the Heaven of heavens ; the house of JEHovah; the mansion of everlasting joy! FinalJy, what tongue can describe, what mind can conceive, the ecsta. sy of mingling with the church of the first-born ; of conversing with the innumerable company of Angels; of standing before the throne of God, accepted and beloved; and of uniting in the eternal song, “ Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him, that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever and ever!"

In that divine assembly; at that great era in the kingdom of Jehovah; that birth-day of the new heavens and the new earth; when those undefiled mansions shall be filled with all their inhabitants; when, like the drops, that form the bow in the cloud, the the day of rain, the children of God shall be illumined by the Sun of Righteousness with supernal beauty ; and all, united, shall form one perfect circle, arrayed in the endless diversities of immortal light and glory; let me ardently hope ; and Oh may the Father of all mercies fulfil the hope ; that not one of you will be found missing.

SERMON XXIII.

ON CONFORMITY TO THIS WORLD.

PREACHED TO THE CANDIDATES FOR THE BACCALAUREATE

IN 1808,

Romans xii. 2.

And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the

renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.

This Chapter is the beginning of St. Paul's practical Application of the preceding parts of this Epistle. It commences in the first verse with an earnest request of the Apostle to the Roman Christians, that they would present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God: in other words, that they would consecrate their bodies to his service finally, and without reserve, as a sacrifice is consecrated to him.

in the text he urges them to be no longer conformed, to this world, but to be transformed, by the renewing of their mind, in such a manner, that they may prove, or experimentally discern, the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. In the former verse, the Apostle beseeches the Romans to devote their external powers and actions wholly to the service of their Maker. In the text, he exhorts them not to suffer either their external or internal conduct to be conformed to the opinions, or practices, of the World; and so to regulate the state of their minds, as that this shall be the happy consequence. The words may be thus rendered. Be not fashion

ed like unto this World; but give to your life a new form, or shape, by means of that renovation of your understanding, which ye have lately received from the Spirit of God.

As the Roman Christians are here directly spoken of as already renewed; the transformation, mentioned, cannot be that great change from sin to holiness, customarily styled Regeneration ; nor the conformity to the world, that general spirit of sinning, found in unregenerate men Both the conformity here forbidden, and the new fashioning or transformation of character here enjoined, plainly respect the course of lif; and the doctrines and practices, according to which it should, or should not, be regulated. To the opinions and practices of the World the Romans, and, for the same reasons, all others who are under the Gospel, are forbidden to conform. To the doctrines, and precepts or rules of practice, contained in the Gospel, they are required to conform. In doing this, they are also required to avail themselves of the renovation, or spiritual illumination, of their understanding : i. e. to make use of the heavenly light, which they now enjoy, for the direction and purification of their conduct.

These explanations, will, I hope, either prevent, or remove, all doubts concerning the construction of this passage of Scripture. I shall, therefore, proceed to address the directions, given in it, to the Youths, who are just finishing their Academical education in this place. The two precepts in the text are so intimately related, that they may without any disadvantage be considered together : every departure from conformity to this world being a real advancement in the transformation here enjoined. Concerning both sides of this subject, therefore, I shall make such observations, as shall occur to me, promiscuously, and without any formal marks of separation. In performing this task I shall be necessitated to confine myself to a few particulars only. The field, opened by the text, is in a sense boundless ; and can be barely entered, at the present time. The particular subjects of conformity to the world, which I shall especially select, will not be the obvious, the gross, and the scandalous ; but such, as are scarcely suspected of coming within the reach of the prohibition ; such, as are generally es. teemed decent, often honourable, and perhaps almost always safe. They will be schemes of thinking, generally believed to be almost,

if not entirely, free from error; and schemes of acting, which, if not absolutely right, are considered as far remote from being wrong.

While I request the attention of my audience generally; I solicit with peculiar earnestness, I think I may with the best reasons expect, the attention of those, for whom this discourse was peculiarly written. You, my young friends, have received from me many instructions. I entertain not a doubt, that you have believed them all to be given with sincerity and ailection ; with a full conviction that they were true, and with the most earnest wishes that they might be useful. In this discourse I shall give to you, as a Class, my last counsels. It is my design, that they shall be just and Scriptural: it will be your part to make them profitable to yourselves.

Let me exhort you, then, not to be conformed to this world, 1st. In your Formation of a Standard of Moral Character.

Men, who think at all, universally adopt, either from reflection or accident, certain prime Rules of thinking and acting, to which they have an almost constant and peculiar reference, both in directing their own conduct, and in judging concerning that of others. These Rules, taken together, are what I intend by a Standard of Moral Character. They are not a standard of moral action only, but of moral thinking also. Thought is the source of action; as action is the end of thought. All our actions derive their moral nature solely from the state of our thoughts ; so that as a man thinketh, so he is. Such, in other words, as is the character of his thoughts, is the character of the man: never better, in any case, than might be fairly supposed from the comparative tenor of the doctrines which he holds.

The importance of such a Standard, as I have mentioned, lies in this fact: that the man refers to it, both when he is, and when he is not, aware of such a reference, most of his thoughts, and most of his conduct. If doctrines, presented to his contemplation, agree with this standard ; they are, in his view, sound and orthodox: when they disagree, they are erroneous and heretical. Actions, accordant with it, he readily pronounces to be virtuous. Such as vary from it he considers as vicious; or, at least, as defective in worth. In the same manner, also, he estimates the characters of other men

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The World, by which you are here to understand not only those who oppose the Gospel, but a great part of those also who professedly adhere to it, has formed various Standards of Moral character; all of which are greatly lowered beneath the point of Evangelical perfection. Each of the divisions of this great body of mankind has its own Code of primary Rules concerning thinking and acting, by which it proposes to regulate, and by which it does in fact chiefly regulate, all its estimates of moral character. Whatever comes up to this standard those who adopt it pronounce to be right, wise, and good. Whatever falis short of it they declare to be so far defective in truth, wisdom, or worth.

This subject, like many others, will be best illustrated by Examples. Those, who compose one class of such men, style themselves Men of honour. To be a man of honour, in the full sense annexed by them to this phrase, is, in their view, to have attained the perfection of the human character. But of what is this perfection composed ? " The Law of honour," says Dr. Paley, " is a system of rules, constructed by people of fashion, and calculated to facilitate their intercourse with one another, and for no other purpose. Consequently it forbids nothing, but what tends to incommode this intercourse. Accordingly, it allows profaneness and impiety in every form; cruelty, injustice, fraud, falsehood, and a total want of charity to inferiors. In the same manner, also, it openly permits fornication, adultery, drunkenness, prodigality, duelling, and revenge in the extreme. The virtues opposite to these vices it neither requires, nor commends ; such as temperance, chastity, justice, truth, kindness to inferiors, and piety to God."

The Law of honour is the Standard of Moral character, adopted by these men. The good man, the best of men, as estimated according to this standard, i. e. the man most approved by men of honour, may, therefore, be an impious, unjust, dishonest, cruel, wretch; putrid with lewdness and intemperance; a smoke in the nostrils of his Creator; and a mere blast upon the human race. Yet according to this standard he may have reached the utmost perfection, of which those, who adopt it, consider man as capable. The danger of forming a false Standard of moral character must, I think, be strongly evident in this example.

« AnteriorContinuar »