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sons of God, of we being like Christ, he undoubtedly meant sincere Christians alone: and it would be strange if he meant any other in this latter part of the text, which is in fact a continuation of the same discourse, of the same subject, nay, a portion of the same sentence.
I have said thus much in order to obviate the contrariety which there seems to be between Saint John's assertion and experience. Experience, I acknowledge, proves the inefficacy, in numerous cases, of religious hope and religious motives : and it must be so; for if religious motives operated certainly and necessarily, if they produced their effect by an infallible power over the mind, we should only be machines necessarily actuated ; and that certainly is not the thing which a moral agent, a religious agent, was intended to be. It was intended that we should have the power of doing right, and, consequently, of doing wrong: for he who cannot do wrong cannot do right by choice ; he is a mere tool and instrument, or ra
. ther a machine, whichever he does. Therefore all moral motives, and all religious motives, unless they went to deprive man of his liberty entirely,—which they most certainly were not meant to do,—must depend for their influence and success upon the man himself.
The success, therefore, is various; but when it fails, it is owing to some vice and corruption in the mind itself. Some men are very little affected by religious exhortation of any kind, either by hearing or reading. That is a vice and corruption in the mind itself. Some men, though affected, are not affected sufficiently to influence their lives. That is a vice and corruption in the mind, or rather in the heart: and so it will always be found. But I do not so much wonder at persons being unaffected by what
others tell them, be those others who they may, preachers, or teachers, or friends, or parents, as I wonder at seeing men not affected by their own thoughts, their own meditations ; yet it is so; and, when it is so, it argues a deep corruption of mind indeed. We can think upon the most serious, the most solemn, subjects without any sort of consequence upon our lives. Shall we call this seared insensibility ? shall we call it a fatal inefficiency of the rational principle within us ? shall we confess that the mind has lost its government over the man?
These are observations upon the state of morals and religion, as we see them in the world: but, whatever these observations be, it is still true, and this is Saint John's assertion, that the proper, natural, and genuine, effect of religious hope is to cause us to strive “ to purify ourselves, even as he is pure.” Saint John strongly fixes our attention, I mean, as he means, such
I of us as are sincere Christians, upon what we are to be hereafter. This, as to particulars, is veiled from us, as we have observed, by our present nature; but, as to generals, as to what is of real importance and concern for us to know (I do not mean but that it might be highly gratifying and satisfactory to know more, but as to what is of the first importance and concern for us to know), we have a glorious assurance, we have an assurance that we shall undergo a change in our nature infinitely for the better; that, when he shall appear glorified as he is, we shall be like him. Then the point is, what we are to do, how we are to act, under this expectation, having this hope, with this prospect, placed before our eyes. Saint John tells us “ we are to purify ourselves, even as he is pure.
Now what is the scriptural meaning of purifying ourselves can be made out thus : The contrary of
purity is defilement, that is evident; but our Saviour himself hath told us what the things which defile a man are; and this is the enumeration : evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; and the reason given why these are the real proper defilements of our nature, is, that they proceed from within, out of the heart: these evil things come from within, and defile the man. The seat, therefore, of moral defilement, according to our Saviour, is the heart; by which we know that he always meant the affections and the disposition. The seat, therefore, of moral purity must necessarily be the same ; for purity is the reverse of defilement : consequently, to purify ourselves is to cleanse our hearts from the presence and pollution of sin ; of those sins, particularly, which reside in, and continue in, the heart. This is the purgation intended in our text. This is the task of purgation enjoined upon us.
. It is to be noticed that it goes beyond the mere control of our actions. It adds a farther duty, the purifying of our thoughts and affections. Nothing can be more certain than that it was the design of our Saviour, in the passage here referred to, to direct the attention of his disciples to the heart, to that which is within a man, in contradistinction to that which is external. Now he who only strives to control his outward actions, but lets his thoughts and passions indulge themselves without check or restraint, does not attend to that which is within him, in contradistinction to that which is external. Secondly, the instances which our Saviour has given, though, like all instances in Scripture,—and, to say the truth,
, in all ancient writings,—they be specimens and illustrations of his meaning, as to the kind and nature of the duties or the vices which he had in view, rather
than complete catalogues, including all such duties or vices by name, so that no other but what are thus named and specified were intended : though this qualified way of understanding the enumerations be right, yet even this enumeration itself shows that our Saviour's lesson went beyond the mere external action. Not only are adulteries and fornications mentioned, but evil thoughts and lasciviousness ; not only murders, but an evil eye; not only thefts, but covetousness, or covetings. Thus, by laying the axe to the root; not by lopping off the branches, but by laying the axe to the root; our Saviour fixed the only rule which can ever produce good morals.
Merely controlling the actions, without governing the thoughts and affections, will not do. In point of fact it is never successful. It is certainly not a compliance with our Saviour's command, nor is it what Saint John meant in the text by purifying ourselves.
Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he,” namely, Christ himself, pure.”
.” It is a doctrine and lesson of the New Testament,' not once, but repeatedly, inculcated, that if we hope to resemble Christ in his glorified state, we must resemble him in his human state. And it is a part, and a most significant part, of this doctrine, that the resemblance must consist in purity from sin, especially from those sins which cleave and attach to the heart. It is by Saint Paul usually put thus : “ If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." “ Dead with Christ ;" what can that mean? for the apostle speaks to those who had not yet undergone natural death. He explains : “ Reckon yourselves to be dead unto sin ;' that, you hear, is the death he means. “ He that is dead is freed from sin ;” that is Saint Paul's own exposition of his own words ; and then, keeping the sense of
the words in his thoughts, he adds ; “ If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” Again, still keeping the same sense in view, and no other sense : “ If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Once more, but still observe in the same sense, “ We are buried with him by baptism unto death; our old man is crucified with him." The burden of the whole passage is, that if we hope to resemble what Christ is in heaven, we must resemble what he was upon earth; and that this resemblance must consist specifically in the radical casting off of our sins. The expressions of the apostle are very strong ;
“ that the body of sin may be destroyed. Let not sin reign in, your mortal body; obey it not in the lusts thereof;" not only in its practices, but in its desires. “ Sin shall not have domi. nion over you."
In another epistle, that to the Colossians, Saint Paul speaks of an emancipation from sin, as a virtual rising from the dead, like as Christ rose from the dead.
then be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God : set your affections on things above, not on things of 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.” In this
is the comparison carried on. And what is the practical exhortation which it suggests ? “ Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, evil concupiscence, and covetousness :" which is an equivalent exhortation, and drawn from the same premises as that of the text; selves, even as he is pure."
The Scriptures, then, teach that we are to make
“ Purify your