« السابقةمتابعة »
ness. Duties of every sort suppose that there exists a fundamental dif. ference between right and wrong; and they imply an obligation to do right and to avoid doing wrong. The rule of right applies as much to what we are to do directly for our own good, as to that which we are to do for the good of others. The authority of God is to be acknowl edged in the one case, as much as in the other. We are not our own, even when we are attending to our own concerns and providing for ourselves. There is One whose we are, and whom it is our duty to
When we are engaged in personal duties, our motives should not terminate upon ourselves; but even now we should seek to qualify ourselves the better to glorify God in our body, and in our spirit, which
2. In this Division of second table duties, every man finds some. thing for himself to do, and something to do for himself. There are many things, as we have seen, that he can do for himself more conve. niently than any other can do for him; and some there are, which, if he does not do for himself, must forever be left undone. And this lat. ter class are such as are altogether indispensable to his well being. A holy character, preserved or recove ud, is essential to the well being of every intelligent creature. Without it, he can be neither amiable nor happy. Without it, he must be at variance with that holy dominion that ruleth over all; nor can he have peace within his own breast. Rational existence, in connection with a holy character, is a blessing; but if not connected with'such a character, it will prove a curse. And there is no way by which holiness of character can be possessed and maintained, except by the performance of personal duties. Whatever may be done by our fellow creatures, or by our Creator, for us, does not render them unnecessary. Our Creator can afford us more imme. diate and effectual aid than all creatures combined; for he can work in us both to will and to do; but this does by no means render our own efforts unnecessary; it is still indispensable to our salvation, that we ourselves should will and do the things which are commanded us of God. Though dependent, we are nevertheless voluntary agents, and must be active in the performance of every duty. If our duties be not done by us, and if they be not done heartily to the Lord, we shall fall under the condemnation of the slothful servant who hid his Lord's money.
Let every one who has arrived at this part of our practical system, pause and ask himself, whether he is conscientiously discharging that class of duties which relate to himself, and particularly to his immor. tal interests. Let him say, Here is an intelligent being whom I call myself-the only boing whose actions render me lovely or unlovely, well or ill-deserving the only being for whose actions I am in the fullest sense accountable. This being, I ain assured, is now in a state of merciful probation. To me, among others, is the grace of God nent; and I am cautioned not to receive it in vain. I am reminded that if I am wise, I shall be wise for myself, but if I scorn, that I alone shall bear it. Have I acted the part of wisdom, by fleeing for refage to lay hold on the hope set before me? If I have not, what am I ree solving to do? Shall I be so unnatural as to neglect the duties which I owe to myself
to my better part ? Shall I suffer my soul, my oren soul, to be lost, through a careless inattention to the demands it makes upon me? For its iviquities I am responsible ; and if the whole moral system oondemn these iniquities, it exerts no influence to rescue my soul from the curse of the law, unless I also condemn them. Shall I, by holding fast deceit and negleoting to wash in the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, suffer my soul to ain rever under the dominion of sin, and the holy displeasure of the almighty Ruler of the universe ? “ Awake,” O my soul, “awake to righteousness and sin got;" otherwise iniquity will be thy ruin!
A RETROSPECT OF PART III.
1. From the view which has now been taken of holy practice, we are forcibly led to this conclusion; that it is essential to the system of truth—that it is a part of religion without which none can be saved, The scriptures make it as necessary to salvation, that the life should be reformed, as that the heart should be renewed; that sin should be forsaken, as that it should be repented of; that there should be good works, as that there should be faith. Indeed, good works are conside ered as the only satisfactory proof that our faith is any better than that of devils, The faith which is not evinced by good works, is represented as dead, while a living faith goes forth into such works, and is thereby distinguished from its counterfeit
. Jam. i. 17–26. The Creator established such a connection between our souls and bodies, that the members of the body are governed by the volitions of the soul, If the soul wishes the hand to rise, it rises; the foot to move, it moves, and in the direction which is wished; and the tongue to speak, it speaks, and utters the words which are required of
Nothing could be more absurd, than to suppose that the soul has become renewed and oleansed, while yet the body keeps on in its old, filthy course, unaffected with the change which has taken place in the inward man.
How absurd, to suppose a man's heart adores his Ma. ker, while his tongue profanes his name ; that his heart sanctifies the Sabbath, while his actions profane it; that his heart is in the house of the Lord with his people, while his feet have carried him to a party of pleasure among the irreligious and profane. We are assured by an apostle, that if any man seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, his religion is vain ; but such a conclusion could not be fairly drawn, were it not that the heart had control of the tongue. The Bia ble considers an external profanation of the Sabbath, as the most decia sive evidence that we do not heartily reverence the day; and our forsa. king the assembling of ourselves together with God's people, as full proof that our hearts are not with them. Our actions are always con. sidered as the best index of our character. It is so in relation to our
character as Christians. Doing the will of God, is made higher evi. dence of our interest in Christ, than anything else, because it is the whole system of truth perfected. It supposes the truth has been be. lieved and loved, and now it is acted out. The best proof a man can give, that he believes and loves the truth, is to regulate all his actions by it.
A change of heart effects a greater alteration in the lives of some, than of others. The heart of every man is equally in need of a reno. vation ; for all hearts are by nature entirely depraved: but every man's external conduct is not equally out of rule, and therefore a renovation of heart will produce a greater alteration in some men than in others. But the internal change, according to the degree of its perfection, will in every instance effect an alteration in the external conduct, in pro. portion as such an alteration is needed. When idolaters have had their hearts changed, they have turned from idols to the service of the living and true God. 1 Thess. i. 9. When magicians, who had gain. ed their living by diabolical arts, have been renewed in their mind, they have renounced these arts, and destroyed their books. Acts xix. 19. When Saul, the Pharisee and the persecutor, became a regenerated man, he not only gave up his Pharisaic system of doctrines for the truth as it is in Jesus, but also ceased to persecute the Christians, and preached the faith which he once destroyed.
The internal change, in some instances, takes place so late in a man's life, as to afford but little time for it to be evinced by an external ref. ormation. This was the case with the penitent thief, whose conversion preceded his death by but a few minutes. But late as it was, even he gave some evidence of its genuineness, by a change in his external conduct. He left off reviling the Savior; (for it is evident that both the thieves were at first united in this thing ;) he reproved his fellow for continuing to do it; he acknowledged the justice of his own con. demnation ; openly avowed his belief in the divine mission of Him who was then dying for a guilty world; and committed his eternal in. terests into His almighty hands. Had this convert lived, he would most certainly have been an entirely different man from what he was before. He would have stolen no more, but would rather have labor. ed, working with his hands. Eph. iv. 28. He would have evidenced that merciful change which was wrought within him, by a life of piety towards God and uprightness towards men.
II. In review of this Part of our work, it is easy to see, why the scriptures represent a life of disobedience as being sufficient to annul erery claim to the character of piety. If any urge a claim to be the chil. dren of faithful Abraham, while their works are unlike to his, their claim is disallowed. John viii. 33, 39, 40. The highest claims to the favor of the Judge, are represented as set aside by this single circumstance, that the men who make them are workers of iniquity. Matt. vii. 21–23. The man who hears the sayings of Christ and does them not—no matter what he believes, nor how many happy feelings are within his breast-builds his hopes upon the sand. Matt. vii. 26. The apostle James represents those professed Christians, whose practice was not conformed to the word of truth, as men who deceived them. selves. Jam. i. 22. The apostle John informs us, that if we say we
have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, (that is, moral darkness,) we lie and do not the truth. And Paul says, “ Be not deceiv.
God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap: for be that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap cor. ruption.” Gal. vi. 7, 8.
But is it not true, that all who are born of the Spirit will enter into the kingdom of God? Most certainly; but not all who think they have experienced this change. And an unchanged life is full proof of an unchanged heart: for “a good tree can not bring forth evil fruit." Matt. vii. 18. They who habitually do the lusts of the devil, are manifestly his children. John viii. 44. 1 John, iii. 10.
III. In this retrospect of the practical system, it may be useful to show wherein the obedience of Christians differs from that of all other creatures on earth and in heaven.
First. The obedience of true Christians differs from that of all other men upon earth. The difference consists in these three things :
1st. There is an inward and holy principle to their obedience. They have not only clean hands, but a pure heart. They not only do good, but are good. They walk uprightly, and they are upright in heart. They love God, as well as keep his commandments. They not only do their neighbors good, but they love them, even when their love is not reciprocated. Their love is of a more excellent nature than that which actuates other men. “ The righteous is more excellent than his neigh. bor.” This is the testimony of that God who searches all hearts, and is no respecter of persons. In the righteous man there is a principle' of action, which does not exist in his unconverted neighbor. Here is an important point of difference between such as are born of God, and all other men. But it should not be forgotten, that there is also a point of resemblance between them; since it is a revealed truth, that there is not a just man upon earth, who doeth good and sinneth not. Sin exists in the hearts of both saints and sinners; but holiness exists in the hearts of the saints alone.
2dly. The true followers of the Lamb strive against all sin, and seek for entire conformity to the will of God. It is their sincere prayer to God, that he would order their steps in his word, and let no iniquity have dominion over them. Ps. cxix. 133. As they watch against every sin, so they repent of every sin of which they become convinced. They are sensible of a deficiency in their obedience, but they do not allow themselves in it; for they have respect to all God's commandments. They never feel or pretend that they are without sia ; but sinless perfection, and nothing short of it, is the mark towards which they press. In this particular, their obedience differs from that of all other men. There are none others who watch against every sin, and aim at entire and constant obedience to the whole will of God; seeking to bring all their outward actions, and all the affections of their heart, into complete subjection to that will.
3rdly. The obedience of the men of grace, differs from that of all other men in this ; it heartily disclaims all its own merits. We would by no means assert that they have no spiritual pride. There is no sin which troubles them more. But this is certainly true of them all, that they sincerely disclaim the merit of their best serviccs. Many a time
they blush to lift up their faces before God, because their obedience is so very imperfect. When their holiest works are done, they cry, “ lf thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand ?" While Nehemiah prayed that God would not wipe out those good deeds wbich he had done, with the next breath he prayed to be spared according to the greatness of his mercy. Neh. xiii. 14, 22. What man ever made greater attainments in holiness than Paul ; yet, as to anything of the nature of merit, he renounced it all for that righteousress which is by faith. When he had no works of righteousness, except such as were wholly influenced by selfish motives, he thought he deserved heaven : but now after he had made great advances in real holiness, he felt that he deserved hell; not only because he once hated Christ and persecuted his followers, but also because his love to Him and them, was still criminally deficient.
With these three distinctive marks of the Christian's obedience in view, I shall attempt to show wherein he essentially differs from three characters which are found among men, viz: the moralist, the formal. ist, and the false convert.
(1.) The good works of the Christian differ from those of the mere moralist. They have a decided superiority, both in the motives from which they proceed, and the greater number of objects which they embrace. The moral man is actuated by no motives which rise above self, and he leaves out of his good works, the duties of the first table of the law. Or if, to give himself a better reputation, he should include some of these, he will leave out others which are of equal obligation. Perhaps he may refrain from the grosser profanations of the Sabbath, and may frequent the sanctuary, while he makes no con. science of worshiping God in his family, or closet. He well knows that the Redeemer has erected a stavdard of reconciliation in this world of rebellion, requiring all the children of Adam to repair to it; yet he feels it to be no part of his duty to espouse this holy cause, or seek its advancement. His good works do not properly regard God; por do they extend to men, considered as the subjects of God's dominion, or as needing the grace of the gospel. But the good works of the Chris. tian equally respect both tables of the law. He fears God and regards
He regards the bodily wants of his fellow man; but for his soul he has a deeper concern. Nor does this concern remain concealed in his heart; it draws forth many efforts for the salvation of that soul, for which the precious blood of Christ has been shed.
The moralist, without any sanctification of heart, without including the duties of godliness among his good works, and with a very maimed obedience to the externals of the second table of the law, makes great de. pendence on the meritoriousness of his conduct, and flatters himself that his Judge will not inflict the penalty of the law on a man who has come so near to an entire observance of its precepts. While the believer in Christ, with a sanctified heart, and a life, not only of morality, but also of piety, feels the need of a better righteousness than his own, and would be in perfect despair, were it not for that foundation of hope which God has laid in Zion.
(2.) The obedience of the Christian differs materially from that of the formalist. By the formalist, is intended the man who, in his obe.