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* I. The highest object of human desire."
Tien tadb. The season in which it is most appropriately pursued.
III. The method in which it is attained. at 1
I. The objeet most worthy of man's anxiety, is the “cleansing of his way; "--the sanctification of his converse and life. We
may assume the necessary connexion of outward rectitude with inward holiness. The great Teacher explains this truth by the wellknown reference to the productive branches : “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." (Matt. vii, 18.)
Purity has been justly represented as “ the health and beauty of the soul.” Its loveliness and value defy the power of description, and exhaust the resources of illustration. Every word which the Holy Ghost dictates is full of sacred and most accurate meaning; and that all-searching Spirit tells of “the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm xxix. 2.) For its model and everlasting fountain we must ascend through all ranks of created being, to the throne of the Eternal; and Him the truly enlightened mind loves and adores, not less because He is "glorious in holiness ” than because he is perfect in wisdom or infinite in goodness. Purity was the characteristic of man's primeval state: this gave perfection to Eden, and made its happy fields a sanctuary. And, though the veil hangs over the future state, we know that the " inheritance of the saints in light” is not only incorruptible," but also "undefiled.” (1 Pet. i. 4.) . If we cannot ketch the new heaven” and the “new earth,” or even ascertain the radiant province of the universe in which they shall be situated, we know that therein "dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Pet. iii. 13.) In the everlasting home of the glorified, purity appears in its just and congenial associations, There it assumes its own sceptre, and wears its own diadem. Its struggles ended, no tear sullies its angel-face ; no sigh interrupts its rapturous hallelujahs.
The design of the redeeming plan is to restore to holiness our ruined nature. All the blessedness that man can realize, results from his interest in this great enterprise of divine charity. As in heaven, so on earth, holiness is indissolubiy allied to happiness. He that wanders after rest of soul, must endure disappointment until he finds that the “ways ” of piety “ are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” The spirit of man, unblessed and unsaved, resembles the dove of Noah, which fluttered with feeble pinions over the unbroken waters of the deluge, and “found no rest for the sole of her foot :"-brought to the bosom of Jesus, redeemed from guilt and sin, it resembles the same bird, when received by the Patriarch's hand into the ark of security and repose. ... All these reflections impress us with the importance of a true and sanctifying religion. Before this, wealth, honour,ogenius, intellectual endowments, friendship, patriotism, fade and sink. This alone brings
peace to the labouring conscience. It makes man the receiver of a drop from the unbounded ocean of God. It 'sustains trembling humanity in life and in death. It decks youth and age with unwithering honours. It prepares its subject for a happy eternity; and it flourishes in ever-during glory, when short-lived worlds are forgotten.
Of practical holiness, the outward righteousness that springs from inward piety,the Psalmist's interrogation suggests one or two illustrative views
1. That the sanctification extends to the entire conduct.
“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way,"—his entire deportment? The streams which issue from one unpolluted fountain are pure, though they run in many channels: so the grace which reigns in the heart extends a sanctifying influence to the thousand duties of the life. The renewed mind perceives “ the law” to be "holy;" and “the commandment holy, just, and good.” The 'undivided soul bows to the authority, and blesses the pleasing sway, of the Lawgirer. Allegiance to heaven demands unreserved obedience. is inconsistent with the retaining of one sin, or the acknowledgment of any rival to Christ in the heart. It stands immeasurably remote from the presuming spirit of selection : “ This I will do, and that I will not do. This is too hard, this is too mean,--this may be well enough:let alone."* It submits to the most humbling and painful of the sacred precepts; and, in the quiet magnanimity of meekness, it learns to say, “ Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.” (Psalm cxix. 6) !! Feeling the eye of an omnipresent God," wherewithal shall young man cleanse his way?." How shall he direct each footstep of his course How consecrate every thought, word, and deed? How maintain a course of righteous obedience to his Lord, in secret as in public, in the desert as in the city, in the gloom of night as in the face of the sun, and in unpierced solitudes as amid a million of witnesses ?
The pursuits of " a young man” may be various ; but our inquiry is ever apposite. By whatever difficulties environed, to whatever legitimate consummation directed, he is solemnly bound to aspire after the “ cleansing of his way." Holiness will adorn every path with a lustre which the world can neither kindle nor obscure. Is it the path of business 2–“Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Tim. iv. 8.) Scriptural piety guides our steps; preserves us from the ruinous anxieties of the world; and promotes, even in the marts of earthly commerce, the acquisition of the true riches. Is it the path of science ? * God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy." (Eccles. ii. 26.) True religion beckons us onward in the flowery walks of learning ; guards us from the entanglements of
infidel sophistry; consecrates every valuable attainment; and, while it represses all profane and hurtful speculation, furnishes to the inquiring mind themes on which the highest creaturely intellect has been blissfully engaged for thousands of years. Is it the path of honour and advantage ?-Christian holiness constitutes our security amid the perils of 'wealth and greatness; and instructs us to make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when we fail, they may receive us into everlasting habitations." (Luke xvi. 9.) Is it the path of trial and adversity ?-Seriptural piety sustains us even in this rugged road; inspires victorious patience; and teaches us that “godlia. ness with contentment is great gain ; for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out ;” này, that to us “it is given;"_as matter of privilege and divine bounty, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake." (1 Tim. vi. 6,7; Phil. i. 29.) Is it the path of duty in the various relations of life?-What but renewing grace can make that path at once attractive and holy? Love to God prompts the cheerful discharge of every duty to man; refines, exalts, and hallows every charity of life ; stimulates the child to “obey his parents in the Lord, for this is right;" and the parent to “bring 'up" his children " in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;” the servant, to bé obedient to them that are " his“ masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of his heart, as unto Christ ;" and the master, to act under the influence of the constant recollection that his “ Master also is in heaven, 'neither is there respect of persons with him." (Eph. vi. 1-9.)
The object proposed in the text is no less than a restoration to our forfeited innocence and glory; and the “ cleansing” of every path of life ;-a practical conformity to the summons, breaking from the throne of light; that, “as he which hath called us is holy," so we be “ holy in all manner of conversation.” (1 Pet. i. 15.)
2. That the sanctification of the “way" is dependent on humani concurrence with the grace of God.
To some of the preceding observations it is replied, The object is great and desirable ; but it is dependent on the effusion of the purifying Spirit. This great Restorer is to be magnified ; and we are to wait for his sovereign visitation."
We answer,-Everlasting glory to the Lord the Spirit," who, by the finger of his almighty power, turns the heart from sin to God. His offices are, indeed, to repair the ruined temple of the hunian spirit; and to “ create all things new." But who are un visited with his preventing and sacred influence? What plea can we urge for inactivity ? Why do we passively wait for overwhelming visitations of grace ? Omnipotence being irrelevant to answerable mind, ** what could have been done more for the vineyard,” that Jehovah hasil hot done in it?" (Isai.' v. 4.) .
minorum in mostra de !
Let all our energies be awakened by a consideration of our personal freedom and responsibility. According to the gracious economy, which seeures for God all the honour of our salvation, the problem, depends on our own agency, Whether we shall everlastingly soar in heaven, or sink in hell ? All eternity hangs on our choice. God says, "O son of man, wilt thou be holy here, and triumphant hereafter Wilt thou admit to thy heart Jesus Christ, thy life, thy strength, thy beauty, thy righteousness?"
The sacred phraseology is to be carefully noticed. It enforces, with the utmost impressiveness, our duty in the great transaction. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?”,“ Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthi. ness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2 Cor. xii, 1.) How anxious, how sensitively awake, ought we to be! Let each one reflect --I have a duty of tremendous importance to discharge. If it be done in the springtime of life, I shall reap glory for ever; if neglected, the thought of the bright opportunity foregone will be an immortal sting.
3. The inquiry of the Psalmist leads to the remark that, as is the excellence, so is the difficulty, of this attainment.
The unlimited extent of the work to be effected, is but one of many reflections which evince this truth. · Often in affecting proportion to the estimation in which an object is held, is the arduous struggle for its possession. The blooming Canaan is not obtained without the toilsome pilgrimage in the desert, and the expulsion of the Anakim from the mountains of Hebron. The perils of warfare precede the peace and the brilliancy of conquest.
Wherewithal," asks the Psalmist significantly, “ shall a young man eleanse his way?” Nature, and “the course of this world;" “the pride of life," the indulgences of sense, and the rampant passion for liberty,all resist the triumph of purity. The stratagems of Satan, and the untiring efforts of his visible and invisible allies, aggravate the difficulty of success. The friendship of the world, the lingerings of self-righteousness, the total tendency of our depraved humanity, throng the ranks of the opposition. Enemies around, enemies within, are to be subdued. A battle so fierce, never raged with the roar of artillery and “ garments rolled in blood.” How shall the unseen conflict be maintained to its triumphant issue? How shall the sacred task be accomplished ? " Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean ?",
Blessed be God, the provision is made. A fountain of purifying influence is unsealed. If man's renovation demands an almighty energy, dol relenting. Omnipotence condescends to the work. If the hand that created the heavens and the earth is alone equal to create man anew, that hand moves in the beneficent undertaking ,, and, ah! it bears the print of the rail! Jehovah Jesus comes in a bloody vesture! Amid disclosures of love which amaze the intelligent; universe, God has done his part toward the blissful result. Ours requires every effort in our power. The votary of the Crescent toils through burning sands to Mecca. The Pagan offers gold and rubies, and even the "fruit of the body," in 'blind attempts to expiate “the sin of the soul.” Christians, rival them in zeal and devotion ! Calculating the greatness and difficulty of your vocation, emulate him who said, " I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” (Psalm cxix. 60.) Holiness merits the utmost exertion; immortality repays the sacrifice of all sublunary things. “Whatsoever" your “hand findeth to do, do it with” your “might.” (Eccles, ix. 10.) By the glories of the world to come, by “the latest trumpet of the seven," let the long and guilty slumber of inactivity be terminated; and, “ beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of” the most worthy Judge eternal 6 in
spot, and blameless." (2 Pet. iii. 14.)
II. The most appropriate season for the pursuit of holiness, is intimated in the text.
“ A young man" is the subject of the inquiry ; and, for the illustration of this part of our themē, we may allude to the ADVANTAGES, to the PERILS, and to the hopes, which characterize the early period of life. 1. Youth has its eminent advantages.
tudi 77 All ages have sung of its charms and enjoyments. It is the beautiful morning, the vernal promise, the flowering season, of life. Who has not heard the sighs, and marked the miseries, of old age? Myriads have learned, too late, that sorrow and infirmity are most adverse to the duties of religion. Happy youth is the season for God. Under the law, the first-fruits and the first-born were consecrated ; and why, O why, should not the brightest of our days be given to the sovereign Benefactor? Why should we not run to his altar, with the morning sacrifice of praise and piety? Why should not our acknowledgment of his mercies be fresh and fragrant with the breath of youth and infancy? Why should not children again sing, “ Hosanna in the highest to the Son of David ?"
It is not easy to arrange in this rapid enumeration, the adyantages to which reference is made; and the catalogue must be incomplete. We associate with youth, however, the ideas of cheerful health and generous ardour, of golden leisure and mental capacity." Unworn by sickness, unclouded with the anxieties of following years, not yet immured in the scenes of absorbing business, how favoured are those whom I now address! And how obvious that every future year will abridge some of their privileges! To borrow the poetic and highly wrought description of Ecclesiastes, (chap, xii.,) " the sun," and the light," and " the moon," and " the stars," are not yet darkened; nor do “ the clouds return after the rain.” “ The keepers of the house tremble” not; "the daughters of music" are not brought