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from all unrighteousness. God makes nothing of thy reformations, prayers, or tears, as a reason why he should accept and save thee; but every thing of what his Son has done and suffered. If thou canst be of his mind, make nothing of them in thy pleas and hopes for mercy, but every thing of Him in whom he is well-pleased, eternal life is before thee. And at what time this doctrine shall give peace to thy troubled soul, it shall purify thy heart in such a manner that all thy former ways shall become hateful, unto thee; and sobriety, righteousness, and godliness shall be thy delight.
But if thy heart be still hardened in sin; if Jesus, and salvation by grace through his name, contain nothing attractive, but rather
offensive to thy mind Know this, There is no other name
given under heaven, among men, by which thou canst be saved; and the remembrance of thy having, once in thy life at least, been told the truth, may not a little embitter thy dying moments.
Happy are all they, who, returning in the name of Jesus Christ, to his Father and their Father, his God and their God, are made free from sin, and have their fruit unto holiness! They, too, are progressive, but it is in a course the opposite of that which has been set before the reader. The righteous shall hold on his way, .and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger. The service of God shall become more easy to him; truth shall appear more evident; the marks of his conversion shall multiply ; bis .character shall strike its roots deeper; the hope of his perseverance shall continually renew its strength; and sorrow and joy, retirement and society, the dispensations of Providence, and the ordinances of grace, shall all contribute to make him more meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.
THE PROGRESS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Having offered a few thoughts on the progress of sin, in your last number, the following may be considered as a counterpart. Righteousness is no less progressive than unrighteousness. As in the one case, sinners are servants to iniquity unto iniquity; so in the other, believers are servants to righteousness unto holiness.
Some, I am aware, have denied that sanctification is progressive; but this, if they understand what they say, is only a proof, I fear, that they are strangers to it. The following remarks may serve to show the tendency of true holiness to aspire after perfection, however far we may be from attaining to it.
First: The right discharge of any one duty, supposes a principle which will lead us to be holy in all manner of conversation. Strictly speaking, there is no duty performed, nor any thing done by a sinner, that is well-pleasing to God, till, repenting of sin, he believes in Jesus for salvation. This is the turning point which gives a new direction to his future course: all before it is worse than nothing. When, therefore, the Jews inquired of Christ what shall we do to work the works of God? The answer was, This is the work of God, that ye believe in him whom he hath sent. It is on this principle that the apostle declares of him that doeth righteousness, that he is righteous. A single act of righteousness proves that the subject of it is created anew in Christ Jesus, unto good works. But where this is the case, there is that in the mind which tends to universal holiness. A few insulated services may satisfy a formalist; but he that believeth in Jesus, has his heart enlarged, and runs with delight, in the way of his commandments. It is not the inquiry of such a person, how low a degree of spirituality will consist with true religion; but how high a degree of it is attaina
Vot-. VIII. 47
b!e in this state of imperfection. The religion of a mere professor, resembles the legs of the lame, which are not equal. In the house of God, he weeps and seems to be all devotion; but if a poor man, or even a poor Christian, call at his door, his heart is shut against him. Or it may be, he prides himself in his generosity; but then he is dead to every thing spiritual and heavenlyminded. Not so the true Christian; his religion is uniform. In him, the fear of God produces good will to men; and his charity to men operates in harmony with zeal for truth, for righteousness, and for God. When a mere professor has once established his religious character, he will commonly sit down to rest, and leave the young people to be zealous in their turn, as he thinks he has been sufficiently in his: but love will go on to bring forth fruit in old age. When the Lord had given David rest round about from all his enemies, he is said to have sat in his house; not, however, in a state of indolence, as though he had done enough, but meditating what more he could do for God, now that new opportunities were afforded him. See now, (said he to Nathan,) / dwell in a house of cedar; but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains. And more than twenty years afterwards, when he was old and grayfieaded, and nature worn out with troubles in his family and in his - kingdom, he still resolves to go in the strength of the Lord God, and to praise him more and more.
Secondly : Every duty rightly performed prepares the heart for the discharge of other duties.—It was a remark of the great and good Mr. Whitefield, and there is no man's lips whom it would have better fitted, " that the more a man does for God, the more he may." Gracious dispositions strengthen and increase by exercise. The chariot in full motion, surmounts hills of difficulty with much less effort than at its first outset. The truth of these remarks is most sensibly felt in exercises of self-denial, and in the influence of private on public duties. Every act of self-denial for Christ's sake is a victory over temptation, and every such victory douhles oar strength for a future onset. Thus also, the spiritual and retired exercises of the closet, prepare the mind for those of the family, and both have a tendency to fit us for those of the house of God. A little religion, it has been said, and with much propriety) will make a man miserable ; but much will make him happy. It is by following the Lord fully, like Caleb and Joshua, that we enter into the gospel rest.
Thirdly : Every degree of holiness tends to an increase of spiritual knowledge, which in return produces more holiness. It has been a question much disputed, whether holiness leads to the knowledge of the truth, or the knowledge of the truth to holiness; but both are true: He^that doeth God's will, shall know of his doctrine ; and beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord. The influence of each upon the other, is as that of capital and interest in trade. Capital is a stimulus to interest, and interest increases capital. The influence which humility has, for instance, upon a discovery-of the mind of God in his word, and upon the increase of true religion in the soul, is beyond all calculation. God will guide the meek in judgment; the meek will he teach his way. lie giveth more grace to the humble.
Fourthly : Holy acts tend to form and strengthen holy habits, which constitute the highest degrees of holiness.—In one sense every person who is the subject of true religion possesses a holy habit: religion with him, is not occasional, but an habitual pursuit. But the term is more properly applied to those fixed dispositions of the soul, which are the effect of repeated exercises. God has so formed the mind, that a number of acts of the same kind, whether good or evil, shall give a tone or direction to it: by this, righteousness is encouraged and sin is punished. Every exercise of repentance goes to form an habitual tenderness of conscience, and abhorrence of that which is evil : and every exercise of faith tends to a life of faith on Him who loved us, and gave himself for us. The more we read the holy scriptures, the more we shall imbibe their spirit, and be formed by them, as by a model. It is thus that the word of Christ dwells richly in us in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. It is worthy of notice, that the general strain of apostolic exhortation is directed to habitual religion. Simplicity in giving, diligence in ruling, cheerfulness in showing mercy, love without dissimulation, abhorrence of evil, cleaving to that which, is good, being kindly afectioned one to anothef, with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another; not slothful inT business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord: rejoicing in hope patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of the saints, given to hospitality; are all expressive, not of one or two particular acts, but of a life of devotedness to God, and kindness to men.' And whatever acts the apostles exhorted to, they were considered only as so many steps in a race, each of which contributed to its success, or to the winning of the prize.
Fifthly : Holy habits are friendly to a life of communion with God, by which the soul becomes more and more meetened for the inheritance of the saints in light.—He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in God, and God in him. The ecstasies of some whose walk is manifestly carnal, worldly, fleshly, and even devilish, arise from a fire of their own kindling. But he whose consolations are accompanied with a close walk with God, and render him more and more watchful, diligent, and ciicumspect, he it is that walks in the light of God's countenance. The enjoyment be finds in the commandments of God, enlarges his heart: and bis heart being enlarged, he runs with greater pleasure in the way of his commandments.
From the whole we see (1) The vast importance of a right beginning in religion. If we be wrong in the outset, the further we go the further we are off: but entering in at the door of the sheepfold, we shall go in and out, and find pasture. The reason why so many are not progressive in religion is the want of this. Having no connexion with Christ, they bring forth no fruit, and, as dead branches, are taken away : having no oil in their vessels, the lamp soon expires. (2) The importance of every act of holiness, or duty performed with an eye to the glory of God. It tells, as 1 may say, in the divine life. It tends to accumulate a store of heavenly wealth, and to meeten us for employments and enjoyments in another and better world.