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It was once a popular maxim, that “mischief always begins in the name of the Lord;" and much atrocity, throughout all ages, has been committed under the like pretence. But futile indeed will be this excuse, at the last account of human actions. We have been clearly taught by the unerring voice of prophecy, that on the Great Day many will, by specious professions of having acted in the name of Christ, endeavour to veil their transgressions and forgetfulness of duty. Many, we are told, will cry, “ Lord, Lord, have we not in thy name prophesied, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful things?” And we have the assurance of our Lord Himself, in answer to this bold allegation, that the verdict will be—“I never knew ye; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.” It is not, then, my brethren, sufficient to prophesy in the name of Christ-it is far from enough to preach upon His life, or to devote ourselves to frequent attendance upon those who are thus occupied. It is neither speaking much nor hearing much respecting Him-it is not the possession of great endowments, nor the power of miraculous operations, that will secure a man from rejection. It is not even familiar converse with Christ Himself, nor the frequent and humble supplications of the lips, that can sanctify human actions, and save them from heavenly condemnation. It is only by conforming our lives to Christ's holy laws-by complying rigidly with His commands—by acting scrupulously according to the dictates of conscience, and the doctrines of the Gospel. Would that they who commend or excuse conduct, opposed to the laws of Christ, by pretences of the above nature, sufficiently considered Christ's plain decision! They would then feel, that it was most necessary to live peaceably among ourselves, and to endeavour to promote peace among others—that to abstain from rash and cruel censures, from reviling and defaming our neighbours, is, in every respect, a paramount duty; and that, as these rules are mainly conducive to the general benefit of mankind-a point to which the attention of our Saviour was peculiarly directed-so, the violation of them can be justified by no pretence of love and zeal to Christ; by no performances, whether real or affected, in His holy name. We deceive ourselves most widely, if we think, that because our thoughts may be much fixed upon Jesus—or that because we speak much of Him, our actions are therefore done in His name. My brethren, it is utterly impossible that they can be so; that our deeds can be truly good, unless they are sanctioned by His law. For though good intentions and good principles are indeed the life and soul of good actions, yet most certain is it, that the substance of them—the body, as it were, must be their legality and justice. It is only by reference to the law of Christ, as declared explicitly in the Gospel, that our deeds can be rendered capable of bearing Christ's name, or of being denominated Christian. Any variation from this maxim is an abuse of truth is a forgery of eternal truth : it is like counterfeiting the current money-like stamping the royal image upon brass or tin, instead of gold or silver.
That, in fact, which we do in humble imitation of Jesus, and in conformity with His practice, we may be said especially to do in His name. A portrait is called after the person whom it faithfully represents; and if, in like manner, we place before us the example of Christ, and endeavour diligently to transcribe it ; if our lives, in the principal features of sanctity and goodness, bear a genuine resemblance to His, they are well entitled to bear His name. But if our practice be unlike and unsuitable, it is a manifest abuse of terms—it is an unpardonable presumption to affix it—it is as if (to follow up the comparison) we were to place the appellation of some remarkably graceful individual beneath the outline of a dark and hideous portrait. “He,” however, says St. John, “ that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also so to walk even as He walked.” There is, in truth, no other way. The profession of a Christian ought clearly to be conformable to the character of Christ : it ought, in every imitable perfection, to resemble Him. And therefore, whenever we commence an undertaking, our eye should be fixed steadily upon this illustrious pattern ; our measures should be squared exactly by the example which He has supplied. We should ask ourselves, with scrupulous attention to the truth, and with a zealous solicitude to discover it, “What did our Saviour in a like case? What would He have done in this? Do we act upon the principles which He has handed down? Are we really His disciples and friends ? If we are, let us go on cheerfully ; if not, let us instantly forbear.” A conduct like this, my brethren, is not only an essential part of duty, but an especial auxiliary to a befitting practice.
To do in another's name, sometimes imports a power derived, or a virtue imparted. In this sense, is the passage of the Psalmist" Through Thee will we push down our enemies; in Thy name will we throw down those that hate us." Here, “ through Thee,” and “ in Thy name," have a similar meaning. So also in the name of Jesus did the apostles cast out devils, that is, by the Divine power emanating from Him. But there is likewise another signification, differing a little yet perfectly accordant to our present purpose. To do in the name of another, implies an act of confidence reposed in that person. It signifies an expectation of aid, or the hope of a fortunate result. “We rest on Thee,” said Asa, king of Judah, “and in Thy name we go against this
multitude"-we go, that is to say, trusting in Thy assistance for success. Again, it is said, that “David went out against Goliah in the name of the Lord of Hosts,” confiding in the help of God, and looking to his arm ONLY for defence. In this manner, likewise, did the apostles work miracles ; for, says St. Peter, “His name, by faith in His name, hath made this man strong ;" which signifies, that the implicit trust reposed by this infirm person in the Divine power, had occasioned his restoration to health. And thus is it our duty to do all things in the name of Christ; to retain all faith and hope in Him—to rely altogether upon His direction and assistance, and to expect from HIM ONLY a blessing upon our endeavours-a“ happy issue out of all our afflictions.” That which men attempt in the confidence of their own wisdom and ability-in reliance upon any other person or thing—is done in their own name, or in that of the auxiliary in whom they trust. The glory of success will be thus attributed improperly and unreasonably to that which cannot help. But depending solely on the Lord, our undertakings may be securely denominated Christian, because our faith derives the power from Him who enables us happily to perform them. · We are, therefore, obliged to do all in the name of Christ, and to retain a constant sense both of our own infirmities, and of the impotence