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distinguished between the way of obligation, which they refer to all, and the way of counsel, which they refer only to those who aspire after a full, but not absolutely and universally necessary, perfection. We again refer to the remarkable position of the command before us. It refers to him who stands at the head of the long line of believers. It belongs to the covenant which, in its essential principles and characteristics, has endured from that day to this, and constitutes, with unchanged character, although with less, because only dawning, brightness, “ the kingdom that cannot be moved.” The command is addressed to all believers,-in one sense, to all who are called to embrace the covenant itself. It is of universal obligation, because not counsel, but command. The same voice that says, “ Walk before me,” pauses not, but immediately adds, “and be thou perfect.” To obtain this blessing must be a privilege. Its exalted nature shows that so it is. But to seek it, and therefore to do all which in the way of instrumentality and preparation is necessary for seeking it rightly, must, likewise, be our duty. And the neglect of all this must be injurious. We have not, because we either ask not at all, or do not ask aright; for, repeating a declaration which, while full of encouragement, is closely connected with obligation, “ Faithful is he that hath called you, who also will do it.” Let us closely, rigorously, examine ourselves, why we are not, in this way, going on to perfection. The cause will be found to be too much associated with religious declension. If we have not lost our first love, its holy fervour is abated. And where shall abatement end ? Such is religion, that not to advance is to recede. The progress at first may be, except to the inspection of godly jealousy, imperceptible ; but it is not less real; and, if not checked, it will soon become only too evident. Let the reader most seriously contemplate the subject in its two leading aspects of duty and priyilege, obligation and desirableness; and let him henceforth place his mind under the full influence of the command, “Be thou perfect.” Thus shall he be brought, in personal experience, to“ prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God," and so contribute to the true prosperity of the church, in its richer spirituality, its brighter glory, its more commanding influence, and its more rapid extension.
II. There is another point of view in which the subject must now be considered. Does the Almighty God say, “ Be thou perfect?” Addressed to us thus in the form of direct command, as no command refers to what is simply impossible, something does it require which may be done by ourselves, aided by Him“ without whom we can do nothing.” To the inquiry, What this is, let our attention now be directed.
It is necessary that we notice some established laws of our constitution; of which it will be required that we avail ourselves, as well as that we, in some instances, be on our guard against them. Thus, it is well known that we have the power of placing an object before us, and so steadfastly and exclusively considering it, that we shall become, gradually, more and more under its influence, till, eventually, its power on all our habits of thought and feeling will become completely dominant. These are the laws of Attention and of Custom, and are two of the most important and powerful in our nature. Our whole character depends, principally, on the way in which we employ them. They are the great instruments by which, as moral agents, we act, and are acted upon. By a mistaken and imperfect system of metaphysics, remaining from the old Aristotelian scholasticism, the will is often spoken of as dominant in man. Considered under one aspect, it may be so; but, properly speaking, it is the man that acts, according to those self-ruling powers with which his Creator has framed him, and by which he was made a proper subject of a government of laws, rewards, and punishments. By the fall, and the loss of spiritual life, consequent on the guilt thus incurred, his whole disposition now is ungodly, turned from God, and directed to evil : but still, the man is not annihilated ; though dead in trespasses and in sins, it is the death of an undying, essentially living, nature; the man, therefore, exists still. Under the dispensation, in virtue of which by one man's disobedience all the race were constituted sinners, the individual, acting still according to his original nature, has not God in all his thoughts; he goes astray from his birth, speaking lies, foolishness being bound up in his heart; and had no other dispensation been established, nothing but evil would have proceeded from him. In whatever application the phrase is used, whether in reference to the guilt of the race, in consequence of the violation of the original covenant by the federal head of mankind, or to the procedure from natural corruption of the actions by which personal guilt is incurred, we are “by nature the children of wrath.” And, left to nature, we should only walk by sight, that is, according to the course of this world, and be under the tyrannizing bondage of the wicked one, by whose seductions man was at first withdrawn from his allegiance. Left to himself, thus he would remain. But he is not left to himself. He whose mercy endureth for ever, has remembered him in his low estate. A dispensation of grace, by the wisdom and love of God, is established ; and according to its principles the divine government is administered. It includes an outward administration, by which the truth necessary to be known, is plainly presented to man, and his attention is thus called to subjects about which he else would never have concerned himself. As to those who are without the sphere of the Gospel, we are not informed of the precise method of the divine procedure. The Gospel is entirely practical in its revelations. Nothing is made known which could only gratify curiosity. Information concerning the manner of dealing with the Heathen would be of no use to them who are not Heathen. It might even lead them, through the corruption of their nature, to assume the lower rule as the standard for themselves. And to the Heathen such disclosure would be equally useless. They could only receive it from the Gospel; and when they were thus brought into what we might almost term the official presence of the Gospel, it would cease to apply. They would then come themselves to the Gospel rule. These secret things belong unto the Lord our God; and the Judge of all the earth will assuredly do right, and, in due time, make it known that he does so. The Gospel revelation and ministry, considered as presenting truth to the rational creature, and appealing to the conscience of the moral agent and probationer, is a direct, intentional portion of the administration of the covenant of mercy. The call of the Gospel is the call of God. And as it has an outward, so it has an inward, administration, even the strivings of the Spirit with man as redeemed by Him who gave himself for all, and by whom is given the Spirit which convinceth the world of sin, though he dwells as Comforter only with those who have obeyed the heavenly calling,—that calling being the fountain and original of all their good. The church is the company of those who are separated from the world, because they have been called out of it. And being now alive from the dead, through Jesus Christ our Lord, it is their great evangelical duty to submit themselves to the influence of grace, and to employ every faculty of their redeemed and quickened nature in working out their own salvation. The administration of the covenant is one of grace and truth; and while it is their duty not to grieve the Holy Spirit of grace, it is not less so to place themselves fully under the influence of that truth which God has given, and which is the Spirit's great instrument of operation. The object proposed by the divinely-inspired Scripture is, that “the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.” Regenerate man still is man; and therefore, because God worketh in him to will and to do, he is commanded to work out his own salvation.
There is a well-known anecdote of Socrates to which we may instructively refer. A person, professing to be able to judge of character from the countenance, after gazing attentively on the Athenian sage, said, that his features betokened the existence of certain dispositions, which he mentioned. The friends of Socrates, who had never witnessed any manifestations of these tempers, pronounced his decision a complete failure, and his pretensions to the science of which he had boasted, invalid. Socrates himself said that the man was right. “Such tempers,” he acknowledged, “ are indeed natural to me; but by a careful observance of the rules of philosophy, I have so thoroughly conquered them, that they never show themselves in my behaviour.” We again call the anecdote an instructive one. Far be it from us to compare the moral amendments of philosophy with the sanctification of the Spirit. Christian character comprises elements with many of which philosophy is unacquainted. But if philosophy, truly interpreted, is right reason, acting according to correct knowledge, then the question may be asked, Suppose this command, “ Be thou perfect," referred to us as actually possessing adequate power for obedience, what methods should we adopt, what steps should we take, that we might render to it the obedience which it requires ? especially taking into the account, the possession of intellectual instruction in the sacred Scriptures, and the promise of full divine aid in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The answer we should give to this question furnishes the second aspect under which our duty, in reference to this command, is to be studied. By fervent prayer we are to seek of God that he would make us perfect. By wiselydirected and persevering efforts we are to seek to become so.
It is assumed, of course, that all our efforts depend for success on divine grace ; and that as we receive this grace only through our Lord Jesus, and as being in him, what efforts we employ must always suppose a practical attention to these two considerations : First, that we abide in Christ by living faith, resting on him as the propitiation for our sins; and receiving, through union with him as our Living Head, that spiritual life which he communicates to all the members of his mystical body. It is his own explicit language : “ Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine ; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” And, Second, that we are continually to seek for grace by the right use of the means of grace. Merely natural strength will not avail us here. “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.” Whatever may be accomplished by decided and unswerving purpose, and by the energy of powerful and unyielding will, in human philosophy and morals, in matters pertaining to religious obedience, and especially to spiritual perfection, they are, by themselves, utterly unavailing. « They that wait upon the Lord,” and only they, “shall renew their strength.” If high and heavenly aspirations are required, “they shall mount up with wings as eagles ;” if effort more strongly and rapidly active than usual is needed, “ they shall run, and not be weary ;”
and where the call is to regular, well-sustained, and persevering duty, “ they shall walk, and not faint.”
But the armour of God is needed on the right hand and on the left. Effort without grace will not avail. We are not, however, to suppose that grace is given to render effort needless. Let us guard, with no ordinary vigilance and decision, against the fearful error of supposing that we are merely the inert and passive clay in the hands of the potter; the powerless leper in the presence of the Almighty Saviour. Because God worketh in us to will and to do, for that very reason are we to work out our own salvation. There is that in salvation which God alone can accomplish ; but there is that the performance of which is required from ourselves. We are to honour him by receiving the first : we are to honour him by obeying the second. To the Christian believer the command is,—not, “ Stand still and be saved,”—but, “Work out your own salvation.” Effort is absolutely necessary. The question is, How is it to be exerted? The answer may be suggested by yet another question, the one we have already given. Supposing that you really could save yourselves into a full deliverance from sin, into a settled establishment and maturity in holiness, how would you seek to accomplish your purpose ? That which we should do in such a case, is what God, in his word,—we acknowledge no other rule, properly and absolutely so called, most explicitly requires us to do.
In seeking to obey the command, “ Be thou perfect,” we should,
What these are, the former part of the injunction clearly suggests. We are to walk before God. From Him are our motives to be all derived. Even our subordinate ones are to be in perfect agreement with these. And to Him are all our aims and intentions to be directed ; nor is anything to be proposed to ourselves which is not in the same line. Because of that limitation of our nature by which we are unable to look distinctly and immediately at two different objects at once, we may have sometimes to fix our regard on that which is lower and proximate, at others on that which is higher and ultimate; sometimes on the means, sometimes on the end. We may have to attend to present action and duty ; but this attention is so to be directed and controlled, that our view shall never be removed from the course which leads us straight onward to God, our great end and aim. They must be as means, seen and employed only in perfectly-regulated order to the end. We are to take the Lord for our God, and to have no other gods before him. Our grand effort must be, therefore, first, resolutely to turn away our eyes from beholding vanity ; regarding all as vanity that does not lead to God, or that is inconsistent with his will. And this to be done so firmly, so continually, as that, by the grace of God working in us according to our created nature, it may become habitual ; a part, as it were, of ourselves. But, secondly, and more particularly, we are thus to set the Lord always before us, that by the same power, operating in the same way, the same effect may be produced ; and we may habitually live in his sight, with the continual recollection, not only that he is present, but what He is who is thus present. Aim at the full and abiding consciousness of present God. Set him before you as Jehovah, the one true living God, in all the fulness and majesty of his perfections, by, and in, and for whom you live ; as possessing supreme authority, and requiring unhesitating and unlimited obedience; as not only infinitely good, but as being your own proper, eternal, and only good, your satisfying portion here and for ever; as the true pattern of all moral excellence and beauty, of whom you are to be imitators, as his beloved children, aiming to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect, as being the source of all being and blessedness; that as from Him, in his own way, you are to seek for the supply of all you need, so likewise to Him you are to refer yourselves in all things, and at all times; doing all, whatever it be, according to His will, and to His glory. Set the Lord always before you.
And as he has revealed himself to us as the one Jehovah, yet, existing with the true and personal distinctions of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to each. are we to look in the characters, and for the purposes, made known to us. To the Father, as, so to speak, maintaining, in the economy of redemption, all the honours of the Godhead, receiving and blessing all who come to Him by his Son; to the Son, as our incarnate, atoning, and interceding Saviour and governing Lord, for whose alone sake we enjoy all that we enjoy, and hope for all that hope rejoicingly anticipates ; and to the Holy Spirit, our Enlightener, Comforter, and Sanctifier. To each are we to look in the offices they condescend to sustain, seeking for all good “from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come ; and from the seven spirits which are before his throne ; and from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, and the first-begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the Kings of the earth.” Thus aim at an entire, uniform, and constant devotedness to God, that so, spiritually and morally, as well as naturally, “in him” you may “ live, and move, and have” your “ being.”
2. The perfection at which we are to aim implies particular, as well as this general, entireness. That is not perfect which has not all that belongs to it. And in reference to true devotedness to God, this is strikingly the case. In one sense, holiness is one single disposition : it is rightheartedness with God, shown by its proper fruits in the life. We are to be holy as He which calleth us is holy. And this holiness, as a copious and unfailing spring, is to pour forth its streams into all the issues of life : we are to be holy “in all manner of conversation.” But, to these several streams we are diligently to attend, vigilantly caring, intending, and endeavouring, that each receive its proper and full supply. So important are these, that each has a different name, according to the direction in which it runs, and the object which it seeks. It is not only said, generally, “ Yield yourselves unto God," but we are pointed to the various modes and expressions of this practical surrender, and commanded to attend to each and to all. We read of the “ fruit” of the Spirit ; we read also of the “fruits” of righteousness, and are told of them that they “ are to the glory and praise of God by Christ Jesus.” And it is by this living foliage and fruit that, in the “ trees of righteousness,” God is glorified. Sometimes these are divided into classes, each involving particulars, implied and required, though not then mentioned. We are to deny ourselves, and to take up our cross. We are to deny ungodliness and all worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. We are to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.
But we have likewise references which are far more particular. To give a fully-expanded view of them all, severally, would require, instead of a portion of a single essay, a treatise, rather, in an entire volume. But the reader, if he be in earnest; if his conscience be active with all the activity of a divine life ; if he see and feel that he cannot be too obedient, that obedience is his interest and privilege as well as duty; if he have that sense of obligation which, as stimulated by thankfulness and love, will have with it no grievousness, but rather be delightful ; if, in a word, it be his strong