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that he should be the living epistle of Christ, known and read of all.
Jesus Christ is the perfect model and pattern of this practical obedience; a pattern fully set before us in his word. His people hear his voice and follow him: these ever go together: it is a vain thing to think of following Christ unless we hear his voice; and it is equally vain to pretend to hear his voice, if we are not seeking to tread in his steps.
The path which our Saviour trod was that of righteousness and ready obedience to the whole will of God. He justly said, my meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. John vi, 34. It was a pure and heavenly course, bringing upon him the displeasure of the world; me it haleth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. John vii, 7. It was the path of humility, holiness, self-denial, and often of sacrifice and suffering. This then is the way in which the Christian must walk. If it be the way of affliction, we may well take it patiently, remembering that Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps. 1 Pet. ii, 21. It may be inconsistent with our obtaining the riches, honours, and pleasures of this life, though all that is really needful for us, is promised to us; (Matt. vi, 33.) yet here is an unspeakable source of comfort, it is the way that all the holy prophets, apostles, and martyrs, have gone before us; it leads us to God, our Heavenly Father, our beloved Saviour, our constant Comforter; it leads us to abiding rest and bliss. O that the promise may be fulfilled in each reader--They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord.
Christian reader! then let us gaze upon the Saviour, and narrowly inspect his character, and listen to his words, if we would attain a practical obedience. View him, as the painter does an original picture, and, as be wishes to copy all the beauties, and to transfer to his own canvass all the lovely tints, and glowing colours, and matchless form and graces that distinguish the master painting, so let us endeavour to transfer to our heart, our conversation, and our life, all the lineaments of beauty which shine forth in him, that blessed Master, who is altogether lovely: His compassion, his patience and meekness, his unbounded charity, his unwearied love, his faith, his devotion, his boldness in reproving sin, and his zeal for his Father's glory.
Nor let the excellence of the model lead us to despair. Much may be attained, for we have a mighty helper. It is the office of the Holy Ghost, through the ministry of the word, to make men the Epistles of Christ: these Epistles are written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. 2 Cor. iii, 3. That sweet and gracious Advocate and Comforter comes with the word, and inclines and assists, strengthens and consoles those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
And then, how abundant is THE BLESSEDNESS OF PRACTICAL OBEDIENCE! Doing the will of God is, in the mind of our Saviour, true blessedness. We may learn this from the instructive turn that he gave to the remark on his discourses which the woman offered, who said, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps that thou hast sucked. He directed those around to practical obedience as true happiness-Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.
let Luke xi, 28. The blessing of good children is perhaps the greatest temporal good; but our Lord shews that it is far inferior to the spiritual good of piety and holiness. Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Matt. xii, 48-56. Hear again, too, the Apostle JamesThis man (the practical hearer) shall be blessed in his deed, not merely for it, but in it. The very acts of obedience bring a blessing—in keeping his commandments there is great reward. There is unspeakable peace, tranquillity, and comfort of mind in obedience : the testimony of a good conscience brings infinitely greater joy into the heart, than all worldly things can do no act of self-denial, holy love, penitence, and obedience is without its accompanying blessing of inward joy, and peace with God. The word of God is thus eminently glorified. When those who attend the word, are the best masters and mistresses, husbands or wives, children or servants; gentle, diligent, meek, obedient, humble, O how it adorns the Gospel. The Apostle presses this on wives, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Let your temper and conversation shew the good you get by hearing sermons. And then look hereafter. Our Lord declares to those duly attending to his words-I know them, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. It is the obedient Christian that will hear those joyful words, Well done, good and faithful servant! All
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of altering and changing; but no sooner is this faithful mirror taken away, than all his views of his sinfulness are forgotten, he soon loses sight of himself, and remains unchanged, and unconverted.
There is a great self-deception in all this. Such a man's attention to religious duties makes him fancy himself religious, and he thus blinds his own eyes to his true state; he willingly shuts out the light, and perishes in the mid-day blaze of Gospel privileges. Satan could never ensure his destruction, did he not willingly concur with Satan by wilful blindness. Such persons do not, as they often imagine they do, much mislead others. A man who is living in sinful tempers aud practices, who is neglecting his relative duties, and is worldly and earthly minded, does not impose on the discerning. They see his profession to be a mére cloke, and readily deteet his hypocrisy; but he awfully deceiveth his own heart.
For instance, he hears the doctrine of salvation by grace through Christ, and disregarding the plain and declared truth, that it is a salvation from sin as well as from guilt, he thinks only of the comfort of free pardon, concludes that he is safe, because he admits a single truth, and passes by all that holiness which is ever connected with real salvation.
He hears the doctrine of faith only as the means of justification, and either wholly disregards the fruit of faith and the plain expressions of St. James, Even so faith without works is dead being alone, or satisfies himself with very slight, superficial, and unscriptural evidences of salvation.
He hears the necessity of good works, and rests in his own scanty obedience; in an outward morality, without a new heart. He hears of the work of the Spirit,
and thinks that he has received that Spirit, because he has had some warm emotions and feelings on religion, entirely disregarding the great proof of having received the Spirit in the steady course of a holy life. Others deceive themselves because religious friends think well of them, and speak kindly to them, forgetting that no human judgment will clear us before God-he that judgeth us is the Lord.
O how fatal is this delusion! Such a man is ready to think his is especially the wise and prudent course; he imagines that there is no plan of reconciling a worldly life with the hope of future happiness, so cheap and convenient as hearing and perhaps assenting to the Gospel. When a man has persuaded himself that such an unprofitable hearing will save him, and goes on so, and ends so, how awful is the idea, that the very things on which he founded his hopes will be his ruin; the very hearing in which he trusted, and boasted, will only rise up in judgment against him to aggravate his sins, and increase his condemnation and misery. Not that it is better to neglect the word. "If men that hear the word of God and do it not, are such foolish builders, what can they be who will not so much as hear! And if the ground where the seed perished is condemned, the ground that never receives the seed at all, will not escape a tremendous condemnation."
But still, when men
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hear and neglect what they hear, mouths of gainsayers and emboldens them to their imputations on preaching; they have some colour to cry out, 'There are none worse, more proud, wanton, contentious, covetous, oppressing, fraudulent, than the greatest hearers.' When you walk not according to the rules which you are taught, you make preaching and professing to be reputed the nursery of ungodliness and the