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covert for all villany. Let it not be said, “Such hear sermons every week, but how do they live!””
Such are some of the various methods in which persons fail of that practical obedience which the word of God tends to produce, and which is of such immense moment. How then may we avoid these evils? and how may we obtain that full and practical good which the word is intended to effect?
The Apostle James, whose writings are remarkably practical, again assists us here. He says, Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. James i, 25. Christian truth is a law of LIBERTY: it shews us the way of deliverance from the bondage of sin, and of access to spiritual freedom. It finds us in worse than Egyptian bondage, guilty, enslaved, condemned, and ruined. It proclaims to us, through the merit of Christ and the grace of his Spirit, pardon for our sins, and freedom from our slavery. It is PERFECT, as it reaches every case, embraces every circumstance, and nothing human can, or need be added to it, to render it more effectual. The blood of Christ alone cleanses from all sin, the righteousness of Christ alone justifies, the word of Christ is the only rule of life, the Spirit of Christ alone sanctifies. It is perfect, as it shews us man's only and man's highest bliss, and that all interested in its saving blessings shall be kept by the power of God to the end, and shall enjoy after death an eternal felicity. It is a LAW, as it is a constitution of divine grace that will never be altered, the only authorised way
that must be received and embraced, at the hazard, if we neglect it, of eternal ruin.
Now the way to practical obedience is to LOOK
INTO: THIS LAW AND CONTINUE THEREIN, just
a person auxious to correct any deformity in his appearance, bends to the glass, and looks narrowly, and carefully, and removes what was unsightly, and adjusts what was disordered; so the obedient Christian carefully listens to the word, and searches the Scriptures to alter whatever may be wrong, and to regulate his whole life. It discovers to him, it is true, very
humbling picture of his own heart, it lays him low in the dust, it calls him to a pure and holy life, and these things are not naturally pleasant to us, but by the grace of God he continues therein. It is not a transient glimpse, but he comes again and again, inspects himself by the mirror, and learns more and more of his true character, and to conform himself to that which is his real excellence. See how a female, vain of her person and dress, makes use of the mirror again and again. O were we as solicitous to have our souls adorned with righteousness and holiness, and, abiding in Christ and receiving his Spirit, looked thus patiently and earnestly, again and again, into the divine mirror, our defects would be removed, and we should be adorned with the infinitely more valuable ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, and every other Christian grace.
Such a man is not a forgetful hearer. Here is a special danger intimated. We are very apt to forget. It is quite natural to us, as soon as the word ceases to sound in our ears, to lose its impressions on our hearts. Therefore Moses says, Take heed to thyself, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thine heart all the days of thy life. Deut. iv, 9. He who by the grace of the Holy Spirit remembers what has been said, (John xiv, 26.) becomes
acquainted with his true state, is deeply humbled under the sense of his sins, repents, believes, and obeys; gladly embraces the doctrines of salvation, and the makes steady advances in all the self-denying ani arduous duties of the Christian life. He is not a forget ful hearer, but a doer of the work.
This DOING OF THE WORK, or, in others words. practical obedience, is the main promise of the new covenant, I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their heart. Heb. viii, 10. It is the aim of the Christian that his conduct should be a living and daily exhibition of the divine law. President Edwards remarked it as his experience in a happy state of mind, “ I do certainly know that I love holiness such as the Gospel prescribes. It appeared to me ravishingly lovely; as the highest beauty and amiableness; far purer than any thing here upon earth, and that every thing else was like mire and defilement in comparison of it; brought an inexpressible purity, brightness, and peace fulness to the soul. There was no part of creature holiness that I had so great a sense of its loveliness, as humility, and brokenness of heart, and poverty of spirit, and there was nothing that I so earnestly longed for." Here we see the desire of the soul of the advanced Christian. As he grows in the knowledge of divine truth, every grace advances. He becomes more simply dependent on Christ, more tender in his conscience, and more grateful to his Redeemer. He is more humble before God, and more compassionate, forgiving, and loving to his fellow creatures. The doer of the work will be specially attentive in the discharge of all those relative duties, the fulfilment of which, eminently adorn the doctrine of Christ. He seeks, in short, that the law should be written on the fleshly tables of the heart,
jat he should be the living epistle of Christ, known and ead of all.
Jesus Christ is the perfect model and pattern of this wractical obedience; a pattern fully set before us in iis 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, bave 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. Othat the promise may be fulfilled in each reader--They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thither ward, 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 be words, if we would attain a practical obedience. View him, as the painter does an original picture, and, asti wishes to copy all the beauties, and to transfer to hi own canvass all the lovely tints, and glowing colours, ani matchless form and graces that distinguish the master painting, so let us endeavour to transfer to our hean, 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 gin, and bis 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 abandant 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.