Page images

he should be indifferent to the attainment of moral purity. Having received the exceeding great and precious promise of eternal life, the real Christian will be earnestly solicitous to " cleanse himself from all filthiness both of the « flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the - fear of God.” For he knows that purity of heart and life is the natural fruit and necessary effect of that faith, which justifies the soul before God by embracing the merit of the Saviour of sinners; and that it is the characteristic of a true faith, so that a true faith may be thereby distinguished from a false one, as a tree is known by its fruits. Hence he rightly concludes, that a growing conformity to Christ is the only satisfactory evidence which he can have of being in Christ, and justified by His blood. He is well aware that the cause of justification is not inherent in him, but imputed to him.

The proof, however, of this imputation he derives from a personal resemblance of Christ; which, though its outline be yet faint and imperfectly traced, he longs to have progressively filled up, till the picture is completed, and his joy fulfilled. He moreover remembers that God hath said, “ Be

ye holy, for I am holy;" and that the " sanc“ tification” of His people is the express “ will " of God.And in the command and will of God, his heavenly Father, he finds a thousand arguments and motives to the cultivation of vital Godliness. It is sufficient to stimulate his mind to exertion, that this is “good and acceptable “ to God his Saviour." He feels also the strong obligations of gratitude. The word Redemption entwines around his heart a threefold cord of love which cannot be broken, the love of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,


whereby he is powerfully drawn and sweetly constrained to an imitation of Christ. On His cross motives are suspended, bright and innumerable as the dew-drops of the morning, by whose beauty His eye is attracted and His heart

The cross is a magnet that is irresistible, when the soul is brought into a state of approximation to it and contact with it. Its holy violence overcomes the power of sin, and creates an intirely new bias in the affections. Every generous feeling of the breast is put in motion by a sight of Calvary. With the emotions of gratitude self-interest concurs; for the Christian believer knows, that purity of heart is an essential pre-requisite and qualification for the beatific vision and the enjoyment of heaven. Without a spiritualized disposition he could find no pleasure in the various duties and acts of worship which the church on earth performs; and how then, without it, could he fịnd delight in God's presence, and in the exercises of uninterrupted devotion, with the church above? The society of angels, the songs of the blessed, the joys of heaven, would be irksome to an unsanctified heart. Hence he infers, that " without holiness “no man can see the Lord;" and hence he is excited “to purify himself even as Christ is

“ pure."

The desire of a conformity to Christ in purity of heart is always accompanied with a conviction of the impossibility that attends the attainment of it without Divine grace. The desire, and its successful prosecution, are both from God. And, therefore, the words of the Apostle John, in which he states the indissoluble connection between faith and holiness, between the hope of the gospel and the cultivation of moral purity,

are with strict propriety in our collect converted into supplication. “Grant, we beseech thee, “ that we, having this hope in us, may purify “ ourselves even as He is pure.” The “ faith “ which works by love," and the love which faith produces, are both communications from Him, from whom proceeds“ (very good and

perfect gift.” The sanctification of a fallen spirit is not a work, to which finite power is competent. The regenerate soul is “ God's

workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works."

“ If any man be in Christ, he « is a new creature.” To “put off the old man, “ which is corrupt, and to put on the new

man, which after God is created in righteous

ness and true holiness,” is the sinner's own act; but the ability to perform it must be derived intirely from God.

The extent of that purification to which the Christian aspires, for which he prays, and which he knows to be essential to the consummation of his bliss, opens before him a wide and distant prospect, which his eye, in its present state of weakness, cannot reach. But though the scope of his mind, “the mark of the prize of his high “ calling,” is but dimly discerned, or rather is unseen, yet he pants to obtain it, and despairs not of success. To be “pure as Christ is pure, is the aim of his ambitious soul, and to arrive at “the measure of the stature of the fulness of " Christ." With this object in view he “ for

gets the things that are behind, and presses - forward to those which are before;' not counting himself to have apprehended, but intent on “ one thing,” viz. to "apprehend that “ for which also he is apprehended of Christ « Jesus."

In every

We are not, however, from hence to infer, that a perfect resemblance of the Divine character is attainable by any creature. branch of moral excellence we shall indeed resemble Christ, when “ we see Him as He is ;” but in the degree of holiness we shall ever be infinitely below Him.

“ Lo He discerns, discern'd by Him alone, “ Spots in the sanctities around His throne; “ Nor trusts His poble ministers of flame To yield Him service unalloyed with blame."* Before we proceed, let us pause for the purpose of inquiring, whether the petition of our collect which we have considered expresses the real desire of our own souls. Many persons would gladly escape from hell, who feel no anxiety to obtain a meetness for heaven. Many talk of heaven, and flatter themselves with the. hope of an admission thereinto, who have no conception of its nature as a state of perfect holiness, nor any conviction of the necessity which exists for the attainment of conformity to the image of God in order to a participation of its pleasures. The future state of which they conceive differs little from the paradise of Mohamn elism ; and it is certain that, without rege neration and a renewal in the spirit of their minds, they will be awfully disappointed in the

* Scott's Job. ch. iv. 18. to which is annexed the following note. “ In His angels He observeth failure : man. The “ LXX renders it ononcor To something wrong. Schultens proves

from the Arabic, that it denoteth slip or failure. : “ The expression is much too faint for the crime of the “ angels who sinned and fell from their first estate. Nothing

more seems to be meant than the imperfection of the most “ exalted spirits, in comparison with the infinite perfection 66 of the Deity.” Another translation of the passage is how, ever given in the margin of the Bible.

[ocr errors]

place of their eternal abode; for it must be the place of "outer darkness, where there is wailing “ and gnashing of teeth.”

Do we then long to be “pure as Christ is

pure?” And do we give proof of our sincerity in the prayer which we offer by a constant opposition to, sin, and by a continual effort to “ put on the Lord Jesus Christ?” for it is certain that we do not desire to be conformed to the image of the Son of God, unless we endeavour, through Divine grace, to imitate Him in the temper of our minds and in the conduct of our lives. Let conscience then determine our sincerity or insincerity. And let hope or fear prevail according to the testimony which conscience bears. If our prayer be hypocritical, then have we no well-founded “ hope of eternał “ life;" for he that hath this hope in him “purifieth himself even as Christ is pure.” We can in this case, have no satisfactory evidence that we are

- the sons of God and heirs of eter“nal life."

The second part of our prayer relates to glorification, to which the high-way of holiness leads. If indeed we are enabled, through grace,

purify ourselves even as Christ is pure, if the attainment of a conformity to His image be the great business of our lives, then, “when “ He shall appear again with power and great

glory, we shall be made like unto Him in His

glorious kingdom.” This is the consummation of a Christian's joy, the ultimate aim of his soul, the essence of future felicity.

This part of our collect alludes to a passage which we have before quoted, 1 John iii. 2. “ Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it “ doth not yet appear what we shall be: but

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »