« EelmineJätka »
if, “by the sadness of the countenance the heart be made better," we shall in the issue be infinite gainers, and obtain from him, who is “ the comforter of those that are cast down," “ the oil of joy for mourning, and the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
May God dispose and enable us all to “judge righteous judgment." Amen.
PHILIPPIANS i. 27.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel
We have already considered the most essential doc. trines contained in the gospel of Christ, and the influ. ence that the cordial belief of such interesting truths might be expected to have upon our temper and practice.
I am not sensible that any of the conclusions I drew were strained, or even obscure. To me they appeared, and, after the most serious and impartial examination, still do appear, so reasonable and obvious, and withal 80 moderate, that I cannot think they are liable to any just objection.
At the same time, as they present to our view a state of things so widely different from that which daily pass. eth before our eyes, I shall now proceed to consider the Laws or precepts of our holy religion ; that, from the review of these, we may discover, with still greater certain
ty, what the conversation is that may be said to become the gospel of Christ.
But before I descend to particulars upon this extensive subject, I must beg your attention to a few remarks I have to make upon the precepts or laws of the gospel in general.
With regard to their authority, there can be no doubt. He who enacted them bath an unquestionable right to our most perfect obedience : “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: all things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." We are therefore his property in the most absolute and unlimited sense of that expression. He called us into being when as yet we were not, and every moment he sustains that existence which he gave us; for “ in him we live and move." Nay, all that we possess is so necessarily dependant upon him, that with regard to soul, and body, and outward estate, we bave nothing but what we daily receive from his liberal hand. Besides this original and unalievable right to govern us, there is another title, which, as Christians, we profess to acknowledge, and ought always to do it with the warmest and most humble grati. tude; I mean, the right he hath obtained by redemption and purchase. As his natural subjects, we are bound to serve him to the utmost extent of the powers he hath given us; and this original obligation, instead of being relaxed or impaired, is rather confirmed and strengthened by the mercy he hath shown us as the objects of his grace: “We are not our own, we are bought with a price;" and are therefore bound, by the united ties of gratitude and justice, “ to glorify our Redeemer, both with our bodies and spirits, which are his.”
But what I would chiefly lead your attention to, is
the nature and properties of those laws to which our subjection and obedience are required.
They are “ all holy, just, and good,” resulting from the very frame our Creator hath given us, and from the relation we bear to himself, and to other beings with whom bis Providence hath connected us. Hence it fol. lows, that they are equally incapable of repeal or abatement. The laws of men are local, temporary, changeable, and always partake of the imperfection of their authors. Some of them are so obscure, that they need an. other law to explain them; and it often happens that the commentary is darker than the text. The best of them take their aim from some temporal evil that is ei. ther presently felt, or foreseen in its cause; and the highest end they propose, is to restrain from injuries of the grosser kind: they do not even pretend to be a rule of moral conduct; they probibit and denounce vengeance against theft, robbery, murder, and the like; but lay no restraint upon heart-hatred, covetousness, and envy. They tell us in wbat instances injustice or cruelty become excessive and intolerable; but where do we find it written in any body of human laws, " Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;" and, “ All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them?” Whereas the laws of the gospel extend to the heart as well as to the life, and speak to all men without exception, at all times, and in every situation. They utter their voice with such precision and perspicuity, that none can be at a loss to discover their meaning. They do not bend to the humours of men, nor accommodate themselves to those flexible maxims and customs which by turns prevail in this or the other age and country; far less do they grow obsolete, as human statutes do, which by long disuse lose their force, and become void: like their great Master, what they were yester. day they are the same to-day: and in every succeeding period their efficacy will continue till time itself shall be no more. And, therefore, when I repeat the words of this sacred book, you are to consider them as spoken to yourselves in particular; and no less binding upon you in their most simple and obvious meaning, than they formerly were upon those to whom they were primarily addressed.
One thing further I would recommend to your notice, viz. that the laws I am speaking of are the laws of Him 6 who loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour;" and there. fore we may rest assured, that they are kind as well as righteous, and suited with perfect wisdom to be the means of promoting our truest interest. They are laws which he himself hath magnified and made honourable; not only by answering all their demands, so far as his high character would permit, or his peculiar circumstances afforded occasion; but likewise by expiating the guilt incurred by the transgression of them, and bearing in his own person the punishment that was due to the offending creature.
This last consideration sets the obedience required of us in a most endearing point of light. It is not the servile task of a hireling who labours for his wages, but the ingenuous and grateful service of a loving child. Christ hath purchased the glorious inheritance; and to all who believe on him, eternal life is the free gift of God through the merit of his blood: so that nothing is required of them, but what tends to purify and perfect their natures, that, by a growing resemblance to the Father of their spirits in this state of discipline, they may be rendered meet for the full and everlasting enjoyment of him, when
death, by dissolving the earthly tabernacle, shall poll down all that remains of the first Adam, and bring a final release from the body of sin.
Having premised these general remarks, I shall now proceed to remind you of those particular precepts to which our conformity is required by the gospel of Christ. And we are happily furnished with a short, but most comprehensive, summary of them, by the same Apostle in his epistle to 'Titus, (chap. ii. 11, 12.) “ The grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men; teaching us, that denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.”
To these general heads, all the particulars may be reduced that belong to a conversation becoming the gospel of Christ. And here indeed I might stop short, and only call upon you to weigh, with candour and impartiality, the full meaning and import of the expressions here used.
What do you understand by ungodliness and worldly lusts? Do these terms reach no farther than to the grosser acts of impiety and sensual indulgence? And is nothing more intended by denying them, than a prodish reserve and shyness to comply with their demands; or such a feeble resistance as yields after a short and very imperfect struggle ? Surely none of you can seriously entertain this opinion. You certainly must admit, that po exception is made of any species or degree whatsoever, either of ungodliness or worldly affections; and that by denying them, the Apostle could mean nothing less, than such a refusal as proceeds from an inward abhorrence of them, even the most vigorous, determined, and persevering resistance of all their solicitation.
Again, What do you understand by living soberly,