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Gamaliel, a pious doctor of the Law, to whose wis. dom and moderation St. Luke has borne an honour. able testimony. And so greatly had he profited in his youth by these inestimable privileges, that "touching the righteousness, which is of the Law, he was blameless." But this piety was not sufficient under the new Testament.
To become a christian, and a true minister of the Gospel, it is necessary to have, not only the piety of a sincere deist, or of a devout Jew, as St. Paul had before his conversion, but also those higher degrees of piety, which that apostle possessed, after he had received the gist of deep repentance toward God and living faith in Jesus Christ. The basis of piety, among the Jews, was a knowledge of God, as Creator, Protector, and Rewarder : but, in order to have christian piety, it is necessary, that to this knowledge of God, as Creator, &c. should be added that of God the Redeemer, Cod the Destroyer of all our evils, God our Saviour; or in other words, the knowledge of Jesus Christ. " This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
But who can truly know, I will not say his Saviour, but merely his need of a Saviour, without first becoming acquainted with his own heart, and receiving there a lively impression both of his sin and his danger ? A student in theology, who has not yet submitted himself to the maxim of Solon, know thyself; and who has never mourned under that sense of our natural ignorance and depravity, which forced Socrates to confess the want of a divine instructor ;....a candidate, I say, who is wholly unacquainted with himself, instead of eagerly soliciting the imposition of lands, sliould rather seek after a Itue understanding of the censure, which Christ Once passed upon the pastor of the Laodiceanchurch: " Thou art wretclied, and miserable, and poor, and blini, ulid naked."
If a young man steals into the ministry without this knowledge, far from being able to preach the Gospel, he will not even comprehend that first evangelical principle," Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And instead of devoutly offering up to God the prayers of an assembled congregation, he will constantly begin the sacred office by an act of hypocrisy, in saying...." Almighty Father, we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have offendeda gainst thy holy Laws. There is no health in us.
But Thou ( Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners." After making these confessions in public, when he is interrogated in private respecting that misery and condemnation, under a sense of which he so lately appeared to groan, he will not scruple immediately to contradict, what he has so plainly expressed : thus discovering to every impartial observer, that when he prays in public, he prays, either as a child, who understands not what he repeats; or as a deceiver, who appears to believe, what he really gives no credit to, and that merely for the sake of enjoying the pension of a minister, and his rank in society.
What is here said of ministers, is equally applicable to christians in general. If any one dares in approach the sacramental table, there 10 make a profession of being redeemed frem eternal death by the death of Christ, before he is deeply humbled under a sense of the condemnation due to his sin : can such a one be said to perform an act of piety? Is he not rather engaged in performing an act of vain ceremony and presumptuous dissimulation in the presence of God? The feigned humiliation of such a communicant, would rest mble that of a rebel subject, who, without any consciousness that his actions had merited death, should cast himself, from motives of interest, at the feet of his prince, and affect to rejoice under a sense of that undeserved clemency, which permitted him to live. All our professions of faith in Christ are tinctured, more or less, with hypocrisy ; unless preceded by that painful conviction of past errors, whence alone can cordially How those humiliating confessions, with which we are accustomed to begin our sacred services.
The true Christian, and consequently, the true minister, is constrained to cry out, with St. Paul, when he discovered the purity of Jehovah's Law and the greatness of his own guilt : “ The law is spiritual, and demands an obedience correspondent to its nature; " but I am carnal, sold under sin : for what I would, that I do not ; but what I hate, that I do. I know, that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. () wretched man, that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death."
In this manner the true penitent, weary and heavy laden, makes his approaches to the Saviour; and while he continues to implore his grace and favour, an incomprehensible change takes place in his soul. His groans are suddenly turned into songs of deliverance, and he is enabled to adopt the triumphant language of the great apostle : “ I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord ; for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. There is there. fore now no condemnation to them, which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.”
Every true follower of Christ, therefore, and es, pecially, every true minister of the Gospel, has really experienced the evil of sin, the inability of man to free himself from such evil, and the efficacy of that remedy, which endued the first christians with so extraordinary a degree of purity, power, and joy. And in testimony of the virtue of this sovereign remedy, every such follower has a right to declare
with his liappy predecessors, “ We give thanks un. to the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son ; in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
When a preacher is possessed of christian piety; or in other words, when he has made his peace with God, by that deep repentance which enables us to die unto sin, and by that living faith which unites us to Christ, he naturally invites the world to embrace a Saviour, who has wrought for him so wonderful a deliverance : and this invitation he enforces with all that power and warmth, which must ever accompany deep sensibility. After having believed with the heart to the obtaining of righteousness, he is prepared to confess with his lips, and to testify of his salvation : crying out as sincerely as Simeon, but in a sense far more compleat, “ Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace ; for according to thy word, mine eyes have seen thy salvation." “ Here,” says Mr. Ostervald,
applied, what was spoken by our blessed Lord....” “A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things.” “ Erasmus speaks the
same thing.... Nihil potentius ad extandos bonos affectus, quam piorum affectuum fontem habere " in pectore. Si visme flere, dolendum est, &c. i. e. “ following the idea, of the author, You will never 6 win others over to a religious life, unless you “yourself are first possessed of piety. This inspires “thoughts, dispositions, and words, which nothing (i else can produce. It is this, that animates the “ voice, the gesture, and every action of the chris. “ tian preacher. When he is thus grounded in piely, " it is difficult to conceive with what facility, and 86 with what success he labours, still enjoying an unspeakable sweetness in himself. Then it is, that
"he is truly sensible of his vocation ; then he speaks “ in the cause of God, and then only he is in a proper situation to affect others."
It appeared so necessary to the fathers, who composed the synod of Berne, that every minister should be possessed of solid piety, that they believed it impossible for a man to be a good catechist without it. After recommending it to pastors to explain among the youth, the Lord's prayer and the Apostles' creed, they add : “ This will be abundantly “ more effectual, is first of all, we are careful that " Jesus Christ may arise in our own hearts. The “ fire, with which we should then be animated, us would soon stir up and warm the docile minds of "children. Otherwise, that which reason alone " draws from books, and is taught by other men, is
no more than a human work, and will be ineffecos tual, till the great master, the Holy Spirit itself, “ becomes of the party, creating', renewing, and
regenerating to a celestial and eternal life.”
UPON 'TIE SECOND TRAIT OF THE CHARACTER OF
1. THE experimental knowledge of our misery as sinners, and of our salvation, as sinners redeemed, is the portion of every believer under the Gospel. If we are destitute of this two-fold knowledge, we are yet in a state of dangerous igno. rance, and are denominated christians in vain : for christian humility has its source in the knowledge of our corruption, as christian charity flows from a knowledge of the great salvation, which Christ has procured for us : and if these two graces are not resident in our hearts, our religion is but the shadow of christianity.