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132 WRETCHEDNESS OF THE WORLDLY-MINDED. see a more pitiable sight? or one that would raise more melancholy reflections ? Alas, we might exclaim, how changed are these! once so amiable, now so debased ! once so blessed, now so miserable ! once the ornaments of the world, now far more debased than the trusty dog, or the generous horse! But, one sight appears more melancholy. To see millions that might be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; that might, in seraphic bliss, walk the spacious regions of heaven, and, washed in the blood of the Lamb, be happy and glorified for ever : to see these slighting the only Saviour's grace and love, rejecting immortal hopes, and damning their own immortal souls; to see the young and the aged, the gay and the grave, the cheerful and the sad, the rich and the poor, doing this by millions, is a pitiable sight indeed! What must it appear to the angels of heaven ?
“ Could they tremble, 'twere at such a sight.” Are you one of the number? Unhappy creature! how poor! how wretched ! how undone! 0, awake before eternal ruin awakes you! and while the Saviour invites you to his fold, to his family, be not so besotted by sin, so led captive by the devil, as to refuse the offered mercy.
§ 1. W HEN heathen philosophers described their virtuous
man, they represented him as filled with self-conceit and pride, in consequence of the virtues he had acquired, and the heights to which he had raised himself above the common level. One of them represents this man of virtue as superior to the gods; because they were virtuous by nature, but he by choice. Such was the Satanic pride inculcated by the men that modern infidels admire. Christianity requires
133 holiness of the most elevated kind, but connects this holiness with the deepest humility. “ Be ye holy, for I am holy.”a “ Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”b
The Scriptures recognize not as a thing of any value, that negative kind of virtue, which consists in doing no harm. To leave undone what we ought to do, is as really sin, as to do what we ought not. Accordingly, the Christian's faith is represented, not as faith which merely preserves him from evil, but which “ works by love." The Christian's love is described, not as love which evaporates in empty professions, but which constrains “him to live not to himself, but the Lord Jesus Christ."d The servant who had one talent committed to him which he neglected to improve, is declared to be a slothful and wicked servant; not because he had wasted that talent, but because he had made no improvement of the trust. The blessed Saviour describes myriads as condemned to destruction with the devil and his angels, not for crimes they had perpetrated, but for the neglect of duties they had omitted. When the different virtues that should adorn the Christian character are compared to fruit, this fruit is represented as indispensably necessary. This lesson is inculcated by the Lord in various expressive ways. He taught it by the parable of a fig-tree planted in the vineyard. The owner sought fruit, not leaves; and his forbearance was extended to the tree, under the hope of its producing fruit. The great Husbandman expects the fruits of piety, and the leaves of a fair profession will not be valued where the fruit is wanting. By an expressive miracle the Lord taught the same important lesson, when he said to the barren fig-tree, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.8 Many professors of religion appear satisfied, if they disgrace not their profession by flagrant inconsistency; yet, let such consider the fig-tree in the vineyard was not ordered to be cut down because it bore pernicious fruit, but because it bore no fruit. The tree which withered at Jesus's word, was not blasted because it was covered with poisonous berries, but because it had nothing but leaves. As the adorable Jesus thus declares, that his followers will produce the fruits of holiness; he also declares, that this will not be in a small and inconsiderable (a) 1 Pet. i. 16. (6) Heb. xiii. 14.. (c) Gal. v. 6. (d) 2 Cor. v. 15.
(e) Matt. xxv. 41-43, 45, 46. (f) Luke xiii. 6-9. (9) Matt. xxi, 19.
134 PAUL AN EXAMPLE OF CHRISTIAN HOLINESS. degree. When he compares himself to a vine, and his disciples to the brunches, he says of those disciples, “ He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear Much fruit,”la In the parable of the sower, he describes his disciples as producing thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold; some as rising to piety much more elevated than that of others; yet, while some yield a hundred-fold, those who produce the least yield thirtyfold. Ask the husbandman, and he will tell you, that thirtyfold is no inconsiderable increase. Conformable with these representations are the divine admonitions. “Be ye stedfast, unmovable, ALWAYS ABOUNDING in the work of the Lord."i “ Be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace wITI. OUT SPOT AND BLAMELESS."k
82. An instructive example of the spirit with which Christians should pant after holiness, was exhibited by the apostle Paul; “ Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God and man."! A conscience void of offence towards God, that should charge him with no neglect of God's precepts, that should witness, that he devoted his whole heart, and all he was and had, to God. A conscience void of offence towards men, that should bear testimony to his concern to discharge all the duties of life, to do to all as he would have them do to him, to furnish none with any cause of complaint against him, but rather, as far as ability extended, to do good to all around him. This he laboured to possess always. Yet, after all, acknowledged himself less than the least of all saints; the chief of sinners, saved by grace. The same spirit breathes in his affectionate address to the Philippians:- Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect ; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."m When St. Paul made this impressive declaration, he had probably been nearly thirty years a Christian. His splendid course was nearly run; he had laboured above measure; he had sufferedil much; he had been enabled to exemplify, in no common degree, the mild and brilliant glories of Christianity—the zeal (h) John xv. 5, 8, 2.. (i) 1 Cor. xv. 58. ... (K) 2 Pet. iii. 14. (1) Acts xxiv. 16.
(m) Phil. iii. 12-14.
THE EXAMPLE OF THE LORD TO BE IMITATED. 135 that never tires, the love that never cools, the pationce that never wearies, the benevolence that never slackens: yet, such were his ideas of the exalted nature of gospel holiness, that after these long years of labour, of suffering, and of ripening piety, he still pressed on, and aimed at something higher than all the heights he yet had reached. Nor do the Scriptures represent this labouring after holiness, as something peculiar to the great apostle ; for the Holy Spirit directed him to add, “ Brethren, be ye followers together of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an ensample.”n
$ 3. But in the pursuit of Christian holiness, the word of God directs us to an infinitely higher pattern for imitation, than that now contemplated. “ Be ye followers of God, as dear children." "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”p As the blessed God is proposed as a pattern for imitation, in the exercise of benevolent affections; the holy Jesus is set before us, as an exam. ple we are called to copy, in the general conduct of life. * Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps."q" He that saith he abideth in hin, ought himself also so to walk EVEN AS HE WALKED."“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. is A nobler example of spotless holiness cannot be proposed, than that of the holy Jesus. Even infidels have admired his unblemished life, and on it passed eulogiums. But his disciples are called upon to imitate, as well as to admire; to follow, as well as to applaud. Cherish the spirit, that burning with desires for a closer resemblance to the blessed Saviour, and for the diffusion of his glory, thinks nothing gained while any thing remains ungained, nothing done while any thing remains undone. Except when you acknowledge what God has done for you, to cherish gratitude for grace enjoyed, forget all that you have gained, and reach at more. It is an apostolic lesson, FORGET the things behind, and reach at those before.
$ 4. Christian holiness must be progressive. Whatever attainments in the divine life you may have reached, much is yet unattained. In eminent Christians, how low, how weak, are Christian graces, compared with what they ought to be!
136 - CHRISTIAN HOLINESS PROGRESSIVE. but in many of the followers of the Lamb, how much lower! how much weaker!
The commands given in the sacred Scriptures expressly require advancement in Christian holiness. “ Giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things ye shall never fall.” “ Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."''
The reality and importance of advancement in Christian holiness, are also inculcated strongly in the prayers of the inspired writers for their fellow disciples. What is thus the subject of divine commands, and of inspired prayers, is also represented by the blessed Saviour, as receiving his peculiar approbation. When he commends the church at Thyatira, and says, “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works," he adds, “ AND THE LAST TO BE MORE THAN THE FIRST."W
The experience of all Christians who have honoured their profession by consistent holiness, bears testimony to the correctness of these statements. Their humility has deepened ; their faith has strengthened ; their hopes have become more bright; their love has assumed, not the brightness of a flash or momentary blaze, but of a steady flame. Their devotedness to God has become more entire. Their reliance on Christ more pure, and unmingled with other dependence, The depravity of their own nature has been more clearly seen, and been viewed with more abhorrence. Its corruptions have been opposed, and in many instances so conquered, that their power has hardly been felt. It is said of Isaac Watts, that he was by nature quick of resentment; but by habitual practice, gentle, modest, and inoffensive. I remember once having some knowledge of a person, a number of years ago, whose natural disposition seemed covetous; but who had followed the precepts of the gospel, till liberality was no longer a difficult duty; and it appeared to him almost or quite as easy to give as to receive. In the earlier stage of his Christian pro
( 2 Pet. i. 5-8, 10. (u) 2 Pet. iii. 18. 1 Tim. vi. 11, 12. Phil. iv. 8. (0) 1 Pet. v. 10. 'Heb. xiii, 20, 21, 1 Thess. v. 23.
(w) Rev. ii, 19