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"Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
So far from seeking to subvert the moral law, he takes unwearied pains to confirm it: but he fixes it on its true basis; while he denies its justifying power, he "establishes" its importance as a rule. He vindicates its value, not as a covenant for salvation, but as a measure of conduct. In no instance, however light, does he deny the obligation of believers to maintain a steadfast adherence to it, or discountenance a minute observance of it. He not only shews that every sin is to be abandoned, but the contrary virtue adopted: and, though one of the fathers observes, that "a vice sometimes gives place where a virtue does not take it," yet the only certain symptom of the expulsion of a bad quality is the substitution of its opposite. And no man ever more forcibly condemned an empty profession than Paul: no one more severely reprobated a dead faith, no one more unequivocally commended "not the hearers, but the doers of the law."
He proves unanswerably that the doctrine of Grace. is so far from being hostile to sound practice, that it is the only source from which all legitimate virtue springs;-so far from slackening diligence, that it gives vigour to its activity;-so far from making vigilance superfluous, that its constant language is, Watch-so far from limiting to a favoured few the exhortation, that it makes it universal; "What I say unto you, I say into all-watch!"
In directing his converts to virtuous deeds, he never fails to include the spirit in the act;-they must be ready to distribute, willing to communicate. He never fails to shew, that the characteristic and essence of all goodness is the desire of pleasing God. In other words, the action must be the fruit of love to Him. Qualities merely amiable are originally without that principle, and possessed even by animals, and possessed in a very high degree, as affection for their offspring, fidelity to their masters, gratitude for notice.
Paul, like his blessed Lord, is never so emphatically indignant against any of the signs of hypocrisy in professors, as against sinful practice. Like Him he is fre quent in the enumeration of vices which he solemnly proclaims amount to an exclusion from heaven. Holy practice is indeed the only sign to the world of the sineerity of a Christian, and in a good measure is a sign to himself. It is the principal evidence which will regulate the retributive sentence at the last day. Paul there. fore calls that day "the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." He does not call it the day of his forming the judgment, but of his declaring it. God, who witnessed the act when it was done, and the motive which impelled it, wants himself no such evidence to assist his decision, but he uses it to manifest to men and angels his own strict justice. "In that awful day," says an eminent divine, "the judge will not examine men as to their experiences, he will not set every one to tell the story of his conversion, but he will bring forth his works."*
* Edwards op Religious Affections,
How acceptable, even in the ears of the most thoughtless, would that proclamation sound, the grace of God bringeth salvation, were it unaccompanied by the moral power ascribed to it, that of teaching us to deny our sensual appetites! How many would give a cheap assent to the principle, were it not clogged with such an encumbering consequence! Those who insist, that our salvation is effected by works, would gladly adopt faith as a speculative notion, instead of the inconvenient evidences which this self-denying grace involves.
One would imagine, that some who so loudly insist that we shall be saved by works, must mean works of supererogation, and that they depended for salvation on the transfer of the superfluity of the merits of others to themselves; for it is remarkable, that they trust they future bliss most confidently to good works, who have the slenderest portion of their own to produce.
The Apostle is perpetually combating the fatal doctrine of those who insinuate that the freedom of the Gospel is a freedom from moral restraint. He describes it, indeed, as a deliverance from the sentence, but not from the precepts, of the law. No one ever more unremittingly opposed those who represent the constant inculcation of holy practice as an infringement of the liberty of a Christian. He perpetually demonstrates the necessity of a determinate rule of duty, without which even that love, which is sometimes pleaded as an apology for the neglect of duty,-that love, which is, indeed, the genuine source of all acceptable performance,might be lowered into a vagrant, indefinite, disorderly principle. A religion, destitute of faith and love, is not
[the religion of Christ; a religion which furnishes no certain standard of conduct, is not the religion of the Gospel.
Saint Paul accordingly animadverts severely on those, who presume to convert the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, into a pretence for licentious conduct. He strenuously refutes the charge, by intimating, that the New Covenant enforces holiness of life, even more than the Old, and enforces it on more engaging motives. The Law deters from sin by denunciations: the Gospel invites to goodness by the most winning persuasions ; God so loved the world, that he gave his Son to save it. The Law shews man the danger of sin, and pronounces its punishment: the Gospel performs the higher act of love, it delivers him from its power. It is a quality ascribed to the love of Christ, that it "constraineth;" it compels us, as it were, to be compassionate. What can make us so tender to others as the experience of God's goodness to ourselves? Who is so ready to shew mercy as he who has received it?
Saint Paul derives all duties from this love of God in Christ as their foundation. All the motives to right action, all the arguments for holiness of life, are drawn from this source; all the lines of duty converge to this centre. If Paul censures, he points to this only spring of hope; if he laments, he turns to this only true consolation; if he insists that the Grace of God hath appeared, he points to its practical object, "teaching us to live soberly, righteously, and godly." When he determines to know nothing but his Saviour, and even Him under the degrading circumstance of crucifixion, he includes
in that knowledge all the religious and moral benefits of which it is susceptible.
They who contend that the Gospel is only a scheme of morals, struggle hard to keep down the compact to their own depressed standard. They will not allow of a grain or a scruple "beyond the bond," but insist, that whatever is not specifically commanded, is superfluous; what is above their own pitch is unnecessary. If they allow that it is sublime, they insist that it is impracticable. If they allow that the love, peace, and joy of the apostle, are desirable, they do not desire them as fruits of the Spirit, as signs of acceptance. The interior principle, those views which take in the very depths of the heart, as well as the surface of life,-any prac tical use of these penetrating truths, they consider as something which the enthusiastic reader does not find, but make.
The mere social and political virtues are made for this world. Here they have their origin, their use, and their reward. All the motives to various practice, not derived from the hope of future blessedness, will be inefficient. There is a powerful obligation to "perfect holiness" to those who do not perfect it in the fear "of God." Grace will not thrive abundantly in that heart which does not believe it to be the seed of glory.
The moralist of our Apostle is not merely a man possessed of agreeable qualities, of some social and civil virtues, of generosity and good nature,-qualities excellent as far as they go, and which, as a means to the good order of society, can scarcely be too much valued; but these qualities a man may possess, without