Page images
PDF
EPUB

it is discovered that the Bible requires more or less of sacrifice, that Christians are marked out as a peculiar people ;—that the homage of the heart, of the whole heart is claimed ;- -that duties repugnant to the corrupt desires of flesh and blood are enjoined ;--or, that circumstances may occur where all must be forsaken, and God alone obeyed ;—it is wonderful how much this sacred book falls in our estimation ;-how it is accused of unsuitable and intolerable severity, as being accommodated only to angelic natures, and as beyond the reach and obedience of imperfect man. Now, what do all these objections prove but a secret disbelief of the Bible ? For, if we really believed it, we should soon be led to acknowledge that it could not speak to us in a lower tone, nor propound to us a moral law on an inferior scale than what it does—and why? Because God is the author of it, and because it would not be consistent with the excellence of his nature to give us a law but such as, like himself, is “ holy, just, and good,” free from all mixture, even of infirmity. Nor let it be objected, that with all the light which such a law affords us, and all the sanctions with which it is accompanied, it cannot be said that any man has ever kept it to perfection, and therefore, that such a law is ill adapted to us.

For we should carefully remember, that the only sort of ambition which is really permitted to us, and which we may indulge without the least danger of excess, is that which sets no bounds to our desires, and to our progress towards this very perfection. And though it is a perfection to which we can never specifically attain, opposed as it is by the contest, that to the last hour of our lives, shall exist within us, between the motions of nature and the suggestions of grace, yet it should never cease to be our great end and aim, ignorant as divine wisdom has designedly left us of what is necessary to fill up the measure of that faithful service, which he, “who knoweth the heart," and the various powers with which he has entrusted us, has reason to expect, and to require of us.

To what has been said, I shall only add, that little as we are, by nature, qualified or disposed to obey the precept in the text, nay, prone as we are to take offence, prompt to avenge, and slow to forgive-let us neither say that the Scriptures demand too much of us, when they require us to do good even to an enemy ;-nor that such a victory over self is impossible, until we have first made a fair experiment of the means which God has declared as sufficient to this end ;-recollecting that it is “ God who,” by his holy word, and by his holy Spirit, “worketh in us,” both “to. will and to do of his good pleasure.” In his works of grace, indeed, as in his works of nature, he acts in strict conformity with himself— few are the instances of sudden and miraculous interposition on eitủer side. The child has its gradations towards the perfect man;—the seed, its seasons, from bud to stalk, and stem, and branch, 'till, at length, it overshadows with its expanded boughs the subject earth. And the seed of the word in the child of God, has equally to await the period of its maturity. It is experiment which is here the test of truth; and the Scriptures court experiment. Let not any person, therefore, who becomes their disciple, be discouraged at the tardiness of his advancement;—for Christians are said to “grow in grace.” But one ungenerous passion mitigated, an emotion of wrath, of envy, or of pride, restrained-an unkind temper softened, under the joint influence of God's word, and of God's Spirit, are symptoms that the work of the Lord is begun within, and the joyful earnest of better things than these. Let us then receive with equal thankfulness their kind reproofs as their gracious encouragement. It is through patience of God's holy word--through submission to its

[ocr errors]

discipline, however strict ;-through a chearful reception of its doctrines, however mortifying ;—through a grateful acquiescence in its restraints, however severe, that we become prepared to receive “comfort from it. We must bleed, in short, under this “sword of the spirit,” and suffer it to search and expose to us the wounds that sin has made upon us, before we can enjoy its consolations, or be made partakers of its promises. And then shall the most trying and arduous duties be no longer accounted grievous, nor impracticable. We shall “ love” our “enemies, do good to them that hate, and pray for those that despitefully use us and persecute us." which the world giveth not,” and “ which the world taketh not away,” shall be our portion; and thus dying unto sin, and self, and made “ alive unto God," we shall be enabled to “

go on” our “way rejoicing," ascribing the entire glory of all we are, and all we hope to be, to him who has given such ample means of becoming meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.

That “ peace

conduct of the world at large) appears the most revolting to flesh and blood.

It is no less than the unnatural duty of “love your enemies, do good to them which hate youbless them which curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you ;”—a duty which the infidel and the scoffer deny in principle as well as in practice. It is the painful duty, unknown to philosophy and to worldly wisdom, of “turning the left cheek,” of “giving up a coat or a cloak,” of being reviled, and reviling not again," which is accounted folly, and pusillanimity, and cowardice, by all who “know not Christ," nor “the power of his resurrection, nor the fellowship of his sufferings ;”—a duty which is questioned and softened down, and, at best, reckoned among the “hard sayings,” difficult to “bear,” even by some who profess Christ, but “who stop short in the principles of the doctrine of Christ," and seek not to “ unto perfection.” But to endeavour after perfection in this way is sound philosophy, “ the wisdom of the simple,” as far surpassing the “wisdom of the wise,” as Christ and the little volume of “all he did and taught,” excel the whole host of human sages, and all that has been ever written, said or printed, since the day he was first announced as the Saviour of

כי

go on

לל

« PreviousContinue »