[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

And St. John uses the word in dis sage of St. John, already quoted, is tinct application to what is allowed a remarkable one. The term evi. to be, in a most important sense, dently relates to the influence of the leading grace of the spiritual love, and to love itself as exerting life, - love. “God is love ; and he it. One state of mind indicates that that dwelleth in love dwelleth in love is not made perfect; another, God, and God in him. Herein is that it is. The particular instance our love made perfect, that we may referred to is that fear which hath have boldness in the day of judge torment.” There may be genuine ment; because as he is, so are we love where yet it shall be comparain this world. There is no fear in tively so weak as to allow doubts love; but perfect lore casteth out and 'fears of God's fatherly good. fear, because fear hath torment. He ness to distress, and even torment, that feareth is not made perfect in the soul. And, though it is not loce."

here specifically mentioned, where The word is scriptural; and, love is thus weak, it will be weak in therefore, whatever carefulness in respect of other things. Irritability the use of it may be proper, still it of temper, for instance, or original is to be used. The good Spirit of worldliness of spirit, will struggle God employs it ; and, therefore, it for the mastery with greater power. is properly employed; and its omis. The weaker the love, the more sion would powerfully tend to lower active will be the subdued remains our views of Christian holiness as of inbred sin; the stronger the love, actually attainable. It is true, the the more faint will be the struggle. unfaithful Christian, walking in the And when love is brought to such imaginations of his own beart, in a state, that all tormenting fear is stead of abiding in the light of the banished, the same effect will follow Lord, may fancy that he has at as to the other evils of our nature. tained to the state which the word Love is then said to be made peris used to describe, when he is far fect,--perfect in reference to its distant from it; and, ignorant of complete possession of the whole the proper significance of the terın, soul. When we are so filled with he may fancy, likewise, that he is love, that there is nothing contrary beyond the possibility of growth: to love, but that love completely and thus may such a one be puffed and continually governs and actuup with self-conceit, and become ates the soul, we are made perfect stagnant, and even corrupt, in his in love. Happy are they who attain indolence. But it is not less true to this state. And let it always be that an unfaithful Christian may ex- kept in view, that it is a branch of cuse the sin which reigns in him, by the great salvation.

Christ gave giving his own sense to the lan- himself for us, thus to redeem us guage of deep humility in which the from all iniquity; and the covenant faithful Christian speaks of himself, of his love contemplates no less as he would be but for the grace of than this,—"

-“ that we, being deliChrist. The mere possibility of vered out of the hand of our eneabuse by persons, themselves in a mies, might serve him without fear, wrong state of mind, does not sup in holiness and righteousness be. ply a sufficient argument against the fore him, all the days of our life.” use of any term ; and if the term be Too humble views of ourselves, cona scriptural one, while that possi- sidered in ourselves, we cannot have. bility suggests the importance of Without Him we can do nothing: careful explanation, yet, when thus But Christ is to be exalted, as well presented in the form of objection, as man abased. We may not look it ought not for a moment to be lis only at the helplessness of man: tened to. Words which have God's we are to look, also, at the allimage and superscription, are not to sufficiency of divine grace. True be refused currency in his own humility is to be mingled with true kingdom.

faith; and if one echoes the lanThe use of the word in the pas- guage of the Saviour, “Without me Vol. XXIII. Third Series. March, 1844.



ye can do nothing,”-the other accuracy, and comprehensiveness of echoes the language of his chosen perception will be produced. The servant, “I can do all things through devout contemplation of those reChrist which strengtheneth me.” vealed truths which relate to the Perfect love banishes pride, for the divine character, purposes, and will, same reason that it banishes fear. for instance, must issue in an en. It produces complete humility, by larged acquaintance with them; and the same influence that it produces the more we know of God, the more complete filial confidence.

reason shall we see for loving him. happy are they who attain to this So, also, with Christian duty. Hostate! But to happiness, let obliga. liness is the combination of Christion be added. Let the regenerate tian graces, the union of the several believer remember that he most fruits of the Spirit. The study of honours Christ who has most of the these will give us a better under. salvation of Christ. To be thus standing of them, not merely in fully saved is equally our privilege their nature, but in their applicaand our duty.

tion to particular acts and occasions. But, if love may be called perfect We shall thus come to see more and when thus completely and constantly more of any errors and mistakes influencing the soul, there is another into which we may have fallen; and aspect under which it may be con which, though they did not at all sidered. It proceeds from faith, interfere with integrity and soundand from the light of faith. And as ness of principle, have, in some way faith may become more distinct, or other, affected developement. It more comprehensive, so that we in- is not enough that we intend to be crease in the knowledge of our holy in general : we must be holy in Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; so particular ; holy in all manner of may love itself thus increase. When conversation. Nor must this be our faith "

groweth exceedingly,” limited to intention and disposition, it will be found that our "love," but carried into visible exercise in also, “abounds yet more and more our whole deportment. How im. in knowledge and in all judgment.” pressive is the statement of duty They who can say, “Herein is our given us by St. Paul, in his remark. love made perfect,” feel no incon- able reference to the particular sistency in saying, “Let us go on branches Christian ethics ! unto perfection.”

Whatsoever things are true, how It was thus that Mr. Wesley nest, just, pure, lovely, of good re. taught. In his own laconic and port ; if there be any virtue, and if sententious manner he thus ex there be any praise, think on these presses himself; and in these few things.Think of them in their words gives the substance of his simple natures, in their relation to uniform and consistent teaching on each other, in their combination ; this important branch of the sub- think of your actual circumstances ject : "Can those who are perfect in life, and of the way in which you grow in grace ? Undoubtedly they are to act at all times, and in all can; and that not only while they situations ; so that there may always are in the body, but to all eternity” be a practical exhibition of these Religion, in fact, follows the usual virtues, that every single action may laws of our mental constitution. be so performed as to have evi. By these, continual exercise and dently and decidedly a virtuous cha. continual attention always produce, racter, as to be visibly one of the the one increasing energy, and the fruits of righteousness with which other increasing clearness, minute- heart and life, your entire character, ness, and comprehension. In reli- is required to be filled. Who that gion, therefore, Christian graces are considers these things will not see rendered more prompt and vigorous that even where love completely by exercise ; and by devout atten- fills the heart and governs the life

, tion to the various subjects of Chris- and is thus "made perfect,” there tian teaching, increasing clearness, may yet, in some most important



respects, be a farther progress, a This is the foundation, supposed spiritual improvement, a growth in in whatever other methods we emgrace? Obscure points of character ploy, and necessary to their effimay be cleared up, excrescences re ciency and success. But on this moved, deficiencies supplied; atten. foundation a superstructure of means tion to duty may be at once more and instruments may be, and ought minute, and more comprehensive, and to be, erected. We now propose to the visible character more complete notice them, though briefly, yet and harmonious.

somewhat particularly. But for this constant growth are There are two important rules we to follow the advice of Aquinas, which, though each includes a vast and the spiritual writers of his number of separate acts and exerschool? Is it necessary that we re cises, yet, because these are, renounce the world, and henceforth spectively, all of the same kind, lead a life of austere monasticism ? may be expressed in general terms. This is not only not necessary, but First, The word of God must be in many cases—in by far the great devoutly studied. Second, All grace est number of cases—it would be must be kept in exercise. positively injurious.

The devotional study of the word But, before any particular means of God is, in the first Psalm, placed of growth are considered, attention in the most explicit connexion with must again be called, however briefly, spiritual prosperity: "His delight to what is the foundation of the is in the law of the Lord, and in his whole; namely, the continued pos- law doth he meditate day and night. session of spiritual life. The attain. And he shall be like a tree planted ment of that life is supposed in every by the rivers of water, that bringeth part of an inquiry like the present; forth his fruit in his season; his and whatever is necessary for its leaf also shall not wither; and whatpreservation is, for that reason, ne soever he doeth sball prosper.” cessary for its growth. However That the tree may grow, it must be well adapted the methods may be alive. Dead wood, stuck into the which we pursue, in order to our earth in circumstances the most spiritual advancement, yet, if we favourable to vegetation, will not neglect the direct means of keeping grow,-very possibly it will all the up the life itself, the others will be sooner rot. And the living tree fruitless. We have that life in must have the regular influences of Christ, as pardoned and adopted for light, and heat, and air. But, be. his alone sake. We must live a life side these,-without which it cannot of faith in Christ. We continue to continue to live,-beside these, it must be saved by grace, while we con. be nourished from its roots. The retinue to believe. That life is created generate soul, living by faith and and sustained in the soul by the liv. prayer, experiences the vital influing influence of God the Spirit. ences of the grace of God; the Sun Him, therefore, we must be careful of Righteousness shines upon him never to grieve. And as our hea- with divine light and heat; the Spivenly Father giveth the Holy Spirit rit of God breathes upon him; but, to them that ask him, for this must by the appointment of God, he we earnestly pray, desiring and ask. needs a continual supply of nourish. ing the continuance and increase of ment; and that which the rivers of that vital energy and influence on water are to the living tree planted which our own spiritual life entirely by them, that the truths of reveladepends. Whatever else we do, we tion, the words of God, by which he must maintain the spiritual life, by expresses his mind and will to man continued faith in Christ, as our received by prayerful and studious atoning, reconciling Saviour, the reading and meditation, are to the fountain of mercy and grace to our soul. They are its proper aliment, souls ; and by continued prayer for the supply, so to speak, of the the Holy Spirit, the great author and material upon which the heavenly sustainer of the inward life of grace. agencies may work, and which they

may develope into all the acts and continual supply, through faith and issues of Christian character.

prayer, of the Spirit of Christ Jesus, Nor is this “meditation on the grace must be kept in erercise. law of the Lord” to be connected Indolence and inactivity are income alone with its private perusal. The patible with growth.

The comChristian ministry is instituted not mand, therefore, is, “Be not sloth. only for conversion, but for edifica- ful, but followers of them who tion. It is the absolute duty of the through faith and patience inherit Minister to aim at both; and, in the promises.” aiming at the last, to do so by seek On this important subject, of the ing to communicate as large a mea exercise of grace, volumes might be sure as he possibly can of that kind written; but, in the present paper, of truth which goes more directly to only the leading particulars can be promote spiritual growth. He is to given. But the reader is requested assist individual believers, to the to remember that they are given for utmost of his power, in the work of the purpose of being suggestive; spiritual reflection. If they would that not only may personal attention give way to slothfulness, and wish be directed to the subject, but the ever to continue in the first princi- method of conducting the inquiry be ples of the doctrine of Christ, he is likewise understood. to reprove them, and stimulate them It should be carefully recollected, to exertion and diligence; and, im- that although the work of the Spirit proving his greater opportunities, is one, and the result of it presented and keeping still in advance, let him to us under the one significant er. yet call on them closely to follow pression of life,-yet that Christian him, by rightly explaining and en holiness is not represented as one forcing the Apostle's solemn injunc- single (may we say, uncompounded) tion : Let us go on unto perfec state or disposition, but rather as tion.” And to the ministry thus the combination of many disposiseeking to edify, ought the Chris- tions, springing, indeed, from one tian believer to pay a diligent atten common source, but presenting vation. The Minister is called to live rious aspects. While there is gene. as in the sanctuary, and to be sepa ric agreement, there are specific rated from secular employment, that differences. This is plain from the he may devote himself unreservedly language of St. Paul : “The fruit and unremittingly to the reception of the Spirit,”-fruit, not fruits

. and communication of divine truth, Not only does each flow from the in reference to the great purposes presence of the Spirit, as given to for which its Author has given it to the justified believer; but where he

He has to dispense to the works one, he works all. In referhousehold of God, as

a faithful ence to their Author, they may be steward, things new and old, such considered as forming an insepara. as may be given to his own diligent bly combined result; in reference search. The word which by the to the soul in which they are Gospel is preached unto us, is that wrought, it is proper, and even neincorruptible seed of the word of cessary, to consider them as various, God by which all who are regene- —the one fruit of the Spirit as com, rated are born again ; and to the prising a variety of holy states and same word does the Apostle refer, dispositions. “ The fruit of the when he lays down this as a sacred Spirit is love, joy, peace, longChristian duty: “As new-born suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, babes, desire the sincere milk of the meekness, temperance ;” to which word, that ye may grow thereby.” must be added what the Apostle im

And as to the health and growth mediately subjoins,-the complete of our physical frame not only is subjugation of our fallen nature : aliment necessary, but exercise also; “And they that are Christ's have 80 is it with the spiritual life. As crucified the flesh with the affecsuming the continued union between tions and lusts." (Gal. v. 22– the soul and its living Head,—the 24.)

[ocr errors]


But, while such is the fruit of the presented as including a number of Spirit, the result of his regenerating graces, virtues, and excellences ; influence, the proper agency of man, and that we are to be careful, by a as a subject of the divine govern- particular and cultivating attention ment, is required to be employed in to each, that they be all in us, that reference not only to them all, but they abound, that none of them be to each of them separately consider. lacking, that we preserve a careful, ed. The exhortations of the Epis- vigilant, active thoughtfulness and tles of the New Testament sell-inspection in reference to them ; full of particular addresses of this and that not only in their principles, kind. Two remarkable instances as dwelling in the depth of our may be quoted. It is not only said, moral being, and at the fountain generally, If we live in the Spirit, and practical origin of all the activilet us also walk in the Spirit ;" but ties of our nature,—but in their rethe particular, the minutely-detail- sults, as producing certain distinctly ing, exhortation is addressed to us. marked etfects in our character and Having embraced “the exceeding behaviour. It is not to truth, hogreat and precious promises " which nesty, justice, &c., in the abstract, are given to us in our Lord Jesus, that we are directed to attend; but and so experienced their fulfilment as becoming concretes in our soul, as to be by them “partakers of the as mixed up with, and influencing, divine nature,” and to have been ena- all our thoughts, and feelings, and bled to escape “ the corruption that is actions. “ Whatsoever things are in the world through lust,” (2 Peter just,--think on these things. 1. 4,) it is immediately added, “And “ Think on these things."* Yes, beside this, giving all diligence, think on them. There is no growth add to your faith virtue; and to where this is not done. Growth in virtue knowledge ; and to know. grace is a duty, and duty implies ledge temperance; and to tempe- exercise on the part of him on whom rance patience ; and to patience god- the obligation rests. In answer to liness; and to godliness brotherly fervent prayer, God gives the grace kindness; and to brotherly kind. without which we cannot grow in ness charity.” And these are not grace ; but the exercises by means to be inoperative and dormant, but of which we do actually grow, must active and efficient in the produc. be performed by man. God worktion of what the Apostle terms, by eth in us, both to will and to do; an expression which is as significant but we must work out our own salas it is emphatic, “holiness in all vation. manner of conversation.“For if We should, by careful meditation, these things be in you, and abound, and by diligent attendance on the they make you that ye shall neither appointed means of instruction, seek be barren nor unfruitful in the a clear and accurate acquaintance knowledge of our Lord Jesus with the true nature and influence Christ.” (2 Peter i. 5—8.)

of the several graces of the ChrisThe other instance of this minute. tian character, and with their reness is,-“ Finally, brethren, what spective operations and fruits. This soever things are true, whatsoever is what is comprised in that most things are honest, whatsoever things important injunction: “Understand. are just, whatsoever things are pure, ing what the will of the Lord is." whatsoever things are lovely, what- Many suffer great loss from the soever things are of good report ; if vague and cloudy ideas which they there be any virtue, and if there be have of holiness ; regarding it only any praise, THINK ON THESE the general, and as something (Phil. iv. 8.)

opposed to sin. They are defective Even were we to limit our atten- in some important Christian grace, tion to these passages, and their and they are as plainly unconscious respective connexions, we should

* Gr. Tauta Noyiseole, Hæc cogilate.learn from them that the Christian

Vulo., Bez. “Make them the subjects of your life, temper, and character are re careful cogitations."

« VorigeDoorgaan »