Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

the change? Reader! two abodes only are reserved for two opposite characters. We are told, in the language of the Saviour himself, that the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. The wicked, we know, are all those who have lived in a state of ungadliness ; rather worshipping the god of this world, giving to it all their time, affection, and talents—who have either scoffed at or disregarded the things of religion-who have counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and have refused the calls and invitations of the gospel, and thus have become the prey of their own heart's lusts. The righteous are those who, although they may have at one time rejected Christ. and have preferred the idol of their own imaginations, have been enabled, by faith, to lay hold of a crucified Saviour, exhibited in his word—who have, out of his fulvess, received grace for grace, free remission of all their sins have been washed in his blood, sanctified and built up by his most Holy Spirit, and clothed with the mantle of his divine love. To one of these two classes every man must belong. If, reader, the former be the true description of your character, the subject of death may well, indeed, to you be alarming; but, remember that under the pressure of your guilt there is mercy even for you, if you will accept of it-mercy even at the eleventh hour: “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.”“Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." Go, prostrate yourself before his throne with deep humiliation,

oniessing your aggravated guilt. Wres tle with him, believing that he is both able and willing to save you-beseech him that he would give a new heart--that he would take the stony heart out of your flesh, and that he would give you a heart of flesh--that he would quicken you by his Spirit, and make you ineet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

But this visitation must also be considered as a trial of the believer's faith, Various are the ways in which God tries the confidence of his people toward him; sometimes by misfortune, sometimes by affliction, sometimes by bereavement: but the end of all these is the trial of their faith. He does it for their probation, not their destruction ; for their advantage, not their ruin. Their trust and confidence in God is now called into full vigour and exercise; also their belief in the power and promises of God, and in the fidelity

and constancy of his Son. They are, perhaps, cast down and in great heaviness through manifold temptations, but they shall never be cast off ; for “they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." All their troubles are well ordered, and have one grand object; “that the trial of their faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, miglit be found in praise, in honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ." The trial of one grace produces another; for the trial of your faith, says James, worketh patience, and patience leads to experience, which experience is followed by hope.

These seasons, especially, ought to be occupied in watchfulness and prayerprayer, that we may be enabled to hold fast our confidence even unto the end that we may not dishonour him by being distrustful of his willingness and ability to save, but that we may be ever mindful of his promises, which are exceeding great and precious: “I will never leave, I will never forsake you." Again : “ Fear not;, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine : when thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee; for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.” Is it reasonable to suppose that Christ, our pilot, will guide us in the calm, and forsake us in the storm? Is it reasonable to suppose that having accompanied us across the sea of life--he will forsake us whilst crossing the narrow stream of Jordan-that he will allow us to be shipwrecked at the mouth of the celestial haven? No:

« Not one object of his care,

Ever suffered shipwreck there." 6 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thon art with me. thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."-" This God is our God for ever and ever, and he will be our guide even unto death.”

Here, then, is a warning for the sinner, and a consolation for the saint. May the sinner be enabled to lay hold of Christ, the Rock of Ages--may he be enabled to fly unto him as a city of refuge, and

“ With Christ in the vessel,
He may smile at the storm,"

" J. P.

"No

" I am made all things to all (men), that and imitate his conduct, we have desired

I might by all means save some.”- and rejoiced to see the marks of distincCor. ix. 22.

tion fading and disappearing till all could is n 'ose walk together, without any very great disTHROUGHOUT the sacred writings there gust on the part of the world, or any very is a broad line of distinction observed be great sacrifice upon the part of the tween the righteous and the wicked-be- church; and we not unfrequently hear tween the church and the world. Yet the words of our text quoted with ap. still the question is not unfrequently put, parent pleasure and triumph by those “What is the grand difference between who in this manner would not only exthe professors of Christianity and those cuse the compliances they make, but eswho despise or disregard its claims?" And tablish a claim to the apostle's virtue if such a question be proposed to the an enlarged and Christian charity... enemies of religion, they will sometimes Let us observe, then, answer, that all pretensions to religion -. The manner in which the apostle arise from spiritual pride, and that this became all things to all.Which will is proved by the conduct of its admirers, lead us to this conclusion, . ' who seem to exult that they alone are the II. That the apostle's conduct will af. chosen of God, the chartered free-men of ford no apology whatever for the want of heaven, and that they may therefore look that separation from the spirit and conupon those around them with pity or con- duct of the world upon which the word of tempt, and say, “Stand by, for I am truth so frequently insists. . holier than thou." .

1. Observe the manner in which the We do not deny that there have been, apostle“ became all things to all." And or that there still are, some who call them- this will be best perceived by considering selves Christians who possess, and who the language of the apostle himself in fail not to display, such spiritual pride; the context: and in doing so we cannot and we will even grant that whole com- but notice one very fruitful source of munities, and in some ages, perhaps, the error. It is a common pràctice (and in generality of professors, have manifested this common practice it would be well if too much of these dispositions, than which unbelievers stood by themselves) to take nothing can be more opposed to the spirit an isolated text, and apply it for the purof the gospel.

pose of justifying or condemning certain But after we have admitted thus much, doctrines or practices, without any referI think we are bound to assert with confi- ence to the object which the writer of dence that this is not the prevailing error such language had in view, the circumof the age in which we live. It may be, 'stances in which he was placed, or the that we have gazed upon this boasted character and condition of those to whom separation from the maxims and conduct he wrote. Too much care cannot be of the world, mixed, as it has often been taken in appropriating Scripture lanwith so much that is gloomy and for- guage, for if we (as is too frequently the bidding, till we have been disgusted with case) apply any scriptural threatening, or the caricature upon Christianity which is exhortation, or promise, to ourselves or presented to our view; and, in our deter- others, without considering the original mination to avoid it, have insensibly fallen design of such language, we certainly into the opposite extreme, and have come to discover either our ignorance or disthink (or to act as if we thought) that the honesty, and may perhaps be found conduct of mankind in general was such amongst the number of those who “ wrest that to demand from ourselves, or to ex- the Scripture to their own destruction." pect from others, a superior regard to mo Look, then, to verse 20; and to enter rality and holiness, would discover in the fully into this and similar passages, we one instance, spiritual pride, and, in the must remember that our Lord and his other, a want of Christian charity.

disciples proclaimed the gospel first to Such has been the alteration in the the Jews. To them had been comunitted general feelings and conduct of professors the oracles of God; and in these divinely of religion, that, instead of remembering inspired writings they had been instructed that “the world knoweth us not, because in the worship of God, which was conit knew not our Master,” and that it nected with many ceremonies that were must ever be so while we possess his spirit to be done away when Christ should

come. If we, with any carefulness, c011- and elders assembled in Jerusalem, that sider the separation which had so long the ceremonies of the Jewish law should been made between the Jews and other not be enforced upon Gentiles. But nations, by the peculiarity of their wor- some zealots would have compelled him ship, and the superiority of their privi. to circumcise Titus. Here the apostle leges, we cannot but perceive that the resolutely withstood them; and the difJew would with great reluctance abandon ference in the two cases is this the mothese peculiarities, and become satisfied ther of Timotheus was a Jewess; the with the spiritual nature of that religion omission of this rite in him, therefore, which required nothing beyond an entire would have given offence, and have surrender of the heart to God. He who operated to the prejudice of this young thus separated them did not see fit to re- minister. Titus was a Greek; and for quire that these peculiarities, and the the apostle to have submitted in this infeelings they were calculated to inspire, stance to the will of the Jewish zealot which had been cherished by his own would have been to bring the believing commands, should be at once relinquished. Gentiles under a yoke which Christ deThe Jew might receive Christianity, and manded not, and to which they had not yet revere and observe many of the cere- been previously called to submit. monies in which he had been educated, ,Verse 21. To them that are without while yet these ceremonies were unneces. law,” that is, without the law of Moses ; sary, being done away in Christ. Of such he acted as without the law, knowing the apostle speaks in the verse we have that its ceremonies were superseded and now read : “to them that are under the abolished; while his conduct proved that law," that is, to those who considered he was not without law to God, who, by themselves under the restraints of the the gift of Christ, had brought man under law of Moses “as under the law," &c. new obligations to strict obedience. “To For an illustration of this see Acts xvi. 3, the weak became I as weak.” So far and xxi. 20-26. To understand Paul's from opposing their conscientious scrureason for acting thus we must remember ples, he would act as though he himself that he always taught that the Gentiles were likewise as scrupulous. See 1 Cor. were free from the yoke of the Mosaic viii. 13." ceremonies, and that the Jews were not to : We must draw, then, these concluexpect salvation by them, and were not . sions: that the apostle " to the Jews beeven bound to observe them at all. From came as a Jew; to the Gentile, as a this, some who were opposed to the apos. Gentile ; and to the weak, as weak;"tle took occasion to represent him as only when becoming so was a matter of teaching the people to neglect and to perfect indifference, and when by doing despise the law of Moses; and even went so he could advance their good, and the so far as to say that he blasphemed it. honour of his Master ; but that he was The apostle, therefore, took these oppor- upright, and firm, and resolute, in optunities of showing that so far from doing posing every thing which was inconsistent so, he did not object, when circumstances with the gospel of Christ. *3! * required it, to attend to these ceremonies, . This leads us to observe, although he knew that disciples of Christ II. That the apostle's conduct will were free from them. But while the afford no apology whatever for the want apostle submitted in these instances, when of that separation from the spirit and compliance with the ceremonial law was conduct of the world upon which the a matter of indifference, yet we ought to word of truth so frequently insists. recollect that he was uniform in his de- ! The separation which the Scriptures clarations that such observances were un- every where enjoin and recognize between necessary; nor did he refuse to associate, the disciples of Christ and those who even in the presence of the Jews, with reject his authority and commands, was those who would not conform to them; clearly visible while the gospel was ex. and it was because Peter did not act in erting its full influence in the church, the same honourable manner that the and while its influence was confined there apostle rebuked him (Gal. ii. ll, &c.); by persecution. Light was there, but and when we read of his compliance with ignorance and darkness were without; the prejudices of the Jews in the circum- purity was there, but iniquity and corcision of Timotheus, we should remember ruption were in the world. Conformity also what he says, Gal. ii. 3–5, when to the practices of the multitude would, speaking of his other “son in the faith.” in such circumstances, be at once conIt had been determined by the apostles sidered as a desertion of the principles

of the gospel, and a denial of its author. But it is very different in the times in which we live; for if we allow that religion has now the same influence on the minds of those who possess it which it had in ages of darkness and persecution, we must grant that it has also produced a change in the character of those who cannot lay, claim to the name of Christians.

The word of truth has spread a light through our land, and other parts of the world; and even in those circles, and families, and bosoms, that own not its authority, the effects of that light may be discovered in the repression of many flagrant evils, and in the superior tone of feeling and standard of action, which (notwithstanding all the depravity and vice around us), we must admit, pervade all ranks of society. Such a change must be perceived with joy and thankfulness; but it will prove dangerous to the Christian unless he remembers, that however the general character of society may be improved, and however superior the standard of morals may be, he must rise superior to this, and possess an elevated holiness, and a loftier character.

Never, perhaps, has there been greater danger than at the present time of supposing that the difference between genuine Christians and others is not of essential, of infinite consequence; and never, perhaps, have the words of the apostle been more frequently referred to in order to justify the compliances of professors with the conduct of those who claim not the character of disciples of Christ; and the inducements to compromise all that is peculiar and most disa greeable in the profession of the gospel will be numerous and strong, in proportion to the frequency, or force, or beauty, with which amiable dispositions and up. right conduct are manifested by those who are not the professors of Christianity.

What, then, shall we do under these circumstances ? To avoid this danger of amalgamation with the world, shail we go back to the rigidness and austerity in which true religion has sometimes been thought to consist? There is no necessity for this. True religion will not only appear more lovely, it will also flourish best, where the spirit of conciliation, of charity, of pleasantness, and of love, is most abundant; provided this truth be kept in remembrance, and its influence brought to bear upon our conduct,--that the man who studies and imitates the example of Christ, who loves and praca

tises his commands, is the only real pos. sessor of Christianity, and all besides are enemies to God, and exposed to future judgment.

But tell me, Is this truth constantly remembered by us ?-and does it produce its beneficial, its full effect upon our conduct ? Instead of thus dreading all contact with that which would tend to bring down our moral and religious feelings, and reduce us almost (if not altogether) to a level with the unregenerate ;- instead of thus grasping at the purity and majestic holiness of our Master, do we not too frequently endeavour, and are we not too contented if we can succeed in the attempt, to smoothe down a conscience that would disturb our ease amidst the compliances which we would fain decorate in the clothing of Christian charity ? Ah! and to stretch this charity, or, in other words, to justify sinful compliances, how often do we hear a libel upon the apostle's charity, and we are told that we must “become all things to all men !” .,

B efore we produce the apostle's exam. ple, or the words of inspiration, to justify any of our compliances with the wishes or the conduct of our fellow men, let us see to it that our compliances are limited, as his were, to those things which are in themselves indifferent. If we deny ourselves to comply with the weaknesses of our fel. low Christians and fellow men, we follow his example, and may, with him, hope “ that by all means we shall save some.” But if we comply with the sins of our fellow men (i. e. if we comply with them in any conduct which arises from want of devotedness to his service), whatever the motive may be which we propose to ourselves, we may rest assured of this: either we pursue a wrong end, or we use impro. per means to attain our object, and therefore ought not to expect success.

Do you thus seek to please God? You know that he loves obedience rather than sacrifice. “True religion, and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.Do you seek to promote the interests of religion by such compliances ? It is the most effectual way to bring all religion into contempt; for what is Christianity worth, if it may be stripped of all its peculiarities, and warped to meet the practices of the world at the voice of convenience or fancied expediency?

Intelligent and honourable men of the world would despise, and justly despise,

such a religion as this; and it is awful to the enemies or neglecters of Christianity. think of the vast sum of irreligion and It is no excuse to say that you have not infidelity which professors of Christianity much opportunity for studying the Scriphave thus produced and cherished. If we tures, nor much talent for interpretation, can stand in the path of holy obedience, and that you thought you were putting a and reach forth the hand of benevolence right construction upon the language of and love, to lead our fellow men into the Scripture; for there is one rule of Scripsame path, we are secure, and may hope ture interpretation which would preserve to rescue them. But if we enter the ways you from such mistakes. Sacred Scripof sin with the vain hope that we shall ture is always consistent with itself; if, escape unhurt, and bring them back with therefore, you cannot understand any us, we shall be awfully mistaken. It is particular part of it, take the general very easy to go with them, for it is down bearing of Scripture upon the doctrine or ward; but when you would return, you practice to which it may refer, and ask must contend with your natural disposi- what the Bible as a whole would teach. tion to descend ; while every thing you No one couLD do this, and then plead meet with will but make your return more the words before us (or any other expresdifficult. Meanwhile, what becomes of sions of Scripture) as an excuse for his those whom you proposed to lead back sinful compliances. Christ says to his with you? Ah! they, encouraged by disciples, “Ye are the salt of the earth;" seeing you in the same way with them. i.e. by the wisdom, and benevolence, and selves, have gone one step further; and if holiness, which are the fruits of the Spirit you would attempt again to reach them, of which they partake, they are to season it must be by a greater deviation from others, and preserve society from corrupthe path of holiness than before, and the tion. And is it consistent that they awful end of such conduct has often been should be content to lose their peculiar the everlasting ruin of both parties.. savour, and become as much as possible

But let me ask again, Do you, by such assimilated to the mass they are to pucompliances, hope to gain the good opi rify? Again, “Ye are the light of the nion of your fellow creatures ? In such world,” therefore “let your light so shine a case it would be difficult to say which before men that they may see your good was more apparent, your sin or your folly. works, and glorify your Father which is Your sin, that you can prefer the esteem in heaven;" i. e. let your doctrine, and of man to the favour of God; or your dispositions, and lives be such as to make folly, that you can expect thus to attain it apparent that such truth and holiness your object. For if they be but intelli- could come only from God; and thus gent, much more if they be honourable constrain them to believe in the true God, and virtuous, they will pity such weak- and to recognize you as his true disciples. ness, or despise such servility and want of Is it consistent, then, that we should in principle. The best way to do good to any measure eclipse that light, so that our fellow men, and to secure their esteem, those who cannot bear its purity and as well as to promote our own safety and brightness, lest it should discover their happiness, is to evince in all our actions own impurity and darkness, should be that we are what we profess to be; that content to walk with us? we act from principle--the high and holy We might ask, what must be the state principle of regard to God, love to his ser- of that heart which can choose a lower vice, and obedience to his commands. degree of holiness than he might attain, This was the principle that actuated the merely because there was some apparent apostle in all his labours, and in all his justification of his conduct in the word of compliances with the weaknesses of others; God? and this principle preserved him from 2. Let us imitate the tenderness and complying with their sins.

condescension of the apostle in bearing From what has been said,

with the weaknesses of our fellow men. 1. Let us beware of perverting scrip- This is the duty not only of ministers, ture for the purpose of supporting prac- but of every Christian. tices which it condemns, or censuring 3. Let us guard against an abuse of those which it enjoins. Such a habit is this charity and tenderness, lest it degenot more common than it is dishonest and nerate into weakness, and dishonesty, and dangerous; but I must repeat what I sin. Let us take heed, lest, by the supbefore said, that it would be well if such posed exercise of charity, we become para practice were confined to those who are takers of other men's sins.

« VorigeDoorgaan »