it. But tried by the life and mind of Christ, by the realities of holiness and of fellowship with God, by the humiliation and mystery of the cross, which are "the marks of the Lord Jesus," how defective, dim-sighted, unenergetic, and relaxed it must appear! The fact is, that the great multitude of those who live in the world have little perception of the intense and searching spirituality of the life of Christ, which their regeneration binds them to imitate. And therefore the life of most is as vague, pointless, and unmeaning, as the reasoning of men who do not know what it is they are going to prove. By this we may chiefly account for the infinite variety of imperfect characters, which have something of true Christianity about them, but are marred, stunted, and contracted. Of course, want of energy and perseverance will produce many of the same results; but in a majority of cases, really well-disposed people go through life with a low, cold, heartless notion of our Lord's example. They can see the exterior perfection of His life, as measured by the second table of the law; but the motives even of that perfection, much more the whole interior life which is related to the love and worship of God, they simply cannot perceive. It is too high, inward, and deep, for their spiritual senses, which are "exercised" to discern the broader and more sensible features of Christian duty, but cannot distinguish the characters and outlines of God's kingdom as it is impressed upon the affections, thoughts, and motions of our spiritual being. How, then, is it to be wondered at, if they see no inconsistency between habits of free intercourse with society and a life of religion? There is, indeed, no inconsistency with a life of their religion. It has nothing which is at variance with self-indulgence, and a relaxed tone of conversation. Days spent in visiting, and evenings in amusements, leave no effects

which are traceable in their morning and evening prayers; because those prayers have been long said with just so much of fervor and attention as is compatible with their habitual way of living: they are therefore no index. They would judge very differently, if they could once rightly perceive the purity, gentleness, meekness, deadness to the world, denial of self, subjugation of will, vivid zeal for the salvation of the elect and for the glory of God, which were in our blessed Lord. If they could understand, for instance, the meaning of one such word as "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart;" or "I am not of this world;" they would see all things as if the light of the sun had waxed "sevenfold as the light of seven days." All the goings on of life—its catng and drinking, planting and building, its buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage-would be seen as they will be in the day of the Son of man. The snares and perils of life and ease, of wealth and pleasure, of business and refinement; the perilous entanglements and depressing influence even of common life; the false maxims and illusions of mankind, and the secret atheism of the world, would all be seen as by an intuition of the spirit. They would then see that the spirit of the world is the very antagonist of the mind of Christ; that none could dwell in it unsullied by its touch but He alone.

2. And therefore, in the next place, it is plain that we must so shape our way through life as shall most foster and promote our continual advance in attaining to the perfection of our new birth, which is the sanctity of Christ. And what is this but, in other words, to be true to the vows of our baptism? We then bound ourselves to renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal


desires of the flesh;" and promised that we would "neither follow nor be led by them." It is impossible to add strength to this vow; it is unconditional and peremptory, and extends over the whole subject of which we are now speaking. It is no open question for a Christian, whether he shall renounce the world or no: he has renounced it already; he is already bound by a perpetual vow; and all that remains is to fulfil it, or to forswear himself. Now, there can be no doubt that the majority of baptised men fall below the standard of their promise: all do, indeed, in respect to its perfection; but I mean, in respect to the measure of their ability to fulfil it. Some do it deliberately, some unconsciously, some from the power of sin, and some from the weakness of their resolutions; but howsoever various the causes, it is certain that we may divide the visible body of baptised men into two classes: those who do, and those who do not, make the vow of their baptism the rule of their life.

In the first days of the Church the vow of baptism was made perfect in repentance, poverty, charity, in the fellowship of prayers, and holy communion; the Church was a fold in the midst of the world, encompassed by it, but separate. And yet it retained its inward purity only long enough to be a type and prophecy of its perfection in heaven. At Philippi, Ephesus, Corinth, and elsewhere, even in St. Paul's day, Christians began to fall apart into the two great classes; so that the apostle had need to lay down precepts and rules, such as those we are now endeavoring to find. To the Corinthians he writes: "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have

written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat."* And again to the Thessalonians: "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us."+ St. Paul here recognizes a class of men within the Church, or related to it, with whom the faithful ought to hold no intercourse; and they are either persons excommunicate, or such as, though still suffered to abide in the communion of the Church (for instance, the covetous and disorderly,) are living in breach of their baptismal vow. These and many other passages give us the precept of avoiding the contagion of an ill example, even among those whom the Church has not put under formal censures. The apostle also gives the most detailed counsels for purifying our conversation,‡ for edifying one another, for sauctifying households ;|| and these give us a farther precept of forming our friendships and relations, both with individuals and with families, on the principle of promoting the entire conversion of our hearts to God. It was, without doubt, from this that persons of a more devout temper, and more kindled with the love of the heavenly kingdom, drew into closer fellowships within the unity of the Church; whole families, perhaps, such as that of Philip the evangelist, who "had four daughters which did prophecy ;" and "the house of Stephanas," and of Celoe and others, gave themselves to a stricter way of life. We may take these as examples of what is both possible and right for private Christians and households now.

* 1 Cor. v. 9-11.

ỷ Rom. xiv. 19.

† 2 Thess. iii. 6.

Phil. i. 27.

1 Tim. iii. 4, 5.

Acts xxi. 9.


but to


its a


ch is




e said



There is nothing schismatical in a separation which stre preserves all religious unity and makes those that apart characteristically humble and charitable. It is certain, that the man who does live by his baptismal will find himself much alone in his habits, thoughts sympathies. The face of the visible Church must be different from what it has been, before holiness can bring an apparent separation. So it is with famili any household be consecrated to God by particular de it will stand out from other families. And yet it da do less: the vow of its baptism is on it, and thereby measure all things. It must do and leave possess and give away, seek and renounce, enjoy itself, according to this rule. The religion of such is not only at the foot of the altar, or in its own h devotion; neither does it take cognizance only of portions of its daily life; but it is the rule of all the test of its friendships, the measure of its int And I do not see what any Christian household or do less than this. They are pledged to "work salvation with fear and trembling;" to have in mind that "was in Christ Jesus," in prayer, love tion, and habitual fellowship with God. to be attained without abstinence from dangero expedient things, and from all familiar communi


mail Answer mple

k lay

at with


ewe t to us

And and o

us t


those whose example, spirit, and habit of life we m

retard the work of our sanctification, it is not ea T

stand. Where is the reason or consistency i prayer, fasting, and self-discipline, if we do



expose ourselves to the levity, inflation, and vid den


world? Surely all these things feed and excite the heart, and make miserable havoc in our plicity, watchfulness, humility, and recollection



wor in

[ocr errors]

en we

« VorigeDoorgaan »