Page images
PDF
EPUB

leaves them in the sight of God, and in the judgment of Christ and his apostles, destitute of all vital piety, and utter strangers to Christian holiness.

Such is mere morality. Christian holiness, on the other hand, proceeds on supernatural and spiritual principles, and aims at a radical reformation of conduct by a complete purification and renewal of the heart.

The first step to be taken, then, is to hear and believe what Christ himself has said ; first, he says, “ Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man." See Matt. xv. 19, 20. Hence, when a celebrated master of Israel, a man probably of strict morality, came to our blessed Saviour for instruction, the first lesson that was given by the great Teacher and Exemplar of Christian holiness was this, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” see John iii. 3, and following verses. Nicodemus expressed much astonishment, as perhaps the reader of this may express, and especially should he be a moral man, at the strangeness of the statement. Your astonishment will be perfectly natural, unless this mighty change has already passed over you; for sin, like many diseases, deludes the mind with notions of health and soundness in exact proportion to its depth and inveteracy. The words of Christ, however, are neither to be evaded nor destroyed ; there they stand, an imperishable test between mere outside morality and inward spiritual religion, to the end of time. You may be seeking to reform and amend your lives by mere external observances, “ going about to establish your own righteousness," and not "submitting to the righteousness of God.”. Yet it is very probable that you have in connexion with all this some vague general notion of the necessity of the atonement of Christ to give efficacy to your otherwise ineffectual endeavours; you may be convinced that when you transgress repentance is necessary, and may perhaps imagine that the tears you shed will wash away some of your faults ; you may profess faith in Christ, and have a certain general belief in the Bible as a whole, and yet perhaps, you never seriously felt your natural depravity, and never clearly perceived the necessity of a " clean heart and a right spirit" before you can render unto God one act of evangelical and acceptable obedience. O then, consider yourself in the place of the Jewish ruler, and conceive the Saviour as speaking expressly to you :

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man, except any man, except every man, except thou thyself, be born again, thou canst not “ see the kingdom of God.” Seek, therefore, first of all, to have the fountain of action, the heart, purified; and then, but not before, will the issues of life be pure; then, the streams which it will send forth flowing in a thousand different channels of Christian holiness will bless the corrupt world through which they pass ; the wilderness and solitary place will be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.” Thus will they increase in depth and fulness, until they terminate in that ocean of universal love which is the fulfilling of the law, and is only a condensed exhibition of “ glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good-will towards men.”

One of the first and most distinguishing effects of regeneration, or, as it is called by the apostle, “ fruits of the Spirit,” is faith.See Gal. v. 22. Faith is described elsewhere as “ working by love," and " purifying the heart," and, as a principle of action, cannot but be productive of Christian holiness. “ Without faith,” the scriptures tell us, “ it is impossible to please God;" and again, our Saviour and his apostles uniformly assert, “ He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” But an objection arises, Why lay so much stress on faith? Why not rather insist on morality? We answer, we insist on faith because it is the only principle which, under the direction of that Spirit who first inspires it, can produce, not merely morality, not merely virtue and excellence, but the only

pure and undefiled religion" in the world, “ Christian holiness.” Faith credits not parts only, but the whole of God's word; it has a particular reference to the record of eternal life which He has given us in His Son Jesus Christ. In the figurative but emphatic language of the sacred writer, it is the hand which the mind puts forth to “ lay hold on eternal life.” Faith receives and appropriates a Saviour's justifying righteousness, unites the soul to him as intimately as the branch is united to the vine, and by virtue of this union, participates in all the sap and nourishment of the parent tree. Faith, as it is the belief of all the statements of revelation, and credits equally the threatenings as the promises of the Bible, is always accompanied by repentance, prayer, hope, peace, love; and in short, all that train of heavenly graces which render us like-minded with Christ. Hence the soul is gradually assimilated to the Divine image; and thus is understood and experienced that previously

[ocr errors]

interesting but unintelligible assertion : “We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord,” 2 Cor. iii. 18.

It is then, but not before, that the distinction between morality and evangelical piety is known and understood; and that which was formerly considered only as a bright but visionary expectation, will be recognized as a fundamental and practical religious truth, in proportion as the mind becomes imbued with evangelical doctrines, and proceeds from the mere moralities of life to the beauty and perfection of Christian holiness.

We have seen, that the moralist and nominal Christian may imitate, and that too in some instances, so speciously as to lull suspicion and baffle detection, true vital godliness; and it is not be wondered at, since the chief difference is in the motives or principles from which the actions respectively proceed. But let it never be forgotten that although man sees only the outward appearance, God looks at the heart. The motives and principles determine the quality of human actions.

We ask, in conclusion, not whether you render to God the service of the sanctuary, but whether you worship him in spirit and in truth?” We ask not whether you are upright in your dealings, and benevolent and kind to your neighbours, but whethe: you are pure in heart," and whether, while you have opportunity,” you seek “to do good unto all men, but especially unto them who are of the household of faith?". In short, are faith and love the great motives which guide and influence your conduct ? Are the oracles of truth, in opposition to the mere maxims of men, the rule of your life? Instead of seeking the gratification of pride and selfishness, is the ultimate end of all that you do, the glorification of your Father who is in heaven ? We beseech you to lay these considerations to heart; and remember, that if your righteousness be nothing more than the morality we have been describing, it is no better than that of the scribes and Pharisees, so pointedly condemned by our blessed Saviour in his sermon on the mount. Whereas, to all His true disciples, to all who would walk as he did in the path of Christian holiness, he gives the same instructions now that he delivered then: I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. v. 20.

66

" For

We might expatiate on the happiness which results from Christian holiness, did we not fear to extend these remarks to too great a length. We trust, however, enough has been said to lead those who are seriously in earnest about their eternal interests, to compare what we have advanced with the statements of scripture. We therefore add the parting request, accompanied with a sincere prayer, that you will carefully study the word of God; and may the Holy Spirit influence your minds and touch your hearts, and impress upon you the fearful yet interesting truth, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” and again,

66 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

“ Grace, triumphant on the throne,

Scorns a rival, reigns alone;
Come and bow beneath her sway,
Cast your idol works away.

Works of man, when made his plea,
Never shall accepted be;
Works of pride, vain-glorious worm,
Are the best he can perform."

THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY,

27, RED LION SQUARE.

3

J. & W.Rider, Printers, Bartholomew Close, London.

WHY AM I NOT HAPPY?

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »