« PreviousContinue »
THEREFORE, LEAVING THE PRINCIPLES OF THE DOCTRINE OF .
CHRIST, LET US GO ON TO PERFECTION.
In the preceding discourse, it was intimated, that our Church, in her two Sacramental Offices, presented a view of our Christian profession, from its commencement, to its consummation ; from the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, to that perfection, both of holiness, and of enjoyment, which may be attained, by the matured followers of a crucified and glorified Redeemer. It was stated, that, by Baptism, we are instructed how to begin life well: and that, for the constant sustenance of that life, we may draw effectual supplies, by the reception of the Lord's Supper.
In the Baptismal Service, accordingly, we are called to die with Christ, to rise with Him, to
E S Gijon Service, we 2 T
C 15 dwell with Him, sede de Es
t urner, we behold, de real e elements the enCareness a c und Christianity: in ise 3. me Terpercre, the nourishment 3
15zici, the heart. The Bar Sertie s i scamp, and awakenir: ve O
n e Lim Sapper, is, at once, sublime paskede a rerressibly delightful to tie we prepared rectant. The one, authoritative! piss out the war in which we słoald go : the ober, sides supports and cheers us in that way. In a word the one impressively teaches the first principles of the doctrine of Christ; whilst the other, with a gentle but powerful attraction, draws us on to perfection.
The Communion Service, then, may be considered as a luminous commentary on the apostolic injunction of the text: therefore, with a strong but humble hope, that the light of our venerable Establishment may, in this, as in various other instances, be found to illustrate the divine truth of Scripture, I would address you, brethren, as Saint Paul addressed the Hebrew Christians,—“ Therefore, leaving the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection.”
By this exhortation, we are not to suppose, that the Apostle meant to set up an unattainable or ideal standard. Such a supposition were wholly inconsistent, both with the analogy of Scripture, and with his own teaching. The Christian maturity which the Gospel inculcates, and which Saint Paul here terms “perfection," is suitable to our nature, and limited by the inherent qualities, as well as by the inevitable weaknesses, of that nature. Our bodies are subject to disease ; our animal spirits are often affected by every change in the atmosphere we breathe; our understanding, judgment, and affections, are liable to be obscured by ignorance, perplexed by error, or warped by misconception. And, while thus weighed down, and impeded from within, we have without, a dark, malignant, indefatigable adversary, perpetually on the watch to suggest evil thoughts; and, if we have even paid ordinary attention to the susceptibilities of our nature, we must be conscious, that he has innumerable channels of communication. So long, then, as we remain in the body, it is impossible that we should be altogether free, from conscious infirmities, or unintentional faults ; it is inevitable, that doubts, and difficulties, and temptations, will present themselves ; perhaps, even in the more advanced stages of our Chris
tian course, there will arise involuntary impulses to evil: nevertheless, through faith, through prayer, through the constant vigilance of a divine principle within, implanted by the grace of God in Baptism, and keeping always alive in us the sense of the Divine presence, the agency of his holy fear and love,-these impulses may be prevented from ever amounting to actual rebellion : on the contrary, if only we are true and faithful to the indwelling grace of the Spirit of holiness, we may“ keep ourselves, so that that wicked one shall not touch us;" we may “ war a good warfare ;" we may“ hold fast faith, and a good conscience,” unwounded by the voluntary commission of any known sin; we may“ mortify, through the Spirit, the deeds of the flesh ;" we may “ watch unto prayer,” so that we shall be divinely enabled to resist the first incursions of evil,—to give, not only no way to sinful impulses, but no indulgence, no quarter, no resting-place in our affections, to sinful thoughts; but in purity of heart, with fervency of spirit, to live supremely to our God. In a word, we have the strongest scriptural assurances, that, if we “ pray without ceasing,” if we “ quench not the Spirit," if we “ hold fast that which is good,” if we “ abstain from all appearance of evil,” “ the
very God of peace,” will “ sanctify us wholly; and our whole spirit, and soul, and body, will be preserved blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” For, as the apostle beautifully adds, “ Faithful is He that calleth us, who also will do it."
This, my brethren, is the perfection spoken of in the text; and to this state of Christian maturity, we are graciously invited, in various parts of God's holy Word. The New Testament repeatedly describes it, in language the most lively and animating, yet, at the same time, the most guarded: uniformly keeping in view, the various powers, and capacities, of man; and never, for a moment, transgressing the bounds of sober sense, and cautious discrimination. But, in no part of the sacred writings, is this blessed condition more luminously pourtrayed, than in the following passage of Saint Paul: “ The end,” that is, the fulfilment, the completion, the perfect consummation, “ of the conmmandment, is love; out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.”
After a manner not unusual in Hebrew composition, the last and highest attainment of the Christian life, is, in this passage, placed first. The apostle's words comprize a definition of Christianity, in its source, in its progress, and its