Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

3. Holiness is the condition on which our future blessedness depends. Electing mercy doth not produce our glorification immediately, but begins in our vocation and justification, which are the intermediate links in the chain of salvation; as natural causes work on a distant object, by passing through the medium. God first gives grace, then glory. The everlasting covenant that is sealed by the blood of Christ, establishes the connexion between them; “ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” Mat. v. 8. The exclusion of all others is peremptory and universal; Without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” Heb. xii. 14. The righteousness of the kingdom is the only way of entering into it. A few good actions scattered in our lives are not available, but a course of obedience brings to happiness. Those who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality,” shall inherit "eternal life,” Rom. ii. 7. This is not a mere positive appointment, but grounded on the unchangeable respect of things. There is a rational convenience between holiness and happiness, according to the wisdom and goodness of God; and it is expressed in scripture by the natural relation of the seed to the harvest, both as to the quality and measure;

“ Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” Gal. vi. 7. We must be like God in purity, before we can be in felicity. Indeed, it would be a disparagement to God's holiness, and pollute heaven itself, to receive unsanctified persons, as impure as those in hell. It is equally impossible for the creature to be happy without the favour of the holy God, and for God to communicate his favour to the sinful creature. Briefly, according to the law of faith, no wicked person hath any right to the satisfaction Christ made, nor to the inheritance he purchased for believers.

III. Man in his corrupt state is deprived of spiritual life, so that till revived by special grace, he can neither obey nor enjoy God. Now the Redeemer is made a quickening principle to inspire us with new life.

In order to our sanctification he hath done four thingshe hath given us the most perfect laws as the rule of holiness -he exhibited the most complete pattern of holiness in his life upon the earth—he purchased and conveys the Spirit of holiness, to renew, and to enable us for the performance of our duties—he hath presented the strongest inducements and motives to persuade us to be holy.

[ocr errors]

1. He hath given to men the most perfect laws as the rule of holiness. The principal parts of the holy life, are, ceas-. ing from evil and doing well, Isa. i. 16, 17. Now the com* mands of Christ refer to the purifying of us from sin, and the adorning of us with all the graces for the discharge of our universal duty.

They enjoin a real and absolute separation “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” 2 Cor. vii. 1. The outward and inward man must be cleansed, not only from pollutions of a deeper dye, but from all carnality and hypocrisy." The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us to deny ungodliness, and worldly lusts," all those irregular and impetuous desires which are raised by worldly objects, honours, riches, and pleasures, and reign in worldly men; pride, covetousness, and voluptuousness, Tit. ii. 11, 12. The gospel is most clear, full, and vehement, for the true and inward mortification of the whole body of corruption, of every particular darling sin. It commands us to pluck out the right eye, and to cut off the right hand, that is, to part with every grateful and gainful lust. It obliges us to “crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts,” Gal. v. 24. The laws of men regard external actions as prejudicial to societies; but of thoughts and resolutions that break not forth into act, there can be no human accusation and judgment; they are exempted from the jurisdiction of the magistrate. But the law of Christ reforms the powers of the soul, and all the most secret and inward motions that depend upon them. It forbids the first irregular impressions of the carnal appetite. We must hate sin in all its degrees, strangle it in the birth, destroy it in the conception. We are enjoined to fly the appearances and accesses of evil: whatever is of a suspicious nature and not fully consistent with the purity of the gospel, and whatever invites to sin and exposes us to the power of it, becomes vicious, and must be avoided. That glorious purity, that shall adorn the church when our Redeemer presents it “without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing,” every Christian must aspire to in this life. In short, the gospel commands us “to be holy as God is holy,” who is infinitely distant from the least conceivable pollution, 1 Pet. i. 15.

The precepts of Christ contain all solid, substantial goodness, thať is essentially necessary in order to our supreme happiness, and prepares us for the life of heaven. In his


sermon on the mount, he commends to us humility, meekness, and mercy, peaceableness and patience, and doing good for evil ; which are so many beams of God's image, the reflections of his goodness upon intelligent creatures. And that comprehensive precept of the apostle describes the duties of all Christians: “Whatsoever things are true,” Phil. iv. 8; truth is the principal character of our profession, and is to be expressed in our words and actions : “ whatsoever things are honest” or venerable; that is, answer the dignity of our high calling, and agree with the gravity and comeliness of the Christian profession : “ whatsoever things are just,” according to divine and human laws: “ whatsoever things are pure;" we must preserve the heart, the hand, the tongue, the eye, from impurity; whatsoever things are lovely and of good report;" some graces are amiable and attractive in the view of men, as easiness to pardon, a readiness to oblige, compassion to the afflicted, liberality to the nécessitous, sweetness of conversation without gall and bitterness; these are of universal esteem with mankind, and soften the most savage tempers: “if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” And St. Peter excites believers to join to their faith by which the gospel of Christ is embraced, intellectual and moral virtues, without which it is but a vain picture of Christianity: “ Add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly-kindness; and to brotherly-kindness, charity,” 2 Pet. i. 5. He enforces the command ; Give all diligence that these things abound in you, and “ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ.” Now these graces purify and perfect, refine and raise the human nature, and without a command their goodness is a strong obligation.

I will take a more distinct view of the precepts of Christ as they are set down in that excellent abridgment of them by the apostle: “ The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world,” 2 Tit. xi. 12.

Here is a distribution of our duties with respect to their several objects, ourselves, others, and God. The first are regulated by temperance, the second by justice, the third by godliness. And from the accomplishment of these is formed that holiness without which no man shall see God.

In respect to ourselves, we must live soberly. Temperance governs the sensual appetites and affections by sanctified reason. The gospel allows the sober and chaste use of pleasures, but absolutely and severely forbids all excess in those that are lawful, and commands abstinence from all that are unlawful, that stain and vilify the soul, and alienate it from converse with God, and to mortify its taste to spiritual delights. By sensual complacency man first lost his innocence and happiness, and till the flesh is subdued to the spirit, he can never recover them. “ The carnal mind is enmity against God,” Rom. viii. 7. Fleshly lusts war against the soul," 1 Peter ii. 11; therefore we are urged with the most affectionate earnestness, to abstain from them, by withdrawing their incentives, and crucifying our corrupt inclinations. In short, the law of Christ obliges us so to deal with the body, as an enemy that is disposed to revolt against the spirit, by watching over all our senses, lest they should betray us to temptations; so to preserve it, as a thing consecrated to God, from all impurity that will render it unworthy the honour of being the temple of the Holy Ghost.

We are commanded to live righteously, in our relation to others. Justice is the supreme virtue of human life, that renders to every one what is due. The gospel gives rules for men in every state and place, to do what reason requires. As no condition is excluded from its blessedness, so every one is obliged by its precepts. Subjects are commanded to obey all the lawful commands of authority, and not to resist, and that upon the strongest motives, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake,” Rom. xiii. 5. They must obey man for God's sake, but never disobey God for man's sake. And princes are obliged to be an encouragement to good works, and a terror to the evil,” Rom. xiii. 3; that those who are under them may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty," 1 Tim. ii. 2. It enjoins all the respective duties of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants; and that in all contracts and

defraud his brother:" accordingly, in the esteem of Christians, he is more religious who is more righteous than others. Briefly, Christian righteousness is not to be measured by the rigour of the laws, but by that rule of universal equity delivered by our Saviour; “Whatsoever ye

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

commerce none

would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them," Matt. vii. 12.

We are instructed by the law of Christ to live godly. This part of our duty respects our apprehensions, affections, and demeanour to God, which must be suitable to his glorious perfections. The gospel hath revealed them clearly to us, viz. the unity, simplicity, eternity, and purity of the divine nature, that it subsists in three persons, the Father, Son, and Spirit; and his wisdom, power, and goodness, in the work of our redemption. It requires that we pay the special honour that is due to God, in the esteem and veneration of our minds, in the subjection of our wills, in the assent of our affections to him as their proper object; that we have an entire faith in his word, a firm hope in his promises, a holy jealousy for his honour, a religious care in his service; and that we express our reverence, love, and dependance on him in our prayers and praises; that our worship of him be in such a manner as becomes God who receives it, and man that presents it. God is a pure spirit, and man is a reasonable creature; therefore he “must worship him in spirit and truth." And since man in his fallen state cannot approach the holy and just God without a Mediator, he is directed by the gospel to address himself to the throne of grace, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can reconcile our persons, and render our services acceptable with his Father.

Besides the immediate service of the Deity, godliness includes the propension and tendency of the soul to him in the whole conversation; and it contains three things ;-that our obedience proceeds from love to God as its vital principle. This must warm and animate the external action. This alone makes obedience as delightful to us as pleasing to God. He shows mercy to those who love him, and keep his commandments, Exod. xx. 6. "Faith worketh by love," and inclines the soul to obey with the same affection that God enjoins the precept.—That all our conversation be regulated by his will as the rule. He is our Father and Sovereign, and the respect to his law gives to every action the formality of obedience. We must choose our duty, because he commands it. “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus;" that is, for his command and by his assistance, Col. iii. 17.—That the glory of God be the supreme end of all our actions. This qualification must adhere, not only to necessary duties, but to our natural and civil actions.

« PreviousContinue »