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upon his mind. But in proportion as our principles induce us habitually to "exercise ourselves unto godliness,” the certainty of the change becomes evident ; our faith is proved to be living, and to work by love ; and the Spirit of adoption witnesses with our spirits, that we are the children of God; yet this generally connects with deep humiliation, in respect of the small degree in which we are sanctified.
Finally, our rule is perfect, and grace teaches us to aim at perfection : but we are still in a state of warfare and imperfection, in which “ repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” will continue to be necessary. Blessed, then, are they, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they, and they only, shall be eternally satisfied.
On the Dispositions and Character peculiar to the True Believer,
(In Continuation of the preceding Essay.)
In stating with brevity, yet with precision, the peculiarities of the Christian temper and character, as they are produced by the seed of Divine truth, and received into the heart by living faith, we shall sometimes be led to deduce coincident parts of them from different principles : and, therefore, some things which were touched upon in the former part of this Essay, may be here again resumed in another connection. This will especially be perceived in relation to that subject, with which I shall introduce what belongs to the temper of a Christian towards his brethren and neighbours, viz.
Indifference to the world, and the things of the world, (1 John ii. 15– 17.) Patience, contentment, gratitude, and cheerfulness, have been shown to be the genuine effect of that confidence in God, and submission to his will, which arise from a real belief of the doctrines contained in the Holy Scriptures; but they receive a collateral support also, from those views that the Christian has of the vanity of all earthly things, and the importance of eternity; whilst these, again, are essential to a proper frame of mind and tenor of conduct towards our neighbours. For what is most productive of immorality and mischief among mankind ? Does not an inordinate eagerness in the pursuit of worldly objects occasion a vast proportion of the crimes and miseries that fill the earth? This has not only led men idolatrously to forsake, and wilfully to rebel against God, but it has also prompted them to become the oppressors and murderers of each other, in every age and nation, and thus to fill the earth with “ lamentation, and mourning, and woe.!" Nor can it reasonably be expected, that any effectual remedy can be applied to these evils, unless men can be generally convinced that the objects of their fierce contentions are mere vanity and vexation of spirit, and that nobler blessings are attainable. This has been so obvious to men of any reflection, that many sects of philosophers and the inventors of various superstitions, have manifestly proposed the same end in this respect as Christianity does ; but their means have been so injudicious and inadequate, that they have only taught men to sacrifice one lust to another, and to deny sensuality or avarice, that they might more advantageously gratify the lust of dominion, or the thirst for the applause of men. But when the apostle “determined to glory in the cross of Christ alone,” he found,“ that the world was by it crucified to him," and that “ he was crucified to the world,” (Gal. vi. 14.) The world, and every thing in it, even “ the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," and whatever was suited to gratify the appetites, the senses, the avarice, the ambition, or vain-glory of man, seemed to him no
more attractive than the distorted, defiled countenance of a crucified malefactor; and he was also entirely willing to be looked upon by all worldly men with that contempt, pity, or aversion, which such an object is suited to inspire. Indeed, the doctrines that relate to the incarnation of Christ; the hirth of Emmanuel in a stable; his obscure education and life of labour till he entered on his public ministry ; his subsequent poverty, hardship, reproach, and suffering, till he expired a sinless sacrifice on the cross; together with the circumstances of his followers, and the treatment they met with, are directly suited to mortify every corrupt affection of the human heart, and to create an indifference about all those objects which unbelievers idolize. The doctrine of the cross, when spiritually understood, gives us such a view of the deplorable condition into which sin hath plunged our species, and of the hopeless misery to which the most prosperous ungodly man is every moment exposed, as must tend to lower all earthly distinctions in the believer's estimation, and to break the fatal association in his mind between the idea of happiness and that of worldly prosperity; for he cannot but see, that a confluence of all earthly comforts avails not to preserve the possessor from death and hell, nor keep out the dread of them. That near view, also, which faith presents to the mind, of the reality and speedy approach of an eternal and unchangeable state, cannot but damp his ardour, and abate his assiduity in pursuing those things, which must so soon be left for ever; whilst the substantial possessions, the incorruptible honours, and the unalloyed pleasures which are proposed to his hope, tend to draw off his affections from the things earth, and to fix them on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God,” (2 Cor. iv. 18 ; Col. iii. 1—4). For as the earth appears to us who live on its surface, to be made very unequal by the mountains that are upon it, yet could we rise above it, and view these at a distance, such inequalities would appear inconsiderable, compared with the magnitude of the globe; and, as we looked down upon it from a still greater distance, they would entirely vanish from our sight : so, to the carnal mind, the difference between rich and poor, prince and beggar, &c., seems immense ; but, in proportion as our judgment and affections become spiritual, the disparity diminishes, till the distinction seems entirely to disappear. As all are sinners and mortals, all must stand before the impartial tribunal of God; all are under condemnation according to the law; all are invited to accept of the salvation of the - gospel; and all must be eternally happy or miserable, as they are found in
the company of believers or of unbelievers. So that indifference to the world and its honours, friendship, wealth, decorations, pomp, splendour, and indulgences, whether of the senses, the appetites, or the passions of the mind, is the genuine result of evangelical principles; and it is uniformly proportioned to the degree in which we are really influenced by them; so that every tendency to covetousness, ambition, vain-glory, dissatisfaction with mean or precarious provision, or the desire of things more ornamental, elegant, fashionable, or indulgent, than those which Providence hath allotted to us, is a proof that we are not fully cast into the mould of the truths which we profess. A Christian is a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth; he wants accommodation during his abode in this foreign land, and his journey to his heavenly home; he cannot but prefer things pleasant to those that are painful; yet this is not his object, nor can he consistently loiter, turn aside, or disquiet himself about such matters ; much less can he seek great things by disobeying his Lord, clouding his prospects, disgracing his character, or interrupting his comforts. His principles will indeed show him, that there is a place assigned to him, and that perhaps he cannot fill this place with propriety, without many externals which are of little value, and which many of his brethren have not; but he cannot consistently glory or rejoice in them, or prefer himself to others on that account ; nay, he will rather deem them snares and incumbrances, which may retard his course, and induce him to conformity to the world. His duty may also call him to fill up a superior situation in society, and to possess authority or wealth, as the steward of God for the good
of others, or he may be engaged in any lawful business : but his principles will prevent him from loving the world, and teach him moderation, both in the pursuit of apparent advantages, and in the use of his possessions; they will dispose him to abstain from many things which others in similar situations seize upon, or indulge in ; to shun what others deem desirable ; and to consider the concessions which he makes to the customs of society, rather as a cross than as a satisfaction. The principles of revelation, indeed, are far from confounding the different ranks and orders in the community: nor do they countenance self-invented austerities, or a morose rejection of the rational comforts and satisfactions of life: for “ the Lord hath given us all things richly to enjoy:" but they teach us to be satisfied with such things as we have, if we have merely “ food and raiment," though the meanest and most scanty ; to refrain from every thing inexpedient, as well as from whatever is unlawful; and not to put any interest or indulgence in competition, even with the peace and comfort of our weakest brother; they instruct us not to consider any earthly distinction as our riches, adorning, honour, or pleasure; to use all things as strangers that are about to leave them; to do all as the Lord's servants, and to improve all our advantages as his stewards : and “ whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, to do all to the glory of God.” Whenever these ends require it, we are called upon to deny ourselves, to forsake all, to act as if we hated our dearest relatives, to part with every earthly possession, to take up our eross, and even lay down our lives for the sake of him who died for us and rose again ; who hath expressly declared, that without this disposition, purpose, and conduct, we cannot be his disciples; and hath given motives and assurances sufficient to encourage us to make all these sacrifices with cheurfulness, (Matt. xvi. 24-26; xix. 29; Luke xiv. 25—33; I Cor. viii. 12, 13; x. 31 ; Heb. xiii. 5, 6). He hath moreover taught us '" to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;" hath assured us, “ that all things needful shall be added to uş;" and hath given us a warrant to trust him in the path of duty, both in respect of ourselves, and of all that belong to us.
Moreover, our principles teach us to consider this world as a barren land and a scene of trouble, and to expect no rest in it; to take matters as we find them (except as the duty of our station may be concerned); and not to be anxious about our condition, though we be poor, or even slaves, because “ the fashion of this world passeth away,” (1 Cor. vii. 21-23; 29—31). All discontent, therefore, in obscure and indigent circumstances, as well as insolence in prosperity ; all envy of the rich or renowned ; all coveting or hankering after somewhat greater; easier, or more abundant ; all eagerness in pursuing and seeking after worldly advantages; all sanguine expectation of those changes by which carnal men fancy, that the blanks of this world's lottery may become prizes ; all inclination to spend more than we can afford in things not absolutely necessary, or to appear above our rank in our raiment, habitations, furniture or tables, and to incur debts by thus emulating our superiors; all that shame which we are apt to feel at the discovery even of honest, frugal poverty; all our reluctance to leave our children to earn their bread by menial labour, if the Lord be pleased so to appoint it; and a great many other things which we witness around us, and may be conscious of in ourselves, are manifest deviations from the spirit of Christianity, inconsistent with the principles of the gospel, and productive of many evil consequences. It does not indeed follow, that such persons as manifest a degree of these carnal propensities are insincere in their profession, but it proves, that they have but partially understood the tendency, and experienced the efficacy of the truth. And if any who contend for evangelical doctrines, are wholly strangers to this “ crucifixion to the world,” and treat such subjects as low and legal, without doubt their faith is dead, and their hope presumptuous: for all true Christians lament and mourn, that they are no more mortified to the world, and indifferent about its perishing trifles.
II. Benevolence, or philanthropy, is an eminent branch of the Christian temper. The law of “ loving our neighbour as ourselves," is written in the heart of every regenerate person, and it is constantly referred to in the New Testament, as the believer's rule of conduct towards all men; our Lord has beautifully illustrated its extensive meaning in the parable, or narrative, of the Good Samaritan; and he exemplified it in his beneficent life, and by dying for us when we were strangers and enemies. Every man, of whatever nation, complexion, or religion he may be, is our neighbour, whom we are to love as ourselves, and to whom we are to act as we would he should act towards us; and this is the substance of the second table of the law, (Essay IV.) The principles of the gospel also, respecting the worth of immortal souls; the ruined state of the whole human species; the sovereignty and freeness of Divine grace ; the infinite sufficiency of the redemption of Christ : the love of the Father in sending his Son to be the Saviour of the world ; the love of the Son in dying for us; the love of the Spirit in quickening us when dead in sin; the possibility of the greatest persecutor being made partaker of the same grace; as well as the precepts of our Lord (who enforced the spiritual duties of the law on his disciples by evangelical motives), must influence every one who experiences their transforming energy, to love his neighbour unfeignedly, and to aspire after a more perfect conformity to the holy commandment, and the attractive example of his gracious Saviour. These principles tend to enlarge the heart in good-will to men; to soften it into compassion; to subdue envy, enmity, and resentment; and to kindle an ardent desire after the present and future happiness of the human species, however distinguished and separated, or whatever their character and conduct towards us may be. This general disposition to love our neighbours as ourselves, and to regulate that love according to the rules of God's word, comprehends all the various affections which belong to the several relations of life ; for these, when rational and legitimate, are only modifications of benevolence, or emanations from it, in conformity to the providential will of God, and in obedience to his commandments. In like manner, the special love to our brethren or fellow-Christians, results from the same general principle ; for believers are related to each other more nearly than to any other persons; they are children of the same Father, heirs of the same inheritance, yea, members of the same body, partakers of the same divine life, and temples of the same Spirit ; they are fellow-soldiers in the same army, fellow-travellers in the same journey, and denizens of the same heavenly city. They possess, also, an excellency peculiar to themselves, even the image of God, and the beauty of holiness; they are the brethren and representatives of Christ, to whom we are required to show all kindness for his sake, and as if he were personally present with us; and on all accounts they are entitled, not only to our good-will and compassion, but to our cordial approbation, esteem, and most endeared affection, (Gal. vi. 10). Evangelical principles must influence those who experience their energy, to delight in them, and to choose them as companions, (Psal. xvi. 3; cxix. 63); and this is the sure evidence that we " are passed from death unto life,” (1 John iii. 14). For when we value and take pleasure in the society of those who bear the image of Christ, profess his gospel, and walk in his ways; when we find our hearts united to them in love, and enlarged in desires of promoting their welfare, not because they belong to our party, but because they belong to Christ; when our cordial affection is increased in proportion as they appear to us to bear his holy image, (even though they differ from us in some sentiments or forms), it then appears, that the truth dwells in us with transforming power, and that we really love the Lord himself. By nature we were disposed to dislike, shun, or neglect such persons, and even to despise and hate them: or if on other accounts we loved any of them, this affection might indeed make us tolerate their religious peculiarities, but it could not induce us to take pleasure in their spiritual conversation and behaviour. This love of the brethren may easily be distinguished from an attachment to those of our own party, who please us by coincidence of judgment, and by flattering our good opinion of
ourselves, (which is only a specious modification of self-love): for when this is all, a man will prefer the least spiritual, even of his own sect, to those that are more 80; and will choose to associate with mere carnal men, who agree with him in sentiment on disputed points, rather than with the most eminent believers, who are of another opinion; and he will likewise always be more ready to engage in controversy, than to hold the truth in peace and love. From these two branches of the Christian temper, many others will result; and indeed they cannot be proved genuine, except by their connection with the rest.
III. A disposition to be " harmless and blameless” is the genuine effect of evangelical principles well understood and truly believed. The real Christian will perceive that the world is full of misery'; and that this misery in a great measure, springs from the crimes of men, not only as a punishment inficted by Divine justice, but also as a necessary effect of them. For men following the impulse of their appetites and passions, render themselves and others wretched, and seduce one another into such courses, as must end in future misery, except they be forsaken. His regard therefore to the happiness of others, and of himself, as well as his zeal for the glory of God, will influence him carefully to guard against every thing which tends to increase the sum total of human misery or vice; and his moderation respecting worldly things will place him out of the reach of many temptations to which others are exposed, or enable him to resist them. The true believer, therefore, will habitually aim to be just and honest in all his dealings; not grasping at gains which custom may have sanctioned, but which accord not with strict probity; not taking advantage of any man's ignorance or necessity, to circumvent or exact from him ; not evading taxes, and leaving his neighbour to beat a disproportionate part of them; not insisting on his utmost due, when it would distress those that owe it ; not keeping, by a continued fraud, that property which hath been unjustly obtained, when he hath it in his power to make restitution; not living extravagantly, or engaging in perilous schemes, and thus contracting needless debts, to the injury of his creditors and family; not taking his neighbour's work without wages, or oppressing the poor to increase his wealth or support his luxury; not concurring in any plan for getting money, by methods which enslave the persons, expose the lives, or endanger the souls of men; not using the too customary impositions of trade, which are everywhere condemned in Scripture, however pleaded for by men professing to believe it; and which substitute the rule of doing as others do to us, instead of doing as we would they should do to us. In short, the consistent believer will conscientiously render to God, to Cæsar, and to all the different members of the community, their dues ; rather choosing to give up his own right, than to infringe on that of another: and though he will not in every instance come up to that exactness that he proposes ; yet his attainments will habitually accord with his knowledge of the Divine word, and his experience of its transforming efficacy on his heart. The same principles will influence him to “put away lying, and to speak truth with his neighbour;" paying the strictest regard to veracity, sincerity, and fidelity in all his professions, conversation, narration of facts, and engagements. The Christian cannot consistently trifle with so sacred a matter as truth, for the sake of a jest, an humorous tale, or a compliment; much less to gratify anger, malice, or avarice, or in flattery, slander, or religious controversy. He will aim to avoid all prevarication and equivocal expressions, and whatever has a tendency to deceive ; his “ yea will be yea, and his nay, nay:" he will study undisguised sincerity, and not, under professions of friendship; raise expectations which he hath no intention or prospect of answering: he will deem himself bound to punctuality and fidelity to all his engagements, even when they prove injurious to him; and he will certainly fulfil them, if it be required and practicable, provided he was not deceived in the grounds on which he made them, and no command of God be violated by it, (Ps. xv. 4.) The same disposition of leading a blameless and harmless life, will influence