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“on the right cheek, to turn the other also;''-of that mercifulness, whereby we love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that bate us, and pray for them which despitefully use us and persecute us;”-and of that complication of love and all holy tempers, which is exercised in suffering for righteousness' sake. Now all these, it is clear, could have no being, were we to have no commerce with any but real Christians.
7. Indeed were we wholly to separate ourselves from sin ners, how could we possibly answer that character which our Lord gives us in these very words; “Ye” (Christians, ve that are lowly, serious, and meek; ye that hunger after righteousness, that love God and inan, that do good to all, and therefore suffer evil; ye) “are the salt of the earth : " It is your very nature to season whatever is round about you. It is the nature of the divine savour which is in you, to spread to whatsoever you touch; to diffuse itself, on every side, to all those among whom you are. This is the great reason why the Providence of God has so mningled you together with other men, that whatever grace you have received of God, may, through you, be communicated to others; that every holy temper, and word, and work of yours, may have an influence on them also. By this means, a check will, in some measure, be given to the corruption which is in the world; and a small part, at least, saved from the general infection, and rendered holy and pure before God.
8. That we may the more diligently labour to season all we can, with every holy and heavenly temper, our Lord proceeds to show the desperate state of those who do not impart the religion they have received; which indeed they cannot possibly fail to do, so long as it remains in their own hearts. “If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted ? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men : ” If ye who were holy and leavenlyminded, and consequently zealous of good works, bave no longer that savour in yourselves, and do therefore no longer season others; if you are grown flat, insipid, dead, both careless of your own soul, and useless to the souls of other men; wherewith shall ye be salted ? How shall ye be recovered ? What help? What hope? Can tasteless salt be restored to its savour? No ; “it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out," even as the mire in the streets, “and to be Crodden under foot of men,” to be overwhelmed with everlasting contempt. If ye had never known the Lord, there might have been hope,- if ye had never been “found in him :" but what can you now say to that, his solemn declaration, just parallel to what he hath here spoken,-"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he (the Father) taketh away. He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit.” “ If a man abide not in me, (or do not bring forth fruit,] he is cast out as a branch, and withered'; and men gather them (not to plant them again, but]«to cast them into the fire.” (Johu xv.2,5,6.) i. 9. Toward those who have never tasted of the good word, God is indeed pitiful and of tender mercy. But justice takes place with regard to those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, and have afterwards turned back“ from the holy commandment (then) delivered to them."" For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened ;” (Heb. vi. 4, &c. ;) in whose hearts God had once shined, to enlighten them with the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ ; “ who have tasted of the heavenly gift,” of redemption in his blood, the forgiveness of sins; “ and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,” of lowliness, of meekness, and of the love of God and man shed abroad in their hearts, by the Holy Ghost which was given unto them; and “have fallen away;”-xas Tagztegovtas,-(here is not a supposition, but a flat declaration of matter of fact,) “ to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." · But that none may misunderstand these awful words, it should be carefully observed, 1. Who they are, that are here spoken of; namely, they, and they only, who were once thus enlightened; they only, “ who did taste of” that “ heavenly gift, and were”, thus “made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” So that all who have not experienced these things, are wholly unconcerned in this scripture. 2. What that falling away is, which is here here spoken of: It is an absolute, total apostasy. A believer may fall, and not fall away. He may fall and rise. again. And if he should fall, even into sin, yet this case, dreadful as it is, is not desperate. For “ we have an Advocate with tie Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins.” But let him above all things beware, lest his “heart be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin;" lest he should sink lower and lower, till he wholly fall away,. till he become as salt that hath lost its sarour:
5 sin wilfully, after we hare reccived the experimenta 9.7. ledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacritura but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and pery. 52tion, which shall devour the adversaries."
II. I. But although we may not wholly separaie curse res froin mankind, although it be granted we ought wo seasca them with the religion which God has wrought in our beams, yet may not this be done inocusibly? Hay we not conresis into others in a sccrct, and almost imperceptible manner, so that scarce any one shall be able to observe hovy or when it is done?-even as salt conveys its own savour into that which is seasoned thereby, without any noise, and without being liable to any outward observation. And if so, although we do bot go out of the world, yet we may lie hid in it. We may thus far keep our religion to ourselves; and not offend those whom we cannot help.'
2. Of this plausible reasoning of flesh and blood, our Lord was well aware also. And he has given a full answer to it in those words which come now to be considered ; in explaining which, I shall endeavour to show, as I proposed to do in the Second place, That so long as true Religion abides in our hearts, it is impossible to conceal it, as well as absolutely contrary to the design of its great Author.
And, first, It is impossible for any that have it, to conceal the Religion of Jesus Christ. This our Lord makes plain beyond all contradiction, by a two-fold comparison: “Ye are the light of the world: A city set upon a hill cannot be hid.” Ye Christians are “the light of the world,” with regard both to your tempers and actions. Your holiness makes you as conspicuous, as the sun in the midst of heaven. As ye cannot go out of the world, so neither can ye stay in it without appearing to all mankind. Ye nay not flee from men; and while ye are among them, it is impossible to hide your lowliness and meckness, and those other dispositions whereby ye aspire to be perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Love cannot be hid any more than light; and least of all, when it shines forth in action, when ye cxercise yourselves in the labour of love, in beneficence of cvery kind. As well may men think to hide a city, as to hide a Christian ; yea, as well may they conceal a city set upon a hill, as a holy, zealous, active lover of God and man.
3. It is true, men who love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil, will take all possible pains to prove, that the light which is in you, is darkness. They will say evil, all manner of evil, falsely, of the good which is in you; they will lay to your charge that which is farthest from your thoughts, which is the very reverse of all you are, and all you do. And your patient continuing in well doing, your meek suffering all things for the Lord's sake, your calm, hamble joy in the midst of persecution, your unwearied labour to overcome evil with good, will make you still more visible and conspicuous than ye were before,
4. So impossible it is, to keep our religion from being seen, unless we cast it away ; so vain is thethought of hiding the light, unless by putting it out! Sure it is, that a secret, unobserved religion, cannot be the religion of Jesus Christ, Whatever religion can be condealed, is not Christianity. If a Christian could be hid, he could not be compared to a city set upon a bill; to the light of the world, the sun shining from heaven, and seen by all the world below. Never, therefore, let it enter into the heart of him whom God hath renewed in the spirit of his mind, to hide that light, to keep his religion to himself ; especially considering it is not only impossible to conceal true Christianity, but likewise absolutely contrary to the design of the great Author of it.
5. This plainly appears from the following words : “Neither do men light a candle to put it under a busbel.” As if he had said, As men do not light a candle, only to cover and conceal it, so neither doos God enlighten any soul with his glorious kutowledge and love, to have it covered or concealed, either by prudence, falsely so called, or shame, or voluntary humility, to have it hid either in a desert, or in the world; either by avoiding men, or in conversing with them. “But they put it on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house: ” In like manner, it is the design of God that every Christian should be in an open point of view; that he may give light to all around, that he may visibly express the religion of Jesus Christ.
6. Thus hath God in all ages spoken to the world, not only by precept, but by example also. He hath “ not left himself without witness," in any nation where the sound of the Gospel hath gone forth, without a few who have testified his truth, by their lives as well as their words. These have been, “as lights shining in a dark place,” And from time to time they have been the means of enlightening some, of preserving a remnant, a little seed which was “ counted unto the Lord for a generation.” They have led a few poor sheep out of the darkness of the world, and guided their fect into the way of peace.
7. One might imagine that, where both Scripture and the reason of things speak so clearly and expressly, there could not be much advanced on the other side, at least not with any appearance of truth. But they who imagine thus, know little of the depths of Satan. After all that Scripture and reason have said, so exceeding plausible are the pretences for solitary religion, for a Christian's going out of the world, or at least hiding himself in it, that we need all the wisdom of God to see through the snare, and all the power of God to escape it; so many and strong are the objections which have been brought, against being social, open, active Christians.
III. 1. To answer these, was the Third thing which I proposed. And, first, it has been often objected, That religion does not lie in outward things, but in the heart, the in most soul; that it is the union of the soul with God, the life of God in the soul of man; that outside religion is nothing worth; seeing God “ delighteth not in burnt-offerings,” in outward services, but a pure and holy heart is the “sacrifice he will not despise.”
I answer, it is most truc, that the root of religion lies in the heart, in the inmost soul; that this is the union of the soul with God, the life of God in the soul of man. But if this root be really in the heart, it cannot but put forth branches. And these are the several instances of outward obedience, which partake of the same nature with the root; and, consequently, are not only marks or signs, but substantial parts of religion.
It is also true, that barc outside religion, which has no root in the heart, is nothing worth; that God delightcth not in such outward services, no more than in Jewish burnt-offerings; and that a pure and holy heart is a sacrifice with which he is always well pleased. But he is also well pleased with all that outward service which arises from the heart; with the sacrifice of our prayers, (whether public or private,) of our praises and thanksgivings; with the sacrifice of our goods, humbly devoted to him, and employed wholly to his glory; and with that of our bodies, which he peculiarly claims, which the Apostlc beseeches us, “by the mercies of God, to present unto him, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.”