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2. A second objection, nearly related to this, is, That Love is all in all; that it is “ the fulfilling of the law," " the end of the commandment,” of every commandment of God; that all we do, and all we suffer, if we have not charity or love, profiteth us nothing; and therefore the Apostle directs us, to “ follow after charity,” and terms this “ the more excellent way.”
I answer, it is granted, that the love of God and man, arising from faith unfeigned, is all in all, the fulfilling of the law, the end of every commandment of God. It is true, that without this, whatever we do, whatever we suffer, profits us nothing. But it does not follow, that love is all in such a sense as to supersede either faith or good works. It is “the fulfilling of the law," not by releasing us from, but by constraining us to obey it. It is “the end of the commandment,” as every commandment leads to and centres in it. It is allowed, that whatever we do or suffer, without love, profits' us nothing : But withal, whatever we do or suffer in love, though it were only the suffering reproach for Christ, or the giving a cup of cold water in his name, it shall in no wise lose its reward. .
3. “But does not the Apostle direct us to “ follow after charity?" And does he not term it," a more excellent way?". -He does direct us to “ follow after charity;” but not after that alone. His words are, “ Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts.” (1 Cor. xiv. 1.) Yea, “ follow after charity;" and desire to spend and be spent for your brethren. “ Follow after charity;” and, as you have opportunity, do good to all men.
In the same 'verse wherein he terms this, the way of love, “a more excellent way,” he directs the Corinthians to desire other gifts besides it; yea, to desire them earnestly. “ Covet earnestly,” saith he, “the best gifts; and yet I shew unto you a more excellent way.” (1 Cor. xii. 31.) More excellent than what? Than the Gifts of healing, of speaking with tongues, and of interpreting, mentioned in the preceding verse; but not more excellent than the way of Obedience. Of this the Apostle is not speaking ; neither is he speaking of outward religion at all: So that this text is quite wide of the present question.
But suppose the Apostle had been speaking of outward, as well as inward religion, and comparing them together; suppose in the comparison he had given the preference ever so much to
the latter ; suppose he had preferred (as he justly might) a loving heart, before all outward works whatever; yet it would not follow that we were to reject cither one or the other. No; God hathi joined them togethier from the beginning of the world; and let not man put them asunder.
4. “But“ God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth." And is not this enough? Nay, ought we not to employ the whole streugth of our mind herein? Does not attending to outward things clog the soul, that it cannot soar aloft in holy contemplation? Does it not damp the vigour of our thought? Has it not a natural tendency to encumber and distract the mind? Whereas St. Paul wouid hare us to be “ without carefulness," and to "wait upon the Lord without distraction."
I answer, God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Yea, and this is enough : wc ought to employ the whole strength of our mind therein. But then I would ask, What is it to worship God, a Spirit, in spirit and in truth? Why, it is to worship him with our spirit; to worship him in that manner which none but spirits are capable of. It is to believe in hin, as a wise, just, holy Being, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; and yet merciful, gracious, and longsuffering; forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin; casting all our sins behind his back, and accepting us in the Beloved. It is, to love him, to delight in him, to desire him, with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength; to imitate him we love, by purifying ourselves even as He is pure; and to obey him whom we love, and in whom we believe, both in thought, and word, and work. Conscquently, onc branch of thc worshipping God in spirit and in truth, is the keeping his outward commandments. To glorify him therefore with our bodies, as well as with our spirits ; to go throngh outward work with hearts lifted up to him; to make our daily employment a sacrifice to God; to buy and sell, to cat and drink, to his glory;--this is worshipping God in spirit and in truth, as much as the praying to him in a wilderness.
5. But if so, then contemplation is only one way of wore shipping God in spirit and in truth. Therefore, to give ourselves up entirely to this, would be to destroy many branches of spiritual worship, all cqually acceptable to God, and equally profitable, not hurtful, to the soul. For it is a great mistake to suppose that an attention to those outward things, whereto
the Providence of God hath called us, is any clog to a Chris. tian, or any hinderance at all to his always seeing Him that is invisible. It does not at all damp the ardour of his thought; it does not encumber or distract his mind; it gives him no uncasy or hurtful care, who does it all as unto the Lord; who hath learned, whatsoever he doeth in word or deed, to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus; having only one eye of the soul, which moves round on outward things, and one immoveably fixed on God. Learn what this meaneth, ye poor recluses, that you may clearly discern your own littleness of faith : Yea, that you may no longer judge others by yourselves, go and learn what that meaneth :
« Thou, O Lord, in tender love
Dost all my burdens bear;
And fix it ever there.
Till all thy will be done."
6. But the grand objection is still behind. “We appeal," say they, “ to experience. Our light did shine; we used outward things many years; and yet they profited nothing. We attended on all the ordinances; but we were no better for it; nor iudeed any one else : nay, we were the worse; for we fancied ourselves Christians for so doing, when we knew not what Christianity meant." .
I allow the fact: I allow that you, and ten thousand more, have thus abused the ordinances of God; mistaking the means for the end ; supposing that the doing these, or some other outward works, either was the religion of Jesus Christ, or would be accepted in the place of it. But let the abuse be taken a way, and the use remain. Now use all outward things, but use them with a constant eye to the renewal of your soul in righteousness and true holiness.
7. But this is not all: They affirm, “ Experience likewise shows, that the trying to do good is but lost labour. What does it avail to feed or clothe men's bodies, if they are just dropping into everlasting fire ? And what good can any man do to their souls? If these are changed, God doeth it himself. Besides, all men are either good, at least desirous so to be, or obstinately evil. Now the former have no need of us; let them ask help of God, and it shall be given them; and the latter will Voi. I. No.7.
receive no lielp of us. Nay, and our Lord forbids to 'cast our pearls before sirine.'”
I answer, 1. Whether they will finally be lost or saved, you are expressly commanded to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. If you can, and do not, whatever becomes of thein, you shall go away into everlasting fire. 2. Though it is God only changes hearts, yei he generally docth it by man. It is our part to do all that in us lies, as diligently as if we could change them ourselves and then to leare the event to him. 3. God, in answer to tlicir prayers, builds up his children, by cach other, in every good gift ; nourishing and strengthening the whole “ body, by that which every joint supplieth.” So that “the eye cannot say to the band, I have no need of thee;” no, nor cren " the head to the fect, I have to need of you.” Lastly, How are you assured, that the persons before you are dogs or sirine? Judge them pot, until you have tried. “How knowest thou, o man, but thou mayest gain thy brother,”— but thou mayest, under God, sare his soul from death? When he spurns tlıy love, and blasphemes the good word, then it is time to give him up to God.
8. “ We have tried; we have labonred to reform sinners; and what did it avail? On many we could make no impression at all : and if some were changed for a while, yet their goodness was but as the morning dew, and they were soon as bad, nay, worse than ever: so that we only hurt them, and ourselves tuo ; for our minds were hurried and discomposed, perhaps filled with anger instead of love: Therefore we had better liave kept our religion to ourselves.”
It is very possible this fact also may be true; that you have tried to do good and have not succeeded ; yea, that those who seemed reformed, relapsed into sin, and their last state was worse than tlie first. And what marvel? Is the servant above his laster? But how often did He strive to save sinners, and ihey would not hear; or, when they had followed hinn awhile, they turned back as a dog to liis vomit! But he did not therefore desist from striving to do good: no more should you, whatever your success be. It is your part, to do as you are commanded : the event is in the hand of God. You are not accountable for this : leave it to Him, who orders all things well. “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy band : for thou knowest not whether shall prosper.” (Eccles. xi. 6.)
But the tria} hurries an frets your own soul. Perhaps it -or perhansor the event, which ccause you thou
did so for this very reason, because you thought you was accountable for the event, which no man is, nor indeed can be ; -or perhaps, because you was off your guard; you was not watchful over your own spirit. But this is no reason for disobeying God. Try again; but try more warily than before. Do good (as you forgive) “not seven times only; but until seventy times seven.” Only be wiser by experience: attempt it every time more cautiously than before. Be more humbled before God, more deeply convinced that of yourself you can do nothing. Be more jealous over your own spirit; more gentle, and watchful unto prayer. Thus “cast your bread upon the waters, and you shall find it again after many days.”
IV. 1. Notwithstanding all these plausible pretences for hiding it, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” This is the practical Application which our Lord himself makes of the foregoing Considerations.
“Let your light so shine:"--Your lowliness of heart; your, gentleness, and meckness of wisdom; your serious, weighty concern for the things of eternity, and sorrow for the sins and miseries of men; your earnest desire of universal holiness, and full happiness in God; your tender good will to all mankind, and fervent love to your supreme Benefactor. Endeavour not to conceal this light, wherewith God hath enlightened your soul; but let it shine before men, before all with whom you are, in the whole tenor of your conversation. Let it shine still more eminently in your actions, in your doing all possible good to all men; and in your suffering for righteousness' sake, while you“ rejoice and are exceeding glad, knowing that great is your reward in heaven.”
2. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works :"-So far let a Christian bc from ever designing, or desiring to conceal his religion ! On the contrary, let it be your desire, not to conceal it; not to put the light under a bushel. Let it be your care to place it “on a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house." Only take heed, not to seek your own praise herein, not to desire any honour to yourselves. But let it be your sole aim, that all who see your good works, may “glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
3. Be this your one ultimate end in all things. With this view, be plain, open, undisguised. Let your love be without dissimulation : why should you hide fair, disinterested love?