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countenance them. As well may you lay to the door of learning the ignorance of the ill-instructed, or blame the sun because it shows the motes that are dancing in its rays. Our holy religion condemns these faults, declares their proper character as hateful in the sight of God, and whilst it speaks of pardon to the penitent sinner, it hides not the guilt of his offences, or extenuates their aggravated character. It is no part of the object of the word of God to spare the pride of human nature, or to hide any of its delinquencies. The Holy Spirit shrinks from thus, as it were, making himself a participator in human transgression, by covering up or excusing the sins of even the best of men. No: let them be known, let them be eternally recorded, but let not the holiness of God be dishonoured. Rather, as says our author, “a Noah, an Abraham, a Lot, a David, a Solomon, a Peter, shall be dishonoured by God in holy record to all ages, that God may not be more dishonoured by them.” God has no need of concealments and palliations in order to recommend his service amongst mankind. His law stands directly opposed to all sin ; nay, the very essence of sin is in the transgression of his law; and, therefore, he at once disowns and protests against the wicked actions even of his most faithful servants and children, lest any should imagine that he was not of “purer eyes than to behold iniquity." Nor is it for them to murmur because his holy nature so condemns their sins. If you have the sincerity of the apostle, who having sinned" went out and wept bitterly," you will be content with him to confess your transgression, and make what reparation you can for the wrong you have inflicted upon the cause of God. It is a bad sign for us when we are more susceptible of the honour which cometh from man, than the honour which cometh
from God, and had rather that an imputation should be fastened upon religion than upon ourselves. Let there be a marked line of distinction ; let it ever be declared, that the faults, the failings, the weaknesses, the evil tempers of Christians, have no connexion with the holy religion which they profess. That they are not freer from these corruptions is truly lamentable, when we consider the heart-stirring motives by which they are influenced. But whenever these flaws in the character of Christians can be discerned, let them be only charged (where the fault lies) upon poor human nature, which is so slow in choosing the things of God, and so irresolute in pursuing them even after it has experienced their excellency. The practical rule is very simple, that, following the example given in Scripture, we attempt not to defend the failings of Christians, and still less our own; and that, instead of being solicitous to diminish their flagrancy, we be ready to confess it, and declare how opposed they are to God, his truth, and his laws. We must, in fact, love the honour of God and religion, better than our own honour, or that of those who are dearest to us. Let Baxter be judged on this principle; it is that upon which he has acted in the composition of this treatise.
So much with reference to the nature of this work : may its re-publication be useful. Not a few of the lessons it teaches are peculiarly applicable to the present day. Christians are still exposed to the same temptations, and subject to the same weaknesses; and there is a remarkable similarity between the besetting sins of this our age, and that of Baxter. It is lamentable that one generation should not be wiser from the failures of that which went before. But such is the fact; in every page of the history of human nature, we find that experience is discarded ; and that the poor creature which is blind to the future, is scarcely less blind from its inconsideration to that which has gone by. Otherwise, the saying of the wise man, or rather of the Spirit of God, would not be fulfilled,
" that which hath been is now, and that which is to be hath already been.”
But with respect to the service of God it ought not to be so.
The failures of to-day ought not to be the failures of to-morrow ; our weakness and irresolution ought not to be perpetual. Our zeal for God's glory should be increasing, burning with a steadier light; our love to him more constraining ; our charity more diffusive; our faith more powerful and pervading in its influence. We should remember, that since our privileges as Christians are great and honourable, since we regard ourselves as the children of God, and as in that relationship “ crowned with glory and honour," sin in us has more of a disgraceful and aggravated character. In proportion as we are brought near the holy presence of God should sin be put away from us; and whilst we rejoice in hope of seeing the glory of God, and of being promoted to a higher order of being, we are bound to live in accordance with our future expectations.
It seems a mysterious circumstance respecting Baxter, and many of his contemporaries, men who, both within and without the pale of the Church of England, formed, so to speak, the Augustan age of English divinity ; that, distinguished as they were by talents and piety, they should in their day and generation have spent their strength almost in vain, and laboured to little purpose. But though their labours seem to have been blighted for a season, whilst the withering blast of infidelity passed over them, and intolerance and party spirit swept away the kindly influences of christian charity; yet now,
at length, has the Lord of the harvest prospered the work of their hands, and made the seed, which was so slow in vegetating, productive of abundant increase. Many are the instances in which the works of these holy men have been blessed to the conversion of sinners ; and many are the Christians whom they have been the means of instructing and building up in their most holy faith. So may it be with the work which is now re-issued from the press; may the Divine blessing prosper it, to the edification of many. Thus will the object of him who ventures to commend it to the reconsideration of the public, and introduce it to a new generation, be fully accomplished.
March 3, 1835.