Page images


"Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." He uses pipes to convey blessings to us, but "all our springs are in him." The heathens made gods of everything that afforded them pleasure, and we are too prone to do the same. Instruments sometimes intercept the praise that is going to be offered to God: and when this is the case, he often lays them aside, or renders them useless; for the divine jealousy will not endure a rival.

And here is the difference between a carnal and a spiritual mind. The man who possesses the former, lives without God in the world. Though the divine perfections surround him, and a thousand voices continually address him, he walks on, all carelessness and insensibility. Whereas the Christian is disposed to acknowledge God in all his ways. The stream leads him to the fountain. The gift reminds him of the giver. The instrument of the agent. He holds communion with God in common things, and is thankful for common mercies. He sees and adores him in the springing of the earth, and in the rain and fruitful showers, in the refreshments of sleep, and in the pleasures of friendship. He grieves with Bishop Leighton that "a world so full of his mercy should be so empty of his praise." He cries with David, "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul." Which of these characters do we resemble?



I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.—Gal, ii. 20.

IT has been said by an old divine, that "if religion be anything, it is everything; if it be important at all, it is all important." And, indeed, if it be impartially considered, with regard to prosperity or adversity, life or death, time or eternity, it will appear to be in the eye of reason, as well as in the testimony of scripture, the one thing needful. Hence it becomes necessary to know wherein it consists-to examine its qualities and its effects. A fuller representation of genuine religion was perhaps never given than we have in the words before us, for you will observe that the inspired writer does not here speak of himself as an apostle, but as a Christian, and therefore that what he describes as his own experience, will apply to all the subjects of divine grace. It leads us to consider the true characters-the grand principle-and the allowed confidence of real religion.

First. Let us attentively observe the several characters here given us of true godliness, and see whether we have anything like them in ourselves. Now, says Paul, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."



It has then a character of mystery, of wonder, or shall I say paradox. How strange is it to see a bush burning with fire and unconsumed! How marvellous is it to find that the poor only are rich, the sick only are well, and that a broken heart is the greatest blessing we can enjoy! How surprising is it to hear persons saying, we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing: having nothing, and yet possessing all things; as dying, and behold we live"-to hear a man say, I am crucified, though he has the use of all his limbs !—crucified with Christ, though Christ had been crucified on Calvary long before-and to add, nevertheless I live-then with the same breath to check himself, and deny this; yet not I—and to crown the whole, Christ liveth in me, though he was then in heaven! What unintelligible jargon is all this to the carnal mind! "For the natural man understandeth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." A Christian is a wonder unto many. How absurd and ridiculous did all this once appear to us; but it is our mercy that the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth-that we begin to perceive beauty, and harmony, and worth, where once nothing struck us but confusion, and discord, and insignificance -that we can say with the man in the gospel, one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now . I see.

True godliness has a character of mortification: I am crucified with Christ. The grace of God must pull up, as well as sow; and destroy, as well as build. It has much to kill in us-our vainconfidence, our self-righteous hopes, our pride, our depraved affections. It finds us alive to the

world and to sin, and it leaves us dead to both. To die to anything, in the language of Scripture, is to have no more connexion with it, no more attachment to it: "How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?"-if we were alive to it, we might be enticed-but what are allurements presented to a dead corpse? "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin: for he that is dead is freed from sin." It has no more dominion over him; he loves it no longer.

But to crucify is not only to destroy-it signifies a peculiar kind of death-a violent, unnatural death: and sin never dies of its own accord, or from weakness, or from age; it must be put to death by force. Crucifixion is also a painful death: think of a body fastened to a tree, suspended in torture, nails driven through the hands and feet, parts so susceptible of pain, by reason of the concurrence of nerves and sinews: who was ever crucified without anguish? Whoever was a Christian without difficulty, self-denial, sacrifices, and groans and tears? Though crucifixion was a sure death, it was a slow and lingering one. And our corruptions, though doomed to be destroyed, are not despatched at once. We shall have to mortify the deeds of the body as long as we are here; but sin is nailed to the cross, and shall never gain an ascendancy over us again: its death is inevitable.

It has a character of life-nevertheless I live. And life brings evidence along with it. "I compare," says the believer, "my present with my former dispositions.-I was once dead to a certain class of objects, for they could no more af



fect me, than natural things can impress a dead body; but now, for the very same reason, I know that I am alive, because they do impress me; they do interest me; they do excite in me hopes and fears. I am susceptible of spiritual joys and sorrows. I live, for I breathe prayer and praise: I live, for I feel the pulse of sacred passions: I live, for I have appetites, and do hunger and thirst after righteousness: I live, for I walk and I work; and, though all my efforts betray weakness, they A real Christian is not a picprove life: I live." ture. A picture may accurately resemble the original, but it wants life: it has eyes, but it sees not-lips, but it speaks not. A Christian is not a figure. You may take materials, and make up the figure of a man, and give it the various parts of the human body, and even make them moveby wires-but a Christian is not moved in religion by machinery, but life. Nothing is forced and artificial.

Why is religion so burdensome to many? The reason is, they have nothing in them to render these things, like the functions of life, natural and easy: hence they drudge and toil on, often exclaiming, What a weariness is it to serve the Lord! and drop one thing after another, till they give up the whole. But where there is spiritual life, there is an inward propensity to holiness, there is a savouring the things which be of God: there is nothing of that ignoble and slavish devotion which springs from custom, or is impelled by external motives only-they find his service to be perfect freedom; his yoke easy, and his burden light: such a burden as a pair of wings to a bird: they would be awkward and troublesome, and useless, if tied on; but as living parts of his body, they are

« PreviousContinue »