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salt of the earth ; ye are the light of the world. Nor is any man a Christian who cannot be addressed in that language.
3. The same thing is clear if we look at the instances which are mentioned in the New Testament. In the case of Christ it is beyond the possibility of doubt. Nor is it unfair to adduce him as a case in which the principles of religion were developed. True, he had no unholy propensity, and needed no change. But his principles were put to the test—and to a test unequalled in the life of man. On one occasion such was the pressure of circumstances, such his intense anxiety, and such the magnitude of the great inquiry, that he said, Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour—this impending calamity—this terrific, sad, and painful death? Shall I abandon this work ; yield in the conflict; and pray to God to save me from approaching woes ? His own decision is well known. Father, glorify thy name. Let calamity come; let me suffer; let me die ; but honor thou thy name. Scarcely less clear was the case of the apostles. Who could doubt what were the principles of Paul ? And yet Paul at conversion might have pleaded what would be pleaded by thousands of professors as the reason why their religious principles are obscured. It was not that he had no prospect of honor and ease and affluence that he became so decided a Christian. The path to fame and wealth was open before him. O how much persecution, and poverty, and contempt, and danger, might he have avoided by a little of that regard to ease and affluence which thousands bearing the same honored name of Christian manifest! How easy for him also to have sunk the Christian in securing the honors of office, the friendship and applause of mankind. But Paul judged differently. So of Peter, of John, of Moses, of Daniel, of Ezra, of Elijah, of John the Baptist. See Abraham, leaving the land of his fathers at the command of God; see Moses despising the splendors of royalty ; see Daniel encompassed with danger and death ; see the martyrs, witnesses for God while the flame encompassed the body, or their sinews were torn by the rack ; see the Son of God, always the friend of his Father, always showing what he was ; and you have an illustration of what the Christian principle is, and is intended to be.
4. There is no principle in the universe that can be brought to bear on the mind with such weight as the religion of the gospel. There is nothing that can develop the principles of man if it be not the gospel. And yet we know it is easy by far inferior tests to find out a man's character.
Horace Walpole long since remarked, that every man has his price. A man whose predominant passion is avarice can be corrupted. A small sum may not do it, but you may multiply the temptation till his principles shall come out. Thus, it was not a trifling bribe that could move Lord Bacon. But he might be bought, and it was done. One form of pleasure or one degree of vice may not corrupt a man, but another will. So the natural principles of the heart may be brought out. Your father languishes on a bed of death. His dying sufferings will recall you from the place of folly or business to minister to his wants; or in other words, the principles of filial affection will overcome those which are leading you to vice.Your country bleeds. It will test your patriotism. Iis great sufferings may overcome the love of the fireside, and you may welcome the toils of the camp, and the perils of the field. The sufferings of your country have brought you out, and shown what you are. But none of these motives test the character like the religion of Christ. God, by that plan, designed to effect what no other plan could do. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be manifested in us. Law, philosophy, morals, had failed to restrain and reform men. But the gospel has been effect
ual. In millions of cases men have been changed, redeemed, purified, saved. So that it has become an established matter in God's government that the gospel is powerful enough to overcome all the tendencies of sin. It will unclench the hands of the stoutest avarice; silence the profaneness of the boldest blasphemer; make pure the most corrupt heart; and stay the strides of the most haughty. There is not a grasp on gold, or pleasure which the gospel has not the power to break. And there is not a sinner who, if he fairly comes under its dominion, will not become a holy man. Your strongest propensities it may subdue. Your proudest systems of morality it may destroy; and your most gigantic schemes of corruption it may demolish in the dust-for thousands of such sinners as you are it has humbled, prostrated, changed into holy men. Nor persecutor is secure that he can accomplish his scheme before he shall be arrested by it. The band sent to arrest the Savior were awed, humbled, convinced by his eloquence, and returned, saying, Never man spake like this man. Paul was arrested in his mad career, despite his malice, and his commission. Now can it be that this mighty gospel that is appalled by no towering crime ; that cowers before no propensities; that fears no titles, no splendor, and no renown; that prostrates haughty man as easily as does the tempest the proudest oak or cedar of Lebanon ; that can enter any circle of corruption, and shed the peace of Eden around the habitation of the profane, and the scoffer, and the drunkard ; that carries its principles into the profoundest minds, and sheds its humility into the proudest hearts, is it possible that it can exist, and not be manifest? Can it do all this, and no one know it? Can it live and act thus, and never be developed ? Then may the light rest on the mountain top and the vale, and no one see it. Then may the city lift its turrets to the clouds, and be invisible. Then may the winds of heaven prostrate the pride of the forest, or the habitations of men, and no one know it; and then may the ocean swell, and pour its surges on the shore, and no one be aware of commotion. It must, it will stand out in the view of man. If it accomplishes such changes, they will be seen, and if it ever grasps any human spirit, it must show its power in the life.
We are prepared to remark,
II. That the world is fitted to develop the principles of men, and eminently those of the Christian.
The plan of God in his moral government is to test the character; nor are any rewards conferred until the character is ascertained. The whole arrangement of his moral government is such as to show what man is, and such as to make the sentence of the day of judgment be seen to be just. Men are suffered to become learned, to see whether they are disposed to employ their learning for the welfare of the universe. They are suffered to accumulate wealth, that the native propensities of the heart may be brought out. Objects of fame, of ambition, of pleasure pass before the mind. It is not that God may know, but that a fair trial may be made. Before that trial shall be made, a sentence of condemnation would appear to be unequal. When man has been fairly tried. when virtue and vice, heaven and hell, honor and dishonor have been fairly brought before him, it is right that God should address him, and say 10 him, Bear that character with you to eternity.
Again. The organization of the world is adapted to develop the character of the hypocrite. Were true religion less decisive and less powerful, it would be more difficult to determine on the character. But religion is designed to produce a thorough change in all the man. It becomes then a matter comparatively easy to determine the character of those whom the Savior describes as neither cold nor hot—those that have a standing among the professed people of God, and yet in works deny him. In a world like this, and in a community organized as the Christian church is, man never need mistake his own character. It is not the fault of God if men are deceived. So decisive is the gospel that it must, and will, produce the effect of testing the man. He that is not with me, said the Savior, is against me. Look at any instance of a hypocrite in the church, and there will occur occasions when his character shall be fully tried, and when it shail be seen whether he is willing to surrender the world for the sake of the gospel. Judas must find an occasion to manifest his avarice, and sunder the slender and feeble bond by which he was united professedly to the Savior. It was done, and he fell. He had his price; and such was the paramount ascendency of the love of gold in his heart, that for thirty pieces of silver-a price at which religion has been often sold--he was willing the Lord of glory should die. Achan must find an occasion in which his prevailing principle should be tested. The occasion arrived, and for a wedge of gold, and a goodly Babylonish garment, he exposed the camp of Israel to the vengeance of God. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, the same principle was again to be developed and their lives paid the forfeit of the accursed love of gold in the church.
It is not this withering passion alone that will be tested by the gospel. It is adapted to try the hypocrite in all his subterfuges, in all his mental reservations ; in all his eyasions to escape the simple and decided duties of Christian piety. Every demand of truth or duty brings his character out. The doctrines of the gospel disturb or disgust him. Those solemn and awful, and yet tender truths, which go beyond the coldest moral sentiments, and which speak of the just government of God, of sovereignty, of election, of hell, of holiness, and prayer, trouble him. Those expressions of pure and advanced piety which speak of the higher joys of the Christian, and telt of communion with God, disquiet him. Those sentiments which speak of active piety, which call on him for decided zeal in the cause of God, irritate him. Those assaults which religion makes on his corrupt feelings, those reproofs which she administers when he conforms to the world, those denunciations which thunder along his path when he lives just like other men, and is ashamed of the religion which he professes to love, provoke him. His mind is ruffled by the demands of a life of sincere and prayerful piety. And hence Job asks, respecting the hypocrite, “ Will he always call
God ?" The movements of piety enrage him. Efforts made to advance the religion of Christ find no response in his bosom, and meet only sour, cold, and repulsive feeling. A revival of religion is a phenomenon in which he has no interest--which is neither the object of his solicitude nor prayer. The great movements of Christian benevolence excite no kindred emotion in his soul. Efforts or wealth in that cause are deemed by him a dead loss. He has no tears to shed over suffering and sinful man. Now every time the gospel is offered to such a man in any of its forms, it tests the character. As if God would not suffer him to go to hell without knowing what he is ; as if he would meet him at every corner; test him in all the departments of his soul ; and throw himself in the way of the sinful and wretched man; he has varied the tests of the man's character, so that he cannot but know what manner of spirit he is of. By searching and uncompromising doctrines ; by truths repulsive to the native heart ; by demands on his piety and his prayers occurring every hour, in his family, in his professional life, in his intercourse with man, in the great designs of Christian benevolence, he meets the man everywhere, and gives him an opportunity to determine whether he will serve God or mammon. One thing is clear. Whoever goes down to wo murmuring at the justice of God, or complaining that there was no opportunity to test the character, it will not be the man deceived in a Christian church. Whatever the pagan, or the Jew, or the Mussulman may do, it is clear, that no man goes from the bosom of the church of God to the judgment of condemnation without having his character fairly brought out, and fully seen in the eye of the universe. When year after year passes by, and the man still retains his place
6 at the communion table, and will not be a Christian ; and when having gone through ten thousand trials where he had an opportunity to show that he was a pious man and did not, no blame will be by him attached to God if he dies thus, and his home be made with other hypocrites and unbelievers; and the wonder is, that in these circumstances man will retain such a place in the church of God, and subject himself to all the goadings of a guilty conscience, and the irritations of truth, and the corrosions of remorse, and the consciousness of inconsistency for the poor and paltry benefits that result from professed adhesion to the people of God. The hypocrite will go to eternity thoroughly tested; and as God manifestly intends that his condemnation shall be monumental and admonitory with a disastrous pre-eminence, even in hell, so he has taken care that the case shall be fairly brought out, and that the wretched man shall have full opportunity to escape the terrific pangs of the second death.
- Again. The organization of the world is such as to bring out the character of the sincere Christian, and one grand point of God's moral government was so to shape the economy of human things as to open the finest field for its display. Religion starts into life principles of action that are ultimately to have the ascendency in the soul. It calls up dormant powers-awakes new. energiesurges to conflict with the powers of darkness and bids man grapple with invisible and most mighty foes. Let any Christian contemplate for one moment the situation in which he is placed, and then let him ask, whether this organization does not contemplate the fact that his piety will be developed. What is religion? It contemplates the subjugation of his native propensities; the overcoming of his evil passions ; the purification of a corrupt heart; the discipline of a vain, and wayward, and rebellious mind. It demands that chastened and serious feeling should take the place of frivolity ; prayer, that of thoughtlessness; the love of God, that of the love of fashion; and delight in the scenes of devotion, the place of delight in the scenes of amusement and vanity. Can these exist, and not be manifest? And is it not the very nature of godliness that it should stamp itself in the life in letters indelible and legible by all men ? See the condition of the church of God. What
be in better times-in those brighter periods of the world to which human affairs, under the gospel, are tending—we know not; but hitherto, and even now, there is just enough of opposition among men to all that is pure, and meek, and humble to make it indispensable that there be a line distinctly drawn between the friends and the foes of God. Christians have been a little band-a remnant amid the tribes of men. They, spiritually alive, move among the dead. They tread a world in possession of the enemies of God. They are the healthy among the sick—the sane among the insane—the sober among the gay—the pure among the dissolute the living among the tombs. Their very presence is a rebuke on human pursuits ; their views a reprobation of the opinions of others; their lives a living remembrancer of the folly and crimes of men. Now there is not a single principle of your religion, that is peculiar to it, which the men of the world do not at heart hate ; and in relation to which they will not manifest their hatred in appropriate times and ways. In proof of this I need only refer you to your own native feelings respecting the piety of the gospel. I could point you to the opposition to the same principles in the life and death of your great Master and Redeemer. And I could point you to a thousand fires of persecution lighted up in the darkness of past generations, shedding their beams on times of profound night, and on skies of thickened clouds, fires lighting the steps of one generation to another—to the gardens of Nero, to the vallies in Piedmont, and to the flames of Smithfield. I could point you to thousands of dungeons dark and dismal, where holy men have drawn out their lives, illustrating the estimate in which their piety is held by the men of this world. But it is not needful. I affirm that there is opposition enough in any age to test your character and show what you are. It may meet you in the family, and the eye of a father shall reprove you for being a Christian ; or the tongue of a brother shall deride you for your serious piety. It may meet you in the circle of friends, and the voice of professed affection shall speak of you as gloomy and superstitious for your humble and conscientious regard for God. It may meet you in public and political life, and subject the soul to a daily and constant test whether there is strength of piety sufficient to avow the despised doctrines and precepts of the cross, and to make them the governing principle of the life. They who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution; and one design of persecution is to develop the strength of the Christian principle.
There are allurements enough to try the Christian principle, and to show to the believer what he is. A corrupt and giddy world is around him testing his character. Places of amusement open their doors. The sound of the viol, the harp, and the organ invite you. Nay, deeper and still more damning places of guilt often are presented to the Christian. The theatre, the places of abomination where God is derided and virtue defied, and ridiculed, and cursed, dare to invite even a friend of God. And all such allurements try the character: they ascertain whether you have strength of Christian principle to resist the sin when it is presented in alluring forms, and maintain your integrity when the voice of the syren invites you. So the path of ambition is opened before a man to see whether he will consent to sink the Christian character for the sake of office; whether he can climb the steps of fame with Christian simplicity of character; or whether he prefers the vale of humble piety, content with the esteem of men and the unalloyed hopes of heaven. So the business, the enterprise, the gains of commerce are presented to the view. The splendors of wealth allure; the ports of the world are open for successful commerce; wealth glitters in the eye, and it invites you to toil and enterprise. That you should refuse to devote yourself to industry, and make full proof of commercial skill will not be maintained. But who would dare to maintain that here was no signal and eminent trial of the Christian spirit?
Again. There is enough of affliction in the world to try the Christian. Nor is there one of us who, in the course of our lives, shall not have full opportunity to show what we are in times of trial, bereavement, and wo. God designs that there the Christian principle shall triumph ; that it shall be fully equal to all the pains that we may be called to endure. He varies those afflictions to bring us fully and fairly out. Now he takes away our health, to see how we will bear protracted disease; now he removes our property, to see how we will bear the loss of an idol ; now he cuts down the child of our hopes, and tries whether we will be still and know that he is God; and now he opens before our own view approaching death, to try whether we have confidence enough in him to commit our departing spirits to the guidance of his unseen hand. In all these scenes it is designed that our piety should shine forth with a benign and pure effulgence -brightening like the beams of the morning, and burning with intenser rays like the sun as it ascends above the clouds, or looks forth from the tempest to ride the meridian sky.
God has placed us in a world eminently adapted to call forth the peculiar principles of the Christian; and in a world too, where, if those principles are nol called forth, it is full proof that they do not exist. See a race of sufferers ; a world of mourners ; entire tribes of sinners. Christians, you hold in your hands that gospel which will send peace around the globe—that glorious gospel of the blessed God that may enlighten all nations, alleviate every sorrow, comfort every mourner, and change the aspect of every kingdom and tribe of men. Nor can you be inactive, or undecided on this subject. Every time this great