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[Ess. XII. impressed and instructed, is powerful not only to illuminate, but (as we have already remarked) to cleanse and sanctify. Those who are subjected to its influence, and are made willing to obey its injunctions, have no need to shrink from the contemplation of the extent and purity of Christian morality. Conscious of their inability to do any good thing in their own strength, they will cast themselves, without reserve, on the love and power of a compassionate Saviour; and while, in the midst of all their infirmities, they derive a sure consolation from the intercession of Jesus, they will be enabled, by his grace, to walk as obedient children, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God :" 2 Cor. vii, 1.
On surveying the whole of our present argument, we have to recollect,
That, since God is the Creator, and supreme as well as righteous Governor of the world, he has an undoubted claim upon us for implicit obedience to his revealed will.
That such an obedience is the only rule of action. allowed by the Sacred writers—that it constitutes righteousness, and that the contrary to it, is sin.
That the commandments of Jehovah were communicated to our first parents, and that, through their transgression of one of them, sin and death entered into the world.
That, nevertheless, God has universally bestowed on their descendants a law for the regulation of their conduct, by obedience to which they may obtain happiness.
That a moral sense of right and wrong was impressed on the hearts of the Gentiles, who had no acquaintance with an outward revelation-that some of them obeyed its dictates, and were, therefore, accepted-and that others, who disobeyed them, were con
515 demned, because they sinned against the known law of God.
That God has, in all ages of the world, bestowed on his visible church, through the medium of inspiration, a clear external revelation of his will; that the law of righteousness was preached to his people, both before and after the flood, and under the Jewish institution, was yet more clearly developed, and was recorded in writing.
That a variety of positive commandments were also issued on different occasions, for the guidance of the Israelites and their patriarchal ancestors, chiefly in connexion with that course of special Providence which was preparatory to the incarnation of the Son of God.
That, whether the commandments communicated to them were moral or positive, the corresponding duty required of the Lord's people was that of ready and universal obedience.
That faith in God is the obvious foundation of obedience to his law; and, that no faith can be justi-, fying in his sight, which does not produce obedience; on which principles, it appears, that the doctrines of the apostles Paul and James on the subject of justification, are in true harmony.
That the Mosaic law was a schoolmaster to bring the Jews to Christ, in order that, together with the believing Gentiles, they might be justified by faith in him; that the ceremonial part of that law terminated with the sacrifice of the Messiah; but, that the moral part of it is eternal and incapable of abrogation.
That the latter, under the light of Christianity, is confirmed, enlarged, and perfected ; and, that an exact obedience to it, is the reasonable duty required of all believers in Jesus Christ, whose example they are taught to follow.
That the weight and extent of the motives to such
System of Expediency. [Ess. XII. obedience, arising out of the great truths of the Christian revelation, correspond with the superior elevation of that moral standard, by which, as Christians, we are bound to regulate our conduct.
And, lastly, that the operation of these motives on the mind of the true believer in Jesus is accompanied by the communication of that gift of the Holy Spirit, by which men are internally illuminated with a knowledge of the divine law, and actually enabled to fulfil its requisitions.
In conclusion, I would venture to suggest, to the reader's attention, one or two practical observations.
It is a truth which reason deduces from the attributes of God, and which is amply confirmed by revelation, that virtuous actions and a course of true morality, have an unfailing tendency to promote the happiness of the persons who practise them, and of mankind in general. But, although this tendency is unalterable, and the effect in the end certain, yet it sometimes happens, that some degree of moral evil appears to be expedient, in order to the production of greater present good; and it is a lamentable fact, that under such circumstances, a departure from the never-varying rule of a righteous principle, is partially allowed by some of our Christian moralists, and is actually, to a very great extent, applied to practice, both by individuals and by nations professing the religion of Jesus. How often, for example, do individuals compromise the divine law of truth, in order to avoid the pain and inconvenience which its unbroken maintenance would appear to entail upon them ! and how generally is it considered allowable in Christian governments to institute and pursue political measures imagined to be of advantage to the state; yet opposed, nevertheless, in various respects to the principles of the law of God!
To such a line of conduct we are often tempted,
517 because in our ignorance we see a very little way before us; but were the secrets of a boundless future unfolded in our view did we know as we are known
we should instantly perceive its injuriousness and its folly. Certain, it is, however, that true Christianity teaches us better things. It shews us that the will of our heavenly Father is always right—that his moral law is of universal application—that it is (as it were) like its divine Author, omnipresent; following the people of God through every variation of time and circumstance-finally, that in despite of the dictates of human policy, there is to be found no permanent security-no solid happiness—in any other course of human action, than in that of unvarying and unreserved obedience.
Lastly, let us carefully notice, and endeavour always to remember, that infidelity and rebellion, faith and obedience, respectively, are of such a nature, that they never fail to act and react-to produce and reproduce each other. Infidelity is the root of rebellion against God; and rebellion against God is ever found to be productive of yet greater infidelity. The Israelites refused to believe in the word of the Lord; and, in consequence of their unbelief, they became a disobedient, or in other words, a sinful people. And what was the effect of their sinfulness? The blindness of the eye, the hardness of the heart, and the heaviness of the ear—an infidelity so confirmed and aggravated, that they scorned their Messiah, and were totally incapacitated for the reception of his Gospel.
To reverse the picture—faith (as we have already observed) is the parent of obedience-for it is only as we believe in God and in his Son, that we can possibly feel the least disposition to obey their commandments; and truly, throughout the whole progress of our Christian course, nothing short of the power of
[Ess. XII. faith can enable us to discard, in our practice, that carnal system of expediency, to which I have just alluded, and to walk, without deviation, in obedience to the law of God. On the other hand, obedience is the life, the strength, and the completion, of faith. Those who do the will of the Father, know of the doctrine of Christ, that it is indeed of God: John vii, 17. Every successive step we take, in a course of virtuous submission to the divine will, has a sure tendency to bring us into nearer communion with our heavenly Father--to quicken our spiritual apprehension—to enlarge our religious experience---and to confirm our settlement on the immutable basis of THE TRUTH AS IT IS IN JESUS.
518 Act and React.