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and conduct from the character and conduct of the men of the world. It is true, that the people of God have Christian feelings, which of themselves is evidence that they are the children of God, “ the Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are the child. ren of God.” But while all this is true, it is also true that our feelings need themselves to be tested, whether they are genuine Christian feelings. There are feelings that are mere enthusiasm, which yet engender a strong, but ill-grounded hope of eternal life. But we have in the subject before us one sure criterion of the genuineness of our feelings. If they are Christian feelings, they will lead to the formation of a character, and the exhibition of a conduct wholly distinct from the character and conduct of the men of the world. They will operate to render us humble, and watchful, and prayerful, and heavenly-minded. They will render us meek, and patient, and benevolent, and merciful.
We see in many professors of godliness, notwithstanding much that is considered piety, certain things which bring their piety into doubt, certain principles, which, notwithstanding their apparent zeal, casts a cloud upon their godliness, and conforms them to the men of the world. We have een ambition, and pride, and vanity. There are certain men in every country, and in every age, who can never be edified but where they can be conspicuous, where they can be leaders. We can always anticipate their opinion of any plan, by observing where it will place them. We have seen envy operate to render those unhappy who profess to love the Lord Jesus, when others had more attention, and were more honored than themselves. We have even seen some of the noblest Christian enterprises defeated by the jealousies of, as we hope, God's people. We have seen, and have often seen, mingled, the hottest zeal, and the spirit of slander, the warmest prayers, and the coldest charity. Thus the spirit of the world has gone into a warm profession, has approached the very altar, and has cursed the sacrifice.
A religion that does not transform us into the image of Christ, should never be the basis of Christian hope. We may have changed our associates, and in a measure our employment, and still may wear essentially the same character as before. If we are unlike the world, we shall see the contrast as well as others. We shall have at hand every day the means of judging whether indeed “ we are risen with Christ, and are seeking those things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.” And in the mean time, the world will take knowledge of us that VOL. II.
we have been with Jesus; and though they may cast out our names as evil, will yield us that highest honor, the honor of being in some measure like him. And we need not then fear but God will make us happy, our hope will be strong, and our Christian consolations many. God will graciously guide us by his counsel, and afterward receive us to glory.
2. Would believers be useful to those around them, it must be, not by becoming like them, but unlike them. In this way only can they give evidence that they have enjoyed communion with God, or that they are in the habit of holding fellowship with him. But it not unfrequently happens, whether from a desire to be useful, God knows, that Christians endeavor to become conformed to the maxims and the spirit of the world. They have been known to say, and perhaps they have believed, that by putting on the character and imitating the conduct as far as might be, of ungodly men, they could be the more useful. But has it so happened? When the believer has gone with them to the place of rendezvous, did he restrain them, or did they corrupt him? When he took the social cup, did he teach them to use it temperately, or they him to become intemperate ? Did his presence there make them ashamed of sin, or did they soon render him ashamed of his Savior, his piety, and his prayers? Did he render their consciences so disturbed that they quit the place, or did they render his so cal. ous that he gave them no molestation. Did he finally lead them to the sanctuary, or did they tempt him to lounge away his Sabbath upon his bed? Did they accompany him to the place of prayer, or did they bring him at length to vacate his own seat ? Did their characters finally conform to his, or his to theirs ? That passage then in the history of Paul has been perverted, in which he says he became all things to all men that he might gain some. It cannot mean that he endeavored to conform his character to the character of the ungodly that he might save them. It can mean nothing more than that he adapted his arguments to the people he would
When he reasoned with a Jew, he would reason with him out of his own Scriptures, and when with the Athenians he would argue from the language of their own poets.
No, brethren, when we would do good to ungodly men, we must aim at as wide a contrast as possible between ourselves and them. If they are light we must be sober minded, if they are profane we must pray, if they curse we must bless, if they are worldly minded we must be heavenly minded. Thus every deed of ours is useful to them, and thus only when we differ from them exactly when
they are at issue with the law of God. Were this the fact with every professor of godliness, sin would not thus be justified by our example and every transgressor would feel himself reproved by our conduct. Their own consciences would then do their of fice and they would blush at their own impiety. We should then hedge up their path to perdition with thorns, and should render the way of transgressors hard. They would see our good works, and many of them, we hope, would be induced to glorify our heavenly Father. They would take knowledge of us that we had been with Jesus. They would see, that as in so many instances in which we differ from them they are wrong, they are probably wrong in every point of difference.
3. The subject shows us in what light we are to view those Christians and those ministers of religion who make it their great aim to break down all distinction in appearance between godliness and ungodliness. They look for no change, and wish for none in those who are admitted to their communion, and they have been heard to say that regeneration is all a dream. It often grieves them when they see awakenings, and they sneer at the alarms of such as have gained some view of their real condition, and have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in the gospel. They would have the man who has begun to put his trust in the Lord, keep on him all that belonged to him as a man of the world, and be as vain, and gay, and sportive, and prayerless, as when he stood in the ranks of death. They have their motive in all this. They would hope for heaven themselves, while no change of heart and life has even rendered them dissimilar from the great mass of the ungodly, and they would have the real Christian act like them, that they may have the better ground to hope, that in the end it shall be well with them. But their souls are lost if believers act according to their wishes, as they are then confirmed in all their delusions.
4. The subject shows us that a discriminating gospel is the only useful gospel. If the truth is exhibited so indefinitely, that men never learn their own characters, they never will see the necessity of a change of character. Men must know what they are, and what God requires them to be, else there is no hope “ that the gospel will prove to them a savor of life unto life.” The whole design of the gospel ministry is to take a people from the world, and make them wholly unlike the mass from which they are taken, and train them up to that familiarity of character and conduct which God requires. Its first and its last lesson to believers must
be, “We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, that ye may show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” And when the gospel loves this peculiar feature, it loves all its worth. When it allows men of all character to hope for heaven, the praying and the prayless, the humble and proud; the world-loving and the heavenly-minded; the temperate and the dissipated; the attendant upon God's worship, and God's ordinances, and the Sabbath-breaker, the gospel then becomes as the Koran. It even becomes in such circumstances the savor of death unto death ; seals in eternal slumber the eyes it should open, sears the conscience it should enlighten, and hardens the heart it should sanctify. It becomes a soft harmonious lullaby, under which men slumber more profoundly than if no accents fell upon the ear. It would be the policy of all who give any credit to the Divine testimony, to wish a gospel that disseminates, and cutting off every false hope, urges on the Christian to every affection and every deed, by which the man of God is commanded to distinguish himself from the mass of the ungodly around him. It should catch from the lips of the Lord Jesus that saying, “Be ye followers of me as dear children,” and that other saying, “He that is perfect shall be as his Master.”
5. We see the imperious duty of Christian Churches to render their enclosures sacred. A Church is of no use as a light to lighten a dark world, if that Church eńıbodies the principles of the world, and imitates its examples. Let one profane man live unreproved and undisciplined in a Christian Church, and that Church as such cannot be said to bear testimony against profanity. Let there be one drunkard there, and they bear no testimony against intemperance. One adulterer, and they bear no testimony against fornication. One swindler, and they do not testify against dishonesty. One who deserts the communion and the sanctuary, and they nullify the very ordinances which are the seals of their fellowship. One who denies the doctrines of the gospel, and they virtually give up their creed and their covenant, the basis of their union. And then what is the use of a Christian Church, when it bears no testimony against sin, and when it has no character distinct from the world? Why enclose a few of the inhabitants of the world with creeds, and covenants, and sacraments, if no reason can be offered why they, rather than others, should be embraced within these enclosures ?
But would any Church of Christ render itself useful, its course is plain. We must purge ourselves, and watch and purge our brethren, till our character differs, and we are separated from all the people who are upon the face of the earth. Then and not till then will our light shine before men, “that they seeing our good works may glorify our Father which is in heaven.” We are not to forget what we have covenanted. We have engaged to come out from the world and be separate ; to deny ourselves all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and to live soberly and righteously and godly in the present evil world. We have vowed that we would follow the Lord wholly; that we would take up our cross and follow Jesus; that we would crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts, and being risen with Christ, would seek those things that are above where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. And to faithfully perform these vows, both as individuals and as a Church, is to claim our constant vigilance, and should employ our daily prayers. May the Lord continue his presence with you, and thus distinguish you from all people, and make it known that you have found grace in his sight.