« PreviousContinue »
that all who are not entitled to heaven are destitute of that principle,-that all who in Scripture are called sinners in distinction from saints, children of wrath in distinction from children of God, natural men in distinction from spiritual men, the world in distinction from the Church, are "without holiness."
There are however in natural men certain semblances of holiness which have been often alleged in opposition to this doctrine. Natural men are susceptible of gratitude and patriotism; of the domestic affections, such as subsist between parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters; of humanity, including both compassion and general good wishes for the happiness of others; of a sweet disposition, enlarging their humanity, and producing gentleness, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and beneficence. They are susceptible of a sense of honor, revolting from meanness and pollution; of taste, that delights in beautiful proportions in all visible objects and relations; of conscience, or the moral sense, which approves of justice and virtue and disapproves of vice, and when sufficiently enlightened justifies the whole law of God and religion generally and good men, and condemns the opposite of all these. Under the influence of these principles, fortified by education and habit, aided by hopes and fears, by respect for human opinions and laws, by regard for good order, (especially as being necessary for their own security,) by the general good nature which prosperity imparts even to selfish minds, and by numberless associations of ideas, multitudes of natural men lead amiable and moral lives. But after all they are utterly destitute of that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord." To put this matter beyond a doubt let us,
I. Inquire what holiness is.
II. Compare the world with this standard. III. By this standard test the natural principles which have been mentioned.
I. What is holiness? Avoiding all points liable to dispute, I will give such an answer to the question as I think no man will be disposed to contradict. I will put the answer in two forms, and you may take your choice. Holiness consists in conformity to the moral character of God. The other answer is, Holiness consists in obedience to his commands. I will illustrate the principle in both forms.
(1.) Holiness consists in conformity to the moral character of God. If a doubt could rest on this point the whole Bible would join to remove it. In the image of God man was originally made, and that image is reinstampt on his soul in sanctification. "We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory." Holiness in creatures is the same in kind as holiness in God: "Be ye holy for I am holy." Hence Christians are said to be "partakers of his holiness" and "partakers of the divine nature.' 99*
Holiness in creatures consists then in loving the same things that God loves, in hating the same things that he hates, in desiring the same things that he desires, in having the same supreme end, in rejoicing in the same things in which he rejoices; in short, in possessing his temper and acting it out in corresponding conduct. Let us expand these ideas. Holiness consists
In loving the same things that God loves; in loving therefore being in general; (such an affection exists in God, for "God is love;") in loving all his perfections, in which he himself delights; in loving the precepts and penalties of that law which is a transcript of his nature; in loving his providential government, which he approves; in delighting in his will, which is necessarily agreeable to himself; in loving his Son, his beloved Son in whom he is well pleased; in lov
* Gen. i. 26, 27. 2 Cor. iii. 18. Heb. xii. 10. 1 Pet. i. 16. 2 Pet. i. 4.
ing the whole plan of salvation, which he regards with infinite affection; in loving his word, with all its doctrines, which are dear to him; in loving his Church and all good men, whom he has graven upon
In hating the same things that God hates; in hating sin therefore, and the characters of wicked men, and the manners of an ungodly world.
In desiring the same things that God desires: in desiring therefore his glory, the enlargement and consummation of his Church, the universal reign of holiness, the universal belief of God- exalting and soul-debasing truths, and the fulfilment of all the designs of infinite love.
In having the same supreme end that God has; in making his glory therefore the grand object of pursuit.
In rejoicing in the same things in which God rejoices; in rejoicing therefore in his being, government, and glory, in the honour put upon his law, in the certainty that all his purposes will be accomplished, in the everlasting glory of his Church and the eternal destruction of his enemies.
In acting out this temper in corresponding conduct,— in precisely that conduct toward God, his Son, his institutions, and our fellow men, which his word requires.
Must not this, and nothing short of this, be the holiness that will fit us to enjoy and commune with God forever? Shall I now turn to the other answer? But as the law of God is a transcript of his nature, this answer must amount to the same thing.
(2.) Holiness consists in obeying God's commands. Can any man doubt this? If the law of the universal king is not the universal standard of right; if he has left any thing unforbidden which will injure the prosperity of his kingdom; if he has tolerated by silence any principle or act hostile to the in
terests of the universe; what will you say of his government? It were blasphemy to suppose it. If the definition of sin is, that it is "the transgression of the law," "* the definition of holiness must be, that it is obedience to the law.
But the law of God, if I may be allowed the expression, has both a body and a soul. It is not confined like human laws to external things. The law of the moral Governor must strike chiefly, and in a sense entirely, at the heart, the real seat of all moral good and evil. Now if we could find a single principle of the heart which in itself and its proper fruits comprehends complete obedience to the law, we should find holiness in its most simple and elementary form. Well that principle is found; and it is such a one as will perfectly assimilate us to the moral character of God. It is love, and "God is love." "Love is the FULFILLING of the law."+ But what love? Let the prophet of the world, the lawgiver himself, reply; "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." "All the law, [in respect to man,] is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." "He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." And as evangelical faith, the sum of Gospel duties, "worketh by love," love is the fulfilling of the Gospel as well as the law, and comprehends all the holiness of the Old Testament and the New. This is that charity which so involves all moral excellence that all other things without it are declared to be nothing: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, [love,] I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the
Gal. v. 6.
* 1 John iii, 4.
gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have no charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, [as a martyr,] and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
All holiness then consists in that love to God, to Christ, and our neighbour, which stands opposed to selfishness, and causes us, when it is perfect, to love God with all our heart and our neighbour as ourselves. But who is my neighbour? Not my friend, not my relation, not my Christian brother, not my countryman; but the Samaritan, (as Christ himself explained it,+)-one of another religion, of another nation, reputed wicked, and my natural enemy; one that has nothing to recommend him but that he is a man. In this is involved the spirit of all those precepts which require us to love our enemies, to exercise the most perfect good will and kindness to the evil and unthankful. The love then which is the fulfilling of the law, is limited to no circle, no country, but reaches as far as man is found. It is restricted by no partialities, it stops at no character, no friendships, no aversions, but centres on simple being. It stops not at human being, but goes forth to God, who comprehends in himself infinitely the greatest portion of existence. It fixes on him supremely, and loves him, when it is perfect, with all the heart and soul and mind. And if angels, if the inhabitants of all worlds should come distinctly into view, what should hinder it from fixing on them as it now does on God and man? Nor does it stop at intelligent being; it goes forth with entire good will to the sensitive creation, to all that are capable of pleasure or pain. Surely in the love which is the fulfilling of the law, must be comprehended that benevolence
* 1 Cor. xiii. 1—3.
+ Luke x. 29-37.