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though it can only be perfected in another state of being, must have its commencement here, the union of the soul with God.
None who have this object in view will rest satisfied with low attainments in spirituality. They will bear in mind that comprehensive sentence of St. John—Every one that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure 5. And if in the apostolical age
appeared necessary to exhort believers to give diligence to make their calling and election sure,' it cannot now be thought unreasonable to remind every one that hath in him a hope of salvation, that as it was said of Christ himself that he waxed daily and grew in stature, so should we aspire after progressive communications of the Spirit, till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
si John, üï. 3.
And since in proportion as we recede from the primitive age of Christianity, we become more liable to deviate from the simplicity of primitive truth, the state of our affections and the integrity of our belief must be tried by the balance of the sanctuary. The Spirit that is in us must be put to the test, to see whether it be of Christ, or whether it has suffered debasement in that necessary connexion which every one must hold with men of worldly temper, in the course of his secular pursuits. We must weigh well the full force and import of those remarkable scriptural expressions which denote spiritual communion with God. Enoch and Noah walked with God. Zacharias and Elizabeth were both righteous before God, walking in all the ordinances of the law blameless. God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. What communion hath light with darkness, what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? They that be after the Spirit, do mind the things of the Spirit. That ye may be filled with all the fulness of God. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of hiso.
All these texts shew the nature of which
those must partake whose fellowship is with the Father, and with his son Jesus Christ. They present a high and holy standard of spiritual attainments, the fruit of much prayer
and watchfulness and self-examination. For the more we meditate on them, and on the whole tenor of Christ's spiritual character, the more we shall learn practically, by the contrast which our own hearts exhibit, how much man has fallen from the image of God, and how much our natures must be changed and elevated and purified, before we can be holy as he is holy, and perfect as he is perfect.
6 Gen. v. 24. vi. 9. Luke, i. 6. 2 Cor. vi. 14, 16. Rom. viii. 5. Eph. ii. 19. Phil. ii. 5. Rom. xii. 14. viii. 9.
The gradual Teaching of Christ.
It appears to have been the practice of St. Paul, when instructing the primitive converts, to make large use of a certain discretionary power, in gradually unfolding the higher mysteries of the Gospel to the recently associated members of the churches. He writes to the Corinthians“We speak wisdom among them that are perfect',' those who were so advanced in elementary knowledge, and so matured in judgment and spirituality, as to be proper recipients of the
1 Τους τελειούς in opposition to the catechumens. The distinction maintained in the primitive church between these two orders deserves to be remarked in connexion with my present subject. “The Fideles had their peculiar privileges in the church, above the catechumens. For, first, it was their sole prerogative to partake of the Lord's table, and communicate with one another in the symbols of Christ's body and blood at the altar...... Another of their prerogatives above catechumens, was to stay and join with the ministers in all the prayers of the church, which the catechumens were not allowed to do ...... More particularly the use of the Lord's prayer was the sole prerogative of the mutòn, or believers; for
then it was no crime, or argument of weakness, or want of the spirit, to use it; but an honour and privilege of the most consummate and perfect Christians. The catechumens were not allowed to say, “Our Father,' till they had first made themselves sons by regeneration in the waters of baptism. This is expressly said by St. Chrysostom, St. Austin, Theodoret, and several others; and for this reason Chrysostom calls it, evxri TITūr; and St. Austin, Oratio Fidelium, the prayer of the regenerate or believers, because it was their privilege and birthright. ..... Lastly, they were admitted to be auditors of all discourses made in the church, even those that treated of the most abstruse points and profound mysteries of the Christian religion; which the catechumens were strictly prohibited from hearing. The catechumens were allowed to hear the Scriptures, and the ordinary popular discourses that were made upon them; which was no more than what some councils allow even to Jews and Gentiles: for in those discourses they never treated plainly of their mysteries, but in such a covert way that the catechụmens could not understand them. But when the catechumens were dismissed, then they discoursed more openly of their mysteries before the Fideles, whose privilege it was to be the sole auditors of such discourses. This we learn from St. Ambrose, who says, his common discourses to the unbaptized were only on points of morality; but when they were baptized, then was the time to open to them the mysteries and sacraments of religion ; to have discoursed to them of those things before, had been more like exposing mysteries than explaining them. St. Austin speaks to the same purpose in one of his sermons to the newly-baptized.' &c. &c.- Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, Book I. Chap. iv. Sect. 5–8.