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perfections also, which before were hid from us, and see why it is that, though the Gospel is set on a hill in the midst of the world, like a city which cannot be hid, yet to multitudes it is notwithstanding hid, since He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the pure in heart alone ca
see God. How are the sheep of Christ's flock scattered abroad in the waste world! He came to gather them together in one; but they wander again and faint by the way, as having lost their SHEPHERD. What religious opinion can be named which some men or other have not at some time held ? All are equally confident in the truth of their own doctrines, though the many must be mistaken. In this confusion let us, my brethren, look to ourselves, each to himself. There must be a right and a wrong, and no matter whether others agree with us or not, it is to us a solemn practical concern not to turn away our ears from the truth. Let not the diversity of opinion in the world dismay you, or deter you from seeking all your life long true wisdom. It is not a search for this day or that, but as you should ever grow in grace, so should you ever grow also in the knowledge of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ. Care not for the perplexing question which many will put to you, “ How can you be sure that you are right more than others ?” Others are nothing to you, if they are not holy and devout in their conversation and we all know what is meant by being holy; we know whom we should call holy; to be holy is to be like an Apostle. Seek truth in the way of obedience; try to act up to your conscience, and let your opinions be the result, not of mere chance reasoning or fancy, but of an improved heart. This way, I say, carries with it an evidence to ourselves of its being the right way, if any way be right; and that there is a right and a wrong way conscience also tells ús. God surely will listen to none but those who strive to obey Him. Those who thus proceed, watching, praying, taking all means given them of gaining the truth, studying the Scriptures, and doing their duty; in short, those who seek religious truth by principle and habit, as the main business of their lives, humbly not arrogantly, peaceably not contentiously, shall not be “ turned unto fables.” “ The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him;" but in proportion as we are conscious to ourselves that we are indolent, and transgress our own sense of
right and wrong, in the same proportion we have cause to fear, not only that we are not in a safe state, but, further than this, that we do not know what is a safe state, and what an unsafe, what is light and what is darkness, what is truth and what is error; which way leads to heaven and which to hell. The way of the wicked is in darkness; they know not at what they stumble?”
I know we shall find it very hard to rouse ourselves, to break the force of habit, to resolve to serve God, and persevere in doing
And assuredly we must expect, even at best, and with all our efforts, perhaps backslidings, and certainly much continual imperfection all through our lives, in all we do. But this should create in us a horror of disobedience, not a despair at overcoming ourselves. We are not under the law of nature, but under grace; we are not bid do a thing above our strength, because, though our hearts are naturally weak, we are not left to ourselves. According to the command, so is the gift. God's grace is sufficient for us. Why then should we fear? Rather why should we not make any sacrifice, and give up all that is naturally pleasing to us, rather than that light and truth should have come into the world, yet we not find them? Let us be willing to endure toil and trouble; and should times of comparative quiet be given to us, should for a while temptation be withdrawn, or the Spirit of comfort poured upon us, let us not inconsiderately rest in these accidental blessings. While we thank God for them, let us remember that in its turn the time of labour and fear and danger and anxiety will come upon us; and that we must act our part well in it. We live here to struggle and to endure; the time of eternal rest will come hereafter.
“ Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. Blessed are they that keep His commandments, and that seek Him with the whole heart 8." “ The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
7 Prov. iv. 19.
8 Ps. cxix. 1, 2.
9 Prov. iv. 18.
OBEDIENCE TO GOD THE WAY TO FAITII IN CHRIST.
MARK xii. 34.
“ When Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou art
not far from the kingdom of God.”
The answer of the Scribe, which our blessed LORD here commends, was occasioned by Christ's setting before him the two great commandments of the law. When He had declared the love of God and of man to comprehend our whole duty, the Scribe said, “ Master, Thou hast said the truth; for there is one God, and there is none other but HE. And to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices." Upon this acknowledgment of the duty of general religious obedience, Christ replied in the words of the text, “ Thou art not far from the kingdom of God," i. e, Thou art not far from being a Christian.
In these words, then, we are taught, first, that the Christian's faith and obedience are not the same religion as that of natural conscience, as being some way beyond it ; secondly, that this way is “not far," not far in the case of those who try to act up to their conscience ; in other words, that obedience to conscience leads to obedience to the Gospel, which, instead of being something different altogether, is but the completion and perfection of that religion which natural conscience teaches.
Indeed, it would have been strange if the God of nature had said one thing, and the God of grace another ; if the truths which our conscience taught us without the information of Scripture, were contradicted by that information when obtained. But it is not so; there are not two ways of pleasing God; what conscience suggests, Christ has sanctioned and explained; to love God and our neighbour are the great duties of the Gospel as well as of the law; he who endeavours to fulfil them by the light of nature is in the way towards, is, as our Lord said, “not far from Christ's kingdom ;" for to him that hath more shall be given.
It is not in one or two places merely, that this same doctrine is declared to us; indeed, all revelation is grounded on those simple truths, which our own consciences teach us in a measure, though a poor measure, even without it. It is One God, and none other but He, who speaks first in our consciences, then in His Holy Word; and lest we should be in any difficulty about the matter, HE has most mercifully told us so in Scripture, wherein He refers again and again (as in the passage connected with the text), to the great moral law as the foundation of the truth which His Apostles and Prophets, and last of all His Son, have taught us :
Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
Yet though this is so plain, both from our own moral sense, and the declarations of Scripture, yet for many reasons it is necessary to insist upon it; chiefly, because it being very hard to keep God's commandments, men would willingly persuade themselves, if they could, that strict obedience is not necessary under the Gospel, and that something will be taken, for Christ's sake, in the stead of it. Instead of labouring, under God's grace, to change their wills, to purify their hearts, and so prepare themselves for the kingdom of God, they imagine that in that kingdom they may be saved by something short of this, by their baptism, or by their ceremonial observances (the burnt offerings and sacrifices which the Scribe disparages), or by their correct knowledge of the truth, or by their knowledge of their own sinfulness, or by some past act of faith, which is to last them during their lives, or by some strong habitual persuasion that they are safe ; or, again, by the performance of some one part of their duty, though
| Eccles. xii. 13.
they neglect the rest, as if God said a thing to us in nature, and Christ unsaid it; and when men wish a thing, it is not hard to find texts in Scripture, which may be ingeniously perverted to suit
The error then being so common in practice, of believing that Christ came to gain for us easier terms of admittance into heaven than we had before (whereas, in fact, instead of making obedience less strict, He has enabled us to obey God more strictly; and instead of gaining easier terms of admittance, He has gained us altogether our admittance into heaven, which before was closed against us); this error, I say, being so common,
may be right to insist on the opposite truth, however obvious, that obedience to God is the way to know and believe in CHRIST.
1. Now, first, let us consider how plainly we are taught in Scripture that perfect obedience is the standard of Gospel holiness. By St. Paul : "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God?” “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God 3." “ Whatsoever things are true . . honest .. just . . pure .. lovely .. of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things 4.” By St. James : “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all o." By St. Peter: “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue .. knowledge . . temperance
.. godliness . . brotherly kindness .. charity." By St. John: “Hereby do we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” Lastly, by our LORD HIMSELF : " He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me, shall be loved of My FATHER, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him?.” And, above all, the following clear declaration in the Sermon on the Mount : Whosoever .. shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven;
2 Rom. xii. 2.
3 1 Cor. vii. 19.
4 Phil, iv. 8.