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own glory and interest. He did not go about doing his own work. He did not perform miracles to supply his own wants, to promote his own ease and comfort, or to acquire temporal power and applause. He did not live a life of labor and poverty, reproach and persecution, suffering and sorrow, and at last submit to an ignominious and excrutiating death, solely for his own benefit. No. He loved his God supremely, and his fellow men as himself. And by these fundamental principles he regulated all his conduct, thus leaving a perfect example for our imitation. If then we act upon these principles, and imitate this example, we prove ourselves to be his true disciples; and in this way, we shall form christian characters, and become qualified for heavenly felicity.
But if we act from motives of sordid selfishness, and imitate the example of the unprincipled, we shall neither exhibit christian morality, nor be fitted for celestial pleasures. This is perfectly clear. For we are immortal beings. Our characters must therefore be formed, not merely for this short life, but for the never ending existence of eternity. Unless they are formed with a reference to this state, they will not be fitted for its enjoyments. They may serve after an imperfect manner for this vain scene; but they will fail us on our entrance upon another world. For character is composed of all the motives, dispositions, actions, and habits of our whole life. It is then absolutely necessary that we should act from christian principles. And in all our plans and proceedings, we should inquire, not
merely whether such an action or such a course of conduct will be best adapted to promote our temporal prosperity, our riches and influence and distinction; not merely whether it will be easy and popular and fashionable and agreeable to our selfish inclinations; but whether it be right in itself, in accordance with the christian standard, and beneficial to our soul's eternal welfare. For if we are governed by merely temporal considerations; if we are chaste and temperate only to avoid public exposure and disgrace; if we are benevolent only when urged by custom or importunity; if we call upon God only in trouble and distress; if we attend to the exercises of religion only in compliance with habit or a love of display; if we thus act, our motives are unchristian. And if we do these things to promote our temporal interests, we have our reward. We had better act from these defective principles, than do worse,―than omit the performance of such actions. But we must be convinced, that character, founded on these changing principles of fashion, popularity, pleasure and interest cannot be adapted to that future state, into which such principles can find no admission. If then, we wou'd form such characters as will not only render us truly useful and happy here, but insure our eternal felicity, we must form them on the unchangeable and everlasting principles of the gospel. would prove ourselves the true friends of Jesus, we must not only endeavor to do right in all things, but also aim to act uniformly from christian motives; for if we do otherwise, notwithstanding our professions,
our conduct will prove us to be no better than worldly Christians.
Is there not another class who may properly be named speculative Christians? Christians who profess to have attained a correct religious faith, but who do not exhibit a truly christian practice; whose evidence of discipleship proceeds from their lips, and not from their lives? If so, they do not comply with the injunctions of Christ Jesus. He has no where required a belief in any enumerated set of opinions as a condition of divine acceptance. Sincere obedience is hist only test of a christian profession. Ye are my disciples if ye do whatsoever I command you. A good life is the only scriptural evidence of a saving faith. The only scriptural heresy is immoral conduct. Continual reference is made by him to the actions of men, and not to their speculative opinions. We are directed to judge of persons by their characters, and not by their creeds. And we are assured that God will render unto every man according to his deeds, and not according to his religious sentiments. A correct faith is indeed valuable. It is of great value, because it is more likely to produce correct conduct; and for this reason we should search for truth as for hidden treasures. But a correct practice is infinitely more valuable; because this is the sum and substance of the gospel requisitions; and this can be secured where the faith is erroneous. For every candid person will allow that there are obedient Christians in every sect; and no man can allow that all religious opinions of eve
ry denomination are true. Unreserved obedience is therefore the test of discipleship required by Christ; and without this, a belief in all the creeds in creation will not entitle us to his approbation and acceptance.
No. If we are merely speculative believers, with immoral habits, it is of very little consequence what creed we defend. One set of opinions will be equally as valuable to us as another; but no set will be worth anything, until it exerts a purifying influence on our hearts and lives. It is of small consequence to such persons, therefore, whether they believe in the total depravity or native purity of human nature, so long as they do not keep themselves pure and unspotted from the world. It is of little consequence, whether they believe in special calling and personal election, or in free agency and moral ability, so long as they do not strive to make their own calling and election sure. It is of little consequence, whether they believe salvation to be the reward of faith alone, or obtained by persevering exertions in the ways of well doing, so long as they do not engage in working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. It is of little consequence, whether they believe in the divinity of Christ's nature or the divinity of his mission, so long as they do not render heartfelt and holy obedience to his divine commands. It is of little consequence, whether they believe in God as existing in three persons or one person, so long as they do not worship the Father in spirit and truth. And though they may understand all mysteries and have all faith, and have not
charity, they have scarcely entered the threshhold of salvation; and must be accounted as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, because they are merely speculative believers.
Is there not a third class who may be styled inconsistent Christians? Christians who have made an open profession of religion, but who do not comply with its requisitions; who neglect either the duties of piety or benevolence? If so, they are deserving our Lord's rebuke. For both piety and benevolence are necessary to a christian character. Jesus informed his disciples that his kingdom was not of this world; and commanded them to love God with their whole heart. He exemplified the influence of these principles in his daily conduct. He sought nothing of the world, but its salvation. He did not make it his supreme good-his God. No. By his love, he was influenced to do the work of his Father faithfully; to submit to his will cheerfully; to trust in his wisdom and goodness implicitly; to worship him habitually; he often spent whole nights in this holy communion. He also commanded his disciples to love their neighbors, all mankind, as themselves; and declared that they should be known as his disciples if they had love one to another. The influence of these principles he also exemplified in his daily walk and conversation. He unremittingly labored for the best good of mankind. He confined his benevolence to no sect or party. He associated freely with all classes. He ate and drank with the avaricious publican, and the haughty pharisee,