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PRACTICAL PIETY,

OR THE INFLUENCE OF THE RELIGION OF THE HEART ON THE CONDUCT OF THE LIFE. CHAP. I.

the Scriptures declare to be necessary, they

represent to be not so much an old principle Christianity an internal principle. improved, as a new one created ; not educed

out of the former character, but infused into CHRISTIANITY bears all the marks of a di- the new one. This change is there expressvine original. It came down from heaven, ed in great varieties of language, and under and its gracious purpose is to carry us up different figures of speech. Its being so frethither. Its Author is God. It was foretold quently described, or figuratively intimated from the beginning, by prophecies which in almost every part of the volume of inspigrew clearer and brighter as they approach-ration, entitles the doctrine itself to reveed the period of their accomplishment. It rence, and ought to shield from obloquy the was confirmed by miracles which continued obnoxious terms in which it is sometimes till the religion they illustrated was esta-conveyed. blished. It was ratified by the blood of its! The sacred writings frequently point out author. Its doctrines are pure, sublime, the analogy between natural and spiritual consistent. Its precepts just and holy. Its things. The same spirit which in the creworship is spiritual. Its services reasonable,ation ofthe world moved upon the face of the and rendered practicable by offers of divine waters, operates on the human character to aid to human weakness. It is sanctioned by produce a new heart and a new life. By the eternal happiness of the faithful, and the this operation the affections and faculties of everlasting misery to the disobedient. It had the man receive a new impulse-his dark no collusion with power, for power sought to understanding is illuminated, his rebellious crush it. It could not be in any league with will is subdued, his irregular desires are recthe world, for it set out by declaring itself tified, his judgment is informed, his imaginathe enemy of the world. It reprobated its tion is chastised, his inclinations are sanctimaxims, it showed the vanity of its glories, fied; his hopes and fears are directed to the danger of its riches, the emptiness of its their true and adequate end. Heaven bepleasures.

comes the object of his hopes, an eternal Christianity, though the most perfect rule separation from God the object of his fears, of life that ever was devised, is far from be- His love of the world is transmuted into the ing barely a rule of life. A religion consist- love of God. The lower faculties are pressing of a mere code of laws, might have suf- ed into the new service. The senses have a ficed for a man in a state of innocence. But higher direction. The whole internal frame man who has broken these laws cannot be and constitution receive a nobler bent ; the saved by a rule which he has violated. intents and purposes of the mind a sublimer What consolation could he find in the peru-im; his aspirations a loftier Hight; his sal of statutes, every one of which, bringing vacillating desires find a fixed object ; his a fresh couviction of his guilt, brings a fresh vagrant purposes a settled home; his disapassurance of his condemnation. The chief pointed heart a certain refuge. The heart, object of the Gospel is not to furnish rules for no longer a worshipper of the world, is strugthe preservation of innocence, but to hold gling to become its conqueror. Our blessed out the means of salvation to the guilty. It Redeemer, in overcoming the world, bedoes not proceed from a supposition but a queathed us his command to overcome it fact; not upon what might have suited man also : but as he did not give the command in a state of purity, but upon what is suit- without the example, so he did not give the able to him in the exigences of his fallen example without the offer of a power to obey state.

the command. This religion does not consist in an exter- Genuine religion demands not merely an nal conformity to practices, which, though external profession of our allegiance to God, right in themselves, may be adopted from but an inward devotedness of ourselves to human motives, and to answer secular pur-This service. It is not a recognition, but a poses. It is not a religion of forms, and dedication. It puts the Christian into a new modes, and decencies. It is being trans- state of things, a new condition of being. formed into the image of God. It is being It raises him above the world while he lives like-minded with Christ. It is considering in it. It disperses the illusion of sense, by him as our sanctification, as well as our re-opening his eyes to realities in the place of demption. It is endeavouring to live to him those shadows which he has been pursuing. here that we may live with him hereafter. It presents this world as a scene of whose It is desiring earnestly to surrender our wili original beauty Sin has darkened and disorto buis, our heart to the conduct of his Spirit, dered, Man as a dependant creature, Jesus our life to the guidance of his word.

Christ as the repairer of all the evils which The change in the human heart, which sin has caused, and as our restorer to holiness

and happiness. Any religion short of this, been no captivity ; and 'the opening of the any at least, which has not this for its end prison to them that were bound,'had there and object, is not that religion which the been no prison, had man been in no bonGospel has presented to us, which our Re- dage? deemer came down on earth to teach us by We are aware that many consider the his precepts, to illustrate by his example, to doctrine in question as a bold charge against confirm by his death, and to consuinmate by our Creator. But may we not venture to his resurrection.

ask, Is it not a bolder charge against God's If Christianity do not always produce goodness to presume that he had made beings these happy effects to the extent here repre- originally wicked ; and against God's verasented, it has always a tendency to produce city to believe, that having made such beings them. If we do not see the progress to be he pronounced them good ?' Is not that such as the Gospel annexes to the transform- doctrine more reasonable which is expressed ing power of true religion, it is not owing to or implied in every part of Scripture, that any defect in the principle, but to the re- the moral corruption of our first parent has mains of sin in the heart; to the imperfectly been entailed on his whole posterity; that subdued corruptions of the Christian. Those from this corruption (though only punishwho are very sincerc are still very imperfect. able for their actual offences) they are no They evidence their sincerity by acknow- more exempt than from natural death? ledging the lowness of their attainments, by We must not, however, think falsely of lamenting the remainder of their corrup- our nature ; we must humble but not detions. Many an humble Christian whom the grade it. Our original brightness is obscuworld reproaches with being extravagant red, but not extinguished. If we consider in his zeal, whom it ridicules for being en- ourselves in our natural state, our estimation thusiastic in his aims, and rigid in his prac- cannot be too low : when we reflect at what tice, is inwardly mourning on the very con- a price we have been bought, we can hardtrary ground. He would bear their censure ly overrate ourselves in the view of immormore cheerfully, but that he feels his danger tality. lies in the opposite direction. He is secretly! If, indeed, the Almighty had left us to the abasing himselt before his Maker for not consequences of our natural state, we might, carrying far enough that principle which he with more colour of reason, have mutinied is accused of carrying too far. The fault against his justice, But when we see how which others find in him is excess. The graciously he has turned our very lapse into fault he finds in himself is deficiency. He an occasion of improving our condition ; is, alas ! too commonly right. His enemies how from this evil he was pleased to advance speak of him as they hear. He judges of us to a greater good than we had lost; how himself as he feels. But though humbled to that life which was forfeited may be restothe dust by the deep sense of his own un- red; how by grafting the redemption of man worthiness, he is strong in the Lord, and on the very circumstance of his fall, he has in the power of his might,' 'He has,' says raised him to the capacity of a higher condithe venerable Hooker, .a Shepherd full of tion than that which he has forteited, and to kindness, tull of care, and full of power.' a happiness superior to that from which he His prayer is not for reward but pardon, fell-What an impression does this give us His plea is not merit but mercy ; but then of the immeasurable wisdom and goodness it is mercy made sure to him by the promise of God, of the unsearchable riches of Christ. of the Almighty to penitent believers.

The religion which it is the object of these The mistake of many in religion appears pages to recommend, has been sometimes to be, that they do not begin with the begin- misunderstood, and not seldom misrepresenning. They do not lay their foundation in ted. It has been described as an unproducthe persuasion that man is by nature in a tive theory, and ridiculed as a fanciful exstate of alienation from God. "They consi- travagance. For the sake of distinction it der him rather as an imperfect than a fallen is here called, The religion of the Heart.creature. They allow that he requires to There it subsists as the fountain of spiritual be improved, but deny that he requires a life ; thence it sends forth, as from the centhorough renovation of heart.

tral seat of its existence, supplies of life and But genuine Christianity can never be warmth through the whole frame; there is grafted on any other stock than the aposta- the soul of virtue ; there is the vital princicy of man. The design to reinstate beings ple which animates the whole being of a who have not fallen ; to propose a restora- Christian. tion without a previous loss, a cure where This religion has been the support and there was no radical disease, is altogether consolation of the pious believer in all ages an incongruity which would seem too palpa- of the church. That it has been perverted ble to require confutation, did we not so tre- both by the cloistered and the uncloistered quently see the doctrine of redemption mystic, not merely to promote abstraction of maintained by those who deny that man mind, but inactivity of life, makes nothing was in a state to require such a redemption. against the principle itself. What doctrine But would Christ have been sent to preach of the New Testament has not been made to deliverance to the captive,' if there had speak the language of its injudicious advocate, and turned into arms against some Where our own heart and experience do other doctrines which it was never meant to not illustrate these truths practically, so as oppose ?

Ito afford us some evidence of their reality, *But if it has been carried to a blameable let us examine our minds, and faithfully folexcess by the pious error of holy men, it has low up our convictions; let us inquire whealso been adopted by the less innocent fana-ther God has really been wanting in the actic, and abused to the most pernicious pur-complishment of his promises, or whether poses. His extravagance has furnished to we have not been sadly deficient in yielding the enemies of internal religion, arguments to those suggestions of conscience which are or rather invectives, against the sound and the motions of his Spirit? Whether we have sober exercises of genuine piety. They not neglected to implore the aids of that seize every occasion to represent it as if it Spirit; whether we have not, in various inwere criminal, as the foe of morality ; ridi- stances, resisted them ? Let us ask ourculous as the infallible test of an unsound selves have we looked up to our heavenly mind ; mischievous, as hostile to active vir- Father with humble dependence for the tue, and destructive as the bane of public supplies of his grace? or have we prayed utility.

for these blessings only as a form, and haBut if these charges be really well foun-ving acquitted ourselves of the form, do we ded, then were the brightest luminaries of continue to live as if we had not so prayed ? the Christian church-then were Horne, and Having repeatedly implored his direction, Porteus, and Beveridge; then were Hooker, do we endeavour to submit ourselves to its and Taylor, and Herbert ; Hopkins, Leigh- guidance? Having prayed that his will may ton, and Usher; Howe, and Baxter; Rid- be done, do we never stoutly set up our own ley, Jewel, and Hooper; then were Chry- will in contradiction to his? sostome and Augustine, the reformers and If, then, we receive not the promised supthe fathers; then were the goodly fellowship port and comfort, the failure must rest someof the prophets; then were the noble army where : it lies between him who has promiof martyrs; then were the glorious compa- sed,and him to whom the promise was made. ny of the apostles; then was the disciple There is no other alternative ; would it not whom Jesus loved; then was Jesus himself be blasphemy to transfer the failure to God? -I shudder at the amplification-dry spe- Let us not, then, rest till we have cleared culatists, frantic enthusiasts, enemies to vir- up the difficulty. The spirits sink and the tue, and subverters of the public weal. faith fails, if, after a continued round of read

Those who disbelieve, or deride, or rejecting and prayer: after having for years conthis inward religion, are much to be com- formed to the letter of the command ; after passionated, Their belief that no such prin- having scrupulously brought in our tale of ciple exists, will, it is to be feared, effectual- outward duties, we find ourselves just where ly prevent its existing in themselves, at we were at setting out. least, while they make their own state the We complain justly of our own weakness, measure of their general judgment. Not and truly plead our inability as a reason why being sensible of their required dispositions we cannot serve God as we ought. This inin their own hearts, they establish this as a firmity, its nature, and its measure, God proof of its impossibility in all cases. This knows far more exactly than we know it; persuasion, as long as they maintain it, will yet he knows that, with the help which he assuredly exclude the reception of divine offers us, we can both love and obey him, or truth. What they assert can be true in no he never would have made it the qualifica- . case, cannot be true in their own. Their tion of our obtaining his favour. He never hearts will be barred against any influ- would have said, "give me thy heart' ence in the power of which they do not be- 'seek ye my tace'--' add to your faith, virlieve. They will not desire it, they will not tue'-' have a right heart and a right spirit,' pray for it, except in the Liturgy, where it is strengthen the things that remain'-_'ye che decided language: They will not addict will not come to me that ye might have life' themselves to those pious exercises to which had not all these precepts a definite it invites them, exercises which it ever loves meaning, had not all these been practicable and cherishes. Thus they expect the end, duties. but avoid the way which leads to it ; they Can we suppose that the omniscient God indulge the hope of glory, while they neglect would have given these unqualified comor pervert the means of grace. But let not mands to powerless, incapable, unimpressithe formal religionist, who has probably ne- ble beings? Can we suppose that he would ver sought, and therefore never obtained, paralyse his creatures, and then condemn any sense of the spiritual mercies of God, them for not being able to move? He conclude that there is, therefore, no such knows, it is true, our natural impotence, but state, His having no conception of it is no he knows, because he confers, our supermore proof that no such state exists, than it induced strength. There is scarcely a comis a proof, that the cheering beams of a ge- mand in the whole Scripture which has not nial climate have no existence, because the either immediately, or in some other part, a inhabitants of the frozen zone never felt corresponding prayer, and a corresponding them.

promise. If it says in one place get thee. a new heart,'-it says in another a new the defence of which excites more suspicion heart will I give thee;'- and in a third against its advocates. But if it had been a make me a clean heart !! For it is worth | mere phantom, should we with such jealous observing that a diligent inquirer may trace iteration have been cautioned against neevery where this threefold union, If God glecting or opposing it? If the holy Spirit commands by Saint Paul, let not sin reign could not be grieved,' might not be in your mortal body,' he promises by the quenched,' were not likely to be 'resisted; same apostle, "sin shall not have dominion that very Spirit which proclaimed the proover you ;'-while to complete the tripar-hibitions would never have said “grieve not,' tate agreement, he makes David pray that quench not,' resist not.' The Bible nehis ‘sins may not have dominion over him,' ver warns us against imaginary evil, nor

The saints of old, so far from setting up courts us to imaginary good. If then we on the stock of their own independent vir- refuse to yield to its guidance, if we reject tue, seem to have had no idea of any light its directions ; if we submit not to its gentle but what was imparted, of any strength but persuasions, for such they are, and not arbiwhat was communicated to them from trary compulsions, we shall never attain to above, Hear their importunate petitions!--that peace and liberty which are the priri

() send forth thy light and thy truth.' llege, the promised reward of sincere ChrisMark their grateful declarations! - The tians. Lord is my strength and my salvation !'- In speaking of that peace which passeth Observe their cordial acknowledgments !-understanding, we allude not to those illu• Bless the Lord, O my soul ! and all that minations and raptures, which, if God has is within me bless his holy name !"

in some instances bestowed them, he has no Though we must be careful not to mistake where pledged himself to bestow ; but of for the divine Agency those impulses which that rational yet elevated hope which flows pretend to operate independently of exter- from an assured persuasion of the paternal nal revelation ; which have little reference love of our heavenly Father; of that 'seto it; which set themselves above it; it is cret of the Lord,' which he himself assured however that powerful agency which sanc-us is with them that fear him ;' of that life tifies all means, renders all external revela- and power of religion which are the privition effectual. Notwithstanding that all the lege of those who abide under the shadow truths of religion, all the doctrines of salva- of the Almighty ;' of those who know in tion are contained in the holy Scriptures, whom they have believed; of those who these very scriptures require the influence walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit;' of thatSpirit which dictated thein to produce of those who endure as seeing him who is an influential faith. This Spirit, by enlight. invisible.' ening the mind, converts the rational per- Many faults may be committed where there suasion, brings the intellectual conviction of is nevertheless a sincere desire to please divine truth conveyed in the New Testa- God. Many infirmities are consistent with a ment, into an operative principle. A man cordial love of our Redeemer. Faith may from reading, examining, and inquiring, be sincere where it is not strong. But he may attain to such a reasonable assurance who can conscientiously say that he seeks of the truth of revelation as will remove all the favour of God above every earthly gond; doubts from his own mind, and even enable that he delights in his service incomparably him to refute the objections of others; but more than in any other gratification; that to this bare intellectual faith alone will not ope- obey him here and to enjoy his presence rate against his corrupt affections, will not hereafter is the prevailing desire of bis cure his besetting sin, will not conquer his heart ; that his chief sorrow is that he loves rebellious will, and may not therefore be an him no more and serves him no better, such efficacious principle. A mere historical a man requires no evidence that his heart is faith, the mere evidence of facts with the changed, and his sins forgiven). soundest reasonings and deductions from For the happiness of the Christian does them, may not be that faith which will fill not consist in mere feeling which may de him with all joy and peace in believing. ceive, nor in frames which can be only co

An habitual reference to that Spirit which casional ; but in a settled, calm conviction animates the real Christian is so far from ex- that God and eternal things have the precluding that it strengthens the truth of reve-Idominance in his heart; in a clear percep lation, but never contradicts it. The wordtion that they have, though with much alloy of God is always in unison with his Spirit; of infirmity, the supreme, if not undisturbed his Spirit is never in opposition to his word. possession of his mind; in an experimental Indeed that this influence is not an imagina-persuasion that his chief remaining sorrow ry thing, is confirmed by the whole tenor of is, that he does not surrender himself with Scripture. We are aware that we are tread- so complete an acquiescence as he ought to ing on dangerous, because disputed ground; his convictions. These abatements, though for among the fashionable curtailments of sufficient to keep us humble, are not powerScripture doctrines, there is not one truth ful enough to make us happy.

which has been lopped from the modern The true measure then to be taken of our · creed with a more unsparing hand; not one, I state is from a perceptible change in our desires, tastes, and pleasures; from a sense of progress, however small, in holiness of heart

CHAP. II. and life. This seems to be the safest rule of judging, for if mere feelings were allowed to Christianity a practical principle. be the criterion, the presumptuous world! IF God be the author of our spiritual life, would be inflated with spiritual pride from the root from which we derive the vital printhe persuasion of enjoying them; while the ciple, with daily supplies to maintain this vihumble, from their very humility, might be tality; then the best evidence we can give as unreasonably depressed at wanting such that we have received something of this evidences.

principle, is an unreserved dedication of ourThe recognition of this divine aid then, selves to the actual promotion of his glory. involves no presumption, raises no illusion, No man ought to flatter himself that he is in causes no intiation; it is sober in its princi- the favour of God, whose life is not conseple and rational in its exercise, In establish crated to the service of God. Will it not ing the law of God it does not reverse the be the only unequivocal proof of such a conlaw of nature, for it leaves us in full posses-secration, that he be more zealous of good sion of those natural faculties which it im- works than those who, disallowing the prinproves and sanctifies; and so far from infla- ciple, on which he performs them, do not ming the imagination, its proper tendency is even pretend to be actuated by any such to subdue and regulate it.

motive? A security which outruns our attainments The finest theory never yet carried any is a most dangerous state, yet it is a state man to Heaven. A religion of notions which most unwisely coveted. The probable way occupies the mind, without filling the heart, to be safe hereafter, is not to be presumptu- may obstruct, but cannot advance the salvaous now. If God graciously vouchsafe us tion of men. If these notions are false, they inward consolation, it is only to animate us are most pernicious; if true and not operato farther progress. It is given us for sup-tive, they aggravate guilt; if unimportant port in our way, and not for settled mainte- though not unjust, they occupy the place nance in our present condition. If the pro- which belongs to nobler objects, and sink the mises are our aliment, the commandments mind below its proper level; substituting are our works; and a temperate Christian the things which only ought not to be left ought to desire nourishment only in order to undone, in the place of those which ought to carry him through his business. If he so be done ; and causing the grand essentials supinely rest on the one as to grow sensual not to be done at all. Such a religion is not and indolent, he might become not only un- that which Christ came to teach mankind. willing, but incapacitated for the peform- All the doctrines of the gospel are pracance of the other. We must not expect to tical principles. The word of God was not live upon cordials, which only serve to in- written, the Son of God was not incarnate, flame without strengthening. Even without the Spirit of God was not given, only that these supports, which we are more ready to Christians might obtain right views, and desire than to put ourselves in the way to possess just notions. Religion is something obtain, there is an inward peace in an hum- more than mere correctness of intellect, ble trust in God, and in a simple reliance on justness of conception, and exactness of his word; there is a repose of spirit, a free-judgment. It is a lite giving principle. It dom from solicitude in a lowly confidence in must be infused into the habit, as well as him, for which the world has nothing to give govern the understandling; it must regulate in exchange.

the will as well as direct the creed. It must On the whole then, the state which we not only cast the opinions into a new frame, have been describing is not the dream of but the heart into a new mould. It is a transthe enthusiast; it is not the reverie of the forming as well as a penetrating principle, visionary, who renounces prescribed duties It changes the taste, gives activity to the infor fanciful speculations, and embraces sha-clinations, and together with a new heart, dows for realities; but it is that sober earnest produces a new life. of Heaven, that reasonable anticipation of Christianity enjoins the same temper, the eternal felicity which God is graciously same spirit, the same dispositions, on all its pleased to grant, not partially, nor arbitrari-real professors. The act, the performance, iy, but to all who diligently seek his face, must depend on circumstances which do not to all to whom his service is freedom, his depend on us. The power of doing good is will a law, his word a delight, his Spirit a withheld from many, from whom, however, guide; to all who love him unfeignedly, to the reward will not be withheld. If the exall who devote themselves to him unreser- ternal act constituted the whole value of vedly, to all who with deep self-abasement, Christian virtue, then must the author of all yet with filial confidence, prostrate them- good be himself the author of injustice, by selves at the foot of his throne, saying, Lord, putting it out of the power of multitudes to lift thou up the light of thy countenance up- fulfil his own commands. In principles, in on us and we shall be safe,

tempers, in fervent desires, in holy endeavours, consist the very essence of Christian duty.

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