« PreviousContinue »
not all been entitled to the means of attain- for the performance of his promise, he ing it,
swears by his holiness, as if it were the disThose who keep their pattern in their eye, tinguishing quality which was more espethough they may fail of the highest attain- cially binding. It seems connected and inments, will not be satisfied with such as are terwoven with all the divine perfections, low. The striking inferiority will excite Which of his excellences can we contemcompunction ; compunction will stimulate plate as separated from this? Is not his justhem to press on, which those never do, who tice stamped with sanctity ! It is free from losing sight of their standard, are satisfied any tincture of vindictiveness, and is therewith the height they have reached
fore a holy justice, His mercy has none of He is not like to be the object of God's the partiality of favouritism, or capricious favour, who takes his determined stand on fondness of human kindness, but is a holy the very lowest step in the scale of perfec-mercy. His holiness is not more the source tion ; who does not even aspire above it ; of his mercies than of his punishments. If whose aim seems to be, not so inucii to his holiness in his severities to us wanted a please God as to escape punishment. Many la justification, there cannot be at once a however will doubtless be accepted, though more substantial and more splendid illustratheir progress has been small; their diffi- tion of it than the noble passage already culties may have been great, their natural quoted, for he is called .glorious in holiness' capacity weak, their temptation strong, and immediately after he had vindicated the hotheir instruction defective.
nour of his name, by the miraculous destrucRevelation has not only furnished injunction of the army of Pharaoh. tions but motives to holiness; not only moIs it not then a necessary consequence tives, but examples and anthorities. •Be ye growing out of his perfections, that a rightherefore perfect' (according to your mea- teous God loveth righteousness,' that he sure and degree,) as your Father which is will of course require in his creatures a dea in heaven is perfect.' And what says the sire to imitate as well as to adore that attriOld Testament? It accords with the New bute by which He himself loves to be dis-Be ye holy, for I the Lord your Golam tinguished ? We cannot indeed, like God, holy.'
be essentially holy. In an infinite being it This was the injunction of God himself, is a substance, in a created being it is only not given exclusively to Moses, to the an accident : God is the essence of holiness, leader and legislator, or to a few distin- but we can have no holiness, nor any other guished officers, or to a selection et eminent good thing, but what we derive from himmen, but to an immense body of people, it is his prerogative, but our privilege even to the whole assembled host of Israel; If God loves holiness because it is his to men of all ranks, professions, capacities, image, he must consequently hate sin beand characters, to the minister of religion, cause it defaces his image. If he glorifies and to the uninstructed, to enlightened ru- his own mercy and goodness in rewarding lers and to feeble women. 'God,' says an virtue, he no less vindicates the honour of excellent writer,* 'had antecedently given his holiness in the punishment of vice, A to his people particular laws, suited to their perfect God can no more approve of sin in several exigences and various conditions ; his creatures than he can commit it himseil but the command to be holy was a general He may forgive sin on his own conditions, (might he not have said a universal) law,' but there are no conditions on which he can 'Who is like unto thee, () Lord, among be reconciled to it. The infinite goodness the gods? Who is like unto thee, glorious in of God may delight in the beneficial purholiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?' poses to which his infinite wisdom has made This is perhaps the sublimest apostrophe of the sins of his creatures subservient, but sin praise (rendered more striking by its inter- itself will always be abhorrent to his nature. rogatory form,) which the Scriptures have His wisdom may turn it to a merciful end, recorded. It makes a part of the first song but his indignation at the offence cannot be of gratulation which is to be found in the diminished. He loves man, for he cannot treasury of sacred poetry. The epithet of but love his own work; he hates sin, for holy is more frequently affixed to the name that was man's own inrention, and no part of God than any other. His mighty name of the work which God had made. Even is less often invoked, than his holy name. in the imperfect administration of human To offend against this attribute is repre-laws impunity of crimes would be construed sented as more heinous than to oppose any into approbation of them. * other. It has been remarked that the im-1 The law of holiness then, is a law bindpiety of the Assyrian monarch is not descri- ing on all persons without distinction, not bed by his hostility against the great, the limited to the period nor to the people to Almighty God, but it is made an aggrava- whom it was given. It reaches through the tion of his crime that he had committed it whole Jewish dispensation, and extends with against the Holy One of Israel.
wider demands and higher sanctions to eveWhen God condescended to give a pledge ry Christian, of every denomination, of ere.
ry age, and every country. • Saurin.
See Charnock on the Attrilmter
A more sublime motive cannot be assign-This infinitely blessed Being then, to whom ed why we should be holy, than because angels and archangels, and all the hosts of
the Lord our God is holy.' Men of the heaven are continually ascribing holiness, world have no objection to the terms virtue, has commanded us to be holy. To be holy morality, integrity, rectitude; but they as- because God is holy, is both an argument sociate something overacted, not to say hy- and a command. An argument founded on pocritical, with the term holiness, and nei- the perfections of God, and a command to ther use it in a good sense when applied to imitate him. This command is given to others, nor would wish to have it applied to creatures, fallen indeed, but to whom God themselves ; but make it over, with a little graciously promises strength for the imitasuspicion, and not a little derision, to puri- tion. If in God holiness implies an aggretans and enthusiasts.
gate of perfections ; in man, even in his low This suspected epithet, however, *s sure-degree, it is an incorporation of the Christian ly rescued from every injurious association, I graces. if we consider it as the chosen attribute of The holiness of God indeed is confined by the Most High. We do not presume to ap- no limitation ; ours is bounded, finite, imply the terms virtue, probity, morality, to perfect. Yet let us be sedulous to extend God; but we ascribe holiness to him be-lour little sphere. Let our desires be large, cause he first ascribed it to himself as the though oui capacities are contracted. Let aggregate and consummation of all his per- our aims be lofty, though our attainments fections,
are low. Let us be solicitous that no day Shall so imperfect a being as man then, I pass without some augmentation of our holiridicule the application of this term to ness, some added height in our aspirations, others, or be ashamed of it himself? There some wider expansion in the compass of our is a cause indeed which should make him virtues. Let us strive every day for some ashamed of the appropriation; that of not superiority to the preceding day ; 'something deserving it. This coniprehensive appella- that shall distinctly mark the passing scene tion inciudes all the Christian graces; all with progress; something that shall inspire the virtues in their just proportion, order, an humble hope that we are rather less unfit and harmony ; in all their bearings, rela- for heaven to-day than we were yesterday. tions, and dependences. And as in God! The celebrated artist who has recorded glory and holiness are united, so the apostle that he passed no day without drawing a line, combines 'sanctification and honour' as the drew it, not for repetition, but for progress; glory of man.
not to produce a given number of strokes, Traces more or less of the holiness of but to forward his work, to complete his deGod may be found in his works, to those sign. The Christian, like the painter, does who view them with the eye of faith. They not draw his lines at random; he has a model are more plainly visible in his providences; to imitate, as well as an outline to fill. Evebut it is in his word that we must chiefly ry touch conforms him more and more to the look for the manifestations of his holiness. great original. He who has transfused most He is every where described as perfectly of the life of God into his soul, has copied it holy in himself, as a model to be imitated most successfully. by his creatures, and, though with an inter- “To seek happiness,' says one of the faval immeasurable, as imitable by them, thers, is to desire Goc, and to find him is
The great doctrine of redemption is inse- that happiness.' Our very happiness thereparably connected with the doctrine of sanc-fore is not our independent property ; it tification. As an admirable writer has ob- flows from that eternal mind which is the served, •If the blood of Christ reconcile us source and sum of happiness, In vain we to the justice of God, the Spirit of Christ is look for felicity in all around us. It can onto reconcile us to the holiness of God.'- ly be found in that original fountain, whence When we are told therefore that Christ is we, and all we are and have, are derived. made unto us righteousness,' we are in the Where then is the imaginary wise man of same place taught that he is made unto us the school of Zeno? wiiat is the perfection sanctification; that is, he is both justifier and of virtue supposed by Aristotle? They have sanctifier. In vain shall we deceive our- no existence but in the romance of philososelves by resting on his sacrifice, while we phy. Happiness must be imperfect in an neglect to imitate his example,
imperfect state, Religion, it is true, is iniThe glorious spirits which surrounded the tial happiness, and points to its perfection : throne of God are not represented as singing but as the best men possess it but imperfecthallelujahs to his omnipotence, nor even to fly, they cannot be perfectly happy. Nothing his mercy, but to that attribute which, as can confer completeness which is it itself inwith a glory, encircles all the rest. They complete, With Thee, () Lord, is the perpetually cry, holy, holy, holy, Lord God fountain of life, and in Thy light only we of Hosts; and it is observable, that the an- shall see light.'* gels which adore him for his holiness are the Whatever shall still remain wanting in ministers of his justice. Those pure intelli- our attainments, and much will still remain, gences perceive, no doubt, that this union of attributes constitutes the divine perfection.
* S Leighion on Happiness.
let this last, greatest, highest consideration. I will magnify Thee, () Lord my strength stimulate our languid exertions, that God - My help cometh of God - The Lord himhas negatively promised the beatific vision, self is the portion of my inheritance.' At the enjoyment of his presence, to this at- another time soaring with a noble disintertainment, by specifically proclaiming, that|estedness, and quite losing sight of self and without holiness no man shall see his face. J all created glories, they adore him for his To know God is the rudiments of that eter-lown incommunicable excellences. •Be thou nal life which will hereafter be perfected by exalted, o God, in thine own strength.'seeing him. As there is no stronger reason Oh the depth of the riches, both of the why we must not look for perfect happiness wisdom and knowledge of God.' Then in this life, than because there is no perfect bursting to a rapture of adoration, and burnholiness, so the nearer advances we make ing with a more intense fame, they cluster to the one, the greater progress we shall his attributes- To the King eternal, immake towards the other; we must cultivate mortal, invisible, he honour and glory for here those tendencies and tempers which ever and ever.' One is lost in admiration of must be carried to perfection in a happier his wisdom-his ascription is to the only clime.- But as holiness is the concomitant wise God.' Another in triumphant strains of happiness, so must it be its precursor. As overflows with transport at the considerasin has destroyed our happiness, so sin must tion of the attribute on which we have been be destroyed before our happiness can be descanting: O Lord, who is like unto Thee, restored. Our nature must be renovater! there is none holy as the Lord.'-'Sing before our felicity can be established. This praises unto the Lord, oh ye saints of his, is according to the nature of things, as well and give thanks unto him for a remembrance as agreeable to the law and will of God. of bis holiness, Let us then carefully look to the subduing. The prophets and apostles were not dein our innost hearts all those dispositions terred from pouring out the overflowings of that are unlike God; all those actions, their fervent spirits, they were not restrainthoughts, and tendencies that are contrary ed from celebrating the perfections of their to God.
Creator, through the cold-hearted fear of Independently therefore of all the other being reckoned enthusiasts. The saints of motives to holiness which religion sugsests, fold were not prevented from breathing out independently of the fear of punishment; their rapturous hosannahs to the King of independently even of the hope of glory, let Saints, through the coward dread of being us be holy from this ennobling, elevating branded as fanatical. The conceptions of motive, because the Lord our God is holy, their minds dilating with the view of the And when cur virtue Hags, let it be reno-glorious constellation of the Divine attrivated by this imperative injunction, backed butes; and the affections of their hearts by this irresistible argument. The motive warming with the thought, that those attrifor imitation, and the Being to be imitated, butes were all concentrated in mercy--they seem almost to identify us with infinity. It display a sublime oblivion of themselves is a connexion which endears, an assimila- they forget every thing but God. Their own tion which dignifies, a resemblance which wants dwindled to a point. Their own elevates. The apostle has added to the concerns, nay the universe itself, shrink into prophet an assurance which makes the nothing. They seem absorbed in the effulcrown and consummation of the promise, gence of Deity, lost in the radiant beams of
that though we know not yet what we shall infinite glory: be, yet we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like hiin, for shall see hiin as he is.' In what a beautiful variety of glowing ex
CHAP, XI. pressions, and admiring strains, do the Scripture worthics delight to represent Om the comparatively small faults and vir God; not only in relation to what he is to
tues. them, but to the supreme excellence of his own transcendent perfections! They expa- THE Fishers of Men,' as if exclusively tiate, they amplify, they dwell with unwea- bent on catching the greater sinners, oftea ried iteration on the adorable theme; they makethe interstices of the moral net so wide, ransack language, they exbaust all the ex- that it cannot retain those of more ordinary pressions of praise, and wonder, and admi- size, which every where abound. Their ration ; all the images of astonistument and drauglit might be more abundant, were pot delight, to land and magnify his glorious the meslies so large that the smaller sort, pame. They praise him, they bless him, aided by their own lubricity, escape the toils they worship him, they glorify him, they and slip through. Happy to find themselves give thanks to him for his great glory, say- not bulky enough to be entangled, they ing · Holy, holy, holy, Lord Gud of hosi, plunge back again into their native element heaven and e:rth are full of the majesty of enjoy their escape, and hope they may safethy glory.'
ly wait to grow bigger before they are in They glorify him relatively to themselves. 'danger of being caught.
It is of more importance than we are could not be perfected, and the smaller viraware, or are willing to allow, that we take tues are the threads and filaments which care diligently to practice the smaller vir- gently but firmly tie them together. There tues, avoid scrupulously the lesser sins, and is an attractive power in goodness which bear patiently inferior trials; for the sin of draws each part to the other. This concord habitually yielding, or the grace of habitu- of the virtues is derived from their having ally resisting in comparatively small points, one common centre in which all meet. In tends in no inconsiderable degree to produce vice there is a strong repulsion. Though that vigour or that debility of mind on which bad men seck each other, they do not love hangs victory or defeat.
each other. Each seeks the other in order Conscience is moral sensation. It is the to promote his own purposes, while he hates hasty perception of good and evil, the pe- him by whom his purposes are promoted. remptory decision of the mind to adopt the The lesser qualities of the human characone or avoid the other. Providence has fur- ter are like the lower people in a country ; nished the body with senses, and the soul they are numerically, if not individually imwith conscience, as a tact by which to shrink portant. If well regulated they become from the approach of danger; as a prompt valuable from that very circumstance of feeling to supply the deductions of reason- numbers, which, under a negligent admiing; as a spontaneous impulse to precede a nistration, renders them formidable. The train of reflections for which the suddenness peace of the individual mind and of the naand surprise of the attack allow no time. tion, is materially affected by the discipline An enlightened conscience if kept tenderly in which these inferior orders are maintainalive by a continual attention to its admoni-er. Laxity and neglect in both cases are tions, would especially preserve us from subversive of all good government, those smaller sins, and stimulate us to those But if we may be allowed to glance from lesser duties which weare falsely apt to think earth to heaven, perhaps the bcauty of the are too insignificant to be brought to the bar lesser virtues may be still better illustrated of religion, too trivial to be weighed by the by that long ai i luminous track made up of standard of Scripture.
minute and almost imperceptible stars, By cherishing this quick feeling of recti- which though separately too inconsiderable tude, light and sudden as the tiash from to attract attention, yet from their number heaven, and which is in fact the motion of and confluence, form that soft and shining the spirit, we intuitively reject what is stream of light every where discernible, and wrong before we have time to examine why which always corresponds to the same fixel it is wrong, and seize on what is right before stars, as the smaller virtues do to their conwe have time to examine why it is right. comitant great ones, — Without pursuing the Should we not then be careful how we ex- metaphor to the classic fiction that the Gatinguish this sacred spark? Will any thing laxy was the road through which the anbe more likely to extinguish it than to ne- cient heroes went to heaven, may we not glect its hourly momentos to perform the venture to say that Christians will make smaller duties, and to avoid the lesser faults, their way thither more pleasant by the conwhich, as they in a good measure make up/sistent practice of the minuter virtues ? the sum of human life, will naturally fix and Every Christian should consider religion determine our character, that creature of as a fort which he is called to defend. The habits ? Will not our neglect or observance meanest soldier in the army if he add patriof it, incline or indispose us for those more otism to valour, will fight as earnestly as it important duties of which these smaller ones the glory of the contest depended on his sinare connecting links?
gle arm. But he brings his watchfulness as The vices derive their existence from well as his courage into action. He strenuwildness, confusion, disorganization, The ously defends every pass he is appointed to discord of the passions is owing to their ha-guard, without inquiring whether it be ving different views, conflicting aims, and great or small. There is not any defect in opposite ends. The rebellious vices have no religion or morals so little as to be of no concommon head; each is all to itself. They sequence. Worldly things may be little promote their own operations by disturbing because their aim and end may be little. those of others, but in disturbing they do not Things are great or small, not according to destroy them. Though they are all of one their ostensible importance, but according family, they live on no friendly terms. to the magnitude of their object, and the imProfligacy hates covetousness as much as if portance of their consequences. it were a virtue. The life of every sin is a The acquisition of even the smallest virlife of conflict, which occasions the tor- tue being, as has been before observed, an ment, but not the death of its opposite. actual conquest over the opposite vice, douLike the fabled brood of the serpent, the bles our moral strength. The spiritual encpassions spring up, armed against each my has one object less, and the conqueror other, but they fail to complete the resem-one virtue more, blance, for they do not effect their mutual de- By allowed negligence in small things, we struction.
are not aware how much we injure religion But without union the Christian graces in the eye of the world. How can we exVOL. I.
pect people to believe that we are in earn-, without compunction. The habit of comest in great points, when they see that we mitting them is confirmed by the repeticannoto withstand a trivial temptation, tion. Frequency renders us at first indifferagainst which resistance would have been ent, then insensible. The hopelessness atcomparatively easy? Aita distance they hear tending a long indulged custom generates with respect our general characters. They carelessness, till for want of exercise the become domesticated with us, and discover power of resistance is first weakened, then the same failings, littleness, and bad tem-l destroyed. pers, as they have been accustomed to meet But there is a still more serious point of with in the most ordinary persons.
view in which the subject may be considerIf Milton, in one of his letters to a learned ed. Do small faults, continually repeated, foreigner who had visited him, could con- always retain their original diminutivegratulate himself on the consciousness that ness? Is any axiom more established than in that visit he had been found equal to his that all evil is of a progressive nature? Is a reputation, and had supported in private bad temper which is never repressed, no conversation his high character as an author; worse after years of indulgence, than when shall not the Christian be equally anxious to we at first gave the reins to it? Dies that support the credit of holy profession, by not, which we first allowed ourselves under the betraying in familiar lite aliy temper incon- name of harmless levity on serious subjects, sistent with religion ?
never proceed to profaneness? Does what It is not difficult to attract respect on great was once admired as proper spirit, nerer occasions, where we are kept in order by grow into pride, never swell into insolence? knowing that the public eye is fixed upon Does the habit of incorrect narrative, or us. It is easy to maintain a regard to our loose talking, or allowed hyperbole, nerer dignity in a Symposiack, or an academical led to falschocd; nevel'settle in deceit? Bedinner ;' but to labour to maintain it in the fore we positively determine that smail recesses of domestic privacy requires niore taults are innocent, we must undertake to watchfulness, and is ijo less the duty, than it prove that they shall never outgrow their will be the habitual practice, of the consist- primitive dimensions; we must ascertain ent Christian,
that the infant shall never become a giant. Our neglect of inferior duties is particu- Procrastination is reckoned among the larly injurious to the mind of our dependants most venial of our faults, and sits so lightly and servants. If they see us 'weak and in- on our minds that we scarcely apologize for firm of purpose,' peevish, irresolute, capri- it. But who can assure us, that liad not the cious, passionate, or inconsistent, in our daily assistance we had resolved to give to one conduct, which comes under their immedi- friend under distress, or the advice to anate observation, and which comes also with- other under temptation, to-day, been dein their power of judging, they will not give layed, and from mere sloth and indolence us credit for those higher qualities which we been put off till to-mcrrow, it might not may possess, and those superior duties have preserved the fortunes of the one, or which we may be more careful to fulfil. saved the soul of the other? Neither their capacity nor their opportuni- It is not enough that we perform duties; ties, may enable them to judge of the ortho- we must perform them at the right timedoxy of the head; but there will be obvious We must do the duty of every day in its and decisive proofs to the meanest capacity, own season. Every day has its own impeof the state and temper of the heart, Our rious duties; we must not depend upon togreater qualities will do them little good, day for fulfilling those which we veglected while our lesser but incessant faults do yesterday, for to-day might not have been them much injury. Seeing us so defective granted us. To-morrow will be equally pein the daily course of domestic conduct, remptory in its demands; and the succecuthough they will obey us because they are ing day, if we live to see it, will be ready obliged to it, they will neither love nor es- with its proper claims. teem us enough to be influenced by our ad- Indecision, though it is not so often caused vice, nor to be governed by our instructions, by reflection as by the want of it, yet may on those great points which every conscien- be as mischievous; for if we spend too tious head of a family will be careful to in- much time in balancing probabilities, the culcate on all about him. It demands no period for action is lost. While we are riless circumspection to be a Christian than to minating on difficulties which may never ocbe a hero, to one's valet de chambre.' cur, reconciling differences which perhaps • In all that relates to God and to himself do not exist, and poising in opposite scals the Christian knows of no small taults. He things of nearly the same weight, the oppor considers all allowed and wilful sins, what-tunity is lost of producing that good which ever be their magnitude, as an offence a firm and manly decision would have et against his Maker. Nothing that offends fected. him can be insignificant. Nothing that con- Idleness, though itself the most unper. tributes to fasten on ourselves a wrong habit forming of all the vices,' is however the pass can be trifling. Faults which we are ac-through which they all enter, the stage ca customed to consider as small are repeated, which they all act. Though supremcy