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THE SPIRIT OF VITAL CHRISTIANITY.
2 Tim. i. 7. God hath not given to us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
HE real character of Christianity, as infused into the soul of the believer, and exhibited in his life, is by no means generally understood. It forms a man of energy; but of energy combined with suavity, and regulated with discretion. In whomsoever it exists, it operates like a new creation: it changes, to a very considerable extent, the views, the dispositions, the habits of the soul, so as gradually to "transform a man into the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness." It does not, indeed, so assimilate men, that they shall be in all things the same: there will still remain in every man so much of his original cast, as will occasion an endless diversity in the characteristic features of different saints. Not all the grace that God ever bestowed would produce a perfect identity of character between Peter and John: but the principles which divine grace instils into the soul are the same in every age and every place: and of all its subjects it may be said, "God has given to us, not a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
With a view to open and illustrate these gracious words, I will shew,
I. The spirit which God infuses into the souls of his
It is "not a spirit of fear"
["Fear" is discarded from the soul that is truly given up to God. There may remain, indeed, what I may call a constitutional fear; (some persons, whose piety cannot be doubted, have a strange and unaccountable fear of this or that animala;) and no depth of religious principle will prevent its operation; for its seat is in the imagination, and not in the heart but the fear of man, which has so great an ascendant over the carnal mind, will be dismissed; being subjected to, and, if I may so express myself, swallowed up by, the fear of God --b
[A holy resolution will be formed to serve the Lord, and "to follow him fully." Whatever means be used to deter a child of God from his purpose, he will hold on his way. Father, mother, brother, sister, houses, lands, yea, and life itself, are regarded by him as of no account, in comparison with his duty to God: he "hates them all" in comparison of his God and Saviour: as for sin, it is a foe which he pursues with unrelenting animosity, determined, through grace, that not one lust shall continue in him unmortified and unsubdued. His besetting sin, whatever it may be, is pursued by him with more than ordinary vigilance, if by any means he may prevail to bring it into subjection, and to destroy it utterlya. And he does advance from victory to victory; finding that, however weak he be in himself, " through the strength communicated. to him from above, he can do all things."]
This power, however, is blended with a spirit "of love"
[The energy which we have just spoken of has somewhat of an unamiable aspect; and would be unamiable in the highest degree, if it were not tempered with love. To resist all authority of parents, and the solicitations of most endeared relatives, bears with it an aspect of culpable self-will, and of deplorable self-conceit. The believer, therefore, must be particularly on his guard to cut off all occasion for such misapprehensions. His whole spirit must savour of love. He must shew, that whatever he does, he does from absolute necessity: and that, as far as love can operate in conformity to God's will, no child of man shall exceed him in the cultivation of it.
a A toad, for instance, or a mouse, or some insect.
b Luke xii. 4, 5.
d Heb. xii. 1.
c Luke xiv. 26.
e Phil. iv. 13.
Even towards his persecutors this must be in active and continual exercise; his fixed determination being, "not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good'."]
Yet, not even love must be left to operate but under the direction of " a sound mind"—
[Enthusiasm is no part of true religion: it is rather in decided opposition to it; and is always the offspring of an ill-regulated mind. True religion is wisdom; and God, when infusing it into the soul, gives us "sound wisdom" and discretion 8. A man under the influence of divine grace will pause before he acts; and will weigh, as in a balance, the claims of duty, as they may be affected by times and circumstances. He will carefully distinguish between things necessary, and things of only subordinate importance. He will attend to the time and manner of doing what he judges to be necessary; so as to strip it of all needless offence, and to "cut off occasion from those who seek occasion against him." Both in the world and in the Church, he will be anxious so to demean himself, that all who behold him shall acknowledge that God is with him of a truth". He will give no needless offence in any thing; but will labour, with David, to "behave himself wisely in a perfect way."]
But, that we may the better appreciate his spirit, we will mark,
II. Its peculiar importance, in order to a due discharge of the ministerial office—
The words before us were addressed more immediately to Timothy, a young and pious minister: and they deserve the very special attention of all who either are, or hereafter may be, engaged in the ministerial office.
In such must be found no spirit" of fear
[A minister is a standard-bearer: and if he faint, what must be expected of others? He must go with his life in his hand: he must "set his face as a flint" against the whole world. No confederacies, whether of men or devils, must appal him. His spirit must be that which is described by the prophet: "Truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord; and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sinm." And, in the midst
f Rom. xii. 21. i Ps. ci. 2. m Mic. iii. 8.
g Prov. ii. 7.
h 1 Cor. x. 32, 33.
1 Jer. i. 17. and Ezek. ii. 6,7.
of all the afflictions that can come upon him, he must say, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may but finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God"."]
But in them must be conspicuous a spirit "of power"
[They have more difficulties to encounter than others. They stand in the forefront of the battle: and they must be examples, not to the world only, but to the whole Church of God. To Timothy, whilst quite a youth, it was said, "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity"." If a minister be overcome of any evil, the injury done to the Church of God is incalculable. The whole ungodly world will take occasion from it to exult over him, and to "blaspheme the very name of God himself" yea, they will harden themselves in their own iniquities, and impute to the Gospel itself the evils which they see in him. He must "be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; for then only shall his labour not be in vain in the Lord'."]
In them too, more especially, must be a spirit "of love "
[Nothing but a love to immortal souls can reconcile them to all the labours and difficulties which they have to sustain. They should therefore "have compassion on them that are ignorant and out of the ways:" they should be able to "call God to witness that they have great heaviness and continual sorrow in their hearts" for their perishing fellow-creatures: and they should be ready to welcome even death itself, if it may but be subservient to the spiritual welfare of their brethren ". At the same time, their whole deportment should be regulated by this benign principle. Every thing they do should proceed from it; every thing which they suffer should call it into exercise: and their whole walk should be, like that of their Divine Master, in a spirit of love.]
But, in all their diversified circumstances, they must shew themselves under the influence of "a sound mind"
[In no situation is wisdom so requisite, as in the discharge of the ministerial office: for, as the circumstances of the
n Acts xx. 24.
q 2 Pet. ii. 2.
• 1 Tim. iv. 12.
P Rom. ii. 24.
1 Cor. xv. 58.
minister are more arduous, and his trials more diversified, than those of others, so a want of judgment in him is more deeply felt than in any other person; because the prejudices of many are strengthened by it, and the souls of many are hardened in their sins. A minister, therefore, must be particularly attentive to this point. He must have a well-regulated mind. His views, both of truth and duty, must be clear: his judgment, in relation to every thing, must be accurately and wisely formed. He must be freed from every bias that may influence his mind, and from every lust which may blind his eyes. He must be cool, considerate, prayerful: he must feel his entire dependence on God to guide him aright: and must cry to him for that "wisdom, which is profitable to direct." And, where God has really fitted a man for the ministry, there will be, though in different degrees, "a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and of might, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; all concurring to make him quick of understanding in the fear of the Lord."]
1. To you, then, who have not received this spirit, I would say, "Seek it of the Lord "—
[It is the gift of God: it cannot proceed from man: it may come to us through man; but it is from God alone, even from Him, "from whom cometh every good and perfect gift"." Whether we be ministers or private Christians, this spirit is indispensable to our eternal welfare. No man can be saved without it. "The fearful" shall go into the lake of fire, as certainly as "whoremongers or murderers:" the man who for want of strength draws back, " draws back unto perdition":" the person destitute of love is no better than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal" and the man devoid of wisdom will perish. I say then, seek this spirit; "so shall you have good understanding, in the sight both of God and inand."
It is remarkable, that, when St. Paul is instructing Titus how to speak to the cases of both old people and young, he specifies many things which he would have him insist upon with old men and old women, and with young women also: but with young men, every thing that was essential was comprehended in one single point; "Exhort young men to be sober-minded"." On this, therefore, I would particularly insist; because with sobriety of mind every grace will flourish; but without it, no man can ever walk worthy of the Gospel, or adorn, as he ought, the doctrine of God our Saviour.]
x Isai. xi. 2, 3.
a Heb. x. 39.
y Jam. i. 17.
e Tit. ii. 6.
z Rev. xxi. 8.
Prov. xxix. 10.