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a sinful world. It would be, indeed, as contrary to common experience as to Scripture, to say that the compliance with this duty, or the pursuit of this perfection, depended on any mere human motives, however excellent; or that man is, of himself, sufficient to it. For, though he might proceed even so far as to admire and approve of such a glorious exhibition of all that is meek, and holy, and charitable as this is, yet it is a well-known fact, that the convictions of the understanding have, in all things spiritual, but little influence on the movements of the heart. The dissolution of such heavenly concord was one of the first effects of our ruin at the fall. And hence, the affections have ever since exercised a dominion over the reason, which they were at first formed and commanded to obey. For to approve and even to will “is” often “present” with us, when “how to perform that which “is good,” we find not ;-we seek not. Now, the great moral object of the Christian faith is to restore the entire man into harmony with himself—and this difficulty, however great, is not insurmountable. For it is the peculiarity of Christ's religion, that it prescribes us no duty, without supplying us also with ability to perform it.
“ I can do all things,” says St. Paul, “ through Christ who strengtheneth me."
And lest this might be misinterpreted, as relating to the exercise of miraculous gifts, he accompanies it with the recital of several instances of moral obedience, and of selfcommand, in all of which, he acknowledges himself indebted to a higher power than his own. Here then is the great, the inexhaustible source whence every Christian is invited to draw freely. His strength is in the Lord, who “maketh even his enemies," as in the case before us, “to be at peace with him ;” and “his grace is," at all times, and in all places, and under all circumstances, “ sufficient for" him.'' With such mighty aid as this, what duty can be enjoined to us, provided God enjoins it, which we need fear to undertake ? Or why should we stop at any inferior attainment, or fall behind in any good word or work? For as we have no inferior law to serve, so neither do we depend on any
inferior help. The claims that are made upon us, and encouragements afforded to us, run parallel with each other. It is the law of God to which we are responsible, and it is also in the responsibility of God himself that we are taught to trust. To him we are invited to “ commit our “ way,” who has said that “he will bring it to pass.”
And if these things are so, it may well be asked, 'what makes the Christian life so rarely visible in those illustrious instances of it which we have been just contemplating ?' It is our neglect of those great sources of life which God has been graciously pleased to open to
And these, in the main, are two.—He has placed in our hands his revealed word ;He offers to us the influence of his Holy Spirit. Now it is a fact, that we do not profit as we ought of these two great means of spiritual improvement; and to this culpable inattention must be imputed the essential difference that prevails, between what has been well described as the nominal and the real Christian. For, whilst we vainly suppose that the rule of life which God prescribes does not exceed that low standard which we have erected for ourselves ;-while the narrow path is not yet discerned that diverges from the broad high-way in which the world runs ;whilst we do not yet perceive how much the morality of the Gospel is at variance with these feelings, and forbids those practices in which our sensuality, our vanity, our pride, a worldly spirit, or any, our more malignant passions delight to indulge ;-so far, and so long the Bible is extolled as an admirable guide of human life. We are content to be Christians on such easy terms as these--but the moment
it is discovered that the Bible requires more or less of sacrifice, that Christians are marked out as a peculiar people ;—that the homage of the heart, of the whole heart is claimed ;—that duties repugnant to the corrupt desires of flesh and blood are enjoined ;-or, that circumstances may occur where all must be forsaken, and God alone obeyed ;—it is wonderful how much this sacred book falls in our estimation ;-how it is accused of unsuitable and intolerable severity, as being accominodated only to angelic natures, and as beyond the reach and obedience of imperfect man. Now, what do all these objections prove but a secret disbelief of the Bible ? For, if we really believed it, we should soon be led to acknowledge that it could not speak to us in a lower tone, nor propound to us a moral law on an inferior scale than what it does—and why? Because God is the author of it, and because it would not be consistent with the excellence of his nature to give us a law but such as, like himself, is “holy, just, and good,” free from all mixture, even of infirmity. Nor let it be objected, that with all the light which such a law affords us, and all the sanctions with which it is accompanied, it cannot be said that any man has ever kept it to perfection, and therefore, that such a law is ill adapted to us.
For we should carefully remember, that the only sort of ambition which is really permitted to us, and which we may indulge without the least danger of excess, is that which sets no bounds to our desires, and to our progress towards this very perfection. And though it is a perfection to which we can never specifically attain, opposed as it is by the contest, that to the last hour of our lives, shall exist within us, between the motions of nature and the suggestions of grace, yet it should never cease to be our great end and aim, ignorant as divine wisdom has designedly left us of what is necessary to fill up the measure of that faithful service, which he, “who knoweth the heart," and the various powers with which he has entrusted us, has reason to expect, and to require of us.
To what has been said, I shall only add, that little as we are, by nature, qualified or disposed to obey the precept in the text, nay, prone as we are to take offence, prompt to avenge, and slow to forgive-let us neither say that the Scriptures demand too much of us, when they require us to do good even to an enemy ;-nor that such a victory over self is impossible, until we have first made a fair experiment of the means which God has declared as sufficient to this end ;-recollecting