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ART. 1.-CHRISTIAN OBLIGATION WITH RESPECT TO
THE CONVERSION OF THE WORLD.
No creature of God was made for itself alone. The flower of the field, the oak of the forest, the sun in the firmament, and “the cattle upon a thousand hills,” were all formed that they might be instrumental in promoting the welfare and comfort of each other. To suppose, then, that MAN, who occupies so conspicuous a place in this great system; man, who is endowed with a rational as well as an active nature; who is made capable of acting upon a plan, and living to an end, was made, or is at liberty to act for himself alone; to make, each one, his own enjoyment and glory the ultimate purpose of his being ;-would be to adopt a sentiment as unreasonable as it is degrading. The powers which God has given us; the relations which we bear to him; the benevolent activity of which we are obviously capable; and the rich and unremitting goodness of which we are the subjects, and of which we have ever been the subjects since we had a being ;-all demonstrate that intellectual and moral action is our appropriate sphere; and that either indolence, or a course of action which does not embrace the good of
VOL. Iv. No. III.—2 Q
our species, and accord with the will of Him who sent us into the world, is alike unworthy of our character, and injurious to our happiness.
But when we contemplate man as bound, not merely by the obligations which result from the relations which he bears to God as Creator and Benefactor, but also by the still more tender and powerful ties of redeeming mercy and love;his obligations rise to the highest degree of endearing force. Accordingly, the Apostle Paul, speaking by the Holy Ghost, declares—“None of us,” that is, “none of us Christians liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live we live unto the Lord, or whether we die we die unto the Lord; whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.” And again ; “know ye not,” says the same inspired Apostle, “that ye are not your own? for ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's."
Those, therefore, who profess and call themselves Christians, make a most solemn and responsible profession. Such, , indeed, as content themselves with a mere nominal relation to the Saviour, and who, provided they can maintain a fair religious character in the eyes of the world, desire nothing more, make their profession an easy thing. But to those who honestly make the Bible their test of character; who live with a reference to the all-seeing eye of God; who expect soon to stand before the judgment seat of Christ; and who remember that, “if any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his;” to these, a profession of discipleship is as solemn and momentous in its import, as in the consequences which it draws in its train.
Christianity finds every descendant of Adam an " alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger from the covenants of promise.” But every one who is now a Christian has undergone a great revolution in his views, tastes, affections and enjoyments. He has been “washed, and justified, and sanctified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God." He has cordially repented of sin; renounced the world as a portion;, turned his back on his former idols, master, and hopes; embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as “the Lord his righteousness, and the Lord his strength ;” and “ yielded himself to God,” on his own gracious and humbling terms, "ias one alive from the dead.” And, as every real Christian, in embracing the salvation offered in the Gospel, has made this cordial and entire dedication of himself to the Saviour; as he has practically, as well as intelligently, submitted to the Messiah as his Prophet, Priest and King-as his supreme Instructor, his atoning Mediator, and his sovereign Ruler;-s0 he is obviously bound to follow up this act of dedication, and to manifest its sincerity, by a life of unreserved obedience. “ If ye love me,” said the blessed Master himself, “ keep my commandments; for he that saith he loveth me, and keepeth not my commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. A good trec cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit; wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them."
If any ask, how far this dedication to the Saviour goes? The answer is, where it is genuine, it is entire and unreserved. He who has submitted to Christ, upon Bible terms, has consecrated himself, his soul and body, his time, talents, possessions, influence, all he has and is, to his new and heavenly Master. The language of his heart, in his happiest hours, is: “Other lords have had dominion over me, but now I have said unto the Lord, Thou art my God. O Lord, truly I am thy servant, I am thy servant; thou hast loosed my bonds. My beloved is mine, and I am his. Lord, what what wilt thou have me to do? The love of Christ constrain. eth me, because I thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all that they who live should, henceforth, live not unto themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again.” Say, professing Christian ! was not this the language of thine heart in the day of thine espousals to Christ? And is it not, at least at some times, the language of thine heart now? If not, thou hast both the spirit and the language of the heavenly Canaan yet to learn. But if it be, then art thou, or art thou not, bound to be honest with thy God and Saviour? Art thou, or art thou net, bound to be and to do as thou hast vowed ? Surely, if we dre to take the spirit of our religion from the Bible; if we are to judge of it as it is delineated in the hearts and the lives of the saints whose experience is there recorded, nothing less than this is included in the surrender of the soul to Christ; and nothing less is imported in making a profession of his name before men,
But besides the obligation which every individual believer, as such, is under to that Redeemer to whom he has dedicated himself; in whose cross he glories; and to whose atoning
sacrifice and perfect righteousness he is indebted for all his precious hopes in time and eternity; he is to consider himself as bound by ties resulting from the relation which he bears to that great visible society, denominated the Church. It is to be feared that many who speak of this covenanted body of those who profess the true religion, called out of the world, and established by the authority of Christ, its Divine Head, and who even profess to make much of it, do so without duly considering either its real nature, or the obligation which membership in it infers. For what purpose, then, was the Church founded ? If we look into the Scriptures we shall find it was that it might be a light in the midst of a dark world; that it might preserve the purity of the Gospel and its ordinances, and spread abroad the knowledge of them to the rest of mankind. The consequence is self-evident. If "hold. ing forth the word of life;" if " sounding out” the message of mercy to every creature be the principal purpose for which the Church was originally constituted, and for which its great King and Head has sustained it, and has declared that He will sustain it, until the consummation of all things; then it inevitably follows, that every member of this Body, that is every professing Christian, is bound to exert himself to the utmost to understand the truth and order of Christ's house; to maintain them in their purity with exemplary zeal; and to impart the knowledge of them as far as possible, to all who have them not. When the Church fails to do this, she fails to fulfil one main purpose for which she was founded; and when each member of the Church fails to do all in his power to accomplish this, he fails to fulfil one of the most important duties which devolves upon him as a professor of religion. And let every member of the Church of Christ know, that when he first united himself with the body of the Lord's professing people, he became a pledged "life member of a Body which, in its essential character, is a Missionary Society. He made an unreserved consecration of himself to the great cause of the world. Let him remember, too, that this is not an extraordinary duty, devolving only on a few Christians in distinguished stations, or on all Christians on special occasions ; but an ordinary duty, incumbent upon all who “name the name of Christ,” at all times, in all circumstances, and just as invariably and perpetually incumbent, in proportion to the opportunities of each, as any obligation connected with the Christian character.
It is really distressing to perceive that so many professors of religion of the present day, and so many whose Christian sincerity it would be thought strange to question, seem to imagine that to be orthodox in their creed, fervent in spirit, and blameless in their lives, comprehends the whole of their duty! The great duty of being unceasingly active for the honour of Christ, and for the temporal, and above all, for the eternal welfare of the human family, appears only by an individual here and there, out of the great mass of devout worshippers, to be seriously appreciated, or considered as at all required at their hands. And yet, there is no duty more plainly enjoined by Divine precept, or more strikingly exemplified in the lives of those who, in the inspired volume, are held up to view for our imitation.
Is the religion of Jesus Christ the greatest, the noblest, the most glorious gift that was ever bestowed by a merciful God upon our fallen world? Is it the only effectual remedy for the blindness, the corruption and the miseries of man? Does it reveal those glad tidings of great joy” which furnish the only hope of pardon, sanctification, peace, and eternal blessedness to the children of men? Nay, is it certain that “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” but the name of Jesus Christ? Is the prevalence of this religion the richest benefit that can be conferred on civil society; the only effectual means of securing social purity, order, and happiness; the only solid basis on which civil and religious liberty can be either established or maintained; that, in a word, without which there is no hope for fallen man, either in this world, or the world to come? Are there hundreds of millions of our fellow men, not worse by nature than ourselves, and equally capable with ourselves of profiting by it, who are altogether destitute of this invaluable Treasure, and who are daily perishing for lack of it? Are they living in misery, and dying in despair or stupidity, for want of that which we possess; which it is in our power to send them; and with which we have every reason to believe that millions would be blessed forever? And can it require formal reasoning to convince the mind of one who has a particle of the spirit of Christ, that Christians are bound to send this noble, life-giving Gospel to those who are in circumstances so deplorable for want of it? If they refuse or neglect to send it, are they acting in conformity with that noble rule of duty: “Whatsoever ye would that