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the mystery of the cross? Doth it not declare that God is supremely holy?
We have seen then in what respects holiness belongs to God, and, by pursuing the same principles, we may discover in what respects it belongs to men. Consider the circumstances, in which men are placed, and what relation they bear to other. beings. Consider what harmony there ought to be between the conduct of men and their relations; and you will form a just notion of the holiness that men are commanded to practise. There is the relation of a subject to his prince, and the subject's submission is the harmony of that relation: in this respect it is the holiness of a man to submit to his prince. There is the relation of a child to his parent, and there is a harmony between the conduct and the relation of the child when he loves and obeys his parent : Love and obedience to the
parent constitute the holiness of the child.
The principal relation of man is that which he bears to God. Man stands in the relation of a creature to God, who is his Creator; and the conduct of a creature is in harmony with his relation when the will of his Creator is the rule of his actions: The revealed will of God then must regulate the will of man. Order requires us to submit ourselves, to him of whom we have received all we enjoy: All our enjoyments come from God; from him we derive life, motion, and existence, Acts xvii. 28. It is impossible then to resist his will without violating the laws of order. Our future prospects, as well as our present enjoyments, proceed from God;. our own interest demands then, that we should submit to his will, in order to a participation of those future favors, which are the objects of our present hopes.
We have seen then in what respects holiness belongs to God, and in what respects it belongs to
men. But although holiness does not belong, in the same sense, and in every respect, to beings so different as God and man, yet the holiness of God ought to be both a reason and a rule for the holiness of man. Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. This is our third part, and with this we shall conclude the discourse.
III. The holiness of God, we say, is both a rule and a reason for the holiness of man. The words of the text include both these ideas, and will bear either sense. They may be rendered, Be ye holy as I am holy: and, according to this translation, the holiness of God is a rule or a model of ours. Or, they may be rendered, Ye shall be holy because I am holy: and, according to this, the holiness of God is a reason or a motive of our holiness. It is not necessary now to inquire which of these two interpretations is the best. Let us unite both. Let us make the holiness of God the pattern of our holiness: and let us also make it the motive of ours.
1. Let us make the holiness of God the model of ours. The holiness of God is complete in its parts. He hath all virtues, or rather, he hath one virtue that includes all others : that is, the love of order. He is equally just in his laws and true in his word, his promises are faithful, and his thoughts are right. Let this holiness be our pattern, be ye holy as God is holy. Let us not confine ourselves to one single virtue. Let us incorporate them all into our system. Let us have an assortment of christian graces. Let us be, if I may express myself so, complete christians. Let us add to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. 2 Pet. i. 5, 6, 7.
2. The holiness of God is infinite in its degrees. Nothing can confine is activity. Let this be our model as far as a finite creature can imitate an infine Being. Let us not rest in a narrow sphere of virtue, but let us carry every virtue to its most eminent degree of attainment. Let us every day
. make some new progress. Let us reckon all we have done nothing, while there remains any thing more to do. Let each of us say with St. Paul, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, Phil. m. 13.
1 3. The holiness of God is pure in its motives, He fears nothing, he hopes for nothing; yet he is holy. He knows, he loves, he pursges holiness. This is the whole system of bis morality. Let this be our pattern. We do not mean to exclude the grand motives of hope and fear, which religion hath sanctified, and which have such a mighty influence over beings capable of happiness or misery. But yet, let not our inclinations to virtue necessarily depend on a display of the horrors of hell, or the happiness of heaven. Disinterestedness of virtue is the character of true magnanimity, and christian heroism. Let us esteem it a pleasure to obey the laws of order. Let us account it a pleasure to be generous, beneficent, and communicative. Let us lend, agreeably to the maxim of Jesus Christ, hoping for nothing again, Luke vi. 35. and, in imitation of his example, let us lay down our lives for the brethren, 1 John iii. 16.
4. The holiness of God is uniform in its action. No appearance deceives him, no temptation shakes him, nothing dazzles or diverts him. Let this be our example. Let us not be every day changing our religion and morality. Let not our ideas depend on the motion of our animal spirits, the cir
culation of our blood, or the irregular course of the humors of our bodies. Let us not be carried about with every wind of doctrine, Eph. iv. 14. Let us not be christians at church only, on our solemn festivals alone, or at the approach of death. Let our conduct be uniform and firm, and let us say with the prophet, even in our greatest trials, Yet God is good to Israel, Psal. Ixxiii. 1. However it be, I will endeavor to be as humble on the pinnacle of grandeur, as if Providence had placed me in the lowest and meanest post. I will be as moderate, when all the objects of my wishes are within my reach, as if I could not afford to procure them. I will be as ready to acquiesce in the supreme will of God, if he conduct me through various adversities, and through the valley of the shadow of death, as if he led me through prosperities, and filled me with delights. Thus the holiness of God must be the model of ours: Be ye holy as I am holy.
But the holiness of God must also be the reason or motive of ours; and we must be holy because God is holy: Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. We
groan under the disorders of our nature, we lament the loss of that blessed but short state of innocence, in which the first man was created, and which we wish to recover: we must be holy then, for the Lord our God is holy. The beauty and blessedness of man in his primitive state consisted in his immediate creation by the hand of God, and in the bearing of his Creator's image, which was impressed, in a most lively manner upon his mind. Sin hath defaced that image, and our happiness consists in its restoration : that is, in our being renewed after the image of him roho created us, Col. i. 10.
We wish to enjoy the favor of God: we must be
holy then because the Lord our God is holy. They are our iniquities that have separated between us and our God, Isa. lix. 2. and it is holiness that must restore a communion, which our sins have interrupted.
We tremble to see all nature at war with us, and wish to be reconciled to all the exterior objects, that conspire to torment us: we must be holy then, because the Lord our God is holy. Sin is a hateful object to a holy God. Sin hath armed every creature against man.
Sin hath thrown all nature into confusion. Sin, by disconcerting the mind, hath destroyed the body. It is sin that hath brought death into the world, and death is the sting of sin.
We wish to be reconciled to ourselves, and to possess that inward peace and tranquillity, without which no exterior objects can make us happy: we must be holy then, because the Lord our God is holy. We have remarked, in this discourse, that God, who is an independent Being, loves virtue for its own sake, independently on the rewards that accompany and follow it. Nevertheless, it is very certain, the felicity of God is inseparable from his holiness. God is the happy God, because he is the holy God. God, in the contemplation of his own excellencies, hath an inexhaustible source of felicity. Were it possible for God not to be supremely holy, it would be possible for God not to be supremely happy. Yes, God, all glorious and supreme as he is, would be miserable, if he were subject, like unholy spirits, to the turbulent commotions of envy or hatred, treachery or deceit. From such passions would arise odious vapors, whieh would gather into thick clouds, and, by obscuring his glory, impair his felicity. Even heaven would afford but imperfect pleasure, if those infernal furies could there kindle their unhallowed flames.