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for sin mixes with and defiles even his best duties; and he feels his need of repentance, of mercy, and of the atoning blood in every action of his life. ile is deeply convinced, that. it“ is of the Lord's mercies he is not consumed;" all his hopes of acceptance and happiness spring from faith in the Lamb of God, and his expiatory sacrifice; and he receives every comfort, not only as the gift of the Lord's bounty, but as purchased by his Redeemer for an hell-deserving sinner; how then can he, who lives under the influence of these principles, be proud of his possessions or attainments ? He dare not venture even to the mercy-seat of his forgiving God, except in the name of his beloved Son; and he deems it a precious favour, that he may be allowed thus to pray for mercy and salvation. Moreover, when he cannot but perceive that he differs from ungodly men, and from himself in former years, he knows that this difference is the effect of a divine influence on his mind: so that he sees abundant reason for thankfulness on this account, but none for pride and self-complacency. Nay, he is sensible that he hath been kept from the gross immoralities, through which numbers are made equally mischievous and wretched, by a divine interposition, in various ways restraining him from listening to temptation, or following the devices of his own heart: so that his preservation from the most destructive enormities is rather an occasion for gratitude than for self-preference; whilst his misconduct in less scandalous instances seems to him to be baser, when compared with his advantages, than the crimes of the unhappy outcasts from human society.
As he also frequently and carefully views himself in the glass of the holy law, and compares his conduct with the perfect example of Christ ; as he attentively considers his obligations and opportunities, and examines strictly his motives, affections, thoughts, words, and works: as he is more severe in judging himself, and candid in estimating the conduct of his brethren ; so he is unavoidably led, in his best hours, to “esteem others more highly than himself, and in honour to prefer them;" thus he is disposed habitually to take the lowest place, instead of ambitiously aspiring to pre-eminence, which always results from the want of consistency with evangelical principles. He is also accustomed to entertain a deep sense of his own ignorance, and proneness to mistake; for his experience and observation confirm the declarations of Scripture in this respect: hence originates a teachable disposition, and a willingness to “receive the kingdom of God as a little child," and “ to become a fool,” in order to obtain true wisdom. The most eminent saints have therefore always most felt and owned their want of wisdom, and been most ready to ask it of God, (James i. 5); and to inquire his will at every step, with the greatest simplicity and fervency. And though the wellinstructed believer will not call any man master upon earth, but will bring every opinion and counsel to the touch-stone of God's word; yet he will be always learning, even from his inferiors, his enemies, or false accusers: being glad of a little additional light on his path from any quarter. And whilst he considers the written word as the complete rule of truth and duty, and decidedly rejects both the traditions of men, and the effusions of enthusiasm ;; he will ever feel his need of divine teaching to prepare his mind for receiving and using the light of revelation, whatever means he employ in order to understand it; and he will continue a learner to the end of his days, which constitutes his security against the artifices of Satan, and the devices of false teachers.
In like manner, the consistent Christian is humbly sensible of his own weakness; and, when he is actually influenced by his principles, he will not dare to say,
though all men deny thee, yet will not 1;” but rather, “hold thou me up and I shall be safe,” “ lead me not into temptation,” “ hold up my goings in thy ways, that my footsteps slip not.” Experience hath convinced him, “ that when he is weak, then is he strong," and that “when he thinks he stands, he has most cause to take heed lest he should fall :" so that he is conscious that he has no power in himself, either to resist temptations endure tribulations, face dangers, or perform duties: and that he can onl..
“ be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” (2 Cor. xii. 9, 20; Eph. vi. 10; Phil. iv. 13). Thus simplicity of dependence on God for teache ing, assistance, protection, forgiveness, acceptance, sanctification, &c., are produced and maintained: the believer becomes more and more poor in spirit, a beggar in every thing, and a constant pensioner on the Lord in all circumstances, and on all occasions. And though even this peculiarity of the true believer partakes of that imperfection which pervades his whole character; and he often betrays and is bumbled for the pride of his heart, and continually laments his proneness to self-exaltation; yet in this manner, “ boasting is” habitually “ excluded,” with self-preference, self-admiration, and contempt of others; and, in short, all the varied workings of ambition, arrogance, insolence, vain-glory, and envy, with the numerous evils of which pride is the prolific parent, are opposed, hated, mortified, and crucified ; and a lowly, self-abased, contrite, and submissive spirit is gradually formed, both in respect of God, and his brethren and neighbours. Every part of the Christian temper and character depends on this, and springs from it, as from its proper root : and that person is not much conversant in the Scriptures, who has not observed, that more is there spoken in approbation of this disposition of mind, and that more encouraging promises are made to it, than to any other part of that “ holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord :" for “ he resisteth the proud, and giveth his grace to the humble,” (Isaiah lvii. 15; lxvi. 2; Luke xviii. 14; James iv. 6; 1 Pet. v. 5.) So that all notions, gifts, and experiences, which consist with allowed prevailing and habitual pride, ambition, self-exaltation, boasting, and contempt of others, are radically defective; and give cause to suspect, that they are wholly detached from the power of godliness, and the special grace of the regenerating Spirit of Christ, however splendid they may be.
II. Another branch of the Christian temper may be comprised in the word submission. “ Submit yourselves to God,” says the apostle; and that view of the Divine perfections, law, government, and grace, which spring from evangelical principles, tends to counteract and crucify the self-will and desire of independence, which predominate in our fallen nature, and are the source of all our rebellion against our Maker. This submission is diametrically opposite to the dispositions of men in general; and in its full extent cannot be produced by any other principles, than those of the holy Scriptures. The efficacy of divine truth upon the believing mind tends to produce a willingness to submit the understanding to the teaching of God: and instead of hankering after the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge, or counting it more pleasant to discover matters for ourselves by the sufficiency of our own powers; it leads us to submit as the scholar to his tutor, to believe what the Lord testifies, and to rest satisfied with it ; leaving secret things which belong to him, and thankfully using revealed things as the light of our feet and the lantern of our paths. The same principles tend to produce submission to the will and authority of God, deeming his service perfect freedom, his commandments not grievous, his yoke easy, and his ways the paths of peace and pleasantness. Submission to his righteousness springs from the same source; and the man who truly believes the word of God, will gradually become more and more unreserved in allowing his justice in the sentence of condemnation which he hath passed upon sinners in general, and upon him in particular: in consequence of which he will also submit to his sovereign wisdom and righteousness in the appointed method of saving sinners, and in all things relating to it; whilst unbelief proportionably vents itself in objections which involve the most daring blasphemy. This will connect with submission to God in respect of his instituted ordinances, as means of grace appointed by him, to be made efficacious by his blessing; and as acts of worship hy which we are required to render him, in a measure, the honour due to his name. And finally, these same principles tend to produce habitual submission to his providence in respect of our outward situation and provision; and of those appointments and regulations by which he hath been pleased to restrain vice,
and to promote peace and good order in human society; “ giving honour to whom honour is due," "and submitting to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake.” This submission is a duty of vast extent; and the disposi- . tion habitually to aim at it, and when we have failed to return to it, in every respect, is peculiar to those who are born of God; and all the opposition of our hearts to it, arises from the remaining pride and self-will of our nature, and is a proof that we have not hitherto been fuly influenced by our principles.
But patience, resignation, contentment, and acquiescence in the will of God respecting us, constitute so important a part of the Christian temper, that they require a more particular consideration: and they are so es. sential å branch of submission to God, that wherever any appearances of them are found to be wholly separated from other parts of this general disposition, we may be sure that they are mere counterfeits, the result of natural insensibility, affected apathy, thoughtless indolence, or presumptuous obduracy. Evangelical principles so effectually inculcate the doctrine of our total unworthiness, and that we all enjoy more than we deserve, and suffer far less than what is due to our sins; that, as far as we are influenced by them, they must silence our rebellious murmurs and repinings against God; they lead us also so entirely to trace every event to his appointment as the first cause of all our trials, that they tend directly to counteract our propensity to despise his chastenings, or to vent our uneasiness under trouble in expressions of anger against instruments and second causes : they give us such a ground for confidence in the mercy, truth, power, and love of God, and for the animating hope of future happiness, as suffice to support the believer, and to preserve him from fainting or desponding under Divine rebukes; whilst the persuasion that infinite wisdom and everlasting love have chosen, and will over-rule every event for his more important good, is suited to produce a rational, reflecting and abiding acquiescence in the will of his heavenly Father. The Lord hath many wise and kind reasons for allotting his people those things which they would never have chosen for themselves; if they knew the whole intent of his most painful dispensations they would certainly approve of them: for every affliction is medicinal to the soul, and conducive to its sanctification. Thus the Christian's principles lead him to consider his station, abode, employment, provision, trials, losses, disappointments, and vexations as the will of God concerning him: and this induces him to acquiesce in them. He “ learns” in the school of Christ, “in whatever state he is, therewith to be content;" and as far as he acts consis. tently with his judgment, he views every dispensation in a favourable light, and realizes the paradox, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” He seeks comfort from God, when other comforts are withdrawn; he is taught to wait the Lord's time for deliverance, “patiently continuing in well-doing ;" without using any sinful expedients, or deserting his path or work, to escape the cross. He looks for trouble as long as he continues on earth ; he esteems sin to be a greater evil than affliction ; and in the character, sufferings, patience, and glory of his Divine Saviour, he finds every instruction explained, and every argument enforced, by which resignation, confidence in God, and joy in tribulations are inculcated. Indeed, in this, as in all other respects, the believer is conscious that he comes far short of his perfect rule and example ; and this covers him with shame, and excites his earnest prayers for mercy and grace: but his views tend to render him cheerful at all times, and in all circumstances, as they give the fullest assurance, that every event will conduce to the final and eternal good of all who love God, (Rom. v. . 3-5; James i. 2–4:) so that all the discouragement, despondency, and disquietude of religious people spring from other causes, and are directly contrary to their principles. A humble confidence in God, in respect of the future, is also of great importance: but this hath been considered as one of the believer's privileges, (Essay XVII;) and need not further be discussed in this place: for indeed our duties and our privileges are seldom more distinct than the same object viewed in different lights, or the same idea expressed by different terms.
III. The fear of God is another part of the Christian temper, which evi.' dently results from the principles of revelation. There is indeed a slavish fear, which hath torment, that love casts out as far as it prevails, (1 John iv. 18); but we speak of that reverential fear of the Divine majesty, authority, holiness, and glory, which produces solemn awe, humble adoration, serious recollection, and jealous circumspection; which induces a man to act habitually, as in the presence of the all-seeing and heart-searching God, and influences him to universal conscientiousness, even in his most secret actions, and in respect of his inmost thoughts; which teaches him to regard with profound veneration the name, word, works, counsels, decrees, and judgments of the Lord: which helps to constitute the upright, spiritual worshipper in all his ordinances; and which causes a man to fear the frown, and desire the favour of God above all things else. This “ fear of God” is the effect of special grace, grows in harmony with holy love, and will be perfected with it when the Christian shall join the company and worship of seraphim before the throne, (Psalm lxxxix. 7; Isaiah vi. 1-8; Heb. xii. 28.) Every truth of revelation concurs in giving us those views of God, and of ourselves, that are suited to produce this reverential spirit : the total want of it, therefore, must evince that many high affections are false, and much overbearing confidence unwarranted : and that man must be very imperfectly acquainted with evangelical principles, or but partially influenced by them whoisgreatly deficient in it.
IV. The love of God is an essential part of the Christian temper; but it must be very briefly discussed in this place; as in many things it coincides with the first table of the law, which hath been already explained, (Essay IV.) The truths of the gospel, when received by living faith into the regenerate heart, are wonderfully suited to excite and increase admiring love of the Divine perfections, as displayed in all the works of God: but especially in that of redemption by Jesus Christ: hence arise fervent desires after that felicity, which is found in contemplating his glory and enjoying his love. The soul begins “ to be athirst for God;" and in proportion to the prevalence of this holy affection for the Supreme Good, all inferior objects lose their attractions ! so that when the believer fears lest he should not obtain the happiness of the beatific vision, but should at last be banished from the presence of God; he can take no pleasure in worldly prosperity: when his communion with the Lord is interrupted, all other joys seem insipid ; but the light of his countenance gilds every object, alleviates every trouble, and enhances every comfort. Lively gratitude for mercies, inestimable, inexpressible, and unmerited, keeps pace with his hope of acceptance; and he cannot but most earnestly inquire, " what he shall render to the Lord for all his benefits?” The same views produce zeal for the glory of God and the honour of the gospel : and the believer is habitually disposed to consider what effect his conduct may have on the minds of men in this respect : whence humiliation, circumspection, and care to improve his talents must always arise. In all these affections and dispositions there will be a particular regard to the Person of Christ, as One with the Father and the Divine Spirit, and the equal object of all love, confidence, honour, gratitude, and adoration, (Essays VI, VII, XIII ;) and an habitual disposition to meditate on his sufferings and love, to rejoice in his exaltation and the success of his gospel; and to desire that his name should everywhere be known, trusted in, and loved ; and that his people should prosper and be happy. This love of Christ is the grand constraining principle of all evangelical obedience, and devoted subjection to him who bought us with his blood; and the several dispositions towards God, which have been enumerated, constitute the spirit of adoption; for when we have in this manner the temper of children towards God, the Holy Spirit bears witness, according to the Scripture, that he is our Father, and that we are his sons and daughters; the regenerate and adopted heirs of his heavenly inheritance.
V. The true believer is spiritually minded : that is, he is disposed to seek his happiness in spiritual things, because he is capable of relishing and delighting in them. Other men may have a task of religion ; but the world is their element in which they live as much as their consciences will allow them: but the believer “has tasted that the Lord is gracious," “ he remembers his love more than wine," “ his soul has been satisfied, as with marrow and fatness, whilst he praised the Lord with joyful lips." In proportion, therefore, as he acts consistently with his principles ; he either finds joy and pleasure in communion with God and doing his will, or he mourns after him. He feels that he must be miserable unless God, his exceeding joy, vouchsafe to make him happy: he separates from many companies and pursuits, to spend his time in the closet, in the house of God, or in the communion of the saints; not only from a sense of duty, but in order to enjoy his most valued pleasures, and to avoid whatever may interrupt them: and when he cannot find comfort in this way, and is tempted to seek it in the world, he is ready to say, “ Lord, to whom shall I go? thou hast the words of eternal life." "This is an essential part of the Christian temper; all attachment to worldly trifles arise from our not being duly influenced by our principles ; and, as far as we act consistently, we shall attend to the lawful concerns, and use the allowed comforts of life in a sanctified and holy manner.
But a very copious subject yet remains : the temper of the believer towards his brethren and neighbours is equally worthy of our attention. Many things, indeed, which might be here adduced, will occur to us when relative duties come under consideration. It is, however, too copious and important a topic to be comprised in a very small compass; it will, therefore, be more expedient to annex a second part of this Essay, and to conclude at present with a few brief observations on what hath been said.
1. Every attentive and impartial reader must perceive, even from this imperfect sketch, that revelation is, principally, intended to lead men to proper thoughts of God, and suitable dispositions and affections towards him. They who suppose the moral precepts, which relate to the conduct of men towards one another, to be the most important and valuable part of Scripture, certainly mistake the leading intent of it: for godliness (or a disposition to behave towards God, according to the glory of his perfections, and our relations and obligations to him) is the first object, both in the commandments of the law,and in the doctrines and promises of the gospel: and the sins, against which the Lord always expresses the most vehement indignation (such as atheism, idolatry, apostacy, unbelief, enmity against him, contempt and forgetfulness of him, blasphemy, &c.,) may be habitually committed by men of good moral character, who are honest, sincere, benevolent, temperate, or peaceable, from selfish principles : but these things will not excuse hatred and neglect of their infinitely glorious Creator and Benefactor. Indeed, a man cannot be godly who is not moral: because we are required to express our regard to God by behaving well to our brethren and neighbours.
2. T'he principal value, even of divine truth, consists in its sanctifying efficacy on the minds of believers. Many “imprison the truth in unrighteousness;" and the doctrines of the gospel are often professed and contended for, with such arrogance, irreverence, and fierceness, that it is plain they are not principles in the heart, meliorating the disposition ; but mere notions in the understanding, serving as an occasion of gratifying malignant passions, advancing worldly interests, or rendering a man conspicuous amongst his neighbours; and sensible men observing this, imbibe strong and fatal prejudices against the truth through the manifest misconduct of such advocates for it.
3. Even the smallest degree, in which the doctrines of the gospel operate as principles transforming the soul into their holy nature, suffices to prove them to be received with a measure of living faith : yet the Lord hath so, arranged his plan, that various circumstances concur in preventing the beļiever from deriving a strong Scriptural assurance, from a feeble effect of truth