Page images

believer so often diffuses itself over the whole church with which he is united. Hence it is that the biography of eminent saints becomes so useful. The recorded piety of DAVID BRAINERD has called forth to the most perilous service of the church such men as MARTYN and PARSONS ; while many a female spirit has kindled with the mild yet fervent devotion of HARRIET NEWEL. And hence it is that God has given us the example of his Son, to be the model of our character, and the aim of all our efforts.

But the wisdom of this provision, and its importance as a means of moral culture, appear more strikingly, when we reflect that God has thus given for our model an example of nothing less than absolute perfection. For such an example is of all others best adapted to the wants and to the character of our nature. Such is the infirmity of man, that without some palpable display of pure and absolute perfection, his notions of moral excellence which he might attain must have always been comparatively inadequate and indistinct. And such is the character of man, that in all things the higher he aspires the more complete is his success; and whatever may be the pursuit in which he engages with all his soul, the highest models of which his mind can fashion the distinct conception will be the standard of his efforts. And therefore God, to aid men in their efforts after moral excellence, holds out before them for their imitation the example of his own Son-elevated, pure, and perfect.

We see, then, that in the life of Jesus Christ the law of God has been imbodied and exemplified. A perfect example has been presented; an example of practicable holiness, and adapted for universal imitation; an example which constitutes one of the most important means of moral culture which infinite wisdom has ever afforded. The subject thus considered admits of many important applications.

1. And first, it may be applied to illustrate the moral perverseness of mankind. There is in man's native character, as moralists have often observed, a disposition to excel in every attainment which he deems worthy of high admiration. To whatever pursuit an individual devotes himself with all his energies, in that pursuit he is ever making progress, and while aught of excellence remains before him, he feels a longing discontent which urges him for ever onward. He who has determined to be truly great in any department of excellence, sets before his mind the highest standard of attainment, and never rests till he has equalled, or if it be not absolutely perfect, has surpassed it. As it was with the orator of ancient times, who studied all the examples of eloquence that were before him, and resolving to surpass them all, formed to himself, by the imagined combination of their various excellence, the conception of " something immense and infinite;" and then made this ideal image of perfection the standard of his efforts ;-just so it is with men in every department in which they strive for excellence. The instances have often been collected and described. The scholar looks forth exultingly over the fields which he resolves to traverse, and, measuring the strides of the great examples who have gone before, his spirit cries, “I will surpass them.” The artist studies the noblest specimens ;—he travels, it may be, to distant countries, that, having seen the most exalted models, he

may be enabled by long effort to excel them all. And so the youthful poet, impelled by his own kindling aspirations, turns over with a feverish emulation those productions which have won the admiration of every age.

Now, bear in mind this principle of human nature, this disposition to excel, this longing after the perfect and the infinite, -remember that for eighteen hundred years there has been held forth before the sons of men, expressly for their imitation, a high and perfect exhibition of moral excellence; a specimen of the only excellence which God approves ; a specimen which all, in every condition, may make their standard ;and when you have seen how few have been persuaded or provoked to imitation, and how faint and inconstant have been, for the most part, the efforts of those few ;-then tell me, if you have not seen a most impressive illustration of the perverseness of man's moral nature, and the supineness of all his moral faculties. And if it be a fact, that this example has been familiar to your mind from infancy, and yet has never won your fervent love or roused in you the effectual resolution to resemble it; can you not read in such a fact your own perverseness ?— and must not such perverseness be a fearful omen of your destiny ?.

2. The example of Christ may be applied as a test of Christian character. “ He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk even as he walked.” Here is the standard of Christian character; here the simple and obvious test by which all pretensions to Christian character must be settled. A man may have his frames, and talk much about his experiences, and yet be no Christian. A man may be exceedingly well informed on the doctrines of religion, and his contemplations may ravish him with their sublimity, or dissolve his spirit in emotions of tenderness, while yet he is no Christian. A man may be liberal in his contributions to objects of public utility, and his name may stand in capitals on the catalogue of those who are the benefactors of their country or the benefactors of the church, while yet he is no Christian. But that man who follows in the steps of Jesus, whose character is modelled after his image, who leads a life of meekness and patience and selfdenial, and toil and benevolence and prayer, such as were seen in the life of Christ;—that man, and that man only, is a Christian. He whose connection with Jesus is seen, not only in his profession, not only at the table of his Lord, or in the house of God, or in the meeting for devotion ; not only in now and then a single act of benevolence, or now and then a sudden flight of ardent feeling; but more than all, in the tenor of his every-day deportment—he who walketh even as Christ walked_he it is whom Christ will own as his disciple. To know him, therefore, you must go into his family, and into his place of solitary prayer; you must follow him to his business; you must hear him speak, not only when he is on his guard, and when religion is distinctly set before him, but when he mingles among men, and when in the current of remark his thoughts flow out without restraint; you must see what are his schemes, his hopes; what is the object of his toils; and you must think the while, how all these things would look if they were set down as a chapter in the life of Jesus Christ. If you see the love of money; if you see the pride of life; if you see the heart and the hand fast closed against the calls of benevolence; if you see any passion unrestrained ;-anger, or envy, or pride, or levity; if you see a' spirit that delights in tales of scandal, or a spirit that complains and murmurs and is restless ; if you see any of these things, how can it be that this man is a follower of Christ ? How can he be a Christian, if he cannot stand the test of Christian character ?

Now try this test yourself. Suppose you should live one whole day exactly as Christ lived: how would that day compare with the ordinary days of your life? Would it be a day for the suspension of your customary pursuits and of your wonted enjoyments ? If so, then the conclusion is too obvious to be mistaken. Try the test again. Where

been during the past week, and what have you done? If Christ

wherever you went ; if he had stood by you to hear whatever you said, and to witness all your actions ; would not he have been ashamed of you; and would not you have been ashamed to have him look upon you! He was with you, though you saw him not. If you forgot his presence, he did not forget you. He saw you :—and did he see you walking even as he walked ? If he did not, how are you his disciple ? Be not deceived. You may have many goodly frames, and may speak many goodly words about your own inward conflicts; and yet be none of his.

know much about his gospel, and admire the splendor of eternal things; and yet be none of his. You may perform from time to time many an occasional act of devotion or of benevolence; and yet be none of his. If you are his, you will so walk even as he walke:l. Be not deceived; for God is not deceived. Be not deceived; if you have not the spirit of Christ, you are none of his.

have you had gone

You may

3. Once more: The example of Christ may be applied to illustrate the condition and the duty of degenerate Christians. It illustrates their condition. Professing to be in Christ, they have wandered from the path in which he walked. They have engaged in pursuits, in which, if he had been engaged, they know it would have been pollution to his character. They have indulged desires and passions, which, if he had indulged, they know he never could have been the Lamb of God.” They have neglected to commune with God. They have worshipped money, which is the god of this world. They have grasped after vanity, and labored for that which satisfieth not. Thus, heavenly desires, devout affections, godlike aspirations, have died away within them. They now sustain a cold and inconsistent profession, which is a heavy burthen to their souls, and under which they live uneasy and unsatisfied. This is their condition. They have wandered from that path in which the Savior trod, and in which the company of his redeemed have followed on to glory; they have wandered from that path on which the light of God's countenance beams always like the morning, and in which duty and enjoyment, purity and blessed hope, go hand in hand. What then is their duty ? What, but to return without delay? What, but to renounce immediately every pursuit, every affection, every passion, which is inconsistent with the example of Christ ? What, but to act, from this moment, in all circumstances, just as conscience says that Jesus would have acted ?

Rise, then, cold, degenerate, dead believer; lay aside every weight and the sins that do so easily beset thee, and run with patience the race that is set before thee, LOOKING UNTO JESUS.

" My dear Redeemer, and my Lord,

I read my duty in thy word;
But in thy life the law appears,
Drawn out in living characters.

Such was thy truth, and such thy zeal,
Such deference to thy Father's will,
Thy love and meekness so divine,
I would transcribe and make them mine.

Cold mountains, and the midnight air,
Witness'd the fervor of thy prayer:
The desert thy temptations knew,
Thy conflict, and thy victory too.

Be thou my pattern; make me bear
More of thy gracious image here;
Then God, the Judge, shall own my name
Among the followers of the Lamb."

[blocks in formation]

THE EFFICACY OF DIVINE TRUTH. PSALM CXIX. 130.-The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth

understanding to the simple.

In these words the inspired Psalmist describes the efficacy of revealed truth on the human mind. He affirms that the entrance of it gives light and understanding even to the simple. In this instance, as in many others, experience and observation confirm, what revelation declares. Men of inferior natural powers, or of little learning, are frequently seen to obtain, by a diligent perusal of the Sacred Scriptures, a far better knowledge of God, of true religion, and of sound morality, than is ever acquired by the ablest philosopher, or the most erudite scholar, who rejects revelation. Thus it is shown by obvious facts, that the entrance of God's word introduces into the mind light, or knowledge, of the most important kind. Its effect is much like that which strikes us when we let sun-beams into a dark apartment: to which, indeed, there seems to be an allusion in the text.

As not only light, but understanding also, is here mentioned, we may remark that this latter word, in the language of Scripture, and by the Psalmist himself, is sometimes put for moral qualities, as well as for intellectual attainments. In the Psalm before us, the term appears to be several times used, so as at least to include this sense.


therefore consider the writer, not merely as repeating or explaining, in the second member of the sentence, what he had affirmed in the first ; but as distinctly referring, in the term understanding, to the sanctifying influence of the word of God. Such an influence we certainly know that word often has. “Sanctify them through thy truth," said the Saviour, " thy word is truth :" and David himself elsewhere declares, “ The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”

It is however important to remember, that the divine word itself possesses no saving influence, until it is effectually applied to the conscience, and to the heart, by the same Holy Spirit by whom it was at first indited. Still, it is His own written, revealed truth, which the Spirit uses for this

« PreviousContinue »