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their Saviour as the worldly Jews who expected a temporal Messiah to deliver them.
Our redemption is a redemption by sacrifice, and none are redeemed but they who conform to it. If we suffer with him we shall also reign with him.
We must then, if we would be wise unto salvation, die and rise again like Christ, and make all the actions of our life holy, by offering them to God. Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we must do all to the glory of God.
Since therefore he that is called to Christianity is thus called to an imitation of the death of Christ, to forbear from sin, to overcome the world, to be born of the Spirit, to be born of God, these surely will be allowed to be sufficient evidences, that Christianity requireth an entire change of our nature, a life perfectly devoted to God.
Now if this is Christian piety, it may serve to instruct two sorts of people ;
First, those who are content with an outward decency and regularity of life: I do not mean such as are hypocritical in their virtues, but all those who are content with an outward form of behaviour, without that inward newness of heart and spirit which the Gospel requireth.
Charity, chastity, sobriety, and justice, may be practised without Christian piety; a Jew, a heathen, may be charitable and temperate; but to make these virtues become parts of Christian piety, they must proceed from a heart truly turned unto God, that is full of an infant simplicity, that is crucified with Christ, that is born again of the Spirit, that has overcome the world. Temperance or justice, without this turn of heart, may be the temperance of a Jew or a heathen, but it is not Christian temperance till it proceed from a true Christian spirit. Could we do and suffer all that Christ himself did or suffered, yet if it was not all done in the same spirit and temper of Christ, we should have none of his merit.
A Christian therefore must be sober, charitable, and just, upon the same principles, and with the same spirit, that he receives the holy sacrament, for ends of religion, as acts of obedience to God, as means of purity and holiness, and as so many instances of a heart devoted to God.
As the bare eating of bread, and drinking wine in the holy sacrament, is of no use to us, without those religious dispositions which constitute the true frame of a pious mind, so is it the same in all other duties; they are mere outward ceremonies, and useless actions, unless they are performed in the spirit of religion: charity and sobriety are of no value, till they are so many instances of a heart truly devoted to God.
A Christian therefore is to be sober, not only so. far as answers the ends of a decent and orderly life, but in snch a manner as becomes one who is born. of the Holy Spirit, that is made one with Christ, who dwells in Christ and Christ in him. He must be sober in such a measure as best serves the ends. of religion, and practise such abstinence as may make him fittest for the holiness, purity, and perfection of the Christian life.
He must be charitable, not so far as suits with humanity and good esteem amongst men, but in such a measure as is according to the doctrines and spirit of religion.
For neither charity nor temperance, nor any other virtue, are parts of Christian holiness, tiil they are made holy and religious, by such a piety of heart as shows that we live wholly unto God.
This is what cannot be too much considered, by a great many people whose religion has made no change in their hearts, but only consists in an external decency of life, who are sober without the piety of sobriety, who pray without devotion, who give alms without charity, and are Christians without the spirit of Christianity.
Let them remember that religion is to alter our nature, that Christian piety consists in a change of heart, that it implies a new turn of spirit, a spiritual death, a spiritual life, a dying to the world, and a living wholly unto God.
Secondly. This doctrine may serve to instruct those who have lived strangers to religion, what they are to do to become true Christians.
Some people who are ashamed of the folly of their lives, and begin to look towards religion, think they have done enough, when they either alter the outward course of their lives, abate some of their extravagancies, or become careful of some particular virtue.
Thus a man, whose life has been a course of folly, thinks he has made a sufficient change by becoming temperate. Another imagines he has sufficiently declared for religion, by not neglecting the public worship as he used to do. A lady fancies that she lives enough to God, because she has left off plays and paint, and lives more at home than in the former part of her life.
But such people should consider, that religion is no one particular virtue; that it does not consist in the fewness of our vices, or in any particular amendment of our lives, but in such a thorough change of heart, as makes piety and holiness the measure and rule of all our tempers.
It is a miserable error to be content with ourselves, because we are less vain or covetous, more sober and decent in our behaviour than we used to be; yet this is the state of many people who think they have sufficiently reformed their lives, because, they are, in some degree, different from what they were. They think it enough to be changed from what they were, without considering how thorough a change religion requires.
But let such people remember, that they who thus measure themselves by themselves are not wise.
Let them remember, that they are not disciples of Christ, till they have, like him, offered their whole body and soul as a reasonable and lively sacrifice unto God; that they are not members of Christ's mystical body, till they are united unto him by a new spirit; that they have not entered into the kingdom of God, till they have entered with an infant simplicity of heart, till they are so born again as not to commit sin, so full of an heavenly spirit as to have overcome the world.
Nothing less than this great change of heart and mind can give any one any assurance, that he is truly turned to God. There is but this one term of salvation, he that is in Christ is a new creature. How insignificant all other attainments are, is sufficiently shown in the following words: Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils ? And in thy name have done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto
Matt. vii. 22. them, I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
So that there is no religion that will stand us in any stead, but that which is the conversion of the heart to God; when all our tempers are tempers of piety, springing from a soul that is born again of the Spirit, that tends with one full bent to a perfection and happiness in the enjoyment of God.
Let us therefore look carefully to ourselves, and consider what manner of spirit we are of; let us not think our condition safe, because we are of this or that church or communion, or because we are strict observers of the external offices of religion, for these are marks that belong to more than belong to Christ. All are not his, that prophecy, or even work miracles in his name, much less those, who with worldly minds and corrupt hearts are only baptized in his name.
If religion has raised us into a new world, if it
has filled us with new ends of life, if it has taken possession of our hearts, and altered the whole turn of our minds, if it has changed all our ideas of things, given us a new set of hopes and fears, and taught us to live by the realties of an invisible; world, then may we humbly hope, that we are true followers of the holy Jesus, and such as may rejoice in the day of Christ, that we have neither run in rain, nor laboured in vain.
Christianity requireth a Renunciation of the World,
and all worldly Tempers.
he Christian religion being to raise a new,
spiritual, and as yet invisible world, and to place man in a certain order amongst thrones, principalities, and spiritual beings, is at entire enmity with this present corrupt state of flesh and blood.
It ranks the present world along with the flesh and the devil, as an equal enemy to those glorious ends, and that perfection of human nature, which our redemption proposes.
It pleased the wisdom of God to indulge the Jews in worldly hopes and fears.
It was then said, Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments, which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither you go to possess it.
The Gospel is quite of another nature, and is a call to a very different state, it lays its first foundation in the renunciation of the world, as a state of false goods and enjoyments, which feed the vanity and corruption of our nature, fill our hearts with foolish and wicked passions, and keep us separate from God, the only happiness of all spirits.