Archibald Forbes.

The Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 online

. (page 23 of 121)
Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 23 of 121)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

thou me from secret feults !" Who can carry in his
bosom a proud heart, or on his brow a lofty mein 1
Wbo can look with complacency upon his poor
starveling graces, and doar with fond and pharisaic
eyes upon his own righteousness 1 Who is not
stripped at once, in his own view, of all his imper-
fect vinues ; and presented to his own contempla-
tion in the naked deformity of a poor, sinful, and
imperfect creature, who has no ground for pride,
but luost ample and abundant cause for the deepest
humiliation. Let the men who value themselves so
highly on the ground of their moral dignity, and
wbo are regarded by others as almost sinle^ cha-
racicr^i, and who feel as if they had little oi* no oc-
casion for the exercise of a penitential ftrame of
mind; who pity as fanaticism, or scorn as hypocri-
sy, tboae lowly coofemiooa which Christians make

at the focMUxA of the divine throne;— let tUm c
to this ordeal and try themselves by this standard,
that they may learn how ill grounded is their pride,
and how little occasion they have to boast of^ their
virtue I Would they like that any human eye should
be able to trace all the movements of their hearts.
and see alt the workings of envy, and suspicion^ ana
wrath, and selfishness, which the eye of Dnity so
often sees there 1 Say not that these are only the
infirmities of our nature, to which the wisest and
the best of the hunaan race are ever subject in this
world of imperfection; because this is confessing^
how deeply depraved is mankind, even in their best
state. Can envy, and pride, and selfishness, and
suspicion, and revence, be looked upon as mere pio-
cadilloes, which call for neither numiliation nor
grief. Are they not the germs of all those crimes
which have deluged the earth with blood, filled it
with misery, and caused the whole creation to grosa
together until now"} Murders, treasons, wars, mae-
sacres, with all the tighter crimes of robberies, ex*
tortious, and oppressions, have all sprung up from
these passions.

What need, then, have we all of that great sacri*
fice which beareth away the sin of the world 1 and
what need of a perpetually recurring application,
by feith and repentance, to that blood which speak-
eth better things than the blood of Abel, and whidi
cleanseth from all sin 1 What cause have we to re-
pair nightly to the throne of grace, that we may ol>-
tain mercy; and daily, that we may find ^nce to
help in time of need. With the eye of feith upon
the propitiatory offering that was presented to iH-
yine justice by the Son of Qod upon the cross, let
us continualhr approach the awful Majesty of ne*-
yen and eartn, saying—" God be merciful to me a



Lovs may be enforced upon us by a consideration

1. Our man peaet a/nd comfort.

We are not to be indifferent to our own happi-
ness ; we caimot be : man can no more will his own
misery, or be careless about hb own comfort, than
he can cease to exist. To seek for enjoyment is the
first law of our existence— an inherent and insepa-
rable propensity of our nature. In this reqpect, the
angels, and the spirits of the just above, agree with
man upon the earth. There is no sin, therefore, in
desiring to be happy ; we could not do otherwise,, if
we would. Ever since the entrance of sin, howe-
ver, the heart is corrupted in its taste, so as to put
evil for good ; and, mistaking the nature of happi-
ness, man of course mistakes the way to obtain it
All the pursuits of the world, however varying, and
however unlawful, are the operations of this pro-
pensity of the human mind; they are all but so many
efforts to obtain happiness. To this feeling of the
human bosom many of the most comprehensive,
beautiful, and encouraging invitations of the gos-
pel of Christ are addrnsM ; and it is at once the
glory and the peculiarity of the gospel that addres*
ses itself first, not to our moral, but to our natural,
wants. It meets us, not as craving after holiness,
for of this an unenlightened, unconverted sinner
knows nothing ; but as craving after happiness,— a
desire common to every human bosom : this is the
meaning of that exquisite language with which the
apostle almost cIoms the word of God — ** The Spi-
rit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that hear*
eth, say. Come. And let him that is aikirst come;
And whusoever will, let him take the water of
lifo freely.'' Tte aame vitw appertains to the la»

Digitized by



gmge of the Piopbet— ''^Ho, every one that tJdn^
«U, come je to the watere.'* The thirst here men-
tiooed is not, as has been f^Deqnently bat erroneously
stated, the strong desire of a conriiiced sinner aAer
the blessings of the pispel: bat that of a miserable
creature alter happiness. The persons addressed
by the prophet are such as were spending their
money lor that vhieh was not bread, and their la*
bor for that which satisfieth not: exfMressions which
will not apply to those who are desiring Christ, and
the blessings of his gospel, bat to those who are en-
deayoring to be happy withom them : to all these the
Lord Jesas is represented as saying, '< Hearken
<liligently unto ae^ Come onto me: I will gire yon
the sore mercies of DaWd ; then shall ye eat that
which is good, and yoar soal shall delight itself in
fttness. I am the way to happiness. Men shall be
hlAssed in me.** The blessing of the goml, by
which men are made happy, is not only jostification
chroagh the righteoosneas of Christ, bat also sanc-
tification by bis Spirit. An imrenewed heart can
DO more be happy in any place or circamstance&
than a diseasea bodr can be rendered easy aaa
comfortable by sitaauon and external advantages.
Until the carnal mind, which is enmity agamst
Ckid, be regenerated, and brooght to love CM sa-
premely, Uiere can be no peace; as long as the
mart is ander the dominion of predominant selfisb-
BcaB, and all those lasts and passions to which it
ffives rise, it mutt be miserable. In the absence of
love, the human bosom mast be the seat of nneasi-
ness and distress. Happiness does not arise from
pMsostsns so mach as from ditpotUions : it is not
what a man has, or where he dwells, but what he
ia Whatever be the great smirc€ of felicity, the
springs of it mast be seated in oar nature. There
are certain tempers, the absence of which would
render heaven a place of torment to us; and
others, which would raise for os an Edea In the
dreariest wilderness on earth.

L§V€ is tttentisi U ik$ kapfrinetttf^wtortUageiU,
This was the original rectitude or our nature.—
Man was made for love ; to love God supremely,
and to love whatever is like God, or related to him.
This disposition was not only bis temper in Para-
di5ie, but it was the very paradise of his soul, in
which he held the sweetest communion with Gkxl
and universal being. This tuned his heart to har-
mony with his Maser and his fellow creatures.—
Every movement of his heart was a movement of
love; and all his desires so many aspirations of
tove: thi5 constituted at once his honor and his ha)»-
piness. Hence, the implantation of this ^rrace m
nis sonl is the bringing back of man agam to his
original state, to his " divinely natural condition ;"
and, therefore, it is the restoration of him to trae
complacency and satisfaction. It is true that many,
in the absence of this, pretend to aome kind of en-
joyment, aad have it too; for there are pleasures of
sin, such as they are : but as to solid nappiness,—
that which beftrs and satisfies a rational, moral, and
Immortal creature.— 4t may with the greatest truth
be affirmed, that the wicked are like the troubled
sea, that cannot rest, bat is continually easting np
mire andT dirt

Lei amf om cmuider tJU foui&ns wkieh lovt expels
from, the bosom, or whicn it keeps in subjection
where it does not eradicate them, and ask if that
heart can be the seat of comfort, or the region of
peace, where they predominate. As well mmj we
expect oaietode and comfort in a haunt of banditti,
or in a den of wild beasts, or in a field of baule, as
in a heart where anger, wrath, malice, envy, pride,
end revenge, have taken up their abode. On the
other hand, bow calm, and composed, and cheerful,
ifl that heart, where meekness is the presiding ^•
rit; wbtra love to God hat introdicM beoevoleiiQe

to man,— a temper which follows it as closely as its
shadow, and has Hubjogated the temper to the do-
minion of charity! Let any one consult his^wn
experience, and inquire if there be not an ineffiible
delight in the feelings of benevolent regard ; whe-
ther such a state do not resemble one of those calm
and glowing summer evenings, when fiature seems
to be quietly reclining on the bosom of peace. But
how demon-like is the feeling when the turbulent
passions gain the asc e ndan c y : what agitation and
what torment are the result !

Leve is the very eiewteni wkiek is congenial to UU
Help Okott, and renders the heart the abode of his
delight. " The irascible passions,** says Mr. Hall,
in his beaotifal tract on the work oJT the Spirit,
"surround the soul with, a sort of troubled atmo-
sphere, than which nothing is more eontrary to the
calm and holy light in which the spirit loves to
dwell." " Let all bitterness, and wrath, and clamor,
and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all
malice ; aad grieve not ike Spirit of Godr—em ex-
pression as we have already consider^, which,
mxn its context, intimates that the Spirit of God is
susceptible of offence ; and peculiarly so, by any ne-
glect or violation of the law of love. Every thing
connected with our spiritual well being depends on
the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in our hearts :
when this divine guest retires from our souls, and
withdraws bis gracious influences, he gives utter-
ance at the same time to the solemn denunciation,
" Woe be unto you, if my soul depart from you."—
The heart of the believer assumes then the charac-
ter and appearance of a temple forsaken by its ()ei*
tv: all is ruin and ^lesolatioo ; the sacrificie ceases,
the altar is overthrown, the fire is extinguished. —
We have all much need to present with the utmost
fervor the supplication of tne Psalmist, *' Cast me
not away Arom thy presence, and take not thv Holy
Spirit from me." No wimess to. our sonsbip, no
consolations, no faith, no hope, no growth in grace,
no joy and peace in believing,— can then be enjoy-
ed ; instead of this we shall be abandoned to world-
ly-mindedness, imbelief, despondency, gloomy ap-
prehensions, and foreboding anticipations. Now
the Spirit mil retire from that heart which is desti-
tute of love, and which is perpetually indulging in
tempers of an opposite description. If, then, von
would retain this divine visitant — this illustrious
guest ; if jrou would indeed continue to be the tem-
ples of the Holy GHiost ; if you would have Gkxl abid-
ing in you;— cultivate the grace of charity; invite
him to your souls for this very purpose; jrield your-
selves to his tender solicitations, ai^d gracious draw-
ings; open your minds to his gentle illapsM: and
when at any time you feel an unusual relenting of
mind, follow ap the impression and resign your
whole selves to the benign power of which you are
at that time the happy subjects.

Love will prdmote your own potce and comfort,
by conciliating the good wiU and kindness of others.
In all the commerce of life, we are generally paid
back in the same kind of conduct which we main-
tain towards others. Ill will, and pride, and envy,
and selfishnetv, are sure to excite and to array
against us the bad passions of mankind. Under
such circumstances, many will talte delight in an-
noying us; all our unkindness will come back upon
us in innumerable acts of retaliation. But love con-
ciliates esteeoL ''The meek shall inheilt the
earth;" their quiet, and inoffensive, and benevolent
^irit subdues, bv a mild but irresistible power, the
most violent and injurious tempen. It has often led
the lion, the tiger, and the serpent, by its soft and
silken cord ; it has charmed to tameness not only
the fierceness of wild beasts, but the frantic rage of
the fories. It was thus that Jacob subdued the rage
of Esau, who wa5 marching against him with po^

Digitized by




poMS of rerenfe; so that iDStead of exeentiiig his
wrath, " he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and
ftR QDOA his neck, and kined him.'* It was thos
ttkBX Darid softened the heart of Sanl, and disarmed '
his malignity of its ranrderons intention. " Is this
the Toice of my son David 1^ said the royal perse-
entor; "and he hftednp his Toioe, and wept, sav-
ing to David, Thoa art more righteous than I, for
thoa hast rewarded me good, whereas I have re-
warded thee evil." ** Who Is he that will haim
yon," said the aposUe. " if yon are followers of that
which is good T Wno can be the enemy of chari-
ty 1 Who will snbject himself to the odium and re-
proach of being nnkind to love 1

In all these ways do we promote onr own peace
by the cnltivation of this temper. And can we be
Indifferent to oar own comfort 1 Is it a matter of
no moment to us, whether onr boeom be the seat of
qoietode or agitation 1 Oh no ; it is not, it cannot
be. Bat we have had oar attention too much
drawn off fh>m ourselves. We have foivotten that
it is said, the good man shall be satisfied ilrom him-
selil We have thought, or acted too much as if
we thought, the sources of peace were without us,
and beyona ift. We are not yet cured of the
disease of eartUy-mindedness. we still labor un-
der the mistake, that happiness is something uncon-
nected with moral disposition ; that it is a matter
foreign from ouctelves, and arising Arom the ad-
ventitious Circutnstances of wealth, and rank, and
fune. It is time to take another oourse, to try ano-
ther scheme, and to adopt other means. Let us
seek God*^ grace to open springs of pleasure in our-
selves. Not that we are to seek in ourselves for
joy and peace, when suffering under a conscious-
ness of sm ; not that, as sinners, we are to seek re-
lief from (he bnrdeb of ^nS\i in our own virtues or
graces ; not that we are m any sense to look to our
own works, as constituting our justifying righteous-
ness: in aH these views of our case, we must re-
joice onlv fn ike Lardf but as those who are justi-
fied, and at peace with God through Christ, we are
to do the work of righteousness, which is peace,
and enjoy the effects of righteousness, which is

auietness and assurance for ever: we are to Covet
ie rejoicing which Paul speaks of as arising fh>m
** the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity
and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, out by
the grace of (Sod, we have had our conversation in
the worid." There is the joy of justification, and
the joy of sanctification : one, the delight of being
restored to Qod*s favor by the work of Christ, and
the other the joy of being restored to God's image
bv the work or the spirit Bdanv seem afhud of
the joys of holiness, and count all delight but that
of futh to be a mere effisrvescence of sdf-rigbteous-
ness, and which only intoxicates the soul with pride.
Wh^, then, has our Lord nronounced his seven-fdld
bi^atitude on the graces of^a renewed mind 1 Why
has he thus so emphatically and solemnly connected
happiness with holiness 1 The angels are happv,
because they arc holy : and the heavenly felicity is
the perfection of sanctity. In proportion, therefore,
as we give ourselves up to the mftuence and the
government of love, we approach to the Messedness
of the spirits of just men made perfect He that
lives in love shall drink of the waters of his own
cistern, and be satisfied ; he shall, every morning,
find this heavenly manna lying upon the surface
of his soul, and be fed with it to eternal life; and
finding himself united by fhith to the truth, he shall
find peace within, though in the world he should
have tribulation.

True religion is no sullen stoicism, or gloomy
melancholy ; it is not an enthralling tyranny exer-
cised over the noble and generous sentiments of
kfTt and delight, as those who are strangers to it

imagine : but it is Ml of a vigorous and mascaliae
felicity, such as ennobles, instead of degrading, the
soul; such as invigorates, instead of enervating,
its powers; such as does not dispirit and sadden the
mind afterwards, when the season of eaj<^rment is
gone by, as do earthly and sensual pleasures ; bat
elevates its views and purposes, and strengthens it
for lofty enterprise and heroic deeds, by giving it to
drink of the river of lifie, clear as crystal, which
flows out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,
and refreshing it with what, in a true and a holy
sense, may be called the nectar of immortality.
That religion which does not oonsist in mere, aiiy
notions, in cold and heartless orthodoxy, in phan*
saic forms and ceremonies, but in faith workmg bf
love— love to God, to Christ, to the brethren, and to
the world— does sometimes, in its higher elevatioBs,
lead the soul into a mount of transftipuration, where
it glows amidst the splendor that &lls on it fhmi
the excellent glory : or takes it to the top of Piagah.
where it sees the distant prospect of the proouaeci
land; thus placing it in the porch of heaven, somI
on the confines of eternity.

3. Love prefont tke soul for making g r ot Uor mi-
toffMMfU ifi «tt oikor pmrts of ttUgion, It is pro-
duced by knowledge and fhith ; but, by a reaction,
it increases the power of its own cause. It is just
that state of heart, which is adapted to the growth
of all the plants of reliffion, that without it are soon
spoiled by the impure droppings of our own corrupt
and selfish alfecttons. How much will our growth
^ ibwwfff^ge be aided by this state of suult "If
any man will do the will of God," said Christ, "* he
shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God,
or whether I mak of mvself." Disposition pre-
pares for knowledge. When Zoroaster's acholare
asked him what they should do to get wingod umis,
such as might soar aloft in the bright beams of truth,
he bade them bathe in the waters of life: and upon
being required to state what they are, refMied, '* The
four cardinal virtues, which are the four rivers of
Paradise." The reason why truth prevails no more
in the world, is because there is so little love. Our
views are contracted and dim, not because of the
narrowness of the prospect or the want of a sun to
enlighten it, but because both the luminary and the
scene are veiled by those mists which our eorrup-
tioos send upfh>m our hearts to becloud our under-
standings. The holier we are, the clearer will the
truth appear to our intellect, and the better Mtt
shall we be to bear the brightness of his glory :
even as our Lord declares, that it is purity of heart
which must prepare us to sustain the beaufic vision.
The pagan sages also prescribe to their pupils a cer-
tain moral di^osition, as essential to advancement
in knowledge; and so does Christianity. Plato
tauffht, that be who, by universal love and holy af-
fbctton, was raised above the dominion of semsh-
nesB, came into the nearest union with God. and at-
tained to the highest- intellectnal life : and this is
the unction of the Holy One, mentioned by the
apostle wher<^ we know all thincs. Our sonls
are too clouded and too agitated by the bad feelings
of our hearts, to make great attainments in ho4y
light. The moral excellence of the troth is hidden
fh>m us; it pa.«es before us in dark outline, an
awfhl and niajestic form; we see its back parts,
but we discover not the brighmess and the beauty
of its countenance, as we might do, on account of
our want of holy oonformity to its nature, and of
fimess fbr its f^ellowship. Let U9l then, grow in
love, that we n»y grow in knowledge.

And with respect to fnthj the more we are
brought to f^l the influence of^the. great scheme ef
redeeming love, in transforming us into its own
image, and causing us to love others, as God for
Chriirs take htf lov«d us, the morafirat will ha

Digitized by



oar ooATictkm of the 4iviB6 ongin of tbo pian
which hfts thus wrooght so HianrelloiK m chan^
I upoA OS. He that believeth hath the witness in
himself^ in the revolation oi feeling, of motive and
of aim, which has heen produced in his soul. To
him the experimental evidence of the troth of the
gospel appears with a brightness niiich none of the
rest possiess. He is himself an evidence of the di-
vine power which accompanies the truth* No sabde
argumentation can reason him out of the conadoos-
neas of that change and deliverance which he has
experienced from predominant selfishness to love.
If all Christians acted fully np to their principles,
and drank as deeply as they might do, and shook!
do, of the spirit of charity, the impress of heaven
would be so clearly enstamped upon the chnrch,
that the divmity of the gospel conld no lott«er rs-
main a matter of question with any^ Who can
doofot the heavenly origin of that system which has
raised him not only to a heavenfy hope, but to a
heavenly temper 1

3. The creiU tutd k&nor of reHgion require that
we should seek afker higher attainments in love. It
is well known by all who possess only the most su-
perficial acquaintance witn the word of God, that
the end and dcHign of the great scheme of reviBaled
truth— a scheme which occupied the councils of
Iteaven fh>m et^mitv^ and was accomplished by an
incarnation of God himself: that the end for which
the Son of God was crucified — a mystery which
angels desire to look into^was not merely to bring
a set of notions into the world, and to induce men
to change one class of opinions and forms for ano-
ther, still leaving the heart of man as impure and
selfish as ever: on the contrary, it is known that
God has come down to our nature, to raise us to
his ; that the whole plan of salvation terminates in
the renewal and perfection of the human race in
the principles of purity and benevolence. It has
heen declared, wherever Christianity has travelled,
that the essence of religion is love. Hence expect-
ations, which, thouflrh rising high, are well fbonded.
have been indutged in reference to the benign and
holy temper of the followers of the Lamb. Men
have said, '^ Let us sm how those CkrisUaiU conduct
theasselves." What disgust and disappointment
have been, in many cases, and to a wide extent, the
result 1 Has the church of God yet answered to its
own professions, or to the expectations of its specta-
tors and enemies 1 Has religion derived aU the
advantage, in the way of attestation and recom-
mendation, which it should, (torn the conduct of its
friends 1 Are they seen every where so meek, so
just, so kind, so candid, so benevolent, so humble—
as to exeite admiration, and to extort the concession
ihal the principles which could produce such con-
duct must be from heaven 1 On the contrary, have
not multitudes who Jtidge of Christianity, not as
they should do by itself, but by the coiiduct of its
fMxifesBors, revived, from the ofitosive exhibitions
of pride, and selfishness, and malice, which they
are doomed to wimess sometimes hi the church, an
unutterable disgtwt, an invincible prejudice agaonst
Christianity 1 where is the spirit of charity which
was exhibited in the jrreat Author <^ Christianity.
and which is enjoined in his precepts, and contained
in his system V-is a qtiestion a thousand times
asked, even bf those who live in a Christian land,
but who see little there of universal love. Creeds
and catechisms, ferras and ceremonies, devotional
seasons and religious observances, will be thought
of little worth, and will do little t6 ensure the es-
teem and to engage the imitation of mankind^ in
the absence of that disposition which all these thinin
are adapted and intended to produce. The world's
demand of the church is for love : " We have had,"
my fh«Tf ''taM|h 6f epinions; let us now hare

actions: we have had mdre than enough of articlef
of feith ; let us now see more of the fruits of lo(ve.*
And how shall we meet that demand t Not by ex-
hibiting less of truth, but more of love: not by
giving up our creeds or our ferms, but Inr carrying
Siem out into all the beautifhl effects of benefioenoe
and parity.

Christians ; theoharaeter of religion is entrusted
to Our keeping) and we are continually defeming it,
or raising its reputation; and are either betraying
it into the hands of its enemies, or conciliating their
esteem towards it It is high time for us to be mora

Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 23 of 121)