Page images

toward God. He is eartnly and sensual rather than heavenly and spiritual.

In the sight of God, such a character is radically defective. The moral man is like Israel of old; an empty vine, because he bringeth forth fruit to himself. He is no better than the unprofitable servant; no better than a cumberer of the ground, who will at last be cut down and cast inte the unquenchable flame.

Let it not be forgotten, however, that no man has the least claim to Christian Character, who is not what the world styles a moral man. Vital religion is an operative principle. The spirit of piety not only lives in the heart, but flows forth in the life. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Whatever may be the pretensions of an immoral man, be is far from the kingdom of heaven. Still, mere morality falls far short of the religion of the cross. The grand defect is, ipere morality never aims at the heart, and would never touch it, if it should. The natural disposition may be very amiable, and the external demeanor very blameless; while the carnal heart is enmity against God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ requires men to be moral; and if this were all that it required, the moral man would be a Christian. But it requires them to be moral from holy principles. The Gospel of Jesus Christ requires men to be honest, sober, industrious, and munificent; but it requires them to be honest, sober, industri

ous, and munificent, from evangelical motives. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. The moral quality of actions lies in the disposition of heart with which they are performed. A nan may therefore be very honest, very humane, and very munificent; but if the disposition of heart with which the acts of honesty, humanity, and munificence are performed, be not such as God requires and approves, he has no lot nor part in the portion of God's people.

There is a wide distinction between moral virtues and Christian graces. Christian graces spring from Christian motives, or such motives as are warranted by the Gospel of Christ. They regard, in the first place, the glory of God, and the interests of his kingdom; and then regulate our intercourse with our fellow men according to the principles of his word. Moral virtues spring from selfish motives. They have no regard for the glory of God and the interests of his kingdom. They go just so far as self-interest leads the way, and there they stop Such are the virtues of men dead in trespasses and sin; such is the morality of ophilanthropists;" such is the morality of the heathen; such is the morality of infidels. Reader, look into your Bible. Will such inorality be of any avail in the solemn hour, that tries the spirits of men? To the law and the testimony: Every page will flash conviction on the conscience, that such spurious morality is of no account

in the sight of God. I say, in the sight of God: The moral man has a higher claim upon the regard and confidence of his fellow men than the immoral man. He is a better ruler and a better subject, a better parent and a better child, a better master and a better servant, than the immoral inan. Other things being equal, he is less guilty in the sight of God than the immoral man. But after all, he wants the one thing needful. He is a child of wrath. He is without Christ; an alien from the commonwealth of Israel; a stranger from the covenants of promise: and though he may cherish a delusive hope, is. without God in the world.



"MANY,” says an old writer, take the press-money and wear the livery of Christ, that never stand to their colors, nor follow their leader." The chiaracter of the formalist ranks biglier in the cstimation of the world, than the character of thic mere moralist. Formalists advance a step further than visible morality, and maintain the form of religion. They are those who are not only decent in their external deportment among men, but strict in the observance of all the duties. of picty. They put on the appearance of

real religion: But this is not conclusive evidence of their Christian Character.

We read of those who have the form of godliness, but who deny the power thereof. Men may maintain the form of godliness from a variety of motives, none of which spring from the operation of grace in the heart. Many persons do it for the sake of reputation. A due regard to the institutions of Christianity, forms so essential a part of the character of the good citizen, that among a virtuous people, it is difficult to secure esteem and confidence, without a becoming observance of the external duties of religion. Such is the homage which vice pays to virtue, that in Christian communities, it is a creditable thing to put on the appearance of religion. To those who regard the good opinion of the world around them, there are not wanting multiplied motives to appear better than they really are.

Nó small portion of those who maintain the mere form of religion, do it from the force of education. A religious education cannot fail to have a desirable influence, in a greater or less degree, upon all, both in restraining them from the commission of crime, and in impelling them to the external performance of duty. It often does have this influence upon many during the whole course of their lives. It is difficult to break over the restraints which have been imposed by parental instruction and example, without

singular boldness and the most brutish stupidity. Hence you find many who persevere in the usual forms of religion to the end of life, who give you no satisfactory reason to believe that their hearts are right with God. The observance of the external services of piety has become a habit; and they walk the customary round of duties because it is a beaten path, rather than because it is a pleasant one.

Perhaps a still greater number maintain the appearance of godliness for the sake of quieting the clamors of natural conscience. The inspiration of the Almighty has implanted a principle in the human breast, which is capable of discerning the immutable difference between right and wrong; of giving men a sense of moral obligation; and of approving what is right and condemning what is wrong in their moral conduct. There are seasons when the silent voice of that invisible agent, who is commissioned by God to record the sins of thought and action, whispers that God is angry with the wicked every day. The implacable foe stings with anguish and convulses with agony. In these seasons of remorse, the carnal beart naturally flecs to the coyenant of works. · When the moral principle is awake, there can be nothing that looks like a compromise between the heart and the conscience, short of a life of external godliness. The conscience is so seriously affected with divine truth, as often and for a length of time,

« PreviousContinue »