« PreviousContinue »
again, Whosoever is born of God, DOTH NOT COMMIT SIN; for his seed remaineth in him, and he CANNOT SIN, because he is born of God.” And thus our Savior, “Then are ye. my friends, if ye do WHATSOEVER I command you." But if we would make the Bible consistent with itself, we must give these passages some latitude of meaning. The experience of the world, and the declarations of eternal truth, assure us, that “There is not a just man upon earth, that sinneth not.” We must not root out all religion from the earth, because we do not find perfection in men. Moses sinned; Samuel sin. ned; Paul sinned; Peter sinned; and yet they were all fervently pious. The melancholy fact is, that the best of men do sin greatly. They are sometimes the subjects of the most awful defection.
It is needless to conceal the truth, that the sins of good men are of an aggravated character. It is in vain to say, that they do not sin knowingly. They are indeed often surprised into the commission of sin; but they often commit it with calmness and deliberation. They often commit it in defiance to the sober dictates of reason, and in defiance to the most powerful conviction of their consciences.
It is in vain to say, that they do not sin voluntarily. No man was ever constrained to sin. Sin cannot be forced upon men contrary to their own inclination. The children of God often complain, that their hearts prompt them to sin, but their hearts never
constrain them to act contrary to their choice. Seriously considered, it is impossible to sin without acting voluntarily. The divine law requires nothing but voluntary obedience, and forbids nothing but voluntary disobedience. As men cannot sin without acting, nor act without choosing to act; so they must act voluntarily in siuning.
T'he children of God therefore do sin; they sin knowingly; they sin voluntarily; but they do not sin habitually. It is not the prevailing habit of their lives to disobey the commandments of God. This cannot be, “Sin does not REIGN in their mortal bodies, that they should obey it in the lusts thereof.' Between the old man and the new, there is an unceasing conflict. The flesh Justeth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that they cannot do the things that they would.” Still, in the new born soul, the flesh has not the ascendency. “The old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” This is most surely true of every believer. It is the prevailing babit of his life, to obey the commands of God, He is solicitous to perforın whatever God requires, and watchful to avoid whatever He forbids. No true Christian can be habitually more engaged in the service of the world and of sin, than in the service of God. His obedience, though not perfect, is labitual.
It may also be added, that, that conformity to the precepts of God's word upon which we may safely rely as a test of character, is persevering. The disciple of Jesus Christ perseveres in his course to the end of life, He holds on his way. It is the characteristic, as well as the blessedness of those who “trust in the Lord, that they are as Mount Zion which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.”
The Apostle John speaks of a class of professing Christians, that were somewhat multiplied even in those early days of the Christian Church. He says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.' The true disciple endures to the end. Though he foresees that his path is beset with obstructions on every side, still he goes forward. Though dangers may threaten, and trials discourage him; leaning upon the Beloved, be goes forward. His most vigorous resolutions terminate upon his duty. He goes forward with a firm and vigorous step. No matter how rough the way, with an eye fixed on the Author and Finisher of his faith, he goes forward with unabated ardor, leaving the earth behind him, and animated with the prospect of Heaven and glory before him. He is aiming at the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. No difficulties are so great,
no fatigue so severe, as to divert bim from his design. Perfection is his object. Ho cherishes no present intention to disobey at all. From the heart, he desires and intends to yield a compliance, not merely to this, or that requisition, but to all the divine requirements, without distinction, and without exception.
We have the highest warrant to believe, that obedience thus cordial, habitual, and persevering, is conclusive evidence of our good estate. There are none but real Christians, who thus persevere in the sincere and habitual practice of godliness. “The ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall fall therein. The way of the Lord is an high way; it is called the way of holiness, and the unclean shall not pass over it.”
The scriptures uniformly represent a life of practical godliness as a decisive test of Cbristian character. A holy life is the grand mark of distinction between the children of God and the children of the devil. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God." "Little children,” saith the same Apostle, "let no man deceive you, he that doeth righteousness is righteous; he that committeth sin is of the devil.” And again, "Hereby do we know that we know himn, if we keep his commandments."
It is difficult to conceive how it can be otherwise. There is an inseparable connexion between a holy heart and a holy life. A holy life can no more proceed from an unholy heart, than a pure stream can flow from an impure fountain. Wherever we find cordial, habitual, persevering obedience to the divine commands, there we have reason to believe, the love of God dwells in the heart. Show me a man who makes the law of God the rule, and the glory of God the end of his conduct; who is habitually devoted to the duties of piety and charity; and I will show you one whose heart has been sanctified by the Spirit of grace. On the other hand, show me a man, who, in the general course of his life, pays no regard either to the divine law, or the divine glory; who neither denies himself, nor exerts himself for the honor of God, and the good of his fellowmen; and I will show you a man who, notwithstanding all his hopes and his professions, has never felt the power, nor tasted the sweetness of genuine religion. The truth is, men sincerely and habitually act as they love to act. In forming a judgment concerning our own character, we have no right to view our practice better than our principles, nor our principles better than our practice.
At the future Judgment, there will be a public trial of human character. The grand question then to be decided, will be, Are you a child of God? Are you a believer in the