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shews him the imperfection of his own righteousness, and leads him to mourn over it, that he may seek the purity of heart and life which is wrought by the influence of the Holy Ghost. It directs him with purer principles, with a better aim, with a surer hope and a more powerful aid, to attain a more elevated degree of holiness.
III. The influence of the Holy Spirit is the third particular, in the doctrine of regeneration, which marks the peculiar character of Christianity. The Gospel is emphatically styled, "the ministration of the Spirit:'' “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” We are saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which is shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ. “That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.”
All religions which have any pretension to the notice of a rational being, agree in this point, that they require a degree of moral goodness in their votaries. But Christianity not only differs materially from them, by requiring in its disciples a degree of purity and strictness essentially different from that which is enjoined by any other religious system, but by referring to an Almighty Agent as the only source of this goodness. If the assistance of the Spirit of God holds out great encouragement, it no less increases our obligations and augments our responsibility: for the Gospel requires of those to whom this Divine aid is given, a measure of holiness, inconsistent with the natural state and powers of man: it demands such a change in their habits and principles, as may justly entitle them to the appellation of new creatures. Without this change it does not consider them as Christians. The flesh is, in the New Testament, opposed to the Spirit; that is, the natural state of man, to his state as recovered by the Spirit.
Christianity is not, like other religions, national: it is entirely personal. We are indeed, by birth, entitled to baptism, and to be admitted into the external church of Christ; that is, we are admitted into a solemn covenant with God, in which we promise this personal change; and our hope of salvation depends on its taking place within our hearts. It is one of the elements of Christian science, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
Other religions have chiefly insisted upon the admission of certain opinions or ceremonies; and a person, according to his reception of the ope and practice of the other, was considered as a votary of that religion, and entitled to its benefits. Even the Jews had tallen, in our Saviour's time, into a gross mistake of this kind, which our Saviour's Sermon on the Mount is chiefly intended to expose, and to shew that in the pure system he was about to deliver, though there would be doctrines and ceremonies, yet no observance of these could atone for the wilful breach of the least commandment. All the doctrines of Christianity, and all the ceremonies it requires, are of a practical nature: they tend to implant principles which will most powerfully produce practical holiness; and only in proportion as that practical influence is felt, are the doctrines of the Gospel rightly understood.
Other religions have made the principal part of duty consist in abstaining from certain crimes, and practising a limited degree of virtue; but Christianity requires much more: she insists upon her disciples being active in doing good. Their members they are to yield as instruments of righteousness and holiness; their bodies they are to present as a reasonable sacrifice unto God. It is not enough that they do no evil: they are to do good to all men: to consider their time, money, and influence, as talents with which they are to occupy
till their Master calls them to account.
Other religions have been contented merely with an external practice, conformable to their rules: Christianity requires, that all the righteous actions of her servants should be done from the heart; not of constraint, but willingly. They must be the offerings of a free will; the natural dictates of the heart, and of an under
standing so renewed as to approve and delight in them. The Christian's tempers are no less the subjects of reformation than his actions. A worldly temper is as contrary to his character, and as opposite to the nature and genius of Christianity, as an evil action. A general carelessness and remissness about our souls is represented in the New Testament, as not less culpable than positive acts of sin. In short, a Christian is one whose will is renewed to love God; who feels that the service of his Maker is at once his glory and his joy; who has a grateful sense of his obligations to the Divine mercy, and a rational and permanent abhorrence of sin. Influenced by just principles and noble desires, he is no longer a slave to the world or the flesh; no longer places his happiness in the gratifications of vanity, the luxury of ease, or the enjoyment of worldly pleasures. He looks up to heaven as his home, and he is training for it in the practice of all righteous duties which that seat of unsullied holiness requires. Such is the nature and purpose of Christianity—that religion which the Son of God came down from heaven to inculcate.
From this view of the change of heart which the religion of Jesus Christ requires, I proceed to derive some practical admonitions.
And first, I address the careless and worldly-minded. You will object to this representation of the design of the Gospel, and think that the benefits of Christianity may be obtained without this extreme strictness of life and purity of heart. But I appeal to yourselves whether what the Gospel thus demands of us is not a reasonable service. Can you expect that God should suffer his creatures to live on his bounty, and to partake of the mercy he has offered them, without a holy conformity to his will, without endeavouring to honour and serve him, to the utmost of their power, with the faculties he has given them? Can you expect that he will receive into heaven, that pure and holy seat in which he is peculiarly present, those who have not been prepared for that glorious mansion? The least serious reflection must convince you, that God has given to man a capacity to serve him, and that he must therefore require from him a diligent and upright obedience. And what is that religion which the Son of God, coming down from heaven, must have been expected to teach? A religion consistent with impurity, or with ignorance, or with spiritual indifference? A religion, substituting the belief of mere opinions for holy practice? A religion, allowing a practice partially virtuous, and admitting the performance of some parts of duty as a compensation for the neglect of the rest? No: it is evident, that in a religion taught by the Son of God himself, no insincerity could be admitted; that he could not have quitted the scene of his glory to teach a system in which the highest faculties of man, his will and his affections, were to find a partial or subordinate exercise. He came to purchase to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; and the sum of his commandments is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and strength, and our neighbour as ourself.
But while I therefore inculcate on the careless sinner the absolute necessity of Christian holiness, let me not forget, that amongst my hearers, there are probably many upright but humble and diffident persons, who are truly desirous to serve Christ, though they feel and lament the difficulty of subduing the corruption of their nature. I would remind them that it is peculiar to the Gospel of Christ, to afford hope and encouragement to the humble. Let not this description of the extensive nature, or perfect degree of Christian holiness, lead you for an instant to consider Christ as a hard Master, or his service as an unreasonable bondage. His yoke is easy, and his burden light. He has considered, he does consider, human infirmity. “He knoweth our frame; he remembereth we are but dust." And therefore, though he cannot dispense with this sincerity of heart and practical holiness in his disciples, he has amply furnished them with means to attain it. For this end he offers the influence of his Holy Spirit to those who earnestly seek it. That bigh degree of holiness, also, which is required, is to be the result of a long continued progress. The strength of mature age cannot be expected in an infant, nor the perfection of holiness in the infancy of the spiritual life. The Christian is one who makes a constant progress from grace to grace. He "counts not himself to have apprehended; but, forgetting those things which are behind, he reaches forth to those which are before, and presses towards the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus.”
And though infirmity still cleaves to human nature, and corruption defiles its best intentions, yet through the atonement of Christ "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” It is peculiar to Christianity, that though it requires holiness, it yet dispenses pardon; that although it allow's not insincerity, it yet shews compassion to the penitent sinner. “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins.” It is peculiar to Christianity, that the believer may know the extent of his deficiencies, see his extreme unworthiness, be filled with shame on account of his sin, and yet abound in joy and peace in believing: Thus in every respect, Christianity bears the image of its great Parent, spotless and pure, yet at the same time mild and gracious; too righteous to admit of wilful depravity, yet too merciful not to admit repentance, and provide salvation for those that repent and believe.
Such, then, is Christianity, a lovely copy of the goodness, mildness, purity, and excellence of the Divine Nature. Christ, its author, displayed his own character, the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth; and it was his intention to impart to all his disciples his own resemblance and image. What manner of persons then should Christians be, in all holy and godly conversation? But, alas! what must we say to those Christians, who are living in the world as if they VOL. 11.