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ness.-Blessed are the merciful.-Blessed are the pure in heart.-Blessed are the peace-makers.--Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake.
Isa. Ixvi. 2. To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word.
Matt. v. 44. I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.
In Matt. vi. 5—13, Christ gives his disciples the most particular directions as to the spirit and manner of their devotions.
Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou hast
shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret ; and thy Father who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
-After this manner therefore pray ye; Our Father, who art in heaven, foc.
John, xiv. 13, 21. If ye love me, keep my commandments.—He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.
John, xiii. 35. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another. 1 Peter, ii. 7. Unto you who believe, Christ is precious.
Rom. viii. 9. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Luke, ix. 23. And Jesus said to them all ; If any man will come after me, let him deny himself daily, and follow
John, xvi. 8. And when the Holy Spirit is come, he will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
John, iii. 3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee ; except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
2 Cor. v. 17. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature : old things are passed away ; behold all things are become new.
Gal. ii. 19, 20. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ ; nevertheless I live : yet not 1, but Christ liveth in
me ; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.
Gal. v. 22, 23, 24. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance -And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
i Cor. xiii. 4—7. Charity (love) suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
1 Cor. x. 31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
As the passages here selected are very intelligible, and as they are among the principal ones relating to Christian character; they will be sufficient for our present purpose. So far then as these leading texts are concerned, we see clearly what is our rule of judgment, and what sort of inquiries we are to make, in order to determine whether we are Christians. Do we conform in any measure to the holy precepts which were written on tables of stone by the finger of God? Do we love the Lord our God with all our heart, and our neighbors as ourselves ? Have we repented of sin and turned from it? been born again ? Have we become new creatures ? Have we been convinced of sin ? Do we believe in Christ, as he is set forth in the gospel ? Is he precious to us ? Is the same mind in us which was in him? Are we dead to all hopes of salvation by the law ? crucified with Christ; and is our life a life of faith in him? Do we deny ourselves daily? Have we the fruit of the Spirit as described by the apostle, and the marks of discipleship as described by our Saviour ? that love which suffereth long and is kind ; which vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil ? Are we poor in spirit ? mourn with the mourning of penitents ?. Are we meek and merciful? Do we hunger and thirst after righteousness? Are we peace-makers ? Are we pure in heart?
Do our prayers answer to the pattern which Christ gave ? Do we forgive and love our enemies, and do them good, and pray for them? Do we show our love to Christ by keeping his commandments ? Do we eat, and drink, and do all things to the glory of God !—These questions bring into view the chief standard of character, and the chief evidences of piety. When the judgment day comes, we shall stand or fall, as we are conformed, or not, to this rule.
The practice of making the word of God our rule, as here recommended, would produce the most desirable and important effects.
i. It would have an influence highly favorable to the character of Christians, through their whole course. If they judge themselves by any other rule, the various evils of their hearts, and the faults which cleave to their characters, may be and probably will be in a great measure concealed from their view. But the word of God sheds a clear and penetrating light on their whole character, even on the most secret springs of action ; helps them to discover what is wrong, and how much remains to be done in the work of sanctification. If men stop where they are when they are first renewed, the great object of divine grace in their renev
newal, either as to their character, their usefulness, or their enjoyment, cannot be attained. But if they constantly look into the Bible as their directory, and there learn what they are, and what they ought to be; and if they labor to conform in all respects to that perfect standard ; they will grow in grace, and be constantly rising towards the stature of perfect men in Christ. The faults which are found in Christians, and which occasion so much injury to their cause, are undoubtedly owing more or less to their substituting something else in the place of holy writ, as the rule of their practical judgment. While they are satisfied with a false or defective standard, they will be satisfied with a false or defective piety. It is a fact well known, and often recognized, that those Christians who have paid the most scrupulous attention to the word of God as the standard of character, have attained to the highest degree of moral excellence. They have been the most humble and penitent; because they have seen the most clearly how small the measure of their holiness, and how many their failings and sins. The pride of their hearts has been continually mortified, by looking at themselves in the light of God's holy word. They have had the strongest faith in Christ; because they have had the deepest conviction of their own sinfulness, and misery, and helplessness, and the clearest views of his glory and fulness. They have been the most sincere and fervent in prayer; because, by making the scriptures their rule, they have become the most deeply sensible of their poverty, and of the abundance of blessings which they need,—the most sensible too, that no one, but God, can bestow these blessings upon them, and particularly that they must trust in his grace alone, to supply what is wanting in their Christian character; and thus they have been brought to feel a strong attachment to the throne of grace, and to be importunate and persevering in prayer. Such Christians have been the most obedient to the divine commands, the most active in doing good, the most patient and submissive under trials; because the word of God has most effectually taught them, that such obedience, activity, and submission is a reasonable service, and is to be regarded as the very substance of practical religion, and the grand proof of regeneration.
2. The diligent and faithful use of the word of God, as the rule of judgment, would have an influence peculiarly important in regard to those, who have just begun to attend to the subject of religion.
Take the case of a sudden conversion. One who has long lived in thoughtless security, and has perhaps been an opposer of religion, is to-day awakened from his slumbers, and in a very short time he thinks himself a Christian. He is surprised and delighted at the sudden change which has taken place in his feelings; is full of gratitude, and rejoices in hope. Now, adhering conscientiously to the word of God as our rule, how are we to proceed in regard to such a case?
So far as the person gives evidence of right views and feelings, though for only a few hours or minutes, we are to regard him in a favorable light, and to indulge a hope that the sovereign grace of God has visited his soul. And there may perhaps be as much evidence of this, as the shortness of the time will permit. But may we unhesitatingly and confidently pronounce him converted ? Suppose we do this; and then suppose, what too often takes place, that in a few days, or a few months, he loses his religious impressions, returns to his follies and sins, and is in all essential points as he was before,-except perhaps that his proud selfish heart may show itself in a different way. Do we now pronounce him a convert ? No. We begin to doubt. The good opinion we had of his character we fear was a mistake; and we regret it that we expressed so unqualified an opinion in his favor, especially as our opinion may have led him to think well of himself, and so helped to confirm his delusion. Let us then go back, and see where the error lay. Did not our great mistake evidently consist in our neglecting to make the word of God our rule? Would not a faithful adherence to this have been all that the case required ? We will now endeavor to go over the subject again, with a strict regard to the rule. The person shows a sudden alteration in his mind, and says, he repents and believes. What shall we say of such a case ? and how shall we treat it? Reply. If he truly repents and believes, he is a Christian, renewed, pardoned, and entitled to heaven. But his saying that he does this can be no certain proof that he really does it ; because he may say it insincerely. Nor is his thinking that he truly repents and believes, a certain proof that he really does so; because the heart is deceitful above all things, even more deceitful than the deceitful tongue ; and by such a heart he may be led to judge erroneously respecting himself. It is clear then, that if we would exercise a sober mind, and keep on scripture ground, we must not undertake to judge any farther than evidence will warrant; that is, we must avoid a hasty judgment. And a judgment, which rests on a person's expressions or appearance for a short time, must, in ordinary cases, be hasty ; because ordinarily a short time is not sufficient to exhibit such evidence, as may safely be made the ground of judgment. The feelings, and words and actions of a professed convert may be owing to other causes, than the renewing of the Holy Spirit. We must wait then, patiently wait, to see whether he brings forth fruit meet for repentance ; i. e., such fruit as naturally