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happiness here described! How venerable, how lovely the holiness! This is the spirit of religion; the quintessence of it. These arc indeed the fundamentals of Christianity. 0 that we may not be hearers of it only !—"like a man beholding his own face in a glass, who gocth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." Nay, but let us steadily "look into this perfect law of liberty, and continue therein." Let us not rest, until every line thereof is transcribed into our own hearts. Let us watch, and pray, and believe, nnd love, and "strive for the mastery," till every part of it shall appear in our soul, graven there by the finger of God; till we are "holy as He which hath called us is holy, perfect as our Father which is in heaven is perfect J"
UPON OUR LORD S SERMON ON THE
"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his
savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth
good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden
under foot of men. "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill
cannot be hid. * "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel,
but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that
are in the house. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your
good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Matt. v. 13—16.
1. Thk beauty of holiness, of that inward man of the heart which is renewed after the image of God, cannot but strike every eye which God hath opened,—every enlightened understanding. The ornament of a meek, humble, loving spirit, will at least excite the approbation of all those who are capable, in any degree, of discerning spiritual good and evil. From the hour men begin to emerge out of the darkness which covers the giddy, unthinking world, they cannot but perceive how desirable a thing it is to be thus transformed iuto the likeness of Him that created us. This inward Religion bears the shape of God so visibly impressed upon it, that a soul must be wholly immersed in flesh and blood, when he can doubt of its divine original. We may say of this, in a secondary sense, even as of the Son of God himself, that it is the " brightness of his glory, the express image of his person ;"
■xtixv/xtij.1 rw oj*r,s xvra,—the beaming forth of his eternal glory f and yet so tempered and softened, that even the children ot men may herein see God and live ; xla%%x.Tr,p rr,s wnosxnws Ujtk,— the character, the stamp, the living impression of His Person, who is the Fountain of beauty and love, the original Source of all excellency and perfection.
2. If religion therefore were carried no farther than this, they could have no doubt concerning it; they should have no objection against pursuing it with the whole ardour of their souls; but why, say they, is it clogged with other things '.' What need of loading it with doing and suffering"? These are what damps the vigour of the soul, and sinks it down to earth again. Is it not enough to "follow after charity;" to soar upon the wings of love? Will it not suffice to worship God. who is a Spirit, with the spirit of our minds, without encumbering ourselves with outward things, or even thinking of them at all '.' Is it not better, that the whole extent of our thought should be taken up with high and heavenly contemplation? And that, instead of busying ourselves at all about externals, we should only commune with God in our hearts?
3. Many eminent men have spoken thus; have advised us "to cease from all outward action ;" wholly to ^withdraw from the world; to leave the body behind us; to abstract ourselves from all sensible things; to have no concern' at all about outward religion, but to work all virtues in the Will; as the far more excellent way, more perfective of the soul, as well a> more acceptable to God.
■1. It needed not that any should tell our Lord of this masterpiece of the wisdom from beneath, this fairest of all the devices wherewith Satan hath ever perverted the right ways of the Lord! And ()! what instruments hath he found, from lime to time, to employ in this his service, to wield this grand engine of hell against some of the most important truths of God !—Men that " would deceive, if it were possible, the very elect," the men of faith and love; yea, that have for a season deceived and led away no inconsiderable number of them, who have fallen in all ages into the gilded snare, and hardly escaped with the skin of their teeth.
5. But has our Lord been wanting on his part? Has he not sufficiently guarded us against this pleasing delusion? Has he not armed us here with ../monr of proof against Satan "transformed into an. autre! of light'.'" Yea, verily: he here defends, in the clearest and strongest manner, the active, patient religion he had just described. What can be fuller and plainer, than the words he immediately subjoins to what he had said of doing and suffering ?" Ye arc the salt of the' earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men. Ye are the the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that arc in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
In order fully to explain and enforce these important words, I shall endeavour to show, First, that Christianity is essentially a Social Religion; and that to turn it into a solitary one, is to destroy it. Secondly, that to conceal this Religion is impossible, as well as utterly contrary to the design of its Author. I shall, Thirdly, answer some Objections; and conclude the whole with a practical Application.
I. 1. First, I shall endeavour to show, that Christianity is essentially a Social Religion; and that to turn it into a solitary Religion, is indeed to destroy it.
By Christianjty I mean that method of worshipping God, which is here revealed to man by Jesus Christ. When I say, this is essentially a Social Religion, I mean not only that it cannot subsist so well, but that it cannot subsist at all, without Society,—without living and conversing with other men. And in showing this, I shall confine myself to those considerations which will arise from the very Discourse before us. But if this be shown, then doubtless, to turn this religion into a solitary one, is to destroy it.
Not that we can in any wise condemn the intermixing solitude or retirement with society. This is not only allowable, but expedient; nay, it is necessary, as daily experience shows, for every one that cither already is, or desires to be, a real Christian. It can hardly be, that we should spend one entire day in a continued intercourse with men, without suffering loss in our soul, and in some measure grieving the Holy Spirit of God. We have need daily to retire from the world, at least morning and evening, to converse wkh God, to commune more freely with our Father which is in secret. Nor indeed can a man of experience condemn even longer seasons of religious retirement, so they do not imply any neglect of the worldly employ wherein the providence of God lias placed us.
2. Yet such retirement must not swallow up all our time; this would be to destroy, not advance, true religion. For, that the religion described by our Lord in the foregoing words, cannot subsist without society, without our living anil conversing with other men, is manifest from hence, That several of the most essential branches thereof can have no place, if we have no intercourse with the world.
3. There is no disposition (for instance) which is more essential to Christianity than Meekness. Now although this, ns it implies resignation to God, or patience in pain and sickness, may subsist in a desert, in a hermit's cell, in total solitude; yet as it implies (which it no less necessarily does) mildness, gentleness, and longsuffering, it cannot possibly have a being, it has no place under heaven, without an intercourse with other men: so that to attempt turning this into a solitary virtue, is to destroy it from the face of the earth.
4. Another necessary branch of true Christianity is Peacemaking, or Doing of Good. That this is equally essential with any of the other parts of the religion of Jesus Christ, there can be no stronger argument to evince, (and therefore it would be absurd to allege any other,) than that it is here inserted in the original plan he has laid down of the fundamentals of his religion. Therefore to set aside this, is the same daring insult on the authority of our great Master, as to set aside mercifulness, purity of heart, or any other branch of his institution. But this is apparently set aside, by all who call us to the wilderness; who recommend entire solitude cither to the babes, or the young men, or the fathers in Christ. For will any man affirm that a solitary Christian (so called, though it is little less than a contradiction in terms) can be a merciful man,—that is, one that takes every opportunity of doing all good to all men? What can be more plain, than that this fundamental branch of the religion of Jesus Christ, cannot possibly subsist without society, without our living and conversing with other men?
5. lUit is it not expedient, however, (one might naturally ask,) to converse only with good nu n,—only witii those whom we know to be meek and merciful,—holy of heart and holy of life? Is it not expedient to retrain from any conversation,