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brought by the tendency of their unreformed nature to misery and destruction: but no Christian would wish for such a privilege: he judges it far better to suffer in hope, than to be at his ease, as one whom God hath neglected.
From the description given of the Church as a spiritual society, the Christian is to learn the dignity of his own character, and to conduct himself in a manner suitable to his station. He seems outwardly like other men; but inwardly he has an honourable place in the kingdom of spirits: he is in the company of angels, saints, and martyrs; he is under the dominion of God as his king and lawgiver; he is a student of wisdom in the school that has sent out so many sons unto glory; he is within the covenant that is sealed by the blood of Christ for his purification and redemption; his name is registered in heaven, as an heir of immortality: he knows that while the mighty empires of the earth are changing and passing away into oblivion, the kingdom of which he is a member shall never be moved*. The earth shall be shaken, and the heavens shall melt away; but his inheritance is secure. The same God who is a consuming fire to an impenitent world, will be to him a Protector and a Saviour, if he serves him acceptably, in this short time of his probation, with reverence and godly fear.
The last chapter of the Epistle consists wholly of exhortations relating to the great duties of charity, purity, submission, and a detachment from the world.
All parties of men are bound together by a common interest; which, though in some cases even wicked and absurd, and little better than a conspiracy, will
• Chap. xii. 28.
have its effect in disposing them to espouse the cause, and prefer the company and conversation of one another. Now as there is no common interest so important as that of Christians, it ought to produce such a friendship as is superior to every other relation or connexion. Remember them that are in bonds, says the Apostle, as bound with them; that is, as considering that they are members of the body of Christ, and that one member cannot suffer without affecting the rest. The same rule is applicable to every other condition of life; as if it had been said; remember them that are poor, as partaking of their poverty; remember them that are sick, as being sick with them: for thence we shall feel the same obligation to relieve them as to relieve ourselves; and much greater comfort, because it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Purity of life is another virtue essential to the Christian character. We are to consider ourselves as brought into that heavenly society, wherein are angels, saints, and martyrs: then, how shocking will it be to reflect, that an impure Christian is impure in the company of Angels; drunk, and like a beast, in the company of Angels; covetous, ambitious, selfinterested, and deceitful, in the company of Angels. Hence you will understand how a wicked Christian is worse than a wicked Heathen, and will have a more severe account to give; because he adds affront and insult to his wickedness; so that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for him.
From the consideration that true religion has always had the same object from the beginning of the world, namely, that of bringing men to God by the way of faith and patience; and that Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday, to day, and for ever; yesterday, under the Law; to day, under the Gospel; and for ever, in the kingdom of Glory: we should learn to be stedfast in this ancient plan, and look with a suspicious eye upon all pretended reformations and improvements of modern Christians, who are inventing new modes of faith, and would shew us what they call a more excellent way. Vanity is always fond of novelty: you see it every day in the common change of fashions: and therefore vain men are carried about with every wind of doctrine, propagated by those who are ignorant of the antiquity of that religion, by which all believers have been and are now to be saved. If men did but study the scripture on a right principle, without a spirit of party, and enquired duly into primitive Christianity, they would be ashamed of the little mean differences and distinctions which divide their hearts, and break them into sects; filling them with a Pharisaical pride against one another; as if the end of the commandment were not charity, but hatred, contempt, and ill-will.
To prevent this, the Apostle instructs the Hebrews to obey them that have the rule over them, their lawful Pastors and Teachers, whom Christ hath appointed to keep them in the way of peace; and whose studies and labours must qualify them to inform and direct the ignorant better than they can direct themselves. An abuse of the principles of the reformation, which can never be sufficiently lamented, has at length made every man his own teacher, and established a spirit of self-exaltation and opposition, than which no temper is more hateful to God, because none is so destructive of piety and peace. Christians should leave that to the sons of the earth, who are disputing for power, places and pre-eminence; with whom gain is godli
ness, because they have no God but Mammon and Belial, no views nor hopes beyond the present life.
This leads me back to the great source of all moral instruction, on which the Apostle hath so frequently insisted, and with which I shall conclude; I mean, the necessity of a detachment from the world in all those who would be followers of Jesus Christ. Our master was one who came to disown the world, and to be disowned by it; he came to his own and was not received by them; he was hated for his truth, reviled for his works of goodness and mercy, and at his death was led out of the city of Jerusalem to suffer without the gate*, as one disowned, and cast out, and delivered over to the world of the Gentiles; all of which was foreshewn by the great yearly sacrifice, whose blood was first offered in the Tabernacle, and then it was carried out to be burned without the camp. On this the Apostle raises an affecting exhortation, that we ought to go out after him, bearing his reproach: even the reproach of being despised and disowned and cast out by the world as he was. Every Christian, though he is neither with the camp, nor with the city of Jerusalem, has some attachment which he is called upon to leave, and to be despised for so doing he must go out either from the wisdom of the world, or the fashion of the world, or the party and the interests of worldly people; as Christ went out of the gate of Jerusalem, and as Abraham forsook his family and friends, to obey the calling of God. The unbelieving Jews looked with contempt on those who left them to follow a crucified Master, whom they had led out of their city as a malefactor and delivered to the Gentiles; and the world will cast re
Chap. xiii. 12.
proach upon all those who forsake its opinions and customs. But, as the Jews themselves were soon afterwards driven out from their city, and their whole œconomy was dissolved; so shall the world itself be destroyed, and its inhabitants shall be turned out from the place in which they trusted. When this shall happen, they have no other place in reserve; but we shall find that city, that continuing city, which we have so long looked after, whose builder and maker is God.