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the blessed God, by such mean and base images of him, they sunk so low, as to assign to those, they worshipped the vicious affections and passions which were found in men and beasts. And then no wonder that we find what follows in ver. 24. "that therefore God gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts." God in just judgment, left them to pursue the natural tendency of those unworthy apprehensions which they had entertained concerning him, to sink into all manner of vice, and to become like those false gods which they had imagined to themselves. Blessed be God, that we have the knowledge of the living and true God; but we must be more inexcusable than they, if when we have righter notions of God, we should still continue unlike him, and bear more of the resemblance of the false gods which the heathen world worshipped.
3. We may see the necessity of the new nature, in order to our happiness in God, that "if we say, we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth, 1 John i. 5, 6. It would be altogether inconsistent with his honour to treat us with special favour and friendship, if our tempers are contrary to his blessed nature; for "he is not a God, that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with him therefore the foolish shall not stand in his sight, he hateth all workers of iniquity," Psal. v. 4, 5. Nor could we ourselves be happy in God, without a correspondence of temper by a divine nature in us. And therefore, "He that hath this hope purifieth himself, as God is pure," 1 John iii. 3.
4. Let that therefore, which is here represented to be the design of the gospel, be made the great aim and scope of every one of us, that we may be partakers of a divine nature. If we find another temper ruling, let us not rest till it be altered; if we feel somewhat of this godlike spirit working in us, let us daily cultivate it more and more. The apostle, I observed, in the following words, sums this up in two branches; escaping the pollutions which tender us unlike God; and cultivating the graces, wherein his resemblance consists. Let it be our daily care to do both.
To overcome and deface those impressions, which make us unlike to God; or to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit," as in 2 Cor. vii. 1. To raze out the image
of the beast, in the government of unbridled appetite and of carnal affections; and that, which is yet more directly contrary to God, the proper image of the devil, in hatred and malice, in rage and cruelty, in pride and impatience, and revenge.
And besides this, to have those dispositions formed in us, and in more legible characters wherein we are capable of the image of God; or to be perfecting holiness in his fear.
In order to this,
We should carefully improve the consideration of gospel promises, as we are called to do in the text, and in 2 Cor. vii. 1. "Having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves," &c. We have the promise of the forgiveness of sins; how should this excite us to forsake them in gratitude to the wonderful mercy of God, and as ever we would not remain under the guilt of our sins, when a way is opened for our escape; the grace of the Holy Spirit is promised, by which it is become a practicable thing, how low soever we are fallen, to recover this blessed likeness; it is his province thus to sanctify us; and we are encouraged to pray for him to that purpose, and to apply ourselves to the mortification of the deeds of the body by his aids, as present with us, Rom, viii. 13. We have the great promise of eternal life, and of perfect holiness and happiness therein, to animate our endeavours, and quicken our pace, that if possible, we may "attain to the resurrection of the dead."
We should improve divine providences to the same purpose. His benefits, kindly to draw our hearts nearer to him; and his chastisements, according to their friendly design and tendency, to make us "partakers of his holiness," Heb. xii. 10.
And his holy ordinances, meditation, and prayer, and praise, all our hearing and reading, and attendance at the Lord's table, should always be engaged in with this view. We should not rest in them as our ultimate end; but consider them as rather the means of religion, than the end of it; and account ourselves no farther the better for them, than as they promote our conformity to God.
If we make this our sincere scope and aim, God will accept our upright endeavours, though we must be sensible we have not yet attained, nor are already perfect: and he
will assist us by his Spirit to gain farther ground, and come nearer to our designed end. As we do so, our relation to God will become more evident, our present communion with him more full, and the heavenly perfection a more grateful, and a more certain prospect.
THE CHRISTIAN TEMPER THE SAME MIND
PHIL. ii. 5.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
HE apostle had been exhorting Christians in the former verses of the chapter to mutual love, and humility, and a public spirit; and enforces his exhortation in the text by directing their eye to the example of Christ. It becomes you to cultivate such a temper in your own minds, since Christ Jesus expressed the same temper, which I am recommending to ' of which St Paul gives an illustrious instance in the words following. But though his exhortation points particularly to those holy dispositions which we had just before had occasion to speak of; yet the argument from Christ's example for those particular graces equally holds as to others; and indeed supposes, that, as far as we can, we should endeavour to be of the same mind with him in all cases; that your minds should have the same turn and biass, as Christ's mind appeared to have.
Christianity, as was shewn in the last discourse, calls us to a temper resembling the blessed God: that is the greatest character which can be given of it. But it is a more familiar view of it, to consider it as a conformity to the Son of God in our nature and in this light I would now discourse of it, making this observation upon the words,
That the mind or temper of a Christian, should be conformable to the mind which Christ expressed.
In the prosecution of which, I would, first, offer some things which I judge necessary to be observed for the due
stating of this point. 2dly, Shew the reasons, why Christians should be like minded with Christ. And then conclude with some reflections.
I. I would offer some things needful to be taken notice of, in order to the due stating of this truth, that our minds and tempers should bear a resemblance to Christ's. We are neither to apprehend on the one hand, that Christ gave us an example of every thing which is amiable and necessary in our tempers according to the Christian rule; nor on the other hand, that we should aim at an in:itation of Christ in every thing without distinction, which we find in the gospel-history related concerning him.
1. There are some things necessary to be found in the temper of a Christian, in which we cannot consider Christ as an example. In particular, all those graces in us, which suppose our personal guilt and our fallen state, could not be exemplified to us by our Saviour. He "knew no sin;" but was perfectly holy, harmless, undefiled separate from sinners ;" and therefore could not express the dispositions, which only become us, because we had lost our innocence. For this reason we cannot expect to find in Christ's pattern either of those things which the apostle mentions as the sum of his preaching, both to the Jews, and to the Greeks, and which are necessary and most amiable parts of the temper of a Christian; namely, “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ," Acts xx. 21. He was so perfectly righteous a person, that he needed no repentance: and if he had needed a mediator to come to God, he could not have made reconciliation for us; but he is himself our mediator, in whom we as sinful creatures are required to believe and confide, in order to our acceptance with God. Faith and repentance suppose our revolt, and are necessary means and steps, in our present deplorable condition, to our coming to ourselves. But Christ is to be considered as our pattern in all the holy dispositions becoming our nature in its original and regular state: he had that mind in him, which man uncorrupted should have, and to which sinful men are recovered in the way of faith and repentance.
2. There are some things related of Christ, which were truly excellent and amiable in him, but we must not pretend to imitate, that is, not to do the same actions; though even in