« PreviousContinue »
WHAT WAS THE CHIEF END OF OUR SAVIOUR'S DIVINE
Most of the answers that have been given to this question involve the false principle that there was some external obstacle in the way of human salvation, which our Lord was sent to remove. Now all such answers as imply this, all that refer to the guilt and penalty of a remote ancestor, to the machinations of a personal devil, to the nature of divine justice, divine wrath, divine law, and the like; all, in a word, that recognise any extrinsic difficulty, anything out of man himself, to prevent his acceptance with God, we deem incorrect. The truth is, there is not, and there never has been, any obstacle in the way
of our salvation, but the evil within us, to wit, sin. Accordingly, the chief end of Christ's mission was to deliver us from this, and to induce us to substitute holiness in its place. He came to save us, not by canceling the effects of Adam's transgression, nor by purchasing our release from any outward foe,but by showing us how to save ourselves in abstaining from vice and practising virtue. He came to make us do our own duty, not to perform that duty for us; to induce us to obey the law, not to answer the claims of that law himself; to prompt us to personal obedience, not to put his obedience in the room of our own; to quench the fire of had passion burning within ourselves, not that of God's anger; to enthrone the principles of justice in human breasts, not to satisfy the divine justice;
to win us to our heavenly Father, who is, and always was, ready to pardon the returning sinner, not to alter the mind of Deity, by paying him an equivalent for man's transgression. He came, in fine, to destroy the kingdom of hell within us, and to establish there the kingdom of heaven, by giving us a religion replete with directions, motives, and all needed assistances, whereby we might subdue the power of sin, eradicate false sentiments, be filled with the love of God, of man, and of duty, and thus be put in the way of working out our eternal salvation.
OBEDIENCE THE TEST OF DISCIPLESHIP.
Jesus Christ appeared on earth as a preacher of truth and righteousness. He professed to be the Messiah, predicted by the Hebrew prophets, and expected by the Jewish nation. In proof of his divine mission, he lived a sinless life; proclaimed the everlasting gospel ; foretold future events; wrought the most stupendous miracles; and was declared to be the son of God by a voice from heaven. Multitudes were attracted by the spotless purity, the interesting instructions, the sublime eloquence, and the mighty works of this heavenly messenger. Many of the listening crowd were convinced of the divinity of his mission. They attentively heard his inspired communications. They
joyfully embraced his merciful offers of salvation. They openly professed themselves his disciples. And they convincingly proved the sincerity of their profession, by their willing, habitual obedience to his authority. Others of the multitude attended upon his preaching with equal punctuality. They admitted the truths of his doctrines. They professed to believe in his Messiahship. They unhesitatingly called him Lord and Master. But they gave no proper evidence of their discipleship. They performed not the duties which he commanded. They forsook not the sins which he condemned. Their practice was at variance with their profession. This glaring inconsistency our Saviour keenly rebuked in these words; Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Is not this rebuke equally applicable to some persons of the present period? Are there not many who call themselves Christians, and still live in the habitual neglect of the divine commands?
Is there not one class who may justly be denominated worldly Christians ? Christians whose ruling passion is temporal aggrandizement; who seek primarily the promotion of their temporal interests, and act prevailingly from temporal motives? If so, they do not conform to the principles of Christ Jesus. For he did not command his disciples to love themselves supremely, and this world as themselves. He did not direct them to seek first the kingdom of earth, with its pleasures and riches and honors. Neither did he encourage such conduct by his example. He did not seek his own glory and interest. He did not go about doing his own work. He did not perform miracles to supply his own wants, to promote his own ease and comfort, or to acquire temporal power and applause. He did not live a life of labor and poverty, reproach and persecution, suffering and sorrow, and at last submit to an ignominious and excrutiating death, solely for his own benefit. No. He loved his God supremely, and his fellow men as himself. And by these fundamental principles he regulated all his conduct, thus leaving a perfect example for our imitation. If then we act upon these principles, and imitate this example, we prove ourselves to be his true disciples; and in this way, we shall form christian characters, and become qualified for heavenly felicity.
But if we act from motives of sordid selfishness, and imitate the example of the unprincipled, we shall neither exhibit christian morality, nor be fitted for celestial pleasures. This is perfectly clear. For we are immortal beings. Our characters must therefore be formed, not merely for this short life, but for the never ending existence of eternity. Unless they are formed with a reference to this state, they will not be fitted for its enjoyments. They may serve after an imperfect manner for this vain scene ; but they will fail us on our entrance upon
another world. For character is composed of all the motives, dispositions, actions, and habits of our whole life. It is then absolutely necessary that we should act from christian principles. And in all our plans and proceedings, we should inquire, not
merely, whether such an action or such a course of conduct will be best adapted to promote our temporal prosperity, our riches and influence and distinction ; not merely whether it will be easy and popular and fashionable and agreeable to our selfish inclinations; but whether it be right in itself, in accordance with the christian standard, and beneficial to our soul's eternal welfare. For if we are governed by merely temporal considerations; if we are chaste and temperate only to avoid public exposure and disgrace ; if we are benevolent only when urged by custom or importunity; if we call upon God only in trouble and distress; if we attend to the exercises of religion only in compliance with habit or a love of display; if we thus act, our motives are unchristian. And if we do these things to promote our temporal interests, we have our reward. We had better act from these defective principles, than do worse,—than omit the performance of such actions. But we must be convinced, that character, founded on these changing principles of fashion, popularity, pleasure and interést cannot be adapted to that future state, into which such principles can find no admission. If then, we would form such characters as will not only render us truly useful and happy here, but insure our eternal felicity, we must form them on the unchangeable and everlasting principles of the gospel. If we would prove ourselves the true friends of Jesus, we must not only endeavor to do right-in all things, but also aim to act uniformly from christian motives; for if we do otherwise, notwithstanding our professions,