« PreviousContinue »
aspects of self, its illusive light-resisting folds, and loving what is excellent, would detest every false and crooked way. It is a perverse system, of which the reaction is now in terrific progress, to permit children to reason on the utility of obeying, instead of reasoning on the character and love of their parents, which should necessarily induce obedience. When the occasion is made to dictate what is expedient instead of the Standard of Right, expediency will dictate any breach of obedience or good faith which the occasion calls for.
If your son lives to be a man of the world, he will be a political weathercock, shifting his position according as the wind of interest blows. If a religious professor, the same obliquity of principle assumes all the aspects of that deceptiveness which is characterised as spiritual wickedness in high places.” It censures wickedness and iniquity in their gross forms, but will not listen to the scriptural declaration of what is wickedness and iniquity in essence and principle. There is the same temporising, equivocal, self-seeking principle associated with the profession of religion; the garb is that of the simple, honest, guileless sheep, but the nature is that of a crafty and ravening wolf.
The ennobling qualities of which we have discoursed are in themselves as ineffectual as the stream without its spring, in what are called moral men, without the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom. They act on a selfevolving principle, which is fed by the meagre homage which they render to abstract virtue. But when the moral man, in luminous expansion reflects that light which he derives from the uncreated source, the character rises to a godlike brotherhood with Christ, in its subjection to the will of the Father. The constancy of that relative order and position which the fixed stars preserve by adherence to
the principle of light by which their regularity and constancy is established, give security, comfort, and joy to the benighted traveller and mariner ; while the want of adherence to that governing principle which produces unity and harmony constitutes the devious meteor a subject of ominous foreboding. They that are righteous, and who turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars in the Kingdom of their Father;" while they that are untaught and unstable are compared to “ wandering stars, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”
Another and more frequentexample let us notice for the sake of illustration. How can you expect, О parent, to reap where you never sowed; to gather grapes, where you have nursed thorns ? How can you suppose that your child will become obedient, from an unconstrained principle of affection and respect, if you, who stand in the same relation to your Heavenly Father, never manifested any subjection to His will, and that principle in all your doings which springs out of this conformity. In vain you talk to them about the love of Jesus Christ ; in vain you bid them look to him, as you do, for salvation ; in vain you fill their intellect with any theological system, or their memories with creeds and catechisms. The life and power of a sound faith they cannot comprehend, because they never felt it, or witnessed its effects in your conduct. As the power of the sun is manifested in its quickening effects on the earth and that which it causes to spring forth of it, and as this power is necessarily traced back to the effulgent virtue of light therein centered, even so religion on the human understanding is to be recognised in its influencing power, and this we again resolve into the constellation of uncreated excellence which is concentrated in the character of Jehovah.
Until you can admire and assimilate with the holiness
and righteousness of God, you cannot be said to know God. Jesus Christ became our Mediator to reconcile and identify us with these attributes of His character. delight to consider that He with whom you have to do is holy, just, and true, as well as merciful and long-suffering, you cannot be said to worship the Holy One of Israel. It is not the moral Light which so shone in the character of Christ that He could say of a truth, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” It is not the resplendent image of the invisible Majesty which you look at in Christ—the Light of the Father's Truth, Wisdom, Righteousness, and Love,--you limit your regard to that which self-love dictates to your need, it is the atoning victim who suffered for sin,-it is the mediator who stands between you and the consuming fire,—whom you acknowledge, and that not as a medium of access to, but as a substitute for the Father, but the love of that Righteousness, the devotion to that Truth which made David's LORD become David's Soneven the Godhead of the Messiah, you consider a subject too abstract for practical regard. Did the Word take flesh ? it was to reconcile and lead to the Father His regenerate ones. Being found in fashion as a man the Son of God took the character of His servant, in order to achieve by obedience that redemption which this glorious identity with God and man could accomplish. You fancied that Jesus Christ is a mild manifestation of God, to be worshipped instead of the Father; whereas, if you would believe what the Redeemer testifies, you would understand that He came to deliver you from any will to continue in transgression, and to put you in a condition to call God Father, through sanctification of his Spirit, and belief of his Truth.
God does not reduce the standard of His requirements through Christ. Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ,
who hath descended to a relation of consanguinity, that believers might arise to man's original character—the image of God.
We naturally assimilate with the persons we look up to. The Greeks and Romans embodied their lofty imagiginations and corrupt passions as their objects of worship, and they were given over to vain imaginations and gross sensualities. By others the attributes of God have been personified, and one or the other worshipped, and propitiated. Those who worship a Being who is supposed to act with arbitrary partiality instead of righteousness, “ seeking to reap where he sowed not,” are exclusive self-elected judges of God's decrees, instead of doers of His will. Instead of being without partiality and without hypocrisy, they are partial to those who adopt their favourite system and shibboleth, while, in the spirit of hypocricy, they act on the presumption that high privileges constitute election. A dead faith in the atonement and merit of Christ is worthy to be put in the balance with the dead works of those who fancied they could purchase their salvation without that love of God in their heart, which is the spring of acceptable service. Salvation being of free grace, is alike independent of the “ nakedness" of the former, as of the “filthy rags” of the latter. Grace can choose those who act up to the light they have. It is where most of His mighty works have been done—the Chorazin's and Bethsaida's, exalted to heaven in privileges, that shall be thrust down to hell. Grace brings to the marriage-supper from the high-ways and hedges, from lanes and byeways, guests who shall fill the vacant places of those who were bidden but who refused to accept of the terms of the invitation. They rested in the electing love of the invitation ; but shrunk from the obedience and sacrifice of tem
poral interests which the invitation involved. The grace of the King called to great blessedness in heavenly places, but so identified are they with the good things of this world, that they refuse to accept of the king's grace, and in perfect righteousness they are excluded.
Do you act on the guileful dictation of expediency? Is your language suited to the ever-varying aspect of things, rather than regulated by the Rule of right? Do that external condition to which money can raise the veriest slaves of their passions, respectability. Do you cling to, instead of renouncing the pomps and vanities of the world ? comforming to, instead of reproving its crooked maxims and customs ? Do you act with duplicity and deceit in your dealings while you are observing all the outward forms of piety? then your children will assuredly emulate that which is practical, while they will be unimpressed with your theory.
It is from the mother that children receive the first and deepest impressions: the rudiments of good or evil are taught in the nursery. While it is true that all are born with a will and affections alienated from the righteousness which God requires of his children, it is equally true that these may be subdued and regulated, until the understanding is capable of receiving the light of that Truth which regenerates.
It is easier to bend a tender twig than a sturdy branch twisted into knotted strength; it is easier to pull up a weed that is watered, than one ramified under a hardened soil; a skilful touch may serve in the first instance, while all your efforts may fail in the other. The promises that God makes are to His children, because they have ears to hear His gracious invitation. But the same invitation is lost
the race of the serpent, who like the deaf adder close their ear