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in that respect. Doubtless, this verse was written especially for the learning of those among Christians who have good feelings, who feel something of the beauty of holiness, who admire it, and are shocked at crime in others. All of us are by nature more or less partakers of these feelings. God has put them into our hearts; we cannot help them quite if we would; but we may, if we will, neglect to cherish them, and then they will die away and do us no good. The world and the Devil will be too ready to tread out such sparks of duty and piety, if we do not watch them and fan them into a flame. The Cross will wear out of our foreheads, the Baptismal grace out of our hearts, if we do not expressly practise a holy stedfastness.
On the other hand, the true and faithful Christian is marked by nothing more certainly, than by his firmness and decision of purpose. He sets his face like a flint, and is not ashamed. He falls not, for he is founded upon a rock. He withers not away, for his roots are stricken deep into the good ground. He makes good resolutions, and keeps them. He considers beforehand what is right for him to do, what his vow and promise in Baptism requires of him, what a good Christian would do in his place, what the holy Angels would rejoice to see him doing; and having made up his mind, he steadily abides by it. The thought of his resolution keeps him constant, when otherwise bad thoughts would be too strong for him.
Imagine him, for example, tempted in regard of his faith; let the malice or subtlety of the Devil or man be endeavouring to disturb his belief and hope, as he has learned them in the Creed of the Apostles, and in the Church which witnesses and keeps the Scriptures. He may not perhaps be able at the time, perhaps he has no skill at any time, to give distinct reasons for his faith in words, or even to shape them out exactly in his mind; but he has made beforehand a strong resolution, that nothing, by God's grace, shall move him from this faith : he will turn a deaf ear to whatever may be said against it. He has made this resolution, and he keeps it, inwardly calling on the LORD to help him to do
And thus his steadiness preserves him from unbelief. Another in like manner arms himself beforehand against some temptation of the flesh, which he thinks not unlikely to come upon him : he makes a covenant with his eyes, that he will not
even look the wrong way; and when the time comes, the recol. lection that he has made such a vow inwardly in his heart comes in aid of his other good thoughts, and the blessed Spirit, well pleased with his holy purposes, gives him help to resist the Evil One, and he does not throw away the blessing of the Pure in Heart.
Thus you see what a great virtue steadiness of purpose is in a good Christian; and indeed the New Testament leads us to regard it as a most necessary safeguard; so that a Christian without stability is a sort of miserable wonder in the sight of God and His angels. Thus St. Paul, in the first chapter of his second letter to the Corinthians, thinks it needful to explain particularly, why he had not fulfilled a certain promise of his, to come among the Corinthians at a particular time. It would scem in itself a very indifferent matter, whether he came at one time or another; but see how anxious he is to tell them, that he did not swerve even in such a thing from his purpose without some serious reason. - When I was thus purposed,” says he, “ did I use lightness ? or the things which I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay y?” that is, can you for a moment imagine, that I make resolutions and break them according to my own fancy at the time, as the way of the world is? You cannot suppose it ; it would be contrary to that mind and nature which belongs to me as a Christian. “ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, which was preached among you by me, was not yea and nay,” now one thing and now another, " but in Him was yea.” He was always “the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” “All the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” As He is unchanging, and His Promises unchanging, so we His members, and heirs of His Promises, must partake of His stability. By Him we have stood, and in Him we will stand fast; not by any power of our own; but He which stablisheth” both us and you, all Christians alike, "in Christ,” even as in Baptism HE “anointed” all alike, “ is God :” GOD,“ who hath sealed us to be His own, “and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." In short, he seems to say, to such a degree are Christians partakers of God's own Eternity and Unchangeableness, that even in such matters as settling the time of a journey, coming sooner or later among his friends, the Apostle was not to be suspected of doing any thing lightly or at random : how much less could it belong to such an one to break the good rules which he had set himself, and leave the good work which he had planned and purposed undone, out of mere feebleness and instability of mind !
Perseverance, then,-a kind of bold and generous obstinacy,is a necessary part of Christian goodness. There is no excelling without it; nay, so many are the snares and dangers which surround us, that there is no chance, but by it, of keeping even the lowest place in God's Kingdom. Lightness, instability, falling away like water that runneth apace, belong to this world and its children; and are part of their sin or of their misery, or of both. But the Living Stones of the heavenly Jerusalem should be builded firmly into its wall. The brethren of the Apostles must be stedfast, unmoveable, not now doing one kind of work and now another, but always abounding in the work of the Lord. So the sacred Scriptures teach, and so the examples of good and holy men-of the Saints of God in all times. But how does this matter appear, when we turn from Scripture and the Saints, and consider what other men are doing, and how we have been ourselves going on?
We have all of us, by God's especial grace, been brought unto the general assembly and Church of His first-born. We have been baptized, and made members of Him who is by nature the first-born of the Father. As belonging to His Church, we partake of the highest privileges that He ever gave to the children of men. We have no excuse if we are unstable," for He is in us who is able to make us stand. Who ever might be expected to “excel," if not those who have the promise of the SPIRIT of all excellency and power? Yet what is really our case ?
One would wish to speak very calmly of such matters; one would rather say less than the truth, than make out things worse than they are ; but in all calmness I fear it must be owned, that steadiness in doing God's will is a very rare thing among us ; and therefore true excellency, true Christian goodness, the way of life which prepares men for heaven, is of course equally rare. It is not that man's nature is become worse than it used to be. There is no absolute want, surely, among young people, of kind and dutiful and even devout feelings. They do not all read the Bible and learn the Prayers of the Church without feeling any wish to be good and holy, and, like the blessed Saints, to please God before they go to their rest. Who can doubt that many before now have risen up from the study of such histories as that of Noah, faithful in the midst of a faithless world; Abraham resigning his only son to God's will; Joseph protecting himself against temptation by the recollection of the AlMIGHTY ; and most of all from the reading or hearing of our Blessed LORD ;
-who, I say, can doubt that many before now have been moved hereby to holy and religious purposes, quite sincere for the time, which yet have faded quickly away, and borne little or no fruit? Our goodness has been too like the morning cloud, and the early dew that passeth away,
"Unstable as water, we have not excelled :" even if we have been kept from notorious wilful sin, yet there has been nothing eminent in our service, nothing answerable to our most holy and glorious calling. But the more part of us, it is to be feared, cannot say even so much as this, The most with which we can flatter ourselves is, that we have not been altogether and always bad; we have sometimes really had good and religious purposes, but they have been top apt to melt away when pleasure or profit came in the
way. And if we think over our sad history a little more particularly, we shall perceive, I doubt not, that our fall often went on in some such way as the following :- When we came out into the world, with our high purposes and good resolutions, we found almost all men possessed with a notion that goodness, especially in young persons,
must be more or less unstable; that it was well if we had good hearts and dutiful intentions, and were vexed with ourselves after sinning, but that as to not sinning, and that even grievously, it was out of the question to expect it in young persons. Such is the language and way of thinking, which one meets with every where, more or less; and many know by shameful experience what power such words and thoughts have to deaden the warmth of early piety, and hinder people from keeping their pure and dutiful resolutions.
This being so, it is quite plain that to all our other good purposes this one must be added :- :-we must resolve, by the grace of God, not to measure things by the judgment of men, but to go
strictly by the rule of God's commandments and the meaning of our Baptismal Vow. Youth is naturally shamefaced, and apt to shrink when it cannot go on without meeting with other men's blame and scorn. But Christian youths have need to be reminded that “ there is a shame which is sin,” as well as a shame which bringeth glory and grace ;” and so have all men, in such measure as their temper continues in this respect youthful after their young years are over, which is the case with very many all their lives long. We should be very often putting it to ourselves. Is this or that, to which I feel inclined, such as that I may go on boldly in the sight of God and His holy Angels? Is it what I could without pain bear to have told of me hereafter in the hearing of those whom I most honour for goodness of the Saints whose praise is in the Bible, or of my own revered friends and relations, living or dead? Such questions as these, if we would inwardly and seriously ask them of our own hearts, would greatly help us in abiding by our good purposes, when the low judgment of the world tempts us most to swerve from them, Our
eyes would be thus from time to time opened; we should see the holy mountain, the Church, full of horses and chariots of fire round about us. Our false shame could not hurt us, being kept seriously aware that they who are with us are more than they who are against us.
Another thing much to be guarded against by those who desire to be steady in serving God, is that tendency, so natural to many, to exhaust their repentance and good meaning in feelings and professions and strong words, instead of going on without delay to the calm and sober keeping of the commandments. It seems as if many
of lost the benefit of the sorrow which we truly feel after we have done amiss, because we give entire way to the feeling of it at the time, as a mere feeling. We weary and tire ourselves out, as a child does with crying, instead of soberly and deliberately judging ourselves as in the Presence of God. We call ourselves hard names, and really do for the time think very hardly of ourselves : but the danger is, that at the bottom of all there is a blind lurking imagination, as if this very sorrow of ours tended greatly to lessen the guilt of our sin, and as if we need not afterwards go on with the sense of that sin so heavy at our heart : and so we become easy again, and go about in as good spirits as