Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

such love is derived from external objects; from the beauty or good qualities of the person, or the desirableness of the thing.

On the contrary, true christian love is not derived from things without, but floweth from the heart, as from a spring; which, while it draweth its supply from the depths of the earth, floweth over the ground without requiring any thing in return; and not as from a stagnant pool, which requireth to be swollen by a shower, before it can water the earth. This spirit saith thus: "I love thee not for thy virtue or comeliness, for I do not derive my love from thy merit, but from the grace of God which is implanted in my heart, and which teacheth me to love my neighbour as myself; this is the source from which I derive my love; and it floweth plentifully to all, whether they be friends or enemies; but more especially to my enemies, as I consider there is more need that I should pray for them, and endeavour through love to win them from the evil of their ways, that they may repent of their sins, be delivered from the snares of the devil, and become my friends."

This may be called love flowing from a pure heart; for one who is thus affected, doth not love because he findeth any thing worthy in those whom he loveth, but because the grace of God, which is itself pure, hath cleansed his heart, and replenished it with true and holy affections. Such love will manifest itself in whatsoever condition or circumstances in life men may he placed. If a servant be not thus affected, he will say thus to himself: "I serve my master because he giveth me food and clothing, or payeth me wages!" or perhaps, "because it is in his power to punish me if I do not faithfully serve him." But if he have this love in his heart, he will say thus: "I will serve my master, not because he is kind or unkind; not for the hope of reward, or the dread of punishment; but because the word of God commandeth me as a servant, to be obedient to my master; therefore will I serve him faithfully, for in serving him, I also serve God, who hath placed me in the state and condition of a servant."

And so likewise, if a prince or ruler say, "I am placed in the condition of a ruler, I will therefore enjoy my djgnity, my riches, and my power; and I will have respect unto these things only:" although such a one may so rule that the world shall have no cause to find fault, yet, as the honour and glory of God are not regarded in the discharge of his office, his heart is not pure; for he seeketh only his own glory, riches, and power.

And also in spiritual offices; if I preach because some good benefice is offered me, when otherwise I would never engage in this calling, I may indeed preach, but I shall not do it from a pure heart; for my heart would be most plainly polluted. And though I should be ever so diligent, and should ever so much affirm that the work is good, and the office responsible, I should not discharge the duties thereof aright; inasmuch as I did not engage in it from pure motives. He only can rightly fill the clerical office, whose heart is so affected that he can say thus; "I do indeed get my living by the ministry, yet it is not for this reason that I engage in it; but because the Lord hath called me to it, and hath committed this trust to me, that I should discharge the duties thereof with fidelity, not seeking my own honour or profit. I must therefore diligently labour therein, to the glory of God, and the salvation of souls." If I be thus affected, then is my heart pure; because I do not engage in the work for the sake of honour or emolument:. and if these follow, I may receive them without sin.

Thus ye see, that charity (or love) which proceeded! from a pure heart, is not derived from things without, but floweth from within, and extendeth to all without distinction. But how is the heart purified 1 As we have already said, by the grace of God, which cometh through his word. This grace in the heart is the spring whence good works flow; and no works are acceptable to God unless they come from a pure heart.

[graphic]

God hath caused his word to be preached, that our hearts may be purified thereby, and our lives ordered according to the prescript thereof. Let us therefore not suffer ourselves to be discouraged or hindered by any difficulties we may encounter. Let us continue firm, and persevere unto the end, although we meet with persecutions and contempt, and suffer losses thereby. *Let us break through all obstacles with boldness and manly courage ; and as we began not for man's sake, let us not be prevented by man from doing that which is acceptable to God. Let us be ready and willing at all times to discharge the duties which God requireth of us; and let us serve him with a pure heart, and with faith unfeigned.

Thus much I have thought proper to say concerning charity's proceeding out of a pure heart; and how the heart is purified, that it may produce this kind of charity. We will now briefly attend to the second thing to be considered; viz. a good conscience; for the text saith, "The end of the commandment is charity, and of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned."

By a good conscience is here meant, a conscience void of offence, not-only before men, but also before God. To have a conscience void of offence before men, we must be able to glory as Paul did; that he so lived that he offended no man, troubled no man, was ah evil example or burthen to no man; but that all who witnessed his conduct, must needs say, that he indifferently served all, helped all, counselled all, and dealt honestly and friendly with all. Of such a conscience, Moses also glorieth : Num. rri. "I have not taken one ass from them, neither hare I hurt one of them." And also Samuel; 1 Kings, xviii. "I have walked before you from my childhood to this day. Behold here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed; whose ox have I taken 1 or whose ass have I taken ? or whom have I defrauded 1 whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe V

Such a conscience must every christian possess, that he shall be conscious of having discharged his duty in all respects, and to all men; so that no one can have any just cause to complain of him; but that all who will speak the truth, must confess, that he has been an example worthy to be followed by all who would live well. Let no christian therefore do any thing that shall deprive him of such a confidence; for he that liveth in such a manner, as to give just occasion to the world to reprove his conduct, is not yet a christian: as his heart cannot be Eiure. For we must not presume on the doctrine of aith, as though that being once obtained, we may live as we list; as it would thence be inferred that this doctrine giveth license and liberty to commit sin with impunity. But we must so conduct ourselves, that we have love flowing out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and that no man can justly accuse us of any sin.

Although such a conscience may render us just before men, yet it is another thing to be just before God: for good works, as we have elsewhere said, will not justify us before him. And still, in order to fulfil the commandment, we must be justified also before God. But how shall we attain unto this? By faith; and here we may bring in the last thing to be considered in our text; and of faith unfeigned. As we have already said, although I may have a good conscience before men, and so live that none can have occasion to censure my conduct, ' yet the old Mam, that is, flesh and blood, still remain in me, and render me subject to sin. For as Paul saith, Gal. v. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit,, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." And also Romans vii. "I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I."

[graphic]

The spirit would indeed live perfectly and purely,, according to the word of God, but the rebellious flesh resisteth the desire thereof, by tempting us to seek honour, riches, and pleasures; and to be remiss in our religious duties. Thus, on account of our carnal nature, we have to maintain a continual warfare against the many temptations that are constantly besetting us. Although we may discharge a clear conscience before men, we do many things that are not right in the sight of God, and neglect many duties which he requireth of us: so that the most righteous among men have much need of mercy and forgiveness. No one can so acquit himself, that he shall be able to contend with God in judgement, but all must acknowledge that they have not merited salvation by their works, and that if justice were executed toward them, they would be consigned to punishment.

But we have before said, that we must also be justified before God, and that this must be done by faith. The text not only implieth that we must have a pure heart, and a good conscience, but also faith unfeigned; and this is the principal part, and chief precept contained therein; and that which embraceth all the rest. „ We shall therefore examine this part of the subject a little more closely, and endeavour to explain the nature of this faith. . All men being condemned by the law, it was ne

« ZurückWeiter »