by Cornelius Tyree, 1859
1.The first consideration we mention is, that a thorough development of the pious principle is the great end and purpose of God concerning His people. In the fall, the divine image was effaced from our souls. Now the great end that God has had in view in all that He has done in nature, providence, and grace—is to restore to us his lost image. At the cost of infinite pains and sacrifices, He has been seeking to erase from our souls the hideous likeness of Satan, and to beautify, ennoble, and save us—by impressing us again with His own forfeited image. Did He deliver up His Son to death for us? It was to remove, on His own part, the mighty obstacles in the way of making depraved man holy. Did He, on the grounds of Christ's mediation, send His Spirit into the world? It was to destroy in us the dominion of sin, and make us partakers of His holiness. Did He inspire prophets and apostles to write His Word? It was that that Word might be the great instrument of the Spirit in our sanctification. Were we from eternity chosen in Christ Jesus? It is "that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." Did Jesus Christ give Himself for us? It was "that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous for good works."
For what does God predestinate, call, and justify us? It is that we might "be conformed to the image of His Son." The Redeemer died, rose, ascended, and governs the universe—that His people might be distinguished from mankind around them, and might differ from their former selves. That distinction and difference consist in true holiness. This too is the end of all the ministries of the church. Baptism symbolizes a death unto sin, and a resurrection unto newness of life. Of all perversions and corruptions of the mode and design of this ordinance, unholiness in those who have submitted to it is the most detestable. The design of preaching, the Lord's Supper, brotherly admonition, advice, and reproof, prayer, and the reading of the Scriptures—is not so much to make us happy—as to make us holy. The church that is not growing in holiness comes short of the great end of its organization.
And what do God's providences toward us signify? To some He gives health, financial success, blesses them in a partner for life, in children, in servants, in relations, friends, and neighbors—in all of which He is seeking to lead such to repentance. And what is repentance—but a heart-felt effort to abandon all sin and return to the favor and likeness of God? From others He takes away health, property, and friends—and in so doing He is promoting their profit, that they might be partakers of His holiness. Whether He sends prosperity or adversity, whether He gives or withholds, whether He realizes to us our brightest hopes or crushes them—it is to purify us and make us reflect more brightly the principles of His grace. In fine, all that God has done for us in nature, providence, and grace—is but means to an end—and that end is that we may be holy!
But if the people of God are undistinguished from His enemies—if they are as vain, ambitious, covetous, selfish, and prayerless as the multitude who are professedly irreligious—then the stupendous scheme of redemption has been planned and wrought for them in vain. The divine truths of the gospel have been brought to bear on them to no practical purpose. The Spirit's wooings have produced in them no fruit. The question then comes home to every professor of God's piety—shall Heaven do all this for me in vain? Shall I love and practice sin—when Jehovah has done so much to make me hate and forsake it? Shall He be so diligent to renew and transform me, and I remain idle in my sins? Has God loved me, Christ died for me, the Spirit striven with me, and angels watched over me in vain?
What is the true mission of life? Why, as redeemed sinners, are we in this world rather than taken to heaven? Why are we converted and left in this state of probation for thirty or forty years? Not to improve our farms, educate our children, and hoard up fortunes for them. Some rise higher, and make the study of the sciences and mental improvement the chief aim of life. This, though noble and important, falls vastly short of the end for which we have been created and redeemed. Others rise higher, and become patriots and philanthropists; but neither the patriotism of a Washington, nor the philanthropy of a Howard constitutes the great work for which the Son of God ransomed his people from sin and hell. These are duties—but not the great duty of life. If nothing more than this is done, we shall miss the great business of life, and frustrate the great designs of God in regard to us. Our chief mission on earth, compared with which everything else dwindles into perfect insignificance—is to become thoroughly pious.
Jesus Christ occupies the throne of mediation, sends down the Spirit, and sends forth the ministry—that He may infuse in us and develop through us His own nature and Spirit. Never will He regard His work in us as accomplished until we are made to resemble Him in righteousness and true holiness.
Ponder it well, Christian. The sublime end of your piety is not reached until your faith in Christ has transformed all your inner nature, and displayed itself to the world in your tempers, words, and actions. This is the prize for which you are a candidate, and it must be reached or you will do nothing to enlighten and impress the world. It glitters before you. It is attainable. It is worth all things else. Possess it and you have heaven, whether you are in time or in eternity. Be fired then with the holy ambition of reaching it. Make it your chief and life-long business to become a full-grown Christian. However repeatedly adverse influences may thwart you, hold on in one unbroken career of effort, and you will reach the high distinction of being a marked and influential disciple of Christ.
While the world around us are coveting distinctions, let Christians, for whom there is a sure reward, be ambitious for distinction also in their vocation. While the learned are acquiring science after science, the honorable are increasing the splendor and distinction of their names, and the rich are adding possession to possession—let the child of grace, in God's strength, add knowledge to knowledge, grace to grace, until he shall have transcribed into his life the truth of God, and radiantly exhibited it before the world. In this way you will reach the end of life, and thereby regain more than you lost in Adam.
2. A higher grade of piety is called for, to retrieve, as far as possible, the evil effects of our past inconsistency.Lukewarm professors have done the cause of Christianity more harm than all the open enemies that have ever been arrayed against it. No one cause so mightily impedes the spread of the gospel, as the unholiness of its professed friends. No one thinks the less of piety, from what he sees in, and hears from, the avowedly irreligious. Who esteems Christianity any the less because Hume and Paine attempted to prove it a fraud; or because some wicked neighbor swears and desecrates the Sunday?
But far otherwise, when professed Christians depart not from iniquity. Their inconsistencies make the unbelievers around them underestimate Christianity itself. Thousands have rejected and risen in judgment against the piety of the Bible, on account of the flagrant contradiction between the profession and the conduct of its friends.
Let the half-hearted, worldly professor look over his life and he will see an amount of harm done to the cause of Christ, and to the souls of men, sufficient to embitter the balance of life, and produce, if possible, anguish in heaven. He will see instances in which his lukewarmness has made some infidels, and hardened others in hopeless iniquity. The covetous and self-indulgent will see that they have caused the way of truth to be evil spoken of, and the name of Christ to be blasphemed. The hard-hearted and closed-handed will see that they have kept many from embracing the gospel, and made them think that piety is a delusion. The malicious and unforgiving will see that their example has encouraged the wicked in their way to destruction. And the lover of the wine-cup will see that he has led others into sins from which he cannot now reclaim them.
It is a fearful truth that unless our characters have been sufficiently pious to exert a positive influence for Christ—we have exerted an influence against Him. He who is not unmistakably pious is against Christ. There are no neutrals or moral blanks in the church of Christ. Every professor is a blessing—or a bane. Every professed disciple, whether he designs it or not, is either swelling the tide that bears millions down to perdition—or he is drawing others after him in his heavenward march. How numerous the class who attempt to amalgamate the service of God and mammon. They are not for carrying matters too far. They attempt to occupy middle ground between Christ and Satan; but really Satan desires no better troops than this class. The prince of darkness is quite willing that such valuable allies should remain in the church and retain the name of piety, as they thereby more effectually spread his empire. But the Lord Jesus prefers 'open hostility' to such 'pretended friends'.
Here, then, arises a soul-moving motive to take sides with Christ, by being positively and strikingly pious. If the above position be true, then what infinite harm are many modern professors doing the religion of Christ? How treacherously have many misrepresented their Master—and how fatally have they misled the world! But the past cannot be recalled. We cannot roll the wheels of time backward, and undo the effects of our unfaithfulness. No tears nor reformation can counteract the trains of evil we have put in motion. But if there is in us the smallest degree of the Christian principle, let us seek to be cleansed from the guilt of our unholy influence, and arise to life and action. In God's might, let us "cease to do evil" by contradicting our profession; and "learn to do well" by adorning it.
3. Consistency requires the disciples of Christ to be thoroughly pious.Consistency is acting in harmony with one's self. Consistency requires honesty in a steward, fidelity in a servant, kindness in a friend, and gratitude to a benefactor. So soon as we know what a man professes to be, we at once determine what course of conduct suits him. Now, when one professes the religion of Christ, he avows in the presence of heaven and earth, the intention of living a new and a pious life. This is the very meaning of a profession of piety. A baptism is a solemn pledge to abjure all sin, and to follow after holiness in all things. The very name 'Christian' implies this. The vow to avoid all that God forbids and do all that He enjoins, was recorded in heaven, ratified in baptism, and marked by the world. In declaring ourselves on the Lord's side, we proclaim that we are more, and intend to do more, than others; and the church and the world expect that our lives will correspond with our profession. A profession followed by growth in grace and piety is consistent. But when one professes faith in Christ, and is in life and conduct unlike Christ, he is, of all inconsistent beings, the most inconsistent.
However much we may deplore his conclusion, yet there is one compliment that we must award to the intelligent infidel. At least he is consistent. He has examined the subject of Christianity, read the Bible, and weighed the arguments of our Butlers, Paleys, and Fullers, and has come to the conclusion that the religion of Christ is a fraud—and acts accordingly. True, his is an awful, fatal consistency.
There is another class who have a 'speculative faith' in Christianity—and yet live and act as if it were a fable. To their other crimes they add the high crime of inconsistency. In reality, they are but 'practical atheists'. He who admits the truth and importance of the piety of the Bible—and yet thinks, feels, and acts as if it were neither true nor important—is guilty of an inconsistency that all the flames of hell will never expiate!
But the 'lukewarm professor of piety' is more inconsistent than the 'practical atheist'. He sins against his convictions, his profession, his vows, and against Christ, and his brethren. In profession he has said that Christ is "All, and in All;" that until the day of his death he means to love Him more than mother, father, children, or life itself, and yet by his conduct, he often says, "I don't know the man!" In profession he has died to this world, and become the citizen of another country, and the subject of another kingdom; but in practice, he is as deeply engrossed in this world as those who professedly belong to it. Ceremonially, he is on the Lord's side; in reality he is on the side of mammon. In precept be proclaims that the service of Christ is the soul's best portion, and at the same time affirms by his conduct that there is to be found something in the world more satisfactory. In practice, such a professor reverses the order and principles of his creed. The things which should be first, are last; and those are last which should be first. In his heart and habits, the body has assumed the place of the soul, earth of heaven, time of eternity; and self has assumed the place of God.
Now of all huge inconsistencies, such temporizing professors are the greatest. They are the wonders of all creation. They build up the cause of Christ with their mouths—and pull it down with their lives! They excite expectations today—but they disappoint them tomorrow. Now far better for all concerned that such had never named the name of Christ. In regard to the subject of piety, there are but two consistent characters. One is the downright infidel, and the other is the unmistakable, thorough, evangelical Christian. Every intermediate character is a hideous anomaly. We call then on every friend of Christ to rise up to the high distinction of Christian consistency. Christian brother! Jesus Christ sacrificed heaven and Himself for you. Consistency demands that you should zealously serve such a friend. Heaven and earth, godly men and godless men, expect to see you entirely devoted to your Redeemer. Anything short of flaming zeal in the cause and kingdom of such a Savior—is as unreasonable as it is frustrating to the end of your redemption.
Sin is the greatest foe of God and man; it crucified the Son of God; casts into the dust the sacred honor of Jehovah; kindles the flames of hell, and sinks the soul into endless perdition. And if this is so, does not consistency require us to watch, strive, pray, and repent until we shall have abandoned all sin? If there is a hell—what else in the universe is more consistent than ceaseless diligence to escape it? If there is a heaven, and if without holiness no one can be admitted into that pure world—what else is so legitimate, so befitting to a redeemed sinner—as constant, self-denying, vigorous efforts to acquire that holiness? If the honor of Christ, for the vindication of which ten legions of angels would dart down from their thrones, has been committed to the churches—is not that Christian a traitor to his high trust who does not supremely and avowedly live and labor for its promotion? If there is a sense in which the salvation of the unconverted around us depends upon our agency, then what do we in this world unless we are by our prayers, exertions, and example seeking to bring them to Christ?
In sum, then, we see consistency in the infidel—soul-ruining consistency. In the whole-hearted Christian we see the jewel of soul-saving consistency. But in every intermediate class there is a madness that astonishes all worlds. What a plea then is this for a radical reformation in our piety!
4. Another mighty motive that should induce us to make higher attainments in practical piety—is our usefulness to others.Both the Scriptures and experience show that our usefulness in the world is just in proportion to the grade of our piety. The mightiest means of moral influence is not wealth, or talents, or high social position—but a high standard of personal piety. This will as necessarily have an influence on those around us, as the mid-day sun diffuses over the earth light and heat. Effect will not more certainly follow its adequate cause, than will the man who is manifestly the subject of God's grace become the medium of that grace to others. Christians who are manifestly "the epistles of Christ, known and read of all men," are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, in more senses than one.
Take one such as the type of his class, and study his history through the world, and you will find that in all his multiform relations and conditions, he is in the highest sense a blessing. View him as a citizen. He, and such like him, are the hope of this country, more than our army, territory, or boasted form of government. The secret of our prosperity and perpetuity as a nation, is not our excellent constitution and model institutions—but the conservative influence of the tens of thousands of Christians that are scattered over our broad land. Their example restrains the influences that would otherwise rend this great nation into fragments. Their prayers ward off the avenging skies. They stand in the breach, and hold back the impending judgments of an angry God.
View him as a neighbor. He may be railed at and scorned. The old may call him a bigot, and the young may ridicule him. Still his example will check vice and promote righteousness. By his prayers he wards off from the guilty their merited doom. The wicked around owe him a debt of obligation that they cannot estimate. No greater calamity could befall such a community than the removal of this God-fearing man from it. He is to those with whom he mingles a living, unanswerable argument for the truth of Christianity. He silently rolls off reproach from the religion of Christ, and where he does not win to it men's hearts, he gains the respect of their judgments and consciences. He restrains the wicked, convinces the gainsayers, encourages the good, and gradually produces moral renovation all around him.
Follow him into his family. Here transpire, daily scenes that angels linger to behold. By exemplifying before his household whatever things that are true, whatever things that are just, whatever things that are honest, whatever things that are pure, whatever things that are lovely, whatever things that are of good report; by daily leading his charge to the family altar, by maintaining order and harmony without violence or severity, by mingling cheerfulness with devoutness; in fine, by giving his precepts the force of a consistent example, he will, with a moral certainty, train his children for the nation, the church, and for heaven.
View him as a member of the church. One spiritual, whole-hearted Christian in a church, is often more useful than a hundred ordinary professors. By the weight of his character, by his punctuality and liberality, by his love for the brethren, by his circumspect walk, by his labors and self-denials, he supports the tempted, strengthens the weak, confirms the wavering, reproves the careless, and provokes the lukewarm to good works. With a church of such members, a pastor may storm Satan's citadel. Every minister who understands his Master's work, would rather be the pastor of ten such members than of a hundred wealthy, self-indulgent members, who have a name to live while they are dead.
Such a Christian will be missed by the church when he dies. View him amid wrongs and persecutions. To the fretful, uncharitable, and unforgiving he is kind, calm, and meek. While the storms of furious passions are raging in the bosoms of those around him, he is tranquil and serene. In this way he puts to silence ignorant and foolish men, and wins those without. Behold him under losses and disappointments. His resignation and patience mightily convince the beholder of the sustaining power of Christianity. Nor does his usefulness cease when he is sick and bedridden. We often misjudge, and suppose that when the child of grace is laid aside from his labors, the period of his usefulness has closed, when really, by his patience and calmness under his suffering, he often does more good than he did when he exerted himself openly and actively. The true Christian is never laid by. The influence that goes from him while languishing, is often greater than when in the fullness of health he took the lead in each benevolent enterprise. It is on sick beds, and in the near prospect of death, that the sustaining power of Christianity is most strikingly displayed. Nor does the usefulness of the Bible Christian terminate with his life. After the grave has covered his lifeless form, "he being dead yet speaks." His memory admonishes and encourages more powerfully than even his living example.
Would you then, upon the broadest possible scale, do good; would you pass your days in the most useful manner, give the church and your generation, the greatest reason to bless God for your existence? Then determine in God's strength, that you will be a New Testament Christian. In no other way can you be a blessing to the world.
5.Another consideration, urging to the attainment of elevated piety, is its moral beauty and attractiveness. True believers may be unsung by poets, and unpraised by senators; by worldlings they may be despised, and by witlings held in contempt. Still, nothing invests the human character with such moral dignity and loveliness, as the piety of Christ. It is not great talents, nor learning, nor splendid martial and civil achievements, that impart true honor to man. To stand high in the estimation of the moral universe, is to be regenerated and transformed by the Spirit of God. The only way to twine around your brow, undying laurels, is to copy the example of Jesus Christ. He only is great—who is scripturally pious. Were men not blinded by sin they would see in Christ-like piety overpowering charms. It is supremely lovely in all. It decorates old age and decrepitude. It is exquisitely attractive when displayed by youth. It adds to their every natural accomplishment, gives a luster to their every excellence, and a charm to their every grace. This side of heaven, there is nothing so lovely as a consistently pious youth. We admire the beauties of nature. The older we grow, the more are we enchanted by the rainbow. We gaze with delight on the wonders of art—but God is our witness, we would go further to see the godly youth, to hear him tell of his hope in Christ, than we would to behold the grandest productions of nature and art.
In the hour of conversion the formation of the Christian's character commences. The image of God is then enstamped on his soul, and shines out in progressive beauty. In his life the loveliness of Christ is more and more manifested, until it matures into a beauteous diadem for his brow, and invests his whole character with a halo of glory. His exterior may be unlovely; he may be unrefined; without wealth and learning. He may live in some crude hut, unknowing and unknown; still, angels are his companions and life-guards. Gabriel would leave his throne and pass by senates and palaces, to lift the cup to his thirsting lips. Ten thousand of these holy and mighty beings watch over him, sympathize with him, and rejoice over him, as a valuable addition to God's great kingdom of virtue.
True, he may not be allied to any of the great of earth—but he has God for his father, Jesus Christ for his elder Brother, and the Holy Spirit for his Sanctifier. He is a prince in disguise. His name may not be on the page of worldly fame—but it is recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life. He may die unwept and unsung, yet over his dying couch waves the white banner of the Prince of life. His death is precious in the sight of the Lord. And then at the judgment-seat of Christ, when scholars, poets, statesmen, and warriors, shall be overlooked—he will be singled out and crowned in the presence of the universe, and in heaven occupy a throne above the angels!
How do all the glory of Greece and Rome, all the honors of earth's battle-fields, and earth's titles—pale before the brighter glory and honor of being a New Testament Christian? Give me the high honor of wearing Christ's name, and what do I care for the world's preeminence? Striking, growing, Christ-like piety is more lovely than anything else known to men or angels!
Is it attractive and pleasing to watch the magnificent building as it gradually rises from its foundation into completion? How infinitely delightful then, to all holy beings, to see the penitent sinner first lay the foundation of faith in Christ, and then add grace to grace, excellency to excellency, until he forms the superstructure of practical godliness.
Is it charming to see in your garden, first the signs of vegetable life, then the expanding foliage, then the opening bud, and then the swelling, ripening fruit? Then how morally sublime to behold the trees of God's right hand planting, bearing first the bud and blossom of profession, and then the purpling, clustering fruits of the Spirit.
To others besides the doting parents, it is deeply interesting to mark the development and growth of the physical and mental powers of the healthy infant: to see its tender limbs maturing, its reason dawning, acquiring by degrees the art of walking and talking, and gradually reaching manhood. So to God and all good beings, it is lovely to witness a new-born babe in Christ first yield obedience to Christ's positive commands, then acquiring clearer views of truth and duty, now overcoming and correcting a sinful habit, then resisting Satan's fiery darts; further on, becoming meeker, and more patient, and resigned, amid wrongs and losses; then coming out of a fiery trial with his faith strengthened, his love inflamed, and his deadness to the world increased; and thus on, until he attains to spiritual manhood. Such a sight is more pleasing to God than anything else that transpires in His universe.
It is entertaining to watch a master artist sketch the crude outline of a friend's picture, and then by adding shade after shade, feature after feature, make that friend stand out on the canvas in life-like appearance. So what is more admirable than to behold the disciple of Christ continuing to think of, commune with, pray to, and follow after, his great Model; copying into his life and character, trait after trait, of his Savior, until he "is changed into the same image, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Such a sight rivets the admiring gaze of all heaven.
We have seen the dark clouds gather around the morning sun as if to extinguish his beams, and fogs condense themselves as though they would shroud the earth from his influence; but we have watched the orb of day as he rode up the skies, scattering the gloomy clouds, and after having diffused life over the earth, go down in floods of molten light. This was sublime and beautiful; but far less so than the career of that Christian who, by faith, first turns to Christ the Sun of righteousness, and catches His brightness, and then on through life lets shine steadily that light in a consistent example, until it goes down in the West of a triumphant death, to rise again in the undying splendor of the everlasting East.
We record the deeds, sing the praises, and embalm the memories, of earth's great conquerors; but what in point of brilliancy and usefulness are the victories of an Alexander, a Napoleon and a Washington, compared with the Christian's conquest, who overcomes Satan with his armies, the world with its blandishments, and the flesh with its lusts?
Who in point of excellence can be compared with the Christian? The rich? But the believer owns all things. The honorable? The child of grace has the honor that comes from God. The learned? The believer is wise unto salvation. God Himself pronounces such more excellent than his neighbor, however distinguished that neighbor may be. Nay, he stands higher than Adam stood before his fall.
Would you then, Christian brother, occupy this high grade in the scale of being; would you have a character that will win the admiration of all classes and all worlds; would you on earth be the highest style of man, and stand high at the great judgment day? Then, in reliance on God's Spirit, see to it that you believe in Christ more strongly, love Him more ardently, and copy His example more closely! No higher eulogy can be paid to a human being; there is no higher standard for any of God's creatures to reach; no nobler epitaph can be inscribed upon the tomb of any—than that he was a consistent Bible Christian.
6.Another argument for a higher degree of personal piety, is that it will promote a higher degree of personal happiness. "Sin and sorrow are bound together by adamantine chains." God Himself cannot break this connection. Hence man increases in misery as he increases in sin. It is upon this principle that the devil is the most miserable being in the universe, because he is the most depraved.
So, on the other hand, there is an inseparable connection between holiness and happiness. God is the most happy being in the universe, because He is the most holy. And the happiness of His people, the world over, is just in proportion as they resemble Him in righteousness and true holiness. Heaven is a world of supreme happiness because it is a world of supreme holiness. And hell is a world of supreme misery, because sin is there fully developed. God has so ordered it, that our comfort and well-being in this world can only be found in a pious life. For the last six thousand years mankind have been happiness-hunters. In all ages and lands the eager query has been, "Who will show us any good?" But every device has been a failure. The recorded and unrecorded experience of all has been, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit." We can no more expect to find happiness in the pursuits and objects of this world than we may expect to find luscious grapes growing at the icy North Pole.
But in the likeness and service of Christ is found a happiness which is pure, elevating, perennial, inexhaustible—a happiness that will go with us in all conditions, all lands, and all worlds.
Why then, if Christianity in theory is adapted to impart to its friends such peace—are there so many professors disquieted in spirit—harassed by misgivings and fears? Those who ought to be the happiest people outside of heaven, seem in some instances to be the most depressed and gloomy! And what should be added in this connection is, that this unhappiness in professed Christians not only unfits them for extensive usefulness—but gives Christianity a repulsive aspect to those outside. Since, then, unhappiness is so prevalent among the avowed friends of Christ, and since this lack of happiness has such a detrimental effect on them and the ungodly, why, it is most seasonable to ask—do such Christians find so little pleasure in piety?
Surely in this matter they are not straitened in God. What more could He have done and said, than He has done and said to give His people occasion and grounds for joy? The truth plainly told is, that after making some allowance for the influence of morbid temperaments, the great cause of all this sadness and depression in the followers of Christ, is the small degree of their piety. The only reason why they are disconsolate, is because they "follow the Lord afar off." An old writer has said, "A little piety will make one miserable, and much will make one very happy." One single uncrucified, unbemoaned sin, will not only destroy all pious enjoyment—but open the soul to the devil, with his whole black train of guilt and misery.
"This little hand," (said Whitefield, placing his hand near his eyes, while preaching in an open field,) "will hide the luster of the sun from my eyes, so one small sin will shut out from the soul the life-giving beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and leave it in darkness." It matters not what this sin is. Any one sin habitually indulged in, whether it be pride, malice, backbiting, covetousness, filling the mind with unholy images, or murmuring under adverse providences, will exclude from the soul all pious enjoyment. As well expect the sun's rays in a dark day, as to hope for the consolations of Christ without purposing and striving against all sin, and aiming in all our views, feelings, and actions to please God. In whose heart will God be more likely to shed abroad His soul-refreshing love than in the heart of the man who follows him most fully? Whose mornings will be bright, noons calm, and evenings serene—if not the man's whose daily aim is to bring his inner and outer life to accord with God's will?
After all, the great secret of being happy is to be holy. He who grows in practical piety has opened within and without a thousand sources of true bliss. The joy arising from harmony between the passions and the conscience—the joy arising from victory over inward and outward foes—the joy arising from new views of divine truth—the joy arising from usefulness—the joy arising from communion with God—the joy arising from the approbation of God—the joy arising from the Spirit's gracious influences—the joy arising from the study of nature, providence, and the Scriptures—and the joy arising from a well-grounded hope of heaven—all belong to the man who "grows in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
The "golden fruit of happiness" grows only on the tree of holiness. If happiness is sought in any other way than by being holy, it is sought in vain. We owe it to ourselves, to the world around us, and the honor of Christ, to rejoice in the Lord. But the only way to rejoice in the Lord—is to be like the Lord. Joy springing from any other source is a delusion.
To all the sad and gloomy professors of Christ's religion, then, we would say—Would you have spring up in your soul the joy of the Lord? Would you have all within become peace, and all before you become transport? Would you have God the Father smile on you in the fullness of His forgiving love, God the Son take up His abode with you and become precious to you, and God the Spirit descend upon you with His comforting and dove-like influences? Would you be enabled to look forward to the judgment-throne and see no terror there? And would you sing a cheerful song in the house of your earthly pilgrimage? Then determine that you will attain to more than customary piety; forget the things that are behind, and press toward the measure of the stature of a mature Christian. Fast, pray, read, strive, and watch, until the image of Christ is impressed more deeply on your soul, and shines more brightly in your life! Then, and not until then, will you "have a heaven begun below."
7.Another argument for a higher standard of piety among our churches, is that such a standard is the best proof of a gracious state. Deception in religious concerns is as common, as it is ruinous. Perhaps never in any age, were there more deceived in their hopes for eternity, than there are in this age. Let any one observe the wide discrepancy between the Christian character, as it is drawn in the Scriptures, and as it appears in actual life, and he will be convinced of the truth of this statement. What says Christ? "Many shall come unto Me in that day, and shall say, Lord! Lord! and I will profess unto them I never knew you." In the light of God's Scriptures we are forced to the conclusion that very many bearing the name of Christ, are going down to the grave with a lie in their right hand," and instead of meeting, as they expect, the smiles of angels, and the plaudits of the Redeemer—will hear the thunders of wrath and the wailings of the lost!
Are there, then, on this side of the grave, attainable, infallible evidences of our adoption into the divine family, and heirship to heaven? There are! We need not die and go all the way to the judgment-seat to find out whether we are in a saved state. We may as certainly test our characters, and know what will be our condition in eternity, as if we heard our doom from the lips of the final Judge. What are these unmistakable marks of salvation? There are many—but there is one, more to be depended on than all others; and without which all others are delusive. On it, our Lord and His apostles laid great stress. What is it? Not that we have had high-wrought and joyful feelings. Not that we are sound in the faith, and have "kept the ordinances as they were delivered unto us." Judas, Demas, and Alexander, were all baptized. Not in zeal and in the pronunciation of denominational shibboleths. All these may, or they may not be tests of a saved state. These are too easy and common to be distinguishing. In many instances they are counterfeited. But the evidence in question is unerring. To possess it, is to be a Christian, as certainly as the Bible is the word of God.
This proof is heart-felt, filial, and impartial obedience to the will of God. Not more certainly does a pure stream prove the existence of a pure fountain, and good fruit, the goodness of the tree—than does a striking pious life prove the existence of the pious principle. From other causes than a divine influence, one may have joy. From fifty other motives, besides the love and glory of God, one may be moral in the worldly aspects of his character.
Other considerations than a spirit of obedience, may induce one to be baptized. But nothing in the universe—but God's grace as its principle, and God's glory as its motive, can induce one to live a holy life. Light and heat, in the natural world, do not more clearly prove the existence of the sun—than does Christ-like holiness in the life, prove the genuineness of our faith in Christ. To the great question, then—Who are New Testament Christians? We reply—Only those who resemble Christ in their lives and characters.
The great reason why so many professors walk in darkness and are oppressed with doubts, is not because they have ill health and morbid temperaments—but because of the low grade of their piety. A small degree of piety, whether in ourselves or others, is scarcely perceptible. To be discernible, it must be vigorous in principle and in life. Hence all other evidences of a state of grace, are fallacious if they are unaccompanied by personal holiness. If from month to month, and from year to year, there be no improvement in the Christian life, then must our case be dark and doubtful. Whatever zeal we may display in defending our creed, however well we may converse upon religious subjects; no matter how much we may enjoy ourselves under preaching and in religious conversation; whatever bright discoveries we may have had concerning Christ; however confident we may be of our acceptance with God; if still, our hearts are set on gain; if we are engrossed in the world; if we are aspiring after its honors; if we are proud, discontented, revengeful, slothful, sensual, unfeeling, vain of our attainments, uncharitable in our estimates of others; if we refuse to give of our substance to the cause of Christ, or give leanly and grudgingly—then have we "a name to live while we are dead." Or, if we have any piety at all, it is but a spark buried under the ashes of our idle altars.
Still more doubtful is our case if, instead of advancing in holiness, we decline. Christians may be overtaken and fall into great sins. Thus did David and Peter. This is dreadful; but when followed by repentance, such falls are less unfavorable than that regular declension which admits of no intervenings of warmth. Pleurisy and pneumonia may kill; certainly they greatly alarm and endanger life; but often they soon pass away and give place to returning health. Whereas, consumption, though its attacks are gentle, gradual and unperceivable, always ends in death! Now I will not say that the person declining in piety is hopeless; but it must be allowed on all hands that the chances are fearfully against him. Remaining stationary, and still more, declining in piety, is a melancholy proof that we are not pious. On the other hand, regular progress in the various graces is, in the estimation of God, others, and ourselves, the best testimony of Christian character. Our evidences of grace are just in proportion to our growth in grace.
Would you then, disciple of Christ, answer affirmatively the great question, " Am I a Christian?" Would you have an evidence of your pious state that will displace every doubt? Would you have a proof that is scriptural, satisfactory, and reasonable one that will stand the test of examination, the test of affliction and death, and the severer test of the great day of judgment? Then with the Bible in your hand, the world around you, and eternity before you—seek to correct all in you that is wrong, and confirm all that is right. Aim every day to copy more closely the example of Christ; to make more and more apparent and attractive, His image—in your life and character. Let it be your chief work, under the sun, to bring all your feelings, sentiments, habits, and plans, under the control of the pious principle. Make Christianity the great business, guide and ornament of your life. Strive, read, watch, hear, restrain, and pray—until it mingles with and sanctifies all your secular affairs—sheds its pure and celestial tints over the whole of your character—leaving nothing about you unirradiated with its beams.
Living thus, the Father and the Son will take up their abode with you; the Spirit will bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God; you will, from your own experience, know that the gospel is from God, and that you are savingly interested in it, and your piety will become to you, and to others, a self-evidencing reality, causing you to exclaim, in view of death and eternity, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." And your neighbors, from beholding you, will exclaim—Let us live the life and die the death of the righteous!
8. A high grade of personal piety is the most suitable and acceptable return we can make to Christ for what He has done for us.Christian! how much do you owe your Lord? Explore the archives of antiquity, drain the historic page, take the wings of an angel and fly to distant worlds—and you can find no love and kindness like that which Jesus Christ has displayed toward you. Unasked, unsolicited, without respect to your merits or desires—He came into the world and placed Himself in the very gap between you and eternal destruction. For you He exchanged the honors and bliss of His heavenly throne—for the humiliations of Bethlehem, and the agonies of Gethsemane and Golgotha. He became poor—that you through His poverty might be rich—how rich you can never know in this world. In the gloomy garden He drank, at the hands of His Father, the wrath-cup which would have been pressed to your lips through eternity. On the cross He died a death of which it is fearful even to read—that you might not die that second death that never dies. In sum, look backward, and think what He has done for you; look upward, and think what He is now doing for you; and look forward, and think what He will do for you. Your pardon, your justification, your reconciliation to God; your peace of mind, your hope of heaven, your triumph in death, your admission into Paradise, your glorious resurrection, your being crowned at the great day, and your occupying a throne in heaven—have all been secured to you by the death and intercession of Jesus Christ!
O if in the universe there be such a thing as obligation, then are the redeemed under the most soul-moving obligation to the Redeemer! Christian brother! in the hour of your conversion, when you dropped the dreadful destiny of endless sorrow, and cherished for the first time the hope of heaven, you asked, and are still asking, "Lord, what will you have me do?" "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits?" How shall I make some returns to Him?
You owe it to Him—to love Him more than father, mother, wife, children, or life itself. The dearest earthly friend should give place to Him in your heart. You owe it to Him—to repose in Him an implicit, trustful, penitential, life-long faith. The highest gratitude that ever throbbed in the most affected heart you should constantly cherish toward Him. Praise as sweet as the breath of love and loud as the echo of His fame, you should offer Him. You owe it to Him to speak of Him and exert yourself to promote His cause. But all this, though acceptable, is not the most acceptable offering you can make. The most approved offering you can make Him is holiness of life. Thanks-living is far more pleasing in His sight than thanks-giving. Without holiness no man can please Christ. Your service in every other respect will be unacceptable to Him so long as you crucify Him afresh with one habitual sin. Your faith and hope are spurious so long as you hurl at His heart the spear of unbemoaned lusts.
The love that He approves is that which leads you to keep His commandments. The faith that pleases and honors Him is that vital principle that sanctifies the heart and character. The gratitude that He values is not that which exhausts itself in intense feelings—but that operative emotion that prompts us to be "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners," as He was. The baptism that He accepts is that which symbolizes a death unto sin, and a resurrection unto newness of life. The prayers that He hears and answers are petitions for grace to resist sin and follow after holiness.
We would not be misunderstood. We would not make 'holiness' take the place of Christ's death. That were to subvert the whole gospel, offend God, and make our perdition sure. But holiness, as the development of our faith in the atoning cross, is an indispensable part of gospel salvation, and is infinitely pleasing and honoring to Christ, because in the sanctification of His people He achieves the great end for which He died.
In the economy of our redemption has He not inseparably joined together justification and sanctification? And is not the latter just as essential to our admission into heaven as the former? The truth is, no doctrine is in this age so unpopular and so much overlooked as the subject of holiness. How few books and sermons urge it with any prominence! Writers and preachers are over-sensitive, lest in the world's estimation they put forth a legal gospel.
Now in this particular we must return to the first principles of the gospel. Shall we cease to proclaim and practice it because Papists and legalists have perverted it from its scriptural connection? Was not holiness a great theme of Christ's ministry? How constantly and fully do the apostles urge it in their epistles! And is it not upon one page of God's book, in letters of living light, written, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." This is one of the great unbending laws of Christ's religion, peculiar to no land or age; but everywhere, in all lands and ages—for the city and the country, for the refined and the crude, for the ministry and the laity—it demands as an indispensable condition of Christian discipleship, that there be an abandonment of all sin, and a striving after universal and perpetual holiness.
Would you then have a piety after the mind and model of Christ? Would you give a proof of the genuineness of your love and faith, that both God and men demand of you? Would you attain the great end Christ had in dying for you? Nay, would you give joy to the heart that bled for you on the cross? Then seek to be in reality and in appearance more scripturally pious.
9.Another plea for a high grade of piety, is that most people form their opinions of Christianity, from what they see in the spirit and conduct of its professors. But few unsaved people study and form their views of Christ's religion as it is revealed in the Scriptures, and exemplified in its Author. To the busy, faithless world, the Bible is an antiquated, repulsive abstraction. Thousands never read it. Others read it only to cavil. After all, mankind are but little impressed with the fact that Jesus Christ died and arose again, and commanded the apostles to preach the gospel to every creature. They never investigate, and consequently are not convinced by the mighty array of evidence that attests the truth of Christianity. But the mass of mankind do understand Christianity as it appears in the lives of its friends. The life and conduct of Christ's disciples is an epistle "known and read of all men." Every Christian's life is a volume read and studied through and through. Most men care not for the apparent discrepancies in the Scriptures—but every discrepancy in the example of the Christian, every blot and blur, every real and apparent contradiction in the living epistles, is by them scrutinized with the deepest interest.
From different motives different classes read and scan Christians. Though in so doing they act on a principle they repudiate in everything else, one class persist in judging Christ and His religion by Christians—and not Christians by Christ and the Scriptures. With a shrewdness sharpened by enmity, they eagerly watch the tempers and conduct of Christians, not to remove—but to confirm their prejudices. Though steeped to the lips themselves in profligacy, whenever they detect some minor fault in the friends of Christ, they exultingly proclaim that such are fallen from grace. Now woe to this class if professors of piety continue to give them occasions to stumble. On account of the imperfections of Christ's friends they will reject Christ Himself, and inherit the death they seek. Another class mark and study your temper and conduct from feelings of curiosity. Others observe you that they may detect your inconsistencies, and thereby justify and confirm their infidelity.
But from far different motives do most of the impenitent read your life. Some are honestly halting, whether to embrace Christianity, from a secret skepticism. They watch you that they may hear something from you and see something in you that will remove their difficulties, and decide them for Christ. Accordingly, they will incline to the side of infidelity or to the side of Christ, as the conduct of Christians impresses them favorably or unfavorably. In settling the great question whether Christianity is true or an imposition, the only standard they will accept and appeal to is the consistent life of Christians. Thousands of skeptics and semi-skeptics are saying to the churches—Give us example as well as precept—a holy life as well as a sound creed. Let us behold your piety transform your every-day life and character, and we will at once embrace your Master and espouse His cause.
And then what a number of people, more or less awakened, look alone to the professors of piety around them for instruction and encouragement. Many a young convert, in determining whether he has been converted, not only appeals to the experience of some older Christian—but his manner of life for his model. The unbelieving husband will be convinced of the truth of Christianity, not so much from what he reads and hears. He forms his views of Christianity from the temper and conduct of his professing wife. The child forms its views of Christianity, not so much from what it hears in the pulpit or in the Sunday-school, as from the temper and demeanor she sees in her parents.
The only representative that Christianity has in many a neighborhood, is a small church. In other communities there are only a few of Christ's friends. The appreciation in which such communities hold Christianity will be just in proportion as such Christians evince the spirit of Christ in their walk and conversation. In many a family the only exponent and witness of Christ and His piety is a wife, daughter, or servant. Such families will take their type of belief or disbelief in Christianity from the manifestations of it they behold in these professors.
What mighty interests, then, depend on the manner in which Christians behave and live! No other beings in any other world are the depositories of such a vital trust. Every step the Christian takes is pregnant with results that take hold on eternity. He is shut up to the alternative of blessing the world by his faithfulness, or blasting it by his inconsistency.
In this item, then, is the sum of our pleas for a higher grade of piety. If those around us will be made the friends or foes of Christ, according as our living representations of Him are accurate or inaccurate; if our being unlike Christ will make men think lightly of Him; and if on the other hand, the more closely we imitate Him, the more highly will they esteem Him; if on the one hand by violating our profession we make infidels, and repel them from Christ, and on the other by adorning our profession, we most effectually convince and win them to Christ—then "what kind of people ought we to be in all holy living and godliness?" Disciples of Christ! the most important of all interests are committed to you. Do not by your lukewarmness betray them. Be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the common affairs of life, and you will bear for the truth a more eloquent testimony than those who went to the martyr's stake! The world will then take knowledge of you—that you have been with Christ!
10. Regard for God's glory, requires us to be eminently pious.Nothing that holy men and angels are, or can do, can add one gleam to God's 'essential glory'. Nor can the depravity of unholy men and angels diminish it. But it is otherwise with God's 'declarative or manifestative glory'. This, wicked men can hinder and tarnish; and righteous men can maintain and promote. In this sense, believers, throughout the Scriptures, are required to glorify God. What do such commands as these mean? "Let your light so shine before men—that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." "For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ—unto the glory and praise of God."
All God's work's glorify Him; but the blazing of a thousand suns reflects not so brightly His honor—as the transformation of one sinner from sin to holiness. One instance of sound conversion, and increasing piety, secures to God's name a richer revenue of praise than all that shines above and blooms beneath. On such a mind the image of God is enstamped; in such a life the beauty of God shines; and in such a character the loveliness of God is begun. The creation of worlds and the revolution of empires, are trifling displays of God's power and glory—compared with the deliverance of one immortal soul from the ruins of the fall. Henceforth he becomes a specimen of redeeming grace—a valuable accession to the great kingdom of love—an efficient medium of salvation to the lost—a loud proclaimer of God's praise—a beautiful vessel of God's mercy—an illustrious trophy of the Redeemer's cross—and a bright gem in His mediatorial crown!
But to attain the high privilege of thus honoring Christ, it is not enough that we be regenerated. In addition to this, we must "go on unto maturity." We do not glorify Christ so much by what we believe, profess, and say—as by what we are, and appear to be. Says Christ, "Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit." We must abound in the fruits of the Spirit, in order to raise our Redeemer in the esteem of the world. The more brightly the sun shines, the more strikingly does it declare the glory of God; so the more elevated and obvious our piety is, the more honor do we bring to Christ.
To Christians, in a peculiar sense, is committed the vindication and completion of Christ's honor, in this revolted world. If faithful to this highest of all trusts, all heaven will exult, and souls around us will be saved. But if by our unholiness we diminish the honor of our ascended Lord, then will there be triumph in the ranks of darkness, and the salvation of the world be mightily hindered. Compared with the honor of the Savior, everything else is lighter than vanity. Nothing else is so sacred and precious. Ten thousand eager angels would at the least signal rush down from their thrones for its vindication. The Christian who does not have a holy jealousy for his Lord, who does not mourn when his Master is dishonored, and rejoice when He is exalted—is not worthy of his name.
What a motive this, for us to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things! We can neither preach nor write away the reproach that has been cast on Christ's name and cause. The only way to do it is to exhibit steadily and brightly a pious example. Let this most mighty of all weapons, then, be wielded for Him. Hundreds are questioning his divine character and power. Let us, both by precept and example, make a bold stand for Him against such scorners. All around us are infidels in theory, and more in practice, who are casting upon His adorable character the imputation of falsehood, casting His sacred honor in the dust; nay, laboring in mad enmity to extinguish the last ray of His glory from the earth. Let us oppose such a heresy with high-toned personal piety, and such infidels will at once encounter an argument they cannot answer, and a rebuke they cannot withstand.
In this way the saints of all classes may become champions of Heaven's insulted honor. Many profess Christ's name, and then by their daily conduct say "we know not the man." Of all classes they wound Christ most deeply—their lives tend to prove Jesus to be an impostor, and His religion an imposture. Let us so imbibe and display the spirit of Christ, that the testimony of such traitors shall be rebutted and neutralized. Despite such betrayers, let the majority of Christ's friends live for Him, and the world will be speedily converted.
Another class of believers defame the divine government, impeach God's wisdom, impugn His goodness—by complaining and repining under adverse providences. Let the friends of God roll off this reproach by displaying such an example of patience, submission, and cheerfulness under all the losses, trials, and crosses, with which they may be visited.
Many are enemies to God by wicked works. They blaspheme His name, despise His Word, vilify His people, and heap contempt on His ordinances. Such glory in dishonoring the God of heaven. They array themselves under the black banners of Apollyon, and hurl defiance at their Maker. There is a way to disarm these 'enemies to the divine throne' of their hostility; and that is to reflect before them the Spirit and image of Christ in our life. The secret of conquering such foes for our King is to imitate that King in our manner of living.
But most deeply do men dishonor God—by rejecting His only begotten Son. No other insult equals this. This is to pour contempt on His character and throne. No other wrong from puny man is so unprovoked, and so frustrating to the designs and glory of God. Now, whole-hearted Christians have it in their power to do much towards overcoming this great sin. In no other way can we so effectually convince men of the guilt of unbelief, and induce them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as by showing them our faith by our works. 'Faith embodied' is the most powerful refutation of skepticism, and the most resistless plea for embracing the Redeemer. So that if we would honor our God and Savior upon the broadest possible scale, do more to recover to Him the glory of which the fall defrauded Him, than the shining of all the suns, and the shouting of all the angels; then we must make it our chief business on earth to conform our lives to Christ our Pattern and Exemplar, as well as to trust Him as our atoning sacrifice.
11. A high standard of personal piety has a most intimate and happy bearing on our manner of DYING.Nothing is more desirable than that we should die calmly and triumphantly. Such a death greatly honors God, convinces the unbeliever more effectually than sermons, is peculiarly encouraging to other Christians, and is an unutterable joy to the dying saint himself. Such a departure out of time into eternity—is a mighty, tangible illustration of the truth and importance of Christianity, useful to others, and "precious in the sight of the Lord."
Such Christians as Payson, Boardman, and Pearce, did much for the cause of Christ by their manner of living; but it may be well questioned whether they did not do more for that cause by their manner of dying. An entrance into the kingdom above, like that of Payson's—so radiant, so glorious, so triumphant, will honor Christ and His religion, through all time. What are all the honors, the riches, and pleasures of earth—compared with such an end! Who would not part with all the gold of earth's mines, all the pearls of earth's seas, and all the crowns of earth's kingdoms—to die such a death? Such a death the Apostle Paul desired more than the continuance of life. His great concern was "to finish his course with joy!" And such a death all should supremely desire, and aim to attain unto.
But how can we make our life thus end? Are such deaths the sovereign bestowals of God's grace—irrespective of the life and character of those who die them? We think not. We believe men generally die as they live. If any die a safe, triumphant death, after having lived wicked lives, they are the exception to, and not the rule of the divine arrangement. The Scriptures and experience go to show that there is the same connection between a pious life and a victorious death, that there is between sowing and reaping. Mark how clearly the Apostle Peter states the connection between eminent piety in life—and a happy death. "For if you do these things, you shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Now, this abundant entrance, which means a happy, glorious death, depends upon doing certain things the apostle had mentioned. What are those things? Why, the adding to our "faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, Christian love." In other words, a triumphant admission into the heavenly world when we die, is conditioned on high attainments in personal piety; and the manner in which Bible-saints have lived and died, shows the position of the apostle to be true.
Who "was taken up, that he should not see death"? Enoch, who, while living, walked with God. Who was carried up to heaven by a whirlwind? Elijah, who made God and His cause, all, and in all. Who, in the trying hour, "fell asleep"? David, who, while living, "served his own generation by the will of God." Whom did God dismiss from the work of life, by telling him, "and you, be faithful to the end. Then you will die, but you will rise to receive your reward at the end of time"? Daniel, who amid all the darkness, corruption, trials, and temptations of a heathen court, remained the scrupulous servant and representative of God. Who exclaimed, "Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word"? Simeon, "who was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel." Who, when stoned to death, "saw the Lord Jesus standing on the right band of God," and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"? "Stephen, a man full of faith, and of the Holy Spirit." Who, in his seventy-fifth year, in the near prospect of a cruel death, exultingly exclaimed, "I am ready to be offered up." "I know whom I have believed." "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day"? Paul, who of all, whose names shine in the annals of redemption, trod most closely in the footsteps of his Master.
Who, when entering the dark valley, exclaimed, "l am going to Mount Zion! I am going to the city of the living God!" "I swim in a river of pleasure! I swim in a flood of glory!" Edward Payson, one of the brightest exemplifications of modern Christianity. And to mention but one more—out of the twice ten thousand whose passage into eternity has been flooded with light and glory—who was it that recently said, while dying, "For more than forty years I have so ruled my life that when death came I might face it without fear." "I die happy and contented." "Come, my son, see how a Christian can die!" It was General Havelock who, for more than forty years, had victoriously fought the battles of his country and his God.
So then, Christian brother, would you, at life's close, have the 'monster' fall stingless at your feet; would you die without a doubt of your final salvation; would you have angels unseen, hover around your couch, and when the last breath is out, rush off with your spirit, to heaven? O then, live the Christian's life. Every new attainment you make in holiness, is but laying up for yourself a good foundation against the time to come. First of all, see to it that you have justifying faith. Then think out, act out, live out, that faith. With your growth in years—grow in grace. In this way you will die safely, gloriously, and usefully.
12.Our closing plea is, that in living a holy life, we live for eternity. There are three questions that come home to us with the weight of a thousand worlds.
1. Is there another life? Do we cease to be, when we cease to breathe? There is! According to the plain teaching of the Scriptures, another state of being into which we enter at death—with all our powers unimpaired.
2. Has our manner of living in this life, any connection with our well-being in the life to come? Is there any known relation between the character we form on earth—and the rewards we receive in heaven? There is! The Scriptures, with sunbeam clearness, tell us what we are to do, and what we must be, in order to meet God in peace and inherit eternal life.
3. What is it we must do, and what is it we must become—to secure the high rewards of grace after death? It is to be changed in our state and be transformed in our natures and conduct, into the likeness of Jesus Christ. While our admission into heaven will be entirely on the account of free grace; it is also true that our reward will be in proportion to our standard of holiness. Heaven is a world of supreme holy honor and enjoyment. Hence the higher the standard we reach here, the brighter our crown, and the greater the degree of our bliss there.
We trench then not in the least on the doctrines of grace. We write scripturally and reasonably, when we affirm that of all on earth, he is making the surest work for eternity—who is the most pious in time. "What do in this life, follows them into eternity as sources of pleasure or pain." All that statesmen, scholars, economists, warriors, poets, moralists, and philosophers, are achieving, however useful to the world—is of no avail beyond the grave. If the enjoyments and employments of heaven, consisted in the mere continuation of the different laudable enjoyments and employments of earth, then all these different classes would be transmitting a good influence for themselves, beyond the grave. But heaven is not the abode for the learned, the sages, the poets, philosophers, patriots, the refined and noble. It is a place where the redeemed meet and receive the rich rewards of grace, where they have their every pain eased, their every pious desire fulfilled, their every pious hope realized, and their
every pious sacrifice recompensed a thousand-fold. Heaven is the perfection of the piety we commence on earth. And if this be so, then to reap the golden harvest of everlasting life there, we must sow to the Spirit here; to wear the crown there, we must bear the cross here; we must trust Christ implicitly and imitate Him closely in this world, to have a seat near His throne in eternity.
Would you then, Christian brother, make the most of this life, for eternal glory? Would you make your manner of life matter—for the good of others in this world, and be a safeguard to yourself, against the evils of the world to come? Would you in death, lay your head upon the bosom of Christ without alarm? Would you, at the judgment-seat, hear the "well done" of the Judge—have Him single you out, amid the assembled universe, and confess you before His Father and His angels—welcome you into the kingdom prepared for you, from the foundation of the world—and then in heaven occupy a seat and enjoy a bliss above the angels? Then make it the chief concern of every day to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Let the day on which some attainment in personal piety has not been made—be mourned over, and written down in the calendar of life, as a day lost!