Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries
False Professors Described
Titus 1:16. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him.
AT a time when the profession of godliness is everywhere abounding, it is of peculiar importance to lay down marks whereby the upright may be distinguished, and the hypocritical be put to shame. There have ever been in the Church, many, whose characters would not bear investigation, and whose conduct was the very reverse of what their profession required. In the days of the Apostle there were "many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, who subverted whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre sake," and of these he hesitated not to declare, that "while they professed that they knew God, they in works denied him."
Now, as such persons abound in all ages, I will enter into a fuller consideration of the character here delineated; and observe respecting it, that it is,
I. A common character.
As all who were the natural descendants of Abraham were considered as professing the faith of Abraham, even while they were living altogether without God in the world; so all who name the name of Christ are considered as Christians, though they never think of departing from any iniquity which their hearts affect. But it is not of such persons that I intend to speak. The persons mentioned in my text evidently wished to be regarded as religious: and therefore it is to persons of that description that my attention shall be confined. These, indeed, embrace a great variety of character: for, while some take up religion in a formal kind of way, as a means of gaining a reputation for sanctity, others vaunt themselves in an experience of its power upon their souls. Of the former class are those whom Paul speaks of, when he says, "Behold, you are called a Jew, and rest in the law, and make your boast of God, and know his will, and approve the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and are confident, that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which have the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law." Of the latter class are they whose hearts have been impressed in a measure with divine truth, and brought in some degree under the power of religion, but who yet hold fast some secret lusts which they will not part with. Of such the Prophet Isaiah speaks: "They call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel." Of such also God speaks by the Prophet Ezekiel: "They come unto you as the people comes, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words; but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their covetousness."
Now, of both these classes there are very many in the present day. At a former period, the pharisaical class were the more numerous; but at this time the hypocritical. In some respects they differ widely from each other, and hold each other in contempt: but, in the main point, they are agreed; namely, in not walking agreeably to their profession. Neither the one nor the other give themselves up wholly to their God: some hidden abomination, like a worm at the root, impedes their fruitfulness in good works, and prevents them from "bringing forth any fruit to perfection." Were I to distinguish between them, I should say, the one profess religion generally; the others profess religion of a superior cast: but, when the whole of their spirit, and temper, and conduct, are compared with the Scripture-standard, they show that their hearts are not right with God; and that, while "they draw near to him with their lips, their hearts are far from him."
It is also,
II. An awful character.
In two respects do these persons fearfully betray their extreme folly and wickedness:
1. They grievously dishonor God.
In proportion as they profess a zeal for God, is God implicated, if I may so say, in the evils which they commit. Not that God has indeed any responsibility on their account: but an ungodly world, who hate religion, will take occasion to condemn religion itself for the faults of those who profess it, yes, and to "blaspheme the very name of God himself on their account." Unreasonable as it is that "the way of truth should be evil spoken of" on account of those who walk not according to its dictates, still this is what men will do, in vindication of themselves, and for the purpose of decrying all serious godliness. But this greatly aggravates the guilt of those who thus expose religion to contempt, and cast a stumbling-block in the way of a perishing world. Truly it were "better that a millstone were hanged about the neck of such persons, and that they should be cast into the sea," than that they should continue to involve themselves in such tremendous guilt.
2. They fatally deceive their own souls.
No persons are less disposed to suspect themselves than these. Their profession stands with them in the place of practice. They think only of what they do; but never reflect on what they leave undone. If they "say, Lord, Lord," it never comes into their minds to inquire how far they "do the things which he requires of them." The godly themselves express not a greater confidence of their state before God, than these. Hence it is that they are so frequently warned against self-deceit; "If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." And again; "If any man seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, that man's religion is vain." Of such persons there is little, if any, hope: because they imagine themselves already possessed of all that the Gospel offers, and therefore are deaf to the invitations and entreaties which they deem applicable only to persons less favored than themselves.
Such an one is truly,
III. A pitiable character.
In the midst of light "they walk on still in darkness."
Professing that they know God, they take, of course, the Scriptures for their guide: but, with respect to the real life of godliness, they are yet ignorant, because that "darkness has blinded their eyes." In truth, they see everything through a wrong medium, and as it were with a jaundiced eye; and the very principles which they profess serve only to beguile them to their ruin. Unhappy souls! "whose very light is darkness," and whose knowledge causes them to err!
With all imaginable opportunities for salvation, they improve not any for their good.
They have the ordinances of religion, yes, and take pleasure in them too; but they remain unhumbled, and "uncircumcised both in heart and life." The very word they hear, which to others is "a savor of life unto life," proves to them only "a savor of death unto death." The more formal of these characters satisfy themselves with a mere round of duties; and the more enlightened of them place their own feelings and conceits in the stead of vital godliness; and thus both the one and the other turn the very means of salvation into occasions of augmented guilt and misery. The very sun and rain, which ripen others, do but prepare them for fuel in the fire of Hell.
Buoyed up with the most glorious hopes and prospects, they have nothing awaiting them but the most fearful disappointment.
They dream of Heaven at the termination of their earthly pilgrimage: but, alas! what horror will seize hold upon them at the instant of their departure hence! It is not only the tree which bears bad fruit, but that which bears not good fruit, that will be cast into the fire: not those only who had no lamps, but "those whose lamps were destitute of oil, that will be cast into outer darkness, where is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth." They will carry their delusive hopes even to the bar of judgment: but their claims will be disallowed, and their pleas be of no avail. Their eyes will then be opened to see their folly; and they will be left to reap forever the fruit which they have sown."
Let me now entreat you to inquire into,
1. Your profession.
Think not that a merely speculative knowledge, however extensive it be, will suffice. To know God aright, you must know him, as reconciled to us in Christ Jesus; and must so know him, as to renounce every other hope, and to rely altogether on Christ alone. Then only do we know him aright, when we "cleave unto Christ with full purpose of heart."
2. Your practice.
It is to little purpose that we hear and approve of the word, "unless we be doers of it also," nor can we have any satisfactory evidence that we know God, except by obeying his commandments. See, then, that with your profession there be also a holy consistency of conduct: and take care to "show forth your faith by your works."
Titus 2:6. Young men likewise exhort to be sober-minded.
THE first object of a Christian minister is, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation, in all its freeness and in all its fullness. This is the foundation of a sinner's hope: and unless this foundation be firmly laid, it will be in vain to attempt any superstructure; since from the Gospel alone, and from Christ as revealed in it, can we obtain that strength which is necessary for the production of any good work whatever. But, when we have made known "the truth as it is in Jesus," we must go on to inculcate holiness in all its branches; and not in general terms only, but with a special reference to every particular person whom we may have occasion to address. Titus, though but a youth, was enjoined to officiate with all the authority of a divinely-appointed minister; and to address with equal fidelity the aged and the young, on the subject of their respective duties: "Speak you the things which become sound doctrine," exhort alike "the aged men, and aged women," "the young women also, and the young men," giving to each the instruction suited to his own peculiar state and condition. To the aged men and aged women many important hints were to be offered; as to the young women also, through the medium of the matrons. In every one of these, sobriety of mind bears a part: but in the instructions which he is to give to young men, it comprehends the whole; since, if they be thoroughly imbued with that, it will form their whole character agreeably to the mind of God. I shall not, however, so confine my observations to the one gender as to overlook the other, but shall address myself indiscriminately to youth in general. And in doing this, I will,
I. Show whence it is that young people need this particular counsel.
1. They are inexperienced as to the world.
The world, in the eyes of youth, looks fair, and promises much happiness to those who will worship at its shrine. Its allurements are set forth on every side; and its votaries are everywhere inviting us to participate their delights. But its choicest flowers conceal a thorn; its sweetest draughts are impregnated with poison. Of all that it contains, there is not anything that is capable of affording any permanent satisfaction: on everything in it is stamped, in characters that are indelible, this humiliating inscription, "Vanity and vexation of spirit." Over this, however, is hung a veil, which time and experience alone are, for the most part, able to remove. What wonder then is it, if youth, who see nothing but the outward garb of the world, admire its glittering vanities, and give themselves to the pursuit of its empty shadows? What wonder, if, after having got a taste of its delusive pleasures, they suppose, of course, that the harvest will correspond with the first-fruits? But the event never justifies the expectation. To none did the world ever yet prove a satisfying portion: and therefore, in the commencement of their course, the counsel in the text is necessary for every child of man.
2. They are but little acquainted with their own hearts.
They take credit to themselves for meaning well: and they do perhaps, on the whole, mean well: entertaining no deliberate purpose to offend either God or man. But they are not aware how strong a bias there is within them, or through what a delusive medium they behold the things around them. Their prejudices are all in favor of the world: their passions are pleading strong for indulgence: self-denial is in its very nature painful: and, if only they keep within the bounds prescribed by custom, they can see no reason why they should debar themselves from any species of indulgence. By gratification, their dispositions, their habits, their very sentiments, are confirmed; and thus they proceed in their vain career; "calling good evil, and evil good; putting darkness for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter," in a word, while they feed on ashes, a deceived heart turns them aside; so that they cannot deliver their souls, or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" How needful for them the counsel in our text is, must be obvious to every considerate mind.
3. They are surrounded on every side with evil counselors and vicious examples.
The great mass of mankind are walking after the imagination of their own hearts, and not after God. Nor are they ashamed of what they do: yes, rather, they glory in their shame, and with undaunted effrontery persuade all around them to "follow their pernicious ways." The votaries of real piety, on the contrary, are few; and in their habits they affect an unobtrusive concealment. Of course, young people conceive that the great majority are right; and that those who are walking in a narrow and unfrequented path, are actuated by some vain conceit, against which it will be well to guard. The invitations too of the mirthful are welcome, because they meet with a congeniality of sentiment and feeling in the youthful bosom; while the lessons of wisdom and piety find a very reluctant admission into the soul. We need only observe how different an ear young people turn to the counsels of wisdom, and of folly, and we shall see the importance of the admonition in our text, and the necessity of "exhorting them to be sober-minded."
Having shown what need young people have of counsel, I will,
II. Suggest such counsel as their situation requires.
Under this head we might range through the whole field of practical wisdom, and bring forth topics which would occupy a whole volume. But we must content ourselves with a few brief hints:
1. Some more general.
The first point that I would press on your attention is, to get your souls deeply imbued with the concerns of eternity. If the concerns of time have the ascendant in your hearts, there can be no hope of your ever being sober-minded, because your views and dispositions are radically wrong. You are immortal beings; and must never forget, that in a few more hours you will be standing at the tribunal of your Judge, and be consigned by him, forever, either to Heaven or to Hell. If that be kept out of sight, every species of delusion will be harbored in the mind, and will reign without control.
But it is not a general conviction that will suffice. No, you must pray to God to guide you in every step of your way. So "deceitful is sin," and so "desperately wicked is the heart," that no human care can preserve you. It is God alone that can keep the feet of his saints. Had you all the zeal of Peter, you might, in a time of trial, deny your Lord, and dissemble with your God. To your latest hour you must entreat of God to guide you; for "it is not in man that walks to direct his paths;" and, in every step you take, you must say, "Hold you me up, and I shall be safe."
You must also be diligent in studying the word of God. There is something very imposing in the maxims of the world; and you will easily be misled by them. But the word of God must be your rule: it must be the one touchstone, by which you are to try every sentiment and every practice. You must take the sublimest precepts of Holy Writ, and set before you the brightest examples that are there exhibited: you must behold an Abraham sacrificing his only son at the command of God; and a Moses giving up all the treasures of Egypt, that he might participate affliction with the people of God. You must follow the Apostle Paul in all his diversified scenes of trial; and see what spirit he manifested, what conduct he pursued. Above all, you must contemplate your blessed Lord and Savior in every step which he took while sojourning in this polluted world. It is in this way that you must attain sobriety of mind. The world will call these things enthusiasm: but, whatever the world may say or think, your wisdom is to "be conformed to Christ," and to "walk in all things as he walked."
2. Others more particular.
General rules will scarcely suffice to mark with sufficient accuracy the counsel in my text. I would therefore descend to a few particulars; and say, Consider what becomes you in your place and station. There are particular duties assigned to different situations: to you who are in earlier life, the virtues of modesty, and diffidence, and submission, are of prime importance. Nothing is more hateful than conceit and waywardness in the youthful mind. The younger are especially commanded to be in subjection to the elder, and especially to those elders who are placed by God in authority over us: and, wherever there is sobriety of mind, there will be a willing obedience to all lawful authority, and a diligent performance of every appointed duty. Humility, respect, and deference to the judgment of superiors, are pre-eminently characteristic of a well-regulated mind.
I would also say, Consider, on every occasion, what impression your conduct is likely to make on others. This is on no account to be overlooked. An inattention to it is productive of incalculable evil. We are not at liberty to cast stumbling-blocks in the way of others. Religion of itself, however careful we may be, will be sufficiently offensive to the carnal mind, without having anything added to it by our imprudence. We should guard, as much as possible, that "our good may not be evil spoken of," and if, as must of necessity be the case, we are constrained in many things to act contrary to the wishes of those around us, we should seek to disarm their hostility by meekness and gentleness, and not to augment it by petulance and indiscretion.
One great help to sobriety will be, (what I would next recommend,) to choose for your associates the prudent and discreet. "He who walks with wise men," says Solomon, "will be wise; but a companion of fools will be destroyed." We naturally drink into the spirit of those with whom we associate: and we are told from authority, that "evil communications will corrupt good manners." Indeed, from evil connections the most deplorable consequences ensue. It is no uncommon thing for a man, who at first only "walks occasionally in the counsel of the ungodly, to come before long to stand in the way of notorious sinners, and at last to be found sitting in the seat of the scornful." If you would walk wisely, put away from you the light, the vain, and those who are indulging any sinful propensity; and gather round you the wise, the discreet, the holy. This will render your path incomparably more safe and easy, and will contribute to fix in you such habits as are "praise-worthy and of good report."
To this I would add yet further, Examine your own motives and principles of action, with all possible care and diligence. Many persuade themselves that they are doing right; while all but themselves see, that they are acting a very unworthy part. James and John were at one time actuated by ambition, and at another time by revenge; while yet they had not the smallest consciousness of deviating from the path of duty. But they "knew not what spirit they were of." And so it is with us: we may think that we are under the influence of a religious principle; while, in fact, we are manifesting a temper that is truly Satanic. Let us remember this; that whatever proceeds from pride, from passion, from interest, or from any corrupt principle whatever, is wrong; and that we then only are right, when our zeal for God is blended with love to man, and when we are ready to weep over the persons whom we are constrained to offend.
Lastly, I would say, Be open to conviction. Diffidence becomes every child of man. A backwardness to receive reproof, or to listen to one who would point out to us a wiser path, is a strong presumptive evidence that we are wrong. We should be jealous over ourselves. We see mistake and obstinacy in others; and we should guard against them in ourselves. Our first care must be, to "prove all things," and then to "hold fast that only which is good."
1. Those who are yet strangers to "sound doctrine."
You have at least seen, this day, that the Gospel is not, as some slanderously affirm, opposed to morality: you have seen, on the contrary, that "the grace of God which brings salvation teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." Do not then impute, as many do, the indiscretions of professors to the Gospel which they profess. It is not to be supposed that young people should all at once become so wise and discreet, that they shall not err in anything. They are "of like passions with yourselves," and are in the midst of a tempting and ensnaring world; and have, moreover, deceitful hearts, and a subtle adversary ever endeavoring to turn them aside. Be not offended, then, if you do see somewhat of indiscretion in youthful professors. Ascribe it not to their religion, but their inexperience: and if you see them growing in sobriety of mind and consistency of conduct, let the honor redound to that Gospel by which they are animated; and to that God, by whose gracious influences they are instructed and upheld.
There is one danger to which the indiscretions of religious people may expose you; and that is, the confounding of coldness and indifference with sobriety of mind. Be assured, that however faulty religious professors may be in the exercise of their zeal, you can never be right in indulging a lukewarm spirit. This is offensive to God, and odious in the extreme. Religion requires the heart, the whole heart; nor will God be satisfied with anything less. I call upon you, therefore, to embrace the truth, and to walk worthy of it: and, instead of censuring the infirmities of the weak, be yourselves examples to them in everything that becomes the Gospel of Christ.
2. Those who desire to serve the Lord.
Your very desires, if not duly regulated, may lead you astray. You may imagine that your duty to your God and Savior supersede your duties to men; but it does no such thing. The duties of the second table are as binding as those of the first: only they must, to a certain degree, be subordinated to them. I say, to a certain degree; for if there be only a positive institution, the duty of love will supersede that: but, where the commands are of a moral and religious nature, there God must be obeyed, and not man. You must endeavor to make all your duties harmonize: for, most assuredly, there is no real contradiction between them; and in endeavoring to fulfill them all, you must not forget that declaration of Solomon, "I, Wisdom, dwell with Prudence." Prudence is not that contemptible virtue which many people imagine: it calls into action much thought, and care, and self-denial, and love; and it tends, in a very high degree, to recommend the Gospel. On the exercise of it much of God's honor depends: for imprudence will cause his ways to be evil spoken of, and "his very name to be blasphemed." On the exercise of this, too, the eternal welfare of multitudes depends. No one knows how many might be "won by the good conversation of God's people, who never will be won by the word." Let this be kept in mind: you will at least cut off occasion from those who seek occasion against you; and put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—and, who can tell? you may perhaps, by the light which shines from you, constrain many to "confess, that God is with you of a truth," and lead them "to glorify God in the day of visitation." Guard, then, against extremes of every kind; and say with David, "I will walk wisely before you, in a perfect way." Guard against extremes in austerity; extremes in fear; extremes in confidence; extremes in boldness and forwardness. There is a season for every grace, and a limit to the exercise of every grace. Your faith must be tempered with fear; your boldness, with modesty; your zeal, with love: you must have a spirit of "power, and of love, and of a sound mind." You must not so tremble, as to forget that you have cause to rejoice; nor so rejoice, as to forget that you have cause to tremble: you must combine the two, and "rejoice with trembling." In this way you will attain sobriety of mind, and "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things."
The Gospel Productive of Holiness
Titus 2:11–14. The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
WHEREVER Christianity has been professed, the standard of public morals has been raised: and in proportion as it has gained an ascendant over the hearts of men, it has approved itself the friend and parent of good works. That many have perverted its principles, and walked unworthy of them, is true; but this can form no solid objection against the Gospel itself, any more than the abuse of reason or of the blessings of Providence can disprove the benefit of them when rightly used. We will not concede one atom of the freeness or riches of divine grace; yet will we maintain that the Gospel is conducive to morality: for at the same time that it brings salvation to men, it inculcates every species of moral duty, and enforces the practice of godliness in the most authoritative and energetic manner. This is evident from the words before us; in which we may notice,
I. The character of the Gospel.
The Gospel is supposed by many to be no other than a remedial law.
The law given to man in Paradise, and republished on Mount Sinai, required perfect obedience. But fallen man can never obtain happiness on those terms. Hence many imagine, that Christ came to publish a new law, suited to our weak and fallen state. They suppose that his death atoned for our past transgressions; and that it purchased for us a power to regain Heaven by an imperfect but sincere obedience. Thus they make the Gospel to differ very little from the law. They reduce indeed the standard of the law; but they insist upon obedience to its requirements, as the terms on which alone we are to be saved. They ascribe to Christ the honor of obtaining salvation for us on these favorable conditions; but they make our performance of the conditions themselves to be the true and proper ground of our acceptance with God.
But the Gospel, as described in the text, is widely different from this.
Such a law as these persons substitute for the Gospel, could not properly be called "grace;" nor could it be said to "bring salvation;" for it does not bestow life as a gift, but requires it to be earned; and brings only an opportunity of earning it on easier terms. But that Gospel, which in the Apostle's days "appeared to all men," was "a dispensation of grace," it revealed a Savior; it directed our eyes to Christ, as having wrought out salvation for us; and it offered that salvation to us freely, "without money and without price."
This is the true character of the Gospel. It is grace, mere grace, and altogether grace from first to last. It brings a free, a full, a finished salvation. It requires nothing to be done to purchase its blessings, or to merit them in any measure. In it God gives all, and we receive all.
Yet there will be no room to charge the Gospel as licentious, if we consider,
II. The lessons it inculcates.
We have before said, that it requires nothing as the price of life. But as an evidence of our having obtained life, and in a variety of other views, it requires,
1. A renunciation of all sin.
By "ungodliness" we understand everything that is contrary to the first table of the law; as profaneness, unbelief, neglect of divine ordinances, etc. And, by "worldly lusts" we understand "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life;" or, in other words, the pleasures, riches, and honors of the world. All of these are to be "denied" and renounced. As, on the one hand, we are not to dishonor God; so neither, on the other hand, are we to idolize the creature. Nor is it against open transgressions merely that we are to guard, but against the secret "lusts" or desires. The very inclinations and propensities to sin must be mortified. This is indispensably necessary, to prove that we have embraced the Gospel aright: for, "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."
2. A life of universal holiness.
We have duties to God, our neighbor, and ourselves. Those which relate to ourselves are comprehended under the term "sobriety," which includes the government of all our passions, and the regulation of all our tempers. "Righteousness" fitly expresses our duty to our neighbor, which briefly consists in this, The doing to him as we would that he, in a change of circumstances, should do unto us. "Godliness" pertains more immediately to the offices of piety and devotion, and marks that respect which we ought to have in our minds to God in all that we do. Thus extensive are the injunctions of the Gospel: it makes no abatement in its demands: it gives no licence to sin: it does not allow us to reduce its requisitions to our attainments; but urges us to raise our attainments to the standard which God has fixed. Nor is it on some particular occasions only that it requires these things: it enjoins us to "live" in this way as long as we are "in this present world," having the tenor of our lives uniformly and perseveringly conformed to these precepts. Such is that holiness which the Gospel requires, and "without which no man shall see the Lord."
Sufficient has already been stated to show the practical tendency of the Gospel. But its tendency will yet further appear from,
III. The motives it suggests.
The instructions which the Gospel affords, are not mere directions, but commands, enforced with the most powerful motives that can actuate the mind of man. Those suggested in the text may be considered as referring to,
1. Our own interest.
There is a day coming, when our adorable Emmanuel, who once veiled his Deity in human flesh, will appear in all the glory of the Godhead. At that period, all that we have done for God shall be brought to light: and though our good works shall not be the meritorious ground of our acceptance with him, they shall be noticed by him with approbation, and rewarded with a proportionable weight of glory. This is "that blessed hope" which the Gospel has set before us, and to which it directs us continually to "look."
And is not this sufficient to instigate us to holiness? If we kept this in view, how unremitted would be our diligence, and how delightful our work!
2. Christ's honor.
At the first appearance of the Lord Jesus, the scope and tendency of his doctrine were shadowed forth in miracles: the devils were cast out by him, and all manner of diseases were healed. But the full intent of his incarnation and death were not understood until after the day of Pentecost. Then the honor of his Gospel was completely vindicated. Then the most abandoned characters were changed: the lion became a lamb; and those who had borne the very image of the devil, were changed into the image of their God. At his next appearing, this will be more fully manifest. Then the lives of all his people will bear testimony respecting the end of his voluntary sacrifice. It will then be seen, beyond controversy, that "he gave himself to redeem us," not merely from condemnation, but from sin; from the love and practice of all iniquity; and to "purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Then "will he see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied," then also will "the ignorance of foolish men be silenced," and then will "Christ be glorified in his saints, and admired in all that believe;" for every grace they have exercised will "tend to his praise and honor and glory" in that solemn day.
And is not this also a strong motive to influence our minds? Can we reflect on the honor which will accrue to him, when the purifying efficacy of his Gospel shall be seen in all the myriads of his redeemed—can we reflect on this, I say, and not long to add a jewel to his crown?
1. How little do they know of the Gospel who live in any kind of sin!
It matters little whether men profess themselves followers of Christ, or not, if they indulge iniquity in their hearts. "Can one born of God habitually commit sin?" No, "we have not so learned Christ, if so be we have heard him, and been taught by him as the truth is in Jesus." The Gospel "teaches us to deny and renounce all sin" without exception. Whoever you be, therefore, who live by any other rule than that which the Gospel proposes, know that you will surely be confounded in the day of Christ's appearing. And the only difference between those who professed, and those who despised, the Gospel, will be, that "they who knew their Lord's will and did it not, will be beaten with the more and heavier stripes."
2. How happy a world would this be, if all embraced and obeyed the Gospel!
All kinds of iniquity would be renounced, and all heavenly graces be kept in exercise. There would be no public wars, no private animosities, no wants which would not be relieved as soon as they were known. Evil tempers would be banished: the pains arising from discontent or malice would be forgotten. Peace and love and joy would universally abound. Surely we should then have a Heaven upon earth. Let the Gospel be viewed in this light. Let us conceive the whole world changed like the converts on the day of Pentecost; and then we shall indeed confess its excellence, and pray that "the knowledge of the Lord may cover the earth as the waters cover the sea."
The Work of the Trinity in Redemption
Titus 3:4–7. After that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
THE doctrine of the Trinity must be acknowledged to be deeply mysterious, and utterly surpassing our weak comprehensions. Yet is it so clearly laid down in the sacred writings, that we cannot entertain a doubt of its truth. Indeed, without admitting a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead, the Scriptures are altogether inexplicable. What interpretation can we put on those words which are appointed to be used at the admission of persons into the Christian Church?—they are to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Here are evidently three distinct Persons, all placed upon the same level, and all receiving the same divine honor: to suppose either of them a creature, is to suppose that a creature may have divine honors paid to him; when we are expressly told that God is a jealous God, and that he will not give his glory to another: and therefore, while we affirm that there is but one God, we cannot but acknowledge that there is, in some way incomprehensible by us, a distinction of persons in the Godhead. This is further confirmed by the manner in which the inspired writers set forth the work of redemption: they frequently speak of it as effected by three distinct Persons, whom they represent as bearing three distinct offices, and as acting together for one end: thus Peter says, "We are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ," thus also Paul, in the passage before us, having represented all men, Apostles as well as others, in a most wretched state both by nature and practice, proceeds, in the words of my text, to set forth the work of redemption. He begins with tracing it up to the Father, as the source from whence it springs: he then mentions the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, the one as the Author who procures it, the other as the Agent who applies it; and then he concludes with declaring that the glorification of sinful man is the grand end, for the accomplishing of which the Sacred Three co-operate and concur: "After that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life."
From these words we will take occasion to unfold the glorious work of redemption, from its first rise to its final consummation; and herein to set before you its original—procuring—efficient—and final cause.
I. Its original cause.
The original cause of our redemption is represented in my text to be "the kindness and love of God the Father." God is love in his own nature; and every part of the creation bears the stamp of this perfection: the whole earth is full of his goodness. But man, the glory of this lower world, has participated the fruits of his kindness in far the most abundant measure; having been endued with nobler faculties, and fitted for incomparably higher enjoyments than any other creature. In some respects, God has loved man more than the angels themselves: for when they fell, he cast them down to Hell, without one offer of mercy: but when man transgressed, God provided a Savior for him. This provision, I say, was wholly owing to the love of God the Father: it was the Father who, from all eternity foreseeing our fall, from all eternity contrived the means of our recovery and restoration. It was the Father who appointed his Son to be our Substitute and Surety; and in due time sent him into the world to execute the office assigned him: and it is the Father who accepts the vicarious sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. He accepts at the hands of his own Son the payment that was due from us, and confers on us the reward which was due to Christ. Thus the Father's love contrived, appointed, and accepts the means of our salvation; and therefore in my text he himself is called "our Savior;" "the love of God our Savior." This title belongs more immediately to the Son, who died for us: but yet, as the Father is the original cause of our salvation, he is properly called "our Savior." Nor is it the text only that represents the Father's love as the source of our redemption; the Scriptures uniformly speak the same language: "God so loved the word, that he gave his only-begotten Son," "God commends his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us," and again, "Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins."
This love, however, did not fully appear until after the ascension of our blessed Lord. The text says, "After that the kindness and love of God our Savior towards man appeared." The word in the original refers, I apprehend, to the shining forth of the sun. Now the sun shines with equal brightness when it is behind a cloud, or when this part of the globe is left in midnight darkness; only it is not visible to us until it actually appears above the horizon, or until the clouds that veil it from our eyes are dissipated. So the love of God has shone from all eternity; "He has loved us," says the prophet, "with an everlasting love." But this love was behind a cloud until our Lord had finished his course upon earth; and then it appeared in all its splendor: so that now we can trace redemption to its proper source; and instead of imagining, as some have done, that the Father was filled with wrath, and needed to be pacified by the Son, we view even Christ himself as the Father's gift, and ascribe every blessing to its proper cause, the love of God.
It is true, however, that much was necessary to be done, before this love of God could shed forth its beams upon us. We proceed therefore to set before you,
II. The procuring cause of our redemption.
This in my text is set forth both negatively and positively: it was not any works of righteousness which we have done, but it was Jesus Christ: they who are saved will no doubt abound in works of righteousness; but these works are not the procuring cause of our redemption. What good works did Adam perform before God promised to send him a Savior? What good works can any man do, before God endues him with his Holy Spirit? Or even after our conversion, what works of ours can challenge so glorious a reward? Yes, when do we perform any work whatever, which is not miserably defective, and which does not need the mercy of God to pardon it? Every one who knows the spirituality of God's law, and the defects that are in our best performances, will say with the Apostle Paul, "I desire to be found, not having my own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ." We may well acknowledge, therefore, as in the text, that we are saved, not by works of righteousness which we have done. The only procuring cause of our salvation is Jesus Christ. Everything which we receive comes to us on account of what he has done and suffered: if the Father's love appear to us, or if the Spirit be shed forth upon us, it is, as the text observes, "through Jesus Christ." It was his death which removed the obstacles to our salvation: the justice of God required satisfaction for our breaches of the divine law: the dishonor done to the law itself needed to be repaired: the truth of God, which was engaged to punish sin, needed to be preserved inviolate. Unless these things could be effected, there could be no room for the exercise of mercy, because it was not possible that one perfection of the Deity should be exercised in any other way than in perfect consistency with all the rest. But the death of Christ removed these obstacles. Christ offered himself as an atonement for sin; and at once honored the law, satisfied justice, and paid the utmost farthing of our debt: thus, "mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other," yes, by this means, "God is faithful and just, (not to condemn us, but) to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Nor is it in this view only that Jesus Christ procures our salvation: He has taken upon him the office of an advocate, which he is ever executing in Heaven: "He ever lives," says the Apostle, "to make intercession for us." He pleads our cause with the Father: he urges his own merits on our behalf: like the high-priest of old, he presents blood, yes, his own blood, before the mercy-seat, and fills the most holy-place with the incense of his own intercession. Thus does he continually prevail for us; and we, for his sake, are loaded with all spiritual and eternal benefits.
That we obtain mercies thus, by virtue of his death and intercession, is evident also from other Scriptures; the Apostle says, that we have redemption through Christ's blood; and our Lord says, "I will pray the Father, and he shall send you another Comforter," so that, while we trace back our redemption to the Father's love, we ascribe it also to the mediation of the Son.
The third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity also bears his part in this glorious work: we shall proceed therefore to set before you,
III. The efficient cause of our redemption.
As our salvation is not procured by our own merit, so neither is it effected by our own power: the text informs us, that we are "saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."—The washing of regeneration may here refer to the rite of baptism, whereby we are introduced into the visible Church; and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, to the internal change by which we are made real members of Christ's body; or, they may both mean the same thing, the latter being explanatory of the former; and this I rather suppose to be the true meaning, because they are both put in opposition to the works of righteousness done by us: but, whichever it be, the Holy Spirit is here declared to be the only efficient cause of our salvation. It is He who regenerates us, and makes us partakers of the Divine nature: we are of ourselves dead, and therefore cannot restore ourselves to life: we have only an earthly and carnal nature, and therefore cannot perform the operations of an heavenly and spiritual nature: this is effected only by "the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit." We cannot of ourselves secure an interest in Christ, or discern the excellency of those things which he has purchased for us by his blood. We are told, that "the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, nor can know them, because they are spiritually discerned," It is the Spirit's office to reveal them to us. Our Lord says, "I will send you the Holy Spirit, and he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." So neither can we feel the kindness and love of God the Father, unless it be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given unto us. Thus we shall remain ignorant of the Father's love, and uninterested in the mediation of the Son; yes, we shall continue dead in trespasses and sins, if the Holy Spirit do not work effectually in us. Notwithstanding all that the Father and the Son have done for us, we must eternally perish, if we be not renewed and sanctified by the influences of the Blessed Spirit. No resolutions or endeavors of our own will effect the work: nothing less than a divine power is sufficient for it: we must therefore experience the agency of the Holy Spirit on our own hearts, or remain forever destitute of the salvation provided for us.
Under the law, whatever good appeared in the saints of God, was wrought in them by the Holy Spirit. But they received the Spirit in so small a measure, in comparison of what is given to us under the Christian dispensation, that He can scarcely be said to have been given at all until after our Lord's ascension. The Evangelist says, that "the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified," but from the time of that first effusion of the Holy Spirit, even to this present day, the Holy Spirit has been poured out abundantly, or richly, as the original word means, upon the Christian Church: so that not a few only may expect to feel his influences, but all; even all that will ask for them in Jesus' name.
IV. We come now, in the last place, to speak of the final cause of our redemption.
The final cause is the end; and, after having seen how the Sacred Three are engaged, we are naturally led to inquire, What is the end proposed? What is it which these Divine Persons intend to accomplish? The text furnishes us with a full and sufficient answer. It tells us, that the final cause for which such wonderful provision has been made, is, that man may be saved; or, in the express words of the text, "that, being justified by faith, we may be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." The justification of sinful man was a concern so dear to God, that he gave his only-begotten Son in order to effect it; and so precious were our souls in the sight of Christ, that he willingly laid down his life for them. The Holy Spirit also cheerfully undertook his part in the economy of redemption. But it was a free justification, that is a justification by mere grace, that each Person of the Trinity had in view; they would cut off most effectually all boasting on the part of man, and reserve the whole glory to God alone. They have therefore freely offered it from first to last. The Father freely provided, the Son freely executed, and the Spirit freely applies, that salvation. Nor is it merely our justification, but our glorification also, which has been provided for. The Scriptures promise us eternal life, and encourage us to hope for it. They set it forth as an inheritance to which we are constituted heirs: and that, as heirs, we may in due time take possession of it, was the united design of the Three Persons in the Godhead. How astonishing that such an end should ever be proposed, and that such wonderful things should ever be done for the accomplishment of it! Well may we admire the kindness and love of God! well may we stand amazed at the condescension and compassion of the Son! and well may we burst forth into praises and thanksgivings for the grace and goodness of the Blessed Spirit! and indeed, "if we can hold our peace, surely the very stones will cry out against us."
We shall now conclude with a few inferences from what has been said. And,
1. We may see how secure is the salvation of every believer.
The Three Persons in the Trinity are engaged to each other, as well as unto us. The Father gave his elect to Christ, on condition that he would make his soul an offering for them: and Christ laid down his life, on condition that the Spirit might be sent down into their hearts, to make them meet for his glory. Now we are sure that Christ died for those who were given to him; and that the Holy Spirit will renew and sanctify those for whom Christ died. The only question that can arise is this; Has the Father loved me, and has Christ died for me? To this I answer, We cannot look into the book of God's decrees, and therefore we can only judge by what is already manifest. Are we regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit? if we are, we may be sure that whatever is needful shall be done for us. All that is required of us is, to wait upon God for fresh supplies of his Spirit; and to yield ourselves to the government of that Divine Agent. We then need not fear either men or devils: for none shall pluck us out of the Redeemer's hands; nor shall we have any temptation without a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it. If, however, we have not yet an evidence that we are regenerate, we must not hastily conclude that there is no salvation for us; for all the elect of God were once unregenerate, but in due time were begotten by the Spirit to a lively hope: so that we must still go to God for the gift of his Spirit, and for an interest in Christ: nor will he refuse the petition of any who call upon him in sincerity and truth. But if we have a good hope that we have believed in Christ, then let us rejoice in our security; for, Has the Father shown such proofs of his eternal love in vain? Has the Son laid down his life for nothing? Has the Spirit undertaken such a work, without ability to accomplish it? And is the salvation of our souls the grand end which each of these Divine Persons has had in view, and shall we at last be left to perish? Be of good courage, brethren! and rest persuaded, with the Apostle of old, that "none shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
2. We may see from hence, how great must be the condemnation of those who continue in unbelief.
If we reflect a moment upon the most astonishing provision which is made for us in the Gospel, and the dignity of the Persons concerned for our welfare, we cannot but exclaim with the Apostle, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Surely, to despise the kindness and love of God our Father, will greatly aggravate our guilt: to trample on the blood of a dying Savior, will add tenfold malignity to all our other sins: and to do despite to the Spirit of grace, will render our state hopeless, and inconceivably dreadful. Yet such is the state of all who reject the offers of the Gospel. As for the heathen, I had almost said, they are innocent in comparison of those who live and die unregenerate in a Christian land. O, my brethren, beware how you bring such aggravated condemnation upon your own souls! Paul expressly cautions you respecting this: he says, "He who despised Moses's law died without mercy: of how much sorer punishment, think you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace?" Beware, therefore, lest you lose this day of grace, and, like the foolish virgins, be shut out from the marriage-supper. Blessed be God, there are none excluded from the Gospel offer: we are commanded to preach it to every creature; and to assure you, that, if you will return to God, there is a way of access opened for you, and that you may at this instant come to him through the Son, and by the Spirit. If therefore you now desire mercy, beg the Holy Spirit to guide you unto Christ; and entreat the Lord Jesus Christ to introduce you to the Father. Nor need you doubt for one moment but that in this way you shall be partakers of everlasting salvation: though you are now dead, and doomed to everlasting death, you shall have spiritual and eternal life: though you are now hopeless, you shall be begotten to a lively hope: and though you are now strangers and foreigners, you shall be heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.
Lastly; we see what obligations lie upon every professor of religion to abound in good works. The Apostle, in the words immediately following the text, says, "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that you affirm constantly, that (N. B. to the end that) they who have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works." Now these words are frequently understood as an exhortation to preach about good works; but it is not so: it is an exhortation to preach the very doctrines that I have now set before you; and to preach them to the end that believers may be careful to maintain good works. And indeed it is impossible to conceive stronger motives to a holy life than may be deduced from hence. Did the Father set his love upon us from all eternity, and choose us that we might be a holy people unto himself; and shall we do that which his soul hates? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? Again: Did Christ undertake to become our surety; and did he actually die for us, in order to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify us unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; and shall we take occasion from his death to rest secure in our wickedness? Shall we thus make the Holy One of God a minister of sin? Again: Did the Holy Spirit engage to renew and sanctify us, and shall we resist all his motions, until we have altogether quenched them? Shall we not rather comply with his solicitations, and cherish his sacred influences? And, once more: Have the blessed Trinity done so much, on purpose to make us heirs of eternal glory; and shall we to the utmost of our power thwart the Divine counsels, and reject the offered mercies? O no! let us rather feel the obligations that are laid upon us: let us say with the Psalmist, What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits he has done unto me? and let us endeavor to abound in good works, not that we may be saved by them, but that we may please Him who has called us unto his kingdom and glory.
The True Way of Promoting Good Works
Titus 3:8. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that you affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
ONE of the principal ends of a Christian ministry is, to stem the torrent of iniquity, and to meliorate the moral habits of mankind. If this be not attained, nothing is done to any good purpose. The mysteries which may be opened might as well be concealed: the arguments which may be urged might as well be suppressed. No glory can be brought to God, no benefit be secured to man, but through a moral change wrought upon the hearts and lives of men. In this, all are agreed. Even the profane, who neither regard nor practice one moral duty, will acknowledge this.
But then a question arises; 'How shall this end be obtained?' Upon this question there will be a great diversity of sentiment. The general answer would be, 'Preach upon good works; inculcate the value and importance of them: trouble the people as little as possible about the doctrines and mysteries of religion; and labor principally, if not exclusively, to establish good morality.' Unhappily for this land, this sentiment has in past times been too generally adopted. There may be some indeed (we trust they are very few), who run to a contrary extreme, and dwell upon doctrines to the utter exclusion of good works: but a very great part of the Christian world imagine, that the inculcating of Christian principles is of but little use in the production of morals: and hence it is that the peculiar doctrines of our religion have so small a share in our public ministrations. Many will even quote the words of our text as sanctioning this practice, and as enjoining ministers to dwell principally upon the subject of good works. But the text, properly understood, has a directly opposite aspect: it is an express injunction to Titus to bring forward continually the leading doctrines of our religion, in order to lead men to the practice of its duties.
Following his instructions, we propose to show,
I. What subjects a Christian minister ought chiefly to insist upon.
The things which Paul "willed us constantly to affirm," are those which are specified in the foregoing context: they are,
1. The extreme degeneracy of our nature.
What Paul speaks of himself and of all the other Apostles in their unregenerate state, is equally true of us: whether we look around us, or within us, we shall see that the representation is just. The foregoing part of it characterizes us at all times: the latter, whenever suitable opportunities are afforded us for displaying the feelings of our minds. The evil principles are within us, whether exercised or not: they may sleep, and thereby escape notice; but they are easily roused, and ready to act the very moment that an occasion arises to call them forth.
Now men like to have these humiliating representations kept out of sight: they love to hear flattering accounts of their own praise-worthy conduct and amiable dispositions. But we must declare to them what God has declared to us; and what we know by bitter experience to be true. If we neglect to show them these things, how can we hope that they should ever be brought to repentance? If they know not the depth of their own depravity, they can never be duly humbled for it, and consequently can never receive aright the consoling doctrines of the Gospel.
On these things then we must insist; and respecting the truth of these things we must "constantly affirm."
2. The means which God has used for our recovery.
In the fullness of his heart Paul expatiates upon the wonders of redeeming love. He traces all to the free, the rich, the boundless mercy of Jehovah; who, in execution of his eternal counsels, has, for Christ's sake, poured out his Spirit upon man, in order to renew his nature, and to fit him for glory. In short, he traces the salvation of man to three united causes; the Father's love, the Son's merits, and the Spirit's influence.
One would suppose that these subjects should be the most welcome of all that can be presented to our view. But this is not the case: for, however great the encouragement that is derived from them, they all have an humiliating tendency: they show us the depth of our misery, that called for such a remedy: they constrain us to acknowledge our obligations to the grace and mercy of God, and our entire dependence on the merits of his Son, and the influences of his Spirit. On these accounts men would rather be amused with moral essays, than instructed in these mysterious truths.
But we must "affirm these things;" we must affirm them "constantly;" for they are "faithful sayings," and truths in which our everlasting welfare depends. To make these known, and understood, and felt, should be the great object of all our labors.
That we may not be thought to lay too great a stress on these subjects, we shall show,
II. Why they deserve so great a portion of our attention.
The Apostle assigns reasons the most satisfactory imaginable:
1. They are the appointed means of promoting good works.
It is a lamentable but undoubted fact, that where morals only are insisted on, or where the foregoing doctrines are but occasionally stated, the great mass of the people are ignorant of the fundamental truths of our religion, and their morals rarely experience any visible or important change. Nor can we wonder at this, if only we consider, that God has appointed other means for the reformation of mankind; and that the means he has appointed, are alone suited to produce the end.
Is it asked, 'Whence the stating of Christian doctrines should work so powerfully, while the pressing home of moral duties fails to produce any such effects?' we answer, That God will bless the means which are of his own appointment, when he will not prosper those which are substituted in their place; and, that there is in the doctrines before stated a natural and proper tendency to produce a change both of heart and life. Suppose a person truly to receive what God has declared respecting the extreme degeneracy of our nature; can he fail of being humbled in the dust? Can he do otherwise than stand amazed at the forbearance of God towards him? Can he refrain from saying, 'O that I could serve my God with as much zeal and diligence as ever I exerted in violating his commands?' Suppose him then to receive all the glorious truths relative to the way of salvation; will he not be filled with admiring and adoring thoughts of God's mercy? Will not "the grace of Christ," and "the love of the Spirit," constrain him to cry out, "What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits that he has done unto me?" Yes; let him only be penetrated with a sense of what God has done for his recovery, and he will not only "be careful to maintain," but studious to excel in, good works: he will not be contented to conform to the world's standard of morality, but will seek to become pure as God is pure, and "holy as God is holy."
2. They "are good and profitable unto men."
This expression of the Apostle may be understood either of the doctrines of Christianity, or of the good works produced by them, or (which we rather prefer) of both together.
Who must not acknowledge the excellence and utility of the doctrines? We confidently ask, What has reformed the world, as far as any change has taken place in its habits? Have the dogmas of philosophers produced this effect; or has it been wrought by the influence of Christianity? Let any one contemplate the change that took place upon the converts on the day of Pentecost; let him see the odoriferous myrtle starting up in the place of the noxious brier, and say whether these doctrines be not "good and profitable unto men?" Or let the appeal be made to living Christians: are there not many that must say, 'Before I heard those doctrines I was altogether earthly, sensual, and devilish; but from the moment that I received them into my heart, I have experienced a total change of character: my spirit and temper have been wonderfully improved; my desires and pursuits have been altogether altered; I am become quite a new creature: now also my peace flows down like a river; death has been disarmed of its sting, and I look forward to the eternal state with unspeakable delight?'
That the good works which are produced by these doctrines are also beneficial, we gladly affirm. As for the works that are unconnected with these doctrines, they are neither good nor profitable unto men; because they are essentially defective both in their principle and end: but the works that flow from them are both "good and profitable," they are truly "good," because they proceed from love to God, and from an sincere desire to promote his glory; and they are "profitable," because they are evidences to us of our own sincerity; they bring peace and joy into the soul; they advance our fitness for Heaven; and they increase that eternal weight of glory which shall be given us in exact proportion to the number and quality of our works. Let not any one imagine, that, by dwelling on the principles of religion, we mean to disparage its fruits: no: only let the fruits proceed from love to God, and a desire to promote his glory, and they cannot be spoken of too highly: the smallest service performed in such a way, shall in no wise lose its reward.
Hoping that the giving to the doctrines of Christianity a considerable share of our attention is vindicated to your satisfaction, we conclude with two words of advice:
1. Meditate much and deeply on the fundamental principles of our religion.
If it be the duty of ministers constantly to set before you the leading truths of Christianity, it must doubtless be your duty constantly, as it were, to revolve them in your minds. It is on them that you are to found your hopes: from them, you are to derive your motives and encouragements: through them, you will receive strength for the performance of all your duties. It is by them that you are to be brought to believe in God, and, "having believed in God," to be made careful and diligent in all good works. Let them therefore be your meditation day and night, and you shall find them "sweeter than honey, or the honeycomb," and "dearer than thousands of gold and silver."
2. Display the influence of those principles in your life and conversation.
If you dishonor your profession, the ungodly world will take occasion from your actions to vilify your principles, and to represent your misconduct as the natural effect of our preaching. If they would argue so in their own case, they would do well: for their disregard of all the higher duties of religion does indeed arise from their contempt of its doctrines. But the experience of the primitive saints, and of thousands that are yet alive, sufficiently refutes the idea of our principles tending to licentiousness. However, be careful that you do not give to your adversaries any occasion for such reflections. Show them, that the doctrines you profess, are "doctrines according to godliness." The light of holiness will do more than ten thousand arguments to stop the mouths of gainsayers, and to recommend the Gospel to their acceptance. "Show them therefore your faith by your works;" and constrain them to acknowledge, that you by your principles are enabled to attain a height of holiness, which they shall in vain attempt to emulate.