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God, as required by the law. He feels his imperfection, but he does not allow himself in sin. Over numerous defects attending his love to God and man, he daily mourns; but mercy manifested in the atonement forbids despondency. Thus fruitful of peace and of purity is the knowledge of divine love. The Lord direct our hearts into the love of God; and may the love of God be shed abroad in our hearts. Then shall our hope be lively, and holiness blossom as the rose.
ON A CONDUCT AND CHARACTER FORMED UNDER THE INFLUENCE ON EVANGELICAL TRUTH.
As the beauty and utility of every one's conduct consist in acting suitably to the character he bears, to the relation in which he stands, and to the profession he makes, provided these be lawful; so his profession, his character, and his relations, being well understood, must suggest a general rule of duty, and motives to the performance of it. In this way the members of domestic, and of civil society, may be furnished with outlines of their mutual obligations.
Thus it is with regard to profession, to character, and to relation, of a religious or spiritual nature. For as those who have received what is emphatically called the truth, are converted to Jesus Christ, enter into a new state, are invested with new characters, and stand in various new relations; it is evident, that the import of those particulars being known, they cannot be much at a loss for general rules of behaviour agreeable to their new state; nor yet for motives to act becomingly.
On this principle the apostle proceeds, when he says, Let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ. The persons to whom that precept was given, considered themselves, and were considered by Paul, as believing and loving the glorious gospel of the blessed God. They publicly avowed their
knowledge and love of the gracious and sanctifying truth; by which avowal they were distinguished from Jews and Heathens. The inspired writer, therefore, being sincerely desirous of promoting their happiness, and of seeing them adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, gives this general rule of behaviour. As if he had said, ' Study, my brethren, diligently study, with regard to its practical tendencies, the gospel of salvation which you profess. Let it be your constant business, as it is your indispensable duty, to exercise those dispositions, and to perform that course of action, toward both God and man, which are agreeable to the nature, the genius, and the design of that heavenly doctrine.'
It cannot, I think, be doubted, that our behaviour is becoming the gospel of Christ, when conformable to its real nature, its genuine tendency, and its holy design. But, in order to this, our habitually prevailing desires must be produced, maintained, and invigorated, by the operation of that very truth on our hearts. As the gospel, however, may be considered in various kindred points of light, a conversation agreeable to it must express an equal variety of holy affections and virtuous dispositions.
The gospel, for instance, may be considered as the doctrine of God's love to mankind, and of our Lord's compassion for guilty, polluted, miserable creatures. This is the first and most obvious point of light in which we are called to view it.. Yes, the gospel reveals the infinite love of God, and the boundless compassion of Christ. For its language is, God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son--God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all-Ye know the grace of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich-Jesus Christ hath loved us, and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.'
While the genuine gospel takes it for granted, that all men are justly condemned, it exhibits a ground of hope for the vilest wretch that lives. It informs us, that the Son of God came into the world to rescue and save the chief of sinners: and that, in pursuance of this design, he gave himself a ransom for them.-That Christ died for our sins, is a capital truth of the Bible, and the brightest evidence of his love to our species. Condescending to be made sin, and to be made a curse for the guilty, he manifested love to our souls, that is great, wonderful, divine-love, the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of which, exceed all our praises and all our conceptions.
Now, as the gospel of Christ is the only revelation of this love of the Father, and of the Son; a conversation becoming the gospel must be expressive of love of undissembled love, to God, as the fountain of all mercy; to Jesus, as the medium of all our happiness; to real Christians, as our brethren; and to mankind in general, as our fellow-creatures. A sincere affection to God will manifest itself, by keeping his commands; to Christ, by imitating his example; to saints, by treating them as his members; and to our neighbours in common, by a readiness to do them good.
Evangelical truth being most emphatically the doctrine of God's benevolence to man, is the honoured mean of producing, in the hearts of men,
love to God. For though the Creator of all things must be infinitely excellent; and though infinite excellence must be infinite beauty; yet so awfully depraved are mankind, in their natural state, that they have no delight in his eternal excellence; no pleasure in his infinite happiness; nor feel themselves interested, either in the honours he receives, or in the contempt with which he is treated by any of his creatures; which necessarily infers, independent of all other considerations, a total want of love to him.-The sacred writers have so described the moral character of man, while unregenerate, as leaves no reason to conclude, that any of Adam's offspring would ever have loved God, or have had the least degree of affectionate concern for his honour, if pardoning mercy had not been revealed. But there is forgiveness with God that he may be feared. Divine mercy, therefore, manifested in Jesus Christ, may be justly considered as the only source of true virtue; and the gospel, as the grand instrument of reforming the world.
Yes, that revelation of sovereign mercy, so justly bearing the character of glad tidings, is most happily adapted to produce love to God, and love to our neighbour, which are the great requisitions of divine law: nor does the New Testament permit us to consider ourselves as Christians, if we be not habitually endeavouring to exercise that devout affection for God, and that virtuous disposition toward our neighbours. For though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels;-though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am no