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his blood, to declare His righteousness that He might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." This doctrine was to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness; but they who were first called Christians gloried in it as the wisdom of God and the power of God to salvation.
I may be permitted here to throw out a thought which the time will not allow me to illustrate. What is Christianity? What does it undertake to reveal ? Philosophy recognizes God as a first cause, the ultimate reason why things are; it speculates about the mode of God's existence, and the mode of created existence, and the mode of the dependence of created things on the first cause of all things ; it wearies itself upon the problem of reconciling fate and the certainty of acts with the freedom of the agent; it argues about the will, whether it is self-determined or determined by causés external to the mind; but all these points are only remotely, if at all, connected with the doctrine embraced by those who were first called Christians. Such questions do indeed make a great figure in the theology of many modern Christians ; but how remote is all this metaphysical jangling from the grand principles of the doctrine of Christ. To say of the Christian revelation, that it reveals God as the first cause of all things, and that it refers all things to his power as the primal ground of all existence and of all change ;-still more, to affirm that instead of simply assuming, without any metaphysical explanation, this first element of natural theology; it is a revelation of the mode in which created things depend on the first cause, is to turn the mind away from the whole scope and substance of the doctrine of the cross. No; Christianity is a revelation which respects primarily and chiefly the moral character, or what is the same thing, the moral government of God. To say that it reveals God's mercy, his placability, and the possibility of a reconciliation to bim, is entirely an inadequate representation. It reveals God as boly, as just, as maintaining a moral government; and yet, in perfect consistency with the interests of that moral government, forgiving and saving the guilty. It reveals forgiveness for sinners, not as a thing of course, the universal law of the Divine administration, but as the result of a peculiar arrangement "into which angels desire to look." Innumerable intimations from nature, and from the course of God's dealings with men here, the innumerable healing and recovering influences by which the sinner is surrounded in this life, afford a strong presumption that sinners in this world are under a dispensation of forgiveness. But the Christian revelation not only changes that presumption into a certainty, but makes known the consistency of that peculiar dispensation under which God has placed this world, with the vast government of law and authority which he maintains over all worlds; it reveals God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and at the same time it cominands all men everywhere to repent, because God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by Christ. The doctrine, then, embraced by those who were first called Christians, was new. Paganism had no image of it; pbilosophy had never conjectured it; the inspiration of the Old Testament had given only some prophetic shadows and faint glimmerings of that which was to come. The idea of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, just and yet justifying the sinner; the idea of a forgiving God, a redeeming God, and yet a God awful in the glory of his holiness, and swaying the universe of his intelligent creatures by the manifestation of his eternal and inflexible rectitude as moral governor; this is the grand and peculiar idea of the Christian revelation.
III. To those who were first called Christians, the religious doctrines which they had received were powerful springs of action, marking their character with strong peculiarities. The doctrines which they learned in the school of Christ, and concerning Christ, were not to them matters of mere speculation and discussion, held by them as a philosophic sect. If their own testimony may be received ; if the manner of their exhibiting and treating these doctrines is to be at all considered, the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel were, to the believers who were first called Christians, powerful, sustaining, animating, controlling principles of action. "The love of Christ,” they said, “constraineth us ;" "he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live to themselves, but to Him who died for them." “Whatsoever is born of God,” they say,“ overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” “By the cross of Christ,” says one of them, “ the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” Accordingly their testimony was, “ If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature ; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new." A striking proof of our position, that the character of these men was powerfully influenced by the doctrines which they embraced, is found in the fact that wherever the new religion found an entrance, there it occasioned much excitement. Every where the outcry was made, “The men that have turned the world upside down have come bither also." The converts to the new faith were bated, despised, and persecuted ; they were deemed the filth and offscouring of all things. How could this have been if they had not been distinguished by great and manifest peculiarities of character ?
IV. One of these peculiarities was an extraordinary strictness and purity of conduct. It was this, in the opinion of an apostle, which exposed them so much to the hatred of the world; “All they that will live GODLY in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.' They considered themselves as called to be SAINTS ; as “ chosen of God” “ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy, and WITHOUT BLAME before him in love ;" and as under the strongest bonds to exhibit accordingly a sanctification of the heart in a consistent sanctity of life. “The time past of our lives," says one of them, addressing himself to those who had obtained like precious faith, "may suffice to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness. lusts. excess of wine, revellings, banqueting, and abominable idolatries; wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.” To the greatest strictness, and as some would say, severity of manners, the teachers of these Christians uniformly exhorted them. Nothing was so sure to awaken the anxiety, and bring down the reproofs of their watchmen and guides, as any deviation in this respect. ." Abstain from all appearance of evil.” “Be not conformed to the world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” "Be ye holy in all manner of conversation." "I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul.”
This moral purity was one great end of the organization by which they were united. They had not only their assemblies to which all who where disposed to hear their doctrines and to be spectators of their public devotions had free access, but also some tie of association uniting those who recognized each other as disciples and followers of Christ. Linked together by this bond, they were brethren of the household of faith, bound to render to each other all the offices of enlightened brotherly affection, and particularly to help each other in their exposure to temptation, and in their progress towards moral perfection. They were members of a society in which each one was to contribute all in his power for the advancement of all the others in holiness of heart and life, considering one another, to provoke to love and good works, exhorting one another, looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness spring up to trouble them, and thereby many be defiled ; lest there be among them any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of bread sold his birthright. And when they found such an one in their fellowship, they, his recognized brethren, his compeers, becoming convinced that he was a deceiver or an apostate, withdrew themselves from him, and by their action he was excluded from their ballowed association. It was the function of the brotherhood to “judge them that were within” the encircling pale of their fellowship, and it was theirs to “put away from among themselves that wicked person." And when the censure thus inflicted of many was followed by manifest repentance on the part of the offender, then, and not till then, it was theirs to forgive him, and to confirm their love towards him. Thus it was that those who were first called Christians were characterized by the strictest moral purity.
V. In connection with this, it may be observed that they were greatly addicted to prayer, and other exercises of devotion. They being followers of Jesus Christ, it could not well be otherwise with them. Nothing in his conduct was more striking than the frequency and earnestness of his communion with Him who heareth prayer. Accordingly, the first thing that we hear of the apostles and other disciples, after the ascension of Christ, is that they all continued in prayer and supplication. We find that the
election of a new apostle, their first measure, was attended with acts of devotion. We find them, on the morning of the pentecost, assembled with one accord in one place for devotional exercises. After that memorable day, we find that they and the three thousand who were added to them "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread," (devoutly remembering their Lord,) " and in prayer;" and that they were "daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to honse, praising God." A few days afterwards, when Peter and John, having been brought before the council, were dismissed with many threatenings, we find them all lifting up their voice with one accord in joyful thanksgiving and earnest supplications for grace. We find conversion to their faith described by the expressive words, “Behold he prayeth.” As we read the history of the acts of the apostles, and no less when we read the letters of those holy men, we find constant proof how much those who were first called Christians abounded in devotion, public and private, “ praying always with all prayer," " praying without ceasing," and “not forsaking the assembling of themselves together" for united worship and mutual exhortation.
VI. Another characteristic of those who were first called Christians, was their practical and impartial philanthrophy. I do not use this word in the sense of mere alms-giving, or mere sympathy with buman misery. There had already been in the world in. stances of generosity, of kindness, of public spirit, of admirable self-devotion to one's friends and country; but their philauthropy was a regard for man, not of one particular nation, or condition, or complexion, not as a Jew, not as a Roman, not as a Greek, not as sustaining any particular relation to themselves,—but as a man, as a brother of the hman family, as a partaker of human nature, in its dignity, in its degradation, in its guilt, in its redemption, in its immortality. Every buman being was, to them, a partaker of that nature in which the Redeemer had lived, and died, and risen, and ascended to the right hand of God. They proclaimed indeed no war against the order of society; they breathed no fanatical zeal against the distinctions which courtesy recognizes; they quarreled not with the titles of rank and power,“ most excellent" "most noble;" but to them, for all that, the emperor was a man,