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the conflict, till it is renewed again on the other side of time. Now there is but little left for the sinner to do. Conscience has ceased its admonitions. But still, he has a slight conflict,
5. With the institutions of the Gospel. We noticed in his conflict with the law, which spreads abroad its troublesome interference with his lusts and his pleasures, how readily he could contrive to evade its claims. But the Gospel, like some faithful party in the field of blood, still keeps up the chase, and deeply wounds at every shot. It proves not so easy as was apprehended to still this avenger of justice. It pursues the sinner close through all the narrow lane of life, and even down to the gate of hell, unless sovereign grace ef. fectually interpose, or long-injured mercy say, "Let him alone." But see the ungrateful struggle of the sinner to cast off this fastness of heaven-this Gospel of salvation. Every church-going bell fills his conscience with guilt, and each return of the day of rest reminds him of the quiet of his paternal roof, where a mother's prayers used to be joined with the Sabbath day in rendering the time of rest too holy to be endured. He must pervert its holy design, or writhe and bleed under the lashes of a guilty conscience. If he can get some scene of iniquity open, to prevent his soul from thinking; if the theatre may be opened, or any other house of death, or he may sport himself with the pleasures of the turf, and thus kill time, and throw off this one additional fastness of heaven, and put himself afloat upon the sea of life, then he can be comparatively happy, boasting like the school boy's kite,—
See how yon crowd of gazing people
It tugged and pulled, while thus it spoke,
It fluttered downward through the air;
Thus it will not fail to happen to the immortal being who shall try to do without the Gospel. He may go off from God, and despise the power that would pull him back, but he will go to wander amid the blackness of darkness forever!
Had I time, I would go on through the whole catalogue of restraints, and show how, one by one, the sinner wantonly throws them off. But I can notice only one or two more particulars.
6. The hardened sinner would dislodge himself from all thought of heaven or fear of hell. And yet these are very powerful ligatures, and often the last to be sundered. When men think of relinquishing heaven, they sometimes forget that awakening previous question, “If I abandon the thought of heaven, where shall I then be? What means that worm which never dies? What mean those chains of darkness-and that gnashing of teeth-and that quenchless fire?" Ah! when the sinner is arrested by such questions, and must answer them, and answer them, too, under the operations of
the Holy Spirit, he will find it hard work to answer them and sin on. The throes produced will be like those of the second death; and whoever has tried, will not need again to ask what is meant by the undying worm. That eternal separation from the society of the good, and that imprisonment with the devil and his angels, if it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder, when only anticipated,-what will the reality be? I am scared at my own question. It will be a death that never dies—a living death! But,
7. There is still another thought. The sinner must have broken through all the restraints of public sentiment, before we can know how bad he would be; and this ligature he tries to snap asunder. But he will find that public very populous, before he gets through. After he has gone his round with mortals, and has learned not to care what men think of his conduct, he must cease, too, to care what is thought of his deeds, in heaven. Those beings that have kept watch over his pillow by night, that have warded off fire and pestilence, or waked him in time to flee, that have loved his father and mother, and love them still in heaven,—what will they think of the puny worm who has brought himself to despise them, and sport with their opinion? But even this is not all; for devils, too, have their opinion. And he must cease to care what they think of him in hell. And their judgment, remember, is not depraved like their hearts. One might almost as well attempt to silence the opinion of heaven as of hell. The murmurs of that dark world against the man who casts its burning sentiments behind his back, will be like the distant roar of a thousand cataracts, or like the dashing of as many icebergs conflicting with each other in some boundless polar sea. And,
Finally there yet remains to be noticed one of the most powerful motives of restraint, the domestic affections. It is impossible to guess what men would be, till they throw off the hold, for instance, that a mother has upon a profligate son. We must recollect how John Newton managed, and how miserable he was while a mother lived, to hold the cord entwined about his heart. When every other tie had been sundered, the mother kept hold of him by this, when his character was gone, when he had descended to the meanness of serving a black mistress, and of eating his morsel from her leavings-when her favor was life to him, and her frown filled him with despair, and he had no other friend-then he remembered a mother's counsels and a mother's prayers; and then and there gave his heart to the Savior. There, from Africa's dark soil, and from a condition and character darker still, he first lifted his eyes to heaven, and began to breathe eternal life and he lives now, and sings redeeming grace in heaven, and tells in every song how hard it is for a sinner to conflict with the restraints of infinite love.
But all these are a part only of the circumstances, the restraints, that go to modify human character; all of which the sinner deliberately strives to neutralize. And if in nothing else he has shown a character bad as language can describe, or actions prove, he has given a climax of the whole in his attempts to sunder all such ties, and cut himself loose from God, and from the whole family of kindly influences that would save his soul from death.
Such is the obstinacy, the rebelliousness, the ingratitude of the sinner. Must he not, then, be born again-have a new heart and a new spirit-or never enter into the kingdom of God?
BY REV. DANIEL A. CLARK.
THE NATURE AND RESULTS OF SANCTIFICATION.
JOHN Xvii. 17. Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.
OUR Lord Jesus Christ was a perfect man. This we must believe as confidently as we believe his divinity, else we shall have confused ideas of many portions of divine truth. And as he was a perfect man, and would be in all things a pattern of what his people should be, he must have a perfect religious character, and perform the Christian duties, as far as they would be applicable to his exalted nature. Hence, we often find him engaged in prayer.
Whatever difficulty there may be in the idea of a divine Redeemer's praying, the fact we are bound to believe. In his inferior character as Mediator, he acted by commission from the Father, and would take instructions from him, and put confidence in him. When the last scene was coming on, and he knew that soon he must hang upon the tree, he offered that memorable prayer, from which the text is selected. He prayed most tenderly for his people; and among the first blessings asked, he prayed for their sanctification, through the truth.
There cluster about this subject many interesting questions, to some of which I purpose to turn your attention. 1. What do the Scriptures mean by sanctification? Sometimes, it means being set apart to sacred use. Thus every seventh day is sanctified. "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." Thus the tabernacle and temple, the priests, and altars, and sacrifices, and all the sacred things of the Jewish dispensation, were sanctified.
God speaks of sanctifying his name, which he does when by his judgments he rebukes the gainsayers, and stills their blasphemies. He thus convinces men that he is holy.
I could name many other uses of the term sanctification; but its principal use, and that intended in the text, is, in application to the work of rendering an unholy creature holy. Men are by nature unholy. They exercise forbidden affections, and do not put forth the affections that God requires. The prayer of Christ in the text was, that his followers, through the instrumentality of truth, might be made what God requires them to be; having the affections of the heart, and, of course, the deeds of the life, conformable to the divine law.
2. Another question may here very properly be,-When does this holiness begin? And the answer is obvious: It begins at the moment of regeneration. Till then, all the exercises are unholy; for "the carnal mind is enmity against God." Nor is there any degree of alarm, or any amount of conviction, that can generate one holy affection in the heart, previously to this period. Of course all the prayers offered, and all the exertions made, prior to this change, are unregenerate prayers and exertions. Nor can it be believed, consistently
with correct scripture views, that, anterior to this moment, there is any approximation toward correct feeling. No alarm, nor the most distinct conviction, can bring an unregenerate man to feel any more correctly toward God, or any holy object, than he did in a state of carelessness and security. And although we would not pretend to say that the divine influence in the hour of awakening may not restrain the sinner, and hold him back from the blasphemous thoughts and affections which he might otherwise put-forth, yet in all this there is no holiness.
And then it may be a question whether the sinner, under alarm, does not wax worse and worse, till the moment of passing from death unto life. If he has more light-if he sees more distinctly the objects of his implacable hatred, does he not obviously rise in his hatred, till it is changed into love? This point, however, it is not my object to press. We must concede that holiness begins when the heart is changed.
3. Is it always small in its beginning?
Does that_text in which the kingdom of God is compared to a grain of mustard seed, and that other where it is compared to leaven, teach us that grace in the heart is thus small at the first? Or do they illustrate the primitive smallness of the Christian church, and its ultimate growth and enlargement? They may be meant to apply in both cases; but aside from these texts, we are taught unequivocally in the Scriptures that the believer is, at the first, sanctified but in a small degree, and that he "grows in grace" till he arrives at the fulness of the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus. He is, at the first, a “babe, and has need of milk, and not of strong meat." Afterwards, he "forgets the things that are behind, and reaches forth to those things that are before, and presses toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The light that has shined in upon him shines "brighter and brighter unto the perfect day." Hence, we gather, that though the work of regeneration is from its very nature instantaneous, the work of sanctification is progressive, and is, at the first, comparatively small.
4. But how will this comport with what believers have thought was their experience that at the first they felt a glow of holy affection, which they termed their first love, which afterward they lost? And the Scriptures, they have supposed, favored the idea. "Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." But was that love of espousals, thus accredited to Israel, all holy love? Or was it not, in great part at least, merely that natural joy which might arise from the comfort, and pride, and novelty of their emancipation? It surely soon vanished, and they murmured, and made them gods, under whose guidance they purposed to return to Egypt. And that whole congrégation, you know, died in the wilderness. They were, evidently, as a body, destitute of holiness; hence their love of espousals must be explained as something else than delight in God.
But why may not the same be said often of that joy with which the heart of the new-born seems to overflow? Can we be allowed to believe it is all holy love to God? There can be, as yet, but little knowledge of God, or of truth. Hence that strong affection can hardly be allowed to flow wholly from objects so dimly seen. Is there not often far greater probability, that it is the mere effusion of animal affection? Or, at least, that it has far more of nature in it than of grace. There may not seem, afterward, the same hilarity; but is there not more knowledge of truth and duty, and more stability in the ways of God, more fixed principles of action, more humility, and more undeviating confidence in the Savior? In which position would the believer most readily go to the stake, and lay down his life for his Master? when, during the first month of his regeneracy, he fills the air with his song? or, when a few years afterward, he has learned
the corruption of his heart, and at times, perhaps, hardly dare hope that he is born of God? May not the joy abate, and there be, at the same time, an increase of that principle of holiness that develops a heavenly mind? Surely it is the believer of continued experience, and not the man renewed but yesterday, that is rooted and grounded in the truth, and who cannot be driven about with every wind of doctrine. Whether this question is decided right, however, I wish each one to judge for himself.
5. Another question arising out of this subject is does the good man at all times advance in holiness? and are we so to understand that text, "The righteous shall hold on his way?" Here, perhaps, again, it is not easy to come at what we are sure is truth. I have believed that it is otherwise, and that, while there are times when the good man progresses rapidly, there are other times when he makes no progress, and others, again, when the progress of holiness, if I may so speak, is backward. Thus Israel, sometimes, bent their track directly to the promised land at other times did not move for many days, and at other times marched retrograde. So we have seen the plant spring up and grow as if life was in it, and then perhaps for weeks seem stationary, and then again withering under drought, and seemingly about toperish. Whether these analogies may teach us truth, or mislead us, still I have believed it thus with the child of God. And the only position contested, I believe is, whether the Christian is ever in the way to do himself essential injury. That broad promise, "All things shall work together for good to them that love God," has been used as implying the negative. That the promise is true, and that the full import of it will be accomplished, there cannot be a doubt. But what is its import? Does God merely promise, in this precious text, that all the events of his providence shall conspire to bring his people to a higher seat in heaven? Or does he promise all this, and more too, that their very backsliding shall conspire to the same result? Would he promise, that if they forsake him, and sin by going after their idols, this very sin shall tend to purify them! Would it be safe to trust a wandering believer with such a promise in his hand? Is it reasonable to believe that it will tend to the health and growth of the heavenly mind, to have it wounded, and polluted, and ensnared by transgression? Have we any assurance that Peter and David might not have reached a nobler Christian stature, if they had stood firm in the hour of temptation? I confess, I think there is no such assurance.
Do not facts warrant us to believe that Christian minds, of the same powers and opportunities, have made different degrees of advance in the ways of God? The one is seen to climb the steeps of Zion, with brisk and steady step, and far outgo the other, while to us there appears no reason why the other might not have led in the enterprise. The professor who comes at length to the grave in old age, and, as we hope, a believer, but who can look back upon whole years of relapse and of wandering, has he those marks of maturity, and that animaiing hope, and that strong and conquering faith, seen in the man who moved steadily on in the ways of God, till his Master called him? You are thinking, perhaps, while you read, of two old men, contemporaries who died, it may be, in the same year, members of the same communion, the one having hardly deviated from the path of life an hour, while the other has seemed to be alternately a Christian or a worldling, as the times were. Now which of them seemed manifestly to fall asleep in Jesus, while the other was saved perhaps, though as by fire? You have all answered me. Pass through our churches, and tell me where is the venerated man of God, who is to the world around him a walking conscience, and carries heaven on his brow, in whose life there have not been some dark seasons of marked, and guilty, and hurtful relapse? Let me say, I do not believe that the Christian does make uniform progress in holiness, but does sometimes become stationary, and sometimes retrograde in the heavenly road.