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braced extravagant pretensions to piety, the confident denouncing of others as destitute of it, and affectation of peculiar zeal, labor, and industry, in which they did not scruple to build unjust reputation on foundations laid by others. They appear to have been characterised by a spirit of detraction, and a disposition, not only to deny the merits of others, but to accuse them falsely. Serious corruptions of the Christian doctrine appear to have been propagated by them. And indeed, so great was their defection “from the simplicity that is in CARIST,” that the apostle considered all their pretensions like Satan assuming the form of an angel of light.
However peculiar were the circumstances immediately calling forth the apostolical epistles, every part of them is fraught with matter of interesting and edifying reflection, suited to all times, places, and persons. Although the false teachers, who were the immediate cause of the kind anxiety expressed in the text, have, long since, been called to their great account; yet the Church has never been, and surely is not now, without similar enemies. From a vast variety of sources, there is perpetual danger of our being “corrupted from the simplicity that is in CHRIST.” To guard against this is a duty enforced by all the solicitude that we should feel to enjoy the spiritual and eternal blessings designed by our holy religion. Let us, then, as an incitement to this duty, consider the nature and practical effects of the “simplicity that is in CHRIST."
This virtue may be considered as comprising humility, artlessness, and sincerity.
But its nature will be best understood by a reference to its effects. Let us consider these in their bearing on our duty to God, our DUTY TO OUR FELLOW MEN, and our PERSONAL CHARACTERS.
The simplicity that is in Christ should influence our duty to God, in the sentiments that we entertain of Him, and in the service which we render Him.
Humble dependents upon our Creator; weak, but in His strength; ignorant, but by His teaching ; lost, but by His saving grace; fipite, while He is infinite; frail, while He is unerring; depraved, while He is perfectly holy; on earth, while He is in Heaven; our knowledge of Him can be that only which He is pleased to reveal. And the view thus afforded of His nature, attributes, and will, and of His dispensations towards our race, should be embraced by us with humility and sincerity of heart. Satisfied that what claims to be a revelation from Him is proved such by the strongest and most conclusive evidence, we should look to it with the single motive of discovering and embracing the truths which it imparts. Sensible that a revelation of the nature, attributes, will, and acts, of an Infinite Being must be expected to contain much above our comprehension, we should, so far from rejecting the mysteries which it contains, or questioning its genuineness on account of those mysteries, regard them as strong collateral evidence that it is from God. For it is clear to a reasonable and unprejudiced mind, that in instructions on the nature, attributes, and acts of God, there must be expected to be found truths beyond the powers of human comprehension, and to be admitted simply on the ground of authority; even as, in philosophy, there are many truths incomprehensible to ordinary minds, the rejection of which, however, would be the heighth of unreasonableness and absurdity; and even as the strongest and best tutored minds, in their philosophical and metaphysical researches, often find all efforts at the full comprehension and elucidation of truths, whose existence is clear as day, totally baffled, and made to stop at that important point of attainment in knowledge, deep conviction of the ignorance of man, and the infinite intelligence of the Deity.
Casting down, then, all vain imaginations, and utterly renouncing all theories built on supposed natural apprehensions of the Great Supreme, the simplicity that is in Christ will lead us to the pages of revelation for our only ideas of the nature, attributes, acts, and will of God. Whatever is there clearly revealed is conscientiously adopted. Efforts to set aside, or fully elucidate, what is incomprehensible, are checked by the rational conviction that, on such subjects, there must be expected to be secret things belonging to the Lord our God, as well as those things which are revealed for us. Facts and doctrines constitute the latter ; the perfect knowledge and full comprehension of all points connected with them, are included in the former.
Thus, in opposition to the pride of human systems, in disregard of the difficulties raised by weak but presumptuous human intellect, indifferent to the credit of originality in theory, and decidedly hostile to the daring spirit of metaphysical explanation of what the Scripture has left in mystery, the simplicity that is in CHRIST leads to God as alone able to impart the knowledge of Himself, and humbly receives all that he reveals, knowing that it, therefore, must be true, and consicous that man can, as yet, but know in part.
Beware, brethren, "lest, by any means, your minds should be corrupted from” this "simplicity that is in CHRIST." A bold and daring spirit is abroad in the world, which, in disregard of the pure principles that united the Christians of the first and best days of the Gospel, in one faith, and that the faith, in its simplicity and integrity, of Holy Writ, never wearies in its unhallowed surmisings of what ought to be God's truth, or in its presumptuous experiments of the forms into which the contents of the sacred pages can be tortured. The only effectual remedy of this extensively mischievous, and it is to be feared, growing evil, is to go back to the simplicity of those primitive times, when Christians were of one mind and one heart, when faith was drawn from the pure word of God, and the divinely constituted mode of preserving and defending it, by the ministry, sacraments, and services of the Church, prevailed through the one body of the followers of the Redeemer, and maintained among them unity of spirit, and the bond of peace. Be it your effort, brethren, to preserve, by the same means, the same evangelical character. Amid the jarring opinions with which the pride of man has adulterated the pure word of God, ask for the old paths, the primitive doctrine, in the certainty that therein you will find the true intent of the Great Inspirer of all religious truth; cheerfully sacrifice to this object all prejudices excited by human teaching, and modern pretensions to improvement upon the earliest received system of the Gospel; for that system must necessarily be the purest, and the most genuine. In the exercise of this simplicity which is in Christ, receive with meekness the ingrafted word; and for any difficulties which you may find therein, wait for the great change, which will remove you from seeing as through a glass, darkly, to seeing face to face, and from knowing in part, to knowing even as also you are known.
In the service which we render to God, the simplicity that is in Christ should confine us to a single view to His glory, and our spiritual and eternal good. He sees the heart, and if there is, in that service, any low or selfish motive, or the least disposition bordering on display, vanity, or pride, it is abomination in His sight.
There are feelings of self-complacency; there is an idea of great merit in our services; there is a fond conceit of being peculiarly the favorites of Heaven, a presumptuous confidence of having been eternally designated, and by a perpetual miracle, preserved, as a chosen object of divine regard; there is an assurance of being removed from all danger of falling from grace; there arises, from one or other of these causes, a comparison, most favorable to ourselves, of our attainments and privileges with those of others-a feeling of conscious superiority that we would fain persuade ourselves is a due appreciation of the divine favor, or Christian pity for the less blessed state of others; there is a fondness for the praise of men ; there is a vain exhibition of fancied gifts; there are these affections of the carnal mind, with which the simplicity that is in Christ is totally inconsistent. For vanity of one's own advantages, pride in imagined superiority, or love of the applause of fellow worms, to come in competition with the service of the Great God, is a profanation that must be most displeasing in His sight.
Cultivate, brethren, the simplicity that is in CHRIST, whereby, in the pureness of your offerings, and the humility and sincerity of heart with which they are made, you may serve God truly, both in will and deed. The offering should be not only sacrifices of prayer and praise, but the continued and consistent devotion of your lives to all the duties of piety and morality. Beware “ lest your minds be corrupted” to the mingling with this of any offering to their own vanity or pride, to self-interest, or to the applause of men. Simple is the offering which God requires, and single the view with which He would have it made. Thus be it rendered.
It will be accepted through the meritsof your Intercessor ; and its recompense will remain forever, when the selfinterested Christian will have had his reward.
The simplicity that is in CHRIST should also influence our duty to our fellow men.
It is opposed to the ten thousand artifices which the world suggests for the promotion of our interests in life ; to the equivocation and dissimulation, so hostile to confidence among men; and to the pride and vain glory which mar social happiness, and inflict so many unmerited pangs.
Unfortunately, there is hardly a calling in life which does not present temptation to promote selfish ends by disingenuous artifices, often designedly kept as secrets of the craft. But even if these arts succeed, and those who practise them are prepared to enjoy their fruits, let them remember that for all these things God will bring them into judgment. And are they consistent with strict honesty ? Is there integrity in any measure which has a tendency to conceal the real quality by false appearances, and unjustifiable recommendations ? Depend upon it, brethren, every system of dealing which is not perfectly open and frank, which takes advantage of ignorance, or which fails in a candid exhibition of the whole truth respecting the matter in hand, is inconsistent with the simplicity that is in Christ, and can stand excused neither at the bar of strict honesty and integrity, nor at the final scrutiny of the intents and purposes of the heart. The world, either in ignorance, or in its perverted system of morals, may be silent, and even commend; but all who practise such dealings must stand, at the impartial tribunal of the last judgment, convicted of dishonesty and falsehood, and take the portion of the disciples of the great author and abettor of deception.
There is another very prevalent and awfully guilty departure from the simplicity that is in Christ–deceitfulness in speech ; letting our yea be otherwise than yea, and our nay than nay. Speech is the gift of God, designed to promote His glory, and the good of men. The sin of lying, in all its forms and modifications, and with all the extenuations that the wit of man, the promptings of worldly interest, the customs of society, or the fear of