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Hence the admonition, “Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. Let us hold the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful that promised). (Heb. x. 22, 23).
When we examine ourselves, and find that we have new desires for goodness, a new love for God, a new love for man, a new disposition to be useful to man; that our actions flow from new and higher motives; that we measure ourselves more strictly, judge ourselves more severely; that we have deeper regret and remorse when we sin ; that we shun more earnestly all that we know to be evil, and because it is a sin in the sight of God; that we seek to do good, not merely because it is profitable to ourselves, but because it is the will of our Heavenly Father; that we have a deeper reverence for all Divine things, a more serious disposition to learn Divine truths, and to apply them to our conduct; that we taste a deeper and purer joy, a richer peace, an increasing trust in the Divine Providence; that we feel a fuller submission, and willingness to submit ourselves in all things to the will of the Lord ; that the service of the Lord grows more congenial to our own souls; that we have more power to conquer the besetting sins of our past life; that evil becomes more distasteful to us, that it becomes even hateful to us, while goodness grows to be more joy-inspiring and delightful,—then we can have confidence, and feel assured that the Lord is working in us in order to bring us to the full consciousness of spiritual life. The budding of the tree is a proof that the tree is living. Its putting forth good fruit is the proof that its life is healthy and good. We know that without the Lord's help we can do nothing. If we can trace growth and progress in ourselves, we may know that it is of the Lord, and that it is the pledge that we are accepted by Him.
Yet observe, how faint is the line which separates this testimony of conscience, this indirect inference, drawn from what we know of ourselves, from the direct witness of the Spirit in our consciousness. John says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.
Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God” (1 John iii. 14, 18, 19, 21). The testimony to us that we have passed from death unto life is our consciousness that we love the brethren. This witness is our consciousness of love ; the undeniable inference to be drawn from it is that we have passed from death unto life. We are to examine our conscious
ness of what we are, and of what we do, so as to assure ourselves that we are of the truth. The noncondemnation of ourselves by our moral consciousness inspires us with confidence toward God. The conscience itself is only one part of our consciousness. It is our consciousness of our own life, as tested by our knowledge of what is right and good that is, in regard to moral and spiritual laws of conduct.
Both the witness of the Spirit in our consciousness of spiritual life, and “the answer of a good conscience toward God," are, consequently, internal witnesses giving their testimony of life, or of death; revealing to us how we stand before God, and what we really are in His sight. Both belong to the rational faculty. The latter is a relatively lower state, because it implies the necessity of an act of reasoning. Its evidence, therefore, is a less sure, and a less delightful testimony. In the direct testimony of consciousness there is no reasoning needed or performed. We know that we are sons and daughters of God. We know that He has forgiven our sins. We know that He doth love us,
and hath accepted us. We know that we have passed from death unto life. If the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we know that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Having done the will of God, we know of the doctrine of the Saviour that it is the
truth! Do you ask whether this may not be a vain confidence, a false and spurious assurance ? When you can convince us that the sun does not shine, that the seasons do not follow each other, that water does not drop from the clouds and run down into the sea, we may doubt the certitude and genuineness of our trust in God. Prove to us that we do not live, and move, and feel, and think, and speak, and act,-prove to us that our consciousness of these things is a false and unreliable witness, and then we may doubt whether the similar testimony of consciousness in regard to our spiritual life is reliable and true. The evidence of both is similar, and they fall or stand together.
Beware, however, of a serious error. The evidence of consciousness proves that we now exist : it cannot prove that we shall ever continue to exist. Other evidences must prove this. So, in like manner, the consciousness that we are now the children of God does not give us assurance that we must necessarily be saved. We
fall into sin. It is possible to make spiritual shipwreck. We have been cleansed, but we may return to wallowing in the mire. We are called, we have become the elect of God, but the necessity is upon us to
ke our calling and election sure. The Apostle who had been the means of
helping so many to life, needed to take care lest he himself should become a castaway. The gift of the liberty wherewith the Son has made us free, does not destroy the original liberty of turning to the evil if we so will. Those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, even those
There is such a sin possible unto men as profanation. The man out of whom the unclean spirit has been cast may give lodgment to seven other spirits more evil than himself, and the last end of that man be worse than his first. The notion that
once a child of God, always a child of God,” the doctrine of final perseverance, as it is termed, may easily become a pitfall, a dangerous delusion, and a snare into which the over-confident may fall. The admonition of the Apostle is most pertinent here, “ Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.” The warnings of the Saviour become here the directing voice of our Heavenly Guide and Guardian, “ Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." "And again I say unto you, Watch !”
The assurance may grow and deepen within us. It will intensify with our advancement in the regenerate life. The more that we learn and truly understand, the more that we feel and love, the wider and more diversified will become our consciousness of life. Our consciousness of natural life deepens with the education of our senses. Our consciousness of rational life, of thought and emotion, joy and hope, deepens with the increase of the knowledge that we make our own. Our consciousness of spiritual life widens with our growth in spiritual affections, broadens with the increase of our spiritual wisdom, and deepens as we become more faithful in reducing spiritual affection and thought to practice and life. We may continually know that we spiritually live, and as our spiritual life becomes richer and fuller of experiences, will our consciousness of that life become. Thus, joy upon joy, love upon love, desire upon desire, peace upon peace, one state of tranquillity upon another, delight upon delight, as well as “line upon line, and precept upon precept,” the consciousness of the angels advances towards “the stature of perfect men,” towards the fulness that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. So may it be with us, till lifted loftily to these higher stages of spiritual experience, we may, even here, begin to feel as angels feel, to know as angels know, and to love as angels love. To Jesus Christ be all the praise and glory for ever. Amen.
THE WISDOM FROM ABOVE. “The Wisdom from above,” says the Apostle James, “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James iii. 17).
There is obviously a resemblance between this description of heavendescended Wisdom, so far as it goes, and that more perfect enumeration of its several constituents in the beginning of our Lord's truely Divine Sermon on the Mount. This Wisdom in its first access to man is no other than the Eternal Logos, the Wisdom possessed by Jehovah as the beginning of His way, before His works of old (Prov. viii., comp. John i.), which, when it could no longer accede to humanity by reason of human lapse and recession, became incarnate, and, having glorified the assumed humanity, has once more access to fallen man as constantly proceeding Truth, whose essence is Love, and in which is the true life of the creature, containing all the infinite elements of virtue and happiness. Received first as life, freely given to those who are "dead in trespasses and sins,” its law is expansion and progression, -expansion in manifold and varied forms of spiritual beauty and use, progression onward through eternity. Of the expansion of this Wisdom in the minds of its happy recipients we have a brief yet graphic picture in the apostolic words prefixed to our little essay. It is first "pure.” The direct opposite to the wisdom (falsely so-called) that pre-occupied its place, which is earthy, sensual, and devilish (verse 15), this is heavenly, spiritual, and Divine. All this is, I think, comprised in the word “pure :" free from all taint of earth, its affections ever tend heavenwards—free from the delusions of sense, its perceptions are ever clear, and, as the ancients would say, luciform—free from the “bitter envying and strife” of evil demons, its action is ever uniform, orderly, and benign. “ The end of the commandment,” says the Apostle, “is charity out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned." Charity is the secret source of all purity of heart and of faith unfeigned, no less than the end, for it is the hidden life of all things “in the regeneration.” The first effect of genuine faith or faith unfeigned, is “a good conscience," or the quiet and tranquillity which
” it causes in the mind, as “the substance of things hoped for.” When the unseen realities and glorious prospects presented by faith rise on the troubled soul like an oasis in the desert, we are, like the men who found the treasure hid in the field and the pearl of great price, ready for joy thereof to part with all we possess, both our fancied good and
our real evil, that we may acquire them; and in proportion as we do in proportion as self in every shape is cast down, charity ascends above the horizon in phases of constantly increasing perfection, until the affections acquire a degree of purity which extends to the intellect, doing for it what no mere acquisition of knowledge could ever effectenlarging its capacity and giving it a crystalline clearness of perception -in a word, conferring on it “the vision and the faculty divine," so that it can in some measure get a glimpse of the idea of ideas—the idea of Deity realizing the beatitude—“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated.” Every virtue has its peculiar temptation, and this last described grace may often render its possessor liable to a feeling of exaltation above others; how admirably do the qualities of wisdom, immediately after enumerated, tend to abate any such feeling, and bring the mind down from the ethereal heights, as by a gently sloping plane, to the level of ordinary humanity. A peaceable and mild disposition leads us to look with kindness on all around; and if a man be overtaken in a fault not to glory over him, but, according to the apostolic precept, to restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering that we ourselves may be also tempted. (Gal. vi. 1.)
“Whose adorning,” says Peter (the kosmos, or beauty and order of the soul), “let it be the hidden man of the heart in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, of great price” (1 Pet. iii. 3, 4). “Wherefore,"
• says James, "laying aside all filthiness, and superfluity of naughtiness, receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James i. 21). The first clause of this passage refers to the putting away of evils, like superfluous branches on a tree, which tend to check the growth of the living germ grafted thereon; the other to the first reception of good, which begins to make its way, like the graft when obstructions are removed. This good is the good of the word of Divine Truth, which is secretly grafted in every soul, and forms what is termed in the first of these two notable texts “the hidden man of the heart," acting indeed from the earliest period of regeneration, but now first coming into consciousness. It is unnecessary to offer any additional observations to show what must be obvious, i.e., that those in whom charity appears under the form of peaceableness, meekness, and gentleness, will be always easy of access and entreaty.
"Full of mercy and good fruits." This is a still higher degree of