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them but the abuse of holy institutions is no argument against their use; the unnecessary, and uncommended vow only must be condemned.
Though the Nazarite's vow, then, in no way attaches to the Christian, the spirit of it must be felt in the breast of every fervent believer of the Gospel; and the consecration of the body to holy purposes, may contribute, according to the holy motive, to the saving of the soul. Such separations are not, however, without the concurrence of an apostle. In domestic cases they are allowed by mutual consent, that they may give themselves to fasting and prayer1.
A difficult and impracticable severity forms no part of Christian obligation; and yet we must not forget the high eminence on which a servant of the Gospel stands. Bishop Hall strongly draws the picture in his contemplation on the Nazarite Samson;-" He must be strict and severe to himself, neither his tongue, nor his palate, nor his hand must run riot. Those pleasures which seemed not unseemly for the multitude, are now debarred him. We borrow more names of our Lord than one. As we are Christians, so are we Nazarites; the consecration of our God is on our heads, and therefore, our very hairs should be holy, Our appetite must be curbed, our passions moderated; and so estranged from the world, that in the loss of parents or children, nature may not make us forget grace. What does the looseness of vain men persuade them that
God is not curious, when they see him thus precisely ordering the very diet of his Nazarites? Nature pleads for liberty, religion for restraint; not that there is more uncleanness in the grape than in the fountain, but that wine finds more uncleanness in us than water, and that high living is not so fit for devotion as abstinence :-it is not drinking of wine, but drunkenness with wine that is forbidden to the evangelical Nazarite, wine wherein is excess. O` that ever Christians should thus quench the Spirit as if the practice of the Gospel were quite the rule of the law1!"
and so live contrary to
XI.-Man on his trial.
THE train of thought by which man is directed to self-conviction, during the meditations of Lent, is, as if v
we were put upon our trial in a criminal court of justice, adjourned from day to day to complete the investigation of truth, and at length awaiting the awful and decisive verdict of condemnation, or acquittal. Yet herein is a vast difference between an earthly, and a heavenly tribunal. The solemnity of an AssizeCourt, excites, for the most part, only present feelings; feelings, even in the worst of malefactors, not
1 Book X. Cont. 2.
unattended by a degree of hope, and an acquittal, to restore the prisoner to his pristine rank in society. But before the judgment-seat of Christ, all are guilty. It is as vain to appeal to our consciences, as to call witnesses. Both will be against us. The only testimony in our favour is that of the apostle, the testimony of a good conscience. But even this goes no farther than a confession of guilt, and the full and free pardon of our Judge. If we stand rectus in curia, sound in any one respect, at the last day, it must be, not in our own righteousness, but in the righteousness of him who merited all for us. It is only when "the testimony of Christ is confirmed in us, that we come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall also confirm us unto the end, that we may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ'."
...But though pardon, if I may so say, is not our own, but by the free gift of God, through Christ, we are not to imagine that we are let loose to the wildness or wickedness of any plan of life, we may be inclined to adopt. No one wilful sin, persevered in, and unre pented of, dashes from us every expectation of pardon. We are indeed freely forgiven; but it would be, in the highest degree, absurd to suppose that we were saved in our sins, rather than, notwithstanding our sins through the merits and mercies of our Saviour. Wei
are rescued from our perilous situation, not as sons of this world, still immersed in all the malignity of wickedness, but as sanctified by the Spirit, living as children of an holy God, faithful believers, and consequently members of an immaculate Saviour, and truly as heirs of salvation.
Even in this various world, therefore, the effusion of Divine grace is not lost upon us; it cherishes us in our long, and interesting, and painful trial; it produces all those happy fruits of faith which nourish to eternal life; it prepares us in the successful event of our arraignment, for a state, in which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for those that love him 1."
But while our trial lasts, our anxiety must continue. Man is frail and sinful; and unable to plead not guilty under the best of circumstances. He remains a convicted culprit before his Judge: but in the moment of condemnation, an Advocate arrives-an Intercessor appears a substitute is found; a substitute, ready to die for him-a substitute that even now, in a region far above all worldly reach, is pleading the cause of sinners at his Father's throne.
Had man on his trial wished, or desired an advocate, where could he have selected one like this? Touched with the feeling of our infirmities, he is our brother
1 1 Cor. ii. 9.
and our friend. Tempted, as we have been, he knows how to succour them that are tempted. Expiring under an excruciating punishment, his kindness and love to man never forsook him. He bore our sins, and carried our sorrows; sufficiently demonstrated in his agony in the garden. That he died for our sins and rose again for our justification—is the last and most supreme comfort of the prisoner, in whatever circumstances of worldly trial he may be left.
When I reflect on my trial in all the different scenes, of life through which I have been, or may be led, let me look on the severe dealings of my blessed Saviour's trial before an earthly tribunal: and when I consider that Christ, the anointed of the Lord, poured out his soul unto death for sinners, it ought to make me serene in danger, and comforted in the last extremity of life. "Behold! the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear 1." "I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O Lord, will I sing. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before my eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside, it shall not cleave to me." While I contemplate the infinite mercy of God, let me not be forgetful of his Almighty justice: and that even the eternal advocate