Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

.

ourselves like Christ upon earth, that we may become like him in heaven, and this likeness is to consist in purity.

Now there is a class of Christians, and, I am ready to allow, real Christians, to whom this admonition of the text is peculiarly necessary.

They are not those who set aside religion ; they are not those who disregard the will of their Maker; but they are those who endeavour to obey him partially, and in this way: finding it an easier thing to do good than to expel their sins, especially those which cleave to their hearts, their affections, or their imaginations, they set their endeavours more towards beneficence than purity. You say we ought not to speak disparagingly of doing good : by no means ; but we affirm, that it is not the whole of our duty, nor the most difficult part of it; in particular, it is not that part of it which is insisted upon in the text, and in those other Scriptures that have been mentioned. The text, enjoining the imitation of Christ upon earth, in order that we may become like him in heaven, does not say, Do good even as he went about doing good,

Purify yourselves even as he is pure:” so saith Saint John.

Mortify the deeds of the body, let not sin reign in you; die with Christ unto sin; be baptized unto Jesus Christ, that is, unto his death; be buried with him by baptism unto death ; be planted together in the likeness of his death ; crucify the old man, and destroy the body of sin ; as death hath no more dominion over him, so let sin no more reign in your mortal bodies :" so Saint Paul. All these strong and significant metaphors are for the purpose of impressing more forcibly upon us this great lesson ; that to participate with Christ in his glory, we must participate with him in his humiliation; and that this participation consists in divesting

but it says,

"

ourselves of those sins, of the heart especially, and affections, whether they break out into action or not, which are inconsistent with that purity, of which he left us an example ; and to the attainment and preservation of which purity we are most solemnly enjoined to direct our first, strongest, and our most sincere, endeavours.

VII.

OF THE DOCTRINE OF CONVERSION.

MATTHEW, ix. 13. I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to

repentance. It appears, from these words, that our Saviour in his preaching held in view the character and spiritual situation of the persons whom he addressed; and the differences which existed amongst men in these respects : and that he had a regard to these considerations, more especially in the preaching of repentance and conversion. Now I think that these considerations have been too much omitted by preachers of the Gospel since, particularly in this very article ; and that the doctrine itself has suffered by such omission.

It has been usual to divide all mankind into two classes, the converted and the unconverted; and, by so dividing them, to infer the necessity of conversion to every person whatever. In proposing the subject under this form, we state the distinction, in my opinion, too absolutely, and draw from it a conclusion too universal: because there is a class and description of Christians, who, having been piously educated, and having persevered in those pious courses into which they were first brought, are not conscious to themselves of ever having been without the influence of religion, of ever having lost sight of its sanctions, of ever having renounced them; of ever, in the general course of their conduct, having gone against them. These cannot properly be reckoned either converted

VOL. V.

F

[ocr errors]

or unconverted. They are not converted, for they are not sensible of any such religious alteration having taken place with them, at any particular time, as can properly be called a conversion. They are not unconverted, because that implies a state of reprobation, and because, if we call upon them to be converted (which if they be unconverted we ought to do), they will not well understand what it is we mean them to do; and, instead of being edified, they may be both much and unnecessarily disturbed, by being so called upon.

There is, in the nature of things, a great variety of religious condition. It arises from hence, that exhortations, and calls, and admonitions, which are of great use and importance in themselves, and very necessary to be insisted upon, are, nevertheless, not wanted by all, are not equally applicable to all, and to some are altogether inapplicable. This holds true of most of the topics of persuasion or warning, which a Christian teacher can adopt. When we preach against presumption, for instance, it is not because we suppose that all are presumptuous; or that it is necessary for all, or every one, to become more humble, or diffident, or apprehensive than he now is : on the contrary, there may amongst our hearers be low and timorous and dejected spirits, who, if they take to themselves what we say, may increase a disposition which is already too much ; or be at a loss to know what it is herein that we would enjoin upon them. Yet the discourse and the doctrine

may,

nevertheless, be very good; and, for a great portion of our congregation, very necessary. The like, I think, is the case with the doctrine of conversion. If we were to omit the doctrine of conversion, we should omit a doctrine which, to many, must be the salvation of their souls. To them, all calls without this call, all preaching

a

without this doctrine, would be in vain ; and it may be true that a great part of our hearers are of this description. On the other hand, if we press and insist upon conversion, as indispensable to all for the purpose of being saved, we should mislead some, who would not apprehend how they could be required to turn, or be converted, to religion, who were never, that they knew, either indifferent to it, or alienated from it.

In opposition, however, to what is here said, there are who contend that it is necessary for every man living to be converted, before he can be saved. This opinion undoubtedly deserves serious consideration, because it founds itself upon Scripture, whether rightly or erroneously interpreted is the question. The portion of Scripture upon which they who maintain the opinion chiefly rely, is our Saviour's conversation with Nicodemus, recorded in the third chapter of · Saint John's Gospel.' Our Saviour is there stated to have said to Nicodemus, “ Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" and afterward, as a confirmation, and, in some sort, an exposition, of his assertion, to have added, “ Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” It is inferred, from this passage, that all

persons whatever must undergo a conversion, before they be capable of salvation : and it cannot be said that this is a forced or strained inference ; but the question before us at present is, is it a necessary inference? I am not unwilling to admit that this short but very remarkable conversation is fairly interpreted of the gift of the Spirit, and that, when this Spirit is given, there is a new birth, a regeneration ; but I say,

that it is nowhere determined at what time of life, or under what circumstances, this gift is imparted : nay, the contrary is intimated by comparing

« ElőzőTovább »