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NATURAL AFFECTIONS NOT HOLINESS.
HEBREWS XII. 14.
FOLLOW PEACE WITH ALL MEN, AND HOLINESS, WITHOUT
MAN SHALL SEE THE LORD.
SALVATION depends very much on possessing a correct view of our native ruin and need of a Saviour. For want of this many disdainfully reject the offers of grace, and undertake to recommend themselves to God in a way more gratifying to human pride. None will apply to the physician till they feel that they are sick.
The most holy and devout portion of the Christian Church have always held, with the fathers of New-England, that mankind by nature are totally depraved; by which they have meant, not that they are as bad as they can be,-not that they are all equally wicked,—not that the form of their actions is always wrong,—not that they are wholly destitute of love to men,-of all moral sense,--of all regard for the natural fitness there is in virtue,-of all disgust at the natural unfitness there is in vice; but merely this, that they are utterly destitute of holiness. And this our text evidently implies. It virtually declares that none shall be debarred from seeing the Lord but they who are “ without holiness;" which is to say, that all who are not entitled to heaven are destitute of that principle,-all who in Scripture are called sinners in distinction from saints, children of wrath in distinction from children of God, natural men in distinction from spiritual men, the world in distinction from the Church, are without holiness."
There are however in natural men certain sem. blances of holiness, which have been often alleged in opposition to this doctrine. Natural men are susceptible of gratitude and patriotism; of domestick affections, such as subsist between parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters; of humanity, including both compassion and general good wishes for the happiness of men ; of a sweet disposition, enlarging their humanity, and producing gentleness, patience, forgiveness, kind. ness, and beneficence.
They are susceptible of a sense of honour, revolting from meanness and pol. lution ; of taste, that delights in beautiful proportions in all visible objects and relations ; of conscience, or the moral sense, which approves of justice and virtue, and disapproves of vice, and when sufficiently enlightened justifies the whole law of God, and religion generally, and good men, and condemns the opposite of all these. Under the influence of these principles, fortified by education and habit, aided by hopes and fears, by respect for human opinions and laws, by regard for good order, (especially as being necessary for personal security,) by the general good nature which prosperity imparts even to selfish minds, and by numberless associations of ideas, multitudes of natural men lead amiable and moral lives. But after all, they are utterly destitute of that “ holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” To put this point beyond a doubt, let us,
I. Inquire what holiness is.
III. By this standard test the natural principles in question.
1. What is holiness ? Avoiding all points liable to dispute, I will give such an answer to the question as I think no man will be disposed to deny. I will put the answer in two forms, and you may take your
choice. Holiness consists in conformity to the moral character of God. The other answer is, Holiness consists in obedience to His commands. Shall I illustrate the principle in both forms ?
(1.) Holiness consists in conformity to the moral character of God. If a doubt could rest on this point the whole Bible would join to remove it. In the image of God man was originally formed ; and that image is reinstampt on his soul in sanctification. “ We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory.". Holiness in creatures is the same in kind as holiness in God: “Be ye holy for I am holy.” Hence Christians are said to be “partakers of His holiness,” and “ partakers of the divine nature."*
Holiness in creatures consists, then, in loving the same things that God loves, in hating the same things that He hates, in desiring the same things that He desires, in having the same supreme end, in rejoicing in the same things that He rejoices in; in short, in possessing His temper, and acting it out in corresponding conduct. Let us expand these ideas. Holiness consists
In loving the same things that God loves ; in loving therefore being in general; (such an affection has God, for 6 God is love;'') in loving all His perfections, in which He Himself delights; in loving the precepts and penalties of that law which is a transcript of His nature; in loving His providential government, which He approves ; in delighting in His will, which is necessarily agreeable to Himself; in loving His Son, His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased ; in loving the whole plan of salvation, which He regards with infinite affection; in loving His Word, with all its doctrines, which are dear to Him; in loving His Church and all good men, whom He has graven upon His heart.
In hating the same things that God hates; in hating sin therefore, and the characters of wicked men, and the manners of an ungodly world.
* Gen. i. 26, 27. 2 Cor, iii. 18. Heb. xii. 10. 1 Pet. i. 16. 2 Pet. i.4.
In desiring the same things that God desires ; in desiring therefore His glory, the enlargement and consummation of His Church, the universal reign of holiness, the universal belief of God-exalting and soul-debasing truths, and the fulfilment of all the designs of infinite love.
In having the same supreme end that God has; in making His glory therefore the grand object of pursuit.
In rejoicing in the same things that God rejoices in ; in rejoicing therefore in His being, government, and glory, in the honour put upon His law, in the certainty that all His purposes will be accomplished, in the everlasting glory of His Church, and the eternal destruction of His enemies.
In acting out this temper in corresponding conduct,-in precisely that conduct toward God, His Son, His institutions, and our fellow men, which His Word requires.
Must not this, and nothing short of this, be the holiness that will fit us to enjoy and commune with God forever?_Shall I now turn to the other an. swer? But as the law of God is a transcript of His nature, this answer must amount to the same thing.
(2.) Holiness consists in obeying God's commands. Can any man doubt this? If the law of the universal King is not the universal standard of right, what will you say of His government? It were blasphemy to suppose it. If the definition of sin is, that it is the transgression of the law,"'*
* 1 John iü. 4.