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THE ESSENTIAL ACCOMPANIMENTS AND HIGHEST STATE OF CHRIS
Heb. vi. 9—12. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things
that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not onrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same ce to the full assurance of hope unto the end : that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The apostle having expatiated as we saw in the last lecture, upon the utter hopelessness of those who should apostatize, here sostens down his address into a most friendly application to those to whom he more particularly wrote. He calls them “beloved,” and expresses his happy persuasion that such would not be their conduct and doom, but that they would go on with a diligence and faith which would eventually result in salvation. Nor does he make this remark as a rash presumption. The grounds upon which the persuasion is based, are the good works and labors of love which they had wrought for the name of God. They had contributed, and were yet contributing to the support and comfort of the poor christians, who were suffering persecution in Judea. This was a purely disinterested charity, flowing from their love to the Lord Jesus; and was one of the things which evinced their common sympathy and identity with the cause of christianity. Seeing them thus committed on the side of the Savior, and bringing forth some of the fruits of christian life, Paul was led to hope that they would not renounce the faith and thus render themselves undone eternally.
One lesson taught us in the text, which I here announce as the first proposition of this discourse, is, that all true christians always have some marks by which they are designated. It was a custom of some of the ancients to wear physical marks of their religion.They frequently tattooed their faces and bands, or other portions of the body, by drawing the images, or writing the vames of their gods, or by giving some sign which showed the order of their re
ligion. The Jews often wore certain precepts of their law upon their foreheads, or the palms of their hands. And Malcom, a traveller of considerable distinction, has observed a similar custom prevailing in Madras, even to the present day. And though it does not form any part of christian character or custom thus to deform ourselves for the purpose of exhibiting our religion; it is yet very clear that the Scriptures contemplate the outward manifestation of some marks by which we are to be recognized as the disciples of Christ. Christ himself said to his followers, “ Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men." There is then no such thing as being a christian secretly, or a christian without having the fact known. The very nature of christianity is a confession of Christ. “ Whosoever shall confess me before men,” says he, “him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. But he that denieth me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God.”
The marks of a christian are of two kinds, internal and external. The internal marks, which consist of supreme love to God and the testimony of the Spirit, are perceptible only to the individual himself, and are altogether matters of consciousness. So far as these are concerned every man must be his own judge of his piety. The external marks, however, are those to which the text more particularly directs attention. These are also by far the most important as it regards our relations to this world and each other. They furnish the only media through which we are to satisfy ourselves that a man truely has the work of grace going on in his heart.They furnish the only basis of church discipline, and I believe the surest criteria by which any man can decide as to the genuineness of his faith. For these reasons I propose to make them the subject of some particular examination. And as I intend that what I say shall come in direct application to all of us, I hope to receive your earnest and prayerful attention.
The first prominent mark of a genuine christian, is, that he is supremely interested and concerned with the things of the Spirit. The apostle says, “ They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Here we have the two great moral conditions of men,
with the most prominent mark which distinguishes each condition. The unregenerate are supremely concerned with the things of this life. Fortune, pleasure, fame, power, and worldly distinction are the objects of their highest aspirations and most untiring efforts. The christian, though not utterly insensible to the attractions of this world, entertains a correct estimate of their nature and worth. In the place of centering his desires upon worldly wealth, he seeks to lay up "treasures in heaven, where moth doth not corrupt, nor thieves break through nor steal.” Instead of being carried away with sensual pleasures, he lifts up his eyes in continual pursuit of those which are at the right hand of God forevermore. Instead of the applause of ignorant and erring men, he the more dearly prizes the favor and commendation of his God. Instead of seeking to wield the sceptres of earth, he ever longs for that “crown of righteousness” which is in reserve for the faithful soldier of the cross, and for that sublime authority with which the saints “shall reign forever and ever.” The whole drist of his feelings, and hence the whole bearing of his actions is heavenward. The whole tenor of his life is on the side of piety and holiness. He looks upon the world as a pilgrim and a stranger in it. He gratefully receives its hospitalities, but all the time looks toward heaven as his home. All his interests—all his sympathies—all his hopes are there. Knowing that here all his friendships must one day be severed--his pleasures wither—and his soul at last be disappointed in all its earthly stays; he sets bis “affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.” Such a spirit pervading all his calculations and doings, is one of the “ things which accompany salvation."
Another essential accompaniment of christian character is general benevolence of disposition. Paul exhorts the Colossians, if they be of the elect, to “put on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.” And how in. deed can a man be a follower of him who so loved us whilst in a state of enmity against him as to submit himself to all the shame and agony of crucifixion in order to avert from our heads the lifted thunders of enraged omnipotence, and not feel the movings of kind emotion! Christianity originated in love-its nature is love—nor can it do otherwise than work by love. Hence says Paul, “ Though 1 speak with the tongues of men and angels-have the gift of proph
ecy---understand all mysteries and all knowledge-have faith to remove mountains—give all my goods to feed the poor, and my body to be burned—and have not charity; I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." Yea, says the loving John, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen! And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God, love his brother also.” One of the most striking characteristics of the oriental christians, was their brotherly kindness. “See how these christians love one another!" were the words of admiration which burst from the lips of their persecutors. And it is recorded of the apostle Jobn, when so old, feeble and blind, that after being carried to the assemblies of christian worshipers he could say bothing more, he always said, “ Little children, love one another.” The true christian looks upon every man he meets, however lowly or degraded, as a brother. Though he has partialities even as Christ had his; and though he makes a wide distinction between his regard for the virtuous, and that which he has for the vicious; yet, he looks upon all with a feeling of heart which prompts him to do everything in his power to promote their every good. A vein of benignity runs through all his feelings which finds delight only in the bappiness of all. He entertains no malice; harbors no unkindness or revenge; and always, under all circumstances loves his neighbor as himself.
Another thing inseparable from genuine christian character, is unvarying honesty and holy living. The first question which Lemuel Haynes invariably asked when an individual was reported to him as a christian was, " Is he honest ?” But an earlier and surer authority has said, “ Hereby we do know that we love God, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” And God's commandments are exceeding broad. Not only do they apply to all places and all time; but they also cover the whole ground of our duty to him—to ourselves--and to all mankind. They also apply to the motive and the action—the conception and the execution of sin. A man may be guilty of breaking every precept in the decalogue after the inward man, and yet externally keep them at the same time to the letter. But to harbor any known wickedness in the heart, to cherish the thought of it, or to design or delight in any
sin of any kind is utterly inconsistent with that trait of character of which I am speaking. The Scriptures declare, “Whosoever is born of God cannot sin, because he is born of God.” A sense there is in which even the holiest christians sin daily; but the idea here is, that it is contrary to the christian's new nature to sin willingly or knowingly, or to delight and live in sin. It is plain then that the Bible contemplates unvarying honesty and holiness of life to be an essential accompaniment of salvation. But when we ex. amine all the professed followers of Christ by this test,
“What crowds in doubtful light appear!” When weighed in this balance, how many are found wanting! How little difference is discernable between the general conduct of those who claim to be christians, and that of the veriest worldling. Do they not talk like the world—think like the world—deal like the world-act like the world--and exclusive of their occasional appearance at the sacramental altar, are they at all to be distinguished from the world? The true christian is like a clock which goes day and night alike. He makes his religion a subject of daily practice, and brings in its sanctifying principles to regulate every action of his life. When engaging in anything, it is not a question with him whether it will meet the approbation of the generality, or whether the conduct of other church-members presents any precedent for it; but his all-absorbing concern is, is it right? will it promote the glory of God? And though he does often err and come short of duty, the sincere purpose of his heart is nevertheless : to come up to the very highest standard of moral purity which his Bible lays down. Though he does sometimes do wrong, his failures are his misfortunes and not his crimes. He is altogether honest in all bis dealings, and upright in all his ways.
These, my hearers, are some of the more prominent "things which accompany salvation.” They are marks—essential and legitimate products of all genuine piety. Point to the man, whether in or out of the church, who is not supremely interested in the things of the Spirit, who is not characterized with a general benevolence of disposition, and who does not exhibit unvarying honesty in all his transactions; and I will show you the man who has no right to the christian name, and no title to the christian's heaven. These things are as closely linked with a man's salvation as heat is with fire. They are as essentially associated as our bodies and