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deeper, than all these. These are good in their place; just so far as they are in fact subservient to true religion. And it were superstition to object against them, while they are applied only as occasional helps to human weakness. But let no man carry them farther. Let no man dream that they have
any intrinsic worth; or that religion cannot subsist without them. This were to make them an abomination to the Lord.
5. The nature of religion is so far from consisting in these, in forms of worship, or rites and ceremonies, that it does not properly consist in any outward actions, of what kind soever. It is true, a man cannot have any religion who is guilty of vicious, immoral actions ; or who does to others, what he would not they should do unto him, if he were in the same circumstances. And it is also true, that he can have no real religion who “ knows to do good, and doeth it not.” Yet may a man both abstain from outward evil, and do good, and still have no religion. Yea, two persons may do the same outward work; suppose, feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked; and, in the mean time, one of these may be truly religious, and the other have no religion at all: For the one may act from the love of God, and the other from the love of praise. So manifest it is, that although true religion naturally leads to every good word and work, yet the real nature thereof lies deeper still, even in “ the hidden man of the heart."
6. I say of the heart. For neither does religion consist in orthodoxy, or right opinions; which, although they are not properly outward things, are not in the heart, but the understanding. A man may be orthodox in every point; he may not only espouse right opinions, but zealously defend them against all opposers; he may think justly concerning the incarnation of our Lord, concerning the ever blessed Trinity, and every other doctrine contained in the Oracles of God; he may assent to all the three Creeds,—that called the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian ; and yet it is possible he may have no religion at all, no more than a Jew, Turk, or Pagan. He may be almost as orthodox--as the devil, (though indeed, not altogether ; for every man errs in something; whereas we cannot well conceive him to hold any erroneous opinion,) and may, all the while, be as great a stranger as he to the religion of the heart.
7. This alone is religion, truly so called: This alone is in
the sight of God of great price. The Apostle sums it all up in three particulars, “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” And, First, righteousness. We cannot be at a loss concerning this, if we remember the words of our Lord, describing the two grand branches thereof, on which “hang all the Law and the Prophets :" “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength: This is the first and great commandment;" (Mark xii. 30 ;) the first and great branch of Christian righteousness. Thou shalt delight thyself in the Lord thy God; thou shalt seek and find all happiness in him. He shall be “thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward,” in time, and in eternity. All thy bones shall say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee!" Thou shalt hear and fulfil his word, who saith, “My son, give me thy heart." And, having given him thy heart, thy inmost soul, to reign there without a rival, thou mayest well cry out, in the fulness of thy heart, “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my strong rock, and my defence; my Saviour, my God, and my might, in whom I will trust; my buckler, the horn also of my salvation, and my refuge."
8. And the second commandment is like unto this ; the Second great branch of Christian righteousness is closely and inseparably connected therewith ; even “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Thou shalt love,- Thou shalt embrace with the most tender good-will, the most earnest and cordial affection, the most inflamed desires of preventing or removing all evil, and of procuring for him every possible good,—Thy neighbour ;—that is, not only thy friend, thy kinsman, or thy acquaintance; not only the virtuous, the friendly, him that loves thee, that prevents or returns thy kindness; but every child of man, every human creature, every soul which God hath made; not excepting him whom thou never hast seen in the flesh, whom thou knowest not, either by face or name; not excepting him whom thou knowest to be evil and unthankful, him that still despitefully uses and persecutes thee : Him thou shalt love as thyself ; with the same invariable thirst after his happiness in every kind; the same unwearied care to screen him from whatever might grieve or hurt either his soul or body.
9. Now is not this love “the fulfilling of the law ?" the
sum of all Christian righteousness ?-of all inward righteousness ; for it necessarily implies “ bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind,” (seeing “ love is not puffed up,") “gentleness, meekness, long-suffering :" (For love “is not provoked;” but “ believeth, hopeth, endureth all things :") And of all outward righteousness; for “ love worketh no evil to his neighbour," either by word or deed. It cannot willingly hurt or grieve any one. And it is zealous of good works. Every lover of mankind, as he hath opportunity,“ doeth good unto all men,” being (without partiality, and without hypocrisy) “ full of mercy and good fruits."
10. But true religion, or a heart right toward God and man, implies happiness as well as holiness. For it is not only
righteousness,” but also “ peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” What peace? “The peace of God," which God only can give, and the world cannot take away; the peace which “passeth all understanding," all barely rational conception; being a supernatural sensation, a divine taste, of “the powers of the world to come ;” such as the natural man knoweth not, how wise soever in the things of this world; nor, indeed, can he know it, in his present state, “because it is spiritually discerned.” It is a peace that banishes all doubt, all painful uncertainty ; the Spirit of God bearing witness with the spirit of a Christian, that
child of God.” And it banishes fear, all such fear as hath torment; the fear of the wrath of God; the fear of hell; the fear of the devil; and, in particular, the fear of death: He that hath the peace of God, desiring, if it were the will of God, “to depart, and to be with Christ."
11. With this peace of God, wherever it is fixed in the soul, there is also “joy in the Holy Ghost;" joy wrought in the heart by the Holy Ghost, by the ever-blessed Spirit of God. He it is that worketh in us that calm, humble rejoicing in God, through Christ Jesus, " by whom we have now received the atonement,” xatanlayny, the reconciliation with God; and that enables us boldly to confirm the truth of the royal Psalmist's declaration, “ Blessed is the man " (or rather, happy) “ whose unrighteousness is forgiven, and whose sin is covered.” He it is that inspires the Christian soul with that even, solid joy, which arises from the testimony of the Spirit that he is a child of God; and that gives him to “ rejoice with joy unspeakable, in hope of the glory of God;" hope both of the glorious image
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of God, which is in part, and shall be fully “revealed in him ;" and of that crown of glory which fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for him.
12. This holiness and happiness, joined in one, are sometimes styled, in the inspired writings, “the kingdom of God,” (as by our Lord in the text,) and sometimes, “the kingdom of heaven.” It is termed “the kingdom of God,” because it is the immediate fruit of God's reigning in the soul. So soon as ever he takes unto himself his mighty power, and sets up his throne in our hearts, they are instantly filled with this “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” It is called “the kingdom of heaven,” because it is (in a degree) heaven opened in the soul. For whosoever they are that experience this, they can aver before angels and men,
Everlasting life is won,
according to the constant tenor of Scripture, which everywhere bears record, God “hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son” (reigning in his heart) “ hath life,” even life everlasting. (1 John v. 11, 12.) For “this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John xvii. 3.) And they, to whom this is given, may confidently address God, though they were in the midst of a fiery furnace,
Thee,-Lord, safe shielded by thy power,
For where thy presence is display'd, is heaven. 13. And this “ kingdom of God," or of heaven, “is at hand.” As these words were originally spoken, they implied that “ the time" was then fulfilled, God being “made manifest in the flesh," when he would set up his kingdom among men, and reign in the hearts of his people. And is not the time now fulfilled ? For, “Lo! (saith he) I am with you always," you who preach remission of sins in my name,
even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. xxviii. 20.) Wheresoever, therefore, the gospel of Christ is preached, this his “ kingdom is nigh at hand.” It is not far from every one of you. Ye may this hour enter there
into, if so be ye hearken to his voice, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel."
II. 1. This is the way: Walk ye in it. And, First, “repent ;" that is, know yourselves. This is the first repentance, previous to faith ; even conviction, or self-knowledge. Awake then, thou that sleepest. Know thyself to be a sinner, and what manner of sinner thou art. Know that corruption of thy inmost nature, whereby thou art very far gone from original righteousness, whereby “the flesh lusteth” always “contrary to the Spirit," through that "carnal mind” which “is enmity against God," which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Know that thou art corrupted in every power, in every faculty of thy soul; that thou art totally corrupted in every one of these, all the foundations being out of course. The eyes of thine understanding are darkened, so that they cannot discern God, or the things of God. The clouds of ignorance and error rest upon thee, and cover thee with the shadow of death. Thou knowest nothing yet as thou oughtest to know, neither God, nor the world, nor thyself. Thy will is no longer the will of God, but is utterly perverse and distorted, averse from all good, from all which God loves, and prone to all evil, to every abomination which God hateth. Thy affections are alienated from God, and scattered abroad over all the earth. All thy passions, both thy desires and aversions, thy joys and sorrows, thy hopes and fears, are out of frame, are either undue in their degree, or placed on undue objects. So that there is no soundness in thy soul; but “ from the crown of the head, to the sole of the foot,” (to use the strong expression of the Prophet,) there are only “wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores.
2. Such is the inbred corruption of thy heart, of thy very inmost nature. And what manner of branches canst thou expect to grow from such an evil root ? Hence springs unbelief; ever departing from the living God; saying,
“ Who is the Lord, that I should serve him ? Tush! Thou, God, carest not for it.” Hence independence; affecting to be like the Most High. Hence pride, in all its forms; teaching thee to say, “ I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing." From this evil fountain flow forth the bitter streams of vanity, thirst of praise, ambition, covetousness, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. From this arise anger, hatred, malice, revenge, envy, jealousy, evil surmisings: From this, all the foolish and hurtful lusts that now " pierce thee through with