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Such excuses are not unfrequently heard in our days, my brethren, for unhappily the earnest consideration of the spiritual priesthood is almost entirely lost, and that not only in the Roman church, where it was completely depressed, and where the delusion of a peculiarly sacred priesthood has again arisen, but also in our own evangelical church, where the majority are no longer conscious of their priestly dignity, and .where with it the proper earnestness in the exercise of the holiest Christian duties has disappeared. For how many are there that think that searching into the sacred Scriptures, occupying themselves with heavenly things, and greater earnestness in Christian life, is the business of the clergy only, and cannot reasonably be expected of every body. Hence comes the great ignorance among our Christians, hence the great want of acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures which so many exhibit, hence their light-minded, immoral, and wordly life and conduct. But it must not be so, my brethren ! You must all administer your priesthood before God; you must look on yourselves as a people dedicated to the Lord; and you are all bound by duty to a spiritual life. Your houses must be houses of God, your dwellings temples, your hearts altars, your families churches of the Lord. Then shall the spiritual offerings of faith and love, of prayer and thanksgiving, be offered by all ; then shall all be taught of God, enlightened and sanctified by His spirit, and all men shall give themselves up to the Lord, together with all that they are and have. No strange fire should burn upon the altar of your hearts, no fire of unholy lusts and sinful desires, but the fire of the purest love for God and man alone, lighted by the spirit of Him who hath called you to be his peculiar people. O, that we all knew our dignity and our duty! That none of us would forget that we are a priestly race, dedicated to God, and, as such, bound to bring the sacrifices to God that are well pleasing unto him, the sacrifices of a pure heart, and a holy life, in faith and love.
III. Lastly, the Christians of the first centuries gladly looked on their new situation as that of children of God, in relation to their new birth of the Spirit, and
to that newness of life, to which Christ has roused us. This representation, also, is drawn from Holy Scripture ; for our attention is often directed there to the new childlike relation in which we stand to God, our heavenly Father, as redeemed by Jesus Christ. 66 Ye are all children of God, through faith on Jesus Christ,” says St Paul ; and St Peter writes, “ As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” And not only does this new relation of sonship remind us of the most
valuable blessings which the love of God, our heavenly Father, has prepared for us, through Jesus Christ, for time and eternity, but it also holds before us our holiest duties, namely, that we should become as children, that we should walk in the pure unquestioning spirit of a child, without selfishness or falsehood, in unfettered, upright resignation to God. And hence was the custom derived which prevailed in many parts of Africa, of setting before newly baptised persons, as a sign of that Christian sonship, and the childlike mind so inseparable from it, a mixture of milk and honey, with which infants are fed. Hence, too, they called Christ the educator of children, as condescending always to their needs, in order to draw them up to him. Thus, Clement of Alexandria says, in a song of praise to Christ, “ Collect thy simple-hearted children that they may praise thee with a holy mind, that they may laud thee without deceit, and with innocent lips, as Christ the leader of children.' Oh! that we, too, had always a lively consciousness of our childlike relation to God, my brethren! How joyfully should we then praise our heavenly Father, with what confidence should we pray to him, with what comfort should we trust on him, how zealously should we study to please him, how anxiously should we avoid vexing and troubling his paternal heart by our sins, and how heartily should we always thank him who hath thus made us his children! But alas! how few Christians are there who consider with duc
earnestness that they are the children of God, and, as such, called and bound to love their Father in heaven above all things, and always to subject themselves in childlike obedience to his will !
Thus did the first Christians gladly consider themselves as free children in the kingdom of grace, in contradistinction to the servants under the dominion of the law, or as servants made free by the Redeemer, remembering the words of the Lord: “ If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed!"
But they knew that the true liberty of the sons of God is not a liberty to sin, but rather a freedom from the dominion of sin, and therefore they hastened more zealously after holiness, and proved themselves to be free, by fulfilling God's holy law, out of love and gratitude to him, with joy and delight, as is demanded of us all. “ Christ has not freed us,” says Irenæus, “ that we should forsake him, but that the more we have obtained his grace, the more heartily we should love him." Oh that we would take this seriously to heart, my brethren. Yes! Christ has obtained for us freedom, a blessed freedom, freedom from the curse of sin, from the burdensome dominion of the law, but not in order that we should with less trouble give the rein to the flesh, for were this the case, we should not be free, but be the servants of the flesh and of sin ; but in order that we should fulfil the law, from hearty gratitude for the grace of redemption, and from the free impuse of love, and seek our meat in doing the will of our Father which is in heaven. “ Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh;” walk as “ free, but not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God!" Thus only shall we give men to know that we have rightly comprehended our dignity as children of God; and thus only have we a right to exclaim joyfully with the apostle, “ Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be ; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Amen,
THE EARNESTNESS OF THE FIRST CHRISTIANS IN FOR
SAKING THE WORLD.
In thee alone, O Lord, our soul finds rest and peace. Thou givest to them that are thine life and full contentment: thou fillest the hungry with good things; thou refreshest all that are weary and heavy laden, thou causest all to rejoice and be glad who seek for thee; and thou crownest them that love thee with grace and mercy. Wherefore, we ask not for heaven or earth. If we have but thee, O Lord, we shall want nothing ; then shall we be blessed, and though we were to sorrow, both in soul and body, yet thou wouldst be the comfort of our hearts and our portion. O Lord, we will never forsake thee, to thee will we live and die ; and do thou bless us, both here and ever, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
The more frivolous men are, my brethren, and the more they seek after enjoyment, the less likely are they to take delight in the gospel, and the lighter will be the estimation in which they hold all things holy. Christianity is something too earnest for them to become friends with it, its teaching and injunctions contradict too much their most cherished inclinations for them willingly to follow it, the professors of the faith seem far too gloomy and strict for them not to find causes of stumbling and grievance, and to attack them with reviling and enmity. The gospel preaches selfdenial, and denial of all ungodly things, and worldly lusts, as an indispensable condition of partaking of the kingdom of God. How, then, is it likely that those men would receive it, whose whole love is turned to the world, and to their own idle enjoyments and pleasures! The gospel particularly impresses on us that we should seek earnestly and steadfastly the sanctification of our minds and lives. How could it, then, be pleasing to those who find the highest happiness of their lives only in the unimpeded satisfaction of their fleshly lusts and desires? No! as light and darkness are irreconcilably opposed to each other, so can Christianity and worldlymindedness never be united together. Where the one rules, the other must needs yield. Earthly desires find no place in a heavenly minded heart, any more than heavenly desires do in a carnal and sensual spirit. Is it not this truth, which our Lord declares unto us when he says: “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.”
If there be one accusation more than another which can be brought with justice against our times, my brethren, it is plainly that of love of pleasure. Far and wide, among all ranks and classes rules a sensual, worldly mind, and we might be disposed to affirm of the present generation what the Romans, when their empire was decaying and crumbling away, had constantly in their mouths, that they desired nothing more than bread and sight-seeing. The aim and end of by far the greater portion of our contemporaries is only how best to satisfy earthly necessities and sensual pleasures; and those who have comprehended what life really is, and who shrink from making common cause with the great masses of the people in their pursuits, who retire from the world, and the vanities of the life that endure but for a season, in order to offer a more unimpeded service to their God and Saviour, in stillness and retirement, must be content to be cried down and mocked, and branded with the name of foolish enthusiasts, or hypocritical pietists. Gluttonous feasts and drinking parties are considered nothing strange or repulsive; but where Christians assemble“ to build themselves up