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Eph. v. 9. The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth. THERE is in the minds of many a prejudice against the writings of St. Paul, as though they contained nothing but dissertations about predestination and election, and were calculated rather to drive people to despondence than to improve their morals. But there are no writings in the whole sacred volume more practical than his. True it is, that he unfolds the whole mystery of godliness more fully and more deeply than others : and he seems to have been raised up of God for that very end, that the theory of religion might be more distinctly known : but, in
384 EPHESIA S, V. 9. [2117. all his epistles, he has an especial respect to the interests of morality; the standard of which he elevates to an extent unknown before, and for the practice of which he adduces motives which never till that time were duly appreciated. In no one of his epistles does he maintain more strongly those doctrines which are thought so objectionable, than in this : yet is one half of the epistle occupied with exhortations to hohness, in all its different bearings and relations. In the words before us we have, what I may call, a compendium, or summary, of Christian morals.
And, that we may know what practical Christianity really is, I will, I. Mark it in its offices — Sanctification, both in heart and life, is the great end of the Gospel, and a most essential part of that redemption which is there revealed to us. It is here set forth as including, 1. Goodness — [Goodness is the one all-comprehensive character of the Deity. It shines forth in all his works : it meets us whereever we turn our eyes : " The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord^" The effect of the Gospel is, to transform us into his image : and this it does ; creating it in our hearts, and calling it forth in our lives. Under the influence of this divine principle, we shall seek to promote the happiness of all around us. Whatever is amiable, and lovely, and of good report, in the spirit and temper of the mind, we shall cultivate it to the uttermost, and exercise it on all occasions. There will be no trouble which we shall not labour to alleviate ; no want which we shall not endeavour to supply. To "be good, and do good," even like God himself'', will be the summit of our ambition, and the very end of our lives.] 2. Righteousness — [Whilst goodness is spontaneous, and acts irrespective of any particular claim which men may have upon us, "righteousness " has respect to the obligations which we lie under to " render unto all their dues." This, also, the Gospel forms within us ; stirring us up, both in word and deed, to act * Ps. xxxiii. 5. ^ Ps. cxix. 68.
2117.] PRACTICAL CHRISTIA ITY. 385
towards others as we, in a change of circumstances, should think it right for them to do unto us. There is in the heart of man a selfishness, which disposes him to see every thing with partial eyes ; magnifying his own rights, and overlooking the rights of others. This disposition the Gospel will subdue and mortify ; and, in its place, it will establish a principle of universal equity, that will weigh the claims of others with exactness, and prompt us, under all circumstances, rather to " suffer wrong than to do wrong''."] 3. Truth— [This is the perfection of Christian morals, or the bond which keeps all the other graces in their place '^. Where the Gospel has had its perfect work, there will be " a spirit that is without guile^" The Christian is a 'pellucid character: he appears as he is, and is what he appears. You will perceive, that, in immediate connexion with our text, the Apostle says, " Walk as children of the light : for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth." ow, here the three graces mentioned in the text are represented as constituting light, or, at least, as comprehending all that is contained in that image. ow, of all things in the whole creation, light is the most pure (for it is incapable of defilement): the most innocent (for it injures nothing, which has not, through its own weakness, an aversion to its rays) ; and the most beneficial (for there is not a thing in the universe, possessed of animal or vegetable life, which is not nourished and refreshed by it). Invert the order of these words, and you behold how light beams forth in our text ; embodying all the purity of truth, the innocence of righteousness, and the beneficence of active goodness.] But, to understand practical Christianity aright, we must, II. Trace it to its source —
It springs not from nature's stock : the natural man cannot attain unto it. It is " the fruit of the Spirit," even of that very Spirit who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ himself from the dead^. 1. It is the Spirit who alone infuses life into us — [We are by nature " dead in trespasses and sins :" and it is the Spirit who quickens us, that we may live unto our <: 1 Cor. vi. 7, 8. d Eph. vi. 14. e John i. 47. '■ Eph. i. \9, 20. VOL. XVIL C C
386 EPHESIA S, V. 9. [2117. God^. True indeed, having been " baptized into Christ," we are become, by profession, branches of the living vine. But then we are only as dead and withered branches, that can produce no fruit ; and will shortly be broken off, and cast into the fire''. It is the Spirit alone who engrafts us into Christ, as living branches; and causes us to receive from Christ that divine energy, whereby we are enabled to bring forth fruit to his glory. " Christ came that we might have life, and might have it more abundantly ' :" but it is by the operation of his Spirit that we receive it ; and by the mighty working of that Spirit in our souls that we display its energies^.] 2. It is the Spirit who suggests to our minds those motives which alone can stimulate us to exertion — [He " reveals the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts ^" " He glorifies Christ within us ; taking of the things that are his, and shewing them unto us""." " He sheds abroad in our hearts that love of Christ"," which alone can constrain us to devote ourselves unreservedly to him°. Till we receive this
impulse, we are satisfied with formal services, and a partial obedience : but, when we are enabled thus " to comprehend somewhat of the unbounded love of Christ, we can rest in nothing, till we are filled with all the fulness of God p."] 3. It is the Spirit who assists us in all our endeavours — [Whatever we may have attained, we still have no sufficiency in ourselves. We shall indeed put our hands to the work: but we shall accomplish nothing, till the Holy Spirit " strengthens us with might in our inward man^ ;" and, taking hold, as it were, of one end of our burthen, to bear it with us, "helpeth our infirmities," and lends us his own effectual aid"". Hence these graces are properly called *' the fruit of the Spirit ;" since they cannot be produced without him, and are invariably the result of his agency in our souls. It is he who, as our Church well expresses it, " worketh in us, that we may have a good will ; and worketh with us when we have that good wilP."] Yet, as it must be confessed that there is a semblance of this holiness found in those who have not the Holy Spirit, it will be proper to, III. Distinguish it from all counterfeits —
B Eph. ii. 1. ^ John xv. 2, 6. i John x. 10. k Col. i. 29. 1 Gal. i. 15, 16. « John xvi. 14. n Rom. v. 5. ° 2 Cor. v. 14. p Eph. iii. 18, 19. '1 Col. i. 11. "^ Rom. viii. 26. ^ Tenth Article.
2117.1 PRACTICAL CHRISTIA ITY. 387 It must be confessed, that in many natural men there are found virtues very nearly resembling the graces before spoken of. There is in many a very diffusive benevolence, a strict regard to equity, and a high sense of integrity : and you will reasonably ask. How are these to be distinguished from those things which we have described as " the fruit of the Spirit ?" 1 answer : To us, who can only see the outward act, it may frequently be difficult to discern the difference between them ; but to God, who sees the heart, they are as different from each other as light from darkness. For of these counterfeits I must say, 1 . They proceed from man, and from man alone — [Man needs no particular communication of the Spirit to enable him to perform them. The light of reason points out those virtues as commendable ; and the sti-ength of a man's own resolution is sufficient for the performance of tliem. Hence the persons of whom we speak never pray to God for his Spirit, nor feel any desire after supernatural aid. But the graces mentioned in our text are " the fruits of the Spirit ;" and never were, nor ever can be, produced, but by his Almighty agency.] 2. They have respect to man, and to man alone — [The worldling, however virtuous, acts not to God, nor has any distinct desire to fulfil the will of God. He considers, that, as a member of society, he has duties to perform ; and therefore he performs them, as far as he sees occasion for them, in the relation in ivhich he stands. He has no other view of them than what an intelligent heathen might have. But the Christian aims at " all goodness, righteousness, and truth." He views these duties in reference to the eternal, as well as the temporal, interests of men. He views them as the Lord
Jesus Christ did ; and makes the outward discharge of them subservient to higher and nobler ends. As a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, he has to advance his interests in the salvation of men : and he will account it a small matter to exercise kindness to men in a temporal view, if he may not also, according to his ability, promote their spiritual and eternal welfare.] 3. They are done for man, and for man alone — [A worldling seeks only to please man and to establish a good character amongst his fellow-creatures. If he attain this object, he is satisfied. To stand high in his own esteem, and c c2
388 EPHESIA S, V. 9. [2117. ill the esteem of others, is the height of his ambition. But the Christian desires that God, and God only, may be glorified. He seeks not applause from man : he cherishes no fond conceits of his own superior excellence : much less does he go about to establish a righteousness of his own, wherein to stand before God. Instead of admiring himself for his own attainments, he vvill trace them all to their proper source, and give God the glory of them : yea, the more he is enabled to do for God, the more he feels himself indebted to God. He dares not " to sacrifice to his own net, or to burn incense to his own drag;" but accounts himself, after all, an unprofitable servant; and says, " ot unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise." ow, whether we can discern the difference, or not, in others, we may easily detect it in ourselves ; and, consequently, may easily discern " whose we are, and whom we serve." And I cannot but recommend it to all, to be jealous over themselves, lest they mistake the virtues of the JJesh for the graces of the Spirit ; and lest, " having a name to live, they prove
really dead^"] For an improvement of this subject, observe, 1. Hov^f excellent a religion is ours! [They form a very erroneous idea of Christianity, who view it as a system of doctrines merely, irrespective of the effects to be produced by them. I will readily grant, that mysteries, however grand, are of little value, if they operate no sanctifying change within us. But let any person contemplate the change wrought by the Spirit on the heart and life of a believer ; let him see poor selfish creatures transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus, and walking in the world as he walked ; let him go into the world, the family, the closet, and see the dispositions and habits of the true Christian ; will any one obtain even a glance of this, and not admire the religion from whence it flows? I charge you, brethren, rest not in partial views of Christianity : satisfy not yourselves with looking at it as a system of mysterious doctrines, propounded for speculation only. o ; view it in all its practical efficiency ; and then you will acknowledge that it is worthy of all possible honour, respect, and love.] 2. How easily may we ascertain our state before God! [We may surely, without any great difficulty, find what our tempers and dispositions are ; and whether we are in the daily habit of imploring help from God for the improvement * Rev. iii. 1.
of them. There is a great difference in the natural constitutions of men ; so that we cannot absolutely say, that a person, comparatively moral, is therefore a spiritual man. This must be learned rather from the conflicts he maintains, and the victories he achieves, under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
And, at all events, we may be sure, that where there is no delight in doing good to the souls of men ; where, in our conduct towards others, there is any wilful deviation from the line which we should think right to be observed towards us ; and where there is any want of simplicity and godly sincerity in our motives and principles ; whatever we may imagine, we' are not Christians indeed. I pray you to take this touchstone, whereby to try yourselves^; and beg of God also to search and try you, that there may be nothing found at last to disappoint your hopes''.] 3. How delightful is the path assigned us ! [I say not that there are no seasons for humiliation : for no doubt there are, even for the best of men. But, for the daily course of your lives, you need only look to my text. See the Christian in his daily walk : " goodness, righteousness, and truth," are embodied in him ; and, like the combined action of the solar rays, he diff'uses light and happiness around him. This is to " walk in the light, as God is in the light :" this is to honour God : this is to adorn the Gospel : this is to fulfil the ends for which Christ himself came into the world : this is to possess a meetness for the heavenly inheritance. Let those who know not what religion is, condemn it, if they will : but sure I am, that, if viewed aright, " its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace."] " 2 Cor. xiii. 5. ^ Ps. cxxxix. 23, 24.
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