Слике страница


text is taken, speaks of this glorious transformation as the utmost that we know with certainty about our future condition. "Beloved," he saith, now we are the sons of God: And it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when He shall appear (that is, when Christ shall appear, of whose appearance the apostle had spoken just before in the former chapter: We know this, though we know nothing else, that when Christ shall appear), we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." To this declaration the apostle subjoins the solemn admonition which I have chosen for my text: "And every man that hath this hope in him," this hope of being transformed in his body into the likeness of his glorified Lord," purifies himself as He is pure."

For the right understanding of this admonition, it is of importance to remark, that the pronoun "He" is to be expounded not of God, but of Christ. Every one who seriously cherishes this glorious hope “ purifies himself as Christ is pure." It is the purity therefore of the human nature in


Christ Jesus, not the essential purity of the Divine nature, that is proposed to us as an example for our imitation. An inattention to this distinction was the cause of much folly in the speculations and of much impurity in the lives of many of the ancient Mystics. The purity of the Divine nature is one of the incommunicable and inimitable perfections of God: It consists in that distance and separation of the Deity from all inferior natures which is the sole prerogative of Self-existence and Omnipotence. Sufficient in himself to his own happiness and to the purposes of his own will, it is impossible that God can be moved by any desires towards things external, except it be in the delight he takes in the goodness of his creatures; and this ultimately resolves itself into his self-complacency in his own perfections. The Mystics of antiquity, rightly conceiving this purity of the Divine nature, but not attending to the infinite distance between the First Intellect and the intelligent principle in man, absurdly imagined that this essential purity of God himself was what they were required to imitate: Then observing, what plainly is

[ocr errors]

the fact, that all the vices of men proceed from the impetuosity of those appetites which have their origin in the imperfections and infirmities of the animal nature, - but forgetting that the irregularity of these appetites is no necessary effect of the union of the soul to the body, but a consequence of that depravity of both which was occasioned by the first transgression, they: fell into this extravagance, They conceived, that the mind, in itself immaculate and perfect, became contaminated with vicious inclinations, and weakened in its powers, by its connexion with the matter of the body, to which they ascribed all impurity : Hence they conceived, that the mind, to recover its original purity and vigour, must abstract itself from all the concerns of the animal nature, and exercise its powers, apart as it were from the body, upon the objects of pure intellect. This effort of enthusiasm they vainly called an imitation of the Divine purity, by which they fancied they might become united to God. This folly was the most harmless when it led to nothing worse than a life of inoffensive quietism; which however rendered the in

[ocr errors]

dividual useless in society, regardless of the relative duties, and studious only of thatshow of "will-worship and neglecting of the body" which is condemned by St. Paul. But among some of a warmer temperament, the consequences were more pernicious. Finding that total abstraction from sense at which they aimed impracticable, and still affecting in the intelligent part parity with God, they took shelter under this preposterous conceit, They said, that impurity so adhered to matter, that it could not be communicated to mind; that the rational soul was not in any degree sullied or debased by the vicious appetites of the depraved animal nature: And under this, whether serious persuasion or hypocritical pretence, they profanely boasted of an intimate communion of their souls with God, while they openly wallowed in the grossest impurities of the flesh. These errors and these enormities had been prevented, had it been understood, that it is not the purity of the Divine nature in itself, but the purity of the human nature in Christ, which religion proposes to man's imitation.

But again: The purity of the human nature in Christ, which we are required to imitate, is not that purity which the manhood in Christ now enjoys in its present state of exaltation; for even that will not be attainable to fallen man, till "the redemption of the body" shall have taken place: The purity which is our present example is the purity of Christ's life on earth in his state of humiliation; in which "he was tempted in all things like unto us, and yet was without sin." In what that purity consisted, may be best learnt in the detail by diligent study and meditation of Christ's holy life. A general notion of it may easily be drawn from our Lord's enumeration of the things that are the most opposite to it, and are the chief causes of defilement : "These," saith our Lord, "are the things which defile a man, thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."


Of these general defilements; the most difficult to be entirely escaped are the three of evil thoughts, adulteries, and fornications. Few have hardened their hearts to

« ПретходнаНастави »