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look on to the eternal world, and be content to have reasonable, but sad and serious, hope of obtaining full consolation there.
Of this one thing we may all be well assured; that if with St. Peter we would have the benefit of our LORD's graciously looking towards us, we must with the same St. Peter not rashly intrude into the place of great saints, but be content to wait at the door, and muse, and weep, and deny ourselves, as long as it shall please Gou to continue us in this world of doubt and trial.
CHRIST, A REDEEMER FROM SIN.
ST. LUKE i. 74, 75.
"That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve HIM without fear, in holiness and righteousness before HIM, all the days of our life."
I WISH all those who go regularly to Church could only be persuaded to lay to heart and remember the Church Services which fall on their ears so often. It seems but a little thing, but if it were really practised, I know not how much difference it would make in the condition of those who would practise it towards GOD: how much more true religion and godliness there would be around us than there now is.
To take a plain instance, which every one who hears can understand, do we not in this Church continually in the Morning Service make the following confession to our SAVIOUR : We believe that THOU shalt come to be our Judge?" Are not those words quite plain? Is any thing easier than to learn and understand them, even though you cannot read a letter? Nay, is it possible to help learning and understanding them, if people will but go constantly, and constantly attend to what the minister is saying? And yet if you would but lay to heart and remember those few easy words, it would make all the difference to you ; you could not lead your life in wilful unbelief and irreligion; you could not go on fancying that your time, your money, or any thing else, was your own to do whatever you please with : in a word, you would think, speak, and behave, as if the JUDGE
was in sight on His Throne: and would not this make a great change for the better in your thoughts, speech, and behaviour?
I have mentioned an instance which I think must strike every one, because the words are so plain, and so awful, and so very often used. I will now mention another, not so plain, because not so often used but any one who will please to attend will see, I think, clearly, that these words also contain in them what, if duly attended to, would correct a thousand mistaken notions, and turn thousands of unstable souls into sound believers and hopeful servants of GOD.
The words I mean are those of the text, "That we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve HIM without fear, in holiness and righteousness before HIM, all the days of our life." They are taken out of the thanksgiving hymn of Zacharias, the father of St. John the Baptist; which hymn, as you know, begins" Blessed be the LORD GOD of Israel," and is appointed by the Church to be used every morning, after the Second Lesson, by turns with the hundredth Psalm: the most joyful, perhaps, of the Psalms of David taking its turn with this, one of the first of the Christian hymns.
This hymn we use more especially, as you may have observed, during that half-year which commemorates one after another the things which our Blessed LORD Vouchsafed to do and suffer here on earth. It seems most natural then to use it, being as it is a hymn taught by the HOLY GHOST Himself, wherewith to honour the coming of our LORD and SAVIOUR in the flesh. And I would wish it very often used, and very particularly attended to, were it only for the sake of this one verse, in which the holy father of St. John the Baptist describes the great purpose of our LORD's coming namely, That we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve HIM without fear, in holiness and righteousness before HIM, all the days of our life."
These, I say, are words apt to do away with an infinite number of errors: for these words teach us that our deliverance by CHRIST is a deliverance not only from the punishment, but also from the power of sin. The case is not, as too many seem to imagine, and not a few, in some way or other, teach, that men ought indeed to be really good and holy, but that their being so is out of the question, the temptations of the world being so
many, and the nature of man so weak and corrupt as it is: this is not so now, whatever it might have been to those of old who were without CHRIST: but now we baptized Christians are delivered once for all out of the hands of our enemies, and may serve HIM if we will "without fear, in holiness, and righteousness before HIM, all the days of our life." We are no longer to plead the corruption we inherit from Adam as an excuse for wilful imperfection; we may lead holy, just, and pure lives, if we will.
This same truth, that CHRIST's redemption sets us free not only from the punishment, but also from the power of sin, is clearly taught by our Blessed LORD in what He said so earnestly about taking up the cross. Over and over again HE presses it, as absolutely necessary to salvation through HIM. "If any man will come after MF, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow ME." Observe, it is not only the most perfect ones, such as those who were required to sell all that they had and give to the poor, but it is, "whosoever will come after ME." As also in another place, "whosoever taketh not up his cross, and followeth after ME, is not worthy of ME." Your own
cross must be actually taken up and borne after our SAVIOUR. Without sincerely doing so, and that daily, you do but vainly trust in His Cross. The deliverance wrought by HIM there was not meant for a sort of persons who should simply put their trust in HIM, but in other things continue just as they were. It was rather meant for those, and those only, who by His grace should strive to become, as St. Paul speaks, conformed to the likeness of His sufferings. The Cross saves us, but not without transforming us into the likeness of HIM who died there. This is the Scripture doctrine of the Cross; that we are saved not by pure reliance on the merits of our LORD, but by a real and spiritual union with HIM, causing us to die to the world, and to live to HIM.
The same thing again is taught in the many places of the New Testament which speak so much of sanctification, and join it so closely with pardon and redemption. Thus St. Paul, speaking to the Corinthians of the true wisdom, which, as Christians, GoD had given them, instead of the heathen wisdom on which they were used to pride themselves :" CHRIST JESUS," says he, "is made
unto you of GOD wisdom," that is, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." CHRIST is our redemption, then, not by God's pardoning us through HIM, we continuing as we were; but by the HOLY SPIRIT'S actually joining us to HIM, to make HIM, inwardly, righteousness and holiness to us. HE, dwelling in our hearts by faith, converts us by degrees into His own image, makes us righteous and holy like Himself: according as it is written, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." Therefore St. Paul speaks of the condition of Christians as one not of mere hope but of actual present salvation : GOD," he says, "hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling." And the Catechism distinctly teaches every child to consider himself as being called by Baptism into not only a hope but a state of salvation.
Nor ought this to be considered impossible, nor ought any one to doubt the truth of the doctrine, on account of the many sins by which he may feel his own obedience every moment blotted and marred, or on account of the imperfections which he sees, or thinks he sees, in the very best of his brethren and their holiest works. What are we, any or all of us, that our doings, our experiences, should be a measure or standard whereby to try the saints of GOD and their doings and failings in all times and in all countries? Above all, what is the experience, I should say the fancied experience, of the whole world, set against the plain, unquestionable word of GOD?
The world, indeed, says positively, Every man has his fault; and it is in vain to think of keeping your baptismal robe unstained, your first innocency which God gave you at the Font, clear of wilful and deadly sin: you may talk indeed of doing your best, but you can but sin and repent as others: and indeed to pretend to any thing more is a kind of affront to the merits of our LORD and SAVIOUR; it is pretending to be justified by works." Thus the world speaks; but what says the Scripture?
Look to him, whose words we are considering, the good Zacharias, father of St. John the Baptist. It is written of him, and of his wife Elisabeth, that even before the coming of our LORD, they were both righteous before God, and walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the LORD blameless. And observe by the way, how in this first of the New Testament Saints, GoD shows us the effect of righteousness in making men long to be