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ON CHRISTIAN TEMPERS.
COLOSSIANS iii. 12, 13.
“ Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and
beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering. Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also
Holiness is happiness. Angels are happier than men because they are holier. We are all anxious to be happy, all desiring to have peace and comfort and satisfaction and enjoyment; though we differ exceedingly in our opinions as to how and where these blessings are to be found. One man is seeking for them in the unrestrained indulgence of his natural lusts and passions; and his greatest idea of enjoyment lies in some intemperate or unchaste revelling. Another man is seeking for them in the idolatrous exercise of his natural affections; and his highest standard of happiness is fixed in some
quiet domestic retirement with the friends whom he most dearly loves. A third man is
. seeking for them in the incessant pursuit of his worldly interests heaping up riches unto himself. A fourth in the deceitful acquirements of human wisdom, priding himself upon his extensive attainments in science and literature. A fifth in the aspiring eagerness of ambition seeking praise and honour and adulation from his fellow men. A sixth in the self-righteous slavery of a false religion, endeavouring to establish a claim upon God by his unprofitable services. A seventh in the licentious abuse of true religion, imagining that he has found in the grace of the gospel a substitute for holiness. The diversities are innumerable; but amongst them all, where is the happy man? Where, in these various pursuits and occupations and anxieties and indulgences, where is the man whose spirit has attained a satisfying peace ?
Does the voluptuary attain it, when having revelled to excess in sensual gratification, exhausted nature sinks and palls upon the abominable surfeit? No; pangs and agony are mingled in his cup. Mark him well, and behold how in bitterness of spirit he vents his blasphemy, cursing the pernicious indulgence, into which nevertheless he madly rushes on the very next opportunity.
Does the man of tender affections, warm
feelings, domestic habits and romantic attachments, attain it? No; the liveliness of his anticipations ruins his enjoyment; for at the best, under the most favourable circumstances, his satisfaction falls vastly short of his expectation. And ah! how frequently is it blasted altogether. Sickness undermines the constitution of the valued friend : the cherished object of his fondest love perhaps becomes the sufferer; it may be the hand of God is stretched forth to take away that object altogether, to snatch the opening flower from its stem, and change the domestic paradise into a waste howling wilderness, where instead of anticipated joy and gladness, the wretched child of Adam finds mourning and lamentation and woe; the acuteness of his feelings and tenderness of his attachment adding scorpion's stings to the bitterness of his anguish. Does the man of wealth attain it, even when he succeeds to the uttermost, adding house to house and field to field, beyond his most sanguine expectations ? No; his enlarged possessions may become the theme of conversation among his acquaintances and the cause of secret pride and exultation to himself: to a superficial observer who envies him, he may appear a happy man, but appearances are deceitful; within are cares and anxieties and alarms, impatient fretfulness and vexation to feel that with all his money he cannot purchase peace; together with a secret intruding recollection that the day is at hand when he must lie down as naked and helpless and pennyless as the poor beggar who moulders in the adjoining grave.
Does the man of letters, or the man of ambition, or the pharisee, or the antinomian attain it? No; my dear brethren, we repeat that holiness and nothing else but holiness is happiness in man.
God willing the happiness of his people, wills their holiness, and has revealed to us in the gospel of his dear Son, the mode in which this holiness is produced. The grand scope and design of the gospel is to make us holy even as God is holy.
“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ : according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” Here we have the original source from whence the gospel flows, and the ultimate object at which it aims; neither is there any truth in the whole compass of revelation which, when rightly understood, is more indissolubly connected with personal holiness, than the eternal election of the people of God in Christ Jesus. St. Peter addresses the strangers and pilgrims to whom he writes, as “ elect unto
obedience.”. St. Paul says to the Romans that God hath “ predestinated his people to be conformed to the image of his Son,” and in the warmth of his exhortation to holiness addressed to the Christians at Colosse, he reminds them of their election of God. “Put on therefore as the elect of God holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering. Forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any, man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
The expression put on, is frequently used by the Apostle in his exhortations to holiness. In a previous verse of this chapter he uses it in reference to that new creation in the heart which is the power of God unto holiness in man “ Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” And in a similar context in his epistle to the Ephesians, he says, ye have not so learned Christ, if so be that ye have heard him, and have been-taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus; that ye put off concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts: and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created