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wisdom had been our highest wisdom; but seeing Christianity has redeemed us to a contrary state, since all its goods are in opposition to this life, worldly wisdom is now our greatest foolishness.
It is now our only wisdom to understand our new state aright, to let its goods and evils take possession of our hearts, and conduct ourselves by the principles of our redemption.
The nature and terms of our Christian calling is of that concern as to deserve all our thoughts, and is indeed only to be perceived by great seriousness and attention of mind.
The Christian state is an invisible life in the Spirit of God, supported not by sensible goods, but the spiritual graces of faith and hope; so that the natural man, especially while busied in earthly cares and enjoyments, easily forgets that great and heavenly condition in which religion places him.
The changes which Christianity maketh in present state of things, are all invisible, its goods. and evils, its dignities and advantages, which are the only true standards of all our actions, are not subject to the knowledge of our senses.
In God we live, and move, and have our being, but how unseen, how unfelt is all this!
Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the true light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and end of all things. The whole creation subsists in him and by him; nothing is in any order, nor any person in any favour with God, but by this great Mediator. But how invisible, how unknown to all our senses, is this state of things!
The apostle tells us, that we Christians are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly of
the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Heb. xii. 22. Mediator of the new covenant, &c.
But our senses see or feel nothing of this state of glory, they only show us a society amongst vain and worldly men, labouring and contending for the poor enjoyments of a vain world.
We are temples of the Holy Ghost, consecrated to God, members of Christ's mystical body, of his flesh and of his bones, receiving life, spirit, and motion from him our head.
But our senses see no farther than our parents and kindred according to the flesh, and fix our hearts to earthly friendships and relations.
Religion turns our whole life into a sacrifice to God, a state of probation, from whence we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done 2 Cor. v.9. in his body, &c.
But our senses, the maxims of this life, and the spirit of the world, teach quite another turn of mind; to enjoy the good things of life as our portion, to seek after riches and honours, and to dread nothing so much as poverty, disgrace, and persecution. Well may this life be deemed a state of darkness, since it thus clouds and covers all the true appearances of things, and keeps our minds insensible, and unaffected with matters of such infinite moment.
We must observe, that in scripture, Christianity is constantly represented to us, as a redemption from the slavery and corruption of our nature, and a raising us to a nearer enjoyment of the divine glory,
It knows of no misery, but the death and misery which sin has made, nor of any happiness but the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, which forms us to a greater likeness of God.
Thus saith the apostle, Jesus Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem Tit. ii. 13 us from all iniquity.
He was manifested to take away our 1 John iii. 5. sins.
Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this evil world.
The same scriptures teach us, that as we are redeemed from this state of sin, so we are raised to a new life in Christ, to a participation of the divine nature, and a fellowship with him in glory.
Thus our blessed Saviour prayeth for all his followers, That they may all be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, John xvii. 21. that they may be made perfect in one.
Happy he that hath ears to hear, and a heart to feel the majesty and glory of this description of our. new life in Christ!
For surely could we understand what our Saviour: conceived, when he sent up this prayer to God, our hearts would be always praying, and our souls ever aspiring after this state of perfection, this union. with Christ in God.
To proceed, In my Father's housė, saith Christ, are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there ye John xiv. 23.
may be also.
The apostle tells us, that as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall 1 Cor. XV. also bear the image of the heavenly.
And that when Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear Col. iii. 4. with him in glory.
Beloved, saith St. John, now we are the sons oj God, and it doth not yet appear, what we shall be : but we know, that when he 1 John iii.
shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
I cannot leave this passage, without adding the apostle's conclusion to it. And every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
Which teacheth us this lesson, that no man, whatever he may think of his Christian improvement, can be said to have this hope in him, unless he shows it by such a purification of himself, as may resemble the purity of Christ.---But to return.
St. Paul thus breaks forth into the praises of God, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us Ephes. i. 3. with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. And again, God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ : and hath raised ús up together, and made us sit together in Ephes. ii. 4. heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
These passages teach us, that Christianity introduceth us into a new state, made up of invisible goods and spiritual blessings, that it so alters our condition as to give us a new rank and degree even in this life; which the apostle expresses, by making us sit together in heavenly places.
So that though we are still in the flesh, yet, as the apostle saith, need we know no man after the flesh; though we are still inhabitants of this vale of misery, yet are we ranked and placed in a certain order amongst heavenly beings in Christ Jesus.
Would we, therefore, know our true rank and condition, and what place we belong to, in the order of beings, we must search after a life that is hid with Christ in God. We must consider ourselves as parts of Christ's mystical body, and as members of a kingdom of heaven. In vain do we consider the beauty and strength of our bodies, our alliances with men, the privileges of birth, and the distinctions of this world, for these things no more constitute the state of human life, than rich coffins, or beautiful monuments, constitute the state of the dead.
We justly pity the last poor efforts of human greatness, when we see a breathless carcass lying in state. It appears to us to be so far from any real honour, that it rather looks like ridiculing the misery of our nature. But were religion to form our judgments, the life of a proud, voluptuous, and sensual man, though shining in all the splendor of the world, would give us no higher an idea of human dignity than that of a poor corpse laid in state.
For a sinner, when glorying in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, shows us a more shocking sight of misery ridiculed than any pageantry that can expose the dead.
We have an apostle's authority to say, that he who liveth in pleasure is dead while he liveth.
This shows us, that when we enquire what our life is, or wherein it consists, we must think of something higher than the vigour of our blood, the gaiety of our spirits, or the enjoyment of sensible pleasures; since these, though the allowed signs of living men, are often undeniable proofs of dead Christians.
When therefore we would truly know what our life, our state, our dignity, our good, or our evil is, we must look at nothing that is temporal, worldly, or sensible. We may as well dig in the earth for wisdom, as look at flesh and blood to see what we are, or at worldly enjoyments to find what we want, or at temporal evils to see what we have to fear.
Our blessed Saviour put an absolute end to all enquiries of this kind, when he said, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, Luke xii. 4. and after that have no more that they
Here our bodies, and all bodily enjoyments, are, at one dash, struck out of the account of happiness,