Page images

corruption in the mind itself. Some men are very little affected by religious exhortation of any kind, either by hearing or reading. That is a vice and corruption in the mind itself. Some men, though affected, are not affected sufficiently to influence their lives. That is a vice and corruption in the mind, or rather in the heart and so it will always be found. But I do not so much wonder at persons being unaffected by what others tell them, be those others who they may, preachers, or teachers, or friends, or parents, as I wonder at seeing men not affected by their own thoughts, their own meditations; yet it is so; and when it is so, it argues a deep corruption of mind indeed. We can think upon the most serious, the most solemn subjects, without any sort of consequence upon our lives. Shall we call this seared insensibility? shall we call it a fatal inefficiency of the rational principle within us? shall we confess, that the mind has lost its government over the man?

These are observations upon the state of morals and religion, as we see them in

the world: but whatever these observations be, it is still true, and this is Saint John's assertion, that the proper, natural, and genuine effect of religious hope is to cause us to strive" to purify ourselves, even as he is pure." Saint John strongly fixes our attention, I mean, as he means, such of us as are sincere Christians, upon what we are to be hereafter. This, as to particulars, is veiled from us, as we have observed, by our present nature; but as to generals, as to what is of real importance and concern for us to know (I do not mean but that it might be highly gratifying and satisfactory to know more, but as to what is of the first importance and concern for us to know) we have a glorious assurance; we have an assurance that we shall undergo a change in our nature infinitely for the better; that when he shall appear glorified as he is, we shall be like him. Then the point is, what we are to do, how we are to act, under this expectation, having this hope, with this prospect, placed before our eyes. Saint John tells us, "we are to purify ourselves, even as he is pure."

Now what is the scriptural meaning of purifying ourselves can be made out thus. The contrary of purity is defilement, that is evident; but our Saviour himself hath told us what the things which defile a man are; and this is the enumeration: evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; and the reason given why these are the real proper defilements of our nature is, that they proceed from within, out of the heart: these evil things come from within, and defile the man. The seat, therefore, of moral defilement, according to our Saviour, is the heart; by which we know, that he always meant the affections and the disposition. The seat, therefore, of moral purity must necessarily be the same; for purity is the reverse of defilement: consequently, to purify ourselves, is to cleanse our hearts from the presence and pollution of sin; of those sins, particularly, which reside in, and continue in, the heart. This is the purgation intended in

our text. This is the task of purgation enjoined upon us.


It is to be noticed, that it goes beyond the mere controul of our actions. adds a further duty, the purifying of our thoughts and affections. Nothing can be more certain, than that it was the design of our Saviour, in the passage here referred to, to direct the attention of his disciples to the heart, to that which is within a man, in contradistinction to that which is external. Now he who only strives to controul his outward actions, but lets his thoughts and passions indulge themselves without check or restraint, does not attend to that which is within him, in contradistinction to that which is external. Secondly, the instances which our Saviour has given, though, like all instances in Scripture, and to say the truth, in all ancient writings, they be specimens and illustrations of his meaning, as to the kind and nature of the duties or the vices which he had in view, rather than complete catalogues, including all such duties or vices by name, so that no other but what are

thus named and specified were intended; though this qualified way of understanding the enumerations be right, yet even this enumeration itself shows, that our Saviour's lesson went beyond the mere external action. Not only are adulteries and fornications mentioned, but evil thoughts and lasciviousness; not only murders, but an evil eye; not only thefts, but covetousness or covetings. Thus by laying the axe to the root; not by lopping off the branches, but by laying the axe to the root, our Saviour fixed the only rule which can ever produce good morals.

Merely controlling the actions, without governing the thoughts and affections, will not do. In point of fact it is never successful. It is certainly not a compliance with our Saviour's command, nor is it what Saint John meant in the text by purifying ourselves.


Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he," namely, Christ himself," is pure." It is a doctrine and lesson of the New Testament, not

« PreviousContinue »