The New Zealand Evangelist
Catholic Principles — Holiness.
(Concluded from page 63)
Religion engages all the powers of its true follower. It not only informs his understanding, influences his will, and purifies his affections, but it also, and in every instance, corrects the outward actions, renders its possessor upright and godly in all his walk and conversation. In his case “old things have passed away, behold all things are become new.” If he is wanting in this important particular, his Christian character is incomplete, and his final salvation is by no means secure. We give this plain and decisive judgment, not on the ipse dixit of any one, but on the truth of God. “What is written in the law? how readest thou,“—as to the necessity of these things to the Christian character? The Epistle to the Romans declares and proves, beyond all doubt and controversy, the fulness and freeness of Gospel salvation to both Jew and Gentile, but on these “mercies of God” is grounded that affectionate and powerful exhortation page 74 to holiness,” that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” a The Corinthians are reminded of the astonishing elevation of the Christian character,in that their” body is the temple of the Holy Ghost,“—that they “are bought with a price,” beyond all computation “therefore,” reasons the Apostle,” glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's.” b The origin of “salvation to all men” in “the grace of God,” is brought to the remembrance of Titus, but the great practical lesson of Christianity is inseparably joined with it, “that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Further on the Apostles “will” is that Titus, “affirm constantly,” that we are “saved,” “not by works of righteousness—but according to His mercy” etc; but the end of this constant affirmation is “that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.” c What an inestimable privilege of Christians,—what a high and honourable position is that to which they are raised, as described by the same Apostle to the Hebrews! they have in possession” a kingdom which cannot be moved!” But as is the dignity so is the responsibility to “hold fast grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear,” d
Regarding the importance and necessity of holiness in order to final salvation, Scripture statements are equally plain and forcible. It is the man “that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness,” etc., “who shall sojourn in the Lord's tabernaole,“—and “dwell in his” holy hill:” e in other words who shall be recognized as a member of the spiritual Church on earth. and the glorified Church in heaven.” He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever,” and alone” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” f “They that do his commandments may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.“g
The importance of holiness is then evident. Let page 75 us supplicate the help and guidance of “the Father of lights in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” while we turn our attention to this Catholic principle of religion.
There are several parts of holy writ which describe’ the Christian virtues that are to be practised. As the sublime passage in Micah, chap, 6, v, 6—8, where one is introduced asking the momentous question, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord,” etc, the inspired prophet replies, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good,” the thing is already revealed in the law—.” do justly;” “love mercy,“—“walk humbly with thy God.” So also in St. Paul's instructions to Titus, already quoted, there is mentioned our duty to ourself, to our neighbour, to our God. But perhaps the fullest and clearest statement of Christian duty is to be found in St. Peter's second Epistle, chap. 1st from the 5th verse; to which we beg to refer the reader. The persons addressed “have obtained like precious faith with” the Apostles, “through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” But diligence in the cultivation of Christian graces is incumbent on them. The duties specified are to be added to their faith, without which it would be naked and useless. Bloomfield, speaking of the text under consideration says,“The scope seems to have been, to illustrate what they are to do in return for God's mercy in calling them to salvation, and cooperation with his grace to enable them both to will and to do. They are faithfully to discharge all their duties both of faith and practice; and the latter are digested in regular order, and with a beautiful gradation, wherein the principal Christian virtues are represented by a beautiful chain, of which the various parts are linked together: Faith being as it were the main and primary principle from which the various links are suspended; and CHARITY as being that completive link in which all the others terminate.”
It may, perhaps, be worth while briefly to consider the several links in this beautiful chain of Christian page 76 principles. The Apostle says “add to your faith virtue” piety, uprightness, moral excellence; so the word is usually understood in the New Testament as in Phil. 4. 8, where the Apostle enumerates “things” that “are true, honest,” or venerable, &c., and says of them, “if there be any virtue“moral excellence, real worth, “think on these things.” When exhorted to add virtue to faith, then, we are to attend to our piety; to be consistent with our profession, to be truthful and sincere, for without this faith is dead.
“And to virtue knowledge” or true wisdom. Virtue, without this, will be mere enthusiasm. Knowledge is necessary in order to a right state of heart. Rashness is the result of inexperience. Some very good, and well meaning Christians decry knowledge as unnecessary to the Christian character; but they differ in judgment with an Apostle, whose pen was guided by inspiration. His exhortation that we add knowledge to piety commends itself to our careful attention. Let the reader cultivate this heavenly wisdom and understanding by reading, meditation, and player; or assuredly his religion will degenerate into fanaticism.
“And to knowledge temperance”; Christian sobriety in all our earthly enjoyments. Everything like drunkenness and gluttony is here discountenanced. These are the lowest kinds of intemperance; and the wonder is that thinking, reasonable men can sink so low as to be guilty of them. Nothing sinks a man so much below the level of his species, as this kind of intemperance, and nothing will more surely prevent his entrance “into the kingdom of God.” h But the term refers to the intellect and feelings, as well as to the more grovelling propensities. Christian temperance is a freedom from bigotry and opinionativeness. Some persons of a peculiar temperament require to be informed that obstinacy is not firmness, “the servant of the Lord must not strive.” Every feeling, every sense is to be subject to restraint page 77 As piety without knowledge leads to fanaticism, so “knowledge” without temperance “puffeth up,” and leads to heresy and bigotry.
“And to temperance patience”; constancy, long-suffering, bearing with “the contradictions of sinners,” and it may be of saints too. The Christian path is beset with difficulties and oppositions. The martyr-fires, it is true, are burnt out; “bonds and imprisonments” are not now with us the penalty for serving God according to our conscience. But the spirit of persecution exists, and if it has an opportunity it will not fail to exhibit itself. Unless, therefore, we “let patience have her perfect work,” we shall probably feel “envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness” towards our oppressors and persecutors, and where will be our Christianity in that case?
The four particulars just mentioned appear to refer to our personal virtues, the duties we owe Ourselves. The next link in the chain refers to the Divine claims upon us, the duty we owe to our God—“and to patience godliness,” a continual sense of the presence of “The Almighty God” which will induce us to “walk before” Him “and be perfect.” Fear God, and thus depart from evil; confide in God, and thus be elevated above the petty cares and troubles of this present life; love God, and thus fulfil the great end of your being. i
There are also social virtues, duties we owe to our brethren and the world, hence the Apostle proceeds “and to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity.” There are no social duties which are not here included. All our conduct towards our families, to the Church of Christ, to our neighbours, to our rulers, to our dependents, to our country, to the world are intended. Brotherly kindness is not limited by the section of the Catholic Church to which we are united. It looks over all our petty boundaries and distinctions, and embraces with pure affection” all who love the Lord Jesus in page 78 sincerity.” No more appropriate link could be found to complete this beautiful chain of Christian virtues, than that which is the greatest and most beautiful of all Charity, or love, which is “the bond of perfectness,” the crowning grace, the key stone to this heavenly arch, without which all is insecure.” Though I have all faith,” says the Apostle, all benevolence,” all knowledge,” even to “speak with the tongues of men and of angels,” &c, all these “profit nothing,” if I “have not charity.” k This grace will survive the world's destruction, and live and sing in heaven, Faith shall be lost in sight, Hope in enjoyment, but Love shall remain for ever, the main-spring of the happiness of saints.
It is clear from St. Peter's language that these Christian virtues are to be carried out in action, They are the rule for our daily conduct. It is not a beautiful picture that he exhibits for our admiration, so much as a round of duty to be studied and practised; and when this is done, then, and not before, is our Christianity complete.
Believers can, and Must bring forth these fruits of the Spirit. As we have before seen, the Apostle addressed those “who have obtained like precious faith,” and says “add to your faith etc.” They who by faith are grafted into the “true vine,” must “bring forth fruit.” A sure characteristic of those “who are in Christ Jesus,” is that they “walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit, etc.“l None but the believer can do these things. All else are the slaves of sin; and every effort of theirs to do good works, must end in disappointment. They are only made to feel more keenly their bondage. As soon can “the Ethiopian change his skin,” and “the leopard his spots,” as those can “do good that are accustomed to do evil,” m The seventh of Romans describes vividly the failure and disappointments of persons anxious to “perform that which is good,” but unable. The reason for this inability is want of faith.
“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” So that a man page 79 without faith, trying to bring forth good fruit, is distressingly convinced that his “every effort” is “fruit-less.” But let him not give way to despair. Anxious enquirer, penitent mourner, call earnestly upon thy God, believe in the name of his Son! There is consolation for thee in the thought:—
What though I cannot break my chain,
Or e'er throw off my load?
The things impossible to men
Are possible to God.
The Christian believer, however, is enabled by God's grace to live a holy life; and he must do so, or make “shipwreck” of “faith,” and “become a castaway.” Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” “Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, (Christ) nor known him.” This is the great distinguishing feature between Christ's people and the world. “He that doeth righteousness is righteous.” “He that committeth sin is of the devil. Scripture testimony to these things, equally plain and pointed, might be indefinitely produced. We would especially commend to the reader's attention St. John's first Epistle, chap 3rd, and the entire Epistle of St. James.
If then we are to frame our creed, and square our life by “the Bible, the Bible alone,” the wretched dogma of Antinomianism can have no place in either; but we shall accept of Christ as “our Great High Priest,” trust in Him Alone for Salvation, and yet follow him implicitly as our King and Lawgiver, cheerfully obeying all his commandments. He came “not to destroy the law, but to fulfil.” So far from destroying the law through preaching justification by faith only, we establish its authority and enforce its claims.
Personal holiness has no merit in the matter of our salvation. We are “justified freely by His grace,” —“To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for, page 80 righteousness.” The whole of our salvation originates in the Divine mercy, is provided for in the death of Jesus Christ, and is effected by the operation of the Holy Ghost. This we would proclaim to the ends of the earth, with “trumpet voice.” But although good works are not the cause of justification, they are a certain consequence. Wherever they are not exhibited in the life and conversation, justification is not, whatever may be the man's professions.
Holiness is the evidence of discipleship, the test of sincerity. How are we to know Christians but by their actions? Grapes do not come from thorns, but they certainly may be expected from vines. Thistles are naturally incapable of producing figs, but the fig tree is only a cumberer of the ground, that produces nothing but leaves. So in the Gospel, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Here is a professed follower of Jesus Christ, but he is worldly-minded, covetous, or a “lover of pleasure more than God.” Is he what he professes?—By no means. And he miserably deceives himself if he think he is a Christian, Let him remember the solemn warning, Gal. 6. 7, 8.”
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, &c.”
According to our measure of holiness, will be the measure of our reward. The principle of the final judgment will be “according to their works.” The reward is of grace, but it is proportionate to our holiness. “One star differeth from another star in glory.” The holy and beloved John, who to extreme old age bore rich fruits of grace, and the penitent thief, who in his last moments was made a monument of saving mercy, are both in heaven; but it would be contrary to the analogy of faith to assign so high a position to the one as the other. Scripture recognizes two modes of admission into the kingdom of God; one, 1 Cor. 3. 15, where the man is saved “yet so as by fire,” a bare escape from ruin:—Another is the page 81 text we have been endeavouring to amplify, where “an entrance shall be ministered, abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom,” &c. A triumph granted to the happy saint; multitudes of the heavenly host attending to do him honour, and shout his welcome. May such triumphant joy be ours, reader! But in order to this we must “follow
Holiness, Without Which No Man Shall See The Lord.”
a Rom, 12.1.
b 1 Cor. 6. 19, 20.
c Tit, 2.11, 12; 3, 5—8.
d Heb. 12, 28.
e Psalm 15.
f l John, 2, 17, Matt 7, 21,
g Rev. 22, 14.
h 1 Cor. 6, 10.
i Prov. 3, 7, Psalm 125, 1, 2, Matt. 22, 36—38,
k 1 Cor. 13,
l John 15, 1—5, Rom, 8, 1.
m Jer. 13, 23, Job 9, 30, 31.
c Tit, 2.11, 12; 3, 5—8.
d Heb. 12, 28.
i Prov. 3, 7, Psalm 125, 1, 2, Matt. 22, 36—38,
l John 15, 1—5, Rom, 8, 1.
m Jer. 13, 23, Job 9, 30, 31.