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A True Christian Is Known Primarily By Love, And By A Daily Amendment Of Life.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.—Ps. 92:12-15.
Not a Christian name, but a Christian life, evidences a true Christian: let this therefore be the care of the Christian, that in him Christ may be seen: and visibly appear unto others, in love, humility, and kindness! for he in whom Christ does not live, cannot be a Christian. And this holy life, having its roots within, in the spirit and heart of a man, must of necessity proceed from this inward principle—just as the fruit proceeds from the inherent virtue of the tree. For it is necessary that our life should be influenced by the Spirit of Christ, and fashioned after his example; according to that saying of the apostle: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Rom. 8:14. “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9): for all life proceeds from spirit; and as is the spirit which inwardly acts, moves, and governs in a man, so will the man outwardly appear. Whence it is evident, how necessary the Spirit of God is to a truly Christian life; and, therefore, Christ has not only commanded us to pray for the Spirit, but has also promised unto us this gift. Luke 11:13. This Spirit is the Spirit of regeneration (Tit. 3:5), by which we are quickened in Christ, into a new, spiritual, and heavenly life, and from the life and never-dying power of this Spirit of God, every Christian virtue must be derived. It is then that “the righteous man flourisheth as the palm tree, and groweth like a cedar in Lebanon.” Ps. 92:12.
2. Hence it follows, that a man must be first internally renewed in the spirit of his mind after the image of God; and that his inward desires and affections must first be conformed to Christ (which the Apostle terms “the new man created after the image of God”) (Eph. 4:24), before a suitable life can proceed from the heart. But as soon as the heart is inwardly renewed, the outward life proceeding from it is but a constant expression of that vital principle which prevails within the mind. Yea, since “God trieth the heart and the reins” (Ps. 7:9), it is 73 reasonable that a man should possess, in the more secret recesses of his heart, even much more than outwardly appears in his life.
3. Though, in our inward part, we attain not unto the purity of angels, it is but just that we should fervently sigh after it. And, indeed, God approves the desires of our spirit when it thirsts after a further purification: “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Rom. 8:26. Yea, the blood of Christ purifies us by faith (Acts 15:9), so that we are “without spot or wrinkle” (Eph. 5:27); and in this respect we possess, not the purity, holiness, and righteousness of any angel, but that of Christ; yea, and Christ himself. 1 Cor. 1:30.
4. This undeserved righteousness, freely applied to us, must renew our body, soul, and spirit, and produce a true holiness of life and manners. And this life, though it is at first like a tender palm tree, must daily become more and more vigorous in us, and gather strength in Christ Jesus. And our growth in Christ will be in proportion as we advance in faith, in virtue, and the practice of a Christian life and holiness. This is to “flourish like a palm tree.”
5. As the palm tree, when depressed, mounts the higher, so ought a Christian to be renewed continually in his spiritual desires and exercises. Eph. 4:23; Col. 3:10. He is to strengthen himself every day with fresh purposes to walk suitably to his new name, and with unwearied endeavors to avoid the danger of being a false Christian. He is to proceed with vigor and earnestness, as if he had but this day been initiated into the principles of true religion. For as one that enters upon a new office should have nothing more at heart than worthily to acquit himself in his post; so also should we act, who are called unto Christ, “with a holy calling.” 2 Tim. 1:9. If this holy purpose be not firmly rooted within, no amendment of life will ensue, no vigor in piety, no increase in Christ; yea, the very quickening Spirit of Christ must be wanting. For such a resolution and holy firmness of doing good is the work of the Spirit of God, and of that preventing or anticipating grace which allures, invites, and moves all men. Happy is the man, who with his ears and heart proves obedient to it, and hearkens to that heavenly wisdom which “utters her voice in the streets.” Prov. 1:20. In a word, whatever a man views with his eyes, is a manifestation of the Creator, by which he calls upon man, and endeavors to draw him to the love of himself.
6. Whenever, therefore, we feel this heavenly call or impulse upon our minds, we should immediately set our hand to work, and take care that a moment so invaluable do not slip away in a light and careless manner. This is an hour free from such obstacles as at other times closely beset us. If this be slothfully neglected, other days and times may possibly succeed, in which we cannot think, hear, speak, or do any good. This being foreseen by eternal Wisdom, she everywhere lifts up her voice, and calls upon us, lest we should neglect the opportunity which is so freely offered.
7. As a tree planted in the open air readily admits the light of the sun, and the benign influences of heaven; so the grace of God, with other celestial influences, shines upon thee, O man, and would revive and nourish thee by its presence, if the affairs of this world 74 did not hinder thee from receiving the benefit.
8. Call to mind the shortness of the time appointed for life! Seriously consider how many opportunities of doing good, and of reducing the Christian virtues into practice, thou hast already neglected. One half of thy life has possibly been consumed in sleeping, and the other in eating and drinking, and in other natural actions; so that when thou now comest to the grave, thou hast but just begun to enter upon a better life.
9. If thou art afraid to die in wickedness, O lead a holy life whilst thou art in good health! If thou desirest to leave the world as a Christian, endeavor to be a good Christian whilst thou art in it. Now, he only lives as a Christian, who demeans himself as if he were every day to die; well knowing that a good servant will at all times be ready at the call of his master. And God, by death, as by his messenger, summons us all before his tribunal.
10. “Blessed,” therefore, “is that servant, whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching. Of a truth, I say unto thee, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.” Luke 12:37, 44. And who is it that watches, but he who does not suffer himself to be carried away by the world, or its unhappy votaries? Let us, therefore, flee from both; knowing that the manners of this corrupt age are like baneful excrescences, which consume the vital sap of a tree, and, in a short time, cause it to wither.
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