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1 John III. 2, 3.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God: and it doth not

yet appear what we shall be ; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

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When the text tells us, “ that every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself,” it must be understood as intending to describe the natural, proper, and genuine effects of this hope, rather, perhaps, than the actual effects, or at least as effects, which, in point of experience, universally follow from it. As hath already been observed, the whole text relates to sincere Christians, and to these alone : the word we, in the preceding part of it, comprises sincere Christians, and no others. Therefore the words every man must be limited to the same sort of men, of whom he was speaking before. It is not probable, that in the same sentence he would change the persons and characters concerning whom he discoursed. So that if it had been objected to Saint John, that, in point of fact, every man did not purify himself who had this hope in him, he would have replied, I believe, that these were not


the kind of persons he had in his view; that, throughout the whole of the text, he had in contemplation the religious condition and character of sincere Christians, and no other. When, in the former part of the text, he talked of we being the sons of God, of we being like Christ, he undoubtedly meant sincere Christians alone : and it would be strange if he meant any other in this latter part of the text, which is in fact a continuation of the same discourse, of the same subject, nay, a portion of the same sentence.

I have said thus much in order to obviate the contrariety which there seems to be between Saint John's assertion and experience. Experience, I acknowledge, proves the inefficacy, in numerous cases, of religious hope and religious motives : and it must be so ; for if religious motives operated certainly and necessarily, if they produced their effect by an infallible power over the mind, we should only be machines necessarily actuated ; and that certainly is not the thing which a moral agent, a religious agent, was intended to be. It was intended that we should have the power of doing right, and, consequently, of doing wrong : for he who cannot do wrong, cannot do right by choice ; he is a mere tool and instrument, or rather a machine, whichever he does. Therefore all moral motives, and all religious motives, unless they went to deprive man of his liberty entirely, which they most certainly were not meant to do, must depend for their influence and success upon the man himself.

The success, therefore, is various; but when it fails, it is owing to some vice and 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 in. finitely 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 ex. pectation, 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 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 control of our actions. It 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 control his outward actions, but lets his thoughts and passions indulge themselves without check traint, does not attend

presence and 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 St. 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 once, but repeatedly, inculcated, that if we hope to resemble Christ in his glorified state, we must resemble him in his human state. And it is a part, and a most significant part, of this doctrine, that the resemblance must consist in purity from sin, especially from those sins which cleave and attach to the heart.

It is by Saint Paul usually put thus : “ If we be dead with

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