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Grafted by faith, my joyful heart
Shall be for ever thine;
Will prove the work divine.
Make all these blessings mine;
XXXVI. ON THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER.
The beatitudes with which our Lord begins his sermon on the Mount, most strikingly shew what is the inward state and outward conduct of true believers; as well as the general reception which such characters meet with from the world. Their inward state is described by poverty
of spirit, mourning for sin, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and purity of heart.
Their outward conduct, by meekness—mercifulness—and peaceableness.
Their general reception from an unbelieving world, is declared to be persecution, reviling, and slander.
The promises made to the various branches of the Christian character are most encouraging. The
poor in spirit, who are humbled on account of sin, who are emptied of all self-righteousness, and who feel their constant need of Jesus; are made the happy partakers of every Gospel blessing. Receiving Christ into their hearts by faith, they daily grow in grace, and in a meetness for the heavenly inheritance.
The Saviour comforts these mourners in Zion, binds up their broken hearts, and gives them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. While hungering and thirsting after righteousness, the good Shepherd leads them into green pastures, and nourishes their souls unto eternal life. They receive the desire of their hearts, even the presence and image of God in their souls.
Being justified by faith, they are accepted in the beloved ; and being made the temples of the Holy Ghost, they become vessels unto honour, sanctified for the master's use.
Sincerity and uprightness mark their character. Purity of intention, a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness, flowing from that faith which purifies the heart; prepare them for present manifestations of God in Christ, as revealed in the Gospel, and for brighter visions of his glory in the world to come.
With these internal principles and affections, they shew forth by their daily walk and conversation, the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into marvellous light.
They are meek in their words and actions. The law of kindness dwells upon their tongue. They are long-suffering; forbearing one another in love.
Thus they avoid many troubles which those endure, whose spirits are violent, and whose actions are unkind.
They glide along the stream of life upon the still waters of meekness and gentleness, whilst the contentious and irascible are ever struggling with the rough surges of their own creating. Being firm in purpose as well as mild in spirit, they cannot always escape the storm; but whilst they “ earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints,” when duty calls them so to do; they labour “to possess their souls in patience;" and strive “in meekness to instruct those who oppose themselves.” When they are reviled, they revile not again; when they
suffer, they threaten not: but committing themselves unto him who judgeth righteously, and who will one day vindicate the cause of his people; they are kept “ in perfect peace,” and in the truest sense of the promise “inherit the earth.”
They are merciful, when opportunities offer for the exercise of mercy, whether it be in acts of forgiveness or benevolence. Like their heavenly Father, they delight in mercy,
Having much forgiven, they are ready to forgive much; considering that the greatest possible injury done to themselves, when compared with their offences against God, is but like the hundred pence to the ten thousand talents. They pray for grace to resemble their beneficent Creator, who maketh his sun to arise on the evil and on the good; and who causeth his rain to descend on the just and on the unjust.
They love to do good unto all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith; remembering that Gospel precept: “Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.”
They love peace; and study, as far as is consistent with the truth of the Gospel and a good conscience, to live peaceably with all men.
They delight in pouring the balm of consolation into the troubled breast; and in smoothing the asperities of angry feeling wherever their influence extends.
These are the lineaments of that beautiful character which is formed by the Holy Spirit; and called by our blessed Saviour, “the salt of the earth,” and “the light of the world;" preserving it from universal corruption, and total darkness.
This character is the great preparative for the enjoyment of heavenly glory. And yet, though beloved of God, this is the character which is despised, persecuted, reviled, and slandered by an unbelieving world.
No real Christian bearing this exalted character, need droop or despond; for he is assured by eternal truth itself, that great shall be his reward in heaven.
But is this the character of all the Lord's people without exception ? It is.-All do not indeed attain to the same degree of holy conformity to Jesus, but all must and do bear this divine image ; since it is expressly said: “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." All true believers possess these inward principles of holiness—all have these outward marks of true discipleship-all have to encounter the world's derision ; though like the good seed in the parable, there may be in some thirty, in some sixty, and in some a hundred fold.
Let none of the children of God then startle at the sight of the cross; for "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution." Rather let them rejoice, since it is recorded by the pen of inspiration : “if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him ; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.”
Happy indeed are they, who most resemble the Saviour, and suffer the most cheerfully for his sake. I learn from these beatitudes, that all the graces, which our divine Redeemer pronounces blessed, meet, like the radii of a circle, in one common centre -the heart of the true believer.
These graces do not form so many distinct characters, but unitedly, they form one character-the child of God. Some of God's children have shone brighter in one grace, and some in another; but each possesses the whole.
Abraham is exhibited to us as a pattern for faith; Job for patience; Joseph for purity; Moses for meekness; Samuel for integrity; David for contrition and spiritual-mindedness; Daniel for devotion; Peter for zeal; John for tenderness ! Paul for contempt of the world, and delight in the cross : yet all were filled with love ; all were clothed with humility; for humility and love are the characteristic features of genuine excellence.
The angels are humble; as standing before the throne of God, they veil their faces with their wings.
The glorified saints are humble; when high in bliss, they cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus, exclaiming : “worthy is the Lamb."
But, 09 amazing thought! even the great Jehovah, who humbles himself to behold the things which are in heaven and earth, condescended to empty himself of all but love: and in infinite compassion, to take upon him the nature of man, and to bleed upon the accursed tree !
And for whom did he die ? For his rebellious creatures, whom he could in a moment have annihilated ; and whose place he could have supplied by myriads of holy beings.
This Almighty Saviour, who inhabiteth eternity, even now condescends to dwell in the humble and contrite heart, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. O! for faith to contemplate this great sight. O! for a heart to feel the power of this grace ; and to taste the sweetness of this redeeming love. Lord ! come with all thy full salvation to my soul, that all my powers may be wholly consecrated unto thee.
Here I behold humility exhibited in its divinest form. Shall we then boast of our humility, and extol the lowly bendings of a sinful worm ?
Ah ! how little do our most abased feelings deserve the name of humility, when contrasted with the inconceivable abasement of the Eternal Word, when he was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.