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themselves wish that laws of this kind, in which the fate of the commonwealth is not involved, may be accepted and observed after the manner of citizens, not rigorously; that is, they would have subjects to be bound not to contravene statutes of this kind with contempt or scandal ; but they are unwilling so to bind their consciences, that if by accident, or infirmity, or any other reasonable cause, they should act contrary, they should be accounted despisers of the magistracy, much less violators of the Divine law. Gerson, in Regulis moralibus, observes, “ No man is bound by the fasts of the Church when under known infirmity of body, scandal being excluded. And Erasmus, in Tract. De amabili ecclesiæ concordia, says, “The constitution of the Church by no means binds those who incur danger from eating fish, or who find that fasting injures the health of the body, or the vigour of the mind." In fine, it accords not with ecclesiastical or magisterial polity, to prescribe choice of meats at certain times, upon the plea of necessity, or sanctity, or merit; but because it is consistent either with public good, or reason, or the example of the saints, that certain persons should abstain at certain times. With respect to public utility, politicians may see to that: but I affirm it is consistent with reason and the examples of Scripture. For as it is allow. able and accordant with reason, that in festivities of public joy we use more dainty food and allowable gratifications, according to that direction of the prophet (Nehem. viii. 10), “ Eat the fat and drink the sweet, for this day is holy unto our Lord;” so also is it lawful and decorous, when there is cause of signifying public grief or penitence, to abstain from delicate food, and from those other things whereby the body is wont to be cherished and delighted. This we find observed by Daniel, chap. x. verses 2, 3 : “I was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth." This also was the use in the primitive Church, yet so that, as Augustine testifies, “no one should be urged to severities which he could not bear; nor that be imposed upon any one which he refused” (De morib. eccl. lib. 1, cap. 33).
PRACTICAL DUTIES-THE HIGH LEVEL WALK-INSPIRATION OF
HIDDEN LIFE-PRACTICE AND PRINCIPLE-CHRISTIAN COMPREHENSION-A REGULATING LAW-RELATIVE DUTIES.
This Epistle is more replete with doctrinal statement of the loftiest kind than perhaps any other Epistle of St. Paul. Yet, after he has laid down doctrines the very loftiest, and, as the world would construe them, the most abstract, he shows that duties universal and truly practical, reaching from the heart, and spreading into every relationship of private, domestic, and social life, grow from the roots of those doctrinal truths, like fragrant blossoms and precious fruit hanging from the very tree of life. He begins, first of all, by arguing that if ye be risen from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, as Christ is risen from the dead, ye ought to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
“Our serious minding of the main and substantial duties of piety and righteousness would serve to divert exceedingly from unnecessary debates about, and practising of, superstitious rites and ceremonies in divine worship : for the apostle (having reasoned against those, chap. ii.) subjoineth this exhortation, to set their affections on things which are above,' as a most excellent diversion from them.
“ The doctrine of salvation and free grace is then rightly learned, when the fruits of a holy life do flow from the knowledge of it; otherwise the grace of God is turned into wantonness (Jude 4). So Paul (having given a short sum of saving doctrine) exciteth to holiness of life, as the most suitable fruits of such doctrine: Seek the things which are above,' &c.
“As heaven and glory, so the saving graces of God's Spirit are things above ;' as coming from above (James iii. 17), and elevating the heart of him who hath them above things earthly, to entertain communion with God here, that he may live above with God for ever (Phil. iii, 20, 21). Thus they are said to be above; 'seeking the things which are above.'
“Heaven, and saving graces which lead to it, are to be sought, and diligently sought : “Seek the things which are above. The word signifieth a diligent search, and is applied to those who are vehemently desirous to have that which they seek (1 Peter v. 8; Mark xii, 12).
“That heaven and things heavenly may be thus sought diligently, we must know somewhat of the worth which is in them, and from knowledge put a price upon them : 'Set your affection on things above.' The word rendered 'affection' here, in the original comprehendeth the operations of the understanding, will, and affections : so it is to know them, from knowledge to affect them, and so to seek them.
“ Things earthly and things heavenly are in two contrary balances ; so that the more of the heart is given to the one, the other getteth the less : for he opposeth those two, 'Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.'
“ Though we may use the world and things worldly,
yea, and seek them moderately, that so we may have the use of them (1 Tim. v. 8), yet they are to be sought in subordination, and not in opposition to things heavenly: they must not be sought as our last end and furthest shot (Psa. xlix. 11); not by unlawful means (Eph. iv. 28); or with neglect of God's worship (Matt. vi. 33); not so, but to reverence and submit to God when he crosseth and disappointeth us in them (Job i. 21); for in this sense he commands, 'Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.'”— Ferguson.
Seek them not exclusively, for this would not be natural, nor would it be common sense ; but seek them supremely, as of first and chiefest importance. You are bound to seek bread for yourselves and yours, and to work hard for it; but you are also bound by the prescription of Paul to set your heart higher far than the bread that perisheth, and to seek earnestly, till you find it, the bread that endureth unto life eternal. The spring of this elevation and fruitfulness is, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth;" that is to say, things above are enduring, things above are worthy of occupying the greatness and filling the capacities of man's soul; and seeking things above is sure of success; whereas setting your hearts upon things below is to set man's grand soul, which was made for the infinite and eternal, upon the trifles of a day; and while you seek these things below, you are not sure of obtaining them at all; and in seeking them inordinately, even if you gain them, you come to learn that awful calculation, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose bis own soul ?” “Set, therefore, your affection on things above ; for ye are dead”—dead unto earthly motives, carnal prospects, material reward ; but alive unto God-alive to his presence and favour; alive to his truth, his love, and his holy Word ; "and your life is hid with Christ in God :” that is to say, a Christian's life, as a divine life, is not visible to the world ; the world can see your human life, or hear the heart beat, or see the movements of the limbs, or listen to the words that you speak, and know that you are alive ; it cannot see into your inner, diviner life ; it can see the fruits that should spring from it; and if the world see bad fruit, they will judge there must be a bad tree; and if there is not the best, the holiest, and the purest fruit, they will conclude that you have no other life than they have, and that your pretence to a divine life hid with Christ is hypocrisy, deception, and delusion. “When Christ, who is our life”—the root and the fountain of it all—“shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” It is heaven to be with Christ in glory. The sustaining hope of the Christian, therefore, is Christ's second and glorious advent: the heart of the Christian is above, the hope of the Christian is before, the life of the Christian is at present hid with Christ in God. And that which is now hid, folded, inclosed by what the world cannot penetrate or pierce, will be unfolded and evolved when we, too, shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and appear with him in glory, and be like him, for we shall see him as he is.