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are encouraged and palliated by the old. Alas! it is still too true, (though, thank God, not to the same extent as in heathen society,) that many “ being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” It is perfectly frightful to think of the corruption of youth; of the sins of impurity extenuated and excused ; of the prevailing customs which are full of the strongest incentives to those very passions which Christianity is concerned in subduing; of the books, pictures, amusements, conversation, dress, gestures, dances (aggravated by Sabbath-breaking and the false standard of morality, or rather immorality, of stage plays) which swell the current of this world's lusts. But, "ye," brethren, "have not so learned Christ."
5. Such insufficient scholars cannot, of course, keep" the unity of the spirit;" they have no principles to attach them to their spiritual pastors ; they are still " like children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive”-ready for every novelty, for every form of enthusiasm, for eager adherence to every new leader in politics or religion. It is from their followers, indeed, that the ranks of all the follies and pretensions of the present day have been recruited.
6. Nor is the total want of a tender, lowly spirit, of a readiness to forgive injuries, of abstinence from corrupt communication, of a fear of grieving the Holy Spirit of God, and of a dread of all that bitterness and wrath and evil speaking which peculiarly oppose that blessed Comforter, a less evident proof that all is wrong in such characters; that they “know nothing yet as they ought to know.”
III. But let us turn to the consideration of what is the only right manner of learning Christ.
This occupies just the opposite position in every one of the steps which we have noticed. In opposition to conceit of mind, it is marked by humility and sim, plicity; instead of ignorance, by divine knowledge; instead of aversion of heart from spiritual things, by a new principle of life; in place of a sinful compliance with the world, by habits of universal holiness ; of disobedience to pastors, by tender submission ; and of malignant passions, by meekness and charity.
1. No, beloved brethren, " ye have not so learned Christ," as to walk still in conceit and the vanity of your minds; "if so be that ye have heard him and been taught by him as the truth is in Jesus," that is, if you have any thing of the humility and simplicity of a disciple in the Christian school. For you will then have heard Christ himself, as it were, by the hands of his faithful pastors; and been taught by his own mouth, as the truth is in Jesus," simply and without admixture of human error. There is something very touching in this description of the simplicity of the right method of learning Christ. We place ourselves directly at his feet, so to speak ; we sit like Mary in childlike humility and teachableness, to hear his very words; we welcome instruction as he is pleased to convey it to our minds; we drink in “ the truth as it is in Jesus," as water at the fountain-head, to our souls' refreshment. Thus the vanity and conceit of the natural mind begin to be cured, the speculations of a vagrant fancy to be repressed, and the learner is taught and disciplined in his lesson aright.
2. The consequence of this good beginning is, that, instead of ignorance remaining in the darkened understanding, divine knowledge penetrates, and illuminates the soul. As he learns, he is “ renewed in the spirit of his mind” thereby; “renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him." The understanding is enlightened; the “spirit of the
mind,” or intellect, is touched by a new and heavenly hand. “ God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines into his heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Thus all things in practical religion are seen aright. What he learns of Christ, is not only received with simplicity, as from the very mouth of Jesus, but is applied by an enlightened understanding to its proper uses ; which is altogether a different thing from having Christianity forced upon a mind still filled with conceit and ignorance.
3. The true method proceeds. Instead of the inward alienation from spiritual religion continuing, the humble scholar “ puts on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." A delight and acquiescence in God, springing from a participation of the divine truth and purity, accompanies his learning Christ. He “puts on the new man” in him, as the convert of old put on new and white raiment at the solemnity of his baptism; that is, the beginning of that heavenly character, bias, and just determination of the will with which Adam was first created. This is the life of God; and it begins and goes on with every part of the lesson. What humility receives and divine knowledge teaches to apply, the “ new man" loves, acquiesces in, makes his delight, his joy, his end. Thus truth produces holiness; a new principle of life is implanted; and aversion from spiritual things is succeeded by the internal love of God, and of man for God's sake.
4. Habits of practical holiness follow, instead of that sinful compliance with the world which the mere external Christian indulges. The true scholar
put off concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” The term, the “old man,” is of course opposed here to the “
new man” just referred to. By the one is meant the general sinful
bias of nature with its effects, which is derived from fallen Adam ; by the other, all that holy and new tendency of nature with its habits and acts, which is derived from Christ, the second Adam. This old nature is then daily put off, rejected, laid aside, as the convert in the primitive Church cast off his former garments at his baptism, when he was attired, as we just observed, in new and white raiment. He who learns Christ aright, learns to imitate his holy life; he " keeps his garments lest they should be defiled.” He attends, indeed, to the duties and courtesies of society. But he is ever fearful of imbibing the spirit, or countenancing “the corruption, which is in the world through lust." Instead of adding voluntary worldly associations to his real duties, he subtracts them ; instead of court. ing doubtful engagements, he shuns them ; instead of rushing near to temptations, he trembles at their approach ; instead of occupying more time than absolutely needful in worldly civilities, he endeavors to occupy less ; instead of filling up the intervals of affairs with worldly pleasures, he fills them up with spiritual. He “walks circumspectly;" “redeemis, or buys up, every moment of “the time ;" seeks retirement for prayer
and meditation ; abstains from every appearance of evil ;" " walks humbly with his God;" and is thus gradually “sanctified wholly, body, soul, and spirit."
5. Unity in the Church is easily preserved by this lowly and sincere learner. Subjection to pastors and teachers, according to the grace of Him “who ascend. ed up on high and gave gifts to men,” is cheerfully paid; “ winds of doctrine” toss him not about, because he "
grows up into Christ in all things which is the head,” and is “ compacted and joined together in him by that which every joint supplieth."
6. He "puts away,” from the same divine teaching, “ lying;” lets "not the sun go down upon his
wrath ;" works with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth ;" lets nothing proceed from his mouth but what “may minister grace unto the hearers ;” “grieves not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby he is sealed to the day of redemption," by "bitterness, or wrath, or anger, or clamor, or evil-speaking, or malice;” but he is “ kind to all around, tender-hearted, forgiving others, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven him."
What a beneficial tendency, then, must a school like Christianity have on the
happiness and peace of mankind—where the false method of acquiring its lesson is thus repudiated, and the benevolent, lowly, forgiving spirit of the Master himself is incorporated with every element of it. You observe how all the Christian mysteries have, not only a bearing upon Christian benevolence, but directly produce it; and if they do not produce it, can never have been learned at all.
You notice, also, how immediately the innocency and holiness of our Lord's personal character goes to form the upright and tender-hearted disciple; just as the fierce and impure life of Mahomet is infused into those who follow his imposture, or the immoralities of the Hindoo deities are reproduced in their worshippers.
But let not the young and anxious scholar be discouraged at the picture I have drawn of the false and true method of learning Christ. You fear you are not right. You lament your dulness. You seem to yourself to have made but small advances. Be not discouraged, however; pursue the inquiry. Your progress must be gradual. A lesson like Christianity, is not learned all at once; which, though brief in words, is new, strange, difficult ta our corrupt nature.