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O glorious work of Omnipotent grace! May we be witnesses of its reality, and monuments of its glory! May we continually and exultingly say, while we contemplate the progress of the work, « This hath God wrought." May we with every breath bless His name, who i was “ manifested to destroy the works of the devil, - and to make us the sons of God."*
Connected with our sonship is a patrimony, of which we receive possession by hereditary right: for if we are children, then are we also “ heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” “ Eternal life is the gift of God by Jesus Christ “ our Lord.” We derive it by succession from its original proprietor, through Christ Jesus as our elder brother, and in consequence of our relation to Him. The possession of our inheritance, if we are the sons of God, doth not rest on a peradventure; but our right is indefeisible and unalienable. And because we are heirs, our heavenly Father furnishes us, in this state of nonage, with such an education as is suitable to the future dignity and rank of His children and the participants of His glory. Even now He assigns to us privileges of inestimable value, and gives us such tokens of His paternal love as shew that the inheritance is ours, and that it is worthy of our most devout and ardent aspirations.
But may the language of St. John be legitimately addressed to the writer and reader of these pages ? May it be said of us, “ Behold, “ now are wė the sons of God, and it doth not “ yet appear what we shall be; but this we know " that, when He shall appear, we shall be like “ Him, for we shall see Him as He is?" Oh! then, “What manner of persons ought we to “ be,” in expressions of admiring gratitude, and « in all holy conversation and Godliness.” Let us be “ followers of God as dear children.” Let us « count all things loss and dung for the o excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus s our Lord,” who " was manifested to make “ us the sons of God, and heirs of eternal life.”
* As the doctrine of adoption has been considered in our review of the collect for Christmas-day, the notice here taken of it is brief,
This leads us to the prayer which is connected with the introduction that we have reviewed, and is founded thereon. We implore grace that, “ having this hope,” even the hope of “ eternal life," " we may purify ourselves ss even as Christ is pure; that when He shall « appear in power and great glory, we may be 66 made like unto Him in His eternal and glo“ rious kingdom; where with the Father and - the Holy Ghost He liveth and reigneth, ever so one God, world without end.”
The first part of our prayer relates to sanctification as a preparative for the inheritance of the saints in light. It is founded on 1 John iii. 3, where the beloved disciple, after that he had exhibited to the view of faith the blessed prospect which Christianity presents, adds, “And every so man that hath this hope in Him, purifieth s himself even as Christ is pure." The hope of the gospel is not an inert uninfluential principle; no, it produces the most blessed and powerful effects. For it is impossible that any man, who has been awakened to a perception of his natural sin and misery, who has believed in the Son of God for pardon and salvation, in whose heart redeeming love has been shed abroad, and who derives therefrom a well-founded expectation of s eternal life;" it is absolutely impossible that he should be indifferent to the attainment of moral purity. Having received the exceeding great and precious promise of eternal life, the real Christian will be earnestly solicitous to “ cleanse himself from all filthiness both of the “ flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the - fear of God.” For he knows that purity of heart and life is the natural fruit and necessary effect of that faith, which justifies the soul before God by embracing the merit of the Saviour of sinners; and that it is the characteristic of a true faith, so that a true faith may be thereby distinguished from a false one, as a tree is known by its fruits. Hence he rightly concludes, that a growing conformity to Christ is the only satisfactory evidence which he can have of being in Christ, and justified by His blood. He is well aware that the cause of justification is not inherent in him, but imputed to him. The proof, however, of this imputation he derives from a personal resemblance of Christ; which, though its outline be yet faint and imperfectly traced, he longs to have progressively filled up, till the picture is completed, and his joy fulfilled. He moreover remembers that God hath said, “ Be “ ye holy, for I am holy;' and that the " sanc“ tification” of His people is the express “ will “ of God.” And in the command and will of God, his heavenly Father, he finds a thousand arguments and motives to the cultivation of vital Godliness. It is sufficient to stimulate his mind to exertion, that this is a good and acceptable “ to God his Saviour.” He feels also the strong obligations of gratitude. The word Redemption entwines around his heart a threefold cord of love which cannot be broken, the love of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,
whereby he is powerfully drawn and sweetly constrained to an imitation of Christ. On His cross motives are suspended, bright and innumerable as the dew-drops of the morning, by whose beauty His eye is attracted and His heart won. The cross is a magnet that is irresistible, when the soul is brought into a state of approximation to it and contact with it. Its holy violence overcomes the power of sin, and creates an intirely new bias in the affections. Every generous feeling of the breast is put in motion by a sight of Calvary. With the emotions of gratitude self-interest concurs; for the Christian believer knows, that purity of heart is an essential pre-requisite and qualification for the beatific vision and the enjoyment of heaven. Without a spiritualized disposition he could find no pleasure in the various duties and acts of worship which the church on earth performs; and how then, without it, could he find delight in God's presence, and in the exercises of uninterrupted devotion, with the church above? The society of angels, the songs of the blessed, the joys of heaven, would be irksome to an unsanctified heart. Hence he infers, that “without holiness “ no man can see the Lord;" and hence he is excited “to purify himself even as Christ is " pure.”
The desire of a conformity to Christ in purity of heart is always accompanied with a conviction of the impossibility that attends the attainment of it without Divine grace. The desire, and its successful prosecution, are both from God. And, therefore, the words of the Apostle John, in which he states the indissoluble connection between faith and holiness, between the hope of the gospel and the cultivation of moral purity,
are with strict propriety in our collect converted into supplication. “Grant, we beseech thee, " that we, having this hope in us, may purify “ ourselves even as He is pure.” The “ faith " which works by love," and the love which . faith produces, are both communications from Him, from whom proceeds "every good and “ perfect gift.” The sanctification of a fallen spirit is not a work, to which finite power is competent. The regenerate soul is “ God's “ workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto “ good works.” “ If any man be in Christ, he " is a new creature.” To « put off the old man, “ which is corrupt, and to put on the new “ man, which after God is created in righteous“ness and true holiness," is the sinner's own act; but the ability to perform it must be derived intirely from God.
The extent of that purification to which the Christian aspires, for which he prays, and which he knows to be essential to the consummation of his bliss, opens before him a wide and distant prospect, which his eye, in its present state of weakness, cannot reach. But though the scope of his mind, “the mark of the prize of his high " calling,” is but dimly discerned, or rather is unseen, yet he pants to obtain it, and despairs not of success. To be “pure as Christ is pure,” is the aim of his ambitious soul, and to arrive at “the measure of the stature of the fulness of “ Christ.”. With this object in view he “ for“ gets the things that are behind, and presses
forward to those which are before;” not counting himself to have apprehended, but intent on “ one thing,” viz. to “apprehend that “ for which also he is apprehended of Christ « Jesus."