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MALICE INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE CHRISTIAN
Eph. iv. 31, 32. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and
clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice : And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted,
forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
IF the question were to be put to us, What advantage hath the Christian over the Heathen? or whạt profit is there of the Gospel ? Much every way; we might answer : chiefly because of the hope it holds forth to its professors of the salvation of God, “ being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ
Jesusa.” But “ godliness,” as the great Apostle of the Gentiles teaches, “ is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is," as well as “ of that which is to come.” The Gospel conducts men to future happiness, by means well adapted to the end; by teaching them and enabling them to overcome those vicious inclinations, which would prevent them from enjoying the pure delights of a spiritual state, could they with such incumbrancés be admitted to it; and to acquire those heavenly tempers, which may qualify them for the enjoyment of heavenly bliss. With some particulars, that are to constitute the blessedness of that state, the holy scriptures make us acquainted. Amongst other things, they teach us that it is to be a state of rest and peace; of universal concord, and uninterrupted harmony. And accordingly they exhort us during
our earthly pilgrimage, to cultivate the af· fections, whereby we may be qualified to
enter into that delightful state: to follow peace with all meno;"> <if it be possible,
* Rom. iii. 24.
b i Tim, iv. 8.
Heb. xii. 14.
and as much as lieth in us, to live peaceably with all mend;" to " forbear one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace°;" “ to be perfect ; to be of good comfort, to be of one mind, to live in peace;" encouraging us with the most comfortable assurance, that, if we do so, “ the God of love and peace shall be with us.”
Now this sort of temper, which the Gospel perpetually and unceasingly recommends to its disciples, (for it would be vain to attempt an enumeration of the passages wherein it is recommended,). is one of those marks, which most illustriously distinguish the Christian from the Heathen; him, who takes upon him the yoke of the “ meek and lowly” Jesus, and cheerfully complies with the dictates of the Spirit of peace and love; from him, who lives in bondage to “ the Spirit, that dwelleth in us, and lusteth to envy:;" “ the Spirit, that now” and ever “ worketh in the children of disobedience” and “ of wrath b.”
d Rom. xii. 18. Eph. iv. 2, 3. 12 Cor xiii. 11. 6 James iv. 5. Eph. ii. 2, 3.
It is upon this distinction, that the exhortation in the text is founded. For it is addressed by St. Paul to men, who had been Heathens, and who were then converts to the Christian faith : and whom he calls upon, in consideration of the conversion they had undergone, to practise the duties belonging to their new profession. s« This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not, as other Gențiles walk.” And then enforcing upon them the necessity of their “ putting on the new man,” and being “ renewed in the spirit of their mind,” as a consequence of their having become disciples of Christ Jesus; he sets before their eyes a brief, but delightful sketch of Christian graces, as objects of their imitation ; and having successively exhorted them to the practice of righteousness, and true holiness; of truth, and purity of language ; of honesty, and industry, and acts of bounty to the distressed; he concludes with admonishing them in the impressive words of the text, to banish a malignant temper, and to cul. tivate the fruits of Christian charity : “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and
clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
Similar exhortations upon this branch of our duty, founded upon the same distinction between the Christian and the Heathen characters, between what man is by nature, and what he has the power of becoming by the divine grace, occur in other parts of the New Testament. Our Apostle, having occasion to remonstrate with the Corinthians upon their litigious disposition, reminds them of the disgrace, which they thereby bring upon their Christian profession ; warns them, that “ revilers shall not inherit the kingdom of God;" and concludes with drawing a comparison between their natural state, and the privileges and blessings to which they had been admitted on their incorporation by baptism with the Church of Christ : “ And such were some of you ; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our