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Second: Man's ability to imitate the Divine Model supplied in the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been the cant cry of Christendom for centuries, that man cannot observe the Divine Law, and that, therefore, our "Divine Ensample" is no possible model for us. Like every other widely received opinion, there is a little truth in this; but, as in many other opinions, this truth is overlaid with much error, and wrested from its proper meaning and intention. I shall not here do more than merely refer to those simple and self-evident refutations of the opinion, such as, the folly and injustice of giving a law which the All-seeing Wisdom knew it was impossible for man to observe and keep; or the statement of Jesus, that “ His yoke is easy and His burden light;" or the statement of John—" By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous ;" or the reiterations of the injunctions—"Be ye holy," “Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies,” “Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven;" or the constant declaration that “men are to be rewarded according to the deeds done in the body, whether they be good, or whether they be evil;” or those other passages where eternal life is made conditional on keeping the commandments, as—“If ye would enter into life, keep the commandments,” “ He that doeth my will he it is that loveth me and shall be loved of me;" or that other class of statements, that He shall “ say to the workers of iniquity, Depart from me, I never knew you." These simple and sufficient refutations of the opinion will suggest themselves most conclusively to all thoughtful readers of the Word of God.
The portion of truth in the opinion is this, that of himself, impelled by his own hereditary dispositions, and acting out his own unrenewed nature, man cannot keep the commandments, or, in other words, cannot imitate the Divine “ Ensample.” Of this there can be neither question or doubt.
But it does not hence follow that it is not necessary to imitate that Ensample or observe those commandments; for we have not all the elements of the case contained in the statement. Not only is Jesus the model, but He is also the assister of all who desire and strive to imitate Him. “ Unto as many as received him gave he
power to become sons of God.” The power, lacking in our hereditary constitution, is supplied by Him. “He succours them that are tempted," He helps them “ to overcome even as He also overcame,” and “through Him that loved them are they more than conquerors.” There has taken place an important change in the condition of men as the consequence of His advent; and statements of man's incapacity, though wholly true, are not the whole of the truth. He subjugated man's enemies, and therein re-conferred freedom on His children. He glorified his Humanity, and therein developed a means of access to the Divine, not previously actual. Forth through this Humanity made Divine, stream light to guide, love to inspire, power to invigorate mankind; and not only is He the model of perfection, and “ the Author of Eternal Life," but also “the Giver of every good gift; and chief among these, the power to come unto and follow after Him. He has made salvation possible by rendering obedience possible, and conferred the ability to imitate His ensample in the very process by which He has rendered Himself that "Ensample.” In the ability to model our individual character after this Divine exemplar, consists at once the value of the model, and the imperativeness of the duty; and hence only the responsibility of its neglect. They who maintain man's impotence are strangely forgetful of Jesus's assurances of assistance,-unhappily ignorant or unmindful of the new influences proceeding from “God in Christ,”-influences with which human wills can now coöperate, and which coöperation will regenerate mankind. Man's nature may be described in the darkest colours, and man's disastrous history will justify the portraiture; but they are unjust to man's God who deny man's ability to imitate the model that God has supplied to His children. If any have attained to a partial and imperfect imitation, they have thus attained, not as a consequence, but in despite, of such opinions. That the results of such an opinion are pernicious to man's progress and injurious to God, is sufficient to shew that man's
progress will sweep over them, and that juster perceptions of God will melt them away, as earth mists melt before the mounting sun.
Thus viewed, we have in Jesus our worthy model ; in the Decalogue an infallible standard by which, at once, to discern the perfections of our exemplar, and also to learn the means of imitating Him; and we have, through Jesus, the power to imitate Him, and to avail ourselves of that means of imitation.
Third : The success of our imitation will depend on the fidelity of our self-examination. All processes of self-scrutiny must be comparative; by comparing ourselves with some standard of right. The necessity of self-examination, therefore, involves the necessity of an accurate, comprehensive, and infallible standard. From this consideration, we have the grounds of another argument for the necessity of a revealed Law of right; an additional proof that such a revelation has been given ; and a testimony the more to the necessity for, and advantage of possessing,
such a standard in the Decalogue. This is the infallible, and consequently, God-revealed standard, by which not only to be assured of the competency of our model, but by which also to be enabled safely to test ourselves.
Of the necessity for self-examination we need say nothing, for that must be obvious. The duty of self-examination must also be evident from its necessity; and the necessity and duty of self-examination must convince us of its importance. As the duty is so important, selfexamination must be thorough. But to be capable of thorough selfexamination, we must know what to examine. Self-love easily seduces us into self-flattery, and self-flattery is ever superficial in its scrutiny. Just as the roots of some pernicious weeds sink deep into the ground, so the roots of evil bury themselves deep in our spiritual constitution. To eradicate those thistle-roots of evil, scrutiny must be rigid and penetrative. We must know what we are, in order that we may know where to search. Man is a threefold being. He is constituted of a will, an understanding, and powers of external action. He wishes, desires, loves; and these are the operations of his will. He thinks, reasons, contrives; and these are the operations of his understanding. He speaks, he labours, he performs; and these are the operations of
powers of external action. Every action is the result of a motive that prompted, and of a thought that guided the action. Every act, therefore, is the expression of a desire and a thought. Deeds, consequently, exhibit the man, and hence the justice of man's being rewarded according to his deeds. But deeds, external acts, do not entirely exhibit the whole man; for desires may be cherished and thoughts may be entertained, and yet their outward expression be restrained. Every wish is not carried out, nor is every thought expressed. Still, whether exhibited or not, the man's will is such as his desires or affections are. Whether uttered or not, such as are his habitual thoughts, such must be the man's understanding. But desires gain greater strength when carried out into action than when restrained from exhibiting themselves, unless indeed restrained from sheer hypocrisy. Indulgence feeds the fire of their intensity, and exercise develops the powers of their strength. So also thoughts acquire more clearness, and excite deeper confidence in their truth, when uttered, and uttered frequently. By acting out our wishes, our wishes become confirmed into habits; and habits, by repetition, become established into a second nature, indurated, almost absolute and inflexible.
In this we may discern a merciful Providence, in the restraints supplied by society; for they prevent many evils from usurping entire dominion over us.
Self-examination must be thorough; that is, not merely as to our actions, but also of our thoughts and desires. The will, the understanding, and the conduct, must all be subjected to review; and to a review, too, that is earnest and searching. We have many warnings in the Word against attempting to “heal the wound of the daughter of my people slightly;"—against “making clean the outside of the cup and the platter, while within they are full of extortion and excess; "against being “ like unto whited sepulchres, appearing outwardly beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.” This thoroughness of self-examination is exquisitely indicated in the prayer of the Psalmist—" Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts : and see if there be any
wicked way and lead me in the way everlasting.” The heart or the will must be searched, the thought must be tried and known, and the life must be examined for
wicked way. Only by this means can we be led into the "way everlasting.” When thus searched, by what standard must they be measured ?
We have previously seen the applicability of the Decalogue to the desires, the thoughts, and the actions of men; and we see here, from our consideration of man's constitution, that what must be examined is his desires, thoughts, and deeds. The perception of the nature of the law would have revealed to us the constitution of man ; and the perception of man's constitution would have revealed to us what must be the nature of the law. By this marvellous adaptation of the law to man's whole nature, this startling similarity in the man to the law, we can acquire fresh confidence that He who formed the man inspired the law;—that the Lawgiver must have been no other than the Creator! The Decalogue is the standard by which men must test themselves, a God-given standard by which to try the God-made man.
Not only must self-examination be thorough, it must also be continual. We are constantly passing into new states. The diversity of outward circumstances induces many internal changes, supplying new inducements and new opportunities for the experiencing fresh desires and varying thoughts. Old foes present themselves in new phases, and new combatants spring forward to fill up the ranks of our spiritual enemies. The conflict has to be waged anew, and the “strong man armed” driven from his vantage ground. The imitation of our Divine Example must be constant, so self-examination must be continual. Hence the truth of our fourth proposition, that the value to us of possessing a competent model must depend on the persistence of our imitation.
There are so many inducements to indifference and indolence;-it is so much easier, apparently, to submit than to conquer, to content ourselves in slavery than to struggle for self-dominion, to supinely sink, and suffer our character to be moulded by circumstances, than to rise into resistance and mould ourselves against wrong into right, against evil into goodness. Ignorance is ever easier than the attainment of knowledge ;-easier to be a bubble on the ocean of life rather than the rock that defies its rush, and remains proudly at rest in its defiance. It is true that it requires less exertion to lie and starve, than to labour for food and partake of it; the question of enjoyment and suffering is quite another thing! Were ease our sole object, it were better not to be than be. But we are, and the clogged soul will become a source of sorrow and suffering to itself if not roused from lethargy into action; and activity can only be enjoyment in proportion as we rise into the realisation of the object of our existence, and the development of the grander and richer powers of our being. This can alone be accomplished by persistence in good against evil, in truth against falsity, in nobility against littleness, in holiness against sin. Indolence may sing its syren lullaby beside the drowsy soul; but it is formed for wakefulness, and sleep cannot last for ever. The passions and powers of the soul, if not subjected to service, become unyielding taskmasters, that lash their victim to toil, galling him in their yoke and clanking the fetters of his slavery about him. To live in the true order of his being is the only real happiness, and the true order of man's being is to live in conformity to the law of God. The model has been supplied, the standard of judgment is revealed, man's ability of imitation is secured, his duty of self-examination is evident, and the necessity of persistence is also manifest. As we avail ourselves of these helps, and perform these duties, so will our Individual Character be determined.
ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF
THE MANCHESTER PRINTING SOCIETY, BY THE CHAIRMAN, THE REV. J. H. SMITHSON; WITH AN ABSTRACT OF THE COMMITTEE'S REPORT.
For many years past it has been the custom of this Society in its Annual Address to take up some prominent subject in Theology, which for the time being seems more especially to engage the attention of the reflecting public and of the religious world. At the present