The object of this address will be, to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance of what Christians should be.
The Lord says "to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." There is no other temper of minds so strongly urged or accompanied with so much promise, both in the old and New Testament.
Christ commences his memorable sermon on the mountain, with, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." He says of the man who smote upon his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner," that he went down to his house justified rather than the other, and that he that "humbleth himself shall be exalted."
Penitence and humility are so obviously Christian duties, that some may think Christians need not be reminded of them, but a reason is assigned by the high authority of all Apostle, "I tell you these things because ye know them."
We require to be most frequently reminded of what we most certainly know. Every Christian knows that he is poor, and blind, and naked, and that all his help must come from the Lord; this is the first lesson that grace teaches, but how necessary is it that the lesson should be often repeated, let the experience of every one of us testify.
The poor in spirit are those that are most deeply sensible how unworthy they are of the gracious notice of God, and who would appreciate most highly one kind look from him.
The poor in spirit are the opposite of the proud and self-sufficient. The man who has a discovery of his own spiritual poverty, will esteem himself more poor than others. The great Apostle exclaimed "I who am less than the least." Spiritual poverty always implies humility and self-abasement, and in the economy of grace the discovery of our greatest poverty, is intimately connected with our true interest and greatest riches, the promise is to the poor in spirit, one gracious look, from him who made it can make the Christian exclaim. "I'm rich, my Lord hath made me so,
"Nor would I greater riches know."
That we are poor would probably be conceded, in word at least, by all; but the promise is to the poor and contrite in spirit - the two go together. Do we really feel that we are poor? If we do, when we look on him whom we have pierced, we will mourn, then indeed will we be of a contrite spirit, then will we treble at the word of that God, who cannot look on sin with
allowance, and trembling, will implore his forgiveness through the mediation of Jesus Christ. Contrition of heart would make any thing as soon as a vindictive irreligious controversialist; the religion of Christ produces the opposite temper. Its angelic annunciation to our world was peace on earth, good will to men.
Its introduction into the heart, in the new birth changes its native enmity to love.
Love to God, and love to man, is the fulfilling of the whole law. Whence then come strife, contentions, backbitings and railings. Not from religion.
Charity suffereth long and is kind, is not puffed up, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things, without charity we are nothing. Christians should have nothing to do with vindictive needless controversy, they have lamentably witnessed how great a matter a little fire kindleth. They should follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits.
Paul, in speaking of the perilous times and abominations that should come in the last days, in the same connexion, speaks of his own long suffering, charity and patience.
Self-examination is an important Christian duty. Are the fruits of the spirit seen in our conduct and conversation? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Are our supreme affections set upon heavenly and divine things? Are we as often at the foot of the cross as we should be? Can a throne of grace bear testimony that we pray without ceasing? Do we bear continually in mind that we shall all stand before the judgment scat of Christ? Do the strong bear the infirmities of the weak, and strive to edify one another? Are we kindly affectioned one to another, in honor prefering [sic] one another? Do we bear in remembrance, that all are brethren who are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, all that are born of the spirit of whatever denomination, and all in every nation that fear God and work righteousness?
If we do not, we neglect high, if not indispensible [sic] Christian duties. If we do not, we have much reason to tremble at the word of God that requires these things of us.
Let us brethren, put on the whole armour of God, having our loins girt about with truth, having on the breast-plate of righteousness and our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Let us take the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto, with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
[From the Minutes of the Franklin Association of Baptists, 1829, pp. 7-8; via SBTS digital documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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