A MORE PARTICULAR VIEW OF THE SEVERAL BRANCHES OF THE CHRISTIAN TEMPER, BY WHICH THE READER MAY BE FARTHER ASSISTED IN JUDGING WHAT HE IS, AND WHAT HE SHOULD ENDEAVOR TO BE.
1, 2. The importance of the case engages to a more particular survey what manner of spirit we are of.--3. Accordingly the Christian temper is described, by some general views of it, as a new and divine temper.--4. As resembling that of Christ.--5. And as engaging us to be spiritually minded, and to walk by faith.--6. A plan of the remainder.--7. In which the Christian temper is more particularly considered-with regard to the blessed God: as including fear, affection, and obedience.--8, 9. Faith and love to Christ.--10. Joy in Him.--11-13. And a proper temper towards the Holy Spirit, particularly as a spirit of adoption and of courage.--14. With regard to ourselves; as including preference of the soul to the body, humility, purity.--15. Temperance.--16. Contentment.--17. And Patience.--18. With regard to our fellow creatures; as including Love.--19. Meekness.--20. Peaceableness.--21. Mercy.--22. Truth.--23. And candor in judging.--24. General qualifications of each branch.--25. Such as Sincerity.--26. Constancy.--27. Tenderness.--28. Zeal.--29. And Prudence.--30. These things should frequently be recollected.--A review of all in a scriptural prayer.
1. WHEN I consider the infinite importance of eternity, I find it
exceedingly difficult to satisfy myself in any thing which I can say to men,
where their eternal interests are concerned. I have given you a view, I hope I
may truly say, a just as well as a faithful view, of a truly Christian temper
already. Yet, for your farther assistance, I would offer it to your
consideration in various points of light, that you maybe assisted in judging of
what you are and what you ought to be. And in this I aim, not only at your
conviction, if you are yet a stranger to real religion, but at your farther
edification, if, by the grace of God, you are by this time experimentally
acquainted with it. Happy you will be, happy beyond expression, if, as you go
on from one article to another, you can say, "This is my temper and character."
Happy in no inconsiderable degree, if you can say, "This is what I desire, what
I pray for, and what I pursue, in preference to every opposite view, though it
be not what I have as yet attained."
2. Search, then, and try "what manner of spirit you are of" (Luke 9:55) And may he that searcheth all hearts direct the inquiry, and enable you "so to judge yourself; that you may not be condemned of the Lord." (1 Cor. 11:31,32)
3. Know in the general, "that, if you are a Christian indeed, you have been `renewed in the spirit of your mind,' (Eph. 4:23) so renewed as to be regenerated and born again." It is not enough to have assumed a new name, to have been brought under some new restraints, or to have made a partial change in some particulars of your conduct. The change must be great and universal. Inquire, then, whether you have entertained new apprehensions or things, have formed a practical judgment different from what you formerly did; whether the ends you propose, the affections which you feel working in your heart, and the course of action to which, by those affections, you are directed, be, on the whole, new or old. Again, "If you are a Christian indeed, you are a `partaker of a divine nature,' (2 Pet. 1:4) divine in its original, its tendency, and its resemblance." Inquire, therefore, whether God hath implanted a principle in your heart, which tends to him, and which makes you like him. Search your soul attentively, to see if you have really the image there of God's moral perfections, of his holiness and righteousness his goodness and fidelity; for "the new man is, after God, created in righteousness and true holiness," (Eph. 4:24) "and is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." (Col. 3:10)
4. For your farther assistance, inquire "whether `the same mind be in you which was always in Christ.' (Phil. 2:5) Whether you bear the image of God's incarnate Son, the brightest and fairest resemblance of the Father which heaven or earth has ever beheld." The blessed Jesus designed himself to be a model for all his followers; and he is certainly a model most fit for our imitation: an example in our own nature and in circumstances adapted to general use: an example recommended to us at once by its spotless perfection, and by the endearing relations in which he stands to us, as our Master, our Friend, and our Head; as the person by whom our everlasting state is to be fixed, and in resemblance to whom our final happiness is to consist, if ever we are happy at all. Look then, into the life and temper of Christ, as described and illustrated in the Gospel, and search whether you can find any thing like it in your own. Have you any thing of his devotion, love, and resignation to God? Any thing of his humility, meekness, and benevolence to men? Any thing of his purity and wisdom, his contempt of the world, his patience, his fortitude, his zeal? And indeed all the other branches of the Christian temper, which do not imply previous guilt in the person by whom they are exercised, may be called in to illustrate and assist your inquiries under this head.
5. Let me add, "If you are a Christian, you are in the main `spiritually-minded,' as knowing `that is life and peace;' whereas, `to be carnally-minded is death.'" (Rom. 8:6) Though you "live in the flesh, you will not war after it," (2 Cor. 10:3) you will not take your orders and your commands from it. You will indeed attend to its necessary interests as matter of duty; but it will still be with regard to another and a noble? interest, that of the rational and immortal spirit. Your thoughts, your affections, your pursuits, your choice, will be determined by a regard to things spiritual rather than carnal. In a word, "you will walk by faith, and not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7) Future, invisible, and in some degree incomprehensible objects, will take up your mind. Your faith will act on the being of God, his perfections, his providences his precepts, his threatenings, and his promises. It will act upon Christ, "whom having not seen," you will "love and honor." (1 Pet. 1:8) It will act on that unseen world, which it knows to be eternal, and therefore infinitely more worthy of your affectionate regard than any of "those things which are seen and are temporal." (2 Cor. 4:18)
6. These are general views of the Christian temper on which I would entreat you to examine yourself; and now I would go on to lead you into a survey of the grand branches of it, as relating to God, our neighbor, and ourselves; and of those qualifications which must attend each of these branches; such as sincerity, constancy, tenderness, zeal and prudence. And I beg your diligent attention, while I lay before you a few hints with regard to each, by which you may judge the better, both of your state and your duty.
7. Examine, then, I entreat you. "the temper of your heart with regard to the blessed God." Do you find there a reverential fear, and a supreme love and veneration for his incomparable excellencies, a desire after him as the highest good, and a cordial gratitude towards him as your supreme benefactor? Can you trust his care? Can you credit his testimony? Do you desire to pay an unreserved obedience to all that he commands, and an humble submission to all the disposals of his providence? Do you design his glory as your noblest end, and make it the great business of your life to approve yourself to him? Is it your governing care to imitate him, and to "serve him in spirit and in truth?" (John, 4:24)
8. Faith in Christ I have already described at large, and therefore shall say nothing farther, either of that persuasion of his power and grace, which is the great foundation of it, or of that acceptance of Christ under all his characters, or that surrender of the soul into his hands, in which its peculiar and distinguishing nature consists.
9. If this faith in Christ be sincere, "it will undoubtedly produce a love to him:" which will express itself in affectionate thoughts of him; in strict fidelity to him; in a careful observation of his charge; in a regard to his spirit, to his friends, and to his interests; in a reverence to the memorials of his dying love which he has instituted; and in an ardent desire after that heavenly world where he dwells, and where he will at length "have all his people to dwell with him." (John 17:2)
10. I may add, agreeably to the word or God, "that thus believing in Christ and loving him, you will also rejoice in him:" in his glorious design, and in his complete fitness to accomplish it; in the promises of his word, and in the privileges of his people. It will be matter of joy to you, that such a Redeemer has appeared in this world of ours; and your joy for yourself will be proportionable to the degree of clearness with which you discern your interest in him, and relation to him.
11. Let me farther lead you into some reflections on "the temper of your heart towards the blessed Spirit." If "we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his. (Rom. 8:19) If we are not "led by the Spirit of God, we are not the children of God." (Rom. 8:14) You will then, if you are a real Christian, desire that you may "be filled with the Spirit;" (Eph. 5:18) that you may have every power of your soul subject to his authority; that his agency on your heart may be more constant, more operative, and more delightful. And to cherish these sacred influences, you will often have recourse to serious consideration and meditation: you will abstain from those sins which tend to grieve him; you will improve the tender seasons, in which he seems to breathe upon your soul; you will strive earnestly with God in prayer, that you may have him "shed on you still more abundantly through Jesus Christ;" (Tit. 3:6) and you will be desirous to fall in with the end of his mission, which was to glorify Christ, (John, 16:14) and to establish his kingdom. "You will desire his influences as the Spirit of adoption," to render your acts of worship free and affectionate, your obedience vigorous, your sorrow for sin overflowing and tender, your resignation meek, and your love ardent: in a word, to carry you through life and death with the temper of a child who delights in his father, and who longs for his more immediate presence.
12. Once more, "if you are a Christian indeed, you will be desirous to obtain the spirit of courage." Amidst all that humility of soul to which you will be formed, you will wish to commence a hero in the cause of Christ, opposing, with a rigorous resolution, the strongest efforts of the powers of darkness, the inward corruptions of your own heart, and all the outward difficulties you may meet with in the way of your duty, while in the cause and in the strength or Christ you go on "conquering and to conquer."
13. All these things may be considered as branches of godliness; of that godliness which is "profitable unto all things," and hath the "promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come." (1. Tim. 4:8)
14. Let me now farther lay before you some branches of the Christian temper "which relate more immediately to ourselves." And here, if you are a Christian indeed, you will undoubtedly prefer the soul to the body, and things eternal to those that are temporal. Conscious of the dignity and value of your immortal part, you will come to a firm resolution to secure its happiness, whatever is to be resigned, whatever is to be endured in that view. If you are a real Christian, you will be so "clothed with humility." (1 Pet. 5:5) You will have a deep sense of your own imperfections, both natural and moral; of the short extent of your knowledge; of the uncertainty and weakness of your resolutions; and of your continual dependence upon God, and upon almost every thing about you. And especially will you be deeply sensible of your guilt; the remembrance of which will fill you with shame and confusion, even when you have some reason to hope it is forgiven. This will forbid all haughtiness and insolence of your behavior to your fellow-creatures. It will teach you, under afflictive providences, with all holy submission to bear the indignation of the Lord as those that know they "have sinned against him." (Mic. 7:9) Again, if you are a Christian indeed, "you will labor after purity of soul," and maintain a fixed abhorrence of all prohibited sensual indulgence. A recollection of past impurities will fill you with shame and grief, and you will endeavor for the future to guard your thoughts and desires, as well as your words and actions, and to abstain, not only from the commission of evil, but "from the" distant "appearance" and probable occasions "of it:" (1 Thess. 5:22) as conscious of the perfect holiness of that God with whom you converse, and of the "purifying nature of that hope," (1 John 3:3) which by his Gospel he hath taught you to entertain.
15. With this is nearly allied "that amiable virtue of temperance" which will teach you to guard against such a use of meats and drinks as indisposes the body for the service of the soul; or such an indulgence in either, as will rob you of that precious jewel, your time, or occasion an expense beyond what your circumstances will admit, and beyond what will consist with what you owe to the cause of Christ, and those liberalities to the poor which your relation and theirs to God and each other will require. In short, you will guard against whatever has a tendency to increase a sensual disposition against whatever would alienate the soul from communion with God, and would diminish its zeal and activity in his service.
16. The divine philosophy of the blessed Jesus will also teach you "a contented temper." It will moderate your desires of those worldly enjoyments after which many feel such an insatiable thirst, ever growing with indulgence and success. You will guard against an immoderate care about those things which would lead you into a forgetfulness of your heavenly inheritance. If Providence disappoint your undertakings, you will submit; if others be more prosperous you will not envy them, but rather will be thankful for what God is pleased to bestow upon them, as well as for what he gives you. No unlawful methods will be used to alter your present condition; and whatever it is, you will endeavor to make the best of it, remembering it is what infinite wisdom and goodness have appointed you, and that it is beyond all comparison better than you have deserved; yea, that the very deficiencies and inconveniences of it may conduce to the improvement of your future and complete happiness.
17. With contentment, if you are a disciple of Christ, "you will join patience too," and "in patience will possess your soul." (Luke 21:19) You cannot indeed be quite insensible either of afflictions or injuries; but your mind will be calm and composed under them, and steady in the prosecution of proper duty, though afflictions press, and though your hopes, your dearest hopes and prospects be delayed. Patience will prevent hasty and rash conclusions, and fortify you against seeking irregular methods of relief; disposing you, in the mean time, till God shall be pleased to appear for you, to go on steadily in the way of your duty; "committing yourself to him in well-doing." (1 Pet. 4:19) You will also be careful that "patience may have its perfect work," (Jam. 1:4) and prevail in proportion to those circumstances which demand its peculiar exercise. For instance, when the successions of evil are long and various, so that "deep calls to deep," and "all God's waves and billows seem to be going over you," one after another; (Psa. 42:7) when God touches you in the most tender part; when the reasons of his conduct to you are quite unaccountable; when your natural spirits are weak and decayed; when unlawful methods of redress seem near and easy; still your reverence for the will of your heavenly Father will carry it against all, and keep you waiting quietly for deliverance in his own time and way.
18. I have thus led you into a brief review of the Christian temper, with respect to God and ourselves: permit me now to add, "that the Gospel will teach you another set of very important lessons with respect to your fellow-creatures." They all are summed up in this, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;" (Rom. 13:9) and whatsoever thou wouldst (that is, whatsoever thou couldst, in an exchange of circumstances, fairly and reasonably desire) that others should do unto thee, do thou like-wise the same unto them." (Matt. 7:12) The religion of the blessed Jesus, when it triumphs in your soul, will conquer the predominancy of an irregular self-love, and will teach you candidly and tenderly to look upon your neighbor as another self. As you are sensible of your own rights, you will be sensible of his: as you support your own character you will support his. You will desire his welfare, and be ready to relieve his necessity, as you would have your own consulted by another. You will put the kindest construction upon his most dubious words and actions. You will take pleasure in his happiness; you will feel his distress, in some measure, as your own. And most happy will you be, when this obvious rule is familiar to your mind, when this golden law is written upon your heart, and when it is habitually and impartially consulted by you upon every occasion, whether great or small.
19. The Gospel will also teach you "to put on meekness," (Col. 3:12) not only with respect to God, submitting to the authority of his word, and the disposal of his providence, as was urged before; but also with regard to your brethren of mankind. Its gentle instructions will form you to calmness of temper under injuries and provocations, so that you may not be angry without, or beyond just cause. It will engage you to guard your words, lest you provoke and exasperate those you should rather study by love to gain, and by tenderness to heal. Meekness will render you slow in using any rough and violent methods, if they can by any means be lawfully avoided; and ready to admit, and even to propose a reconciliation, after they have been entered into, if there may yet be hope of succeeding. So far as this branch of the Christian temper prevails in your heart, you will take care to avoid every thing which might give unnecessary offence to others; you will behave you yourself in a modest manner, according to your station; and it will work, both with regard to superiors and inferiors, teaching you duly to honor the one, and not to overbear or oppress, to grieve or insult the other. And in religion itself; it will restrain all immoderate sallies and harsh censure; and will command down "that wrath of man, which, instead of working, so often opposes the righteousness of God," (Jam. 1:20) and shames and wounds that good badge, in which it is boisterously and furiously engaged.
20. With this is naturally connected "a peaceful disposition." If you are a Christian indeed, you will have such a value and esteem for peace, as to endeavor to obtain, and to preserve it, "as much as lieth in you," (Rom. 12:18) as much as you fairly and honorably can. This will have such an influence upon your conduct, as to make you not only cautious of giving offence, and slow in taking it, but earnestly desirous to regain peace as soon as may be, when it is in any measure broken, that the wound may be healed while it is green, and before it begins to rankle and fester. And more especially, this disposition will engage you "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," (Eph. 4:3) "with all that in every very place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," (1 Cor. 1:2) whom if you truly love, you will also love all those whom you have reason to believe to he his disciples and servants.
21. If you be yourselves indeed of that number, "you will also put on bowels of mercy." (Col. 3:12) the mercies of God, and those of the blessed Redeemer, will work on your heart, to mould it to sentiments of compassion and generosity, so that you will feel the wants and sorrows of others; you will desire to relieve their necessities; and as you have an opportunity, you will do good, both to their bodies and their souls; expressing your kind affections in suitable actions, which may both evidence their sincerity and render them effectual
22. As a Christian, "you will also maintain truth inviolable," not only in your solemn testimonies, when confirmed by an oath, but likewise in common conversation. You will remember, too, that your promises bring an obligation upon you, which you are by no means at liberty to break through. On the whole, you will be careful to keep a strict correspondence between your words and your actions, in such a manner as becomes a servant of the God of truth.
23. Once more, as, amidst the strictest care to observe all the divine precepts, you will still find many imperfections on account of which you will be obliged to pray, that "God would not enter into strict judgment with you," as well knowing "that in his sight you cannot be justified," (Psa. 143:2) you will be careful not to judge others "in such a manner as should awaken the severity of `his judgment against yourself.'" (Matt. 7:1,2) You will not, therefore. judge them impertinently, when you have nothing to do with their actions; nor rashly, without inquiring into circumstances; nor partially, without weighing them attentively and fairly; nor uncharitably. putting the worst construction upon things in their own nature dubious; deciding upon intentions as evil, farther than they certainly appear to be so; pronouncing on the state of men, or on the whole of their character, from any particular action, and involving the innocent with the guilty. There is a moderation contrary to all these extremes, which the Gospel recommends; and if you receive the Gospel in good earnest into your heart, it will lay the ax to the root of such evils as these.
24. Having thus briefly illustrated the principal branches of the Christian temper and character, I shall conclude the representation. with reminding you of "some general qualifications which must be mingled with all, and give a tincture to each of them; such as sincerity, constancy, tenderness, zeal, and prudence."
25. Always remember, that "sincerity is the very soul of true religion." A single intention to please God, and to approve ourselves to him, must animate and govern all that we do in it. Under the influence of this principle you will impartially inquire into every intimation of duty, and apply to the practice of it so far as it is known to you. Your heart will be engaged in all you do. Your conduct, in private and in secret, will be agreeable to your most public behavior. A sense of the Divine authority will teach you "to esteem all God's precepts concerning all things to be right, and to hate every false way." (Psa. 119:128)
26. Thus are you, "in simplicity and godly sincerity to have your conversation in the world." (2 Cor. 1:12) And "you are also to charge it upon your soul `to be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.'" (1 Cor. 15:58) There must not only be some sudden fits and starts of devotion, or of something which looks like it, but religion must be an habitual and permanent thing. There must be a purpose to adhere to it at all times. It must be made the stated and ordinary business of life. Deliberate and presumptuons sins must be carefully avoided; a guard must be maintained against the common infirmities of life; and falls of one kind or of another must be matter of proportionable humiliation before God, and must occasion renewed resolution for his service. And thus you are to go on to the end of your life, not discouraged by the length and difficulty of the way, nor allured on the one hand, or terrified on the other, by all the various temptations which may surround and assault you. Your soul must be fixed on this basis, and you are still to behave yourself as one who knows he serves an unchangeable God, and who expects from him "a kingdom which cannot be moved." (Heb. 12:28)
27. Again, so far as the Gospel prevails in your heart, "your spirit will be tender, and the stone will be transformed into flesh." You will desire that your apprehensions of divine things may be quick, your affections ready to take proper impressions, your conscience always easily touched, and, on the whole, your resolutions pliant to the divine authority, and cordially willing to be, and to do whatever God shall appoint. You will have a tender regard to the word of God, a tender caution against sin, a tender guard against the snares of prosperity, a tender submission to God's afflicting hand: in a word, you will be tender wherever the divine honor is concerned; and careful, neither to do anything yourself; nor to allow any thing in another, so far as you can influence, by which God should be offended, or religion reproached.
28. Nay, more than all this, you will, so far as true Christianity governs in your mind, "exert a holy zeal in the service of your Redeemer and your Father." You will be "zealously affected in every good thing," (Gal. 4:18) in proportion to its apprehended goodness and importance. You will be zealous, especially, to correct what is irregular in yourself; and to act to the utmost of your ability for the cause of God. Nor will you be able to look with an indifferent eye on the conduct of others in this view; but, so far as charity, meekness, aid prudence will admit, you will testify your disapprobation of every thing in it which is dishonorable to God and injurious to men. And you will labor, not only to reclaim men from such courses, but to engage them to religion, and quicken them in it.
29. And once more, you will desire "to use the prudence which God bath given you," in judging what is, in present circumstances, your duty to God, your neighbor, and yourself; what will be, on the whole, the most acceptable manner of discharging it, and how far it may be most advantageously pursued; as remembering that he is indeed the wisest and the happiest man, who, by constant attention of thought, discovers the greatest opportunities of doing good, and with ardent and animated resolution breaks through every opposition, that he may improve those opportunities.
30. This is such a view of the Christian temper as could conveniently be thrown within such narrow limits; and I hope it may assist many in the great and important work of self-examination. Let your own conscience answer, how far you have already attained it, and how far you desire it; and let the principal topics here touched upon be fixed in your memory and in your heart, that you may be mentioning them before God in your daily addresses to the throne of grace, in order to receive from him all necessary assistance for bringing them into practice.
A Prayer, chiefly in Scripture Language, in which the several Branches of the Christian temper are more briefly enumerated in the order laid down above.