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of God. And that this spirit is the special character of the elect of God, is manifest by Col. iii. 12, 13. Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. The apostle discoursing of that temper and disposition which he speaks of, as the most excellent and essential thing in Christianity-that without which none are true Christians, and the most glorious profession and gifts are nothing, calling this spirit by the name of charity-describes it thus; (1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5.) Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly; seeketh not her own; is not easily provoked; thinketh no evil. And the same apostle, (Gal. v.) designedly declaring the distinguishing marks and fruits of true Christian grace, chiefly insists on the things that appertain to such a temper and spirit, (ver. 22, 23.) The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. And so does the apostle James in describing true grace, or that wisdom that is from above, with that declared design, that others who are of a contrary spirit may not deceive themselves and lie against the truth, in professing to be Christians, when they are not-James iii. 14-17. If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion, and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, and then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits.
Every thing that appertains to holinesss of heart, does indeed belong to the nature of true Christianity, and the character of Christians; but a spirit of holiness, as appearing in some particular graces, may more especially be called the Christian spirit or temper. Some amiable qualities and virtues more especially agree with the nature of the gospel constitution, and Christian profession; because there is a special agreeableness in them with those divine attributes which God has more remarkably manifested and glorified in the work of redemption by Jesus Christ, the grand subject of the Christian revelation. There is also a special agreeableness with those virtues which were so wonderfully exercised by Jesus Christ towards us in that affair, and the blessed example he hath therein set us. And they are peculiarly agreeable to the special drift and design of the work of redemption, the benefits we thereby receive, and the relation that it brings us into, to God and one another. And what are these virtues but such as humility, meekness, love, forgiveness, and mercy; which belong to the character of Christians, as such?
These things are spoken of as what are especially the character of Jesus Christ himself, the great head of the Christian church. They are so spoken of in the prophecies of the Old Testament; as in that cited Matth. xxi. 5. Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass. So Christ himself speaks of them, Matth. xi. 29. Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. The same appears by the name by which Christ is so often called in scripture, viz. THE LAMB. And as these things are especially the character of Christ; so they are all especially the character of Christians. Christians are Christ-like; none deserve the name who are not so in their prevailing character. The new man is renewed, after the image of him that created him, Col. iii. 10. All true Christians behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image, by his Spirit, 2 Cor. iii. 18. The elect are all predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son of God, that he might be the first-born among many brethren, Rom. viii. 29. As we have borne the image of the first man, that is earthly, so we must also bear the image of the heavenly: for as is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly, 1 Cor. xv. 47-49. Christ is full of grace; and Christians all receive of his fulness, and grace for grace; i. e. there is grace in Christians answering to grace in Christ, such an answerableness as there is between the wax and the seal. There is character for character; such kind of graces, such a spirit and temper; the same things that belong to Christ's character belong to theirs. In that disposition wherein Christ's character in a special manner consists, does his image in a special manner consist. Christians who shine by reflecting the light of the Sun of righteousness, shine with the same sort of brightness, the same mild, sweet and pleasant beams. These lamps of the spiritual temple, enkindled by fire from heaven, burn with the same sort of flame. The branch is of the same nature with the stock and root, has the same sap, and bears the same sort of fruit. The members have the same kind of life with the head. It would be strange if Christians should not be of the same temper and spirit with that of Christ; when they are his flesh and his bone, yea, are one spirit, 1 Cor. vi. 17. and so live, that it is not they that live, but Christ that lives in them. A Christian spirit is Christ's mark, which he sets upon the souls of his people; his seal in their foreheads, bearing his image and superscription. Christians are the followers of Christ, as they are obedient to that call of Christ, Matth. xi. 28, 29. Come to me, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart. They follow him as the Lamb; Rev. xiv. 4. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. True Christians are as it were
clothed with the meek, quiet, and loving temper of Christ; for as many as are in Christ, have put on Christ. And in this respect the church is clothed with the sun, not only by being clothed with his imputed righteousness, but also by being adorned with his graces, Rom. xiii. 14. Christ the great Shepherd, is himself a lamb, and believers are also lambs; all the flock are lambs; John xxi. 15. Feed my lambs. Luke x. 3. I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves. The redemption of the church by Christ from the power of the devil, was typified of old by David's delivering the lamb out of the mouth of the lion and the bear.
That such virtue is the very nature of the Christian spirit, or the spirit that worketh in Christ and in his members, is evident by this, that the dove is the very symbol or emblem, chosen of God to represent it. Those things are the fittest emblems of other things, which best represent that which is most distinguishing in their nature. The spirit that descended on Christ, when he was anointed of the Father, descended on him like a dove. The dove is a noted emblem of meekness, harmlessness, peace, and love. But the same Spirit that descended on the head of the church, descends to the members. God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son, into their hearts, Gal. iv. 6. And if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Rom. viii. 9. There is but one Spirit to the whole mystical body, head and members, (1 Cor. vi. 17. Eph. iv. 4.) Christ breathes his own Spirit on his disciples, John xx. 22. As Christ was anointed with the Holy Ghost, descending on him like a dove, so Christians have an anointing from the Holy One, 1 John ii. 20, 27. They are anointed with the same oil; it is the same precious ointment on the head, that goes down to the skirts of the garments. And on both it is a spirit of peace and love: Psal. cxxxiii. 1, 2. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments. The oil on Aaron's garments, had the same sweet and inimitable odour with that on his head; the smell of the same sweet spices. Christian affections, and a Christian behaviour, are the flowing out of the savour of Christ's sweet ointments. Because the church has a dove-like temper and disposition, therefore it is said of her that she has dove's eyes, Cant. i. 15. Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair, thou hast dove's eyes. And chap. iv. 1. Behold, thou art fair, my love, behold, thou art fair, thou hast dove's eyes within thy locks. The same is said of Christ, chap. vi. 12. His eyes are as the eyes of doves. And the church is frequently compared to a dove, Cant. ii. 14. O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock.-Chap. v. 2. Open to me, my love, my dove. And chap. vi. 9. My dove, my
undefiled is but one. Psal. lxviii. 13. Ye shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. And lxxiv. 19. O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove unto the multitude of the wicked. The dove that Noah sent out of the arkthat could find no rest for the sole of her foot until she returned -was a type of a true saint.
Meekness is so much the character of the saints, that the meek and the godly are used as synonimous terms in scripture: so Psal. xxxviii. 10, 11. the wicked and the meek are set in opposition, as wicked and godly, Yet a little while and the wicked shall not be: but the meek shall inherit the earth. So Psal. cxlvii. 6. The Lord lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.
It is doubtless very much on this account, that Christ represents all his disciples, though the heirs of heaven, as little children, Matth. xix. 14. Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matth. x. 42. Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of those little ones a cup of cold water, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Matth. xviii. 6. Whoso shall offend one of these little ones, &c. ver. 10. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones. Ver. 14. It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. John xiii. 33. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Little children are innocent and harmless; they do not much mischief in the world; men need not be afraid of them; their anger does not last long, they do not lay up injuries in high resentment, entertaining deep rooted malice. So Christians, in malice are children, 1 Cor. xiv. 20. Little children are not guileful and deceitful, but plain and simple; they are not versed in the arts of fiction and deceit; and are strangers to artful disguises. They are yielding and flexible, and not wilful and obstinate; do not trust to their own understanding, but rely on the instructions of parents, and others of superior understanding. Here is therefore a fit and lively emblem of the followers of the Lamb. Persons being thus like little children, is not only a thing highly commendable, what Christians aim at, and which some of extraordinary proficiency attain: but it is their universal character, and absolutely necessary in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven; Matth. xviii. 3. Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Mark x. 15. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not
But here some may be ready to say, Is there no such thing as Christian fortitude, and boldness for Christ, being good soldiers
in the Christian warfare, and coming out bold against the enemies of Christ and his people?
To which I answer, there doubtless is such a thing. The whole Christian life is fitly compared to a warfare. The most eminent Christians are the best soldiers, endued with the greatest degrees of Christian fortitude. And it is the duty of God's people to be stedfast, and vigorous in their opposition to the designs and ways of such as are endeavouring to overthrow the kingdom of Christ, and the interest of religion. But yet many persons seem to be quite mistaken concerning the nature of Christian fortitude. It is an exceeding diverse thing from a brutal fierceness, or the boldness of beasts of prey. True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace, exerted in two things in ruling and suppressing the evil passions and affections of the mind; and in stedfastly and freely exerting, and following good affections and dispositions, without being hindered by sinful fear, or the opposition of enemies. But the passions restrained, and kept under in the exercise of this Christian strength and fortitude, are those very passions that are vigorously and violently exerted in a false boldness for Christ. And those affections which are vigorously exerted in true fortitude, are those Christian holy affections, that are directly contrary to the others. Though Christian fortitude appears in withstanding and counteracting enemies without us, yet it much more appears in resisting and suppressing the enemies that are within us; because they are our worst and strongest enemies, and have greatest advantage against The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more, than in stedfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behaviour, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world. The scripture seems to intimate that true fortitude consists chiefly in this, Prov. xvi. 32. He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.
The surest way to make a right judgment of what is a holy fortitude in fighting with God's enemies, is to look to the Captain of all God's hosts, our great leader and example, and see wherein his fortitude and valour appeared, in his chief conflict. View him in the greatest battle that ever was, or ever will be fought with these enemies, when he fought with them all alone, and of the people there was none with him. See how he exercised his fortitude in the highest degree, and got that glorious victory which will be celebrated in the praises and triumphs of all the hosts of heaven, through all eternity. Behold Jesus Christ in his last sufferings, when his enemies in earth and hell