THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF OUR RELIGION.
The character which the gospel of Christ requires is made up of all that is lovely, is formed upon the highest model, but it is not composed of the insensibility, the anger, the pride, the egotism, the worldliness, which is so common among men. It is not the cold indifference of modern moralists; it is not the rank and scepticism of modern doubters, nor yet the intellectual rashness and moral phantoms of modern scientists. These have done all they could to take possession of the human heart, and have left it more miserable than it was before. The great author of our holy religion, through the instrumentality of our blessed Savior, brings us into the possession of his own spirit; imparts to us the elements of his own divine excellence; forms us anew in his own image. The idea of "Emanuel, God with us," is composed of the richest elements. It embraces all that is venerable in wisdom, wonderful in authority, and touching in goodness. Human greatness, blended with imperfections and many limitations, is seen only in detached and separate parts; never appears in any one character whole and entire; but in our Lord Jesus Christ these conceptions, or scattered rays of an ideal excellence, are brought together and constitute the real attributes of that Savior whom we worship, who stands in the nearest relation to us, who is the "head of all principality and power," and who pervades all nature with his presence. The object of the Christian religion is to recover man from his degraded, miserable condition, elevate him above his debasement, and reinvest him with the character of Christ, that he may eventually dwell with the angels in the perfections of the Infinite One.
The views and spirit transfused into the soul of the Christian are very different from the views and spirit of the world. The spirit of the world is pride and selfishness, the pride of rank and office, the pride of wealth and worldly accomplishments, which lives for the praise of men. On the contrary, the Savior imparts to all his worshipers the loveliest of all the graces, a heaven-born humility, a modest estimate of one's own worth, and a deep sense of unworthiness on account of human weakness. As Christians we learn to humble ourselves in view of the majesty and perfections of our heavenly Master. "Before honor is humility." The Savior commands an humble religion; its love is humble, its faith is humble; its repentance, its baptism, its hopes, its joys, its raptures are all humble. True greatness is not found except in an humble mind; never is an archangel more exalted, more truly great, than when he bows before the throne of Christ. The spirit of the world is self-will and insubordination, hard-heartedness and impenitence, or inflexible perseverance in sin. The spirit of the world is one of self-indulgence and guilty pleasure. Sinners are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. They are eager for enjoyment and obtain it in dissipated behavior, thought and feeling. Lawless pleasure is the idol of the sinner's heart and the rule of his life; it often leads him to shame, infamy and ruin. The religion of Christ gives, in the place of this, the love of God and duty. The pleasures of the Christian are much broader and brighter than the pleasures of the disobedient; they are far superior to the sinner's day dreams and pleasures of sense. The spirit of the world rejects the truth of God; distrusts his word; has not sufficient confidence in his declarations, or, it may be, love for his praises, and so leans upon self, having no wants, fears, or despondency which it does not presume to relieve for itself. And often it happens when corruptions, doubts and disobedience have kept rule until the poor man is ruined and the hope of a better day is literally exhausted, that the soul under the dominion of sin cries, "Lord, save, or I perish." Have you faith in God and in his word? then let unshaken confidence in Jesus Christ his son and our Savior become the great principle and impulse of action, rise up in the dignity of true manhood or womanhood and obey the gospel and live. It is hard to conceive of a darker, deeper chasm than that which would be made by the absence of this great principle and impulse of action which has formed thousands of characters in the image of the Redeemer.
Let no one suppose that the obligation to live a Christian life is a light one. Holiness is the highest attainment of a rational soul; it is the greatest good within the reach of man; it is the greatest good in the universe. Seek this, it is most sublime and excellent; seek to be virtuous and holy that your hearts may be won and subdued by the power of His own word....