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The question is both instructive and admonitory : for, if every individual christian be a temple of God, if the spirit of God, dwelling in him, be the great agent in his sanctification, then does the work of sanctification become indeed a matter of very serious responsibility ; for, as the apostle immediately subjoins, if any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy; for the temple of God is holy. It becomes us seriously to beware, how we offend a being, who has taken up his residence within us for the purpose of imparting to us every holy and spiritual quality, but who will undoubtedly banish himself from a heart, that is unwilling to entertain so divine a guest, or dares wilfully to pollute a tabernacle, in which he deigns to dwell.
But indeed a little consideration will be sufficient to convince us, that our sanctification could not be effected by any inferior agent. For what is it, that we want for the production of this effect? We want a change in the current of our affections. We want to love God, where we loved the world before ; and we want to love our neighbour, as we now love ourselves.
And can we produce a change, like this, in our affections by reasoning ? Can we alter the direction of all our desires, or if so, can we sustain the alteration, an alteration, affecting our whole nature, by effort ? As well might we hope to make a river flow to its source, or a falling body disobey the laws of gravitation. Partial changes we may effect, as we may turn a river into a new channel, and impel a body in an opposite course to its natural tendency. But to acquire a new nature, to have a spirit within us, contrary to the spirit, by which we are naturally actuated, requires a power, superior to that nature, which needs to be transformed.
Hence it is, that the spirit, which sanctifies, must be the holy spirit of God. The son of God procured our justification by dying for us; and the spirit of God produces our sanctification by dwelling in us : and these two works are both necessary in order to our being presented with acceptance at the last day before the throne of the father. Thus, without any formal discussion of the doctrine, we have seen some reason for holding, if it can be proved to us, a trinity in the Godhead: for we need one divine person, to deliver us from the guilt of sin, and we need another divine person, to deliver us from its power, in order that the lord and father of all may receive us back, as his own children, in his eternal kingdom.
These indeed are subjects for further consideration, and cannot be dismissed with merely a few incidental remarks. In the mean time I will beseech you, my beloved brethren, to consider the truths, which have been already established. If it be true, that you
have broken the law of your maker, but that Jesus Christ has atoned for your transgression, if it be true, that by faith in his atonement you may not only obtain remission of sins, but receive the gift of the holy ghost, nay, be even built up, as saint Paul expresses it, for an habitation of God through the spirit, what a serious view does this give of your condition ! How much at variance is it with the spirit of levity and unconcern, which we daily witness! “Know 'ye not' (says the holy apostle to all triflers in an affair of such infinite moment), that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit
of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile
the temple of God, him shall God destroy : ' for the temple of God is holy; which temple
It well becomes you all to consider, whether you do indeed regard the evil of sinning against a gracious and holy God with due abhorrence; whether you
be seriously and sufficiently intent on putting away all such evil from among you; whether, notwithstanding your increasing conviction of the power of sin over you, and your natural incompetency to surmount its influence, you do indeed believe, that Jesus Christ has borne all its penalty, and put away all its guilt, and that through the merit of his atoning sacrifice the holy spirit is sent down from Heaven, to sanctify all, who believe, and to renew in them the likeness of their redeemer; and whether all these considerations lead you to cultivate earnestly all those practices, of which that holy spirit approves, and to shun all those thoughts, words, or actions, which he dislikes ; whether they lead you, as they ought, to examine minutely the preceptive parts of scripture, to consider them with reference to their bearing upon your own daily duties, and the regulation of your temper, affections, and habits, that so your whole life in all its relations and circumstances may under the divine blessing be brought nearer from day to day to the pattern of Christ, and the standard of holiness. This, brethren, this is the true life of a christian ; and none, who is not following it in some sincere, though humble measure, deserves the name.
But this I say, brethren. Grow in grace! Be not satisfied with low attainments in religion! The spirit of God dwelleth in you, if ye be the children of God: and if he dwell in you, beware of defiling his temple, or provoking him to forsake it, by declining to follow, whithersoever he leads you, or forgetting the holiness of his worshippers! May he deliver you from every evil work, strengthen you with all might according to his glorious power, and preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom !