ON THE OBLIGATION OF CHRISTIANS TO BE SAINTS
Consider first, how often God has declared in his word, that all his people ought to be saints. ‘Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy,’ was what he perpetually inculcated in the Old Testament; and in the New, the Son of God calls upon us all, Matt. v. 48: ‘Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ All Christians are ‘called to be saints,’ Rom. i. 7; ‘to be holy and without blemish in the sight of God in charity,’ Eph. i. 4; ‘a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people,’ 1 Pet. ii. 9. Hence the name of saints is appropriated by St. Paul to all Christians, as if it were the same thing to be a Christian and to be a saint; which shows that, according to the doctrine of the apostle, all Christians, as such, are at least obliged to endeavour to be saints. This obligation is grounded upon the sanctity of the God whom we serve, of the gospel law under which we live, of the holy institute which we profess, of the great master whom we follow, of the divine sacraments and sacrifice which we frequent; and of that sacred dedication and consecration by which God has sanctified our souls for himself. O let us never forget the many motives we have to be saints!
Consider 2ndly, that our being saints is not merely a matter of counsel, or of greater perfection – ’tis a strict commandment; ’tis implied in the very first and chiefest of all God’s commandments. For though all are not commanded to work miracles, nor to exercise extraordinary austerities; nor to retire into deserts, to spend the whole time there in prayer; nor to sell all they have, and give it to the poor, & c., (for there have been many very great saints that have done none of these things): yet all are commanded to love God with their whole heart, and with their whole soul, and with their whole mind, and with their whole strength. Now this it is that makes saints, and this is of strict obligation to all. Do this, my soul, keep this commandment, and thou also shalt be a saint; but without this, none of those other things, nor all of them together, can make any one a saint. Christians, reflect on the perfection and sanctity which is required of you all by this great commandment of divine love. To love the Lord our God with our whole heart, and all its affections; with our whole soul, and all its powers; with our whole mind, by directing all our thoughts to him; and with our whole strength, by dedicating to him all our actions. O this is to be saints indeed! Now, this our God calls for; and nothing less will satisfy him; it is the very first of his commandments.
Consider 3rdly, upon how many titles this great God challenges our whole hearts and souls, by love and service; and consequently that we should be truly saints; that is, a people sanctified, and consecrated to him. 1. We are his children; and therefore ought to bear some resemblance to our Father, by an imitation of his sanctity. 2. Our souls are espoused to him, and aspire to an eternal union with him: now, whatsoever is disagreeable to true sanctity defiles the soul and disqualifies her for that happy union. 3. We are his temples – the temples of God must be every holy. 4. We are the members of Jesus Christ, we are ingrafted in him, we are to live by his spirit, which is the spirit of sanctity. 5. We absolutely belong to God by our creation; he gave us our being, and gave it to us for no other end but that we should be saints. 6. The Son of God delivered himself up for us, by his passion and death, that he might wash us from all our sins in his own blood, and make us a kingdom of priest, (that is, saints,) to God and his Father, Apoc. 1. 5,6. In fine, by our baptismal vows, by our dedication to God at that time, by our frequent participation of the body and blood of Christ in the divine sacrament, in consequence of which we ought to abide in Christ, the God of all sanctity, and live by him; and by innumerable other titles, we belong to God; and are strictly obliged to give our whole holiness and justice all the days of our lives. And labouring in earnest to be saints; and that it is both the will and the commandment of God?
Conclude to begin, from this very hour, a new and saintly life, by yielding thyself up a perpetual servant to divine love, and striving henceforward to make a daily progress in this heavenly virtue. This is the shortest and surest way to all sanctity and perfection.