ON THE LIVES WE ARE TO LEAD BY THE CHRISTIAN’S RULE
Consider first, that by our rule above rehearsed, we are not only to decline from all evil, in consequence of our God and Saviour coming amongst us, but are also to do good. We are not only to ‘deny ungodliness and worldly desires,’ but also to ‘live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world,’ that we may walk worthy of him who has ‘given himself for us,’ not only that he ‘might redeem us from all iniquity,’ but also that he might ‘cleanse us for himself,’ and make us ‘an acceptable people, a pursuer of good works.’ The Christian’s duty, by this rule of life, has three branches – one of them relates to the regulating of himself; another regards his neighbours; but the third, and chiefest of all, relates to God. All these we comply with, if we ‘live soberly, and justly, and godly,’ because by living soberly we keep ourselves in perfect order; by living ‘justly,’ we behave ourselves to ‘our neighbours’ in all things, as we ought; and by living godly, we dedicate our whole lives to God.
Consider 2ndly, the great extent of these three branches of the Christian’s duty, and how much this sobriety, this justice, and this godliness require of us. Christian sobriety does not only exclude intemperance in eating and drinking, but also all other excesses and disorders, that may any ways carry us out of the bounds of strict regularity: so that to be truly sober, we must restrain pride by humility, anger by meekness, lust by purity, and all the irregular motions of our passions and disorderly inclinations, by such a general temperance and moderation, as may maintain the whole man in due decorum, both as to soul and body. And this Christian sobriety keeps us, as to ourselves, in perfect order, harmony, and peace. Christian justice regulates our whole conduct as to our neighbours, by that golden rule of ‘doing as we would be done by:’ and in consequence of this, excludes every thought, every judgment or censure, every word or discourse, every action or dealing, that may any ways tend to his prejudice or disadvantage: and by this means, as much as lies in us, we maintain due order, harmony, and peace with all our neighbours. And lastly, true godliness makes us seek God in all things, and above all things, and consecrates all our powers and faculties to his love and continual prayer; and we maintain a perpetual peace with God. So that the complying with these three branches of our duty makes us truly wise, and truly perfect, and establishes the peace of God in our souls.
Consider 3rdly, that according to the words of the Apostle, in the place above quoted, whilst we labour to comply with the excellent rule of Christ our Lord by ‘living soberly, justly, and godly in this world,’ we must not confine our views to the narrow limits of this short life here below; but we must be ever looking forward towards the great object of the Christian’s hope, viz., the blessed and glorious coming of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, when he shall come to accomplish the great work he has begun in us, and to take us home with him, both in soul and body, to our true country, and there make us his eternal kingdom. O how happy are those souls that are always aspiring after this coming of their Lord, and bewailing, in the mean time, the long continuance of their banishment here, and their great distance from him, in this foreign land!
Conclude to begin with this new year to enter upon the true paths of life, by a general sobriety, justice, and godliness; and to strive to advance daily, by large steps, in this happy way, which leads to that life which never ends.