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but his saintliness did not save him from being betrayed into a specially flagrant adultery, which he was tempted further to cover by the murder of his friend. Though about David's dark transgression let us say in passing, that we cannot be too thankful for the moral safeguards with which the manners, habits, and settled principles of Christian society surround us. We have helps against such daring and desperate sin as David's which were not within his reach. In an early and unsettled state of society men pass much more easily from the heights to the depths at a bound. We may almost say that society has made such advance since David's time that it would be impossible in these days for a man with one tithe of David's godliness to be betrayed into David's sins. But there they stand, Job and David, perfect and upright men, according to the express testimony of God. For
3. God in estimating man and man's life, discerns what is hidden from us, the root out of which it springs, and is not shut up, as we are, to a casual and often imperfect observation of what appears on the surface of the life. He discerns the central core of the being; as that is to Him, the man is. If that be right with Him, the man is right with Him. There may be more or less of unruly passion to be tamed, more or less of practical grace or virtue to be developed, more or less of the natural man to be transformed into the image of the Saviour, but that which is radical in the heart, the deepest principle of its life, will display itself outwardlythe innermost will become outermost in time. thinketh in his heart, so is he," and so he will be seen to be of all when his life course is ended, and the essential character of the man gives form and tone to the body, which will be at once the shrine and the organ of the spirit through eternity. What that is in the man which makes his essential character God sees clearly, man but dimly and partially, and His estimate of us
" As a man
is based on the knowledge of what is deepest and most vital in us; He sees Christ formed in the heart of him who is but a child in faith, and beholding Christ's perfectness, justifies through Christ him who believes.
4. The essential principle of this perfectness of which David speaks is a heart right with Him, a life whose root and whose aim is God. And this marks out the Scripturally perfect man from the man of natural grace, goodness, and nobleness of character on the one hand, and the man of mere model perfectness, with all the virtues and none of the faults and stains, on the other. It is the man, with more or less of native beauty, goodness, and nobleness of nature, whose heart is right with God.
The underlying principle here seems to me to be this. There is very much that is naturally graceful, beautiful, pure and noble, in humanity. I do not believe that all eminent saints have been murderers in embryo, nor that the purest maidens, if madness unseals their lips, will utter terrible words of pollution and shame. There are dark diversities in men and
women, in natural quality and tendency, the secret of which it is impossible for us to fathom ; ough for us to know that “ His ways are equal” who created and rules the world. There are beautiful natural features of character, there is much natural grace and goodness, around us here, and God does not refuse to recognise it. To Him we may well believe it is good and beautiful, with all the flaws which His pure eye discerns-good and beautiful as the verdure of earth, the breath of flowers, the splendour of stars, and all the grace and glory of the world. But to Him it is simply the blooming of the germs which He has hidden in the heart of man as well as in the bosom of the world; it is so far but the fruit of nature, which, beautiful as it is, fades and perishes, it lacks the life which makes it enduring and eternal.
All that is "natural" perishes. “All flesh is grass, and all the
” glory of man is as the flower of grass ; the grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away;" God, and that which is born of God, alone is eternal. The glory of the natural virtues, fair as its promise may be, fades like the nature from which they spring. They only become real, living, and fruitful, in the highest sense, when they have sought for themselves a deeper root, when by faith they have connected themselves with Christ, and have become infixed in His life.
And this is the true human goodness and perfectness, the true glory of man, the partaking of the nature and life of the Lord. Man was not meant just to bloom fair and fragrant as a flower, according to the bent of its nature; he was made to aim at and attain a godlike perfectness, through the free activity of his intellect and will, which perfectness can only be sought and found by faith in God. The perfect man is the man who has received the stream of a Divine inspiration, and has the flow of a Divine life through his nature; the root of whose endeavours draws its nourishment from the fountain of God's grace in Christ, the flower of whose life seeks to unfold itself in the heaven of His light and His love. The man who has a principle to fall back upon when tempted, which is deeper and stronger than his own resolution ; a power to recover himself when fallen, in the formed habits of godly action and the hopes of a glorious future, of inestimable worth ; he cannot rest in the sty, though he may enter it for the moment; he cannot sink in the slough, though he may touch it with his foot; he has a purpose and a hope which connect themselves with God, which are redeeming, which are the hold of God upon him by which He uplifts and redeems his soul. The question is simply, what is the innermost thought, bent, and law of the heart? Is it God ? To do God's will, to walk in God's way, to aim at God's ends, to come to God's home-this, where it lies but as
a germ in the heart, is the principle of perfectness, stains may blot, blemishes may mar, sins may defile the spirit; but there is that within which will conquer and purge them, and present the being faultless, stainless, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing-worthy to mix with the holy ones, whiterobed, in the temple on high.
This is the essential principle of the perfectness. The extent of its manifestation is not the question ; if the principle be there the manifestiòn will be a growing one, and will be visibly glorious at last. The grace, beauty, and virtue of nature get sadly dimmed by the wear and tear of a rough world like this ; they soon show that they have no deep root, and are doomed to die. While “the righteous shall flourish as the palmtree, he shall grow like the cedar in Lebanon.” “The path of the just is as a shining light, which shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day." That which is innermost comes outermost through life's daily discipline, and it shines out at last with victorious splendour in death. And if to this essential heartrightness be added the grace of a high-souled, harmonious, and beautiful nature, there you have a spirit which I will not say is angelic-we have no right to suppose that there is anything like it among the angels, who have never been purified by discipline-but made like unto the Son of God.
I have known such–I have one in my mind's eye now. They leave a light behind them when they pass which reveals to us who knew them our own littleness, and how great, through Christ, we may become. A man "perfect and upright," whose integrity is inwoven with his very existence and is fed by his every breath ; whose lofty superiority to all selfish motives, aims and ends, is as conspicuous as a planet in the midnight sky; who could not do a mean, base, tricky action, or take an unfair advantage of his rival, though a world were the prize. And he can tell us why he could not.
“ I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." A man who amongst his companions and coadjutors has manifestly no selfish purpose to fulfil at their expense, and who is their wise, their trusted counsellor and guide ; for it is self which perverts judgment; the selfish eye is inevitably a partial one, and he who can purge his sight from that humour of self-seeking has qualified himself most effectually for the service of his fellow-men; one whose nature is so well compacted and balanced, and realises such a just harmony of all the faculties and qualities which make the rich endowment of man, that all find in him a vivid sympathy, and yet a soothing, purifying, elevating, and harmonising power; whose soul being set on higher things than the men of this world strive after sees through all the petty ambitions of the moment, without scorn of those who aim at them, regarding them rather with a pitying love which may help to lift their contemplations to higher and more enduring things. A man who is just,“ to the estimation of a hair,” while generous to the verge of lavishness, yet not beyond it, that he may be the more largely generous ; conspicuously temperate, yet not abstinent, and therefore able to invest temperance with a grace and charm which extremes can never wear; full of genial, playful tenderness, with a ready smile for all gladness and a ready tear for all sorrows of his friends ; flinging the veil of a delicate humour round all the roughnesses and acerbities of life; with vivid interest in all that makes the life of this world worth the living, but with a calm, self-controlled aspect which looks beyond it; saved from a too fond idolatry of the creature by the serene presence of heavenly and eternal things. I say I Ι have known such a one, and marked him well, and the end of that man was peace. One other word to complete the portraiture of the Scrip