[By Alexander Campbell, with emphasis added in bold by Scott Shifferd Jr.]
THERE is no trait in the character of the Saviour more clearly marked, more forcibly exhibited in the memoirs of his life, than his unreserved devotion to the will of his Father and his God. How often do we hear him say, “I came not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” “It is my meat and my drink to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work.” The motto of his life was sung by David in these words: “To do thy will, O God, I delight.” An unfeigned and unreserved submission to, a perfect acquiescence in, and a fixed unalterable determination to do, the will of the Most High, is the standard of true devotion, and the rule and measure of true happiness.–Whence, let me ask, arose this devotion to the will of the Father in our Lord and Saviour? We answer, Because he knew the Father. He knew that God is, and was, and ever shall be love, and he received every expression of his will, whether pleasing or displeasing to flesh and blood, as an exhibition of God’s love. He knew too, that there was no love like the love of God, either in nature or degree. The love of God is a love emanating from, incorporated with, and measured by, an infinite wisdom, and omniscience. Human affection is often misplaced and misdirected, because of human ignorance and human weakness. The love of some men is much greater than that of others, because of the strength of their natural endowments. But as the wisdom and knowledge of God are unsearchable, so his love never can be misplaced, misdirected, never can be measured, nor circumscribed. It is perfect in nature, and in nature it is wisdom, power, and goodness combined. In degree, it cannot be conceived of by a finite mind, nor expressed in our imperfect vehicles of thought. It passes all created understanding. It has a height without top, and a depth without bottom. Every oracle of God, is a manifestation of it. As the electric fluid pervades the earth and all bodies upon it, but is invisible to the eye and imperceptible to the touch; but when drawn to a focus in a cloud by its law of attraction, and when it is discharged to another body which requires more of it than the point from which it emanated, it assumes a new form, and a new name, and becomes visible to the eye, and its voice is heard. Every expression of the will of God, every commandment of God, is only drawing to a certain point, and giving form and efficacy to his love. It then becomes visible–it is then audible–We see it–we hear it–we feel it.
The very term devotion has respect to the will of another. A devoted or devout man is a man who has respect to the will of God. When a person is given up to the will of any person, or to his own will, he is devoted to that person or to himself. But as the term devout is used in religion, we may say that every man is more or less devout, according to his regard to the will of God expressed in his holy oracles. The Saviour was perfectly so, and he is and ever shall be, the standard of perfect devotion. Not an item of the will of God found in the volume of the old book written concerning him, that he did not do, or submit to; not a single commandment did he receive in person from his Father which he did not perfectly acquiesce in, and obey. He was then perfectly devout.
Now, in proportion as men are regenerated, they are like him. Faith always purifies the heart. A pure, is an unmixed heart, that is, a heart singly fixed upon the will of God. The regenerated are therefore devout, or devoted to the will of God, and the unregenerate care nothing about it. Now every one that is devout, or devoted to the will of God, will continually be inquiring into the will of God. Hence his oracles will always be their meditation. Every regenerated man will therefore be devout, devoted to the revealed will of God, will seek to know, and understand, and practice it; therefore every regenerated man will be a friend and advocate of the ancient order of things, in the church of the Living God, because that order was according to the will of God, and every departure from it is according to the will of man. There is not a proposition in Euclid susceptible of a clearer or fuller demonstration than this: Every regenerated man must be devoted to the ancient order of things in the church of God–Provided it be granted as a postulatum, that the ancient order of things was consonant to the will of the Most High. A mind not devoted to the whole will of God, revealed in the New Book, is unregenerate. He that does not obey God in every thing, obeys him in nothing. Hearken to this similitude–
A householder who had one son and many servants, was about to depart on a long journey to a distant country; he called his son into his presence, and said to him, My son, I am about to be absent for a long time; you know I have a vineyard, and an olive-yard, and an orchard of various kinds of fruit. These I have cultivated with great care, and have kept my servants employed to fencing, and in cultivating each of them with equal labor and care. I now give them and my servants into your care and management until my return, and I now command you to have each of them fenced, and pruned, and cultivated as you have seen me do, and at my return I will reward you for your fidelity. He departed. His son calls all the servants together, and having a predilection to the grape above every other fruit, he assembles them all in the vineyard. He improves the fences, he erects his wine vat, and bestows great labor and attention on the pruning and cultivating the vines. They bring forth abundantly; but his attention and the labor of the servants is so much engrossed in the vineyard, that the olive-yard and orchard are forgotten and neglected. In process of time his father returns. He finds his vineyard well enclosed, highly cultivated, and richly laden with the choicest grapes. But on visiting his orchard and olive-yard, he finds the enclosures broken down, the trees undressed and browsed upon by all the beasts of the field. He calls his son. He hangs his head in his presence. His father asks, Why is it, my son, that my olive-yard and orchard are so neglected, and destroyed, while my vineyard flourishes, and is laden with fruit? Father, said he, I have always thought the grape was the most delicious of all fruit, the most salutary, as it cheered the heart of God and man, and therefore the most worthy of constant care and cultivation–I therefore bestowed all my attention upon it. His father rejoined, Unfaithful child, it was not my pleasure, my mind, nor my will, then which guided you; but your own inclination. Had you preferred any thing else to the vineyard, for the same reason that you neglected my orchard and my olive-yard, you would have neglected it. I thank you not for the cultivation of the vine, because, in doing this, you consulted not my pleasure, but your own. Undutiful son, depart from my presence–I will disinherit you, and give my possessions to a stranger. So it is with every one who is zealous for keeping up one institution of the King of kings, while he is regardless of the others.
Some Baptists are extremely devoted to immersion. They have read all the baptisms on record in the New Testament, and beginning at the Jordan they end at the city of Philippi, in the bath in the Roman prison. The ancient mode and nothing else will please their taste. Away with your sprinkling and pouring, and babyism! The authority of the Great King is described in glowing colors. The importance of implicit obedience is extolled, and the great utility of keeping his commands is set forth in language which cannot be mistaken. But when the ancient mode of observing the Lord’s day or of breaking bread is called up to their attention, they fall asleep. The authority of the Great King will scarcely make them raise their heads or open their eyes. Implicit obedience now has no charms, and the utility of keeping his commands has no attractions for them. Such Baptists are not regenerated, that is, they are not devout–not devoted to the will of God. They seek to please themselves. Let such compare themselves with the son of the householder in the preceding parable. They have got a Baptist conscience, and not the conscience of the regenerate. A Baptist conscience hears the voice of God and regards his authority only where there is much water. But a regenerated mind and a Christian conscience, hears the voice of God and regards his authority as much on every Lord’s day, or at the Lord’s table, as on the monthly meeting, as at Enon or in the desert of Gaza. Many, we fear, think they are pleasing and serving God, while they are pleasing and serving themselves. They think they are devout, but they are devoted to their own will. So is every one who acknowledges any thing to be the will of God, and yet refuses to do it.
Ah! remember, my friends, that all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man, rabbinical, clerical, regal, is as the flower of the grass: the grass withers, and the flower falls down, but he that does the will of God abides forever.–Ye Doctors of Divinity, who are doting about questions, and fighting about straws; ye Editors of religious journals, who are surfeiting, the religious mind with your fulsome panegyrics upon those who second your views, and directing the public mind to objects lighter than vanity–remember that the will of Jehovah will stand forever, and that when “gems and monuments and crowns are moldered down to dust,” he that does the will of God shall flourish in immortal youth. Go to work, then, and use your influence to restore the ancient order of things.