« ForrigeFortsæt »
such an one did not think it necessary to be everlastingly engaged in praying and preaching; such an one did not think it injurious to indulge in certain innocent gratifications. Your father made no pretensions of this kind; your mother's piety was sedate and calm, and now that they are dead, must you, by your conduct and opinions, pronounce on their destiny. If you are right, they must have been wrong; if you cannot be saved unless you take this course, are not they lost? This is the kind of opposition from the errors and the worldliness of friends of which I spoke, and there is scarcely a Christian, and especially a young one, who has not this in some form to encounter. It is harder than an attack of decided persecution. Where an individual's mind is turned to the subject of religion, or where there is a decided profession of religion, I should feel less concern for the progress of either, if the devil would let loose all his open opposition against them, than when, taking this form of an angel of light, he works his insidious opposition. Oh how many fathers and mothers thus, by their opinions and their conduct, stand in their children's way. Well, well indeed, is the Scripture literally fulfilled, "a man's foes shall be they of his own household," and how terribly in this respect does the Gospel prove occasion of offence; for it must and does "set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-inlaw."
Among your foes in the great work of religion, my friends, I name but one more-absolute persecution.
On this part of my subject, brethren, happy am I
to remark, that I have not much to say. Persecution, such as once attended on the zealous and ardent professors of Christianity, is no more; and in our land of civil and religious liberty, the dearest interests of conscience are maintained inviolate. We cannot be too thankful to the God of all grace and goodness, that he has thus disposed our lot, and it would be well for us if we would keep in our minds the corresponding responsibility of our situation. But though public persecution for the profession of religion has ceased, the unconverted heart still retains its enmity, and there still exist, even in their most desperate forms, private and family persecution. When an individual is arrested in the course of carelessness or of sin, and begins in earnest to seek the salvation of his soul, and to commence the great work of preparation for eternity, what is it but persecution which throws obstacles in the way, no matter under whatsoever specious forms these obstacles may be devised. The spirit of persecution exists in the heart of every individual who would, by any means, or under any circumstances, throw one solitary hindrance in the way of the religion of one, over whose affections, or over whose conduct he may have a natural or an accidental control. So also when an individual has made a profession of religion, what is it but persecution which attempts to hinder the carrying out of that profession in all the length and breadth of the Gospel requirements. Any power or control exerted which may be intended or calculated to impair the energy, or stop the progress, or diminish the zeal, or cool the ardour in the cause of Christ and of the soul, is persecution in its spirit and in the utmost of its effort. Could it do more it
would. And this is a kind of persecution which multitudes, especially of young professors, are compelled to endure. They meet it, in a greater or lesser degree, from all their relatives and friends who are either decidedly averse to religion, or who entertain opinions on the subject of religion which take no sanction from the word of God.
I have now, my friends, gone through the consideration of the opponents and opposition to the great work of religion. It has been a painful though necessary view of the subject, and I rejoice that my next general division, which takes up the greatness of the work of religion, from the aids which are vouchsafed, is as cheering as the last has been melancholy. This will form the topic for discussion in our next sermon. Before I close this discourse, however, a brief recapitulation, with concluding observations, may be usefully presented.
I have considered as among the foes to the great work of religion, the devil, the flesh, the world, the ridicule of the ungodly, the errors and the worldliness of professors, and absolute persecution. It is a fearful and an appalling array, and yet one which it is impossible to avoid. That mysterious foe who, "as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour," is ever on the alert, ever watchful, ever zealous, ever persevering. He may come to our thoughts whether we walk in the broad daylight and in the scenes of our occupations, or in the silent watches of the night. Within ourselves we carry the seeds of depravity and corruption which oppose a continual warfare to every better motion of the Spirit of God. In all that is around us, we find the world our foe; in its maxims, its opinions, its practices; on one hand ridicule, on another error; here
worldliness of professing Christians, there a modified persecution. Like the Israelites, when they stood upon the borders of the Red Sea, is every individual who attempts an escape from hell by becoming a Christian, or who, as a Christian already, desires to perfect holiness in the fear of God. You have the fearful waters of the sea before you; in the rear you have your foes strong to overtake and hinder you. On mountains, on either side, your opponents have established their forces; within the camp you have traitors waiting an opportunity to betray you to the enemy. I use no language of fancy, brethren. I would despise myself if I dared to trifle with your feelings. It is a truth which I dare not withhold, that from the moment you commence this work, this great work, through every stage of its progress, you have against you the subtlety and malice, the invisible powerful agencies of apostate spirits, the treachery of the flesh, the deceits, the delusions of the world, and the ten thousand artifices of inferior and subordinate opponents. And all this opposition is never intermitted; no, not for a week; no, not for a day; no, not for an hour; no, not for an instant. It is an opposition which, while your eye is heavenward, is ceaseless as it is tremendous. Yield to it; give up the struggle; cease to fight or relax; and as you relax your efforts, opposition will relax its force; make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, by falling into sin and worldliness, and the opposition will cease. But as that opposition relaxes, the danger of your soul increases; when that opposition ceases, you are on the brink of hell. If you would be saved, breast that opposition you must, overcome it you must, "for he that endureth to the end alone shall be saved."
THE GREAT WORK OF RELIGION.
NEHEMIAH vi. 3.
WHEN an individual sets out upon a long journey, he will prove himself very much mistaken if he expects to find the road always easy and agreeable, and the prospect always enchanting. He will soon discover that he has to travel during stormy days, and up hills, and through swamps, and over stony roads, and amidst dull and monotonous, if not dismal prospects. But when he does find a smooth and level piece of road, and a charming and delightful prospect, his mind becomes at once more elastic, and he travels on with raised spirits and with a speedier pace. In relation to the course, my friends, through which we have been travelling in the preceding discourses of this series, there has been much up-hill work, and stony roads, and dismal prospects; deep valleys and high and precipitous mountains, with multitudes of obstacles in both. We have now, however, reached a point where the greatest roughness of our path terminates, and we