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Our Lord requires his disciples to "seek first "the kingdom of God and his righteousness.' We should set out in early youth with this most important business: but, if we have wasted a great part of our lives already, we should immediately attend to it with proportionable earnestness and industry. We should begin every year, month, week, and day, with this "one thing needful;" to which the prime of our affections, and the best of our hours should be dedicated, and all other pursuits, if possible, rendered subservient. "Labour "not" then, my friends, "for the meat that perish"eth, but for that meat which endureth unto ever
lasting life, which the Son of man shall give "you." If this be neglected, all is lost, whatever else may seem to succeed: if this be secured, all things will surely turn out to your advantage.
While we therefore call upon you, in the name of Christ, "to strive to enter in at the strait gate ;" to deny yourselves and bear your cross for his sake; and to beware that no earthly object rival him in your affections: while we warn you, that it is impossible "to serve God and Mammon," and remind you that the friendship of the world is enmity with God: or while we endeavour to prevail with you, "to count all things but loss, that you may win "Christ, and be found in him :" what do we but inculcate the maxims of heavenly wisdom? Does any prudent man hesitate to renounce an inferior interest, when it comes in competition with a greater, or to neglect some trivial concern, when business of the last importance demands his attention? And who, almost, refuses to part with a right hand, in order to preserve his life? But,
alas!" the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light."
The worldly man, having selected his object, gives it his most decided preference; he adopts and persists in the most suitable means of success; he exercises self-denial in various ways, devises new expedients, never loses sight of his main point, and endeavours to render every thing, even religion itself, subservient to his grand design. But how different is the conduct of numbers who profess the gospel! How negligent are they of the means of grace! or how soon weary of attending on them! How trivial a matter serves as an excuse for omission, and how unwilling are they to venture or endure any thing in this momentous concern! Men in general are far more punctual to their commercial engagements, or even to their social appointments, than in the ordinances of God: and, did lawyers or physicians study their several subjects no more than nominal Christians do the Bible; or were the courtier as slack in waiting on his prince as they are in coming to the throne of grace; how would men exclaim against their folly and inconsistency! Alas! even the true believer may reflect on the conduct of the prudent tradesman, the valiant soldier, and the candidate for royal or popular favour, till he is covered with shame and confusion.
But let us, my brethren, not yield to this supineness let us examine the grounds on which we expect eternal life, as a prudent man would look into the title-deeds of a valuable estate. Let us endeavour to convince our children and relatives, by word and deed, that we seek these bless
ings for them also, as the grand concern: for, alas! even where creeds and catechisms are taught, the conversation of the parlour, and the general system of education, often suggest an opposite conclusion. Let us consider, that we make the best use of our talents, and are the best friends to our country and to mankind, when we most endeavour to promote the interests of true religion. And, should we in this course meet with many discouragements, let us "not be weary in well doing, "for assuredly we shall reap in due season, if we "faint not,
DEUTERONOMY VI. 6-9.
These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children; and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up: and thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes; and thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
THE observation is not more common than just, that if religion be any thing it is every thing. If Christianity be true, the consequences of our present conduct are infinitely important: and, while the infidel may be more atrociously criminal and extensively mischievous; the professed believer, who lives like other men, is the most inconsistent character in the world. The language of scripture does not accord to that of modern times: wicked Christians and irreligious believers are never mentioned in the sacred volume: faith is never supposed separate from a holy life: all worldly men are represented as unbelievers, or as only possessing a dead faith ;" and all believers are spoken of as the servants of God, who live to
his glory, and are distinguished from other men by the whole tenour of their conduct, and not merely by their principles. These things are as observable in the old, as in the new, Testament : for true religion has been essentially the same ever since the fall of Adam, though many circumstantial alterations have taken place: and indeed the perfections of God, the wants of a sinner, and the nature of holiness and happiness are in themselves immutable.
I shall therefore, without further introduction, proceed to discourse on the words of the text, as applicable to Christians, with an authority proportioned to their peculiar advantages. "These "words which I command thee this day," even the great doctrines and precepts of the Bible, "shall be in thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children; and thou shalt talk of "them, when thou sittest in thy house, and when "thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest
down, and when thou risest up: and thou shalt "bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they "shall be as frontlets between thine eyes; and "thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy
house, and on thy gates." It is, alas! too obvious, that professed Christians do not generally observe either the letter or the spirit of this exhortation: nay, that numbers of them would censure or ridicule any of their acquaintance who should practise according to it!
Whether this prove that most men are Christians only in name, or whether some more satisfactory account can be given of the undeniable fact, every one must determine for himself.