« ForrigeFortsæt »
I shall endeavour from the words of the text, I. To point out some of the leading principles of our holy religion, which especially demand our unremitted attention:
II. Explain and illustrate the exhortation, and suggest the most effectual methods of reducing it to practice:
III. Shew the reasonableness of such a conduct.
And may the Lord vouchsafe us his special help and blessing, while we meditate on this important subject! For it is astonishing and lamentable to observe how slightly even they who seem to be religious pass over such urgent exhortations. So that, while a vast majority of mankind are altogether asleep in sin, the rest seem not to be half awake to matters of infinite and eternal importance.
I. In pointing out some of the leading principles of our holy religion, which especially demand our most earnest attention, we cannot begin more properly than with the perfections and authority of God, and our relations and obligations to him. Though most men allow these truths, yet their conduct in this respect, marks very strongly the distinction between the religious and irreligious part of mankind. Who can imagine, that the gay, the sensual, the covetous, or the ambitious, have a constant and serious recollection of that holy, omnipresent, omniscient, and almighty God, in whom we all profess to believe? May we not rather conclude, that "God is not in all their "thoughts;" at least, that they do not willingly consider his character as described in the sacred scriptures? Do such men habitually recollect the majesty and authority of the Lord, their obligation
or accountableness to the Creator and Judge of the world? Do they act under a constant sense of his all-seeing eye? Do they endeavour to please him in their most secret and common actions, or by their inmost thoughts and motives? Do they seek happiness in his favour, and liberty in his service? Or do they, when conscious of having 'offended, rely on the mercy of God, and seek an interest in the salvation of his Son, as the grand object of their deliberate choice, and most fervent desires? I apprehend that the most admired and applauded characters, in Christian countries, are as entire strangers to this course of life as the very pagans themselves. But the true believer walks with God; the thoughts of his presence and perfections frequently possess his mind, and habitually influence his conduct; and, in his various occupations and pursuits, he seeks "not to please men, "but God that trieth the hearts."
It is indeed one great end of preaching, to convince men that religion does not consist in coming once or twice a week to public worship, or at stated seasons to the Lord's table: and that these are only appointed means of bringing them habitually to acknowledge God in every part of their conduct; that their actions, conversation, and dispositions, may be influenced by a sense of his presence and authority; that pious meditations, ejaculations, and praises may habitually spring from the temper of their minds, as occasion requires; and that their daily employments, regulated by genuine piety, may be a constant succession of services to their Master who is in heaven.-Who can deny that the law of God requires this at our hands?
that the example of Christ recommends and enforces it? or that the apostle inculcates it, when "Whether ye eat, or whether ye drink, "or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God?" Perfection indeed cannot here be attained; nor can we say what measure of this habitual recollection is essential to genuine piety: but, if this be the nature of true religion when perfected, it must proportionably be the same in its lowest degrees. If we do not propose to ourselves a high standard, our actual attainments will be very low: and, if the nature of our religion differ from all our ideas of the worship and holiness of angels, we shall doubtless be finally excluded from their society, as incapable of their holy felicity.
The eternal world is another subject, which demands our unremitted attention. Death and its important consequences; and the awful realities of that solemn season, when "all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, " and shall come forth, they that have done good
to the resurrection of life, and they that have "done evil to the resurrection of damnation ;' should be familiar to our thoughts, and frequently be made the subject of our conversation. Eternity -the shortness of time-the uncertainty of lifethe importance of this fleeting season of preparation for the tribunal of God-the sin, the folly and infatuation, of wasting it in the cager pursuit of perishing things, or in frivolous and pernicious amusements: by frequently recurring to these topics, we should endeavour to excite ourselves, and to "exhort one another daily, while it is called "to-day, lest any of us should be hardened by the
"deceitfulness of sin." A mispent day, or even an idle hour, must on reflection give pain to the man who duly considers the words of Christ, " Watch "and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all those things which are coming on the earth, and to stand before the "Son of man:" "Let your loins be girded about "and your lamps burning, and ye yourselves like "unto men that wait for their Lord:" "Be ye, therefore, ready also; for in an hour that ye "think not the Son of man cometh."
Our chief business is not with men: our grand interest is not placed in earthly objects. The Lord himself is "he with whom we have to do;" and, if we are indeed believers, "we look not at "the things which are seen, but at the things "which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not 66 seen are eternal." This was the case with all that "cloud of witnesses" who have gone before us. "Enoch walked with God, and was not, for "God took him." Moses preferred " the reproach "of Christ" and the sufferings of God's people, to the riches, honours, and pleasures of Egypt; for he "had respect to the recompense of the re"ward." The Old Testament saints "all died in faith, not having received the promises, but 'having seen them afar off; and were persuaded "of them, and embraced them, and confessed "that they were strangers and pilgrims upon the "earth." The primitive Christians" suffered joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that
they had in heaven a better and a more enduring "substance." They "counted not the sufferings
"of this present time worthy to be compared with "the glory that shall be revealed:" and many of them considered "death as their gain," that "be"ing absent from the body, they might be present "with the Lord." Yet in these days this kind of life not only appears visionary to profane scoffers and infidels; but many who profess and contend for the peculiar doctrines of the gospel seem not at all aware, that one grand difference between a believer and other men consists in the decided preference which he gives to eternal things, above all the interests and enjoyments of this sublunary world. "To be carnally minded is death, but to "be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
The divine law should likewise occupy a large share of our thoughts and conversation. It is spiritual, holy, just, and good, and given to be the rule of our conduct, and the standard of our judgment, and it is "written in the hearts" of all true believers. Thus David exclaims, "Oh, how I "love thy law! it is my meditation all the day:" "I esteem all thy precepts in all things to be right:" "I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above much fine gold:" and, "I will walk "at liberty for I seek thy precepts."
Numbers of men, called Christians, prescribe to themselves no other rule than the law of fashion, custom, honour, or trade; that is, the law of their own peculiar circle. Others judge of their conduct by some scanty maxims of morality, or by their own notions of right and wrong: and few, even of those who profess to believe, seem willing to use the commandments of God for these important purposes." Thou shalt love the Lord thy