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Gird up the loins of our mind. Put away sloth and conformity to the world, and bitterness, &c. &c.
Shall we be employed about things of minor importance when such great things are before us?
Above all things, let us not be found opposing or hindering revivals, either by unholy lives, or by slandering revivals, or even by speaking lightly of them.
God forbid, brethren, that we should do any thing to strengthen the hands of the enemy.
HOW TO FEEL OUR SINS, OR, STRIVE TO ENTER IN.
Persons who begin to wish they were christians, are often much discouraged by the difficulty they feel in setting their sins before them in a sufficiently strong light. They hear and they believe repentance to be the first step in their wished for change, and it is so. But it is a mistake to suppose a sense of sin will always be felt the most keenly before the heart is made right. On the contrary, every step we take in the christian life, shows us more clearly the sinfulness of our past course; every step towards the Sun of righteousness, causes the darkness behind us to appear more gross. If, then, we cannot feel the hatefulness of sin as we wish, let us feel the beauty of holiness. Let us “set God always before us;" let us contemplate his glorious perfections, till incited to endeavors after perfect conformity to his holy will. Every effort we make, will show us more and more of the exceeding sinfulness of our hearts. The more strenuously we aim at perfect conformity to the will of God, the more deeply sensible shall we become of our unworthiness in the sight of Him who can charge even the angels with folly. “Save us, Lord Jesus, or we perish,” will be our cry.
Persons often profess to wish they were christians, while yet they are making no efforts to become such. They wish they could feel their sins, and yet they refuse so much as to look at them. Now it is absurd for a sinner to expect to feel a strong repugnance for sin, while he continues to indulge in it. A sense of sin implies a knowledge of something better ; we must strive after holiness. We must take our staff in our hands,- show ourselves ready and resolute, and then the pillar of fire will be before us, to lead us from slavery and bondage. Shall we expect to receive the aids of God's Spirit without any
effort of our own? Let us rather seek for it in the faithful performance of the services he requires,-in obedience to every command. Let us ever manifest a desire to spend and be spent in his service, and we shall receive aid. While we neglect religious duties, the more indifference we feel about our own sinfulness; the more we do for God, the stronger will become our attachment to him, and the deeper our repentance for our sins against him.
The grace of God is for those who, by a patient continuance in well doing, show that, in some measure, they value it as they ought. Let us consider the magnitude of the reward promised to those who, in sincerity, seek to know and do the will of God. Shall we think any sacrifice too great, if we may but obtain assistance in fashioning our hearts and lives after the pattern held up to us in the Bible? Shall any effort be esteemed too great, that shall command, as its reward, “an exceeding great and eternal weight of glory ?”
THE JOYS OF REPENTANCE.
“Which is the most delightful emotion ?” said an instructer of the deaf and dumb to his pupils, after teaching them the names of our various feelings. The pupils turned instinctively to their slates, to write an answer; and one, with a smiling countenance, wrote Joy. It would seem as if none could write anything else; but another, with a look of more thoughtfulness, put down Hope. A third, with a beaming countenance, wrote Gratitude. A fourth wrote Love, and other feelings still, claimed the superiority on other minds. One turned back with a countenance full of peace, and yet a tearful eye, and the teacher was surprised to find upon her slate, “Repentance is the most delightful emotion.” He turned to her with marks of wonder, in which her companions doubtless participated, and asked---"Why ?” "Oh,” said she, in the expressive language of looks and gestures, which marks these mutes---" it is so delightful to be humbled before God!”
She had been one of Nature's lofty spirits, whose very aspect seemed to demand the deference of those around her, and who had strong claims to it. She had recently become “as a little child,” under the influence of the gospel, and pride had not only yielded with sweet submission to the will of God, but had bowed without a murmur to the reproaches and almost persecutions of companions who hated the light when thus reflected from the countenance, and conduct, and conversation of one like themselves. She had been utterly ignorant of moral obligation. She had learned the evil of sin, and, at the same moment, the ample provision for its forgiveness---and the humbling melting of the soul, in penitential love, and gratitude, and joy, surpassed, in her view, all that the whole circle of emotions could furnish. Reader! Do you know this joy? Do you know from your own experience how "delightful it is to be humbled before God?” Repentance is, indeed, a duty---you admit it, and you have perhaps endeavored to perform it. But it has been only as a duty. Has it been like a Catholic penance, entered upon with resolution---performed with exactness---and finished with perseverance as a task,---painful and irksome and humiliating in itself ; but pleasant only in its countenance, and tolerable only for its effects? If so, you have reason to tremble, but it has been only “the sorrow of the world which worketh death." You have all the sorrow and self-denial of religion without any of its joys, or any claim to its hopes---of all men, surely such are the most miserable ?' Of all men, they have the strongest inducement to turn to God with their whole hearts, to sweeten their sorrow with love and gratitude, instead of rendering it more bitter with fear and distrust. The great Master of the christian desires willing servants, and will not admit the bond-slaves of mere duty to his presence.
If you know this delightful emotion,”---if you find it hereafter, you will prove it by indulging it often. The occasions will not cease on this side heaven. The opportunity will recur every hour, and never will your peace be sweeter, or your hopes surer, than when, like this deaf mute, you find it “ delightful to be humbled before God," and feel "the joys of repentance."
DELIVERED BEFORE THE PASTORAL ASSOCIATION OF MASSACHUSETTS, IN
PARK STREET CHURCH, BOSTON, MAY 30, 1843.
Published by request of the Association.
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in
truth."-John iv. 24.
It is from the Bible alone, directly or indirectly, that we gain correct ideas, either of the natural attributes, or of the moral character of God. However distinctly we may trace the impress of his hand in his works when we already believe in his existence and true attributes, and however possible it might be for man, if his powers were unaffected by sin, to discover from the things that are made the eternal power and Godhead of the Creator, yet the whole history of the race shows that, for this purpose, nature is not to man its own interpreter.
Everywhere, and under all circumstances, men“ have become vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart has been darkened.” If the great doctrines of the unity and spirituality of God, did, indeed, glimmer in upon the minds of some of the heathen philosophers, yet no people of ancient times received and retained them except the Jews. Hence, when we pass from the heathen philosophers and poets to the prophets and poets of the Jews, we are in a new world, as respects every thing that relates to God. Here his being and attributes are set forth in the highest strains of poetry. And this poetry is also truth. It is philosophy transfigured, and therefore it never grows old. Even now, after more than three thousand years, after every discovery of science, it stands in all the original freshness and unapproachable majesty of the starry heavens.
But what they thus set forth in poetry, is disclosed in its simplest form by our Savior. “God is a spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Probably few have read this passage without being struck by it. How simple the words ! The doctrine stated—how great! yet how simply, and naturally, and incidentally introduced! The inference respecting the worship of God—how irresistible, and important, and all-comprehensive, and yet how entirely in opposition to the prevailing opinions both among Jews and Gentiles! Certainly if there is an instance in which the annunciation of a truth, in distinction from the manifestation of power, may be said to produce sublime emotions, it is this.
The text is naturally divided into two parts.—The fact, or doctrine stated, and the inference from it. It is not iny purpose, at this time, to dwell upon the doctrine; I propese rather to consider the characteristics of acceptable worship here stated; and the best means of promoting it.
The characteristics of acceptable worship, as given by our Savior, are two. It must be, first, in spirit, and second, in truth.
What then is included in the worship of God in spirit, or in spiritual worship?
I. And first, I remark, that to worship God in spirit, we must worship him as a spirit, and without the intervention of any sensible forms. In the present state of man, he does not readily form to himself the idea of a God who is a spirit, infinite, eternal and holy. Accustomed to objects of sense, he seeks for something visible, or represents God to himself by the conceptive faculty, under some sensible form. Little aware of the distinction between a conception and an idea, or that the true idea of God, must exclude any particular conception or imagination, he is ready to disbelieve in the existence of any thing of which he cannot conceive, and when he would think of it, there is a mere blank in his mind. When he would pray to God, he seems to be praying to nothing. He asks in substance the questions of a heathen, as recently given by a missionary—“Why, how can I serve him without an idol ? Where can I put the fowers ? Where shall I burn the frankincense? How shall I bathe him?" He forgets that even in the natural world he is under the necessity of believing in the existence of many things, as magnetism and gravitation, of which he cannot form a conception. He believes in the existence of these, he has an idea of them as forces, he reasons and acts with reference to them; but if they were intelligent and moral beings, and he were to attempt to address them, he would find the same difficulty that he does in addressing a pure spirit.