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The preacher, I am sure, must plead guilty. The thought of standing up before such a congregation as this, is always accompanied with considerable weight on my spirits : but yesterday it was such, as led me to say in my family, “I cannot make a sermon for tomorrow : I am too much depressed to attempt it. Besides, I have been turning the Bible over and over for a subject, and cannot find one. I must take some printed discourse: at any rate, I can make none : and their candour will admit of an apology."
Ah! lingering, lazy minister ! read a printed sermon ! make apologies for sloth! find no subject ! What, no subject, when sinners are perishing around you : when faithful witnesses are so scarce, and false witnesses are labouring to root out all remembrance of truth from the earth! No subject ! when thy dying breath will soon be in thy nostrils, and the door of thy opportunity soon be shut for ever!
Who does not join his confession to mine, and cry Oh wretched man !
Thus admonished by truth and goaded by conscience, we slowly make our way. Some of our hindrances are inevitable; but too many are invited,—are purchased,
are even boasted of, till, at length, our breath fails, and some one tells a neighbour,“ He is dead.” “Dead !" replies the other : "I did not hear that he was sick ! How did he die ?" Why careful about many things ;' lingering as to the main thing: he had scarcely time left to set his House in order; God only knows how it was with his Heart."
If, however, as Christians, we thus meditate upon our weakness and danger, it is not that we may sink under discouragement, but that we may quicken our pace, and to bring forward and exalt our remedy-it is that we may 'exhort one another while it is called to-day, lest
any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin—it is in order to our uniting in the cry, 'Awake, Awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord ! With such views and means, we shall be able to say, with the Apostle, When I am weak, then am I strong.'
Nor let us stumble, as we are too apt, at the Providence which is often sent to fulfil a Promise. You, to whom I am speaking, certainly pray in Christ's name, that God would deliver you from this evil world—that he would not let you rest in sin—that he would bring you on your way to heaven; and that he would choose the proper means.
But, has he really heard thee; and, in very faithfulness, sent some messenger to deliver thee, but such an one as alarms thy fear ? Fear not, it is but an Angel's arm stretched out to conduct thee onward ; a voice crying, 'Escape for thy life.'
Recollect, that, whatever be the means, which God employs to break our idolatrous attachments, and bring us on the heavenly way, though others call it a loss or a disappointment, a disease or a death, let us call it an angel's hand- let us call it the voice of Christ, saying, As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent.'
See, then, that ye refuse not him, that speaketh ;' nor draw back from him, that layeth hold on thy hand, the 'Lord being merciful unto thee. Rather, let us recollect, that though we linger, time lingers not-death lingers not-judgment lingers not ! May every heart be lifted up to God this morning, that the arm of special grace may be stretched out to deliver us from a lingering spirit! Let us depart praying; and forming new resolutions to retire and seek that grace, which alone can seal the admonition of this day upon our hearts.
ON THE CHARACTER OF HANNAH.
And she said, O my Lord, as thy soul liveth, my Lord, I am the wo.
man that stood by thee here praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed: and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him.-1 Sam. i. 26, 27.
TRUE Religion, my dear hearers, is, while on earth, a heavenly plant in an unfriendly clime. It has to struggle with soil and season; and often meets a malignant blast that would bring immediate death to it, were it not for the care of the Husbandnian. He watches and shields it, who will soon transplant it to a happier region, where it shall flourish for ever.
This plant is distinguished from such as bear some resemblance to it, by the Root, the CULTURE, and the
In other words, by comparing what God teaches his children, with what he works in their hearts and produces in their lives, we come to learn what real religion is, and what it is worth.
In this view, the short memoirs recorded in the Bible, become inestimable demonstrations of its principles. In them we see true religion embodied, alive and in action : we observe how it feels and speaks ; how it first endures, and at length conquers : and we are thus enabled to distinguish it from those mere forms, farces and counterfeits, with which it is surrounded, and which seek to gain credit under its sacred name.
Should any one ask, “Where, after all, is the true religion ?" we answer, it stands before us this day in the character of the woman, who being dead yet speaketh' in the First Lesson of this Morning's Service.
Her husband had fallen into an error too common in those times : he had departed from the divine institution wbich makes of twain one flesh;' and had met the consequences of his sin in a distracted family. Hannah had no children; and was insulted by Penninah on that account, year by year, as she went up to the House of the Lord. Daily vexed and reproached by her adversary, she wept, and did not eat : her husband endeavoured to comfort her; but this was one of those many cases, in which God teaches his children, that he is their only portion and refuge.
She went up to worship with her husband; but she had a secret transaction with her God : she had griefs to pour into his bosom, where even an affectionate partner or faithful minister could not be admitted. Spiritual religion is an affair between God and the soul, that is principally transacted where no eye sees.
She was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore;' and, as she continued praying before the Lord, Eli, the Priest, who sat near, marked the motion of her lips. He probably observed in her much agitation of spirit, but surely nothing that could excuse his rash judgment and groundless charge. Her meek reply, however, soon convinced him that she was indeed a woman of a sorrowful spirit, who was pouring out her soul before the Lord; and he was influenced to say, 'Go in peace and the God of Israel grant thee' (or, as it should be rendered, shall grant thee) thy petition that thou hast asked of him.'
The occasional mistakes and infirmities of ministers do not destroy their authority. She passed by the infirmity of the Man, and believed the report of the Minister. She said, "Let thy handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad. And the Lord re
membered Hannah, and she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, because I have asked him of the Lord. She afterwards went up with him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh, and brought the child to Eli, and said, in the words of our text, “O my Lord, as thy soul liveth, my Lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me that petition which I asked of him. She fulfilled her vow in returning the gift to him who gave it ; uttering a grateful and joyful acknowledgment on the occasion, in testimony, that, however she prized the gift, she rested only in the Giver.
I shall pass by other truths contained in this subject, that I may direct your attention to the following remark: TRUE RELIGION IS A DIVINE LIFE IN THE SOUL,
True religion, I say, is “the life of God in the soul of man." The Holy Scriptures continually employ images taken from the natural, to give us ideas of the spiritual and eternal world. We see a life in plants, and a life of a superior kind in animals : we see a life of a still higher order in rational creatures : but we are taught of God to seek a divine and spiritual life, to which the mere rational, though carried on to its highest point of improvement, can never attain. Much as we may admire celebrated geniuses of ancient or modern times, the Scriptures teach us, that while they continue in unbelief and destitute of the love of God, they are but SPLENDID WRETCHES, and dead while they live.
What then is that higher order of life, which may be called Divine ?