ePub 版

be a fixed and peremptory design to adhere to all duty at all times. Grievous failures and sins there may be, even wbere there are such honest and upright purposes; but if these are wanting, our profession of religion must be altogether vain. In the

3d place, The exhortation in my text requires that we make an open and honest profession of our adherence to the Lord. And I mention this, not only because of the importance of the thing itself, but also on account of the shameful and pernicious failure even of some good people in this matter. Instead of confessing Christ boldly before men, they take as wide steps as their consciences will allow them, to speak the language, and to act the manners, of a corrupt generation, from the dread of appearing singular, or of incurring the charge of ostentation or hypocrisy. But this method of concealing, or rather indeed of giving away, a part of our religion, to secure the reputation of the rest, is neither honest nor wise. Honest it cannot be; for it is just as fraudulent to impose upon men, by seeming worse than we are, as by seeming better: and surely it is not wise; for if we resolve to have the appearance of no more religion than corrupt minds will allow to be sincere, I am afraid we must give it up altogether, and preserve the opinion of our honesty, by appearing to have no religion at all. Hypocrisy is a bad thing, not because it wears the form of religion, but because it wants the power of it; and the way to avoid hypocrisy, is not by doing less than the hypocrite, but by doing more and better. Our Saviour, who spent whole nights in prayer, cannot be supposed to condemn the Pharisees for praying long; but for making their prayers a cloak to cover their covetousness and oppression. He does not find fault with them for their outward beauty, but for their inward pollution and de

formity. If holiness be really within us, we have no occasion to dread any harm from its appearing outwardly. It will at length overcome the malice of the world, and prove its divine original, both by its native lustre, and its powerful influence, upon those who behold it. Once

more, in the

4th place, The exhortation in my text requires, that we persevere in our adherence to the Lord to the end of our lives. It is not sufficient that we begin well, and continue faithful for a while; we must bold on our way, and wax stronger and stronger as we proceed. We must not be wearied with the length of the way, but, “ lifting up the hands that hang down, and strengthening the feeble knees," we must run without wearying, and walk without fainting, “pressing towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." We must not give up religious exercises, either because of the frequent repetition of self-denying duties, or of the bodily decay which old age brings on, or of the increasing infirmities of the mind. We must not give over our work in despondency, because of the slowness of our progress, the smallness of our success, or the number and strength of our enemies. For all these discouragements will soon be over, “ and in due time we shall reap, if we faint not, a glorious and everlasting reward.” Having thus explained the exhortation in my text, I proceed now, in the

Second place, To enforce it by some motives and arguments. Consider then,

1st. That the same reasons which at first determined you to choose the ways of God, are equally forcible for inciting you to persevere in them to the end. Upon what grounds did ye embrace your religion at first? Why was it that ye ratified, when ye came to years, profession into which ye were baptized? Was it because of the divine authority upon which your religion rests? This reason surely still holds to make you adhere to it amidst the strongest temptations; for divine authority is always to be obeyed, whatever difficulties lie in the way; nay, though the commands of the highest powers on earth should interfere with it. Was it concern for your eternal salvation, and a conviction that “there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby you can be saved, but the name of Christ ?" and does not this reason bind you as much to cleave to the Lord as to come to him at first? “ The Lord is with you while ye be with him; and if ye seek bim he will be found of you; but if ye forsake bim, he will forsake you." He that endureth to the end," saith Christ,“ shall be sav. ed.” “But if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Nay, the case of apostates is represented every where in Scripture as inconceivably more dreadful than that of any other sinners. Once more, did you enter upon a religious course of life, because your consciences would not suffer you to be at


till you had done so? This reason also binds you to persevere as you have begun; for the more faithfully you cleave to the Lord, the more steadfastly you resist temptation, the greater peace and tranquillity you will have in your own minds. Nay, the obstacles which now make your progress difficult and painful, will gradually disappear, and at length you shall find, that " Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and that all her paths are peace.” In a word, whatever good reason we had to set out in the Christian course, the same reason will hold for our perseverance in it. If we began it from bad or from worldly motives, our religion is but an empty profession, without any reality. In this case we are not yet Christians; and therefore the exhortation in the text doth not belong to us. Consider, in the


2d place, That all the bribes which can be offered, in order to seduce you from your adherence to the Lord, are vain, precarious, and unsatisfying. How often have men “made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience," for a mere shadow of expectation, which was never realized to them? But though you should obtain all that this world can present to you, yet how bitter is that advantage which is purchased at the expense of inward peace and tranquillity? Nay, how vain and pre. carious are the enjoyments of this world at the best? « Riches often make to themselves wings and flee away;" and then they leave the person much more un. happy than they found him, under the dominion of in. famed appetites, without the proper objects to satisfy them. The joy of the wicked is like the “ crackling of thorns under a pot;” vain whilst it lasts, and soon at an end. Balaam loved the reward of uprighteousness, and he obtained it; but what did he reap from it at last? he returned to his own country loaded with riches, but all his enjoyments were embittered by "an evil conscience," and he himself was soon after brought to an untimely end by the victorious arms of the Israelites. So deceitful are the offers with which this world would seduce you from your adherence to the Lord. But in cleaving to the Lord, you can never be disappointed in your expectations; for he hath said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Consider, in the

3d place, What obligations you lie under to this Lord to whom you are exhorted in the text to “ cleave with purpose of heart.” He it was that befriended you in your greatest necessity, and that brought salvation with bis own arm, when there was no other eye to pity you, nor any



other hand that could help you. Think on the greatness of the love of Christ, and on the costly proofs he gave of it, in condescending to become a man, and “a man of sorrows," and at last to die under the bitterest ago. nies, for the redemption of your souls; and then let gratitude suggest to you what returns may reasonably be expected from creatures so infinitely indebted to him as you have been. Did the Lord Jesus, without any importunity from us, and even contrary to our desires, persist in his gracious design of saving us, till he could say upon the cross, “ It is finished?” and shall not we per. severe with steadfastness in our duty and allegiance to him? Surely, if bis heart clave to is, when we had nothing to merit or invite bis love, much more should our hearts cleave to Him, who is not only infinitely amiable in himself, but, which is still more interesting, infinitely kind and gracious to us. Once more, in the

4th place, Consider that this duty, although difficult, is by no means impracticable. Thousands of our brethren, all men of like passions with ourselves, have persevered to the end in cleaving to the Lord, and are now enjoying the glorious reward of their steadfast adherence to him. All necessary aid is provided for you, dy to be conveyed to you as often as you shall ask it. For 6. God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted sbove what ye are able to bear, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Indeed, bad you no other strength but your own, to exhort you to “cleave unto the Lurd," would only be to mock your misery. But help is laid for you on One who is mighty, and is no less willing than powerful, to support you under all your trials. He can perfect strength in your weakness; and wbilst you are stretchiog forth your feeble arms to embrace him, be

and red


« 上一頁繼續 »