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Finally. Was all this done from a deliberate and confirmed choice, and not from a mere transient flash of devotiov? Then, indeed, you have been well employed; and we desire to give glory to God on your account.
But if, on the contrary, your hearts have been cold and insensible, and your thoughts have been wandering without controul upon the mountains of vanity; if you have felt no grief for sin, no love to the Redeemer, or only such a grief and love as a moving tale might have occasioned; if what you have felt hath not led you to bind yourselves irrevocably to the service of that Redeemer who encountered the wrath of God for
youthis was not to eat the Lord's Supper. Alas! my heart bleeds for you. Ye have been mocking him who hath declared that he will not be mocked with impunity; and who, unless you repent, will certainly convince you of this in another world.
These are all the questions which I shall put to you at this time; and in whatever way you may find reason to answer them, the inquiry must turn out to your advantage. If, upon search, you discover the unsoundness of your hearts, even in that very sad discovery you have the greatest advantage for salvation that you have ever had in the course of your lives. For now, your vain confidence being overtbrown, you lie open to a deep and effectual conviction, which is the mercy introductive of all other mercies to your souls. Your chief danger lies in judging too favourably, or in judging falsely, of yourselves. But if you do so, how severely will you suffer for the short-lived deceit, when God shall himself prove your works, or when he shall say to you as he said to the carousing king, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting!" How confounded will you be is this sentence shall be pronounced ? and
! how passionately will you then wish for such an opportunity of “proving your own works” as you now enjoy?
But if, on the other hand, you can, upon good grounds, conclude, that notwithstanding many imperfections in your holy service, you have been sincere and upright on the whole, how great may your comfort be? For God will not cast off the upright man. That which is the terror of the wicked will be your joy. As the son of a king rejoiceth in his father's power and magnificence, so may you rejoice in those displays of the divine Majesty, which scare a guilty world. How comfortable will the thoughts of a Saviour be, when you can say, " My beloved is mine ;" when by faith you can, like Thomas, “ put your hand into his side, and your finger into the print of the nails, and say unto him, My Lord, and my God?” With what joy will you read the Holy Scriptures, as the charter of your future inheritance, and ponder that “ exceeding and eternal weight of glory," which you shall one day possess? With what holy boldness may you approach the throne of Grace, when you can address God as your reconciled Father in Jesus Christ? How cheerfully may you endure affliction? How calmly may you leave this world? * If then any of these comforts are dear to you; if you would enjoy them in a sound state, or would have a clear and lively impression of them, let me beseech you to comply with the Apostle's exhortation, and to prove your own works.” So shall ye have your rejoicing in yourselves, and never be ashamed. Amen.
JAMES iv, 17.
Therefore, to Him that kinoweth to do good, and doeth
it not, to Him it is Sin.
THE unfruitful lives of professing Christians is a very general and a just complaint. But few of those who retail this complaint are heartily inclined to remove the cause of it. We are melancholy examples of that which we pretend to lament; and we cease not to strengthen the interests of a party which we condemn. David, when he was treating with Araunah the Jebusite, for the purchase of his threshing floor, in order to rear an altar to God, refused to accept of it without a price, because he would not “offer burnt-offerings unto the Lord his God, of that which cost him nothing." But, alas! our general contest seems rather to be, who shall be most penurious in his offerings to God, and who shall purchase heaven with the easiest service. Many have unhappily deceived themselves into an opinion, that nothing but positive acts of rebellion will subject them to punishment. They place much confidence in what is called a harmless inoffensive life, as if it were virtue enough not to be abandoned to vice. They seem to aim at nothing higher than that of wbich the Pharisee made his boast, when he gave thanks to God that he was not as other men, nor even as the humble publican. But, in the passage which I have now read to you, the Apostle directs us to a much safer test of our conduct; a test which leaves us no room for mistake. The question is not, What vices have you forborne ? but, What virtues have you practised? You say that you are not idolaters.-Well-but do you reverence and love the true God? You are not adulterers ;-but do you study temperance and sobriety in all things? You are not slanderers ;--but are you as tender of your neighbour's good name as of your own? If ye are strangers to these positive virtues, then all the advantage ye can pretend to is this; ye are sinners of a lower order, than if ye had added positive transgressions to your neglect of doing good : but still you are sinners; for, according to the Apostle, not to do good is sin.
This text evidently contains the two following propositions :
1st. That men sin not only when they positively transgress the law of God; but also, when they do not fulfil the duties which the law requires to the utmost of their power. And,
2dly. That our guilt is more highly aggravated, when we neglect the duties which are known to us; or when we decline opportunities of doing good, though we know that it is our duty to embrace them.
These propositions I will endeavour to illustrate and confirm ; and will then conclude with a practical improvement of the subject.
First. I begin with showing you that men sin, not only when they positively transgress the law of God, but also, when they do not fulfil the duties which the law requires to the utmost of their power.
Were we to look upon God as an austere and selfish Being, who employed bis laws only as a fence about his own private interests; then indeed, not to violate them might be considered as sufficient to comply with their design. The kings of this earth are forced to en
close their little allotment of honour, and to use their authority as a flaming sword, to ward off iusults from their prerogatives. But it is not so with God. The Creator of heaven and of earth can have no dependance on the workmanship of his own hands. His prerogative cannot suffer, nor can his glory be impaired, by the feeble and impotent attempts of his creatures. His laws therefore could never be intended for his own security, but for our benefit. They are expressions of bis goodness rather thau of his sovereignty; and his great view in enacting them, seems to bave been, to bind us by his authority to consult our present interest, and to renler ourselves capable of everlasting felicity. Judge then whether a law which hath in view this kind and generous object, doth not challenge our most cordial acceptance and entire subjection; and whether gratitude, as well as duty, should not prompt us to fulfil every part of it to the utmost of our power.
Indeed, if we consider God as a severe task-master, as I am afraid too many of us do; in that case, whatever he enjoins, will appear to be an hardsbip or a burden. But if we view him in bis true character, as a wise and good parent, who in every thing consults the real advantage of his children, then his yoke will appear to
easy indeed, and his burden to be light. The cords of love will draw us on to obedience; and gratitude, which is ever ingenious in finding out ways to express itself, will constantly prompt us to the most dutiful observance of his will.
Show me the man whose ingenuous mind, not only expects a future reward, but feels a present joy in the service of his God; and to that man I will address the words of unfeigned salutation. I will say to him, “ Hail thou favoured of the Lord,” thine is the true “ spirit of