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sometimes debasing occupations of pleasure, are all, singly, and in their combination, under the displeasure of God, because they are all followed under the motive of present personal gratification, and intended to minister only to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. But the work of religion, which looks only at eternal things, which centers itself wholly and unreservedly upon God and his glory, it is this, and this only, which has his approbation; and of all the multitudes of his intelligent creatures, amidst all the varieties of their characters, and the combinations of their employments, the only individual on whose motives, views, feelings, purposes, and doings, God looks with the least conceivable degree of approbation, is the repenting sinner, anxious for the salvation of his soul, and surrendering up the homage of his heart. In the eye of God, every thing else which concerns man in his character, and in all his connexions and relations, is of little value. Of this there is a most striking illustration in the prophecy of Isaiah—“Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord; but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”—“For thus saith
” the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
But, my friends, were I to follow out these ideas,
they would lead to an investigation far too extended. In all the circumstances of human life, no matter in'what direction, or as applied to what subject our exertions may be made, the idea of the lawfulness and the intrinsic propriety of the effort we are making, gives a peculiar animation to those efforts; and yet on what an infinite variety of subjects may we well doubt whether our exertions have the approbation of God. In the inordinate pursuit of wealth, we know that they have not; for covetousness is pronounced by the eternal God to be idolatry; and a lesson severe in precept, and still more severe in experience, is furnished under the inspiration of God—“But they that will be rich fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” If our pursuits are directed to the favour and the applause of men, we know that they are not approved of God, for characters such as these, are marked with his decided reprehension when he says—“They loved the praise of men more than the the praise of God; verily they have their reward.” If our pursuits are pleasure, we know that they are not approved of God; for persons whose main occupations are worldly pleasure, are placed in the most fearful catalogue of God's detestation, which is to be found on record—“ This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come: for men shall be lovers of their ownselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce
breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” And if it were possible to add a deeper stigma, a more powerful expression of God's displeasure, it will be found in the declaration, that “shę who liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth.” Now turn from all this consideration of subjects against which the disapprobation of God is distinctly recorded, and fasten your attention for a moment on the great work which I have it so anxiously in hand to recommend. Here there can be no room for misapprehension. With God's approbation it is stamped in characters lustrous with the reflections of celestial glory—“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price.”— “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon
. you, and learn of me;' for I am meek and lowly in
, heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”— “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”—“The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."*
On this one work of religion, comprehending repentance from sin, conversion of heart, living faith in Jesus Christ, complete devotedness to him, God hath inscribed his approbation ; on nothing else has he written it. His eternal power and Godhead is traced on the sun's bright path, and in the moon's reflected lustre, and in the sparkling coronet which sits so brilliantly on night's sable brow. On all the monuments of art, and on all the achievements of science, you may read man's pride and vanity engraved. But on this work of religion, and on this work alone, is God's approbation written clearly, fully, perfect-written in his word ; written in the experience of sinners; sung amidst the anthems of heaven. Is there an individual
* Isaiah lv. 1. St. Matthew xi. 28, 29. Acts xvi. 31. Revelation xxü. 17.
among you ready to give up your heart? Be on the Lord's side; set your face towards heaven and live for eternity. Amidst the hosts of earth and hell which are confederate against you, one consolation is yours, a consolation of which earth and hell cannot deprive you—God approves. Is there an individual, who, in a profession of religion, is zealously and perseveringly engaged, and living for the glory of God? What though you have the opposition of the devil, the world, the flesh? What though the Ammonites, and the Moabites, and the Samaritans, are displeased ? The King, the King is pleased; the majesty of heaven approves. God says,
“ Well done, good and faithful servant.
Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
THE GREAT WORK OF RELIGION
NEHEMIAH vi. 3.
I am now considering the greatness of the work of religion from the aids which may be resorted to in its prosecution. And in illustrating the subject I placed before you, in my last discourse, the cir
, cumstances of the history most deeply interesting to my own mind, and I trust to yours. I stated that in the great work which Nehemiah had in hand, he had the aid-1, of the king's decided approbation; 2, of the king's forces; 3, of the king's resources; and 4, of the friends of the cause. In carrying the subject into the great work of religion, I took up the proposition that it was a great work from its aids, and as a leading consideration, mentioned, 1, the decided approbation of God. To this one great point I then confined my remarks. I come now to take up the subject in another aspect. You will remember that I stated, Nehemiah had the aid of the king's forces. We are told in the second