صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

a

[ocr errors]

have any knowledge of the curse of sin and of your own sinfulness, any wish for deliverance, any feeling or idea

, of gratitude, any thought of living and dying a happy man, it will turn your whole heart to him, set you all on fire to make him such returns of love as he requires of you, engage you to think of him with delight, and inspire you with a holy resolution of setting him alway before you. See a full proof of what I am saying, and such a lively picture of devotion and clear affection to the Saviour, as nothing but a sense of pardoning love could excite, in the woman who anointed his feet, washed them with tears of repentance and joy, kissed them in humble adoration, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, Luke, vii. And observe our Lord's testimony to the effect and natural consequence of the forgiveness of your many sins; " for,” says he," she loved much.” So will you, when you are burdened with your sin, desire his cleansing, and are established in the faith of it. Then whatever God enjoins will be sweetened and endeared to you. You will set him before you always, in all his perfections of justice, wisdom, holiness, to imitate, to praise him, and see a fitness and beauty in his commands which you never perceived before.

Have you any experience of such a change, and is this your state now, while I am speaking ? Not consist

, ing in outward acts of customary worship, or duties without regard to God; there is no life, no ground of rejoicing in this : but is it the inward principle, full thought, and steady purpose of your soul, to set him always before you, that you may be guided by his commands, influenced by his love, keep up a constant communion with him, and make every step of your life a nearer approach to the everlasting enjoyment of him? Surely you bave found out the great secret of being as happy as you can be, in a disordered, calamitous world,

a

where all must suffer, be sick, and die ; and may pass through it contented, unhurt, well pleased, because you have found God in it, because Christ has reconciled him to you, and because you have a hope full of immortality. If you are poor, or more afflicted than many others, you will study to be resigned, submissive, and even thankful; knowing that your lot is well chosen, and dispensed to you as the very thing you want, and firmly believing that “ all things shall work together for good to them that love God.” If you have an uncommon measure of prosperity, and great abundance of outward things, you will take care that all around you shall be the better for it, and keep a strict watch over your heart that you do not fall by it, as thousands and ten thousands do, nor turn it into a curse to yourself by putting it in the place of God, devoting it wholly to pleasure, and giving full scope to every vanity of life. You will abhor the thought of injustice, hard dealing, or oppression of any kind; set God before you in every man you meet, and be ready with the thought of what his case requires of you, and how God expects you should behave towards him. And more especially, you will be a diligent, conscientious reader of Scripture, to the end you may set God before you, according to his mind and will therein revealed, and from a full persuasion of your blindness, and utter incapacity to know him in any other way; praying withal for light, direction, and steadfastness, and wondering at the ignorance and bold presumption of those, who, at the same time that they would be thought to set God before them, neither love his word, nor know what it is to open the heart to him in prayer, for the heart and for spiritual blessings. I say, so think, so purpose, so do, so look up to God in the faith of Christ, and what should hinder you from living and dying in peace?

We may, indeed, make a show of drawing nigh

, to God, honour him with our lips, and be constant, or even zealous, in his worship, without finding any such effect from it as I have been speaking of; but this only proves that our religion is pretence and formality: for if we set him always before us in truth and reality, in the settled frame of our minds, and with full purpose and devotion of heart, this disposition carries happiness in the very nature of it. Our confidence in him will be a blessed support to us when all other comforts fail us; and whatever our temptations, difficulties, or troubles are, it will afford support in proportion to its strength and assurance ; especially as it will be attended with this knowledge, that it is the result of faith and prayer, and the work of his Spirit in us. On the other hand, can you entertain a thought, can you frame a wish, of being happy or easy in opposition to the will of God? What is the cause of all the disorders in the world, kingdoms, neighbourhoods, families, of inward disquiet, perpetual restlessness, multiplicity of vain pursuits, and certain disappointment, but that we do not set God before us, nor choose to be governed by him? Why does the hour never come when we can say we are upon a foundation of peace and contentment? but because we seek it, where it never will be found, in the world, its riches or pleasures; do not make his commands the law of our inward parts, nor rest satisfied with his disposals, nor rely on his perfections and promises, nor know him as the God of love, and the God of our hearts in Christ Jesus.

But is it nothing for a creature made in the image of God, born to know, and love, and enjoy him, who draws every breath at his will, lives upon the bounties of his providence, and perhaps is loaded with his favours, to neglect and forget him, to leave him entirely out of the

account of his happiness, and never consider what it is to be a reasonable man and a Christian? I will allow him to be sociable, civil, obliging, ready to do good offices, courting applause, respectable in his station, and amiable in his temper; but, behold! he gives to all their due except God, and perhaps would think it a disgrace to his understanding to be thought a devout worshipper of him, or that he has any dealings with him in the depth of his soul. I say, what is all this boasted excellence of character, however admired by the world? or how can you fancy to yourselves any thing more despicable in the eyes of the Supreme Being, more wretched in himself, or a greater scandal to human nature ? And what is it that is substituted in the room of God? Shall I speak the word again for your conviction and astonishment? The ever blessed God! I say, what do you prefer to him, make your great idol, and worship with the whole devotion of your hearts and souls ? A miserable world, amusing its sons and daughters with a vain dream of pleasure, persuading them to contract all their views within the narrow circle of time and sense, hiding eternity from them, robbing them of their God, and withal feeding them with empty hopes, and never paying any thing of what it promises. I do not believe there ever was a man upon earth without God, who, in the full possession of all that the world can give him, did not at last lie down in his grave vexed and disappointed, besides being haunted more or less all his life with a tormenting fear of death; and what more can be said to expose the folly of such a choice, and recommend the God of all blessing and comfort to the chief place in your esteem ?

Look again at the man who sets God always before him; and may it be yourself! He thinks nothing else worthy of a thought in comparison of him ; loves him in

ܪ

his will and commands; walks with him, as one friend does with another, delighting and delighted; worships him in spirit and in truth; knows obedience from a root of faith to be the essential character of his servants, and the highway to glory; would sooner displease all the world than his Maker; chooses him for his portion, end, and happiness, in time and eternity; and thanks him, above all things, for the gift of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. In a word, he can say, with many thanksgivings, What temptations have I resisted; what follies have I avoided; what remorse of conscience have I escaped ; what a precious antidote am I possessed of against the troubles of life and the fear of death; what repose do I find in my soul; what happiness have I in prospect, by setting God always before me! and the language and continual adoration of his heart is, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth I desire in comparison of thee !"

SERMON XIII.

For I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified;

but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 1 Cor. iv. 4.

ST. PAUL, who had converted the Corinthians to the faith of Christ, met with great opposition to his teaching and ministry from some amongst them, who endeavoured to turn them from the truth. Alas! no sooner had he sown the good seed, but the enemy came and sowed tares; raising up every where false brethren to call his doctrine in question, and preach another Gospel. Hence came divisions and heart-burnings, some declaring for one teacher, some for another; and, as is usual in such

« السابقةمتابعة »