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diligently to attend upon the public ordinances of religion, to perform many of its secret duties, to abstain from the gross pollutions of the world, and to lead a moral and regular life. Although no real change of heart may have taken place in these

persons, yet they will probably be commended by Christians, who always desire to think as favourably as possible of others; and then this commendation of Christians will induce these persons to think favourably of themselves, and to suppose they have the

power” while they have only “ the forn of godliness.” Others are affrighted by the terrors of the Lord, and the threatenings of scripture. These may

induce them to pour forth floods of tears, to bewail their guilt, which has exposed them to such woes, to abandon many of their sins, and to resolve to reform in future. Persons who perceive these effects, will judge that these men are true converts; they themselves may judge so: but, alas ! if they have advanced no further, they are humbled, but they are not converted; for though nothing but the evangelical virtue of the word can beget true and spiritual obedience, yet outward conformity may be produced by the terror of it. As nothing but vital principles can organize a living and true man, yet the violence of hammers and other instruments can fashion a dead stone into the shape of a man. Finally, the common operations of the Spirit on the minds of enlightened, but unrenewed professors, may produce effects nearly resembling his saving and special operations on the minds of the real children of God. Hence they may have strong and piercing convictions for sin ; as Cain, Pharaoh, Saul, Judas, and Festus had. Hence they may have a great excitement of affections in reading or hearing the scriptures; like the stony



ground hearers, who, though they had no root, no nourishment of grace to support them, yet received the word with joy. Hence there may be a great outward reformation, a relinquishment of many sins, a performance of many duties; for Herod not only heard John gladly, but did many things which he enjoined. Hence may spring a delusive trust; for we read in the prophet Isa. xlviii. 2, of those who “ stayed themselves upon the God of Israel,” though they did it not in truth and righteousness.” Hence may arise a false hope; for Job acknowledges that hypocrites even may have this, although it disappoints them. “ The hope of the hypocrite shall perish.” If Christians feel a combat between corruption and grace, the unregenerate have something analagous to it. One lust or passion may struggle within them with another. Like Balaam, who, on the one hand, had strong desires for the wages of unrighteousness, and, on the other, was warned by his light and knowledge of the danger of taking them : thus arose a struggle in his heart, somewhat resembling the struggle in the Christian between the law of the members and the law of the mind. If Christians have good desires, so had Esau, who earnestly sought the blessing with tears; and Baalam, who exclaimed, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his !” and Simon Magus, who importunately requested the prayers of the apostle for him.

If Christians take great delight in religious ordinances, attend punctually upon them, and seem greatly affected by them, so did those of whom Isaiah speaks in his fifty-eighth chapter, and whom the Lord represents as utter strangers to vital piety; yet notwithstanding, says he, “ they seek me daily,


and delight to know my ways; like a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinances of their God; they ask of me the ordinances of justice, and take delight in approaching to God.” Yet under these fair appearances were concealed vile hypocrites, or miserable self-deceivers.

Unite the remarks that have been made, and you will be convinced of the truth of our first proposition, “ That a person whose heart is unchanged, and who is totally destitute of real piety, may perform many outward religious duties, and have inward sentiments and affections somewhat resembling the Christian graces.” Yes, my brethren, many stars in the church, which for a while glitter and shine, set in darkness; many, who have been esteemed by men to be eminent saints, have been accursed by God; many, who in their prayers thanked God for their hopes of glory, are now bewailing their miseries in the regions of wo! What a motive should this be to us, my brethren, diligently to examine the foundation of our hope, the ground of our confidence! Let us not be satisfied with those appearances of piety which will not stand the test of the judgment-day. Let us daily and impartially try our souls; and, sensible how apt we are to flatter and deceive ourselves, let us lift up our voice to Him who must finally and decisively examine us ; let us implore his light and direction ; let us cry to him with David, “ Search us, O Lord, and know.our ways; try us, and know our hearts, and see if there be any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting.”

What terror should be excited in the openly profane, by the consideration of the truth which I have illustrated! If those who have such semblances of

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holiness shall nevertheless perish, what must be the doom of you, who neglect the form as well as the power of godliness; of you who sit in the seat of the scorner; who mock at the ordinances, the

people, and the word of God ? Surely, against such Ahab himself shall rise up in the day of judgment; his humiliation, imperfect as it was, shall oppose your daring profanity, and shall draw down upon your heads the deepest vengeance. And finally, if those who are destitute of true piety sometimes perform such splendid acts, let those who are really renewed by the Spirit of God, be animated to diligence and activity; let their real and heaven-inspired graces be more frequently and exemplarily exercised, than the counterfeit graces of hypocrites and selfdeceivers ; let the real diamond shine more brightly than the false brilliant; let the reality of religion in them be more fruitful in outward acts than the semblance of it in the others. If these glow-worms shine so brightly, why should the holy lamps of believers, though fed with oil from heaven, burn so dim?

I present you with a

IId. Observation, deduced from the humiliation of Ahab. How powerful is the word of God, which can humble the haughtiest oppressors, and make the most hardened of mortals tremble. Notwithstanding the power of Ahab, notwithstanding his deep depravity, notwithstanding the hatred against Elijah which had long rankled in his bosom, yet no sooner did the prophet deliver to him a message from God, than he shakes with apprehension. The words fall like thunder upon his soul; his festivity is succeeded by horror and dismay; his royal robes are exchanged for sackcloth ; his merriments and sports are converted into groans and tears. Do you wish for other instances of the power of the word of God; other examples of sinners, obstinate and hardened like Ahab, who like him have, by its efficacy, been filled with terror and remorse? Behold the impious Saul surrounded by his troops, and elated by the victory which he has just acquired, terrified at the words of Samuel! Behold the debauched and profligate Felix, pale, appalled, trembling, while Paul, a prisoner in chains at his bar, announces the truths of God! Behold the executioners of Jesus assembled in the temple; their hands yet red with his blood; their eyes sparkling with rage and fury against his followers: behold, at the voice of St. Peter, how they are melted into repentance, agitated with remorse, and compelled to own him as their Lord whom they had crucified as a criminal; to flee for forgiveness to that blood on which they had trampled ! Behold, in the history of the church, innumerable instances of barbarous monarchs yielding to its power; of furious persecutors subdued by its influence; of the most depraved reformed by its efficacy! Nay, we need not go back to distant periods to be convinced of the power of the word of God: how many have we known, even in our own days, who, by its almighty energy, have been made to change their lives, their habits, their sentiments! whose obdurate hearts have been broken by it, so that they have felt, in all its force, that declaration of the Lord, “ Is not my word as a hammer, which breaketh the rocks in pieces ?"

And yet, . my brethren, is not this word, thus powerful, heard by many of you with indifference and disregard ? It made Ahab tremble, but you listen to it with unconcern! Though its threatenings have terrified the

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