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auxiliary to this already too powerful tendency to overlook, and incorrectly appreciate the value of religious truth. We shall spend this evening in an investigation of the different claims presenting themselves to our attention in the present day, and in shewing you the necessary and permanent superiority of the claims of religious truth over every other. I feel no difficulty in having to present you with a large amount of proof of the excellency and blessedness of religion; but I do feel a difficulty as to the manner in which such illustrations and proofs may be best laid before you. My sincere desire and humble prayer is, that God would make me this night the instrument of blessing to your souls. O, thou Holy and Eternal Spirit, open and prepare every heart to receive thine own word! Subdue and remove every rising feeling of opposition to the purity of thy truth. Convict the guilty; enlighten the ignorant; strengthen the helpless; establish the pious! May this service receive thy sanction and blessing: and may its results be apparent in the decision of those who have hitherto halted between two opinions; and in the more perfect surrender of the heart on the part of those who have professedly called themselves by thy name!
THE SUPREMACY OF THE CLAIMS OF RELIGIOUS Truth.
In the first place, we shall offer SOME OBSERVATIONS UPON RELIGIOUS TRUTH, embracing as it does not only doctrine for the illumination of the understanding, but precepts, principles, and motives, for the government and purity of the heart.
In looking at religious truth, one of its most prominent features is, the necessity of the love of God which it enjoins upon all without distinction. It iş prominent in both Testaments and it is so important that it constitutes one of the two great commandments, on which hang all the law and the prophets. The Psalmist referred to it when he said, "The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver:" for he knew that the commandment proceeded from the lips of Jehovah, and that he wrote it on the tables of stone which he delivered to the custody of the prophet and legislator of Israel.
God has given to you and to me a rational and an immortal existence. It is not of the nature of an angel, nor of a brute; but it is of the nature of man. He has prescribed and revealed the laws of this existence, and he has constituted us intelligent enough to understand those laws, and accountable enough to obey then, and to receive the reward of obedience, or, if we disobey them, to receive the reward of our disobedience. And who can say that in this, God has acted unwisely, unkindly, or unrighteously? Has not he who has given us existence, the sole right to regulate it by the laws of his government? Should not he direct and command those intelligent minds with which he has both endowed and dignified us? God has created us with capacities for the enjoyment of pure and elevated happiness; and is it not reasonable that his directions, both as to its sources and the means of attaining it, are worthy of our enlightened attention and implicit confidence? Let it be the settled conviction of our minds, not only that in God we live, move, and have our being, but that he, as our Creator, has an absolute dominion over us for life or death; for blessing or for punishment.
Admitting this fact, even in connexion with the fact of our guilt and sin hloess, we have no ground for despondency or despair. The character and perfections of God whom we are commanded to love, are calculated to inspire us with hope and to disperse our fears: and although in our guilty and unconverted state we have neither inclination nor ability to love God, yet in the exercise of his free and sovereign mercy, while he reveals himself to us in the person of his Son, he also sheds abroad his love in our hearts, and then we lore him, and through his grace the holy fire he has kindled within us continues to burn; and although apparently quenched by death, it burns with a purer and intenser flame when the soul is admitted to the immediate presence of the Deity. Is there, then, nothing in the love of God to awaken an interest in your breasts and to diffuse delight in your souls? Is le not your Creator and your God? Is le not your Almighty benefactor? Is not the relation you sustain of the most tender and endearing character ? Is he not your Father who is in heaven? Has he not compassionated you in your guilty, helpless, and forlorn state: pitied you when plunged in darkness and in despair, and expressed his pity and tender love in giving his Son to bear your iniquities in his own body upon the cross? His character and perfections, as revealed in the Bible; his wisdom and providence, as exhibited in his works and in the government of the world; his grace and love, as displayed in the redemption of fallen man; and his glory and majesty, as our final Judge; all combine to excite and fix our attention upon God as the Being whom we should love, whose laws we should obey, whose service we should enter, and whose purposes of mercy we should endeavour to fulfil, so far as our feeble agency can be contributary to their accomplishment. Other objects of our love fade, decay, and recede from our sight. The memory of their virtues may be embalmed with our purest associations, and as Christians we may be looking forward to that re-union and eternal felicity in heaven which is the sole privilege of the pious. But God is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever: His claims take the precedence of every other. He who has redeemed us, has appointed father and mother, sister and brother, houses and lands, a lower place in our affections than that which he must occupy. And he has a right to do so. He created us: He made us men and not brutes; and in one moment he could reduce us to the folly and helplessness of idiotcy; lay the proud structure of human reason in ruins; and could lay the glory of the human intellect, and the glory of erudition, alike prostrate in the dust. This, brethren, is one of the facts of religious truth; we have not learnt it from nature; human wisdom has not explored and discovered it; philosophy has not suggested it; but God himself, when he descended in the awful and overwhelming glory of Sinai, amidst thunder and lightning, he revealed it.
A second great truth revealed in the Bible, and demanding our firm and enlightened belief, is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible embraces, as you are aware, a large mass of historical, chronological, ecclesiastical, and general truths It contains, except for a short interval, the history of the divine procedure with mankind, and especially with the church, for a period of about 4000 years. But there are some facts on which the excellency and the blessedness of the book entirely depend; and one of these is, that it reveals in a
most circumstantial and impressive manner all that relates to the purposes of
The third and last fact to which we now call your attention, is that of personal holiness. The illumination of the mind, and its recovery from spiritual death, is effected by the agency of the Holy Spirit. The children of God are born again by the agency of the Spirit; they are sanctified by the same Spirit; the fruits of their regeneration and sanctification are exhibited (at least they should be exhibited) in the whole tenor of their conduct; in the purity of the imagination; in spiritual and devotional feeling; in godly conversation; in the denial of all ungodliness and worldly lusts; and in living soberly, righteously, and godly in the present evil world. It constitutes the most powerful evidence of a state of genuine discipleship, and, as it is the work of the Spirit, it places us in the most favourable condition for the love of God and for obedience to his commandments. It has been proved in millions of cases to be the source of the purest, most elevated, and abiding happiness, and is the essential fitness we require for heaven. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
This is a very brief reference to religious truth, but it embraces the leading facts of the New Testament. They might be greatly amplified; the connexion of many other truths in the New Testament, with those I have named, is most intimate, but the whole of them involve the entire surrender of the heart to God.
Secondly, Let us now see WHAT ARE THOSE OBJECTS WHOSE CLAIMS COMPETE WITH THOSE OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH, and the entire surrender of the heart to God.
The first I advert to is the ordinary mercantile duties of life. The constitution of society, the methods of transacting business, the very nature of business, and the habits of the merchant and the professional man, are greatly, if not
altogether changed, to what they were in the olden time, which some I am now addressing well remember. Business at that time was conducted with an ease and comfort of which comparatively the men of the present day know but little. A good remunerating profit, a good business connexion, a considerable leisure, were well understood; and they conducted the honest and industrious citizen to circumstances of affluence, and to an old age of ease and of comfort. But now the face of things is changed. I notice this only in reference to the moral influence the present state of things is calculated to exert. With many it is absolutely necessary to be engaged in the business of the world from an early hour to a very late one: and the claims of the world are felt to intrench upon those higher and better loved claims presented in the Bible. The six days of the week are days of toil, of preparation for the sustenance of the body, and the maintenance of a family: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. On this day it is your duty and your privilege to be free from the world, to lay aside its claims, to disburden your inind of its cares, to be grateful for your prosperity, and to enter into God's house to acknowledge and obey the claims of God and of true religion.
These claims of business are righteous, and must be attended to; whatever may be the arrangements of providence in your individual case, so far as you can ascertain those arrangements you are bound to fulfil them. To “ be diligent in business,” is an inspired commandment, which it would be alihe disreputable and sinful to break. While we therefore allow the business of the world to have great and important claims, they must be daily subordinated to the love of God, faith in Christ, and the cultivation of personal holiness. Some men (and it is a snare artfully set by the enemy of our souls for young people) allow the claims of the world to have a willing ascendency over their minds. They are absorbed with them, and they neglect religion. Young men, you who have recently entered upon the business of life, you who are contemplating it, let me beseech you to keep the claims of the world in their proper place. They have no right to intrude upon your Sabbaths. Your counting-house is not the place you should be found in on the Sabbath ; and the posting of your books is not the employment God approves for that holy day. It is not the method by which you will attain to peace of mind, nor to prosperity. Whatever involves the breaking of God's commandinents (excepting works of necessity and mercy) is sinful; no blessing can be prayed for upon such engagements, and no blessing will be granted.
There are also claims originating in what is more strictly termed professional duties and studies; and inasmuch as these are associated with a different cultivation of the intellect, present their peculiar temptations to those who pursue them. The aspiring youth, devoted to the study of the law, or of medicine, or to the pursuits of general literature, is often exposed to the most serious and fatal temptations. In many cases destitute of a religious education, uninstructed in the trutlis and authority of the Bible, unacquainted with the corruption and deceitfulness of his own heart, and feeling as he rises into life an expansion of mind, and being familiar with the elements of knowledge, how often does he come into contact with men who take advantage of his susceptibility of impression ; discourse to him upon the dignity of reason, the pleasures of the world, the gratifications of sense; and, if anything like religious feeling or Mental power,
impression stand in the way, immediately denounce it as the barrier to bappiness, because they find it to be the barrier to the commission of sin. The duties of professional men are important and highly responsible. Many of thein afford pleasure ; many of them are exceedingly irksome. Their studies also, according to the nature of their profession, and the desire they have for improvement and advancement, are varied; either profound or superficial, fascinating or wearying, favourable or unfavourable to religious impression, and to a religious life.
To every young man engaged in professional life, I would say, give to your duties and studies the most enlarged and persevering attention. If devoted to general literature, I offer you the same advice. There is no success to be attained in the present day, no sterling professional eminence to be acquired, but as the result of enlightened and habitual perseverance. however splendid and versatile, cannot be a permanent substitute for the fruits of laborious diligence. If engaged in the profession of the law; labour to be familiar with all the standard works that bear upon that branch of the profession to which your attention is, from choice or necessity, directed. If engaged in the study of medicine, the same advice is applicable to you, especially in connexion with that practical knowledge of the human frame, and the diseases to which we are liable, without which the most elaborate theoretical knowledge will be but of little avail. But while I am offering this advice, am I intruding upon the homage you owe to religion, and the obedience you owe to the claims of God? I feel that I am not. There is nothing in religion which forbids, discountenances, or is incompatible with the liighest cultivation of the mind, and the loftiest reputation consequent upon professional industry, skill, and perseverance. I give the fullest weight to all the arguments that can be urged by the tradesman and by the professional man, as to the importance of their pursuits, the necessity and propriety of them as the means of subsistence, and as leading to a righteous provision for a family, as the groundwork of respectability and eminence, and as conducting to stations of civil honour and usefulness in society. When I do this, I ask, what more can be required of me? Shall the most passionate lover of literature and science ask me to give a lower place to the claims of religion than of science? I cannot do it. Reason and Revelation alike forbid it. All studies and pursuits, merely secular, cease with this life. Religion only coinmences here; it is matured and glorified in eternity. The interests of eternity I feel should take the precedence and supremacy of the interests of time. The word of God declares that they should
The history of mankind illustrates and confirms it beyond dispute. I know that there is a powerful competition betwixt the claims I have referred to; and, in many cases, there may be an occasional ascendency over the claims of religion. But there is an essential difference betwixt a willing and delighted ascendency, and one which causes the pious man to lainent and mourn that his mind has, thrpugh some strong necessity, been overborne by worldly and professional anxieties and cares. Young men! make it a matter of daily watchfulness and prayer, that the claims of God and of true religion, be not intruded upon. Give to God your whole heart. Love himn with a renewed and sanctified mind. Make it a matter of conscience to devote a portion of every day to the devout perisal of the Scriptures, and to sincere, fervent prayer to your heavenly