« PreviousContinue »
tions which will more than oyerbalance every in, firmity and every pain; would you, whether called hence in the morning or in the evening of life, have a sure foundation of hope, that when absent from the body you shall be present with the Lord ? Then devote yourselves to him, soul and body, by a cheerful and voluntary act of your own, and you shall have the comfortable experience, that they who seek him early shall find him. And thus happy in yourselves, you will add considerably to the happiness of all the truly wise and good, Your parents, especially, will derive from thence a degree of pleasure and enjoyment which none but a parent's heart can feel. It will add a sweetness to the endearing exercise of family devotion, to think that your minds are engaged with theirs in the same sublime and exalted contemplations. And when they have reason to think that you are retired by yourselves to commune with your own hearts, to read the word of God, and pour out your souls before him in secret prayer-Oh! I know notą, pleasure equal to this that a pious parent can enjoy, • Now is my child with his heavenly Father. Now has he separated himself from the vanities and follies of youth, that he may converse with God and his own soul, and be fitted for the employment and happiness of the blessed society above.'--And what feryour will this consideration add to the parent's prayers, and what blessings may not be expected in return ! If an unexpected stroke should take their children away before them, they will not mourn over them as those who have no hope. Or, if their children survive them, it will revive their hearts in their dying moments, to think that the dear pledges of their love will be blessings to society, and that though they must leave them, their heavenly Father never will forsake them.By such a variety of considerations does the duty of immediately entering upon a religious course of life recommend itself to all, especially to the young. * I go on to observe,
2. That the exhortation in the text may further intimate, that we should proceed in a religious course with the greatest care and circumspection.
“ As in walking,” says a celebrated ancient moralist, you
you take heed that you strike not your foot against a 'stone, and wound yourself ; so, in your conduct in life, you should be very careful that you hurt not yourself, or do any thing that shall be prejudicial to others.”—This is a very natural representation of our duty; and, accordingly, we are exhorted by the apostle to walk circumspectly. Our path lies through a vain, ensnaring, and deceitful world. Our own hearts are treacherous, and it behoves us to maintain a constant jealousy over them. ' Indeed, without this all our purposes and resolutions are yain. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool. He knows not himself; he is equally a stranger to his weakness and self-deceit, the many obstructions and dangers that lie in his way, and the various by-paths that may mislead him. So that, however paradoxical it might be in other matters, in religion it is certain and evident that the stout-hearted are most in danger; and that
our safety consists in a sense of our own weakness, and in a firm reliance on divine counsel and strength. When we are most sensible of our own insufficiency, and ready to say, with king Jehoshaphat, We have no might, nor know we what to do; but our eyes are unto thee-then are we most likely to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might --Set the Lord then always before you, and he will ever be at your right hand. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will direct all
your steps. Wait on the Lord, and ye shall renew your strength; ye shall run, and not be weary; ye shall walk, and not faint.
8. The exhortation in our text may imply, that we should endeavour to make continual progress in a religious course.
A religion that makes one satisfied with the perfection of one's state, in any stage of the Christian life, is a delusion. It is contrary to the very nature of true religion, as a divine affection in the soul : an affection that can never be satisfied, till every cloud be removed that obscures the heavenly vision, and every impediment that obstructs the full enjoyment of God, in our highest spiritual capacity: and this can never be while we sojourn upon earth, and tabernacle in houses of clay.I am persuaded, that no man ever thought he had religion enough, who had any religion at all; or ever felt its transforming and animating power, who did not see cause to lament his want of some one Christian grace, and his great deficiency in all. It will not suffice us to escape the corruption that is
in the world through lust; we must give all diligence to add to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. In a word, so various is the Christian life, that one virtue or grace may be added to another in almost endless succession; and which is more, they must not only be in us, but abound.-Let us then imitate the example of the great apostle, and not think that we have already attained, either are already perfect; but this one thing let us do, forgetting those things which are behind, let us reach forth to those that are before, and press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
By this test, then, let us enquire into our religious state and character.-If we have reason to apprehend that we are declining in the divine life, let us apply to the mercy and grace of God in Christ Jesus for pardon and assistance; let us strengthen the things that are ready to die, and endeavour for the time to come to abound in the work of the Lord. When we can derive no evidence or comfort from our labour of love when our diligence, attention, and perseverance in our Christian course abate-let us conclude that we have lost sight of the great Object that gladdened our heart, and gave birth to all our resolutions that gave them life, vigour, and activity-even Jesus; who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God; and by his own blood hath entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Let us conclude, that if this great Object continues not to animate us with the same spirit, it is because we have fallen from our first love, and are too much under the influence of a sensual and worldly temper. Let the melancholy instances of those who seemed for a while to have escaped the pollutions of the world, but have again been entangled therein and overcome, induce us to be constantly upon our guard, lest we also be drawn away into the error of the wicked. Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that doth most easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Let us be solicitous to have our path the path of the just, which is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Let us study to render our course of holiness as illustrious as possible, that it may bear some proportion to the advantages we enjoy for religious improvement. The exhortations to this purpose are often repeated in scripture; and the motives and rewards by which they are enforced are as affecting, as powerful, as glorious, as can be conceived. Let us then be constant and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labour is not in vain in the Lord.