Imatges de pÓgina

tive places, are confessedly, in comparison of this, of little or no importance. In like manner, the removal of this burden is usually accompanied with such a lively sense of the wisdom, love, power, and grace of God, revealed in Christ Jesus by the Gospel, as may for a little while almost overpower and extinguish the apprehension of inferior things. But if this indifference about common duties continues very long, or is indulged to an extreme, it gives great and just offence. It causes the ways of truth to be evil spoken of, and we hardly know what to say, but this, That the fault is not owing to the Gospel, but to the neglect of what the Gospel teaches and enjoins. This is no new inconvenience ; the apostles observed and reproved it in their day. There were such mistaken persons among the Thessalonians, who supposed or pretended, that the Gospel exempted them from labour. Of these he

says, "Now " them that are such we exhort and command, that “ with quietness they work, and eat their own bread;" and further directs, “that if any would not work, “ neither should he eat*.” The Sabbath is the Lord's; and the same command which forbids us to do any work then, requires us to labour on the other six days. “Let not your good be evil spoken of.” Be faithful to your trust, diligent in your business, do every thing heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto men. Give no one just cause to say, that since you have become religious, you care not, (as the phrase is,) which end

goes foremost; for this would be to put a stumbling-block in their way, and to increase their prejudices against the truth.

4thly, Once more: The Gospel doctrine is charged

* 2 Thess. iii. 10-12

with weakening the bands of natural and social relation; that it makes children and servants heady, high-minded, and disobedient, so that they presently think themselves wiser than all about them, and are obstinately bent to have their own wills. This objection will indeed cleave to the Gospel so long as the spirit of the world and the Spirit of God are opposite to each other. For cases will inevitably arise where we must either displease God or man, and then we ought not to hesitate a moment. But professors should take care to be assured that there is such a necessity before they act against lawful authority; and especially when the point in dispute lies between children and parents. For though we ought to disobey and forsake father and mother when God's commands require it; yet next, under God, parents are above all to be honoured, consulted, and obeyed : and the excepted cases are not near so numerous as persons in the warmth of their first zeal are apt to suppose. The enemy suits his temptations to our occasions; and it is no uncommon thing to be drawn to act violently in our own spirits, while we imagine we are striving in the cause of God and truth.

In short, we are directed to examine ourselves, and others are allowed to examine us by our fruits. The people of the world are not proper judges of spiritual experiences, but they can judge tolerably right of tempers and actions. Some will watch you out of ill-will, and some will observe you for information. If they hear you have begun to make a religious profession, they will take notice to see if you are the better for it. They will observe you not only in the church, but in the shop and in the house: and if they perceive you are all of a piece, steady, quiet, humble, diligent, who knows but this may be a means in the hand of God to win upon them, and to give them a more favourable regard to the means which have wrought so effectually on you ? But, on the contrary, if you are imprudent, rash, and careless, if you either conform to the world, or neglect your acknowledged duty in it, you will cause your good to be evil spoken of, bring difficulties upon yourselves, and put it out of your own power to be useful to others. Pray therefore for wisdom and grace, to make your light so shine before men, that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father who is in heaven. This is the great design and proper effect of the Gospel, when rightly understood. For as it is the grace of God alone which bringeth salvation; so this grace not only enlightens the understanding, but purifies the heart, regulates the conduct, works by love, and overcomes the world.

It effectually teaches and enforces, (what the best schemes of morality and philosophy have always failed in,) the denial of all ungodliness and worldly lusts* ; and by the motives it displays, and the strength it communicates, enables the true Christian to adorn his character in every relation, and to fill up the whole circle of duty as it respects himself, his neighbour, and the God with whom he has to do. It teaches to live soberly, righteously, and godly; to avoid whatsoever is contrary to the purity of the Gospel; to practise moderation in the use even of lawful things; and to do unto others as we would they should do unto us. It teaches the rich to be humble and bountiful, the poor to be thankful and resigned. It teaches superiors to be kind, inferiors to be faithful Husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, magistrates and people, are

Titus ii. 11-15.

all instructed by this grace to a conduct answerable to their high calling, and to the common relation they stand in to him who has loved them and washed them from their sins in his own blood. For the morality of the Gospel has a nobler spring, and a more extensive scope, than the ties of social life. Their sobriety and righteousness are not substituted in the place of vital godliness, but are the fruits derived from it. The grace of God teaches them to live godly, to delight in him, to obey him, to do every thing for his sake, as under his eye, and to be continually governed by a sense of his unspeakable love manifested in his Son, and "an expectation of the blessed hope set before us, * the glorious appearance of the great God, and our * Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that,

by his blood and Spirit, he might redeem us from all

iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people “ zealous of good works.” Labour to show, that you are not only called by his name, but have sat at his feet, and drank of his spirit; and if, after all, unreasonable and wicked men will speak evil of you, and your good, be not moved at it, but pity and pray for them. When he shall return to vindicate your cause, and wipe away your reproach, then “every cloud shall “ be removed, and the righteous shall shine forth as “the sun in the kingdom of their Father*."

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* Matth. xiii. 43.




Exod. xx. 7.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

The foundation of true religion is laid in a right knowledge of God and ourselves. How deficient we are in each of these, how far fallen from original righteousness, is strongly implied in this prohibition; which would be wholly unnecessary, if we were not wholly sunk in stupidity and wickedness. That such worms as we should be liable to trifle with the Divine Majesty, whose presence fills the heaven and the earth, before whom the angels hide their faces; that such frail dependent creatures have need to be cautioned, that we do not profane the name of the God in whom we live, and move, and have our being, is a striking proof of our depravity; and that we can dare to break through this caution, and slight the awful threatening with which it is closed, is a dreadful aggravation of our guilt.

These words, when first spoken to the Israelites, were delivered in flames and thunder. The mountain shook, the people trembled, and even Moses, who had been honoured with peculiar freedom of access to God, was constrained to cry, " I exceedingly fear and

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