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not altogether unacquainted with these; but temporal promises and threatenings were most inculcated in that dispensation, and the future recompences more darkly and sparingly. On the contrary, the eternal wrath of God against impenitent sinuers, and the heavenly happiness reserved for saints, are the motives which the gospel chiefly dwells upon. And surely the greater importance of the motives that are now principally set in our view, should make the deeper impression.
The richer discoveries of grace made in the gospel, is a strong argument to ingenuity for promoting such a temper in us: "The grace of God that hath appeared to all men," should soften our hearts to the most ingenuous regard to our Master's will in every thing; his goodness should lead us to the most kindly repentance. God's tender concern for our interests, so as not to spare his own Son, but to give him up for us all, should inspire us, in return, with the most tender concern for his glory. He that continues hard and insensible to the gracious persuasions of the gospel, surely has no part left in him tender.
The ceremonial observances, which took up so much of the attention of serious minds while they were in force, are now superseded; and, therefore, the more tender spirit is justly expected with reference to the more substantial parts of religion that remain.
Especially if we add, that the softening Spirit is more fully promised, and more plentifully communicated to the church now. He must have been often resisted, and his motions greatly quenched, by any who continue hard and obstinate under the gospel.
Some inferences shall conclude this discourse.
1. We may discern the difference between this truly Christian temper, and some things which people are apt to mistake for it.
It must not be confounded with a natural easiness of temper. This is not founded upon a regard to God, nor expresses itself with distinction in a religious conduct; but upon all occasions, with reason or without. This indeed is a weakness, and not a virtue; it lays a man open to temptation from all quarters, and makes him liable to every oppression; to be
carried about with every wind of doctrine, and drawn aside by any solicitation of a tempter.
It is also a different thing from a mere occasional tenderness under the word or providences of God. Ahab humbled himself upon God's threatenings, and went softly for a little time, 1 Kings xxi. 27. Pharaoh himself did the like upon the execution of some of God's judgments in Egypt. But these were very different from the tender heart of Josiah. Their humiliation was not an habitual temper, and the fruits of it were very short-lived: Josiah's was lasting, and brought forth fruit to perfection. Their tenderness only shewed itself either in some good words upon a sudden conviction, or in forbearing some particular sin for the present: Josiah was led by the impression he set about an universal reformation, and to carry it to the greatest extent he could.
2. Let us all seek after and cultivate a religious tenderness of spirit. It is of indispensable necessity to our acceptance with God. What force should that declaration have, to awaken an earnest concern to be possessed of this frame, which God makes in Isaiah lxvi. 2. "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." It is a strong encouragement to our desires, and prayers, and endeavours, that such promises stand upon record: "I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." If you are convinced of the necessity of this temper, take encouragement from such a declaration, to pray to God for his quickening grace, and to hope that it shall not be denied in your attendance upon his appointed means.
And if your hearts are in any measure softened, labour to preserve their tenderness through your course. Be afraid of the beginnings of hardness of heart. Exhort and admonish yourselves daily, "least you should be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin," Heb. iii. 13. Observe and fall in with every good motion of the Spirit of God. Endeavour to maintain an habitual tenderness, by the frequent exercises of such a spirit; especially by daily serious reviews of your own frames and actions, and the speedy exercises of godly sorrow and true repentance, for every thing you discern amiss from time to time in your temper or behaviour to God, yourselves, or your neighbour.
3. If you are conscious of such a spirit prevailing in you, take the comfort of it as a good evidence that you are in the Christian state. As we have frequent occasion for repentance, with reference to every branch of the Christian temper, so thanks be to God there is room for repentance: "A blessed and contrite spirit God will not despise," Psal. li. 17. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted," Matt. v. 4. "God will have mercy on such and abundantly pardon," Isa. lv. 7. "He is faithful and just to forgive them their sins," 1 John i. 9. Though the occasions for penitential sorrow will not entirely cease while you are in the body; yet when the hardened sinner's mourning-time begins, yours will end; at the end of your trial, "God will wipe away all tears from your eyes for ever," and give you the rewards promised to them that overcome.
REV. III. 19. [the middle of the verse.]
EAL is not a particular
itself, but rather a qualification, which should attend us in the exercise of every grace, and in the performance of every duty.
Indeed, it is no virtue at all, unless it be well placed and regulated. Zeal, in its general notion, is nothing else but a . strong and ardent concern for or against any thing, and a lively and vigorous manner of acting thereupon. It has the denomination of a religious zeal, only as far as the objects about which it is conversant are of a religious nature. And even a religious zeal is no farther good and commendable, than when it is really on the side of truth and goodness, when it is measured by the importance of things, and when it is expressed and exercised by lawful and regular methods.
It is fit to be observed, that we read in scripture of a bad zeal more frequently of the two, than of a good one; and many admonitions are given against some sort of zeal, as I shall have occasion to take notice presently. Which should make us sensible how highly necessary it is, that a strict caution, and a very careful regulation, should attend our zeal.
And yet right zeal is a duty, and a needful ingredient of the Christian temper, and is recommended as such in the text.
Christ, from heaven calls his disciples to it, in an address particularly directed to one of the seven churches of Asia, that of Laodicea.
The description which he, who knew their works and character, gave of them just before, made this call peculiarly apposite and suitable to them. He charges them, in ver. 15. that they "were neither cold nor hot." They had taken upon them the profession of Christianity, owned the truth and laws of Christ, and their obligation from them, and were not absolutely cold: but, on the other hand, there was no spirit in their religion, no vital influence from it; their principles were not lively and active; they did not behave as people in earnest in what they professed, who resolved to make it the business of their lives to observe the Christian rule, and to be governed by Christian motives, or who were determined upon an adherence to their profession, whatever it should cost them. This is the charge against them.
Christ, therefore, declares his disapprobation of such a lukewarm temper : "I would thou wert cold or hot." As if he had said, 'You would act more consistently with yourselves, and it would be more for my honour, if either you would entirely quit your Christian profession, or else would be more in earnest in the pursuit of it.'
In the next verse, he expresses his displeasure in stronger terms, ver. 16. "So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
As lukewarm water turns the stomach, so,' says Christ, lukewarm and indifferent professors of my religion make me sick of them, I cannot bear them; but, unless they repent, I will reject and cast them off from me.'
In the 17th and 18th verses, Christ intimates wherein their lukewarmness lay, or at least points to the natural fruit of it:
They thought themselves rich, and increased with goods, and to have need of nothing," while their case was quite otherwise. They reckoned their profession, their privileges, their possession of sound doctrine, or their having escaped common pollutions, to be enough, without the real power of godliness. Christ admonishes them how much they were mistaken in their opinion of themselves; after all, they were wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." And, therefore, he graciously counsels them to look out for a supply of