Imatges de pàgina
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We know that lukewarm water is exceedingly dis. agreeable: the stomach recoils at it, and we spit it out with loathing. Thus Christ declared that he would cast off the church of Laodicea with disdain and abhorrence. There might, however, be some individuals of a better character, though probably infected with the same disease; and others might be brought to repentance. For the sake of these, therefore, the message was sent: they were warned, rebuked, counselled, and encouraged; and we may hope that many derived special benefit. Yet in church at large seems to have degenerated more and more: so that, while those churches, which our Lord mentioned with approbation, continue in some poor remains to this very day: there has not for a long time been a single professed Christian at Laodicea! At present I purpose,

I. To describe the nature and symptoms of lukewarmness.

II. To explain the grounds of that decided abhorrence of it, which Christ expresses.

III. To add something by way of solema warning and particular application. 1. We will consider the nature and symptoms of lukewarmness, both in collective bodies, and indivi. duals professing Christianity. It

may here be proper to premise one observation, to prevent mistakes. When our advantages, oppor. tunities, and obligations are duly considered; we may all be justly charged with comparative lukewarmness: and the more we become acquainted with ourselves, and experience the power of divine truth upon our

hearts; the keener will be our sensibility, and the deeper our abasement on this account.

But this case is totally distinct from that of the allowed and self-sufficient lukewarmness of the Laodiceans.

The disease of which we speak is only found where some profession of religion is made. The irreligious world is not lukewarm. Persons of this character may say,

• We make no pretensions to piety or sanc“tity; we seldom think about religion; it is a subject 'that never gives us any concern.' Then indeed you are not chargeable with lukewarmness: you are clear of that crime: but if you pretend to no religion, what do you pretend to? Do you profess yourselves children of disobedience and of wrath, and heirs of hell? Is this your meaning, your character, your expectation? For whatever you may suppose, these things alone belong to those, who avow that they disregard God and religion.

But leaving such men to their own reflections; we observe that lukewarmness pre-supposes the form and appearance of a church; and that, possibly, neither very erroneous in doctrine nor corrupt in morals. In like manner the lukewarm professed Christian may retain the form of sound doctrine, avoid gross vices, and continue in communion with some religious society: he may even manage so well, that no specifick charge can be substantiated against him; no foul spot be visible in his character; no proof brought that he has renounced his profession. He may observe in some measure all the forms of godliness: but he wants the spirit, life, and activity of religion.-We cannot say that he is dead: yet he resembles a deeply wounded man, for whom great fears are entertaiired, even while symptoms of life seem discernible.

Ministers, who are conversant with the state of their flocks, generally class people according to their apparent characters, in their private judgment of them. Some are evidently in the broad way; others are thought more promising, at least they desire to be so esteemed. But among some favourable tokens, many things appear very exceptionable: we would hope the best; but “What meaneth this bleating of the sheep “and lowing of the oxen that we hear?” Something criminal or suspicious is observable in the shop or in the family: some duty is evidently neglected, or slightly performed; and this damps our fond expectations concerning them. Others are not wholly irretigious, nor is there any remarkable blemish in their conduct: but they are neither cold nor hot: they do not appear serious, active, or zealous! and therefore we grieve over them, and stand in doubt as to the event of their profession. But there are some of another description; who are “our hope, and joy, and crown of re.

joicing:” may God exceedingly increase the number of them! These are the ornament and credit of the gospel; from them the light shines with efficacious splendour: and their bright example, with the energy of their influence and fruitfulness, counteracts the pernicious tendency of loose prosession to wound the interests of truth, and retard its progress.

But let us enumerate some particulars, in which lukewarmness especially discovers itself. This may be observed, in the conduct of persons professing attachment to the peculiar doctrines of the gospel in re.

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speet of the ordinances of publick worship, and all the means of grace. The lively Christian says, “I “ was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the is house of the Lord.” “O God, thou art my God,

early will I seek thee; my soul thirsteth for thee,

my flesh longeth for thee, in a dry and thirsty land "s where no water is; to see thy power and glory, as “ I have seen thee in the sanctuary: because thy lov

ing kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise “ thee.” Hence you see him anticipating the opportunity of waiting upon God, as a man expects any season of pleasure and delight; and making prepara. tion lest any thing should deprive him of the satisfac. tion he expects. He suffers not a trivial hindrance to prevent his attendance on religious duties; and if he cannot break through intervening obstructions, he finds it difficult to bring his mind into a due resigna

a tion to the divine will. He does not enquire how of ten he is bound to attend the house of God: but rather rejoices when an opportunity offers on any day, which he can embrace consistently with other duties.

On the contrary, the lukewarm come reluctantly to the ordinances of divine worship; and are secretly pleased, when an excuse, deemed sufficient, is suggested for absenting themselves. A visit or an invitation from a friend, some trivial business, a slight indisposition, or the inconvenience of unfavourable wea. ther, are no unwelcome hindrances to their attendance at the house of God. The same also is observable in respect of the Lord's supper, in which the lively Christian delights to commemorate the Redeemer's love, unless his mind has entertained some miscon

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ception about it. But such frivolous excuses as keep the lukewarm from publick worship, operate still more effectually, in leading him to absent himself from the Lord's table: unless it be a convenient part of that form, by which he maintains his credit and quiets his conscience; for in other respects he regards it as a matter of indifference.

We may further observe, that lukewarm persons commonly consider the sermon as the principal object, and think little of joining with reverence and fervency in other parts of divine service. They commonly therefore come late to the places of worship, and disturb the devotions of such as are more zealous. They are also ready to say to ministers, “Speak to “us smooth things,” • Discourse on soothing and consolatory topicks; avoid awful and distinguishing subjects, and do not offend the audience with plain · dealing.'—Such persons are peculiarly attentive to the manner, the voice, and delivery of the preacher: if these be graceful and suited to their taste, they are more easily satisfied in other respects. Above all they recommend brevity, “Let the sermon be short, ‘ the prayer short, and make haste to dismiss us.' For they are soon weary of an employment, so little congenial to their prevailing disposition. They attend from custom, or amusement, or to pacify conscience; they delight not in the sacred service, and are reluctant to be “ detained before the LORD."*

But if this be the case as to publick worship, what can be expected in respect to family-religion? If this

* | Sam. xxi. 7.

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