Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

to an earnest endeavour after the acquisition of those virtues of which we are destitute, and the mortification of those vices to which we are addicted, that we may gradually be "transformed by the renewing of our minds, and prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

As this life is the only period allotted us for working out our salvation, and making our calling and election sure, hence faith will inspire us with a determination to make the best use of our time and opportunities, for improving our minds in knowledge, and our characters in excellence. It will not suffer us to spend a considerable portion of our lives without acquiring religious principles and virtuous habits, but, reminding us that our season of probation is short, it will induce us "to think of our ways, and turn our feet unto the divine testimonies, to make haste and delay not to keep God's commandments," and speedily to form such a course of conduct as is suitable to the profession of the gospel. It will make us diligent in employing every moment of our lives either in receiving or doing good, so that we may be able to render an account unto God of the upright manner in which we have spent our earthly pilgrimage.

Finally, as faith anticipates that rest which remains for the people of God, it will be often recalling to our thoughts the pleasures and enjoyments which we shall participate, when we are admitted to the company of "saints made perfect." As it conceives these to be of a spiritual and devotional nature, hence it engages the mind to relish the exercises of piety and contemplation, as a preparation for those celestial employments in which it shall afterwards delight in the mansions of bliss. It will reckon all other concerns unsatisfactory, which the world recommends to our pursuits; and fixing its hopes on a future state as its only portion, will enable the Christian to pass through things temporal with patience and equanimity, from the joyful assurance, that he shall finally inherit things eternal. In these respects, then, faith produces the most salutary effects upon the heart and life.

As an application of the whole subject, we should learn,

1. To have our faith firmly established in those unseen realities which revelation unfolds, by reflecting on the evidence by which they are supported, and applying them to our judgments to produce conviction of their truth. If we study the arguments on which the doctrines of religion are founded, we shall be led to believe them, not from a principle of blind credulity, but because they appear in the demonstration of the spirit, and with power. And when we are persuaded of those invisible objects which our faith apprehends, let us endeavour to obtain a more lively sense of them by frequent meditation, and forming as definite a conception of them as the application of our faculties will enable us to do. Let us realize as much as possible the idea which we have of God and his attributes, of Christ and his offices, of the Holy Spirit and his operations, of the employments and enjoyments of another world, that thus we may attain to the full assurance of faith, and live as seeing the things that are invisible.

2. Let us frequently ponder on these invisible objects, till faith become the prevailing temper which governs our hearts and lives. It is a great disadvantage under which we labour in this sublunary state, that present objects occupy our attention almost exclusively, and we are in danger of regarding them as our only portion. Now, faith is designed to counterbalance the prevalence of the world in our hearts, by teaching us that there are other beings and other scenes not now perceptible, with which we are more concerned than our fellow creatures, and the business of life. Let us therefore reduce every object of faith one way or other to practice. Thus, as God is ever present with us on the right hand and on the left, let us be circumspect in all our ways, that we may approve ourselves to him in well-doing; as Christ is standing at his right hand with crowns of glory to bestow on those who continue faithful unto death, let us look up to him as preparing mansions of glory in the kingdom of heaven; as Tophet is prepared of old for those who commit iniqui

[ocr errors]

ty, let us be thereby as much deterred from wicked practices, as if we saw the torments of that place, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Let us meditate on these things, and give ourselves wholly to them, that our profiting may appear unto all.

3. Finally, let us continue to walk by faith, till we arrive at the regions of immortality. Let us consider, that as long as we are in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life will be constantly obtruding themselves upon our attention, and therefore, if we would maintain a sense of our interest in those things which are not seen, it is necessary to keep them habitually in view by frequent meditation. Let us often by the eye of faith penetrate behind the veil which conceals futurity ; that while we live on earth our conversation may be in heaven; and then, when we depart from the body we shall be present with the Lord, and dwell together with him through endless ages.

.

SERMON VII.

ON CHRISTIAN HOLINESS.

HEB. XII. 14. Followholiness, without which no man shall see

the Lord.

A GREAT part of mankind live in the world without considering the purpose for which they were sent into it, and without improving their characters by those religious attainments which ought to be the great business of human life. The generality of people grow up from infancy to manhood, without considering whether they are maintaining such a conduct as becometh saints; and if they are upon the whole decent and respectable, entertain no doubt that they are true Christians, who shall at last attain the kingdom of heaven. During the period of their years which has passed, they may have lived entirely according to the dictates of prudence and discretion, without any concern whether religious principles should not also regulate their conduct, or without any intention to acquire the tempers and habits recommended in the gospel.-If, indeed, they have been guilty of any gross enormity, and indulged any flagrant vice, they deem it necessary to relinquish these, in order to secure their reputation in the world. They dare not therefore continue addicted to drunkenness, uncleanness, swearing, stealing, or any notorious offence against the laws of propriety; but if they be overtaken in such faults, are ready to return from the error of their way, and careful to avoid a relapse for the future.—But such characters are nevertheless indifferent about the great things which concern the

well-being of their souls; they have neither God nor religion in all their thoughts; they set no value upon their spiritual improvement, nor ever enquire what they must do to be saved. Their hearts are entirely immersed in the pursuit of the world and its enjoyments, while preparation for heaven, and the anticipation of future glory never occupies a moment's consideration. Their affections are placed supremely on objects of a temporal nature, while spiritual and divine things are never suffered to make any impression on their minds. Their thoughts are daily employed concerning what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed ; but seldom or never do they meditate on the nature of their state as rational and immortal beings, nor investigate their sinfulness and depravity, nor form purposes of ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well. They may be diligent in business, and faithful in the discharge of their social duties; but perhaps do not deem it necessary to be “ fervent in spirit serving the Lord.” They may live in habits of friendship and intimacy with all their neighbours, and be esteemed for their kindness and generosity; yet they neglect to hold any intercourse with God by the sacred exercises of prayer and devotion.-In short, they may act their part in society with the most unblemished reputation ; but if death should transport them to another world, they would be altogether unprepared for engaging in those sublime enjoyments which constitute the pleasures of saints made perfect; and therefore as they are unqualified for heaven, must be cast down to hell. If this be the condition of many persons who have a name to live as professing Christians, while they are dead in trespasses and sins ; surely there is some necessity for a change in their dispositions and habits, before they can be meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. For it is the unalterable decree of God, that without holiness no man shall see him and be happy. As the subject of holiness, then, is one of the utmost importance to every one who would make his calling and election sure ; it may be an improving exercise to consider,

« AnteriorContinua »