Imatges de pàgina
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in which they can engage, to promote the divine glory, the good of others, and their own salvation. They have laid down rules for their daily behaviour, by which they might be directed how to begin every day in a serious and religious maner, by the solemn exercises of devotion and prayer; fixing in their minds some important truths, which might afford matter of meditation at their leisure moments, and making such arrangements as might lead them to the practice of goodness. They have endeavoured throughout the day to take every opportunity of improving themselves or others; by useful conversation and prudent advice; by remarking the providential interpositions which occur ; guarding against the temptations to which they are exposed; maintaining a sense of the divine presence; employing their thoughts in useful reflections; and their words and actions in doing what is well pleasing in the sight of God. They have every evening reviewed the transactions of the preceding day; and from recollection made such observations as may serve on future occasions to instruct them in amending their ways; and on recommending themselves anew to the guidance of their Father in heaven; have lain down in peace with the thoughts of spiritual objects on their minds; thus living in the fear of the Lord all the day long. This is a mode of discipline, which, if adopted would have a salutary influence upon the heart and life ; and render those who adopt it wise unto salvation. By a constant regard to the duties of religion, which would be hereby produced; we would gradually become spirituallyminded, and set our affections on things above; we would walk by faith, not by sight; we would have our fruit unto holiness, and in the end everlasting life.

But it will be said; what necessity for such preciseness in prescribing directions which few or none observe; we may surely be converted without minute attention to those regulations; we are surely much better than several persons addicted to notorious vices, who alone require to be converted from the error of their way. Indeed it is obvious to every one who knows any thing of the scripture terms of salvation ; that if a man is enslaved to

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certain lusts and pleasures, he cannot while he continues in this state, entertain any hopes of the divine favour. Be not deceived saith the scripture, "neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of heaven." Such characters must be converted from these respective habits, if they would save their souls alive, and not render themselves subject to condemnation.-It may indeed be deemed almost impossible for such men to be renewed in the spirit of their minds; but their conversion from sin to holiness may, through the agency of divine grace be also effected. For instance, when the intemperate man, perceiving the evil nature, and pernicious consequences of drunkenness, resolves to avoid this vice which easily besets him; he will gradually overcome his propensity to it by abstinence and sobriety. When the dishonest man is persuaded of the evil of injustice, and endeavours for the future to give every one his due, he will gradually learn to approve of justice and integrity. When the covetous man is convinced by reflexion that the love of money is the root of all evil, and that he ought to be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; he will be induced to become generous for the pleasure arising from deeds of beneficence. And, when the reviler, who has stigmatized the characters of the worthy and respectable, is taught to consider the baseness of detraction; he will not speak evil of another, but learn to esteem him as better than himself.

It is not indeed easy to alter confirmed habits; and accordingly the scripture declares, that "if the Ethiopian can change his skin, and the leopard his spots; then may those who have been accustomed to do evil, learn to do well." Yet there are examples of the most abandoned characters being reclaimed from the practice of wickedness to the wisdom and obedience of the just.-If a man would by the blessing of God relinquish his evil ways; let him endeavour to give a new direction to the current of his thoughts, his heart, and his will; let him sedulously 'practise those virtues which are contrary to the habit

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which he would subdue. For instance, let the sensualist engage his mind in spiritual contemplations; the swearer acquire a veneration for sacred things; the liar never utter any thing but truth, and the slanderer learn to speak well of his neighbours. He will not indeed soon subdue his wonted propensities; for they will be constantly instigating him to renewed indulgence; and it will require many a self-denial to weaken the force of depravity, and strengthen his virtuous inclinations. But if he gradually suppresses his evil habits from time to time, the most inveterate dispositions will at last submit to the determined vigour of his better resolutions.

For this purpose, let him who would put off the old man of sin, with his deeds which are corrupt, and put on the new man, which consists in righteousness and true holiness, consider what are his usual incentives to forbidden indulgences, and how he may abstain from all appearance of evil. If he discovers that the company of others is a snare to his virtue, let him not enter into the path of the wicked, nor go in the way of evil men; if he finds that the introduction of certain subjects of discourse leads him to speak unadvisedly with his lips, let him not engage in such discussions; and if he perceives that unsuitable amusements are sources of vanity, and vexation of spirit, let him not spend his time in such avocations, but employ his leisure hours in reading, meditation, and other spiritual exercises, which may render him wise unto salvation.- If also he takes care to preserve a sense of the excellence of those virtues which he wishes to acquire, and avoid those sins which he is labouring to subdue ; he may by perseverance, and prayer for assistance from on high, learn to keep a conscience void of offence. To this end let him meditate daily on the various occasions, when he might cultivate a devotional spirit towards God, exhibit a gentle temper in his domestic intercourse, maintain a disposition of contentment with his station, shew kindness and do good to his neighbours and acquaintances, instruct the ignorant or soothe the afflicted, and be ready to every good work. When he has pondered these things in his heart, and considered the reasons which recommend the several virtues of the Christian character, fet him conceive himself employed in these works of faith, and labours of love, which will superinduce a disposition to engage in them when opportunities occur in actual life. And when these do occur, let him revive the senti. ments which he formerly entertained, let him act according to his convictions for a few instances, and he shall at last acquire a facility in discharging his religious and moral duties, until he has respect to all God's commandments.-And by continuing in the practice of that commendable course of conduct which his heart approves, he will by degrees relish those very actions to which he formerly felt the greatest aversion. The reasons which recommend that particular virtue which he is cultivating will offer themselves frequently to his thoughts, and appear more conclusive the oftener they are repeated. His practical principles will be strengthened within him by daily exercise; and he will at last delight in the law of God after the inward man. Thus bad habits will be relinquished, and good ones will be formed in the soul; tilt the convert is reclaimed from the error of his ways, and learns to walk in newness of life. This is the usual process, by which holiness is produced, and sin mortified in the soul; till we are enabled by divine grace, to lay aside every weight, and the sins that most easily beset us, and run in the path of the divine commandments, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. Such then are the means, both natural and supernatural, which are generally effectual in promoting our sanctification and growth in grace. This being the case, I proceed to shew,

. III. The necessity of holiness for rendering us acceptable in the sight of God, both here and hereafter.

That such a conversion from sin to holiness, as has now been described, must take place more or less in every one who would find favour with God, may be proved from various arguments. The scripture uniformly declares the indispensable necessity of a new heart, and a right spirit; and that no pretensions however great, no profession however zealous, can compensate for the want of true

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goodness.—Thus, the prophets were directed to instruct the Jews, who placed their confidence in ceremonial observances, that “they should bring no more vain oblations, that incense was an abomination” to the Almighty ; and that if they would obtain his loving-kindness, they must “put away the evil of their doings from before his eyes, cease to do evil, and learn to do well.”—The same doctrine was preached by our Lord and his apostles. He testifies, that “it is not every one who saith Lord, Lord, who shall enter into the kingdom of heaven : but he who doeth the will of our Father in heaven.” They declare that “ the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God; but indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish,

; shall be on every soul of man that doeth evil; and that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

The terms of the gospel-covenant also, are such, that repentance and reformation are the conditions on our part of obtaining justification and pardon of sin through the merits of our Saviour. Thus, the first preachers of Christianity taught men, that they should “repent and be converted, that their sins might be blotted out:" that God saves us when we are “ washed in the laver of regeneration, and renewed by the Holy Ghost.” And to shew the efficacy of sanctification and holiness, for procuring acceptance with God, St. Paul reminds the Corinthians, that “ they were sometime foolish and disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” But since they had cast off all these practices, they were pardoned, they were justified, they were sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

Moreover, the scripture every where abounds with exhortations to Christians, to stand fast in their integrity, as the only means of securing the divine favour. Thus, they are instructed “ to continue rooted and grounded in the faith, and not to be moved away from the hope of the gospel, and God would receive them, and be a Father unto them, and they should be his sons and daughters : but if any man draw back, God would have no pleasure in him.” Therefore they are entreated “ to cleanse themselves from

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