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The faith of a child? Can you say, "The life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me?" Do you" walk by faith?" Observe the question. I do not ask, whether you curse, or swear, or profane the sabbath, or live in any outward sin? I do not ask, whether you do good, more or less? Or attend all the ardinances of God! But, suppose you are blameless in all these respects, I ask, in the name of God, By what standard do you judge of the value of things? By the visible or the invisible world? Bring the matter to an issue in a single instance. Which do you judge best, that your son should be a pious cobbler, or a profane lord? Which appears to you most eligible, that your daughter should be a child of God, and walk on foot, or a child of the devil, and ride in a coach and six? When the question is concerning marrying your daughter, if you consider her body more than her soul? Take knowledge of yourself! You are in the way to hell and not to heaven: for you walk by sight, and not by faith. I do not ask, whether you live in any outward sin or neglect, -but do you seek, in the general tenor of your life, "the things that are above," or the things that are below? Do you set your affection on things above," or on "things of the earth?" If on the latter, you are as surely in the way of destruction, as a thief, or a common drunkard. My dear friends, let every man, every woman among you, deal honestly with yourselves. Ask your own heart, what am I seeking day by day? What am I desiring? What am I pursuing? Earth or heaven? The things that are seen, or the things that are not seen? What is your object, God or the world? As the Lord liveth, if the world is your object, still all your religion is vain.
16. See, then, my dear brethren, that from this time, at least, ye choose the better part. Let your judgment of all the things round about you be according to the real value of things, with a reference to the invisible and eternal world. See that ye judge every thing fit to be pursued or shunned, according to the influence it will have on your eternal state. See that your affections, your desire, your joy, your hope, be set, not on transient objects, not on things that fly as a shadow, that pass away like a dream; but on those that are incapable of change, that are incorruptible and fade not away; those that remain the same, when heaven and earth" flee away, and there is no place found for them." See that in all you think, speak, or do, the eye of your soul be single, fixed on "Him that is invisible," and " the glories that shall be revealed." Then shall "your whole body be full of light :" your whole soul shall enjoy the light of God's countenance; and you shall continually see the light of the glorious love of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
17. See, in particular, that all your "desire be unto him, and unto the remembrance of his name." Beware "of foolish and hurtful desires;" such as arise from any visible or temporal thing. All these St. John warns us of, under that general term, "love of the world." It is not so much to the men of the world, as to the children of God, he gives that important direction; "Love not the world, neither the things of the world." Give no place to the "desire of the flesh;" the gratification of the outward senses, whether of the taste, or any other. Give no place to "the desire of the eye;" the internal sense, or imagination, by gratifying it, either by grand things, or beautiful, or
uncommon. Give no place to the "pride of life;" the desire of wealth, of pomp, or of the honour that cometh of men. St. John confirms this advice, by a consideration parallel to that observation which St. Paul had made to the Corinthians: "For the world and the fashion of it passeth away." "The fashion of it,"-all worldly objects, business, pleasures, cares, whatever now attracts our regard or attention,— passeth away;" is in the very act of passing, and will return no more. Therefore, desire none of these fleeting things, but that glory which "abideth for ever."
18. Observe well: this is religion, and this alone: this alone is true Christian religion: not this or that opinion, or system of opinions, be they ever so true, ever so scriptural. It is true, this is commonly called faith. But those who suppose it to be religion, are given up to a strong delusion, to believe a lie and if they suppose it to be a sure passport to heaven, are in the high road to hell. Observe well: religion is not harmlessness; which a careful observer of mankind properly terms, hellish harmlessness; as it sends thousands to the bottomless pit. It is not morality; excellent as that is, when it is built on a right foundation, loving faith but when otherwise, it is of no value in the sight of God. It is not formality; the most exact observance of all the ordinances of God. This too, unless it be built on the right foundation, is no more pleasing to God, than " the cutting off a dog's neck." No: religion is no less than living in eternity, and walking in eternity : and hereby walking in the love of God and man; in lowliness, meekness, and resignation. This, and this alone, is that "life which is hid with Christ in God." He alone, who experiences this, "dwells in God, and God in him.' This alone is setting the crown upon Christ's head, and doing his "will on earth, as it is done in heaven."
19. It will easily be observed, that this is the very thing that men of the world call enthusiasm. A word just fit for their purpose, because no man can tell either the meaning, or even the derivation of it. If it has any determinate sense, it means a species of religious madness. Hence, when you speak your experience, they immediately cry out, "Much religion hath made thee mad." And all that you experience, either of the invisible or of the eternal world, they suppose to be only the waking dreams of a heated imagination. It cannot be otherwise, when men born blind take upon them to reason concerning light and colours. They will readily pronounce those to be insane, who affirm the existence of those things whereof they have no conception.
20. From all that has been said, it may be seen with the utmost clearness, what is the nature of that fashionable thing called dissipation. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear! It is the very quintessence of atheism: it is artificial, added to natural ungodliness. It is the art of forgetting God; of being altogether" without God in the world:" the art of excluding him, if not out of the world he has created, yet out of the minds of all his intelligent creatures. It is a total studied inattention to the whole invisible and eternal world; more expecially to death, the gate of eternity, and to the important consequences of death, heaven and hell!
21. This is the real nature of dissipation. And is it so harmless a thing, as it is usually thought? It is one of the choicest instruments
of destroying immortal spirits, that was ever forged in the magazines of hell. It has been the means of plunging myriads of souls, that might have enjoyed the glory of God, into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. It blots out all religion at one stroke, and levels man with the beasts that perish. All ye that fear God, flee from dissipation! Dread and abhor the very name of it! Labour to have God in all your thoughts! To have eternity ever in your eye! "Look" continually, "not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen." Let your hearts be fixed there, where "Christ sitteth at the right hand of God;" that whensoever he calleth you, an entrance may be ministered unto you abundantly into his everlasting kingdom!"
London, December 30, 1788.
SERMON CXIX.-The Unity of the Divine Being.
"There is one God," Mark xii, 32.
1. AND as there is one God, so there is one religion, and one happiness for all men. God never intended there should be any more; and it is not possible there should. Indeed, in another sense, as the apostle observes, "there are gods many, and lords many." All the heathen nations had their gods, and many whole shoals of them. And generally, the more polished they were, the more gods they heaped up to themselves: but to us, to all that are favoured with the Christian revelation, "there is but one God;" who declares of himself, "Is there any God, beside me? There is none; I know not any."
2. But who can search out this God to perfection? None of the creatures that he has made. Only some of his attributes he hath been pleased to reveal to us in his word. Hence we learn, that God is an eternal being. "His goings forth are from everlasting," and will continue to everlasting. As he ever was, so he ever will be; as there was no beginning of his existence, so there will be no end. This is universally allowed to be contained in his very name, JEHOVAH; which the apostle John accordingly renders, " He that was, and that is, and that is to come." Perhaps it would be as proper to say," He is from everlasting to everlasting.'
3. Nearly allied to the eternity of God is his omnipresence. As he exists through infinite duration, so he cannot but exist through infinite space; according to his own question, equivalent to the strongest assertion; "Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord." (Heaven and earth, in the Hebrew idiom, implying the whole universe :) Which, therefore, according to his own declaration, is filled with his presence.
4. This one, eternal, omnipresent being, is likewise all perfect. He has from eternity to eternity, all the perfections and infinitely more, than it ever did, or ever can enter into the heart of man to conceive; yea, infinitely more than the angels in heaven can conceive: these perfections we usually term, the attributes of God.
there can be no He" hath a mighty He doeth what
5. And he is omnipotent, as well as omnipresent: more bounds to his power, than to his presence. arm: strong is his hand, and high is his right hand."
soever pleaseth him, in the heavens, the earth, the sea, and in all deep places. With men, we know, many things are impossible; "but not with God with him all things are possible." Whensoever he willeth, to do is present with him.
6. The omniscience of God is a clear and necessary consequence of his omnipresence. If he is present in every part of the universe, he cannot but know whatever is, or is done there: according to the word of St. James; "Known unto God are all his works," and the works of every creature, "from the beginning" of the world; or rather, as the phrase literally implies, " from eternity." His eyes are not only "over all the earth, beholding the evil and the good;" but likewise over the whole creation; yea, and the paths of uncreated night. Is there any difference between his knowledge and his wisdom? If there be, is not his knowledge the more general term, (at least according to our weak conceptions,) and his wisdom a particular branch of it? Namely, the knowing the end of every thing that exists, and the means or applying it to that end?
7. Holiness is another of the attributes of the almighty, all wise God. He is infinitely distant from every touch of evil. He "is light; and in him is no darkness at all." He is a God of unblemished justice and truth but above all is his mercy. This we may easily learn from that beautiful passage in the thirty-third and fourth chapters of Exodus: "And Moses said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory. And the Lord descended in the cloud, and proclaimed the name of the Lord, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, and forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin."
8. This God is a Spirit; not having such a body, such parts, or passions, as men have. It was the opinion both of the ancient Jews and the ancient Christians, that He alone is a pure spirit, totally separate from all matter: whereas they supposed all other spirits, even the highest angels, even cherubim and seraphim, to dwell in material vehicles, though of an exceeding light and subtile substance. At that point of duration, which the infinite wisdom of God saw to be most proper, for reasons which lie hid in the abyss of his own understanding, not to be fathomed by any finite mind, God" called into being all that is ;" created the heavens and the earth, together with all that they contain. "All things were created by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." He created man, in particular, after his own image, to be" a picture of his own eternity." When he had raised man from the dust of the earth, he breathed into him an immortal spirit. Hence he is peculiarly called, "the Father of our spirits ;" yea," the Father of the spirits of all flesh."
9. He "made all things," as the wise man observes," for himself:" "for his glory they were created." Not" as if he needed any thing;" seeing "he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." He made all things to be happy. He made man to be happy in himself. He is the proper centre of spirits; for whom every created spirit was made. So true is that well known saying of the ancient fathers: Fecisti nos
ad te: Et irrequietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te. hast made us for thyself; and our heart cannot rest till it resteth in thee.” 10. This observation gives us a clear answer to that question in the Assembly's catechism: "For what end did God create man?" The
answer is, "To glorify and enjoy him for ever." This is undoubtedly true but is it quite clear, especially to men of ordinary capacities Do the generality of common people understand that expression,-"T) glorify God?" No; no more than they understand Greek. And it is altogether above the capacity of children; to whom we can scarce ever speak plain enough. Now is not this the very principle that should be inculcated upon every human creature,— You are made to be happy in God," as soon as ever reason dawns? Should not every parent, as soon as a child begins to talk, or to run alone, say something of this kind; "See! what is that which shines so over your head? That we call the sun. See, how bright it is! Feel how it warms you! It makes the grass to spring, and every thing to grow. But God made the sun The sun could not shine, nor warm, nor do any good without him." In this plain and familiar way a wise parent might, many times in a day, say something of God; particularly insisting, "He made you; and he made you to be happy in him; and nothing else can make you happy." We cannot press this too soon. If you say, "Nay, but they cannot understand you when they are so young :" I answer, No; nor when they are fifty years old, unless God opens their understanding. And can he not do this at any age?
11. Indeed this should be pressed on every human creature, young and old, the more earnestly and diligently, because so exceeding few, even of those that are called Christians, seem to know any thing about it. Many indeed think of being happy with God in heaven; but the being happy in God on earth never entered into their thoughts. The less so, because from the time they came into the world, they are surrounded with idols. Such, in turns, are all " the things that are seen," (whereas God is not seen,) which all promise a happiness independent of God. Indeed it is true, that
"Upright both in heart and will,
We by our God were made:
And o'er the creatures strayed:
12. These idols, these rivals of God, are innumerable: but they may be nearly reduced to three parts. First, objects of sense; such as gratify one or more of our outward senses. These excite the first kind of "love of the world," which St. John terms," the desire of the flesh." Secondly, objects of the imagination; things that gratify our fancy, by their grandeur, beauty, or novelty. All these make us fair promises of happiness, and thereby prevent our seeking it in God. This the apostle terms, "the desire of the eyes;" whereby, chiefly, the imagination is gratified. They are, thirdly, what St. John calls, "the pride of life." He seems to mean, honour, wealth, and whatever directly tends to engender pride.
13. But suppose we were guarded against all these, are there not other idols, which we have need to be apprehensive of; and idols, therefore, the more dangerous, because we suspect no danger from them? For is there any danger to be feared from our friends and relations; from the mutual endearments of husbands and wives, or of