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may be made to shine. Even nominal Christians, being favoured with the light of truth, are inexcusable, in proportion to their advantages, in not receiving and communicating the inestimable benefit. For “this is the condemnation, that light “is come into the world, and men love darkness “ rather than light, because their deeds are evil.”
This may suffice to show that we are all concerned in the exhortation : for in our favoured land, and our peculiar situation, we have every advantage for aiming to “ let our light shine be“ fore men" and if we do not " we have no cloke “ for our sin;" so that it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for us.
II. We will then examine more fully the import of the exhortation.
God hath made other men his instruments in communicating to us the light of the gospel ; and we should desire and endeavour to impart the benefit to others also: though we may seem rather lamps in the street, or candles in the room, than luminaries in the firmament of heaven. The means to be used for this purpose may vary, according to our several employments, abilities, and relations in life : but we all ought to have the same habitual design of bringing our neighbours and friends to the knowledge of God and themselves; of the holy law and the gospel of salvation; of the way of peace and the path of duty; and of all other things which pertain to evangelical piety.
In order to accomplish this purpose, it is requisite that we make an explicit profession of our faith; that it may be understood what doctrines we believe, on what foundation our hopes are builded, and what we think concerning the person and redemption of Christ. We ought to avow our expectations from him, and obligations to him that it may be perceived, on what account we deem ourselves bound to love him more than our greatest secular interests, or our dearest earthly friends : and unreservedly to keep his commandments. This profession is absolutely necessary to evince the sincerity of our faith. “ With the “heart man believeth unto righteousness : and “ with the mouth confession is made unto salva“ tion."1 And “whosoever shall be ashamed of “ the Son of man, and of his words, in this adul“ terous and sinful generation : of him also will “ He be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of “ the Father with the holy angels."2
This profession is indispensably demanded of Christ's disciples, in order that they may “ let “their light shine before men,” and diffuse the knowledge of divine truth in the world ; without yielding to the dread of shame, 'reproach, or the most cruel persecution. It is not indeed expedient, forwardly to declare our peculiar sentiments, in all places and companies, without some special reason, or favourable opening : but, if regard to character, or other secular motives render men so reserved in this matter, that their neighbours, friends, and relations remain, in great measure, strangers to their religious principles ; their sincerity may well be questioned : for this is a direct
i Rom. x. 10.
· Mark viii, 38,
refusal to render to the Lord the glory due to his name, and to recommend his holy religion to mankind. And, even if their conduct in some respects be suited to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, the observers are left to ascribe it to other causes : and thus an opportunity is lost of evincing the excellent tendency of evangelical truth.
This profession of our faith should especially be made by attending on the ordinances of God, according to the directions of his holy word: and this also forms an important method of “ letting
our light shine before men.” In the primitive times, when a Jew or gentile began to attend on the preaching of the gospel ; and when, professing
repentance towards God, and faith towards our “Lord Jesus Christ,” he was admitted by baptism into the visible church; when he associated habitually with Christians, statedly joined in their public worship, and commemorated the love and sufferings of Christ at his table ; he then avowed himself the servant of the one, living and true God, and the disciple of the only-begotten Son of God. This conduct would be fully understood by his former companions, and he might expect contempt, reproach, or persecution, as the consequence. We indeed live at a time, when most men in our land choose to be called Christians; and such a variety of discordant opinions are maintained by the professed disciples of Jesus, that the mere circumstance of attending public worship is no explicit avowal of our peculiar religious sentiments. But it is known that in some places the mystery of the Trinity, the perfections of God, the righteousness of his law and government, and the wisdom and sovereignty of his providence, are maintained. Connected with these doctrines, man's accountableness to his Creator and Governor, a future judgment and a state of eternal retributions; the fallen condition of the human race, the evil and desert of sin, the justice of God in the condemnation of sinners, and his free mercy in their salvation, are strenuously insisted on: and the person, redemption, and mediation of Emmanuel, Jesus the Son of God; regeneration and renewal unto holiness by the Spirit; repentance and fruits meet for repentance; justification by faith alone; love to the Saviour constraining to devoted obedience; and patient continuance in well-doing, animated by the hope of eternal glory, are the principal topics to which the attention of the auditors is called. These things are evidently enlarged upon in some congregations, and not in others : and, if a man be convinced that they are the doctrines of scripture, he ought seriously and statedly to attend at some place of worship, answering to this description ; avowing that his conduct is the result of examination, conviction, and regard to the authority of God. In doing this, not only hearing the sermons, but joining in every part of the service with reverent devotion, and associating with those who hold and adorn the same principles, he will make a very distinct and intelligible profession of his faith : and, in bringing his family, and others whom he can influence, to attend on the same ordinances, he may “ let his • light shine before men,” and exhibit an edifying example to his neighbours. To render this the more impressive, he should not only appropriate
the Lord's day to this purpose, but embrace opportunities of attending on any day when it does not interfere with other duties : coming early, and shewing in his whole deportment that he takes delight in the worship of God, and in hearing his word. Such a conduct tends exceedingly to draw men's attention to the gospel, and to promote vital godliness in the world.
It may further be observed, that all these ends are more decidedly answered, when the believer, after mature deliberation, statedly attends at the same place of worship, than when he wanders from one to another: for thus he sets an example of constancy in his attachment to the truths and ordinances of God; and he more effectually ensures the attendance of his family. Perhaps it may be added, that this conduct indicates a more healthful state of soul, and best promotes “growth “ in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and “ Saviour Jesus Christ."
Our light should also shine before men by instructive and pious conversation. “ The mouth “ of the righteous speaketh wisdom and his tongue “ talketh of judgment :” and it is remarkable, that the most opposite effects are ascribed to the tongue in the sacred scriptures. The psalmist calls it “his glory:” and Solomon declares that “the mouth of a righteous man is a well of life :" that “ the tongue of the just is as choice silver ;' that “ the lips of the wise feed many;” and that “the tongue of the wise is health.”—On the other hand, “ The tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly “ poison :-it is a fire, a world of iniquity ;-it “ setteth on fire the whole course of nature, and