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that the example of Christ recommends and enforces it? or that the apostle inculcates it, when
“Whether ye eat, or whether ye drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God ?” Perfection indeed cannot here be attained; nor can we say what measure of this habitual recollection is essential to genuine piety: but, if this be the nature of true religion when perfected, it must proportionably be the same in its lowest degrees. If we do not propose to ourselves a high standard, our actual attainments will be very low: and, if the nature of our religion differ from all our ideas of the worship and holiness of angels, we shall doubtless be finally excluded from their society, as incapable of their holy felicity.
The eternal world is another subject, which demands our unremitted attention. Death and its important consequences; and the awful realities of that solemn season, when “ all that are in the graves
shall hear the voice of the Son of God, “ and shall come forth, they that have done good “ to the resurrection of life, and they that have “ done evil to the resurrection of damnation;" should be familiar to our thoughts, and frequently be made the subject of our conversation. Eternity -the shortness of time—the uncertainty of lifethe importance of this fleeting season of preparation for the tribunal of God—the sin, the folly and infatuation, of wasting it in the eager pursuit of perishing things, or in frivolous and pernicious amusements : by frequently recurring to these topics, we should endeavour to excite ourselves, and to “exhort one another daily, while it is called " to-day, lest any of us should be hardened by the “ deceitfulness of sin.” A mispent day, or even an idle hour, must on reflection give pain to the man who duly considers the words of Christ, “ Watch “and pray always, that ye may be accounted “worthy to escape all those things which are
coming on the earth, and to stand before the “ Son of man:” “ Let your loins be girded about “ and your lamps burning, and ye yourselves like “ unto men that wait for their Lord :” “ Be
ye, “ therefore, ready also; for in an hour that ye “ think not the Son of man cometh."
Our chief business is not with men: our grand interest is not placed in earthly objects. The Lord himself is “ he with whom we have to do;" and, if we are indeed believers, “ we look not at “ the things which are seen, but at the things “ which are not seen ; for the things which are “ seen are temporal, but the things which are not “ seen are eternal.” This was the case with all that “ cloud of witnesses” who have gone before
“ Enoch walked with God, and was not, for “ God took him.” Moses preferred “the reproach “ of Christ ” and the sufferings of God's people, to the riches, honours, and pleasures of Egypt; for he “ had respect to the recompense of the re“ ward." The Old Testament saints“ all died in
faith, not having received the promises, but
having seen them afar off; and were persuaded “ of them, and embraced them, and confessed “ that they were strangers and pilgrims upon
the “ earth.” The primitive Christians “ suffered joy
fully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that “they had in heaven a better and a more enduring “ substance." They " counted not the sufferings
“ of this present time worthy to be compared with “ the glory that shall be revealed :” and many of them considered “ death as their gain,” that “ be“ing absent from the body, they might be present “ with the Lord.” Yet in these days this kind of life not only appears visionary to profane scoffers and infidels; but many who profess and contend for the peculiar doctrines of the gospel seem not at all aware, that one grand difference between a believer and other men consists in the decided preference which he gives to eternal things, above all the interests and enjoyments of this sublunary world. “ To be carnally minded is death, but to “ be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
The divine law should likewise occupy a large share of our thoughts and conversation. It is spiritual, holy, just, and good, and given to be the rule of our conduct, and the standard of our judgment, and it is “written in the hearts ” of all true believers. Thus David exclaims,“ Oh, how I “ love thy law! it is my meditation all the day :" “ I esteem all thy precepts in all things to be “right:” “ I love thy commandments above gold,
yea, above much fine gold :” and," I will walk at liberty for I seek thy precepts."
Numbers of men, called Christians, prescribe to themselves no other rule than the law of fashion, custom, honour, or trade ; that is, the law of their own peculiar circle. Others judge of their conduct by some scanty maxims of morality, or by their own notions of right and wrong: and few, even of those who profess to believe, seem willing to use the commandments of God for these important purposes.-" Thou shalt love the Lord thy “ God with all thy heart, thy mind, thy soul, and
thy strength; and thou shalt love thy neighbour “ as thyself.” These are the two great commandments, in which the whole law is bricfly comprehended. But who can fully explain such extensive precepts, or speak of them in terms of commendation equal to their excellency? There can be no part of our conduct, or desire of our hearts; no thought, word, or action whatever ; which does not either agree or disagree with these two grand branches of that “ holiness, without which “no man shall see the Lord." With these the believer, as far as he acts in character, compares himself continually; and thus determines, whether he hath acted right or wrong in the various circumstances and relations of life. By this rule he learns to decide in doubtful cases; and he keeps it in constant view, while he considers how he should spend his time, use his substance, or employ his talents; what connexions he should form ; whether he should contract or extend his acquaintance ; what business or situation he should prefer ; or how he should regulate his methods and habits of living. In short, he endeavours to conform himself to the law of God, as the man of fashion or of business does to the rules of the circle with which he is connected.
But, when we have seriously considered the comprehensive, spiritual, and holy requirements of this perfect standard, we shall proportionably be convinced of numberless transgressions, and of immense deficiencies even in our best services : “ for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” We shall judge very differently of our own characters,
than other men do ; or than we ourselves did, before we began to weigh them in this balance of the sanctuary. When each successive hour, and all that passes in our thoughts and conduct, is tried by the law of loving God with all our minds, and our neighbour as ourselves, the boasted goodness of our hearts, the imagined innocency of our lives, the compensating efficacy of our meritorious actions, and the whole fabric of our self-complacency, vanish “ as a dream when one awaketh." Then we readily understand that “ by the works “ of the law no flesh shall be justified in the sight “ of God;” and there no longer appears to be any thing absurd, or peculiarly difficult, in this part of the apostolical doctrine. That question becomes important to us, which perhaps we once deemed insignificant or speculative, “ How shall man be “just before God?” We inquire with increasing solicitude, “ What must we do to be saved?” and we are prepared to welcome information, on the method in which the perfect justice and holiness of God can consist with his abundant mercy, in pardoning and saving transgressors; without excepting even those who have committed the most numerous and heinous offences. Thus the
peculiar doctrines of the blessed gospel of God our Saviour come regularly under consideration ; and open to our view, in their nature, glory, and value, in proportion as we judge ourselves by the holy commandment, and anxiously seek deliverance from the wrath to come.
It is very affecting to the serious mind to reflect on the supercilious disdain, with which men in general treat such inquiries, and those who are