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Preparatory to the Communion.
1 KINGS xviii. 21.
How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God,
follow him : but if Baal, then follow him.
WHÉN this appeal was addressed to the Israelites, the question respecting the duty of religious service lay between the claims of the true God and the false divinities which men had framed for themselves. The gods of the heathen, which were but idols, have long since ceased to be worshipped, and in those blessed lands on which the light of the Gospel has been shed, the Lord who made the heavens is now acknowledged to stand unrivalled and alone, the Being to whom is due all adoration and worship, all obedience and praise.
But, my brethren, though the days of heathen idolatry have passed away, so that we are no longer in danger of bowing down to gods of wood and of stone, the work of men's hands; and
though the question is no longer at issue between the one only living and supreme God, and the imaginary objects of a blind devotion, yet there still is to be found, and there never will be wanting, some enemy to our salvation, and to his authority, to contest with him the empire of our hearts.
Too generally the world is the idol which usurps the place of the Most High; and while it holds out, in their most captivating and alluring forms, its riches, its honours, and its sinful pleasures, to our ardent pursuit, it engrosses those affections which are due only to God; so that even in countries which are nominally Christian, the question still remains to be asked, « How long halt
ye between two opinions ?" With those whose conduct intimates that they have a voluntary and deliberate choice, with those who are laying up for themselves treasures upon earth, rioting in giddy folly and forbidden pleasures, or aspiring only to a fleeting earthly reputation, regardless of the high claims of religious duty, and the surpassing rewards which are promised to its performance, it were vain 'to argue. They can scarcely be said to be hesitating between time and eternity, who are engrossed exclusively in the things of time. They are not halting between two opposing opinions, who are influenced by only one predominant desire—the desire to gain and to possess the world.
But this, I would fain hope, is not the case with many
of those who now hear me. Fashion, curiosity, and a listless want of occupation, may doubtless often bring some within the doors of the Christian sanctuary, who are utterly regardless of God and his worship; but of the great mass of those who continually, respectfully, and statedly, attend on the preaching of the Gospel, il is, in the judgment of charity, to be believed that they are not indifferent to their Christian obligations, however they may postpone, delay, or neglect a compliance with them. This, then, is the class of persons whom I would now address, and regarding as the false and evil divinity of their hearts, whatever it is that keeps them back from openly professing their Redeemer, and from honouring him in the ordinances which he has appointed, I would appeal to them in the language of the text, “ Ilow long halt
between “ two opinions ? if the Lord be God, follow him : “ but if Baal, then follow him." However little may be thought of the deep responsibility under which we continually address you, and however it may seem to be merely the habitual and formal exercise of an official duty to press upon you the obligation to a religious life, which, therefore, you are at liberty habitually to disregard, yet we cannot but often be very deeply impressed with the great importance of our ministry, and the great
interest which you have in duly regarding the end for which it was instituted.
It is the duty of those who are called to the weighty office and charge of messengers,
watchmen, and stewards of the Lord, to teach and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family; to seek for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever. And they are solemnly enjoined, and they solemnly promise, never to cease their labour, their care, and diligence, until they have done all that lieth in them, according to their bounden duty, to bring all such as are committed to their charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among them, either for error in religion, or for viciousness of life.
And when they see those whose happiness they are most solicitous, and whose spiritual and eternal interest they are bound, to watch over, and study, and promote, continually postponing the performance of their religious duties; especially when they see them continually declining that first duty to God, of professing openly his name, acknowledging publicly his authority, and seeking those gracious influences which are to be found in the ordinances of his Church ; the expostula
tion is forced from their lips, “ How long halt ye “ between two opinions? if the Lord be God, fol" low him: but if Baal, then follow him.” St. Paul could appeal to those among whom he ministered for the proof of the diligence and care with which he had fulfilled his office; and when he was about leaving the Ephesian Church, he could say to its elders, “ Ye know, from the first
day that I came into Asia, after what manner “ I have been with you at all seasons, serving the “ Lord with all humility of mind; and how I kept “ back nothing that was profitable unto you, but “ have showed you, and taught you publicly, and < from house to house."
Such was the custom of primitive times, and such the practice of the first promulgers of Christianity; and if the changes which have taken place in the forms and usages of society do not permit, and if the long established claims of our religion, and its stated and frequent services, do not require, this personal instruction in the truths we believe, and this personal enforcement of the duties we are to practice, yet is it highly important and desirable, that in the addresses and expostulations which are made from this place, every individual to whom the subject of his religious obligation is presented, should consider himself personally singled out, and affectionately appealed to to determine how far the same is applicable to his own character, and should feel