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see, at all times, that (let men say, or let them do, whatever they may please) God has declared it to be "life eternal, that we might know him "the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he "has sent." This is the one thing needful; when followed out into its proper bearings, this is RELIGION. Here, therefore, we should plant our root; namely, in a right belief in God, and in his Son. And, this once done, we should perceive and know always, that all the fruit, by bearing which our heavenly Father may be glorified, consists, is to be ripened, and to come unto perfection in the keeping his commandments; in doing the things which Jesus Christ says. The word of life is simple, clear, and positive on these great points, nor can there be a truth more sure, than that to keep God's laws and do his will in love would make us holy, and would make us happy. These therefore, his commandments, we should seek to keep; and no vain notions we might hear around us would either check us in our course, or tempt us from the service. In such a case, we should not have an ear to lend to the vain fancies and opinions of perverse
But it is not our portion to experience none * John xvii. 3.
but happier moments: our views, our courage, are not always clear and strong; and we are often forced to ask what others inquire for counsel by the way.
think, and to
How fares it
with us, then, as things now are, in this great matter of religion, by consequence of men's corruptions?
All thoughtful Christians know too well, in greater or in less degree, what sort of notions numbers entertain about it; what strange, unauthorized, or wilful fancies may be met with every where upon the subject; how little of consistent, healthful understanding can be found, in ordinary, concerning the whole matter. Some speak and think of it as what it surely is-the first and best of all things; (and yet of these— how many think of it with feelings much more of kin to superstition than to a spirit of sound judgment!) some treat it only as an useful bond and instrument for the preserving of society; some hardened hearts conceive of it as an imposture altogether. Some almost seem to doubt, whether there even be any such thing. Some think and teach that it consists in one thing; some, in another: they that should be scholars make themselves masters, and every form of separation and of false doctrine naturally flourishes
and abounds. The tender-hearted are ensnared into extravagance; the cold fall off to unbelief. Yet, can there be a real question all the while, either of the absolute necessity of faith; or that religion is the greatest, beyond all comparison, of human interests; or how it may be made acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ?
So go we on, however, in the world, as has been just described; and understanding is confounded, love is quenched, and piety grows cold; and man foregoes his safety and his happiness, both for the present and for ever! The thoughts and hopes of heaven are trampled out or overrun, if not forsaken; and in their place succeed confusion, envy, strife, and every sort of thought and work least like unto the mind which was in Christ Jesus.
I pray you therefore, Christian brethren, turn away from such wisdom, and seek unto the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Strive to enter in at the strait gate. You see what numbers needs must perish in the broad way. But do you seek the real way, in deed and in truth; seek it through an humble heart of faith and spirit of obedience; seek it by help of prayer, and by the path of holy living; and then let none despair that he shall find it!
MORE EXCELLENT WAY, EXHIBITED IN
1 CORINTHIANS Xii. 31.
And yet show I unto you a more excellent way.
WE have examined two most wrong ways, in which unhappily great numbers walk, on either side of true religion; namely, the path of loose profaneness, on the one side; of a vain show of piety, upon the other. A pleasanter employment now succeeds; to track the bearings of a path of which it may be said with truth to Christians, "This is the way, walk ye in it";" when they turn to the right hand, and when they turn to the left. And this is what, with the divine blessing, I shall endeavour now to do; contrasting this right way, before we part, with those two wrong extremes, in such particulars as may suffice to show the difference between them.
a Cf. Isaiah xxx. 21.