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may require resolution far beyond our power, it cannot discourage enquiry into religion. Once set your mind to serve God, and make it your sincere prayer that you may be enabled so to do, and there is a glorious doctrine in a part of the Gospel which assures you of the succour and aid of the Holy Spirit to help your infirmities, to plant within you new principles, to make you a new creature, to take the great realities of the Gospel and present them in such a manner as to reveal them to you, to make them become powerful, and to fill you with holiness. And here, therefore, all objections against the service of God are at once swept away; we are infinitely benefited by being sanctified, and it becomes no presumption to aspire after it, when we recollect, that if we are sincerely desirousof servingGod, the HolySpirit is sent forth to strengthen us and to enable us to come forth and unite in the living head. The Lord Jesus Christ is able to supply all our wants out of his fulness—so that babes have perfected the praise of God, and persons of the meanest condition have broken forth from a course of sin and inveterate habits of wickedness, not certainly from any resources of their own, but in consequence of hearing the call of the Gospel, and from a desire to serve God; and blessed be God it may be so with sinners still.
Consider, my brethren, in the next place, the great rewards which hereafter necessarily accompany the service of God; and these are such as it is impossible for us at present adequately to conceive, much less to represent in mortal language. Hear what our blessed Saviour speaks himself. He tells you respecting the watchful servant, who is occupied in waiting for his master, He will gird himself and serve him. He will say to such a one, "Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." There
is no well-meant service to God that will pass without a recompense, no intention to glorify him but will meet with its remuneration; a cup of cold water given to a disciple in the name of Christ shall not loose its reward; seed that is sown in the service of God shall return an hundred fold; every sincere effort to glorify him, every desire of seeing him glorified, every aspiration after his image and after his service, will meet with an appropriate reward. Those who have made it their business to serve Him here, and have employed their feeble powers in praising Him, God will employ his mighty powers in rejoicing over them; He will heap on them recompense such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; and as they made his authority paramount above all others, the Divine Being will show that he is infinitely richer than any of the monaichs of this world. "I appoint unto you a kingdom as my father hath appointed unto me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom."—" To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame and am sit down with my Father on his throne."
Recollect, again, my dear brethren, the impossibility of neutrality and the danger of delay; you cannot be neuter. "Choose you this day whom you will serve," or "choose This Day." What was there in that day? Nothing particular marked that day; but it was to-day—the present time, that which is now in our possession, to-morrow or the next day is in the hand of God, it lies hid in his counsels, and whether it may be disclosed in time or eternity none but the Divine Being can know. It is, therefore, the present time, and on that account Joshua presses on them the immediate improvement of it. There are some here who are ready to start back and say, we intend to serve the Lord, we shudder at the thought of dying in irreligion, we do not intend to give up ourselves to sensual enjoyments, we intend to be serious and religious, and the true servants of God, but who procrastinate still. But, my brethren, think of this, that time is not your own; if you fix on another time, that time is in the hand of God, but is, perhaps, never destined for you; you will witness it, but witness it as a part of eternity. Now is the accepted time. Let not any one count with certainty on having another opportunity; this may be the last, the only sermon, the only invitation that they may have from the lips of truth and mercy. Recollect, there is no neutrality, you must either be the servants of God or his enemies. When the legitimate claims of a monarch are such as can be distinguished, to be neutral between him and the usurping rebel, is the highest act of insult, and stamps such persons as traitors against him. Though you profess to serve God, if you refuse to serve Him, if you bar the heart against Him, if other Lords have dominion over you, if He does not reign as the sovereign of your heart. He will consider himself as deprived of his right; He will bear no competitor, He is a jealous God, and says, "Thou shalt serve Him, and shall serve Him only." This is the doctrine taught by our Lord, my brethren, and from which there is no appeal. "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." There is no possibility of being neutral, nor will the state of man's heart be neutral, because, if he does not love God by choice, and serve and honour and love his Creator, he must be at enmity with Jehovah; and such persons cannot please God, or be subject to the laws of God.
Recollect, my dear brethren, in a very short time, tf you are not employed in the service of God, you will have
no portion, no employment beneficial or dignified or delightful to all eternity. There are many ways in which men employ themselves at present, by which they amuse their leisure and contrive to pass away their hours tranquilly, till the hour of sickness, or the bed of death arrive; but there is no amusement, no avocation, no employment of the faculties in eternity to such as have not served the Lord. In heaven God is all in all, the enjoyment of it consists in seeing him as he is, in serving him with perfection, and being for ever like him. The joy of the redeemed is to celebrate the praises of God, and to serve him day and night in his temple; there is not the least effort or energy but will be called forth, all the affections will ascend up as a pleasing offering to God, all the powers will intensely and eternally be employed in his service, nor will these perfected spirits cease day nor night from crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." Therefore, my brethren, if you are not able to serve God here, you will not be able to serve God there ; the recollection of the past, and the fearful presentiment of the future, the resources of your own mind, and the depths of eternal torment and despair must convince you of this. Could you live your own time you might neglect religion; but God will call every one to judgment. There is an appointed day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, and as there is no neutrality, he will then exercise his judicial authority, and say, "bring hither those men who would not that I should reign over them and slay them before me."
Is there any person here who imagines it is undignified to serve the Lord, when he recollects that Joshua, one of the most eminent of legislators, after having been engaged in continual warfare formany years, and then enjoying peace in the midst of his enemies, in the latter period of his life comes forward and makes that glorious declaration contained in the text. But why do I mention J oshua? Look back on all the most eminent men recorded in Scripture—why is their history recorded ?—what are they commended for ?—why are they exhibited as objects for our imitation? Why was their blood spilled as water? Was it not, in fact, the cultivating and disseminating of religion for the good of men? Was not this the employment of all the most distinguished servants of God in every age? Is it not their employment in the present period? They who sink into the deepest humiliation rise the highest in religion— they kindle with the most intense fervour—they cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus—they take in larger manifestations of his likeness, and every sentiment of their mind is absorbed in one great consideration—the presence, the friendship, the love, the image of the Eternal God.
This, therefore, my brethren, is the path of dignity—this is the way to be rendered illustrious for ever—this is the way to have your record in heaven —this is the way to have His praise who is the fountain of all majesty, the blessed and only Potentate. Who, therefore, for the sake of the honour and countenance of man, for the breath of mere mortals whose habitation is of clay—who for this, would choose to lose the honours of a glorious eternity, and sink under the withering frown and curse of the Almighty? Let God be true and every man a liar; and let us aspire to the honour which springs from serving God, for that alone will last, that alone will endure, that alone will continue to give satisfaction and elevate your hearts through the cyeles of a never-ending eternity. I am aware how inadequately these reasons have been enforced; how far, very far, they
fall short of the importance and momentousness of the subject; but still they are reasons that will bear investigation. Grant that this legitimate influence may be felt by all of you.
And this leads me to observe lastly, that there is a great consolation in religion. You never heard of a person who was found to repent it—you never heard of a person who persevered in the practice of religion, who had grown grey in the practice of righteousness, when this world seemed to sink into nothing before the celestial prospects which opened before him, and when the Arbiter was ready with the balances in his hand, and he saw himself about to be placed before the judgment-seat of the Eternal and Great Sovereign—then, did any man ever repent of having made a sacrifice for God? But thousands who have disregarded the obligations of religion and turned a deaf ear to the entreaties of the Gospel, will repent with lamentations, eternal and unavailing, recollecting the time when they might have been acquainted with the things which belonged to their peace, but which shall then be hid from their eyes. Can that be a delusion to the conviction of which all men arrive? Can that be erroneous which was never doubtful? Can that be a false choice which never in the most serious moments was repented of—when passion has subsided, when conscience and reason have awaked from their slumbers in the most serious and the most solemn moments— when it is of the last importance for every man to have his own opinion, and for every one to be right? Can it be doubted, that it is infinitely well to be devoted to God, and so, my brethren, to confess your Lord ?" For what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul, or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
DELIVERED BY THE REV. H. MELVILL,
AT CAMDEN CHAPEL, CAMBERWELL, MARCH 20, 1831.
John, iii. 3.—" Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom O/god.'
There is a twofold course which we are at liberty to pursue in investigating the fact of our being possessed of any endowment or property which may happen to become the subject of inquiry —we may either search abstractedly for the endowment or property itself, or we may attain a knowledge of the manner wherein such endowment or property actuates commonly the conduct, and then by examining the conduct determine the existence or non-existence of the proposed principle of action. It is the latter method, which in practice, we are compelled almost invariably to adopt—for so inscrutable a thing is the soul of man to itself, as well as to others of its own species, that it is, commonly, wholly unable to decide on the possession of abstract qualities, without having recourse to the materialism of the tabernacle in which it dwells, and deriving from external workings its proof and evidence of internal motives. And I think I may venture to add, that so peculiarly constituted are, in many instances, the faculties of man, that we may remain, for days or years, utterly ignorant of powers which we actually possess, just because we have never been exposed to those outward circumstances which, by striking on a peculiar chord, demonstrated the being of a peculiar property. If I may descend to familiar illustration I would observe, that a man who has never heard music is certainly not competent to judge whether he has any taste for music— and unless you fill the air around him with the symphonies of sweet sounds,
you give him not the power of determining whether there be within him an especial relish for melodious breathings. In this, and in many other the like instances, the man is necessitated, as it were, to come out of himself, out of that invisible and yet spacious world which is composed of the several chambers and departments of the mind, and avail himself of the aids of material agency, before he can set himself to estimate the extent or variety of spiritual power.
Now the question to which I would next direct your attention is, whether the same necessity of gathering, from without, tokens whereby to judge of that which is within, exists where we apply ourselves to examine the fact of our having been regenerated by the influences of the Spirit of the Most High. To be born again is to be made the subject of a complete renovation— a surprising change which spreads itself over the widest circuits of the desires and the affections; it imports the overthrow of one dominion and the setting up of another; and it is a visionary thing and an ideal, unless hope and fear and the thousand emotions which agitate successively the spirit of man, have put on altogether a new aspect, and taken, I might almost say, new elements into their respective constitutions, and undergone so absolute a transformation that whereas hitherto, they had drawn all their colouring from earth, henceforwards they are strongly marked with the flush of eternity. And I allow it would seem undeniable, that a change so total and marvellous, could never pass over the inner man without (if it be lawful thus to speak) such visible and audible tokens, that it can be in no sense needful to call in material demonstrations as auxiliaries, in proving the glorious revolution. I am ready to concede, that if the process of regeneration should pass upon a man dwelling alone, the solitary inhabitant of some rocky island, removed far away from all the companionship of kindred, and debarred, bythe circumstances of his loneliness, from submitting himself to the ordeal which is furnished by the intercourse with the beings of our race— still the man could not remain ignorant of his having been regenerated— he could not fail of the consciousness that he had verily become a new creature—and there would of necessity be such a beautiful and unwonted communion maintained with the Almighty in the privacies of his soul, that although he had no power of discoursing with the godly on the signs of conversion, or bringing his feelings to the touchstone of a changed and well disciplined life, still he might be fully and triumphantly satisfied that he had been born of a new, even a celestial birth— and there would, I believe, rise up within him such a host of joyous witnesses, that whilst he drew not his proofs from the material creation, he would yet call upon that creation to participate in his rapture, and summon, like the Psalmist, wind and wave, and rock and mountain, to join in celebrating the praises of the Lord.
It is, therefore, with no intention of disparaging the worth of that witness, which St. John describes the Christian as having, that I proceed to assert the value and importance of external evidence when we sit in judgment on our own spiritual condition. We may concede, that the inner man will give ample and instant testimony to the fact of a regenerating change, when
ever such change hath actually taken place; but we are bound, at the same time, to remember that frames and feelings, are of all witnesses, those by which we may most readily be deceived, and that it would be of all things the easiest, for the secluded hermit to persuade himself that he had centered his affections on the bright heaven which is above, whereas if he be only brought again into collision with the sparkling varieties of this passing scene, he might quickly demonstrate that those affections had never ceased to cling most tenaciously to things that are below. We require a standard which will allow of our reducing our religious estate into a matter of simple and patient calculation, we must be furnished with criteria which shift not and vary not with every beat of the natural pulse; neither can we arrive commonly at a satisfactory conclusion, unless we proceed, step by step, with a most rigid arithmetic, and sit like philosophers over an obscure and intricate problem, establishing firmly one point before we advance to the investigation of another.
And hence I believe, that justification is never so legitimately proved as when inferred from sanctification, the soundest method of ascertaining the existence of faith which we cannot see, being the examination of works which we can see. It were, indeed, possible to institute a scrutiny into the curtained secrecies of the soul, and to search after faith in the very dwellingplace in which faith is presumed to reside—it were possible to propose to ourselves a series of close interrogations on articles of belief and subjects of hope and matters of futurity, and to obtain answers which might afford a species of guidance, in our endeavour, to ascertain whether there had been set up within us that powerful empire which deals with the invisible things