Page images


But how can it be reasonably supposed otherwise, than that we should be exposed to the heaviest judgments, when the privileges we enjoy, and the conduct of many under them are considered? There can be no dispute, but that the gospel is, at this day and in this place, greatly undervalued. It is our sin and reproach, my hearers, that such inestimable blessings, as the Sabbath, the house and worship of God, with the ordinances of Christ, should be disregarded and slighted as, in fact, they are in this place. There is a number of things which increase my apprehensions of danger on this ground. 1. The great coldness of professors.

This is so general a thing as to threaten the desolation of the churches. But comparatively few of the multitudes in this highly favoured land, have even the outward form of godliness. And but a few of the small number who have, appear rationally and steadily engaged to support the bleeding cause of Christ in the world. Of the number of professed friends to Christ, a large proportion discover no hearty attachment to the cause of the Redeemer, but are cold, dull and indifferent, wanting life and spirit to stand up for God against evildoers. This is a sin very provoking to God, and exposes a professing people to be given up of him, which is evident from what is said of the church of Laodicea, which professed friendship to Christ, yet manifested

She did not openly oppose Christ, yet did nothing for him, but barely to assume his name. Christ reproves and condemns her in this pointed, expressive language, “I would thou wert cold or hot ;


[ocr errors]

so then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” It is a great reproach to Christ when professors walk contrary to his instructions, and live careless of their duty. Such conduct more deeply wounds the cause of Christ, and brings it into contempt, than all the attacks of infidels. For them to manifest a selfish, worldly spirit, an engagedness

After the vanities of the world, more than for the honour of God, and the advancement of his kingdom, has the most direct tendency to bring the profession of Christ into contempt among men.

Though the scriptures teach us, that there will be hypocrites in the church, that we are not to judge of religion by the practice of its professors, but by the doctrines and duties which it teaches and enjoins, yet it is a fact, that the world have in all ages taken occasion, from the irregularities of false professors, to think and speak lightly of religion. Nothing is more common than so to judge; and nothing is more hurtful to those by whom this judgment is drawn; yet religion is, and will be so judged of by mankind at large. Hence the danger to the world, and the church from the unchristian walk of professors. How many stumble at the sins of professors ; how many are encouraged,“ to cast off fear and restrain prayer before God,” by seeing professors do this ? ---How many are encouraged to live careless lives, not regarding the day and house of God, because they see some professors do this?

Let professors then remember, that they will, in a measure, be accountable for the evil which is done to

the souls of men, and the cause of Christ by their sins. And that every consideration calls on all, “who have named the name of Christ, to depart from iniquity." Nor is this the only way in which the cause of Christ is injured by professors. For while some are a standing reproach to religion, by their coldness and apparent indifference in the things of their salvation, there are others, who bring religion into contempt by great apparent zeal, with little knowledge of the gospel, and whose conduct, taken together, discovers no more real engagedness in religion, than that of luke-warm professors. Zeal for God, which is according to knowledge, cannot be too great ; but zeal without knowledge is enthusiasm. Zeal in building up a party, is not . christian zeal, but delusion. That zealous party spirit, which now so much prevails among some professed christians, is an anti-christian spirit, wherever found, and is an evil which threatens greatly the churches of Christ at this day. Among those who profess the greatest zeal for God, and regard to his glory, there is just reason to fear, that many are more engaged to make proselytes to a party, a particular sect, or denomination, than to make converts to Christ. There is no religion in this; so far from it, that it tends to bring religion into disgrace, by setting its professed friends at variance among themselves, and by the disorder and confusion, which prevail in their worship, When those, who have been so zealous in their religion, become in a few years indifferent, then forsake all worship, and live more careless than ever, which

[ocr errors]

often happens, many are led to conclude there is no reality in any profession of religion. Some of these

persons and preachers are very much engaged, filled with zeal while dividing and distracting societies and churches'; but when the object is effected, their zeal cools, and seems to languish, until excited by some similar enterprise.

2. May not a prevailing negligence in the duty of prayer be reckoned among the evils, which look with a threatening aspect on our American Zion? True re. ligion is preserved in the world by the outpourings of the Spirit of God. Without these, religion would disappear with the present friends of God. Nothing short of the regenerating and sanctifying influence of the divine Spirit is sufficient to commence religion in the hearts of others. Human '

means and efforts, without these, will not effect this important end. And is it not a truth confirmed by the whole current of revelation, that it is God's manner to build up Zion in answer to prayer? All the remarkable revivais recorded in scripture were in answer to prayer. God has established a connexion between asking and receiv. ing. But if God, by his Spirit, revives and maintains religion in answer to prayer, then an increasing attention, among a people, to prayer, is an evidence, that God is about to build up Zion. On the other hand, when people become negligent of this duty, it is an evidence of the decay of religion, and a prelude of approaching judgments on the church. Am I mistaken, when I say, that this duty is greatly neglected, in this place, and that the number of prayerless families and souls is increasing every day? Each one can witness for himself, how this duty is regarded by him and others. But if it be true, and few I believe will question it, that family and secret prayer are rapidly declining; is it not a sad evidence that religion is departing from us? Though a form of prayer, constantly kept up, is no certain evidence of religion in the heart, yet we may certainly conclude that where there is no prayer, there is no religion. Prayer is the very life and breath of religion. It is the language of dependance and humble confidence in God. It is the expression of faith, repentance and gratitude. It is as natural for the child of God to pray, as it is for a child to ask his parent for food.

When therefore prayer declines among a people, or in an individual, it is a decisive evidence, that religion is on the decay with that people

Each one present knows whether he contributes to the general danger by neglecting this duty; or whether he is daily lifting up his soul to God to have mercy on Zion, and save us from the judgment threatened in the text.

3. I am constrained to add, that the inattention of the rising generation, in this place, to religion, is a sad omen that the religion of Christ, which is our glory is departing from us. The fathers are gone, and going from the stage of action, and the middle aged are crowding after them, and what will become of the ark of the God of Israel, if the young are regardless of its safety? How can religion remain among us, if it be not encouraged and supported by you, who are to fill

and person.

« PreviousContinue »