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into which society is divided by GOD; he has all those relative and social duties to perform, which make men dwell together in peace, concord, and happiness,-and these constitute practice. "On these two hang all
the law and the prophets;" and every scheme of faith, or system of religion, which is not built upon them, and which does not make them equally necessary to everlasting. salvation, is not to be found in the word of GOD. St. John, in his first general epistle. to the Jewish converts, to whom he wrote, gives them the following prudent advice, in order to preserve them from the many errors. which had crept into the christian church, even in the apostolical times. "Beloved, "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, "whether they be of GOD; because many "false prophets are gone out into the "world." The same caution, my brethren, may be properly addressed to christians in the present day. Many wrong notions and false doctrines are abroad, respecting the way of salvation, which (in proportion as: they "err, more or less, from the truth"). are calculated, more or less, to unsettle men's. minds; to disturb their peace; to terrify their souls; and to make them, either spiritually proud and uncharitable, or gloomy, desponding, and distracted. "Believe not,
"therefore, every spirit, but try the spirits," not by the word of man, but the word of GOD; and assure yourselves, that every doctrine which has not its foundation in the mild, and merciful, and reasonable spirit of the gospel, is not from" the Father of lights," but the father of lies," who has spread it as a snare before you, in order to entrap your souls. Let the church in which you have been, brought up, be your haven of rest; there cast your anchor, and do not quit it for the stormy sea of unreasonable and unscriptural doctrines. It holds out to you the path of salvation; a plain, a broad, and (to a good man) an easy and delightful one. Embrace its doctrines, then, with sincerity; regard its ordinances with reverence; and hear its ministers with attention, and an earnest determination, with God's assistance, to practise what they preach; and depend upon it, that it will conduct you, when your course is finished, and your warfare accomplished, to the rock on which itself is built, "THE ROCK, CHRIST!"
[For the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.]
EPHESIANS iv. 30.
Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
EFORE I enter fully on this subject, it
may not be useless to observe to you, that, notwithstanding the good resolutions persons may form under particular circumstances, or on particular occasions; notwithstanding the prayers that they may offer up to God, at stated times of public worship; yet, such is the frailty of human nature, that without constant watchfulness, they are still in greater danger of falling, than they themselves may be aware of. When, by reading the word of Gop, or hearing it explained by his ministers, a man is made
sensible of his duty, and that it is truly his interest to serve GOD faithfully; whilst these thoughts are fresh and warm in his heart, he is apt to feel very confident that he shall never run into the same degree of wickedness, by which he plainly sees that others are ruined. This confidence, however, my friends, is the confidence of unexperienced christians only. They who know themselves better, know also that there is nothing more deceitful than the heart of man; and that, if we give way in any degree to criminal inclinations, we shall in time come to love those very things which we now abhor; and commit those sins which we now think it is quite impossible we should ever be guilty of. The truth of this assertion may be fully proved by many instances in the holy scriptures. I will, however, mention two only, one from the Old, and the other from the New, Testament; by which we may learn, that no man ought to be presumptuously confident of his own strength; but, on the contrary, that it becomes the wisest and best of christians, not only to be careful of his ways, but to look up for help to God, by whose Holy Spirit alone we can be withheld from falling into sin.
When Elijah told Hazael (2 Kings viii. 12,) that he should commit acts of seve
rity and unheard-of cruelty in Israel; he was so far from believing himself capable of such wickedness, that he indignantly exclaimed, "What, is thy servant a dog, that "he should do this?" and yet, no sooner was he invested with power, and raised to a situation where he had an opportunity of giving way to his passions, than he did as the prophet had foretold, and became one of the greatest scourges that his country had ever known. St. Peter had, perhaps, as much natural courage as most men, as appears from his behaviour in the garden; he had besides protested to his Master, " If I "should die with thee, yet will I not deny "thee in any wise." Yet within twelve hours after, he swears he knows him not.
You see, then, my brethren, that good resolutions, although absolutely necessary, are not of themselves sufficient; we must add to them prayers for grace, to resist temptation; and never, for a moment, forget the danger we are in, if, by continuing in any known sin, we "grieve the Holy Spirit of GOD," and force Him to leave us to ourselves.
To come, therefore, to the advice of the apostle in the words of my text; "Grieve "not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye "are sealed unto the day of redemption."