« PreviousContinue »
SERMON XVII. .
TRUE RELIGION ALL IMPORTANT.
Isaiah xx. 20. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself
on it, and the covering narrower than that he can wrap
himself in it. MANKIND are subjects of the highest prosperity and affluence, and of the lowest depths of adversity and poverty
Uniformity is by no means the common lot of the human race; but diversity and contrast are peculiarities as it respects the condition of man. There are not only the high and low, rich and poor, bond and free; but innumerably varied and diversified are their situations and circumstances. Through the journey of life, some make use of a beautiful and elegant cane; whilst others are assisted by an old and crooked staff. Some are cheered with the enjoyment of a comfortable degree of health all their days; and others are scarcely ever exempt from disease. Some live in great style as it respects their houses, furniture, and equipage; but others have their residence in an uncomfortable hut, and scarcely obtain the necessities of life. Dives fared sumptuously every day, while Lazarus enjoyed but few of the good things of this present world. But whether mankind in their pilgrimage state, travel a road comparatively smooth and pleasant, or rough and unpleasant, they soon are entombed in the silent grave; their bodies intermingled with the common dust, and their souls in a world of spirits. Hence, the manner
a of our journeying through this vale of tears, is of little importance, compared with our future destiny; our
eternal home. The words of the text are a provefbial saying; and their most literal meaning or import is expressive of a state of difficulty, of uneasiness and distress. When a bed is too short, a person cannot lay at his ease; but is perplexed in the hours of rest. When the covering is too narrow, he is exposed to the severities of a cold night. The moral, or lesson of instruction to the Jews, was to teach them that their confederacy with the Egyptians, could not defend them against the Assyrians and Chaldeans; nor could their numbers and fortifications defend them against the Romans, when God should forsake them and become their enemy. Neither could their temple, altar, sacrifices, nor Pharisaical righteousness recommend them to his favour, as long as they rejected Christ. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it, and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. These words, with those in connexion, in a figurative manner convey this solemn and alarming truth: that there are certain kinds of religion which are essentially defective, and which will fail those who embrace them in the great day of trial and final decision. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a Stone, a tried Stone, a précious corner Stone, a sure foundation : he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgement also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet : and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. From the time, that it goeth forth, it shall take you : for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it, and the covering narrower than that he can wrap
himself in it. In the illustration of this subject it is my design to bring to view some of those kinds of religion, that are founded not on a sure, but false foundation; and to show that they are essentially deficient, and ruinous to the soul. Amongst the different varieties and sects of religion in the world, there are strictly but two kinds, the true and false. The one will support a man in the solemn and trying hour of death, and lead to joys on high ; but the other then forsakes the soul, when it is destroyed suddenly, and that without remedy. But to descend to particulars; I would observe in the first place, that infidelity is a religion which is essentially defective, and which will fail those who embrace it in the great day of trial and final decision. By infidelity, is meant deism; or a rejection of the Saviour, as the only Mediator between God and man, and as the only possible way of salvation. Persons of this description, glory in the light of nature as being sufficient to lead to a true belief and to exalted views of the being and perfections of God, and to teach all those ways which are necessary to glorify him. But through the depravity of the human heart, and the consequent blindness of the mind, where mankind have been left to nature's light, they have formed strange ideas concerning a God, and their worship has been a scene of folly and madness, of most degrading infatuation. Some have been content with a god of clay; others, of wood. Some have had a silver god; and others have had one formed of gold. Creatures have been worshipped as the Creator, and natural objects have been adored as Deity. But how essentially defective sach views and service? How abominable in the sight of a holy God, and how degrading to man, considered as a rational and immortal being? Surely nature's light is become darkness in consequence of our apostacy. It leads none of the human race to know, to love, and serve the true God; but all pursue their own vain imaginations, and their foolish heart is most strangely darkened.
But let the deist have the light of divine revelation; let him have the Bible in his hand, and form consistent and exalted views of the character and designs of God. Is he not now built on a rock, and not on a sandy foundation ? No; for when he knows there is a God, he glorifies him not as God And as to the sins of his heart and life, reason is insufficient to lead him to true repentance; and the influence of the Holy Spirit he resists, and denies its necessity. To godly sorrow, and that repentance which is unto salvation, he is an entire stranger; and that he is a transgressor, not only the word of God, but his own conscience bears witness. And when stung with guilt, and alarmed at his condition, he denies the Lord Jesus; and there is none other name under heaven, given amongst men whereby we can be saved. When the law condemns, of the gospel he is ashamed. To what then can his hope be compared, except to that of the hypocrite’s, which isheth? Shall we say, he hopes for pardon on the account of repentance? But infidelity is opposed to a penitent life, and makes its boast and glory in a self-justifying spirit. Notwithstanding sin has entered the world, and death by sin; and death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. But the advocates for deism may reply, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement. Alas! how has the hour of death blasted the expec, tations of thousands; and too late convinced them, that their hopes and confidence were a most delusive, and wretched dream. Reason is too short; in its greatest extent, it is far too narrow to point out to a world lying in wickedness, the road to heaven and way of salvation. Those who reject divine revelation as the only sure way of eternal life, do frequently have their minds distressed, and they have no efficient comforter. In vain do they attempt to make their beds smooth and easy; for they frequently lie down on their pillows with anguish in their souls. All the covering which they can frame to hide their
guilt, is no better than fig-leaves; for the eye of omniscience searches them through and through. And says the Saviour, Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. He adds, Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels. And whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny, before my Father which is in heaven. If the eyes of unbelievers were not shut against the word of God, how would such alarming declarations of the Redeemer make them shudder, and cause their hearts to quake for fear! Now they hear the voice of mercy, and yet refuse that salvation which was the purchase of a Saviour's death. But when they hear the voice of the Archangel, will not their religion appear essentially defective, and fail them as a false refuge in the great day of trial and final decision?
2d. Morality, considered as the essence and foundation of religion, is essentially defective, and will not be able to stand the test before the judgement seat of Christ. The moralist, perhaps, would divide his religion into external and internal. External morality relates to the outward conduct of man towards man, and to the refraining from open impiety towards God. Thus we see some who are civil, cour: teous, and upright in their daily deportment, and whose tongues are not ready to revile others; neither are they the instruments of profanity. They not only are free from injustice, intemperance, and irreligion, but they are amiable and engaging in their manners. Instead of wrangling, reproaches, and contentions, they lead peaceable and quiet lives. Perhaps they are hospitable and charitable, condescending and forbearing, and even ornaments to society. Moreover, they may turu their attention to what is internal; may guard against violent anger; against a spirit of hatred, envy, and jealousy; and