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situations, pursuits, and prospects of mankind; bat whatever be their talents or privileges, they are to improve them; or they will fall under the reproof and condemnation of the idle and slothful servant. we behold some whose minds are refined, their manners polished, and, from their excellent attainments, their station is elevated. They have extensive information in those things which respect the presént life, and which renders them agreeable and interesting companions, and useful members in society. Moreover, the minds of some are well stored with a knowledge of the Scriptures; and their reasonings concerning the important doctrines and duties of revelation are forcible and conclusive. Such knowledge and attainments are truly desirable, and demand suitable and seasonable attention. Still one thing may be lacking, which will render all essentially defective in the last decisive day.
A saving knowledge of the true God may be wanting, whom to know aright is life eternal. Such acquirements are far too short, compared with the one thing needful; and a covering infinitely too narrow for the soul, when contrasted with the spotless robe of Christ's righteousness. They all dwindle into nothing and appear mere vanity, in comparison with the love of God shed abroad in the heart. apostle Paul comes directly to the point, when he says, Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Then whatever we know, or whatever we do, if we have not been translated from the kingdom of sin and satan, and brought to love God supremely, and
walk in newness of life, we are no better than whitened sepulchres which are filled with all manner of impurity. Mankind may know much, and do much, and for which they are worthy of respect and esteem among their fellow men, and yet be wholly destitute of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord, or be able to stand in the day of final decision.
4th. The manifestation of much zeal in the things of religion, for a time, will not be sufficient to give peace in a dying hour, and to secure the everlasting rewards of the righteous. We sometimes behold persons who are all engagedness in the things of religion, and whose whole souls apparently are devoted to the cause of Christ. Their conversation and walk appear marked with zeal for the defence of truth; and like David, they may pray seven times a day. In the view of their devotedness and eminently pious lives, even old professors, who are persevering Christians, are ashamed of themselves and their deficient performances. But, suppose such persons draw back, and forsake all their religious ways; and perhaps lead a life of evident insensibility? What shall we conclude concerning persons of such a character? The Saviour has said concerning such, No man having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven. However serious minded any person may be; and however animated may be his conduct in the things of religion, if he persevere not in the ways of well-doing, he is essentially defective. His piety is far too short, and greatly straitened. Concerning every one that turneth back from attention to religious duties, the Lord declares, My soul shall have no pleasure in him, Moreover, the scriptures do make mention of some, who draw back unto perdition. From the parable concerning the way-side and stony ground hearers of the word, we are taught, That some give attention to the things of religion for a while, whose hearts are never renewed by grace. And it is possible for such
to go great lengths both in their feelings and in the external duties of religion, and yet not be the children of God. Persons deceiving, or being themselves deceived, may engage in all the active forms of religion, as well as those who are the true disciples of Christ. Where a good work is begun in the heart, such an one's religion is not for a week, month, or year, but for life; yea, and for eternity. Hence we are taught, He that persevereth unto the end, the same shall be saved. To forsake evil ways, is well; and to attend to external duties, is well. But the question, Whether we have passed from death unto life? is an infinitely important one. Unless this be the case, we are unprepared for a dying hour and to enjoy the company of the blessed for eternity. Delusion, false religion, or a heated imagination is temporary and the end is uneasiness and distress. But true religion is peaceable, permanent, and purifying; and its reward, is glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life. May not our religion be like the morning cloud and early dew, which soon pass away. May it be like that of the just, which groweth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day; and which will be perfected until the day of Jesus Christ.
1st. In the light of this subject we may see how vain are all our attainments and enjoyments, if we embrace a false religion. What will it avail to be surrounded with friends and relatives, to be raised to eminence on the account of abilities and qualifications, and to be crowned with prosperity and affluence all our days, if we live without God and a well grounded hope in the world; and after death, be wretched for ever? If any one should gain the whole world and lose his soul, would he be a gainer, or rather would he not be an infinite loser? Health and wealth, pleasure and honour, refinement and grandeur, are mere vanity and snares to our souls. if for
the enjoyment of them, we be deceived respecting our immortal interests. Whatever may be our attainments or enjoyments, we are, according to the true import of the text, poor and wretched, and blind, and naked, if we obtain not the pearl of great price. Whatever we possess, if our hearts be not renewed by grace, and our sins pardoned through the blood of Christ, of all men we shall be the most miserable. But mankind may be poor, be deprived of many of the comforts of life; and yet come short of durable riches, of a heavenly and eternal inheritance. Poverty or afflictions are of no avail as a substitute for genuine religion, nor can they give a title to heaven. Whether we possess or enjoy little or much of the good things of this life, unless Christ be formed in us the hope of glory, our portion must be with the nations that forget God.
2d. By contrast we may see, that goodly are the prospects of those who are rich in faith, though poor, destitute, and afflicted in this present state. In the world to which they are going, sin, nor sorrow, nor sighing ever enter; but joy and triumph will there for ever reign. What a consolation to the afflicted and distressed, who can entertain the cheering hope that death will for ever end their sorrows, and be the gate of their entrance into that happy place, where are joys unspeakable and full of glory! Do they now weep on the account of sin and the calamities. of life? Shortly they will rejoice, and join in the everlasting praises and anthems of the blessed. What a privilege, what an unspeakable blessing! that those who have a scanty portion here, a mere subsistence mingled with a few comforts, may have the Lord for their reconciled God, and heaven for their eternal home. Yes, and they who abound in every thing that is dear under the sun, if they set their affections. on things above, will at last walk the golden streets of the New-Jerusalem. If they use this world as not abusing it, the world above will be their everlasting
portion. But suppose it is literally true concerning any one, that 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. How happy for that man if the moral or figurative import of the words, be not applicable to him.
3d. We may conclude, that the gospel is suited to every disposition or circumstance in life; and calculated to render all who embrace it happy. Are any of peculiarly tender feelings and delicate sensibility, and are they timid and distrustful of themselves? The influence of the gospel would serve to establish their minds with Christian fortitude; and render their faith firm, and their hopes in the Lord strong. But, are any pained with insensibility of affection, and with an unfeeling and sceptical mind? The grace and mercy of God are peculiarly calculated to fill their souls with contrition; and to awaken them to all that is endearing or interesting. Through the light of the gospel, the moralist may have all the moral virtues carried to their highest perfection, whilst he is made wise unto salvation. The profane and profligate will become moral and godly, and bless the Father of all mercies for all their comforts, if they will only hearken to the voice of wisdom. The intemperate will become sober minded, and lead godly lives, if they resist not the light and power of the gospel. The wandering may be led into the right way; and the blind receive their sight, from the anointing with that eye salve, which the gospel offers freely. Then let us not be deceived in concerns of the utmost importance, by fearing to come to the light, lest our deeds be reproved. Infinitely better to have our sins set in order continually before our eyes, whilst in time; that we, through the rich grace and mercy of God, may be delivered from them for eternity. Amen.