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their places? How can the name and profession of Christ continue with us, if you refuse to become fol lowers of him? How can a visible church continue here, if you refuse to submit to his laws and to become real and visible christians? This is a day with us, when few young people indeed, I might say none, are willing to make a publick profession of Christ; and it is indeed a melancholy consideration, as it is a sign that there is little religion among them. This is a plain command; and if you are the friends of Christ, you have no excuse for your neglect. And if profes sors dishonour Christ by an unchristian spirit and walk, there is the more need of your professing him, and convincing the world by a holy life, that you are sin cere, and that the religion of Christ is an important reality. But if you have no religion, and are therefore ashamed of Christ, how awful is your situation, and how gloomy the state of this place. Remember what Christ says of such, "He that is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed." No man's danger is lessened by the danger of others; nor can the negligence of others afford the least excuse for neglecting duty ourselves. But the more general any evil becomes, the greater is the publick danger. This consideration shows our danger in particular.
4. Ignorance of the doctrines of christianity, which is the natural consequence of inattention, is another thing by which we are endangered. In the course of this subject we have shown, that ignorance of the christian system, in those who enjoy the means of knowledge, is very criminal. The knowledge of the chris
tian revelation is necessary to the knowledge of our duty. There are many sciences which a person may not understand, and yet be acquainted with the duties of his occupation; but he, who is ignorant of the leading doctrines of the Bible, is of consequence ignorant of the leading duties of religion. He must be ignorant of the character of God; of that of Christ; of his own, and of consequence sees not his danger, nor the motives which the gospel sets before him to "flee from the wrath to come." Besides, ignorance of the doctrines of the gospel, exposes a people to delusions; to false schemes of religion; "and to be carried about with every wind of doctrine, and the craftiness of those who lie in wait to deceive."
Over all these evils, my heart bleeds. They are strong indications of the approaching calamity in our text. It will come upon you in a short time. But is there nothing which can be done? Nothing to avert this evil? I will hope, that you are led to make this inquiry; that you see the impending calamity, and desire to know how it may be avoided. I would say
1. Attend to the word preached. The preaching of the gospel is appointed of God as one important mean of knowledge. And he has made it your duty to attend on it with this design. By this, the ignorant may be instructed, the secure awakened, and the humble comforted. And it is often blessed of God for all these important purposes. It is the principal instrument, by which sinners are instructed, awakened and brought home to God. Hence it is said, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Therefore carefully improve the sabbath, in attending upon the worship of God in his house; and spend not the Lord's day in idleness on your beds, in your fields or shops; nor in idle visits, and vain amusements. Make conscience of attending; and when you come, come with a desire to obtain good. People loose the benefit they might receive from coming to the house of God, by coming without any design or desire to receive advantage. Come, seeking after the knowledge of God, and your duty, and then you will attend diligently to what is spoken in God's name. And when you hear, labour to treasure up the word in your mind. Spend not your time in the house of God in gazing this and that object and person; nor in thinking on your weekly concerns; say to all such, when you leave your home, as Abraham said to his servants, when he went up the mountain to offer his son, "abide ye here while I go and worship yonder." Something may be gathered from every discourse you hear. Comply with the kind advice of Solomon, "keep thy feet when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear than to offer the sacrifice of fools."
2. Meditate on what you hear. This is every way important after hearing the word of God preached; both to retain it in mind, and compare it with the sacred oracles, by which every hearer should compare what is delivered. Then his faith will not stand on the opinion of another, but on his own knowledge of the doctrines and evidences of the gospel. The word of God is designed to direct our faith, and govern our practice; but how can that direct our faith and govern our practice, which is, either not understood or forgotten?
Some think they have done well if they set and patiently hear a sermon. And as soon as the preacher is done, they have done too; for they neither think nor speak of it more. They join their companions immediately, conversation follows, no way connected with the duties of the sabbath, and by the time they get home, the fowls of the air have picked up all the seed which was sowed in their hearts. This is one reason, why amidst so much instruction, so many remain ignorant and wicked. Instead of carrying it home with them, they leave it where they heard it, or loose it by the way. Be directed then, when you have heard the word of life, to recall it to mind; to meditate upon it, and compare yourselves by it. Say, such a sin has been reproved to day, am I guilty of it? Such a duty has been urged upon me, do I practise it? Such a grace was recommended, do I possess it? Such a rule was prescribed me, do I govern my conduct by it? By such a method, you would find that the word of God preached is not a vain, unprofitable thing. Then the painful labours of ministers would be attended with an increase of knowledge and grace among their people.
3. As you would avoid the just imputation of despising the word of God, and the evils threatened in the text, make private reading of the scriptures, and other books which tend to promote useful knowledge, a part of your daily entertainment. This method would be productive of great good, as it would inspire a taste for improvement, and open sources of innocent and christian entertainment. There are but
few in this favoured land but can read, and the things contained in the Bible are of common concern, and of the highest importance to all. It contains the things which concern our everlasting peace. It is the compass to direct our course in safety, through this tumultuous, fluctuating ocean of life, to the haven of eter nal rest. This shows the importance of duly reading the scriptures. Should the mariner neglect his compass, he would soon lose his course, and probably strike upon the rocks and shallows.
The reasons why all should study the Bible are obvious. It contains a system of truth, the most important to all; and is "profitable for doctrine, for re proof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished to every good work." None may excuse themselves in the neglect of this duty, by the plea, that they have not time. is it not a fact that people can find time for amusements, in which they delight? Do not most people spend more idle time every day, than would suffice, were it diligently improved, to make them well acquainted with the doctrines, and duties of the gospel? There is perhaps no calling so full of care, but would, were persons disposed, afford time every day for religious employments. And there is this encouragement to this duty, that the most important truths, and useful duties are the most obvious, and the most easily understood. So that the honest inquirer may rationally expect to find both truth and duty.