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[As God can distinguish hypocrites in the midst of their most specious services, so can he discern the upright in the midst of all their infirmities. The sigh, the groan, the tear; the broken accents of contrition, are more pleasing to him than the most fluent petitions that are destitute of a divine unction: Let none then be discouraged because they do not find á ready utterance in prayer; but let them be chiefly solicitous to “ cry to God with their hearts.” Then they will have nothing to fear; for “God will hear them, yea, and answer too, while they are yet speaking to them,” and “ will do for them abun: dantly above all that they can ask or think.”]
IPs. vi. 8. and xxxviii, 9. atid lxxix. 11.
à Eph. iii. 20.
CCCCXVI. A WARNING TO CARNAL AND É ÁŘTHLÝ:
. iii. 18, 19. Many walk, of whom I have told you often and now tell
you even weeping, that they are the enemies the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things.
NOTWITHSTANDING the utter extinction of vital godliness from the heart of man, through the introduction of sin into the world, there remain within him some principles of goodness, weakened indeed, but still operative and lively. Among these we may notice humanity and compassion, which often work in the breasts of the unregenerate; so as even to shame those who are endued with a principle of true religion. There is, however, one essential difference between this disposition as it is exercised by unconverted men, and the same as cultivated by the godly: in the former; it extends no further than to the temporal condition of mankind; but in the latter, it terminates chiefly on their spiritual and eternal state. Hence we frequently see both prophets and apostles expressing with tears their con eern for the souls of those around them: In the passage before us, St. Paul was filled with the tenderest emotions of pity, while he beheld the state of many in the Christian church, whose character and end he most pathetically describes.
In illustrating his statement, we shall consider 1. The lamentable state of some professors
St. James speaks of a principle that is “earthly, sensual devilish,”a and such is that; by which too many, who profess godliness, are actuated. 1. “Their belly is their God”
[By " the belly," we understand the sensual appetite:S and to make “ a god” of it, is to yield ourselves up to its dominion. And must we go to heathen countries to find persons of this description? are not “ many" such to be found in the Christian church? Many, alas! are addicted to gluttony, to drunkenness, to whoredom: and among those who are free from these gross excesses,
how many are there who have no higher end of life than to consult their own ease and pleasure, and whose labours in all their younger years, are with a view to provide these very enjoyments for them in the decline of life! What is this but to put the gratification of their sensual appetite in the place of God, whose will should be the only rules and whose glory, the ultimate end, of all their actions] 2. “They glory in their shame"
[Whatever proceeds from a currupt principle, whether it be approved or not among men, is really a ground of shame: yet how many will boast of their vilest excesses, perhaps too, eyen of crimes which they have never committed! How many will glory in the insolence with which they have treated their superiors; the resentment they have shewn towards those who injured them; and the cunning they have exercised in a way of traffic; when, if they viewed these things aright, they would rather blush for their iniquities, and mourn over them in dast and ashes!
Perhaps the apostle had a more especial reference to the judaizing teachers, who sought to distract the church of God, and gloried in the number of their proselytes. Such he justly calls “ dogs, and evil workers:”e and too many such there are also in this day, who care not how many of Christ's flock they scatter and destroy, if they can but increase their own party.
Now to glory in sin, of whatever kind that sin be, is the very spirit of Satan himself, who accounts himself happy in proportion as he can weaken the kingdom of Christ, and establish his own empire over the hearts of men.)
* Jam. iii. 15.
b Rom. xvi. 18,
o Ver. 2.
3. “ They mind earthly things”
[To a certain degree earthly things must be minded: but we are noť to savour, to relish, or to set our affections upon them. This would be as contrary to the mind and will of God, as to make a god of our belly, or to glory in our shame. Yet how many professed Christians are there who live under the habitual influence of an earthly mind, without ever conceiving that there is any thing wrong in their conduct! In spiritual employments they experience nothing but a stupid uniformity: but in temporal concerns they have many fluctuations of hope and fear, of joy and sorrow, according as their prospects of success brightens, or their apprehensions of disappointment increase. Whence arises this, but from the decided preference they give to carnal and earthly things, above those which are spiritual and heavenly?]
Fidelity requires, that, having delineated the conduct of these professors, we should set before you IÍ. The warning here given them
It is a painful task to rob any of their hopes, and to denounce the terrors of the Lord: and while we engage in it, we would, like the Apostle, proceed with the ut. most tenderness and compassion. But we must, at the peril of our own souls, endeavour to undeceive those who are blinded by these delusions. Let such then know 1. Their real character
[Many, who are of this description, imagine that they are friends of the gospel, and that they have a great regard both for Christ and his people. But indeed," they are enemies of the cross of Christ:” they withstand its influence over thema selves, and obstruct its influence over others.
What was the intent of the death of Christ but to redeem us from all iniquity, and to deliver us from this present evil world, and to establish the dominion of Christ over our whole souls?& This was the effect it produced on others;h and woukl on us, if we thoroughly submitted to its influence. Whatever therefore we may imagine or profess, we really are enemies of the cross of Christ, as long as, in our spirit and conduct, we continue hostile to its main design.
The injury which such professors do to the cause of Christ, is incalculable. If they be openly profane, they explode religion altogether, and deter others from regarding its diclates: and if they be more decent in their conduct, they lead men, both by their conversation and example, to suppose that religion consists in mere forms or notions, instead of an entire subjugation of the soul to Christ. In what light then must they appear before God? If “ he that gathereth not with Christ, is .as one that scattereth abroad,"i much more must they, who are thus actively engaged in scattering the flock, be deemed his enemies.] 2. Their certain end
f Gal. j. 4.
O OVBYTES. See Col. iii. 2. 52 Cor. x. 5.
e Tit. ii. 14.
[It is no wonder that they who mistake their own character, should deceive themselves also with respect to the state to which they are fast approaching. They conclude that their eternal interests are safe: but God declares, that “ their end is destruction.". Yes indeed! “ their end must be according to their works." And do not the scriptures abundantly confirm this melancholy truth?" If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die:”k“ if any man love the world, the love of the Father is hot in him:"}* to be carnally-minded is death.”m In vain will be all pleas and pretences at the judgment-seat of Christ: to every worker of iniquity, whether he have been an open sensualist, or hypocritical professor, it will be said, “ Depart from me, I never knew you.”] We would subjoin a word or two of ADVICE
1. Beware lest you rest in an external profession of religion
[It is easy to adopt the creed of Christians, and to conform our lives to that standard which obtains generally in the world, But it is no easy matter to be a consistent Christian. To maintain an uniform course of self-denial, and of deadness to earthly things, and to glory only in the Lord, these are hard lessons: yet nothing less than this will prove us Christians indeed. It is not by our créed, or our professions, that we shall be judged; but by our“walk." By that therefore we must judge ourselves, if we would not be deceived to our eternal ruin.] 2. Watch over one another with care and tenderness
[None are at liberty to say, “ Am I my brother's keeper?". We all should feel a ténder concern for the welfare of our fellow-creatures: and especially when we behold those who profess to have the same faith and hope with ourselves, manifesting by their conduct the delusion of their minds, we should weep over them, and, with a mixture of fidelity and compassion, declare to them their danger. We are expressly told to “ exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day:"p and though we shall not always give satisfaction to the persons whom we warn, yet shall we really perform towards them the kindest office, and perhaps save them from the destruction to which they were hastening. Then shall we have reason to . rejoice over them, as they also will have to bless God for us, to all eternity.]
i Matt. xii. 30.
k Rom. viii. 13.
11 John ü. 19. o Gen. iv.9.
CCCCXVII. A CAUTION AGAINST DEPARTING
Heb. iii. 12-14. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of
you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.
THE consideration of the fulness and sufficiency of Christ, is that which animates the believer in all his conAlicts: yet it is on no account to supersede our own care and watchfulness: on the contrary, it affords us the greatest encouragement to watch, because it ensures success to us in our endeavours, which, without his almighty aid, would be of no avail— In this view it is that the inspired writer calls us to “consider the Apostle and High. Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was not merely a servant, like Moses, but a son, the Heir and Lord of all, yea, the very builder of that spiritual house, of which we profess ourselves to be a part”. On this truth he grounds the exhortation in the text, a in which he suggests 1. A solemn caution
Difficult as it is to come to God, we find it easy enough to depart from him—We should therefore be on our guard 1. Against any departure from him
[While men are yielding to temptation, and turning aside from the ways of God, they cherish an hope that they may still preserve their interest in his favour, though they be not studious to do his will-But a departure of any kind, whether
a All the words between “ Wherefore,” in ver. 7. and the text, are a parenthesis: we must therefore connect the text thus; “ Wherefore" « take heed,” &c.