Page images

learn, that a partial and external observance of the commands of God will not intitle you to heaven; but there must be in your heart such a supreme love to God, such a full submission to the Saviour, and such a strong regard to the future world, as shall raise you above earthly things, and dispose you to use them charitably, while you have them, and resign them cheerfully, when providence demands them. The answer which the apostles of Jesus gave to similar enquiries, though expressed in different words, is, in substance the same. “ Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved.”

Are you desirous to form a just idea of the manner in which you must seek salvation ?-Hear what Christ said, when one asked him, whether few would be saved. “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many will seek to enter in, and will not be able. When the master of the house has shut the door, many will knock, and say, Lord, open to us, for we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he will say, I know you not : Depart from me all workers of iniquity.” You here see, that you must seek salvation with diligence, and without delay ; not merely by an observance of the forms of religion, but by renouncing every sin, and complying with every duty: To the same purpose is Paul's advice ; « Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God, who worketh in you. Do all things without murmuring or disput

You will ask perhaps, What ground is there to believe, that God will work in us? Hear the words of Christ himself. “ I say unto you, ask and ye shall receive. If a parent will give bread to his children, How much more will your hcavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them who ask him ?”


Would you learn, which are the principal duties of religion?-Jesus has told you, “ These are to love God with all your heart, and your neighbours as yourselves. On these two hang all the law and the prophets.”

In short, If you wish to be informed, what are the most important and interesting doctrines in the system of religious truths ; only consider, what are the doctrines, which Christ and his apostles have most frequently inculcated, and most warmly urged.

Say now, whether, on the important question, " What is truth ?” you need farther instruction than Christ has given you.

If you seek instruction with the spirit of his disciples, who love the truth and hear his voice, you will learn all that immediately relates to your duty, and essentially concerns your salvation. If your enquiries are directed to different objects, look not to Christ for an answer. He came, not to gratify an idle curiosity, but to guide the meek in judgment, and teach the humble his way.

Beware, however, that you indulge not the same indifference which you condemn in Pilate. He declared Jesus to be an innocent and just man ; but he still remained an unbeliever. You have the gospel of Christ, and you profess to believe that it is divine. Learn then what it teaches, and practise what it requires.

There are, doubtless, many as negligent as this heathen was: We will consider some instances, in which this criminal negligence appears.

There is, in some, an indifference to religion in general.

Perhaps they outwardly conform to the prevailing usage of their country; but scarcely spend a thought, whether the common religion is true, or whether, in reality, there is any such thing.

They think it best for mankind, that some appre. hensions of a Deity and a future judgment, and some forms of religious worship, should be kept up in the world ; because these tend to peace and good order. But to religion, considered as a mean of rendering us acceptable to God, and of preparing us for future happiness, they pay no attention.

They may think, that a general acquaintance with the common sentiments of the time and place, is a necessary part of a good education, because it qualifies a man for conversation in some sorts of company. But farther than this, they care little about it. They learn the religion of their own country, for the same reason, that they would study the language and manners of a foreign country, if they were going to travel there.

But if we are rational and immortal creatures, religion must be a matter of infinite importance to us all; and every man is bound immediately to examine what it is. If he is in doubt, whether christianity is divine, he ought to enquire into its evidences. When he is settled in a general belief of its divinity, he is not to rest here, but to apply himself, without delay, to obtain a knowledge of its doctrines, and an interest in its promises.

There are many, who acknowledge, in general, the truth of the gospel ; but neglect to enquire, whether they are conformed to it.

If they should meet with a professed infidel, they would urge upon him a care to examine so impor. tant a matter, as the truth of revelation. If he appeared to disregard their advice, they would won. der at his negligence in a case so interesting. And yet they are as inattentive to the state of religion in their own hearts, as the infidel is to the credibility of revelation.

But, my friends, What is the gospel like to do for you,


you have not submitted to it? What

advantage do you expect from it, without obeying it ?. And where is your consistency, in being solicitous that others should believe it, while you neg. lect to secure the blessings of it?

There are some, who assent to the great doctrines of the gospel, and understand the essential terms of acceptance with God; and, though their conscien. ces testify, that they have never complied with these terms, they are little affected with the danger of their condition.

One would think that this should be daily in their minds, should call them often to their closets, and warm their hearts, when they are there ; should check the levity of their spirits, and give a distaste to every sensual indulgence. But still their time is divided between their business and their amuse. ments. If convictions, now and then, arise uninvited, and serious thoughts insensibly steal upon them, thev smother them in the cares, or dissipate them in the pleasures of life.

There are others who delay the work of religion for the present, and content themselves with the purpose of a future application to it.

Are not some of you, who now hear me, to be found in this class? You call him careless and

neşligent, who attends not to his worldly business in the proper season. Does not the description belong to you, while you delay a business of infinitely higher importance ? Behold, now is the day of salvation. The morrow is not yours. You know not what it will bring forth. You would not dare, I suppose, finally to dismiss all concern about religion, and to fix a resolution, that you will never think of it again. But if it is too important to be forever neglected, it is too important to be at all delayed. Future opportunities are at best uncertain. It is certain none will be better than the present.

you still

Further : If you are not on your guard against sin ; if you expose yourselves to visible temptations, or run into any known and obvious wicked. ness, you discover as little regard to religion, as little concern about futurity, as Pilate did.

He was careless about religion in general. He seemed indifferent what it was, or whether there were any such thing. You believe, that there is such a thing, and that it is to be found among christians only. Thus far you are settled ; and thus far it is well. But what is the design of religion ? Does it not teach you to depart from iniquity, and to live piously, justly and soberly? Does it give you hope and comfort in any other way? And will


on fearless in a course of sin ? Will you practise the very things, which your religion condemns ? Will you venture into the places of temptation? Can you reflect on your past sins without remorse, and repeat them without concern ? What benefit then do you expect from your reli. gion ?

A neglect af, or negligent attendance on the appointed means of religion, indicates a spirit of indifference. You have God's word. Does it lie

Does it lie by you unexamined ? His house is near you. Do you withdraw your feet from it? Or do you read and hear the solemn truths of religion, without attention and self-application? Is your mind wholly unimpressed with the warnings which are given you ? Do you make light of the calls and invitations of divine grace? When you hear the terms of salvation

proposed, can you reject them without concern ; and depart from God's house, with the same cold heart, which you brought there ? Do you live without prayer, without communion with God in the clos. et or family ?--Think not of Pilate's indifference. Be astonished at your own. VOL. II.


« PreviousContinue »