« PreviousContinue »
so many years of hearing, what additions have you made to your stores ? Are you filled with holy prudence to “ponder the path of your feet,” to “
look “ well to yoựr goings," and to discern snares where there is no appearance of danger ? Do you “ circumspectly," " not as fools, but as wise ?” Have you a sufficiency of holy wisdom to “ rule well
your own houses,” and to “ train up your children in the “ nurture and admonition of the Lord ?" Are you able to“ give to every man that asketh you, a reason of “the hope that is in you ?" Can you apply general principles to particular cases ? Can you reconcile promises and providences when they seem adverse to each other? Does the word of Christ dwell in you “ RICHLY in ALL wisdom ?" Have you clear, combining, and impressive views of ANY truth of the Scripture ? And are there not many subjects of revelation, with which you have no acquaintance ? Alas! with many professors of religion, more than half the bible is entirely useless. They confine their attention only to a few doctrines, and even these they regard not as they are delivered in the undefined grandeur of the sacred writers, but as they are reduced and modelled to stand conveniently in a human creed, or a human system. What a difference is there between the ocean of revelation, and such a vessel.full of truth, as any formulary of doctrine contains ! but the latter has often been mistaken for the former ; and because it is easy to penetrate to the bottom of the one, many imagine they have fathomed the other. David gives us a fine idea of revelation, when he tells us " it is exceeding " broad.” Of “ all” other“ perfection? he could see
“ an end;" but he viewed this as incomprehensible and boundless ; here he saw room for unceasing progrefs; here he knew fresh beauties and glories would be perpetually discovered, to reward the humble and active enquirer. And why should we stand in this extensive country, and suffer a man, fallible like ourselves, and with no better sources of information, to mark us off a piece only of the sacred soil, to draw around us a circle, over which we are made to promise never to ftep? Hear, O son of Abraham, the voice of thy God: “Go through the land in the length and the breadth 4 of it, for to thee have I given it.” Hear the language of one of his servants ; Oye Hebrews, “ye are dull " of hearing: for when for the time ye ought to be 6 teachers, ye have need that one teach you again, « which be the first principles of the oracles of God; “and are become such as have need of milk, and not " of strong drink. For every one that useth milk is “ unskilful in the word of righteousnefs : for he is a « babe. But strong meat belongeth to them, that are “ of full age, even those who by reason of use, have “their senses exercised to difcern both good and evil. “ Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of “ Christ, let us go on unto perfection.” He means perfection in knowledge ; he would not have us confine our attention perpetually to a few particular parts ; or to use his own image, would not have us to be always “ laying again the foundation," instead of going on with the superstructure ; but, alas! when will the understandings of our people suffer us to extend our views ? When will they rouse up their minds, and exert their faculties to take in something beyond a few
common-place reflections, which they have heard times without number? Why will they always con: ftrain us to abide near " the first principles of the or«acles of God ;" or if we advance, why will they re: fuse to accompany us one degree beyond them ?
Secondly, Observe your HOLINESS. For the knowl. edge of persons may surpass their experience, and a growth in gifts is very diftinguishable from a growth in grace.
Review then your sanctification; and suf. fer me to ask, have you no remaining corruptions to subdue? Are your paffions entirely under the controul of reason ? Are your affections all heavenly? Are you “ crucified to the world.?" Have you no undue regard for it ; no improper expectation from it? Are you properly affected with the evil of sin? Do you abhor it, mourn over it, watch against it? Do you “ deny “ yourselves, and take up your cross, and follow' Jesus, “ without the camp," gladly “ bearing his re“ proach ?” Is your obedience universal, unvarying, cheerful? Have you fully imbibed the tempers of your religion ? Are there no deficiencies perceivable in every grace, in every duty ? Are you “ftrong in « faith ?” Do you “abound in hope?" Do you love God, and do you love him supremely? Do you love your neighbour? and do you love him as yourself? Can you “ love your enemies, and bless them that
curse you?” Are you “ clothed with humility ?" Is your worship always spiritual? Do you never “ offer " the sacrifice of fools ?” Do you not often pray
with formality, and hear in vain ? I need not press these inquiries. If you are christians indeed, you are ready to answer them with sighs and tears--- Enter not into
« judgment with thy servant: my soul cleaveth to the 6 dust : Ô wretched man that I am: perfect that & which concerneth me; thy mercy, O Lord, en“ dureth for ever; forsake not the work of thine own 66 hands."
Thirdly, Think of your PRIVILEGES. These are innumerable and invaluable. It is the privilege of christians to have “exceeding great and precious “ promises." It is the privilege of christians to “be « careful for nothing." It is the privilege of christians to "enter into rest." It is the privilege of christians to “have peace with God through our Lord “ Jesus Christ.” It is the privilege of christians - to 5 walk all day in the light of his countenance;" to
rejoice in the Lord always ;" to " rejoice in him « with joy unspeakable and full of glory." It is the privilege of christians to “count it all joy when they « fall into divers temptations ;” and to “glory in tri6 bulation also ;" and all this has been exemplified; men have “received the gospel in much affliction, with joy ss of the Holy Ghost;" they have “ taken pleasure in « infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecu* tions, in distresses for Christ's sake;" they “ have “ taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods;" they have approached the flames with rapture; they have loved and longed for “ his appearing.” But where are you? Always in darkness and alarms ; always among thorns and briars; always murmuring and complaining ; having religion enough to make you miserable, but not enough to make you happy. Do you be. long to the same community? Have you the same privileges with them? the same heaven with them?
the same God with them? the same Comforter with them? What should we think of all the high praises of religion, if it had no more consolation and pleasure to afford than you possess ? Thus whether we examine your knowledge, or your holiness, or your privileges, it will appear that much lies still before you ; much to understand; much to perform; much to enjoy. Week after week, year after year, God comes to observe your progress, and finds you, if not drawn back, fixed in the place you occupied before.
Part II. And whence is this? Why will you
suffer all this remaining region to be unpossessed ? How shall I awaken you from your negligence, and convince you of the PROPRIETY and necessity of making FRESH AND CONTINUAL ADVANCES ?
First, I would drop before you the COMMANDS OF God. You are forbidden to draw back; you are forbidden to be stationary ; something more is necessary than languid, partial, occasional, témporary progression ; you are required to be “stedfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord :" to add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge ; " and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, “ patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godli“ness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness,
charity;" to " walk worthy of the Lord unto all “ well pleasing, being fruitful in every good work :" to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord " and Saviour.” Such is the morality of the gospel, and these are the commands of God, which you have professed to make the rule of your actions.