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“ the day of my distress, and was with me in the way 66 which I went."
Fourthly, What were your feelings, O christians, when, convinced of sin, you were first led to seek sal vation through our Lord Jesus Christ? Ah! return, ye affecting moments, and remind us of an experience which has long been fled. O, what strivings against sin! 0, what indifference to the world! 0, what engagements to serve God! You were willing to follow wherever He should lead ; 'you gloried in the reproach of his cross ; “ having food and raiment,” you were u therewith content." One thing was needful, one concern engrossed you; “Say unto my soul, I am a thy salvation.” And you succeeded; and you have a good hope through grace; but to what is all this blessed experience reduced ? To this dullness in hearing; to this deadness in prayer; to this murmuring and complaining under trials ; to this fear of man which bringeth a snare; to this eagerness for the things of the world : “Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, “ saying, thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the « kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, « when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a 6 land that was not sown: Israel was holiness to the « Lord, and the first fruits of his increase." “ Never“theless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast 6 left thy, first love; remember therefore from whence « thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy FIRST WORKS. « Arise, and go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and “ build an altar unto God, who answered you in the « day of your distress, and was with you in the way " which you went.”
Christians, ye who are always strangers and pilgrims upon earth, look forward to a heavenly country. Ah! when you have reached home; when you have escaped all the dangers to which you are now exposed; when you possess all the goodness promised you in the word of truth; then no forgetfulness, and no need of memorials. All your mercies will arise in view ; you will perceive innumerable instances of the divine goodness, which you are now unable to discover, and all will be seen with their enhancing qualities and circumstances. You will bless Him for all the dispensations of his providence, for the dark which now perplex, for the painful which now distress, for the alarming which now terrify; “ God of all
grace, and Father of mercy, thou hast answered me in every day of distress ; thou hast been with me in eve. "ry way I have travelled; thou hast suffered me to want
no good thing; and here I raise an altar, such as I 166 could not rear in yonder world, where I was encom“passed with infirmities. Now I shall serve thee day s and night in thy temple, without imperfection, and 66 without end. Blessed are they that dwell in thy " house, they will be still praising Thee." Amen.
THE NATURE OF GENUINE RELIGION.
Ezek. xi. 19, 20.
AND I WILL GIVE THEM ONE HEART, AND I WILL PUT A NEW SPINIX
WITHIN YOU: AND I WILL TAKE THE STONE HEART OUT OF THEIR FLESH, AND WILL GIVE THEM AN HEART OF FLESH; THAT THEY MAY WALK IN MT STATUTES, AND KEEP MINE ORDINANCES, AND DO THEM: AND Ther SHALL BE MY PEOPLE, AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD.
" THE works of the Lord are great, “sought out of all them that have pleausure therein." It is pleasing to observe Him as the God of nature, "renewing the face of the earth,” “ crowning the
year with his goodness," " opening his hand, and “ satisfying the desire of every living thing." It is edifying to “trace Him as the God of providence, fix. “ing the bounds of our habitation," assigning every man his station, qualifying him for the sphere in which he moves, and sometimes “raising up the poor out “ of the dust, and lifting the needy out of the dung“ hill, that he may set him with princes, even with the “princes of his people.” But it is much more pleasing and edifying to contemplate Him as the GOD OF ALL Grace. Here He “excelleth in glory.” Here “ He
spares not his own Son, but delivers him up for us all.”.
Here “ He saves us by the washing of regeneration, « and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he sheds “ on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Here we behold Him, from the ruins of the fall, ma. king the sinner“ an eternal excellency, the joy of " many generations." All this “ purpose and grace" He has given us in a way of promise ; and of all the promises with which the scripture abounds, no one is more momentous than the words which we have read. “ And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new “ spirit within you : and I will take the stony heart “ out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of “ flesh ; that they may walk in my statutes, and keep “mine ordinances, and do them; and they shall be “ my people, and I will be their God."
Behold a full representation of a subject which deserves all your regard. See genuine religion developed in four essential articles. I. Its Author. II. The disposition it produces. III. The obedience it demands. IV. The blessedness it ensures.
I. Observe, my brethren, how expressly God appropriates this work to HIMSELF; “I WILL GIVE “ them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within “ you ;” and so of the rest. For real religion is of a DIVINE original. It never would have had an existence in the world without the revelation of God; and it never will have an existence in the soul without the operation of God. There is indeed some difficulty attending the discussion of this subject. For the more spiritual any work of God is, the more remote will it necessarily be found from human comprehension. Our
Saviour compares this influence to the operation of the wind, which of all the phenomena of nature, is the least apprehensible in its essence, and the most sensible in its effects. “ The wind bloweth where it listeth, " and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell “ whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every “one that is born of the spirit.” The doctrine has also been much abused. It has often been so man. aged, as to make the sinner, while in his natural state, to appear unfortunate rather than criminal, and to render the use of means and exertions needless, The sacred writers do not inform us where, precisely, dili. gence and dependence unite, or how they blend through the whole course of the christian life ; but they assure us of the reality and the constancy of their union ; they inform us that there is no inconsistency between the command and the promise ; that it is our duty as well as privilege, to “ be filled with the spirit;", and that we are to 6 work out our own salvation with “ fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh “in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure.”
This being premised, we proceed to establish the doctrine we have advanced. And the proof is by no means difficult ; it is as simple and obvious, as it is convincing. For if “all things are of God,” is religion to be excluded, and to form the only exception ? Springs up “the river of the water of life" from a source on this side " the throne of God and of the “ Lamb ?” If in him we live, and move, “ and have “our” natural “ being," do we derive from an inferior principle our spiritual life ! --a life sublimely called for the life of God," to remind us of its origin, as well