« PreviousContinue »
supposed religious attainments. The distinction is also visible in the spirit which'is exercised towards such as are weak in the faith. Aware that he is utterly unworthy of the least mercy, and that it is free grace alone which has made him to differ from others, the subject of the true witness feels kindness and compassion sway his heart, and he gives the right hand of fellowship to the weakest saint. But the witness which is not scriptural, creates much self-importance and vain conceit. Instead of esteeming others better than himself, the person who is under its influence despises the experience and attain. inents of all who reach not his standard; and were the language of his heart to be exposed respecting the truly humble and contrite penitent, thus it would read~"Stand by thyself
, for I am holier than thou.” Again, the real witness, as coming from God, necessarily produces a deep conviction of the infinite distance which exists between so holy, majestic, and eternal a Being as he is, and such frail, sinful, and insignificant worms as ourselves; and consequently it excites' humble reverence, godly fear, and holy diffidence in approaching him. When therefore the Almighty is approached with unhallowed affections, irreverent familiarity, and presumptuous confidence, it is a striking demonstration that the inward assurance is not founded on the scriptures. Thus the effects which are produced during the time the witness is experienced, clearly shew the distinction between the true and the false one. Judge my brethren, from the remarks we have made, whether your confidence be of the right kind.
The next distinction relates to the effects which are manifested after feeling the witness in the heart. The effects of the genuine witness do not, like Jonah's gourd, come in a night and go in a night. They more or less influence the possessor wholly through life. A scriptural testimony of an interest in Christ begets an ardent anxiety to experience it continually, excites a diligent observance of the appointed means of grace, with a view to keep the evidences for heaven clear and satisfactory, and leads the soul to receive every afflictive dispensation as a fatherly chastisement. It produces in the heart the child-like dispositions of fear, love, confidence, and submission towards God, creates an holy jealousy lest any conduct should be indulged inconsistent with the gospel, weans the mind from this world, and animates it with an anxious solicitude to enjoy the immediate presence of God for ever. On the contrary, the witness which is not from above, is attended with negligence in all these respects. It lulls the soul into a fatal security. The man who is under its influence soon becomes unconcerned his watchfulness decreases-worldly minded ness gradually obtains an ascendency-and eternity is awfully out of sight. "Public means, it is true, may be attended; but private duties are neglected. An attention to religion is kept up merely from habit, and with a view to obtain the praise of men.
Thus, my brethren, you may distinguish between the true and the false witness. And from what has been advanced, it will not be difficult to learn in what state your souls are before God. The copious manner however, in which I have treated the subject, has left me no time for applying it, closely to your hearts. To make up this lack of service, let me hope that you will immediately examine yourselves on this important point, that
you will earnestly pray to God, on your return home, to impress the contents of the sermon deeply on your souls; and that
you will not in future be satisfied, until scriptural ground to adopt the language of the apostle" The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God."
Of Husbands and Fathers.
1 TIMOTHY, CHAPTER III, VERSE 12. The Husbands of one Wife, ruling their Children,
and their own Houses well.
AVING copiously enlarged on the nature and effects of faith in reference to Bsperimental religion, we may now with propriety direct our attention to a few subjects more immediately connected with the external conduct which christianity enjoins. These subjects will constitute the practical part of this series of discourses. The im. portant and interesting nature of this branch of religion, it is presumed, will give them a peculiar claim to the serious and devout attention of every individual.
In consequence of the practical tendency of our pre- . ceding discourses, we shall chiefly confine our discussions to the most important relative duties. As professors of christianity, it is essentially requisite, that we attend to these duties with conscientious exactness. If our conduct in the sight of men is not consistent with the precepts of the gospel,
it is not possible that our hearts should be right with God. The heart being holy, the . conduct must of necessity be also holy. The duties arising from the exalted and responsible character of a husbandma father--and a master, are comprised in the text, and now demand our attention, It is true that the text was written for the direction of deacons, the inferior ministers of the church; but its contents admit of general application. It may, therefore, without any impropriety, be accommodated to our present purpose.
The first clause, it will be recollected, reads thus" The husbands of one wife.' The marriage union received very early sanction and authority from the Almighty, He soon saw, after the creation, that it was not good for man to be alone, He therefore provided an help-meet for him-an helpmeet that was bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. This appointment not only india cated the closeness of the union; but also the inconsistency of blending it with other connexions. If the marriage contract forms so intimate an alliance between the parties, that in the language of our Great Lawgiver, “They twain are one flesh," the idea of a plurality of wives, independent of other considerations, is absurd in the extreme. Reason and scripture, therefore, unite in bearing testimony, that men ought to be “the husbands of one wife" only. This sentiment