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RACTER, described as “neither cold nor hot,” but merely “ lukewarm”—a character which, we fear, will be seen to attach even unto those who have hitherto passed current, not only in the world, but also with themselves, for true and zealous Christians, approved by God, and having a title already to the bliss of heaven.
To be “lukewarm,” then, with respect to religion, is neither to be wholly unconcerned about it, nor yet deeply interested in it. It is to have some vague, general, and confused persuasion of its importance, but to want convictions to that effect, of a sufficiently strong, pervading, and influential nature. « Lukewarm” Christians, accordingly, are those who neither reject the solemn verities of Revelation, nor deny the general obligations of its ordinances. They believe, that without religion things would be far from being right with them, whether as to time or eternity, nay, that their immortal interests would be brought into fearful jeopardy: still do they rest satisfied in practice, with something essentially, woefully short of what they thus adhere to, in theory. They could not bear to be called or considered Jews or Mahometans, Pagans or infidels. They derive comfort from the very notion that they are Christians, in name at least; and yet are they, all the while, just as much of any, or even of all these, as they are real, faithful followers of Jesus. They give to the Sacred Scriptures a certain amount, no doubt, of their time and attention, but they refuse, notwithstanding, to exalt the Bible to the throne of their hearts and affections. They occasionally read God's Word on the Lord's day, which even the regulations of society, in some measure, shut them up to, by preventing them from occupying their time with the public discharge of their worldly affairs; but it is not their “ delight by day and night.” And when they do enter the house of God on the Lord's own day, they leave it again without knowing anything of the high and holy communion with God, which flows into the pious soul through the channel of Gospel institutions and ordinances ; nothing of the heavenly joy, springing up in the whole “inner man” from these ; and nothing of David's yearning desire and impatient longing for their recurrence. Strangers to closet devotion, they wrestle not, as ancient Jacob, arduously and long with their Maker: nor have they any domestic altar raised, from which to cause the incense of their “ morning and evening sacrifices” to come up, “as a sweet smelling savour,” before the Lord. Nay, we may go farther, and aver regarding an individual of the character under review, that his acquiescence in the requisitions of religion, even as respects its outward ceremonies, arises not from his deep-rooted sense of her intrinsic worth and beauty, or from personal experience of her blessed and transforming influences, or from the love he bears to the Lord, his Redeemer and Sanctifier, or from his utter and growing aversion to the pursuits and vanities of a world “ lying in wickedness,” or from his aspirations after a higher and holier state of existence, where all is blessedness, because sin and imperfection are for ever absent and unknown, and shall no longer retard the ransomed and glorified spirit in its onward progress in knowledge and purity, power and joy. No: all
the excellence which he can discern in the sacred profession, that outward fashion merely and not inward faith hath wrapped loosely around him, consists in its being used by him as a sort of spell, disarming a troublesome conscience of its bitter reflections—just a spiritual opiate, steeping all his faculties in undisturbed, but fatal oblivion—a charm, lulling his entire soul into an entrancing reverie, till the unexpected summons of the messenger of mortality—the sudden and decisive stroke of “ the last enemy” himself, rouse him hy some vital wound, most probably when it is too late for his recovery, to an appalling sense of his sin and danger, and despatch his shivering spirit, naked and defenceless into the presence of that God, to whose purity he is most odious, and of whose offended justice and awakered displeasure he will experience the accumulating, almighty inflictions through all the ages of his own immortality.
Such is the 6 lukewarm” professor of religion, so far as regards himself. View him, next, as he stands related to the cause of Christ in the world, and to the religious and eternal interests of his fellow-men, and oh ! of how contracted a spirit will then he appear, and how culpably selfish! Give to such persons enough of this world's goods ; let “ their corn and wine abound;” and it is of equal moment unto them, whether the Gospel of salvation “have free course and be glorified” or not. Stified and oppressed almost, we may say, to utter extinction, under the mountain-load of their worldlymindedness, their souls never swell with high and glowing aspirations after the coming glories of Messiah's reign ; when the best blessings of heaven will descend, in copious and refreshing showers, upon the bleakness of this moral wilderness, and our apostate universe, restored to its Creator's favour, shall become once more redolent of the odours, permeated with the felicities, and decked in the purity and graces, of Eden! Where, among all their ranks shall we descry the spirit of a Nehemiah exerting his kingly influence in protecting the worship of “the living God;" of a Baptist thundering forth his terrors, and urging a fallen world to accept the coming Saviour; of a Paul reckoning himself “ a debtor, both to Jew and Gentile, to bond and free;" of a Peter, manifesting all his active zeal, that the “strangers scattered through” distant provinces, might, “ kept by the power of God, through faith,” receive the “ salvation ready to be revealed at the last time,” and “ be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ ;" or of any one, in short, of the holy band of devoted missionaries, in every age of the Gospel, all “ watching, praying, and striving, without ceasing, to overturn the empire of darkness, and extend the kingdom of light-to rescue immortal souls from the mouth of the devouring lion, and fill the many mansions of heaven ?” He who is only “lukewarmly" Christian, gives his lips only, but not his heart, and still less his substance, towards the propagation and prevalence of truth and righteousness. Like Gallio, he “ cares for none of these things ;” and so long as affairs go well with himself, he dwells “ at ease in Zion,” while sinners are everywhere around him plunging down with heedless step into destruction, none to interpose and "pluck them as brands from the burning !"
II. We shall inquire into some of the principal CAUSES that concur to produce a “ lukewarmness” of religious character ;-in the hope and confidence, that thus apprised of these, you may be the better able, through the Spirit of all grace, so to apply to that Spirit as that he may recover you from their influence.
1. One cause is, self-righteousness—a proud and overweening idea of our own merits and sufficiency, as Christians. Such, our blessed Lord himself assigns as the foundation-error upon which the “ lukewarm” religious temperament of the Laodicean Church rested. They boasted that they were 6 rich and increased with goods, and had need of nothing; and knew not that they were wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” That they, no less than others, were enemies to God and goodness—at once by nature and wicked works—the subjects of unholy passions and vain imaginations, misleading them from duty, and exposing them to the Divine displeasure every hour of their being—the Laodiceans either did not appreciate this cardinal doctrine of Christianity at all, or else, what was far worse, in opposition to their better knowledge, they refused to live in the practical recognition of it. They were contented with the religious acquirements, as they considered them, which they had made already, and with the spiritual improvement to which they had attained. No sooner, brethren, have people begun to cherish a fond, and to entertain an exalted opinion, of themselves and of their abilities and accomplishments, than all farther progress and higher excellence, even in a worldly science or profession, are at an end; and, as concerns religion, the sublimest and most ardu