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and contrite spirit, which in the hour of peril pours forth its fervent prayer to him.
Another means to assist us in bringing our thoughts under a regular and salutary discipline, is to cherish an habitual sense of the ever during presence of God, and a dread of laying open to bis
pure inspection a soul filled with carnal and voluptuous thoughts. Let us remember that the same God, who dwelleth above, hath his ways upon the earth ; that he not only numbereth the sanctities of heaven, but knoweth the thoughts of man; that he not only walketh, where the planets wander, but searcheth the secret places of the heart. Let us seek to have a deep impression of his character and perfections, and we shall find every new view of his glory to be leading us on to love, imitation and obedience. Let us remember that his pure and holy law punishes the adultery of the heart, condemns the malice of the thoughts, and ordains that all our outward and visible virtue should be the faithful sign of inward and spiritual purity.
We shall find, in the fourth place, that the greatest aid in excluding vain and wicked thoughts from the mind, is to fix our contemplations on the eternal world. Let us think of the shortness of life, and the vanity of its pleasures and pursuits ; of the certainty of death and judgment ; of the glories of heaven, and of the wretchedness of impenitent guilt. These are the thoughts which will
quell the power of temptation, and subdue the madness of passion; and with which nothing unholy and impure will dare to intermingle. Let us then think of the world, where our Redeemer has his abode ; where God unveils his glorious face ; where are the spirits of just men made perfect ; and where the irreclaimably wicked cannot come.
The consideration of the eternal connexion between holiness and happiness, sin and misery, if it be brought home to the mind, must surely secure it from the intrusion of every vain and criminal imagination. An internal principle of purity will impart its steady character and unvarying complexion to all our actions. One victory over sin will ensure another. We shall meet temptation accustomed to vanquish it, and come off conquerors, and more than conquerors, over our spiritual foes. And when at the last great day of account, we stand in the presence of our God, we shall meet him with well grounded confidence and hope. We shall find that we have not toiled in vain ; that we have not fixed our thoughts on heaven, and kept the faith in vain ; but that a crown of glory is reserved for us, which cannot fade away.
PHILIPPIANS, iv. 1.
Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for,
my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
This affectionate exhortation of the Apostle to constancy and perseverance in the christian profession, was rendered peculiarly necessary by the circumstances of his early converts. It was addressed to men, who, in embracing christianity, had exposed themselves to some of the heaviest of earthly evils. They were the objects of the scorn and hatred of their fellow-men; and were not merely obliged to renounce the hope of fortune and fame, but to be prepared to endure persecution, and, it might be, death itself, in the cause of Christ. The temptation to be false to their religious obligations under these circumstances, or at least so far to relax them as that they might be restored to the favour of the world, was very
great; and the Apostle, knowing the weakness of our frail nature, could not but tremble for the steadfastness of his converts, for whose conversion he had laboured with so earnest and pure a zeal, and whose faith in the gospel was the glory and solace of his ministry. His warm and affectionate heart, filled with a sense of their danger, pours itself out in the words of our text. “ Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved."
The circumstances of believers at the present day no doubt are greatly changed. To be thought a sincere, uniform, unaffected, exemplary christian, so far from being a disgrace, is among us a title to confidence and respect. Still, however, the exhortation of the Apostle has not become superfluous. The sources from which our temptations to wavering and inconstancy in the christian profession arise, are different, it is true, but they are not less real, nor less dangerous. We see too many examples of infirmity of christian purpose ; we feel, if we know anything of our own hearts, too many seductions from the path of our christian duty; not to acknowledge that we need often to be reminded of our danger, and earnestly exhorted to “ stand fast” in our christian profession. Let us then review at this time some of the causes of our inconstancy in religious resolutions, and some of the cautions and counsels which our danger should suggest.
I. The first cause, which I shall mention, and that to which perhaps all others might be reduced, is a want of a proper impression of the importance of the christian character. If we constantly felt, as we ought to feel, the necessity of being what the gospel requires us to be, we should need no exhortations to steadfastness and perseverance in our christian calling. To be a christian, that is to say, to be virtuous in the christian sense of virtue, is not a thing that is simply useful, or simply ornamental. It is essential. Heaven, and God's eternal favour, are suspended on it. I speak of those who live in a christian land, and enjoy the means of christian knowledge and the opportunities of christian improvement. I refer not to their case who are denied these privileges, nor to that of those who from causes distinct from their own perversity or negligence, are incredulous as to its claims. But I speak of those who have it within their power to understand the nature and authority of the gospel; to them, I
say, it is a thing absolutely essential to become, and to continue Christians.
66 It is not a vain thing ; it is your life.” This is saying no more of christianity than this; that it was not a matter of indifference whether God gave it to us or not. It is saying only, that Jesus Christ did not come into the world, and lay down his life, for a matter of little moment. It is simply asserting, that if it is true that we have in the gospel a revelation of the will of God, and a certain state of the mind