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It is too common for those who have begun and prosecuted a successful course of religion, to imagine that they have attained enough of perfection; that their religious habits have become established and secure; that they are beyond the danger of falling; and that they may now sit down in the peaceful enjoyment of their religious acquisitions. They forget that the warfare of a christian lasts for life. They forget that even the Apostle Paul himself thinks it necessary to say, “ Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect. I count not myself to have apprehended, but forgetting those things which are behind, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” They forget all this, and while they sleep in security, the fabric of their christian character is silently undermined. They allow themselves in petty deviations from the strict path of duty. They lose that salutary timidity which made them dread to sully the purity of their virtue by the slightest stain. Perhaps without perceiving themselves when it was that their religious ardor first began to forsake them, they grow gradually cold, and negligent, and insensible, and at length become alienated from the life of God.
Such are some of the dangers of want of perseverance in our religious resolutions. Let the consideration of them teach us a lesson of seriousness, of caution, of watchfulness, and humility
Let us seek to settle in our minds, on entering a religious course, a deep conviction of the importance of the christian character. Let us remember that as Christ is true, and God is faithful, this character is essentially connected with our eternal well being. Let this conviction lead us to the conscientious use of all the means and instruments of holy living which the gospel reveals. Let us often weigh the nature and obligations of a religious life. We are not indeed to take overstrained and extravagant views of human duty, but it is reasonable that we should remember, that to form so great and glorious a character, as that of a true christian, must be a work of labour and care, blessed by the spirit of God. It is impossible, that such a thing should be a cheap attainment. Let us look steadily in the face of all the difficulties and discouragements, which beset the christian's path, and count fairly the cost of our religious engagements. Let us be on our guard against the deceitfulness of our own hearts, and never forget our liability to fall. Let us lay the foundation of the christian character in a deep humility; and at no period of life, neither in the innocence of youth, nor the confidence of manhood, nor the stability of old age, let us think the work of religion done ; never let us imagine that we have no longer any need to watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation.
In the representation which has now been given of the difficulties of a religious life, and the dan
gers to which our good resolutions are exposed, there
be some who will find an excuse for hesitation and delay. Who, they may ask, is sufficient for these things; who but must shrink from the fearful hazards of declension and apostacy from their plighted resolutions ? But though I cannot conceal from you, and would not lessen in your eyes, the duties, the responsibility, and the dangers, of a christian profession, I am sure, that if you examine the subject as you ought, you will find from it motives to quicken you, rather than arguments to excuse and encourage delay, in the performance of duties as believers in Christ. True, there is danger that your resolutions, if you form them, may be unstable and transitory, but there is danger also, and the greatest danger, if you form them not. Will his condition be
worse, think you, who has attempted to do his duty and failed, than his, who has voluntarily and wholly neglected it? Will he fall under a heavier condemnation, who has sincerely and conscientiously entered on a course which he believes to be right, even though he may not pursue it always with the : same vigour, than he will, who with a bold impiety: turns away from the course of duty, and is deaf to the invitations of his Saviour ?
But this danger of infirm and transient resolutions, which deters you, is not such as need to alarm
if your heart be humble, your watchfulness unintermitted, and your prayers to God
you all the aid
sincere and persevering. He will vouchsafe to
ask. You do not serve a hard and inexorable master. He measures our characters by our endeavours, more than by our success. He knows our frame; He remembers we are but dust. No sincere endeavour, no humble desire, no virtuous exertion, is ever lost with him. He forgives the weakness which cleaves to our poor natures, when he sees that we struggle against it, and that our prevailing desire is to please Him, and conform to the gospel of his Son. You have no ground for depressing apprehension in the service of such a master, and no just excuse for neglecting or delaying to obey his commands. (Be exhorted then, my friends, you who have never yet entered with resolution on a religious life, and dedicated yourselves to God; be intreated to taste and see that the Lord is gracious. And beloved brethren, who own the sway of our merciful Prince and Saviour; who have enrolled
yourselves as servants of the cross, as aspirants after the purity and happiness of heaven; you, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and my crown, may God enable you ever to stand fast in the Lord, and thus to make your calling and election sure.
And you, my SERMON VII.
LOVE TO OUR NEIGHBOUR.
ROM. XIII. 9.
And if there be any other commandment, it is briefly
comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself. Of those dazzling qualities, which receive most of the world's admiration, it has pleased the Almighty Disposer to make an unequal distribution among his creatures. And if it is right that we should exist in this world in a state of trial and discipline, it seems impossible that this inequality of advantages should be wholly avoided. Many temptations, in resisting which the purity of a good character is most displayed, and many virtues of the fairest form and highest dignity, owe their existence wholly to that state of things, which is produced by this unequal distribution.
But though for wise purposes, God permits this inequality to exist, yet even in this world, there are some things, which tend to reduce it within