« EdellinenJatka »
ready to perform the most self-denying duties as those that are accompanied with immediate pleasure or ad. vantage? Are you the same in secret that you appear, or wish to appear, in public? Or rather, do you not suit your behaviour to the humour of the times? Can you charge yourselves with no instances of a timid compliance with the prevailing maxims and manners of the world? Hath not fashion some weight with you, to draw you into many things which you do not inwardly approve? and are you not often restrained from doing what conscience tells you ought to be done, by the fear of incurring the ridicule and censure of others, even of those whom, in your hearts, you do not, and cannot, es. teem? If so, then these very hearts must testify against you, that hitherto you have not been living unto the Lord.
3dly. What regard do you feel for the honour of your Lord?
Are you willing to become any thing, to do any thing, and to suffer any thing for his sake? Are you contented to serve him in the meanest station of his family? or if you aspire to an higher place, is it solely to enlarge your sphere of usefulness, that you may labour more abun. dantly, and serve bim to greater advantage, than your present inferior situation will permit? When we see you climbing upwards as fast as you can, may we re. ally suppose that this is your aim? That it ought to be your aim, is obvious; for he who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, keeps no idle attendants about his person for mere parade and show. Earthly princes, who are made of the same materials with other men, need many external appendages to eke them out, as it were, and to give them bulk and importance in the eye of the world; but he who made the heavens and
earth, infinitely disdains to borrow any significancy from the workmanship of his own hands. The angels that excel in strength do his commandments, hearkening onto the voice of his word: the highest seraph hath his task: “ They are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." And can any of the sons of men be so be fooled by temporal prosperity, as to imagine that any little elevation they can attain on this footstool, relaxes their obligation to serve God so strictly as meaner men do? They may imagine it; and when we survey the upper ranks of life, we find too just cause to suspect, that this absurd and impious conceit is entertained by many; but the faithful and true Witness hath assured us, " that unto whomsoever much is given, of them much will be required;" and that the greater talent, if not faithfully improved, shall only heighten the condemnation of its possessor, and entitle bim to more and heavier stripes. Once more, let me ask,
4thly. What is it that gives the highest value to every thing in your esteem?
“ One thing have I desired of the Lord,” said David, "and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.”—“I count all things but loss,” said the holy apostle Paul, “s for the excellency of the knowledge of Cbrist Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ." If you are sincerely devoted to the Lord Redeemer, you will value other things in exact proportion to their connexion with him, and the relation they bear to him. You will prefer the Bible to all other books, because it is the word, the testament of your Lord. You will rejoice at every return of the Sabbath, because it is the Lord's day. You will delight in bis saints, and account them the “excellent ones in the earth,” because they are dear to your Lord, and bear his image. Prayer will be your sweetest entertainment, because it is the means of correspondence and intercourse with your Lord: And doing good to the bodies, and more especially to the souls of men, will be relished by you as the most pleasant and honourable employment, because it ren. ders you most like unto your Lord, “who went about doing good,” leaving us an example that we should follow his steps. And thus will you estimate all other things.
These, and such like questions, I would have you to put to your own hearts, as in the presence of that God who is already perfectly acquainted with you; who will shortly cause you to know yourselves, and will make all others to know you too, in that day when every disguise shall be torn off, and your real character shall be published in the presence of an assembled world.
I shall conclude this discourse with reminding you of those peculiar obligations that lie upon all who name the name of Christ, to live unto the Lord in the manner I have endeavoured to describe.
1st. Unless we live unto the Lord, we shall counteract the very design of that marvellous love he hath ma. nifested towards us, in giving himself for us an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. “He bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness." " He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”—“ He died for all, that they who live," by the merit of his death, “ should not henceforth live
unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again." This is so much insisted upon in the New Testament writings, that the Socinians have represented it as the sole end for which our Lord both lived and died. But though we justly maintain, in opposition to them, that the death of Christ was, in the strictest propriety of language, a true propitiatory sacrifice for expiating the guilt of sin, and rendering the exercise of mer. cy to the sinner consistent with the boliness and justice of God; yet in expressing our abhorrence of their error, we must beware of running into the opposite extreme; for nothing can be more clearly asserted in the oracles of truth, than that “the Son of God was manifested for this
purpose, that he might destroy the works of the devil;" or, in other words, that he might prepare men for heaven, by the sanctifying influences of bis Spirit, as well as that he might purchase a heaven for them by the merit of bis blood. And it deserves particular notice, that though the main difficulty the first preachers of Christianity bad to struggle with among their own countrymen, was to bring them off from a proud dependance upon their own righteonsness, that they may rely upon Christ alone for pardon and acceptance; yet in declaring this doctrine, they never failed to establish the inseparable connexion between faith and boliness, lest any should turn the grace of God unto wantonness, and, by claiming the privileges of the gospel while they refused subjection to its laws, should represent Christ as the minister of sin.
2dly. We are further obliged to live unto the Lord, as we regard the honour of our Master, and the credit of that saving religion which he taught. For hereby we most effectually stop the mouths of gainsayers, and cut off occasion from those that desire occasion to blaspheme that worthy name by which we are called; presenting to their view a convincing proof, that Christianity is an effectual means of salvation, and that Christ is truly and properly a Saviour. The death of Christ appears to have a mighty efficacy indeed, when it maketh those that believe on him to die unto sin. And it is impossible to doubt that he is alive, and hath all power commit. ted to him in heaven and in earth, when he visibly lives in bis members by his all-conquering grace, and causeth them to live unto bim: Whereas a contrary behaviour doth the greatest possible injury to the cause of truth, furnishing the world with a handle to say, that Christi. anity is nothing more than an airy speculation, and that the religion of Jesus is of no effect towards reforming the hearts and lives of its professors,
3dly. I shall only add, that we are bound to live in the manner I described by the strictest ties of justice and equity. “Ye are not your own,” saith our Apostle, (1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.) “for ye are bought with a price." From whence he draws this practical inference, “Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, wbich are God's." As creatures who derived their being from God, we are bound to love him with all our heart, and to serve him to the utmost extent of the powers he hath given us. But his redeeming grace brings us under a new and still more endearing obligation to his service. When we had destroyed ourselves, and lay exposed to all the dreadful effects of his righteous displeasure, hav. ing no eye to pity, and no hand that could help us, then did be pity us, and his own arm brought salvation. He issued forth the gracious command, “ Deliver them from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom.” And in the fulness of time our Lord Jesus Christ, “the Lamb slain” in decree “ from the foundation of the world,"