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unto themselves, and with a fatal inconsistency run into the follies and vanities and amusements of the world, just as those who make no such large pretensions. I know that here I tread on ground which is at once repulsive. What harm can there be, it may be asked, in professing Christians pursuing the same round of pleasures which make up so much of the happiness of others ? Stop, my friends; if there is a single individual' here disposed to argue in this way,
let him beware, for he is treading in the very steps of Balaam, the son of Peor. Do you not know that one step from the line of sobriety and consistency, though it may not in itself be ruinous, is nevertheless preparatory to another? Do you not know that worldly compliances drew the people of Israel to idolatry, and thus accomplished in a measure the unrighteous plans of Balaam, when all the embattled hosts of Balak could not stand against them in the field ? Do you not know that in the Church of Pergamos what the very horrors of persecution could not produce, was nevertheless accomplished by the slow and insinuating measures of those who taught that these worldly compliances were matters of indifference? And do you not equally know, that in both these cases, the wrath of God fell heavily on the people? Yes, my friends, and when there is one among you who feels a disposition, by ungodly arguments, or unmeasured ridicule, or plans of varied enticement, to induce those who make a profession of religion to join in your pursuits and pleasures-you act, whether you know or whether you know it not, whether you believe it or whether you believe it not,-you act upon the very counsel given by Balaam to Balak; and those whom, in the
plausibility of your arguments, joining with the natural dispositions of the heart, you thus lead astray from the holiness and consistency of their Christian profession, will thus take the first step, which will lead them to total neglect of their religion and the ruin of their souls. Yes, and ye who are led away, remember that you are following counsel which will first prove you unfaithful, then inconsistent, and then lost, as to the reality of a Christian calling; and in relation both to the deceiver and the deceived, God has said : “Repent, or I will come quickly and fight against thee with the sword of my mouth.” God's mouth has said, “ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”—“Come out from among them, and be ye separate; touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." And the mouth of the Lord hath said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon." And the mouth of the Lord hath said, “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”—“If any man put his hand to the plough and look back, he is not fit for the kingdom of heaven.” And the mouth of the Lord hath asked, “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?” Permit me to tell you, professing Christians, that even if you could stand the fiery trial of the martyr's stake, and yet if you give way to temptation by worldly compliances, and thus make shipwreck of your Christianity, you as effectually deny the Lord as if you had bowed the knee to Baal by a visible adoration. And he who hath the sharp sword with two edges, and who hath proclaimed himself your adversary, will not only cut you off from your blessed privileges,
and deprive you of the spiritual enjoyments of the followers of God, but sever you from the company of the redeemed and the prospect of glory. It is the delight of the adversary, if he can first draw you from God by slow and easy and almost imperceptible measures, and then leave you to the ruin to which you have been gently, yet irrecovera
Once more, brethren, from the epistle to the Church at Pergamos, we learn the possibility of having a pure faith and yet an unholy life. Whatever these Nicolaitans were, and whoever were those who held the doctrine of Balaam, unrighteous as they were, they belonged to the Church of Pergamos. Yes, they appear to have been at least by profession Christians, and yet were unworthy of the Christian name, because they did not depart from iniquity. And so it is now; for it is vain to deny that there are many who dishonour their holy profession and give occasion to the enemies of religion to blaspheme that holy name by which they are called. How much of pride, how much of intolerance, how much of a disposition to think and speak evil of others, how much dishonesty, how much fraud, how much worldly-mindedness, how much intemperance of passion, may be found connected with a profession of Christianity. How many who call themselves Christians, do really seek to entice others to sinful compliances, or throw obstacles in the way of a serious profession of religion. Oh, my friends, no matter how pure your speculative faith, if there are those among you who are not pure in life, the sword of God's mouth is against you, for the hope of the hypocrite shall perish. Your faith is only specula
tion, and it will aggravate your condemnation, for heaven and hell can no more be joined in an unrighteous league together, than can a pure and holý faith be connected with an impure and an unholy life.
Mistaken souls, that dream of heaven,
And make their empty boast
While they are slaves to last.
If faith be cold and dead,
To Christ the living head. What is the case with you, my brethren, in relation to all these things? You are in the midst of dangers, and if you are not aware, you will be lost and ruined. It is true that here, where our civil and religious privileges are so great, no fires of persecution are kindled, and you are not asked to deny the faith of Christ at the stake of the martyr. But oh, how many and how various are the methods which are taken by the enemy of your souls to make you do in effect the same as to apostatize. How many are careless and indifferent as to the things which make for their everlasting peace; how many are rushing with mad precipitation on the threatened ruin; how many are losing their steadfastness as enticed from God by worldly compliance : and what will be the end of them that obey not the Gospel of God? To sinners of every class and description the Scripture this night says—“Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches;” repent, and do works meet for repentance; for if repentance towards God is not accomplished, and if a vital faith in Christ Jesus be not gained, God himself, having his sharp VOL. II.
sword in his hand, hath set himself in the battle; and it is no small thing, my brethren, to fight against Him who rules in the armies of heaven, and who hath declared that he will bruise his enemies with a rod of iron and break them in pieces like a potter's vessel. The Saviour himself will become the avenger of his own violated law, and every attribute which hath hitherto been exercised for the deliverance of his people, will clothe itself in terrors for the ruin of the impenitent and ungodly. Already, my friends, hath the Church and the city whose case we have considered felt the heaviness of avenging wrath; and let it be remembered, that the same sins will meet the same catastrophe; let it be remembered, that the sin of the Church is made up of the transgressions of the individuals who compose it; and that the punishment, when it falls, will fall on the heads of the personally guilty. When that sword with two edges, according to the Prophet is bathed in heaven, it will sweep the ranks of the finally unconverted into the irrecoverable horrors of a second death. I know not of a more terrific consideration than that which represents the Saviour of the world as armed against the sinner; that Saviour who shed his blood assuming the aspect of unmitigated indignation. Think, oh think of judgments inflicted by the very hand which is now outstretched in love; the curse from the lips of Him who now entreats you to be reconciled to God. Oh tempt not the vengeance of that sword, for when that vengeance falls, it will drive the sinner, the careless, the impenitent—drive him to his sad, his ceaseless, his irrecoverable ruin.