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XX.
SERMON ON RELIGIOUS THOUGHTFULNESS.

PSALM cxix. 59. “I THOUGHT

ON MY WAYS, AND TURNED MY FEET UNTO THY

TESTIMONIES." A thought, as it exists in our mind, seems a very inconsiderable thing. Hence most people pay very little attention to their thoughts, and frequently suffer them to take an evil turn without reflecting upon the effect which a single bad thought may have upon the heart and character. But a straw or a feather will show the course of the tide. We have often felt that thoughts may trouble us, as they did Nebuchadnezzar, the proud king of Babylon; or they may delight and bless us, if they are such as David indulged in the text-serious, just, and practical thoughts, which led to an entire change of conduct. Men's thoughts are the seeds of their actions, the models of their character,—"as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." A thought of the desirableness of becoming as Gods--knowing good and evil -led to the fall of our first parents; a thought in the mind of Cain issued in the murder of Abel; a thought of envy made Saul the implacable foe of David; a thought of sin made David both an adulterer and a murderer-so it was but a thought of covetousness that made Judas the betrayer of Christ. All the bad actions you have ever committed have begun in your thoughts.

On the other hand, you see how good and how happy it is to entertain even but a single good thought; for a thought of wisdom made Solomon choose it as his portion; a thought of his ways induced David to repent, and the thief on the cross to desire that he might be with Christ in Paradise.

In the text we find,

I. Bad ways detected by means of the thoughts, I thought on my ways.-If all would be persuaded to do that, - to do it seriously and faithfully,—what discoveries would be made !-what changes would be effected !—what conversions should we behold!

1. Our own ways ought to engage our thoughts, for they are mostly bad, and those of unconverted men entirely bad-essentially bad—naturally bad. When David says, my ways, he means those which he had chosen for himself—to which temptation had drawn him-to which his own sinful nature had inclined him; and which, in an evil hour, he had preferred and followed, before the ways of God. Every one has his own favourite way_his own sinful inclination-his easily besetting sin--and it is this, when indulged, continued in, and unrepented of, that will ruin the soul.' This is our own way; because it is a sinful way, it ought to be thought of. There are many ways in which men walk, contrary to the law of God, and tending to destruction; because they are either directly sinful, or serve to pervert the mind from its eternal interests, by fully occupying it with temporal pursuits and enjoyments. Now it is every man's duty to think on his ways, because they will determine his character; and because God says, “ Consider your ways.” Con. sider whether they be right ways, such as God will approvesuch as may be pursued with safety and a good conscience; and such as will assuredly lead you to eternal blessedness. If they are not such, the sooner you think of them and discover their evil tendency the better; for the longer you go on in bad ways the worse it will be for your soul; the more to repent of, and the harder to break through the habit. Let me faithfully remind you of the duty of reflecting upon your ways; because it is a duty much neglected, and because it is often forced upon men when it is too late. They become entangled through life in the snares of sin; and then, when they come to die, would give the whole world to

escape
from the
consequences.

Now we are endowed with reason and reflection for this

that we may consider our ways. We have a conscience by which we may judge, and determine when they are wrong; and we have the light of the gospel to show us what our ways ought to be. This kind of prudence and circumspection all men feel it necessary to use in the management of their temporal concerns. They are constrained to consider and calculate before they take important steps in life : otherwise they soon become involved in the ruinous consequences of imprudence. So it ought to be our concern, in all our spiritual affairs, to consider our ways.

purpose,

2. It ought to be further observed here, that there are some men's ways so obviously bad, that the slightest reflection might convince them what will be the certain consequences. Such are all the ways of open transgression of God's law. If you are living in sin as a Sabbath-breaker, a drunkard, an unclean person, a profane swearer, or a liar,-if you are devoted to the pleasures of sense, covetous of money, reckless of all regard to honour and principle, then you are evidently in the broad way that leadeth to destruction. Fire will not more certainly burn, nor poison more surely kill, than sin will necessarily and universally produce its predicted effect—the death-that is, the eternal misery, of your immortal soul. The hand of divine justice never makes men smart without cause; and wherever the cause exists, the effect will be just as sure to follow. Of the wicked it is said, "they shall utterly perish in their own corruption." There may be many kinds of sin, and this gives variety to the ways of men; and there may be many present escapes from its punishment; many delays of judgment; many hopes of impunity; many proud presumptuous thoughts against the divine vengeance. But all transgressions meet at last in one conclusion, issue in one result, and bring one end; as “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

3. It is to be observed of all our own ways, they lead us from God, from reformation, and from salvation, by slow degrees, by small and almost imperceptible stages. No man becomes excessively wicked all at once: hence our own ways are the more dangerous. The way downward may be easy and gentle; but the way

back is hard. To retrace our steps, and recover the path of God's commands, is a work of difficulty and self-denial. Hence the necessity of considering our ways, of doing it se. riously, and doing it immediately. Hence too the vast importance of watching over our first steps in life-our first habits. It is indulging sin in its beginnings, cherishing the sinful thought in the imagination, trifling with it in conversation and in mirth, that gives it a hold by which it works its victory over us. Here is the beginning of danger. Many are led by a thought to enjoy the sin in fancy—then secretly to enjoy it in reality-then openly—then frequently. One sin inevitably leads to another, till men go on, sometimes unconscious of the progress they are making, or whither it will lead them, till they reach the extremes of vice, and become monsters of iniquity. They would once have shuddered at the picture of what they now are.

The effect of sin is gradually to familiarize the mind to pollution, and alienate the heart and conscience from the fear of God, until at length the whole energy of the soul is thrown into the works of iniquity. All the time they are posting to destruction the end is veiled from their sight. They perceive not, they will not believe, whither their steps are tending. Sin has made a smooth path for its votaries, and strewed it with flowers; but its end is eternal ruin. This is particularly important to the young, because they often think they will indulge but a little-not trespass far, nor descend down the steep beyond recovery. They will certainly not go to extremes; but let them know that sin always has a syren's voice and a serpent's sting: the poison will go to the soul, while the pleasure ends with the body. The first step then in any way is the most important, because it leads to a second, and a second to a third; and however distant we may think the end, every step brings us nearer to it.

4. I observe, that the way to detect the evil in our ways, if there is any, is to think upon them. If they are good ways, they will bear examination, and we shall be confirmed in them. are bad, we ought not to be afraid to know it, nor ashamed to

If you could all be induced to think upon your ways as David did, you would soon detect what was wrong. You would see that you had been departing from the right path, and that whatever has seduced you from that must be an enemy to your soul's peace and salvation. Whatever the object might be, you would feel that it was of no value, importance, or weight, compared with the favour of God, and the inward consciousness of being in the right way.

Perhaps this exercise of thinking upon your ways is a new work to you. You have never yet engaged in it; and it seems

If they

own it.

unpleasant and even painful. You have hitherto lived without thought, impelled by inclination, following no guidance but that of your own desires, and quite regardless of consequences, or of the effect of bad habits. But if you are a rational being you ought not to live so. Do you assert to yourself the name of human ? Do you wish to bear the style of man, or the higher style of Christian? Then consider your ways: only open your eyes, apply your minds, seek divine instruction, and you will then see whither your ways are leading you. Shake off indifference, for this is your most important business. Arise from lethargy and carelessness, for they are inexcusable in such a being as hopes for immortality, and upon such a subject as involves your ruin or salvation. Your soul's eternal interests are at stake; and the immense importance of such an issue, makes it madness to be indifferent, and forces upon you, with a voice of thunder, the duty of thought; serious, faithful, and frequent thought upon your ways.

II.—We come now to observe upon the text-here are good ways discovered—they are called thy testimonies. “I turned my feet to thy testimonies,” which means, I turned my feet to the way of thy testimonies. This is the high way of righteousness and life. “Thy testimonies are sure for evermore.” They lead in the way of safety and peace. This, and this only, is the right path for you—all others go astray. These testimonies mean the counsel of God, our Father and our Friend, who herein points out to us the way which pleases him, and in which we shall find happiness now, and eternal life hereafter. Who ever found it otherwise ? There is not a lost soul in perdition but went there by following his own way; and there is not one that ever missed eternal life and glory by following the testimonies of God.

1. We are to understand this expression--thy testimonies, -of God's command, taken generally, or of the whole revelation of his will, because it is his testimony to us concerning our duty, and the only way of salvation. In this respect every word of God is good, and all his commandments sure for ever and ever. His word abideth from generation to generation, and is like the

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