תמונות בעמוד

For instance :-In that word, we see our own corruption, our weakness, and our danger. We there read, how men, ever since there were men, have been provoking God by their wickedness, and how God has punished them continually. We there learn, that we are all of the same race and make; all subject to the same sins, and to the same punishment.

The same word makes known to us the great goodness of God; that in order to rescue us out of the power of the devil, and to deliver us from the slavery of sin, he has put us under the government of his own Son; and has promised to make us eternally happy, if it be not our own fault. That he is so good as to call us his children, that we may live as becomes children of so holy a Father; and that we may depend upon his love, upon his promises, and upon his assistance, as a child may do upon the love of a tender father.

And knowing that if he should suffer us to follow our own natural inclinations, we should certainly ruin ourselves, he has therefore given us laws, not only to keep us from sin and misery, but to make us partakers of a divine nature; that is, to make us holy, that we may be capable of being happy.

That we may have these laws always before us, he has appointed his ministers to explain them, and to sound them continually in the ears of all such as shall be disposed to hear and to obey them: and to all such he has promised his Holy Spirit, to enlighten their understandings, to enable them to keep his laws, and to overcome

all the difficulties they can possibly meet with. And lest the difficulties of an holy life should affright them, or the commands of Jesus Christ should seem hard to flesh and blood, this same word of God sets before us the very different portion of good and bad men in the next life, in these most affecting words: The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.*

And now, what has a Christian to do, who has any concern for his everlasting well-being, but to lay hold of the other great means of salvation; and that is, Prayer, which is the only sure remedy for all our wants and disorders? What has a sinner, who is awakened with these truths, to do, but to beg of God to give him a true sense of his unhappy state, and grace and strength to break his bonds? What has he to do, but to put his cause into the hands of Jesus Christ, who is our advocate and peace-maker with God; the price of whose blood is sufficient to procure a full discharge of all his sins; to beg of him to remove all those hindrances to a true conversion, which the devil, or his own corrupt nature, have laid in his way; and to give him that repentance to which he has promised mercy and pardon?

He will also beg of God, to create in him a new heart, to enable him to wean his affections from things temporal, to redeem his misspent

* Johu v. 27, 29.

time, and faithfully discharge the duties of his place; to convince him of the necessity of mortification, of self-denial, and of watching continually; that he may lay hold on all occasions of doing what he believes will please God, and of avoiding what God has forbidden.

And if to his prayers he adds the often thinking of what must come hereafter, the thoughts of death will help to cure him of a too great fondness for this world; the thoughts of a day of judgment will oblige him to strict holiness, justice, and charity, that in that day of visitation he may find mercy; the fear of hell will oblige him to take any pains here, that he may escape the bitter pains of eternal death: and the hopes of heaven will help to sweeten all the troubles of this mortal life.

These are the most sure means of attaining holiness. And as no man who hopes for heaven can be excused from being holy, so no Christian (especially amongst us) can pretend to want the means of becoming so.

Every Christian has an opportunity of hearing the word of God, and of learning his duty; of joining in the prayers of the church for every grace, for every virtue, for every blessing, he can possibly stand in need of; which God never denies to the sincere, and which the most unlearned have a right to, as well as the most learned, provided the heart be right, for there is the defect, if any, and never in the means.

Whoever therefore aspires after holiness, and lays hold of the means, will certainly be renewed by the Spirit that is in him.

And though to us evil habits may seem incurable, and true holiness almost impossible, considering our corrupt affections, yet they are not so to HIM who hath called us unto holiness; and who, by doing so, has obliged himself to give us all necessary assistance. But then let us remember, that we never shall be holy, never happy, without our own sincere endeavours.

And now you see, good Christians, what a great value you ought to have for the word of God, by which we obtain that faith which is necessary to purify the heart. You see that all they who despise God's ministers, who are ordained for the perfecting of the saints, are out of God's way of becoming holy. His word, his day, his house, the sacraments, are all called holy, because God has appointed them as means to make us holy, and to keep us in the way of holiness.

Lastly; you see the blindness of those who pretend to be righteous and holy upon principles of natural reason, without the word and the grace of God. They are ignorant of this truth, that no man can be holy but he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ; that is, who receives him as his saviour, his pattern, his mediator, his sovereign, and his lawgiver.

IV. We now come, in the last place, to consider, How a Christian may make a judgment of the state he is in, with respect to this so necessary a qualification. But this, at present, I must do in a very few words, having already detained you too long.

And, in the first place, let us lay this down for a truth, that the manner of our life is the only sure proof of our holiness.

We are sure that we ourselves are alive, because we act like living men.

Now, if we live and act like Christians, we may be as sure that we are living members of Christ's body, and in the way of holiness. And we know that we live like Christians, when we love God and keep his commandments, this being the only sure proof of our love of God.

When therefore we are sure that we do not live in any known sin; when sin is uneasy to us; when we avoid it and all temptations to it, and by this means get the mastery over our corruptions; when we keep our hearts pure, and suffer no sin knowingly to harbour there, which is the only sure sign that we fear God, the searcher of hearts; when we pray to God continually for light to know, and power to do our duty, and conscientiously make use of the ordinary means of grace; when the commands of God are no longer grievous to us, and the great truths of the gospel affect our hearts, and make us more serious, more charitable, more just, more temperate, more devout; why then we conclude we are certainly in the way of holiness, especially if we are careful to discharge the duties proper to our state and condition of life, for which we shall be most accountable at the great day.

If the rich, for instance, are rich in good works; and if the poor are contented with their lot;-If young people are modest, and careful to preserve their reputation and their

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