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But then we must know, that if we grieve him by our evil lives, he will leave us to ourselves, and then what will our faith profit us?
You come to church to hear God's holy Word read and explained, to be put in mind of your duty; to awaken you, if you have forgot it, into a sense of your danger, and of the happiness you may lose. Now, all this is lost upon you, with the loss of your souls, if you do not return home with a full purpose of leading a life answerable to what you have heard: For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.*
Lastly; you return home with a solemn blessing upon you from God by his own minister, appointed to bless the people in his name. Now, that it may be an effectual blessing to you, let it be your sincere desire and endeavour that you may grow in grace, that you may live to God's glory by leading an holy life; and you may depend upon it God the Father will be your preserver, God the Son will be your redeemer, God the Holy Ghost your sanctifier, unto your lives' end.
In short; if the service of the church doth not create in us holy affections, sincere purposes of amending our ways where we have done amiss, and of honouring God, not only with our lips, but in our lives; all our outward devotions and prayers will stand us in no stead, neither now, nor at the hour of death, nor in the day of judgment.
Our blessed Lord warned his followers against two then reigning evils, and the same reign at
Rom i. 13.
this day. Take heed and beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees; that is, of atheism and hypocrisy,-of a mere formal religion, or none at all.
Self-love, indeed, will be apt to be pleased, and place confidence in the outward duties of religion. The reason is plain: there is not one of these outward duties, whether it be observing the sabbath, or attending the church, or giving of alms, or fasting, or praying; any or all of these are easier to be performed-than taking care of and changing the heart and life; which will require both prayer, and pains, and selfdenial, and watching, to do it effectually.
Nay; let me tell you, that Satan himself will be well pleased that you should observe all the outward duties of religion, can he but prevail upon you to neglect that holiness of life, without which, he knows, no man must see the Lord. This, assure yourselves, Christians, is one of the most subtile snares of the devil, to tempt men to be satisfied with a shadow of religion without the power.
But then, as we ought not to place religion in a strict observance of these outward duties, and lay too great a stress upon them; so ought we to be very careful not to despise them, as too many do, as if we might be good Christians without observing them. This is another snare of the devil, by which millions of souls have been ruined.
The public worship is most certainly a duty, and acceptable to God; and when our hearts go along with our bodies, all the outward ordinances
are steps to lead us to what is absolutely necessary in religion; that is, a good life, a devout temper, and such as is necessary to fit us for a better world than this we live in.
Jesus Christ has appointed these ordinances, and his ministers to take care of them, in order to preserve his elect, whom he hath redeemed with his most precious blood. And dreadful, very dreadful, will be the judgment of all those who enjoy these means of grace and salvation, and are not bettered by them. In one word; men may perish in the use of those very ordinances which are appointed for their salvation.
I will therefore conclude what I have already said with a few necessary truths, which I would hope you will remember, and carry home with you.
Remember, then, that the end of coming to church ought to be, a continual advance in piety, growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Outward duties are a proper means of leading to conversion itself; therefore let us see what effects these have upon our lives, otherwise we may go on in a round of outward duties all our life long, and be no nearer heaven when we come to die.
You hear the Commands of God read to you; -you beg him to write them in your hearts, to pardon you when you have been so have been so unhappy as to break any of them. Now, if all this be forgotten as soon as you leave the church, what can you expect, but that God will leave you to yourselves?
If you have confessed your sins with a true penitent heart, it will be seen by your life afterwards that did so.
You have given God thanks for his mercies and blessings; take heed that you do not use any of them to his dishonour.
We bless ourselves, and we bless God, that we have the liberty of hearing his word, and our duty, one day in seven. But pray take the words of Christ along with you; Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.* Every tree (saith our Lord)† is known by its fruit; and every Christian by the manner of his life.
Every Christian may know, whether he is in the way of salvation, by such proofs as these following:-He will carefully observe the outward duties of religion; he will, at the same time, take care that his heart go along with his outward actions: for by these he is known, by his heart and by his life. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness, is not of od; that is, if we are not upright, we are not of God.
And now, to conclude what I have to say upon this subject:
I have been obliged to mention very often the necessity of good purposes, of a good life, of good works, of good resolutions. Let me not lead you into a mistake, as if these were in our own power, and owing to ourselves: so far from it, that they are the free gift of God, merited by our Lord Jesus Christ, for all such as in the sincerity of their hearts do pray for them.
Luke xi. 28.
+ Luke vi. 44.
↑ John iii, 10.
To this place we come one day in seven, to pray for these graces and blessings. These and all other blessings which we stand in need of, God will surely grant us, if we ask them with a sincere purpose of glorifying him in our lives and conversation; ever remembering, that a Christian profession without a Christian life is like a tree that makes a great shew, and flourisheth with leaves, but beareth no fruit, and therefore is fit only to be cut down and burnt.
May we all lay these things to heart, that when we come to the house of God, we may so hear, so pray, so praise his holy name, and purpose so to live, as that we return home every Lord's day with his blessing.
And this we beg for Jesus Christ his sake; to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen.