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SERMON LV.

FOR

THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER

TRINITY

WALKING CIRCUMSPECTLY.

Ephesians v. 15, 16.

SEE THEN THAT YE WALK CIRCUMSPECTLY,

NOT AS FOOLS, BUT AS WISE, REDEEMING THE TIME, BECAUSE THE DAYS ARE EVIL.

The leading and essential doctrines of Christianity were constantly taught by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They thought it necessary however not only to speak of these doctrines, and the privileges connected with the belief of them, but also to declare that the religion of Christ was designed to counteract altogether the evil passions and propensities of our corrupt nature; and therefore that those who believed the truth as it is in Jesus, were bound to conduct themselves differently from the people of the world, and from their own former inclinations

2c

VOL. II.

and practices; so that instead of seeking their gratification in the things of time and sense, it was to be their continual and anxious endeavour to walk so as to please God. They were to consider what is the conduct that becometh the children of God, and to seek grace from Him to conform them to His image in holiness, to be as much as possible like Him, that it might be manifest that they were possessed of faith unfeigned; and that it was not a mere outward profession of religion which they had adopted. The text is an exhortation of this kind, of which the verses that follow, in the Epistle for this day, may be regarded as affording a farther elucidation. May the Spirit of God apply these exhortations of His holy word to our hearts and consciences, that we may live in obedience to them, to the comfort of our souls, and to the · glory of His holy name.

The exhortation in the text is founded upon an observation at the close of it: The days are evil. The evil that is in the world has ever been a subject of complaint with the children of God. In all ages of the church they have had occasion to deplore it. We hear of it in the days of the

patriarchs, in those of the prophets, and in those of the apostles; from the beginning of the volume of Divine revelation to the end of it. The child

71 1 Thessalonians iv. l.

ren of God have ever been found in great danger of being contaminated by the evil example of the world. We are naturally disposed to act as we see others do. And sin is so peculiarly fascinating to the children of men, that our Saviour Himself declared its influence would have a most fatal effect upon the professors of the true religion. Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.72 We live in a wicked, ensnaring world, and are liable to be turned aside out of the good ways of God by means of the temptations with which we are surrounded, and the natural inclination of our own corrupt hearts. For this reason we are called upon to remember continually that the days are evil; that we and all around us are fallen creatures, and that the sins which the people of the world are continually committing without concern, are exceedingly displeasing to Him, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity;73 and who will, sooner or later, visit with His just vengeance the guilty and impenitent. St. Peter, at the close of his second epistle, speaks of the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men ;74 and from thence takes occasion to warn Christians affectionately and fervently, Ye therefore, beloved, seeing that

ye

know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your

72 Matt. xxiv. 12.

73 Hab. i. 13.

74 2 Peter iïi. 7, 17.

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own stedfastness.?* The abounding of iniquity should ever be viewed by the Christian with grief and dread; with grief that any persons around him should be under the influence of that which is so pernicious; with dread lest he himself, in consequence of the corruption of his nature, should be ensnared by it to the disgrace of his holy profession, and the dishonour of God and His cause.

That the apostle's remark applies to the times in which we live, cannot but be acknowledged, when there is so much open contempt for the laws and authority of God to be seen in the world; when every commandment of the moral law is openly transgressed.

Such being the state of the world, the apostle admonishes or cautions Christians against falling into the common evil practices of those among whom they were conversant.

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. He intimates that all the workers of iniquity are fools, or unwise; are acting like persons without understanding. They are seeking happiness in the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season;? and in exchange for them, are renouncing fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore. They are in danger of losing their own souls; and appear satisfied with gaining only the temporary applause and favour of the world instead of it. Fools in

.75

75 Hebrews xi. 25.

76 Psalm xvi. 11.

deed, truly unwise, will those persons prove themselves to have been, who at the great day of account shall be found to have acted in this manner. They are without understanding, for their conduct proves that they have the understanding darkened through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. They know not, neither will they understand ; they walk on in darkness.78 To know and to do the will of God is not an object with them. The remedy for this is walking circumspectly; which denotes a careful and vigilant inspection into the whole of our conduct; and redeeming the time, or setting such a value upon it, that we may apply it to a useful purpose, and not waste it in idleness, or misspend it in the practice of iniquity.

A special mean for avoiding the folly of mankind is, to seek for an acquaintance with the revealed will of God, and a right understanding of it; as the apostle proceeds to exhort, Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. Many persons are ignorant of the will of God, because they have no desire to be made acquainted with it. Their minds are set upon something else; their understandings are not exercised upon this subject, and do not enter into it. They have no desire to be informed upon it, in order to be subjected to its directions. Yet

77 Ephesians iv. 18.

78 Psalın lxxxii. 5.

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