תמונות בעמוד

And, my Dear Friends, let us consider, also, that he, who searches the heart, knows perfectly our particular cases. He may justly reprove us, when man may have nothing wherewith to reproach us. “What charge can you bring against my Christian profession?"-None, perhaps: yet the Lord Jesus Christ may be able to say, Thou hast left thy first love-thy zeal—thy fervency.

Our Lord acknowledges that there was life in this Church. I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars : and hast borne, and hast patience: and, for my name's sake, hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Yet, notwithstanding this, he, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins of the children of men, sees that the spirit, the life, the power, the unction-- that which may be called the first love in thee-is gone: there is a coldness, a comparative indifference, a want of spirituality, a want of tenderness of conscience. Thou dost not feel toward me, as thou once didst. Thou dost not feel toward my people, as thou once didst. Thou art not jealous for my cause and interest, as thou once wast.”

A good man may say, “ I know not what is the matter: but things are not with me as they once were.” But, my Dear Hearers, long before good men are alarmed, Jesus Christ saw the evil : he.


marked a worm at the root, eating out the spirit and energy of their profession. When we have still many good things, yet he may have somewhat against us.

II. Let us consider the DANGER of this state of religious decay.

The most fatal ruins, are frequently not those which come suddenly; but those which come progressively-by little and little-from step to step. There is not a more fatal disease than a consumption: yet the consumptive patient is frequently so deceived respecting his disorder, because he is not in violent pain, and the progress of his disease is slow, that you can scarcely persuade him of his danger: consumptive persons will plan and contrive for months and years to come, when they have not a week to live! Decay in religion is of this nature: it is a spiritual consumption. If a house receive a shock from a stroke of lightning, it may still be sound in the main, and may not require to be pulled down: but if a house begin to decay at the foundation, there is little hope but it must come down.

Brethren! I say these things to warn you. In conducting our ministry, we must treat on its various topics: at one time we instruct, at another encourage, and at a third warn. I would now put you on your guard, and I would put myself on my guard, because we are in danger.

III. Since there is such' Danger in religious decay, let us enquire what are the SIGNS of it. How shall we know as a Church, and how shall I know individually, when decay is coming upon us, so as to escape it?

Here it is impossible for me to enter into a full view of its symptoms: I can give but a few of those signs, whereby the loss of first love may be known. And what I shall say on this point, I shall say both from observation of my own heart, and from observation in my ministry.

1. Though a man in his first love, his first zeal, first spirit and savour, will not rest solely in his knowledge of divine truth; yet he will contend

. earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints: because he knows, that, by hearing and receiving the truths and principles of the Gospel, he has been enabled to escape the corruptions that are in the world through lust. But, when he leaves his first love, you will find him RESTING IN and BUILDING ON HIS KNOWLEDGE OF DIVINE TRUTHS: whether a soul-transforming power accompanies them is another matter: he rests in his knowledge of them. Or he is satisfied, perhaps, with a regular walk; with keeping the company to which he has been accustomed, and talking the same language which he used to talk: while he may be cold as to the design and principle of the Christian walk and conversation. He will contend earnestly for the forms and particular opinions of the party to


which he is united; but he is cold as to growing up into Christ Jesus in all things, and glorifying God in the world, and walking through it as Christ did, and overcoming it by a living faith.

2. The man, who has left his first love, is COLD IN SPIRITUAL, AND WARM IN SECULAR PURSUITS. Before, his worldly affairs were subordinate: he did his business, and followed his profession as his duty: now his whole heart is occupied therein. 3. He BEGINS TO BE VERY SUSCEPTIBLE. OF

He cannot meet the servants of God as he used to do. He cannot now get over little stumbling-blocks, which he finds in his way. He searches for plausible reasons for withdrawing himself from the servants of God. There is a mote in his brother's eye; when alas ! he sees not the beam that is in his own. He shrinks back now from every difficulty. Every little thing now hurts him. Why is all this?--he has left his first love. You will find him accommodating himself to the world ; doing what he once could not do; and associating with those with whom he once could not bear to associate. He is impatient, also, of reproof. Formerly his language was, Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and point out any symptoms of decay: to a friend or to his minister he would say, “ If you see me do anything wrong, práy speak to me: I charge you to be faithful : be not afraid to speak to me: tell

me my error; for, I am seeking the truth, and seeking to glorify God by a consistent profession of it.” But now tell him of an error, or of a danger which you perceive in his practice, he may perhaps preserve his temper, but you will soon find him grow shy of you: he has left his first love, and he does not choose to be reproved.

4. But there is a sign still more awful, and more significant of that death which is coming on such a soul: and that is, where a man, who once had the life and love of religion, can SPORT WITH THE CHURCH'S WOUNDS. Do you understand me?-Where he can join the laugh of the profane at the Church of Christ, because of the weakness and folly that may be discerned in its Ministers or Professors; where he can be willing to listen to their objections, and support them, and thereby wound and injure the cause of Christ. He stumbles at weak things. Who is weak, says St. Paul, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I am not offended? I would heal the wounds: I would cover them with charity: Charity covereth a multitude of sins.

Brethren! these are some of the Signs of religious decay. Where these are found, depend on it that Satan, though not making an open assault, is yet secretly undermining the soul. “ Remember, therefore,says our Lord, “ from whence thou art falien. If you slight your privileges, remember that I will not suffer my Gospel to be trifled with:

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