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ings for them also, as the grand concern: for, alas! even where creeds and catechisms are taught, the conversation of the parlour, and the general system of education, often suggest an opposite conclusion. Let us consider, that we make the best use of our talents, and are the best friends to our country and to mankind, when we most endeavour to promote the interests of true religion. And, should we in this course meet with many
discouragements, let us “not be weary in well doing, “ for assuredly we shall reap in due season, if we « faint not."
DEUTERONOMY VI. 6–9.
These words, which I command thee this day, shall
be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children ; and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up: and thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes; and thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
The observation is not more common than just, that if religion be any thing it is every thing. If Christianity be true, the consequences of our present conduct are infinitely important: and, while the infidel may be more atrociously criminal and extensively mischievous; the professed believer, who lives like other men, is the most inconsistent character in the world. The language of scripture does not accord to that of modern times : wicked Christians and irreligious believers are never mentioned in the sacred volume : faith is never supposed separate from a holy life: all worldly men are represented as unbelievers, or as only possessing “ a dead faith ;” and all believers are spoken of as the servants of God, who live to his glory, and are distinguished from other men by the whole tenour of their conduct, and not merely by their principles. These things are as observable in the old, as in the new, Testament: for true religion has been essentially the same ever since the fall of Adam, though many circumstantial alterations have taken place: and indeed the perfections of God, the wants of a sinner, and the nature of holiness and happiness are in themselves immutable.
I shall therefore, without further introduction, proceed to discourse on the words of the text, as applicable to Christians, with an authority proportioned to their peculiar advantages.
“ These “ words which I command thee this day,” even the great doctrines and precepts of the Bible, “ shall be in thy heart; and thou shalt teach them “ diligently unto thy children; and thou shalt talk of “them, when thou sittest in thy house, and when “ thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest
down, and when thou risest up: and thou shalt “ bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they “ shall be as frontlets between thine eyes; and “ thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy
house, and on thy gates.” It is, alas! too obvious, that professed Christians do not generally observe either the letter or the spirit of this exhortation : nay, that numbers of them would censure or ridicule any of their acquaintance who should practise according to it! Whether this prove that most men are Christians only in name, or whether some more satisfactory account can be given of the undeniable fact, every one must determine for himself. I shall endeavour from the words of the text,
I. To point out some of the leading principles of our holy religion, which especially demand our unremitted attention :
II. Explain and illustrate the exhortation, and suggest the most effectual methods of reducing it to practice :
III. Shew the reasonableness of such a conduct.
And may the Lord vouchsafe us his special help and blessing, while we meditate on this important subject! For it is astonishing and lamentable to observe how slightly even they who seem to be religious pass over such urgent exhortations. So that, while a vast majority of mankind are altogether asleep in sin, the rest seem not to be half awake to matters of infinite and eternal importance.
I. In pointing out some of the leading principles of our holy religion, which especially demand our most earnest attention, we cannot begin more properly than with the perfections and authority of God, and our relations and obligations to him. Though most men allow these truths, yet their conduct in this respect, marks very strongly the distinction between the religious and irreligious part of mankind. Who can imagine, that the gay, the sensual, the covetous, or the ambitious, have a constant and serious recollection of that holy, omnipresent, omniscient, and almighty God, in whom we all profess to believe? May we not rather conclude, that “ God is not in all their “ thoughts ;” at least, that they do not willingly consider his character as described in the sacred scriptures? Do such men habitually recollect the majesty and authority of the Lord, their obligation
or accountableness to the Creator and Judge of the world: Do they act under a constant sense of his all-seeing eye? Do they endeavour to please him in their most secret and common actions, or by their inmost thoughts and motives? Do they seek happiness in his favour, and liberty in his service? Or do they, when conscious of having offended, rely on the mercy of God, and seek an interest in the salvation of his Son, as the grand object of their deliberate choice, and most fervent desires ? I apprehend that the most admired and applauded characters, in Christian countries, are as entire strangers to this course of life as the very pagans themselves.
But the true believer walks with God; the thoughts of his presence and perfections frequently possess his mind, and habitually influence his conduct; and, in his various occupations and pursuits, he seeks “not to please men, “ but God that trieth the hearts."
It is indeed one great end of preaching, to convince men that religion does not consist in coming once or twice a week to public worship, or at stated seasons to the Lord's table: and that these are only appointed means of bringing them habitually to acknowledge God in every part of their conduct; that their actions, conversation, and dispositions, may be influenced by a sense of his presence and authority; that pious meditations, ejaculations, and praises may habitually spring from the temper of their minds, as occasion requires ; and that their daily employments, regulated by genuine piety, may be a constant succession of services to their Master who is in heaven.—Who can deny that the law of God requires this at our hands?