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upon it-bring heaven and hell to bear upon the choice you shall make; and no longer cheat your immortal soul out of its birthright, by turning away from that light which is the life of men.
Choose ye then, this day, whom ye will serve. Let neither a careless neglect, a doubting mind, or a divided heart, cramp your endeavours, whether for time or eternity—whether for God or for the world. Both you cannot have, as most likely you wish to have them; one only can be your portion. If then the LORD be God, follow him; if Baal or the world be God, then follow him. And may that infinitely merciful God, who is not willing that any should perish, direct and assist you to choose that good part which shall not be taken from you.
THE NECESSITY OF EXERCISING A RIGHT JUDGMENT IN OUR
St. Luke xii. 57.
" Yea, and why, even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right ?!
This question of our blessed Lord, addressed to his hearers at large, is a just reproof of that perversion of their moral faculties, which men in general exhibit on the subject of religion ; and the connexion, in which the application is made, to the use of those faculties on other subjects, marks, very plainly, the guilt and danger incurred, by refusing to the gospel that serious consideration which the interests involved in its discoveries so reasonably call for.
By the exercise of observation and experience, men learn to provide against those uncertain changes in the seasons, which otherwise would either be useless or injurious to their worldly business—they can discern the face of the sky and the earth; but they are negligent and averse to applying the same faculties of discernment to their spiritual concerns, under the inevitable condition of changing one state of being for another. In like manner, the controversies which arise from conflicting temporal interests, and the penalties incurred by the violation of human laws, are provided against and avoided by corresponding precautions; while, in the grand controversy with God, the law, the judge, the prison, and the penalty, are disregarded and kept out of sight by those very beings, who are so acute and active on the comparatively trifling concerns of a perishing mortality.
At this unreasonable disregard of their highest interests, manifested by those to whom he addressed himself, our LORD expresses his surprise and concern, in the language of my text.
They had every kind of proof that could be desired, that he was a teacher sent from God. They had all the means which the public preaching of his doctrine could give, for judging of its reasonableness and fitness to answer all the ends of true religion; and they had the evidence of his life to manifest its effects, and to show, by example, the influence it would have upon human happiness; yet they refused it, and thereby incurred a temporal ruin, which was a striking emblem of that everlasting destruction denounced against the rejectors of Christ and his gospel.
The question in my text, then, is an appeal to the reason and to the conscience of every man, on the folly and guilt of refusing or neglecting to apply the same principles of discernment and precaution to his religious concerns, which are exercised in the choice and direction of his worldly business. And, in this view, I shall endeavour to illustrate and enforce it in the following discourse :
Yea, and why, even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right?
And FIRST, As to the revelation itself, Have we such a thing ? Has God made a discovery of himself to us beyond what we may learn of him from his works?
This is the primary question, which every accountable being has to settle with himself. And as it is a question of fact, to be determined by its proper evidence, it is strictly within the province of that investigation and reasonable determination which my text authorizes and exhorts to.
It is very true, my hearers, that we grow up under the belief that we have such a communication from God, and, insensibly, almost, we acquire the knowledge of the leading facts and doctrines of the religion it teaches; but it is equally true, that, in general, we grow up without that impression of its divine obligation and importance, which is indispensable to any personal benefit-any saving effect, being derived therefrom.
Such being the case, the question for every one's reason and conscience to entertain is, is this right? is it such a proceeding as the reason of my own mind approves ? is it at all analogous to the course I would pursue on a temporal interest of the same importance ? And as the answer shall in truth be, will the question in my text apply ?-Yea, and why, even of yourselves, udge ye not what is right? Now there are not a few before me, who, I am sure, would
acknowledge, upon reflection, and with seriousness, their entire belief in the scriptures, as a revelation from God. But let us suppose that doubt is entertained by some, either in whole or in part; and by doubt I mean honest doubt, and not the affected doubts of those who must deny, because they knowingly disobey. What is the part that should be taken in such a case? Is it to take the doubt for a certainty, and to act as if it was established ? Is it to let the doubt remain uninvestigated and unsettled ? Have doubts and difficulties, of a very formidable character, never been cleared up on other subjects, where less certainty even is attainable ? And is it thus you act on a doubt or difficulty in the constitution or law of the land, or on any point of serious temporal interest? If not, does not the question of my text meet you with its strong reproof, for thus leaving undetermined the truth or the falsehood of a subject, which involves more than all the certainties of this world are worth?
There are also not a few before me, who will confess that this revelation, thus believed, has not received from them that attention and study of its contents, which its acknowledged divine derivation and surpassing importance justly demand. But is this neglect justifiable on any grounds ? Is the consequent ignorance of your personal interest, in its high discoveries and holy hope, excusable upon any plea of reasonable allowance ? Is it thus that the books which teach your profession, the laws which guard your personal rights, and the title deeds which secure your estate, are neglected ? Has the last will and disposition of his goods, by your earthly parent, been hastily glanced at and laid aside unexamined, or its contents taken upon trust from the information of others? If not, where does conscience find an escape from the reasonable service of acting in the concerns of your soul, with the same caution and diligence that you do for your estate ?
And there is not one of those now before me, who does not entertain some sort of hope for hereafter, derived from this very revelation. But the appeal which the question in my text makes to your consciences is : Is this hope well grounded? Is it entertained according to the conditions on which it is expressly limited in this revelation, or is it assumed merely, on some par
tial or mistaken view of its purport and meaning? What principle would guide your determination of the right claimed to an inheritance in this world? Would it be simply that the claim. ant called himself, or was called, by the name of the testator, and professed to be the heir ? Would you not require some proof of relationship, some knowledge of the family history and alliances, an acknowledgment from some branch thereof, that the claimant was of the blood and lineage of the testator, that he had not been disinherited, or had been restored by some public act, to which reference could be had? If so~if principles like these would govern your decision, on a claim to a worldly inheritance, why, Oh ! why, even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right of the hope, which puts this world and its inheritances with the small dust of the balance ?
It is a wide spread and a wasting delusion in Christian lands, my brethren and hearers, to entertain the hope of the gospel severed from the conditions of the gospel ; and whatever be its root, whether the natural corruption of the heart, or the divisions which the enemy hath accomplished in the Church, it is fatal to the soul. What thousands, under the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ, come to their death bed, unknown to any religious profession, unconnected with the gospel by the sacraments of its hope, and strangers to the transforma. tion wrought by its grace? Yet they will talk of repentance, speak of their good intentions, express sorrow for their sins, and hope that God will be merciful to them for Christ's sake. And this passes for a Christian end, and relations and friends console themselves therewith, and dream on in the same indifference to all that is written and commanded by the Holy Ghost, until their souls also are required; and a death-bed repentance is the only Christian mark, perhaps, they leave behind them. But will this answer, my hearers ? May men safely commit their souls to a death-bed repentance ? And here take notice, that the question is not, whether a death-bed repentance may not be available to salvation, but whether the person, who, under the light and advantages of the gospel, puts off his repentance froin time to time, until at length death seizes upon him, can reasonably hope, that is, can hope from what is revealed, that this his