« AnteriorContinuar »
To live soberly, is to maintain that recollected, serious deportment which so high an interest as heavenly happiness, como mitted to so corrupt and feeble a creature as the Christian knows and feels himself to be, ought to produce. The thought of how much is at stake, of the means by which it has been made possible to be saved; of the awful consequences of failure, as they must be frequent in the mind of the Christian, so must they necessarily beget that habit of watchfulness and circumspection which constitutes sobriety of life. This duty, however, is not confined to the general or prevailing deportment of the external conduct; it applies also to the regulation of the appetites, passions, and affections of the soul. These are all disordered and out of rule by the infection of sin, and are to be restrained and governed, mortified and subdued, to the control and direction of God's holy law. They are also to be renewed and elevated to the high purpose for which they were originally given, by being directed to God, accustomed to submit to his holy will, encouraged to trust in his faithful promises, and exalted to hope for his eternal presence as the full satisfaction of their capacity for enjoyment.
This is an arduous task, my brethren; but it is what every professor of religion has undertaken and must accomplish, if he would gain the prize of his high calling. But he is not called to it in his own weakness, but in the strength of the living God; who exhorts him to live soberly, to watch diligently, and to strive faithfully, because it is God which worketh in him both to will and to do. A sufficient measure of divine grace is bestowed upon every man, to enable bim to believe and come to God, and upon every true believer, sufficient to all required duty; and in the power of this grace all things are possible to him that believeth.
To live soberly, requires from the Christian professor a distinct separation from the deportment of the world in all those things which mark its ungodliness. The world, my brethren, is unholy, and Christians are called to come out of it. Its pomps and its vanities, its lusts and its pleasures, are incon. sistent with all sobriety of mind. Even its more innocent pleasures and amusements can seldom be partaken of without the painful retrospect of mercies misapplied, without the sad experience that the soul is less inclined to hold its accustomed intercourse with God, or less lively in its addresses to a throne of grace. Yet the sobriety of Christian deportment is neither inconsistent with or opposed to cheerfulness and enjoyment. Christian society has its pleasures as well as the society of the world, with this marked advantage, that those who are qualified to enjoy them are not only made happy for the time, but better and happier for the time to come. And when this can be said for the social parties of the world, those who have undertaken to live soberly, as professors of religion may, without danger or offence, be found among them; but not till then.
To live righteously, is to do unto others as we would they should do unto us. This is the rule given by our Saviour to his disciples, as comprehending the three great principles of morality-truth, justice, and charity. And it is called the golden rule, not only because of its intrinsic and comprehensive wisdom, as the foundation of moral obligation among men, but because it makes our own wants and desires the measure of our charity and benevolence to others.
As no man can possibly wish to be deceived, defrauded, or defamed, every man is bound, by that very circuinstance, to perform all the offices of truth and justice towards other men, doing no injury to any, in bis person, character, or estate. And as every man, when in distress, must wish to be relieved, according to the nature of his suffering, he is thereby bound to afford relief and assistance to others, in the same manner, to the extent of his ability.
This obligation every prrofessor of religion specially undertakes, and on his fulfilment of it depends the worth of his profession, both here and hereafter. As human laws cannot enforce the duties of benevolence, the divine law enacts them as a branch of moral righteousness, and hath expressly declared that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
To live godiy, is to add to sobriety of deportment and righteousness of life the governing principle of the reverence and love of Almighty God. Acting from motives derived from him, and ending in him; referring continually to his holy will; depending wholly on his heavenly grace for direction and support; hoping for and relying on his promised mercy, solely through the merits and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and manifesting this principle by a professed subjection to the gospel, by the regular and hearty performance of all the public and private duties of religion, and by bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth, in the life-this is the boliness to which Christians are called, which they profess to desire and to seek for, and without which no man shall see the Lord.
Such are the good works which Titus, and all other ministers of Christ after him, was directed to affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God should be careful to maintain. And, in the explanation and enforcement of the text which I have laid before you, ye see your calling, my brethren, and you learn the obligations you have come under as professors of religion. You learn, also, the unspeakable consequences which depend on the faithful performance of them. As communicants, those obligations have lately again been renewed, and I conceived it my duty to recall your attention to them.
Make them, then, the subject of your most serious consideration, and bring them to bear faithfully on your spiritual condition. Apply them particularly to two points in it. The one, the state of your heart in its private exercises and aspirations after God. Are you in this faithful to yourselves, cherishing the seed of divine grace in your hearts, by frequent prayer, and meditation in the divine word? Are you thankful, drawn out in praise for the divine mercies ? Are you watchful, awake to the stirrings of sin in your hearts, and diligent to resist and drive away the temptation ?—The other point is, your compliance with customs and practices of the world which cannot be reconciled with a fervent spirit of piety, and with that separation from its vanities to which you are pledged. Do you comply with them? Do you comply from choice, or from constraint of some kind ? Do you derive satisfaction or mortification from the compliance ? These inquiries will enable you to prove your own selves, and form a good ground of confidence and hope, or will call for penitence and amended life. And great thanks be to
God, his ear is ever open to the cry of the penitent, and his band ready to send him deliverance.
The great danger of the present times consists in a general propensity to lower the standard of religious duty and attainment, and to spread out the hope of the gospel so widely as to cover much in Christian conduct and in Christian condition, that neither the letter or the spirit of the gospel will warrant. This renders it the more necessary that those who make a profession of religion should increase their watchfulness over themselves, and over their brethren ; lest this ruinous deceit find countenance and support through their inadvertent compliance in things not directly sinful, perhaps, in themselves, yet evidently the occasion of much sin and erroneous opinion on the subject of religion, and certainly inconsistent with the duties, and obligations, and attainments of those who profess to have believed in God on the faith of his revealed word. The Church of Christ is compared to a city set on an hill, and the members thereof to the light which makes it discoverable amidst the darkness of the world. But if this light itself becomes darkness, by the members gradually conforming to the ways and practices of the world, this purpose is defeated; and Christians, by putting out the light, become the destroyers of their own hope. Therefore, my Christian brethren, as ye are the body of CHRIST and members in particular, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,
"Wherefore, beloved, seeing ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be
found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."
Were I called upon to say what I considered most conducive to the formation of the religious character, I would unhesitatingly name serious consideration. And I think I am warranted in this from the actual condition of mankind, from the nature of religion, and the manner in which the communications of the gospel are made to us.
From the nature of man, fallen and depraved, he is chiefly attracted by present and sensible things. Their power and influence over him is very great, not only because of their subserviency to his present comfort and enjoyment, but because of his natural darkness, and ignorance of higher and still more lasting enjoyments. Yet is there upon the mind of this fallen and perverted creature a faint and obscure, yet anxious and uneasy, perception of things which are not the objects of sense ; in wbich, nevertheless, he is deeply interested. Serious consideration, therefore, is the only thing which can enable him to form some just estimate of what he is most attracted by, and to give a clearer and more impressive character to those anxious interests which lie beyond the boundary of sense.
From the nature of religion also, serious consideration must enter into any safe or profitable examination of its importance to our present as well as future welfare. For religion is a science, even the science of eternal life, upon conditions declared by Almighty God, and proposed to our attainment. Without serious consideration, therefore, it cannot be understood; and, if not understood, will never be desired and followed as the one thing needful. Religion, moreover, is a reasonable service