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PREACHED AT A CONFIRMATION.
THE FOLLY AND DANGER OF EXPECTING THE BLESSINGS OF
CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT LEADING A CHRISTIAN LIFE.
EPHES. iv. 17.
See Rom. 1. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth 18; 2 Tim. 3. 5; 1 Pet. walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind ;
[that is, following their own wicked inclinations.]
THERE cannot be too much pains taken to forewarn Christians against satisfying themselves with the bare performance of the outward duties of religion.
It is probable, that there are more people lost, who thought themselves safe, than of such who, knowing that they had no religion, had therefore no hopes of salvation.
A man who goes constantly to Church (for instance) will be apt to think himself in a better condition than one who does so seldom or never. I should be loth to encourage a man to think so of himself, till I see whether his going to Church makes him a better man than the other who stays at home. If it does not, pray what will his going to Church profit him? You will say he is in the way of knowing his duty. Be it so. But to know one's duty, and not to do it, is to be in a worse condition than if one had never had the means of knowing it. For "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required."
Now, that this is really the case of the generality of Christians, any body will be satisfied, who does but seriously observe what passes in the world. For example: consider how very careful people are to have their children dedicated to God in baptism, and what a great misfortune they would
Luke 12. 48.
think it, if they were in a place where they could not have that sacrament duly administered; and yet, generally speaking, there is as little care taken, by these very parents, to have their children taught the meaning of this ordinance, and the obligations it lays their children under, as if it had been a matter of no consequence, whether they had been baptized or not. But
But you will say, however, they are hereby within the covenant of grace, and that is a great blessing. So it is, provided they understand it, and are taught to keep it. But let me put you in mind, that just thus were Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, within the covenant; and yet they went alive into the pit. So was Judas himself. So were all those who yet have taken the broad way,
and are this very moment lamenting their lost condition in another life.
But one would hope better things of such as, with their own mouth and consent (in the presence of God and His Church) do ratify, and confirm, and acknowledge themselves bound to believe, and to do, all those things which were promised for them in baptism. One would hope better things of these. But, God knows, it is too often otherways. And you shall see too many, who have thus solemnly given themselves up to God, as careless how they live, as if they had never been baptized, never been confirmed.
Let us, in the next place, consider Christians in one of the most solemn duties of Christianity. If ever Christians are serious, and put on holy purposes of living as becomes their profession, it must sure be when they go to the Lord's Supper. But what will you think of Christians who come from the Lord's Table, without charity, without purposes of becoming better men, better neighbours, better Christians, for the time to come? You must say, that they do not understand their religion, or that they hope their profession will do them good without a suitable practice.
We see people every day going out of the world, seemingly satisfied with their condition, without having made any Christian preparation for that great change. Could this possibly be, but that Christians hope, that their baptism, and being within the covenant, will save them like a charm, they know not how?
These observations may convince you, that nature is exSERM. tremely corrupt, that we are blind, and most apt to deceive LXXXV.
ourselves in matters of the greatest concern to us, and that Christians ought to be often called upon to consider their profession, and what it obliges them to; and that to think to enjoy the blessings of Christianity, without leading a Christian life, is a very great delusion. “I conjure you,” saith the Apostle in the text, “I conjure you by the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not,” that is, live not, “as other Gentiles,” or as men unconcerned do, “in the vanity of their mind;" that is, following their own corrupt inclinations, and vainly hoping that an outward religion, without an inward sense of God, and a practice suitable to it, will gain His favour, and make them happy when they die.
It is thus that people unconverted live. A Christian is to live after another manner, as he hopes for salvation. A Christian ought to know, that this is not the world he was made for; that by his profession he is not to love the world ; that it is impossible for any man to love the world, and be a friend of God. It is true, these are hard sayings to flesh and blood, and it is utterly impossible for any man, without the grace of God, to receive them and live accordingly; for we are in a state of deep corruption.
But then the design of religion is, to deliver us out of this miserable state; to restore us to the favour of God; to obtain His grace to enable us to do what by nature we are not able to do; to gain us a title to eternal happiness, which we have no right, no pretence to.
Now, the Christian Religion, where men embrace it sincerely, will do all this for us. If a man fears God, trembles at His Word, believes the promises of God made to us when we were baptized; if a man is afraid of offending God, sorry for it when he knows he has done amiss; begs God's pardon, prays for His grace; keeps out of the way of temptation, makes use of the means of grace which God affords him; whoever does this sincerely, may depend upon it, that God will give him a new heart, new desires, a better understanding, more strength, a firmer faith, and well-grounded hope; or, in the words of Scripture, he will become a new man, a new creation. And then he will see plainly, that religion is as necessary for a man who would save his soul, as meat and drink are for a man who would preserve his body from death.
But if, instead of doing this, Christians, notwithstanding their promises, will follow the inclinations of their own hearts, which too often lead to sin; why then religion will become a burden to them; they will get into a way and a habit of sinning; and, wanting strength to break the bonds in which sin has laid them fast, they will have nothing left but anguish and despair ; they will commit iniquities with greediness, and not see their danger till there are no hopes of a remedy.
I know very well what people are apt to say in their hearts to all this. All this ado cannot be expected from us; we are ignorant; we have too much of other business upon our hands; it is enough if we can do the outward duties of religion; let those that have more learning and time, think, and watch, and pray, and keep out of the way of temptations.
This is the language of those who would lead a careless life, and yet expect to be happy. To all which one may give these short answers :
Those who say they have no time do not, it seems, know what it is that religion requires of them. He is not always the best Christian who spends most time in reading and praying, but he who honestly discharges the duties of his place and calling.
And if a poor man, who is burdened with a family, or encumbered with business, will yet find a minute's time to pray for God's grace and blessing as well as he can, and give God thanks for the favours he receives; if he is content with his condition, and does not attempt to better it by unjust ways; if he teaches his children to fear God, and takes care to correct them when they do what they should not; if he is upright in his dealings, obedient to his governors, peaceable in his conversation, temperate in his way of living, and in charity with his neighbours; why, this man's religion is such as it should be, and here is no great deal of time spent in doing what he ought to do.
So that want of time will never be a just excuse for any man for not being as good a Christian as he ought to be. Much less want of learning. And yet people are apt to think so. At the same time, if any man should take upon
SERM. him to preach and to advise men to live at the rate most
people do live, he would be looked upon as the worst of men, even by the most ignorant man that should hear him. If a man should tell you, you need not be over exact in your dealings, nor do to others as you would wish to be dealt with yourself; if he should bid you to enjoy the world while you may, and take no thought for what may come hereafter ; if he should tell you, that as wise people as you have done 80, and have put off their repentance to the last moment of their lives; the most ignorant would soon say, this is no safe doctrine, we understand better than so ourselves. Do you so? Why then, ignorance will be no cloak for your sin, neither now, nor at the day of judgment.
But how shall one resist so many temptations that he is sure to meet with ? Christianity furnishes you with sufficient means of avoiding, resisting, or overcoming, all the difficulties you can possibly meet with, provided you embrace it in good earnest. God, who has set us in the midst of temptations, and yet requires us not to yield to them, has bound Himself to help us, if we do our duty.
But here is the cheat we put upon ourselves. Our inclinations lead us to do something or other which we know God has forbidden us : we do not consider that He has forbidden us such things out of pure love to our souls. We first wish that He had not forbidden us; then we consider all the difficulties we have to struggle with; then we flatter ourselves with the hopes that God, who knows our circumstances, will pardon our transgressions; we consider His goodness, but not His justice, or else we hope some time or other to repent, and make satisfaction for the fault, and so we commit it without further scruple or reflection.
Whereas a serious Christian, in the first place, keeps out of the way of temptation as much as may be. By that he shews his love to God, whom he would not willingly offend. If he cannot well avoid the temptation, then he soberly resolves not to yield to it; he considers who it is that he shall offend if he should do so; he reflects upon the solemn promises he has made of not doing any thing which God has forbidden him; and, knowing that God is able and ready to help him, he flees to Him for succour and grace to with