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stand the temptation, and he is sure to find help in time of need.
But the generality of Christians live without laying these things much to heart,—the more is the pity. But will you go headlong to destruction, because other people are running careless to their ruin? A wise man will not ask, what do others do; but what is it that God would have me do? What does my profession require of me?
When once people find that a Christian is resolved to live so as becomes his character, they will not expect that he should do as the world does, live at all adventures ; nay, they will censure him if he does so. This man, they will say, makes profession of Christianity; why does he not live as becomes a Christian?
In short; few people are so hardened as to say I am resolved to have no religion : but there are an infinite number of Christians who are content to live like heathens, and yet hope that all will be well with them at the last. What shall one say to make them sensible of their stupidity ? Shall we ask them, whether they believe an eternity to come, of endless joys or endless misery? Yes, they will say, they do. What, and yet live as if you neither feared nor believed them? Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, is one of the very first precepts of that Gospel which you have embraced. And is it no uneasiness to your mind, to know that it is the least thing in your thoughts, the very last in your intention ? And will you hope to shelter yourself from the wrath of God, by an outward profession of Christianity? Why, be well assured, that there is no man so far from salvation, as one who is got into the way of doing what good Christians do, without being inwardly converted; who have (as the Apostle speaks) a form of godli- [2 Tim. 3.
3.) ness, but denying the power; not suffering Christianity to make them one jot better men.
Christians, therefore, should be very careful to avoid falling into a state so dangerous. To prevent which, we should often and betimes consider, how very difficult it is to get rid of evil habits, when once we have suffered them to take deep root. A tree, which with one hand may be pulled up this year, the next may be grown so big, as all one's force shall
SERM. not be able to remove it out of its place. And Christians LXXXV.
find, by sad experience, when once an evil habit of living without God has been suffered to get ground, it is no very easy matter to root it up, and master it; and yet it must be mastered, or we are for ever undone. Therefore, where Christians have been so unhappy as to fall into a careless way of living, the very best thing they can do is, to repent forthwith, lest the work grow too big to be undertaken, and at last they despair of ever returning to a sober mind.
This thing is set forth in a very lively manner by one of the Fathers, in words to this purpose" : "An hermit is carried by an angel into a wood, where he sees an old man cutting down boughs to make up a burden; when it was pretty big, he attempts to carry it away; but finding it very heavy, he lays it down again, cuts more wood, makes the burden greater, and then in vain tries to carry it off. Having done this several times, the hermit in the mean while being astonished at the old man's folly, the angel tells him, this is an exact representation of those Christians, who, being sensible of the burden of their sins, resolve to repent, but soon grow weary, and instead of lessening their burden, they increase it, still resolving to repent, till the burden grows too heavy to be borne, and then in great despair they die in their sins unrepented of.”
Now this, God knows, is the case of too many, who, when they should set about the work of repentance, make it every day more difficult, by deferring it.
Those who have dedicated themselves to God betimes, and have not yet fallen into a careless way of living, would do well to consider what bitter work they are preparing for themselves, when they forget the vows which they have made so solemnly.
In short; without the grace of God, no man can live as becomes a Christian. The grace of God can be secured only by keeping a strict watch upon ourselves; and increased, by making use of what one has already. They that do so may depend upon the favour of God; and they will be sure to escape a great deal of trouble and remorse of conscience in this world, and misery in the next. I should now conclude; only I suspect that a great many
[Pelag., lib. xviii. n. 2. apud Rosweyd vitt. patr., lib. iii. $ 38.]
Christians may think themselves no way concerned in what I have said upon this head. Few think themselves in any danger, who are not profligate sinners. After all; men may be in great hazard of their salvation, who yet are not taken notice of for scandalous livers.
Every man may best judge for himself by such marks as these :
First, every one who holds the truth in unrighteousness, that is, all who do not live up to what they know to be most pleasing to God;
Secondly; all who have no concern for their eternal welfare, after God has made known to us, by His Son, the rewards and punishments of another life;
Thirdly; all who have their hearts so much taken up with the world, that they cannot apply themselves seriously to the care of their souls ;
Fourthly; all who, though they pretend to serve God, yet do it with that indifferency, that God is rather dishonoured than glorified by their service; who give scandal by their irreverence, and behave themselves before their Maker as if He were an idol, who neither heard nor saw the devotions of his worshippers ;
In short; all who live in a general neglect of their duty, though they are not guilty of such gross sins as make them scandalous : all these, I say, may be assured of it, that they live under God's displeasure ; and their hope of salvation is nothing but a delusion.
And God grant that all who are concerned may think of it, while it is in their power, by the help of God, to prevent the evil consequences of living without any true religion.
On the other hand; all such as are convinced, that the design of Christianity is, to make men holy, that they may be happy; that Jesus Christ came indeed to redeem us from [1 Thess. the wrath to come, but that He must first redeem us from our 1. 18'; Acts
26. 18; vain conversation. Such as know, and in good earnest be
1 Pet. 4.3; lieve this, and are disposed to let Christianity have this effect Rom. 1. 18.] upon them, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; such as are resolved, by the grace of God, that the time past of their lives shall suffice to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, that they will no longer hold
SERM. the truth in unrighteousness, but will let Christianity have its
effect upon their lives, as well as upon their faith; such as
From which vanity, and the evil that attends it, the good
PREACHED AT A CONFIRMATION,
THE SIN AND DANGER OF GRIEVING THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.
EPHES. iv. 30.
And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed
unto the day of redemption.
BEFORE I enter upon this subject, I will endeavour to satisfy you, that notwithstanding the good purposes you have this day made, and notwithstanding the good prayers which are offered up to God on your behalf, there is yet a greater possibility of your miscarrying than you are aware of.
The reason why I observe this to you is, because I know the frailty of human nature better than you can be supposed to do.
When a person is made sensible of his duty to God, and that it is truly his interest to serve Him faithfully, and that there is great uneasiness and danger in the ways of vice and impiety; while these thoughts are warm in his heart, he is apt to be very confident that he for his part shall never run into that wickedness which others fall into, and by which they are ruined.
And if I should take any of you, (who have this day been confirmed in your holy purposes of obedience,)if I should call you aside, and give you this advice : ‘Pray have a care lest you fall into the sins of drunkenness, or whoredom, which are but too common amongst us; have a care of lying, or swearing, or stealing, which will certainly shut you out of