« AnteriorContinuar »
supported his integrity, and therefore was, in the end, blessed with more abundance than he ever possessed before; and died in a good old age, full of days, and in favour with God and man. And is not this a powerful inducement to us to act like Job, and bravely withstand our spiritual enemy? What should hinder, but that we may, as he did, maintain our righteousness, hold fast our integrity, and give our hearts no room to reproach us.
· The devil, it is true, consults the passions of mankind, and lays his baits suitable to them. He knew Cain to be envious and proud, and so induced him to imbrue his hands in his brother's blood. He found Peter to be cowardly, and so prompted him to deny his master. Judas he perceived to be covetous, and by that mean's led him to betray the Saviour of the vorld. These are the methods he has recourse to, in order to make men as miserable as himself. But notwithstanding this, we may, if we please, resist his temptations, and baffle all his evil designs. "
If we ply constantly at the Throne of Grace, and implore the Divine protection, we need not doubt but that the kind Father of mankind will give us such a measure of his grace and holy Spirit, as may enable us to withstand all the temptations of our spiritual enemy.
But, alas! the contrary too often prevails. Men are seldom upon their guard, and are so far from resisting the solicitations of the tempter, that they readily suffer themselves to be led captive by him at his will, and seein resolutely
bent upon their own ruin. And though they know ibat a virtuous and good life is indispensibly necessary to salvation, yet they live in wilful impieties, and indulge themselves in gross and confessed wickedness; some of them wallowing in lust and wantonness, others in drunkenness and debauchery; some gratifying their pride and ambition, others their envy and malice; some sacrificing to their filth and luxury, others to their ararice and covetousness : and how can such people look into their breasts without the deepst horror and despair? But, indeed, they fly from their angry consciences as much as possible, and seldom think of amendment 'till they are either worn out with the long pursuit after a debauched life, or 'till they are suddenly seized with a dangerous fit of sickness. The unhappy condition, therefore, of such men, makes it the more necessary for me, as was proposed, in the
Last place, To exhort you, in the name of God, to hold fast your integrity to the end.
But surely, one would imagine, there is but little need for many arguments to press as to such a necessary duty, when our souls are at stake; whose present and eternal happiness or misery depends upon our good or bad management of them; and, if we lose them, we lose our all, and shall have no possibility of recovering them.
What ? Is not the comfortable satisfaction which flows from an honest and good heart preferable to the stings of a wounded spirit, the inseperable companion of vice and wickedness? Is not the death of the righteous to be chosen before the miserable end of an abandoned sinner? I believe all of us will readily sube scribe to the wish of Balaam: Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his ! But, if ever we expect this, we must be careful to live as becometh the gospel of Christ. Like Job, we must hold fast our righteousness, retain our integrity, aud give our hearts no room to reproach us.
I most heartily wish that we would all consider how some men now do, and we ourselves shall hereafter tremble at the thoughts of such folly ; when at the hour of death we shall think on the equal distribution of things at the day of judgment. For this is not a fictitious, but a real event, towards which all wise men look forward ; lest, like the rich fool in the gospel, (who laid up provision for many years) they should be surprised by these words: Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee.
It is a most melancholy reflection to think of the inconsideration of some men ; who, though they know that they must certainly die, and afterwards appear at the great tribunal, yet never consider what will become of them there, when they hear that dreadful sentence pronounced by the Judge of all the earth: Deparé from me, for I know you not, ye workers of iniquity. What horror and amazement must then seize upon the condemned sinner, when he finds himself carried away to a gloomy prison of exquisite torture, there to reniain to all eternity. Alas ! he will then (when it is too late) be cons vinced of his folly and madness, and call to the mountains and rocks to fall on him, and hide hint from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb: For when the great day of his wrath is come, who, or where is that impertinent sinner that shall be able to stand in his presence ?
Be persuaded then, my brethren, to consider these things in time, and reflect seriously to which of these two fates, happiness or misery, your present course of life tends to bring you. Such a time will certainly come, and nothing will be of service to you then but the answer of a good conscience; that you have manfully resisted the strongest temptations, been patient under afflictions and disappointments, and resolutely stemmed the tide of your evil inclinations; that you have retained your integrity as long as you lived, and gave your hearts and consciences no room to reproach you. Then you will triumph for ever with the glorious company of the Apostles, the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, and the noble army of Martyrs, and all the saints and servants of God. And Oh! what heart can conceive, what tongue can express the inconceivable joy and happiness which the righteous man shall possess in the presence and enjoyment of that God, in whom is all fullness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Let me, therefore, my brethren, to conclude, exhort you by all means to keep in mind the unspeakable reward of a virtuous and good
life. Let heaven and happiness, which deserve all your care, engross it principally before every other thing; there let us place our treasure, and there will be our hearts. And let every man of us take up the resolution of Job, and with him say, 'Till I die, I will not remove my integrity from me, my righteousness
I hold fast, and will not let it go : my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live. That we may all think of these things, and steadily adhere to the most admirable precepts of the gospel, all the days of our short stay upon earth, let us humbly beseech the Almighty to bestow upon us such a portion of his holy Spirit as may support us in all dangers and difficulties, that we may thereby be enabled to hold fast our integrity to the end ; which (through the merits of our blessed Saviour) will not fail to bring us to the happy regions of the blessed. Now to God the Father, &c.