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dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord ; and, that to behold his glories unveiled — to enjoy the fulness of his love in the temple above—to mingle my hosannahs with the hosannahs of his ransomed people — to bear the full impress of his heavenly image — to serve him without weariness, and without imperfection, and without end, — is what I mean when I speak of the heaven which I hope to enjoy, when mortality is swallowed up of life.
Are these, indeed, the sentiments which you cherish towards the Lord Jesus Christ? Rejoice and be exceeding glad. The dayspring from on high hath visited you. The morning dawns, and portends a glorious day, in which your sun shall no more go down ; but the Lord your God shall be unto you an everlasting light, your God your glory, and the days of your mourning shall be all ended.
TRIFLERS WITH RELIGION ADMONISHED.
Prov. i. 22, 23.-How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?
and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof : behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you,
I will make known my words unto you. The subjects of religion are intrinsically important, and its authoritative records claim our best consideration. If there is a God to whom we are all accountable, and whose displeasure we are conscious of having incurred, no inquiry can certainly equal that in interest which relates to the method of appeasing his anger, and of obtaining his friendship. An authorized communication from him upon this subject, must be entitled to no mean estimation or solicitude ; and such a communication is the Bible. While it professes to give us satisfactory information on these and other points connected therewith, it offers evidence most ample and conclusive in favour of its Divine origin. This evidence is derived from the nature of its contents, and the miracles wrought for their sanction ; from its victory over the corrupt passions and prejudices of men, its extraordinary preservation in the world, and the growing fulfilment of the numerous predictions poured over its pages. It is yielded to us also from many other particulars, and is, in fact, of such an amount as to render it probable that he who rejects it would be convinced by no evidence short of that, which, by rendering unbelief impossible, would make faith a necessary act, and devoid of praise.
It might have been supposed that, to the contents of a book thus accredited, a spirit of indifference, so as to refuse to form any acquaintance with them, and much more, a spirit of disregard and opposition to them when known, would never become common,
Yet of such a state of mind, on a large scale, and in a multitude of instances, there is too much cause for complaint. To what numbers among us is there room, on this ground, for the expostulation of the text, and the exhortation that follows! They form several classes, all of whom are guilty of trifling with the subjects of the Bible, and with religion generally. We have only to point out the several features of their conduct, to prove that such is their character, and to evince its guilt and enormity.
I. The first class are those who are distinguished by a total indifference and unconcern upon the subject.
Although man is a creature made for religion, and led both by his reason and his instincts to its duties, so that people the most barbarous have yet paid attention to some religion, is it not notorious, that multitudes among us, on whom the light of the true religion shines, give not to it the least portion of serious attention? They are not even enough concerned upon the subject to form or express any other opinions upon it than those that happen to be in vogue, and that they can appear to hold in common with others, without the slightest act of reflection. By a careless and unmeaning assent to the verities of Christianity, they seem to think themselves released from all further obligation to enter into its nature, or to imbibe its spirit. Preoccupied with a variety of other objects, and entombed, as it were, in matter, this great subject is perpetually excluded from their thoughts. Every thing else can find them alive and attentive to its claims ; religion alone is proscribed from their breasts; they trifle with it as one man is trifled with by another, whom he can never find disposed to give him a hearing. They make light of it; and say to any of its advocates who would urge it upon
their notice, “We will hear thee again on this matter;" or, “Go thy way for this time; when we have a more convenient season we will send for thee."
How often, in the midst of this thoughtlessness and folly, are some of them suddenly removed out of this world! They were yesterday skimming over the surface, full of animation and joyin a moment they went down to the pit: the grave closed upon them, and the places that knew them once, as occupants or proprietors, know them no more. How shocking to think, that they were roused from their insensibility to religion only by the dread disclosures of eternity! Nor is the case much mended with those of this description whose removal from this scene of things is effected in a more gradual and lingering manner. Some of these we, as the advocates of religion, are never permitted to see.
alarm, into which it is feared our remonstrances would throw them, occasions the utmost vigilance to be exercised to prevent our intrusion. Flattered, therefore, by the suggestions of self-love, on the ground of a negative goodness, or deceived by the assurances of tender but misguided friends, they are soothed into a delusive hope of standing well with a merciful Judge, and enter, hoodwinked and confident, the frightful cavern's mouth. Nor even where we are permitted to dispense our instructions, and our aid is respectfully and earnestly intreated, can much hope be entertained of introducing effectually the great truths of religion into the mind. If, during life, the operation of any one opposing cause was sufficient to preclude it from that calm and rational consideration which is essential to a right acquaintance, what must be the case when
many of these causes meet, and unite their influence on the bed of death! Then, the disorder of their affairs, the services of others which they wish to requite, the requests of friends bespeaking their attention, the pains of their body, and the necessary disposal of their effects, have all a share in their concern. Distracted with so many calls; torn thus on every side—how is it possible for them to afford a close and undivided attention to those momentous truths of the gospel, which, perhaps, for the first time, are brought directly before them.
Christians should be upon their guard against countenancing this inattention to religion, by falling down to a worldly or trifling spirit while in company with these individuals. To this we may sometimes be led, from the vain expectation of lessening their disgust against religion, and refuting the censure of over-preciseness. But let us be careful to exhibit at all times before them, such an example in favour of the influence of religion, as could not invariably fail to impress them. Above all, let it be ours to cultivate that holy and primitive zeal which would lead us to watch for with avidity, and to embrace with eagerness, every favourable moment for introducing the subject with effect. Alas! many of these unhappy and thoughtless creatures may have to lament, in their last moments, that Christians could have seen them and known them, and made so little effort to break in upon their deplorable apathy. Had such Christians, they may have to say, behaved but as Christians to us, we had never been in these pangs. A censure this, in which it should be our utmost anxiety never to be involved. Better far to be counted the troublers of their peace in life, and to be acquitted by the verdict of their conscience at last, than to purchase their good opinion for years, at the expense of their final reprobation,
II. The next class of triflers with religion are those who assume an appearance of it, and avow an attachment to it, which are not supported by any real interest they take in its favour.
Some thus act from the mere motive of being considered as good as others, and of keeping up an appearance which they have been insensibly led, from the influence of custom or education, to assume, and which the anticipated trouble of conscience, on that account, makes them unwilling to discard. But the distinction from the openly careless and profane, with which they rest satisfied, extends no further than presenting themselves regularly at the public services of religion, and paying a decorous and becoming attention to its forms. While their eye is fastened on the preacher, their hearts preserve the utmost indifference to his message. They take no interest in the subjects he discusses, respond to none of his appeals. Remonstrances the most powerful, sometimes the most alarming, have not the smallest effect upon them in disturbing the dull and settled apathy of their minds. This apathy is at once the surest proof and saddest effect of a fallen state ; and its continuance, under the most proper and powerful means of removing it, a prognostic of final ruin. The spiritual malady of such is indeed becoming desperate, when the remedy which Infinite Wisdom has devised for its removal is thus, in its best and highest form, repeatedly and constantly dispensed in vain. The hardness of others yields to this culture, but these are “stony ground" hearers, on whom the refreshing dews and piercing rays that fertilize the neighbouring parts make not the least impression.
But a still more forward and warm avowal of an attachment to religion which is not felt, is made by others, for the meanest and most unworthy purposes--sometimes to form a connexion, and sometimes to obtain the approbation of the good and virtuous, as flattering to vanity. Not a few assume this appearance for the sole end of furthering their secular interests; while some have adopted it the more effectually to conceal a vicious character, and to prevent suspicion froin alighting upon them. Gain, of some sort or other, is all tlie godliness these men know, or desire. They are hypocrites. Like sepulchres, they are fair without, but within full of rottenness; or, as the storied apples of Sodom, inviting to the eye, but composed of nauseous and pernicious materials. fancy God can be imposed upon by this specious show ?—this is to dispute his omniscience, and to be virtually guilty of atheism. Are they aware that he despises it?-- then do they presumptuously defy his avenging arm. As among men none are more detested than knares, so than hypocrites no persons are more abominable to God.