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same time, in the idea of having provoked the displeasure of God, when seriously thought of, too heavy for the heart of man to bear. We cannot leave his presence, we cannot resist his power, we cannot evade his stroke. Hence mankind, in all ages, have had their fears awakened, and have taken a gloomy survey of an hereafter. They saw death busy around them, carrying their fellow-creatures out of their sight. Anxious and fearful for themselves, they sought for them in the dreams of poetic illusion, and followed them in the gloomy visions of unenlightened fancy. They found that life was filled with vanity and sorrow; they knew not but death would extinguish their existence, or transmit them to still greater misery. They had just light enough dimly to show them the Judge of the universe seated on his throne, in wrath, clouded with darkness, and beset with judgments. They had no certain access to him-no acceptable worship to pay him no assurance that their prayers would be answered, or their sins forgiven them. They saw not the issue of things, nor could they take any lengthened view of futurity. They knew not, therefore, how to cherish any great hopes, to form any high and extensive plans; they were confined to the present moment, and all beyond it was covered with confusion and horror. You will not, my brethren, think this description overwrought, if you read the first chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans.
Herein then appears the supreme excellence of the Christian dispensation. In the midst of this darkness, it rises like the sun in its strength, and all these gloomy shades melt away, and are lost in the brightness of it. It no longer leaves us to the conjectures of reason, which has always erred, nor to the fluctuating opinions of men; but all it declares it confirms by the authority of God. The truths it discovers were proclaimed by the Son of God himself, who lay in the bosom of his Father from eternity, who was acquainted with all his counsels, and created all his works. It raises no hopes within but what are built upon the promise and oath of Him who cannot lie. In the mystery of Christ's incarnation, who was God as well as man, in the humiliation of his life, and in his death upon the cross, we behold the most stupendous instance of compassion; while at the same moment the law of God received more honour than it could have done by the obedience and death of any, or of all his creatures. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. In this dispensation of his grace he has reached so far beyond our highest hopes that, if we love him, we may be assured that he will with it freely give us all things. Access to God is now opened at all times, and from all places; and to such as sincerely ask it, he has promised his Spirit to teach them to pray, and to help their infirmi. ties. The sacrifice of Christ has rendered it just for him to forgive sin; and whenever we are led to repent of and to forsake it, even the righteousness of God is declared in the pardon of it. Dear brethren, consolation pours itself in on every side while we contemplate the gospel, and refreshes our inmost souls. It gives us the prospect of our sins being pardoned our prayers accepted-our very afflictions
turned into blessings-and our existence prolonged to an endless duration. We see Christianity indeed, as yet but in its infancy. It has not already reached the great ends it is intended to answer, and to which it is constantly advancing. At present it is but as a grain of mustardseed, and seems to bring forth a tender and weakly crop; but, be assured, it is of God's own right-hand planting, and he will never suffer it to perish. It will soon stretch its branches to the river, and its shade to the ends of the earth. The weary will repose themselves under it; the hungry will partake of its fruits; and its leaves will be for the healing of the nations.
You, dear brethren, who profess the name of Jesus, will delight in contemplating the increase and grandeur of his kingdom, and your expectations will not deceive you. He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The religion of Jesus is not the religion of one age or of one nation. It is a train of light first put in motion by God, and which will continue to move and to spread till it has filled the whole earth with its glory. Its blessings will descend, and its influence will be felt, to the latest generations. Uninterrupted in its course, and boundless in its extent, it will not be limited by time or space. The earth is too narrow for the display of its effects and the accomplishment of its purposes. It points forward to an eternity. The great Redeemer will again appear upon the earth as the judge and ruler of it; will send forth his angels, and gather his elect from the four winds; will abolish sin, and death, and hell, and will place the righteous for ever in the presence of his God and their God, of his Father and their Father. If such be our religion, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness? You are conscious that a mere belief of the Christian revelation will not purify the heart or regulate the conduct. We may calmly assent to the most interesting and solemn truths of Christianity, and afterward suffer them to slide out of our minds without leaving any impression behind them. If we look back upon the usual course of our feelings, we shall find that we are more influenced by the frequent recurrence of objects than by their weight and importance; and that habit has more force in forming our characters than our opinions have. The mind naturally takes its tone and complexion from what it habitually contemplates. Hence it is that the world, by continually pressing upon our senses, and being ever open to our view, takes so wide a sway in the heart. How, think you, dear brethren, must we correct this influence, and by faith overcome the world, unless we habitually turn our attention to religion and eternity? Let us beseech you then to make them familiar with your minds, and mingle them with the ordinary stream of your thoughts: retiring often from the world, and conversing with God and your own souls. In these solemn moments, nature, and the shifting scenes of it, will retire from your view, and you will feel yourselves left alone with God; you will walk as in his sight; you will stand, as it were, at his tribunal. Illusions will then vanish apace, and every thing will appear in its true proportion and proper colour. You will estimate human life, and the worth of it, not
by fleeting and momentary sensations, but by the light of serious reflection and steady faith. You will see little in the past to please, or in the future to flatter: its feverish dreams will subside, and its enchantment be dissolved. It is much, however, if faith do not, upon such occasions, draw aside the veil which rests on futurity, and cut short the interval of expectation. How often has she borne aloft the spirits of good men, and given them a vision of better days and brighter hopes! They have entered already the rest which remained for them; they have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to God the judge of all. From these seasons of retirement and religious meditation you will return to the active scenes of life with greater advantage. From the presence of God you will come forth with your passions more composed, your thoughts better regulated, and your heart more steady and pure. Do not imagine that the benefit of such exercises is confined to the moments which are spent in them; for as the air retains the smell, and is filled with the fragrance of leaves which have been long shed, so will these meditations leave a sweet and refreshing influence behind them.
If your religion be genuine, it will be often the source of the warmest and most interesting feelings. It will be a spring of consolation within, which will often be full, and pour itself forth. If the gospel has not taken a share in the feelings of our hearts, if it has not moved the great springs of our hopes and fears, we may be assured we have never experienced its force. It is filled with such views as cannot fail to interest and transport us. Besides, if we do not feel the gospel as well as believe it, how can it support against the overwhelming influence of what we do feel? The world steals upon us, and engages our affections on all sides. Its prospects enrapture, and its pleasures are seducing us. Will a religion which rests only upon opinion, and a conviction at times extorted from us, keep us firm against those assaults, and stem the force of a torrent which never ceases to flow? This can be done only by opposing hope to hope, feeling to feeling, and pleasure to pleasure.
Perhaps one of the chief reasons why Christianity does not more purify our hearts is, that we are apt to confine it to seasons of worship, and to shut it out from the ordinary concerns of life. It is a great and fatal mistake to imagine them so separate that we can innocently and usefully engage in the one without any regard had to the other. Our temporal affairs should never, indeed, be suffered to mingle with the exercises of religion; but religion should always regulate the conduct of our temporal affairs. And the reason of this is obvious. The world and the fashion of it is passing away, and our union with it will soon be dissolved; while the relation which we bear to God and to eternity is ever the same, and extends to all times and to all places. The character which, as Christians, we sustain is our high character; and the hopes which, as such, we indulge are our high hopes. It is but reasonable, it is but just, therefore, that a desire of discharging the one and attaining the other should sway the whole of our conduct. Perhaps you will be ready to think that this advice is impracticable.
EXCELLENCY OF THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION.
You will urge the necessity of attending to your worldly callings, which, you will say, cannot be carried on unless you give them the greater part of your time and attention. Be it so. Remember, we do not advise you to spend more of your time in religion than in your ordinary concerns. This would extinguish all human industry. But if you be sincere in your profession of religion you will regulate your pursuits by it, and engage no farther in any of them than is consistent with the spirit of it. In the midst of all your other concerns you will still make religion the centre of your hopes and the consummation of your wishes. An ordinary mechanic devotes more of his time to the labour of his hands than to any other concern; but it is not his laborious employment that interests his heart; it is his desire of procuring subsistence and of warding off the inconveniences of poverty and want.
Finally, brethren, let each of us examine ourselves whether we be in the faith or not; let us not shrink from the severest test to which conscience and the word of God can put us. If we be, indeed, found sincere, after thus searching our hearts, our faith will grow more firm and our consolations more steady; or if it appear that we have been hitherto deceiving and deceived, (awful idea!) we shall at least have an opportunity of once more lifting up our eyes for mercy, and of reading our danger in our sin, not in our punishment. But we hope better things of you, brethren, and things which accompany salvation. We hope that you have fled from the wrath to come, and have laid hold on eternal life; and we rejoice in the prospect of meeting you in a much larger assembly at the great day, when you shall have washed your robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Then, brought out of much tribulation, and redeemed from every nation, and tongue, and people, his elect shall be gathered, he shall give up the kingdom to his God, and God shall be all in all. Alas! the voice of individual praise is weak and feeble; but how will our hearts swell with adoration and delight, when, while we are praising him, he shall receive from millions of beings and millions of worlds the same incense!