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he is especially invited. For want of more docility in this respect it is probable we have often sustained loss. Permit us here to suggest two or three heads of inquiry. You have sometimes felt a peculiar seriousness of mind; the delusive glare of worldly objects has faded away, or become dim before your eyes, and death and eternity, appearing at the door, have filled the whole field of vision. Have you improved such seasons for fixing those maxims and establishing those practical conclusions which may produce an habitual sobriety of mind, when things appear under a different aspect? You have sometimes found, instead of a reluctance to pray, a powerful persuasion to that exercise, so that you felt as if you could do nothing else. Have you always complied with these motions, and suffered nothing but the claims of absolute necessity to divert you from pouring out your hearts at the throne of grace? The Spirit is said to make intercession for saints with groanings which cannot be uttered. When you have felt those ineffable longings after God, have you indulged them to the utmost? Have you stretched every sail, launched forth into the deep of the divine perfections and promises, and possessed yourselves as much as possible of the fulness of God? There are moments when the conscience of a good man is more tender, has a nicer and more discriminating touch than usual; the evil of sin in general and of his own in particular appears in a more pure and piercing light. Have you availed yourselves of such seasons as these for searching into the chambers of imagery, and while you detected greater and greater abominations, been at pains to bring them out and slay them before the Lord? Have such visitations effected something towards the mortification of sin; or have they been suffered to expire in mere ineffectual resolutions? The fruits which godly sorrow produced in the Corinthians were thus beautifully portrayed: What carefulness it wrought in you, yea what clearing of yourselves, yea what indignation, yea what fear, yea what vehement desire, yea what revenge. There are moments in the experience of a good man when he feels a more than ordinary softness of mind; the frost of selfishness dissolves, and his heart flows forth in love to God and his fellow-creatures. How careful should we be to cherish such a frame, and to embrace the opportunity of subduing resentments, and of healing those sore wounds which it is scarcely possible to avoid in passing through this unquiet world!
There is a holy skill in turning the several parts of Christian experience to account, analogous to what the votaries of the world display in the improvement of every conjuncture from which it is possible to derive any emolument; and though the end they propose is mean and contemptible, the steadiness with which they pursue it, and their dexterity in the choice of means, deserve imitation. In these respects they are wiser in their generation than the children of light.
Do not allow yourselves to indulge in religious sloth, or to give way to the solicitations of the tempter from a confidence in the safety of your state, or in your spiritual immunities as Christians. The habitual prevalence of such a disposition will afford a much stronger proof of insincerity than any arguments which can be adduced for the
contrary; and admitting your pretensions to piety to be ever so valid, a little reflection may convince you that a careless and negligent course will lay you open to the severest rebukes. You only have I known (says the Lord by the prophet) among all the families of the earth, therefore will I visit you for all your iniquities.
Remember, dear brethren, we profess a peculiar relation to God as his children, his witnesses, his people, his temple; the character of that glorious Being, and of his religion, will be contemplated by the world chiefly through the medium of our spirit and conduct, which ought to display, as in a mirror, the virtues of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. It is strictly appropriate to the subject of our present meditations to remind you that you are temples. For ye, says the apostle, are the temple of the living God, as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. What purity, sanctity, and dignity may be expected in persons who bear such a character! A Christian should look upon himself as something sacred and devoted, so that what involves but an ordinary degree of criminality in others in him partakes of the nature of sacrilege; what is a breach of trust in others is in him the profanation of a temple. Let us, dear brethren, watch and pray that nothing may be allowed a place in our hearts that is not suitable to the residence of the holy and blessed God. Finally, having such great and precious promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.
ON HEARING THE WORD:
MINISTERS AND MESSENGERS OF THE BAPTIST CHURCHES
[WRITTEN IN 1813.]