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sake of these, therefore, the message was sent : they were warned, rebuked, counselled, and encouraged; and we may hope that many derived special benefit. Yet the church at large seems to have degenerated more and more: so that, while those churches which our Lord mentioned with approbation continue in some poor remains to this very day, there has not for a long time been a single professed Christian at Laodicea !-I purpose,
1. To describe the nature and symptoms of lukewarmness :
II. To explain the grounds of that decided abhorrence of it which Christ expresses:
III. To add something by way of solemn warning and particular application.
I. We will consider the nature and symptoms of lukewarmness, both in collective bodies, and in individuals professing Christianity.
It may here be proper to premise one observation, to prevent mistakes. When our advantages, opportunities, and obligations are duly considered, we may all be justly charged with comparative lukewarmness : and the more we become acquainted with ourselves, and experience the power of divine truth upon our hearts, the keener will be our sensibility and the deeper our abasement on this account. But this case is totally distinct from that of the allowed and self-sufficient lukewarmness of the Laodiceans.
The disease of which we speak is only found where some profession of religion is made. The irreligious world is not “ lukewarm.” Persons of this character may say, 'We make no pretensions to piety or sanctity; we seldom think about re·ligion ; it is a subject that never gives us any 'concern.' Then indeed you are not chargeable with lukewarmness: you are clear of that crime: but if you pretend to no religion, what do you pretend to : Do you profess yourselves children of disobedience and of wrath, and heirs of hell? Is this your meaning, your character, your expectation? For, whatever you may suppose, these things alone belong to those who avow that they disregard God and religion.
But leaving such men to their own reflections, we observe that lukewarmness pre-supposes the form and appearance of a church ; and that, possibly, neither very erroneous in doctrine nor corrupt in morals. In like manner the lukewarm professed Christian may retain the form of sound
doctrine,” avoid gross vices, and continue in communion with some religious society: he may even manage so well that no specific charge can be substantiated against him; no foul spot be visible in his character; no proof brought that he has renounced his profession. He may observe in some measure all the forms of godliness : but he wants the spirit, life, and activity of religion. We cannot say that he is dead: yet he resembles a deeply wounded man, for whom great fears are entertained even while symptoms of life seem discernible.
Ministers, who are conversant with the state of their flocks, generally class people according to their apparent characters, in their private judgment of them. Some are evidently in “ the broad
way;” others are thought more promising, at least they desire to be so esteemed. But, among
some favorable tokens, many things appear very exceptionable: we would hope the best; but“ what “ meaneth this bleating of the sheep and lowing “ of the oxen that we hear?” Something criminal or suspicious is observable in the shop or in the family: some duty is evidently neglected, or slightly perforined: and this damps our fond expectations concerning them. Others are not wholly irreligious, nor is there any remarkable blemish in their conduct: but they are “neither “ cold nor hot :” they do not appear serious, active, or zealous !. and therefore we grieve over them, and stand in doubt as to the event of their profession. But there are some of another description; who are “our hope, and joy, and crown of rejoicing:” may God exceedingly increase the number of them! These are the ornament and credit of the gospel; from them the light shines with efficacious splendour: and their bright example, with the energy of their influence and fruitfulness, counteracts the pernicious tendency of loose profession to wound the interests of truth, and retard its progress.
But let us enumerate some particulars in which lukewarmness especially discovers itself. This may be observed, in the conduct of persons professing attachment to the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, in respect of the ordinances of public worship, and all the means of grace. The lively Christian
says, “ I was glad when they said unto let us go into the house of the Lord.” “O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for
thee, in a dry and thirsty land where no water “ is ; to see thy power and glory, as I have seen “ thee in the sanctuary. Because thy loving kind“ness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” Hence you see him anticipating the opportunity of waiting upon God, as a man expects any season of pleasure and delight; and making preparation lest any thing should deprive him of the satisfaction he expects. He suffers not a trivial hindrance to prevent his attendance on religious duties; and, if he cannot break through intervening obstructions, he finds it difficult to bring his mind into a due resignation to the divine will. He does not inquire how often he is bound to attend the house of God: but rather rejoices when an opportunity offers on any day, which he can embrace consistently with other duties.
On the contrary, the lukewarm come reluctantly to the ordinances of divine worship, and are secretly pleased when an excuse, deemed sufficient, is suggested for absenting themselves. A visit or an invitation from a friend, some trivial business, a slight indisposition, or the inconvenience of unfavourable weather, is no unwelcome hindrance to their attendance at the house of God. The same also is observable in respect of the Lord's supper, in which the lively Christian delights to commemorate the Redeemer's love; unless his mind has entertained some misconception about it. But such frivolous excuses, as keep the lukewarm from public worship, operate still more effectually in leading him to absent himself from the Lord's table : unless it be a convenient part of that form, by which he maintains his credit and quiets his conscience; for in other respects he regards it as a matter of indifference.
We may further observe, that lukewarm persons commonly consider the sermon as the principal object, and think little of joining with reverence and fervency in other parts of divine service. They commonly therefore come late to the places of worship, and disturb the devotions of such as are more zealous. They are also ready to say to ministers, “ Speak to us smooth things ;" * Dis
course on soothing and consolatory topics; avoid ' awful and distinguishing subjects, and do not offend the audience with plain dealing. Such persons are peculiarly attentive to the manner, the voice, and delivery of the preacher: if these be graceful and suited to their taste, they are more easily satisfied in other respects. Above all they recommend brevity : ' Let the sermon be short, 'the prayer short, and make haste to dismiss us.' For they are soon weary of an employment so little congenial to their prevailing disposition. They attend from custom, or amusement, or to pacify conscience; they delight not in the sacred service, and are reluctant to be “ detained before " the Lord.” 1
But, if this be the case as to public worship, what can be expected in respect to family-religion ? If this be not totally neglected, it is very superficially and irregularly conducted. Business, engagements, amusements, or visitants, easily induce the lukewarm to omit it entirely; or it is hurried
11 Sam. xxi. 7.