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to those who neither deserve it nor avail themselves of the proper means to obtain it. On the contrary, their case will be similar to that of the unprofitable servant spoken of by our Lord, and for their carelessness and inattention they will be deprived of the means of salvation which has previously been in their power, and be suffered to relapse still further in ignorance and sin. It is not, indeed, analogous to any thing with which we are acquainted, that man should remain stationary, without either improving himself or becoming worse : if he advance not he will inevitably recede, and then we know how difficult are the means and how uncertain the chances of his recovery. Like the relapsed demoniac, seven evil spirits will probably return together with the one which had been previously dislodged, and his latter state will be incomparably worse than the first. Let none of us, therefore, as we regard our future welfare, treat religion either lightly or as an affair which concerns us not; but let us be assured that, if we apply it not to our advantage, it will unavoidably tend to our destruction. Let us remember, that though“God is indeed faithful, and will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able;" yet it is only on the condition that we ask him not to lead us into temptation or to deliver us from evil when once thrown in our way; it is only by these means that we shall find a way to escape or become enabled to bear it without submitting to its assaults.
If it be evident, therefore, from the observations
which have been offered on the present subject, that the particular state in which we exist by nature requires that we should be exposed to trials of faith and temptations from the great enemy of our souls ; and if it be likewise equally evident that the Almighty, in his infinite mercy towards us, has provided such means as are requisite to enable us to overcome these temptations, though only on condition that we avail ourselves of the proper method to obtain his aid, certainly we shall be wanting in gratitude to Heaven, as well as in zeal for our own wel. fare, if we neglect to attain so great salvation. It may easily be asserted, that the Almighty might have conducted us to heaven by an easier route than what is pointed out by the precepts of the Gospel ; that he might either have planted virtuous inclinations in our nature, or else have inspired us with such heavenly assistance as would have enabled us to resist temptation without any exertion of our. selves, or doing the least violence to our natural wishes. Those persons, however, who make such unwarranted assertions are certainly guided by the false suggestions of human reason, or by their own fallacious ideas of truth. No one will attempt to dispute the state of innocence in which Adam and Eve were created, yet was it necessary, as a test of their obedience, that some temptation should be presented to their view. In like manner, then, as I have before observed, since so great a boon has been granted us as the expiatory sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross, it is but fair and reasonable
that we should shew our gratitude to Heaven by a sacrifice of our own corrupt propensities to a compliance with its commands. Let us, moreover, reflect that one of the chief attributes of the Divinity is justice; and it would ill have comported with this justice, to have pardoned a sinner before he had given some proof of his repentance and amendment by forsaking his past misdeeds and turning unto God. Were this plan to be adopted in human transactions, we are aware that nothing but insecurity to individuals and general disorder could result from it. In the former case, therefore, the objections would be equally great, although perhaps not equally clear to human understanding. The truth indeed is, that while the Almighty in his inscrutable wisdom has displayed the strictest justice in his dealings with mankind, he has in no respect forgotten his divine attribute of mercy, and has, therefore, provided us with all the means and assistance which our weak and sinful nature requires to enable us to enjoy peace on earth and to obtain everlasting happiness in the world to come. In order, therefore, that the justice and mercy of God might be reconciled to each other, temptations have of necessity been cast, and will be cast, in our way; yet “ hath there no temptation taken us but such as is common and necessary to man: as God is faithful, and will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it.”
All, then, who are here present, I would recommend to remember, that this life is, as it must necessarily have been, a state of trial and probation; and, as by the transgression of our first parents, our nature became sinful and inclined to evil, so it required the extraordinary interposition of God to enable us to perform that which is right and acceptable to Him. The necessary aid is, consequently, granted us by the operation of His Holy Spirit; notwithstanding which, after we have done all that we can do, we shall have left many things undone which we ought to have done, and be therefore accounted “unprofitable servants.” This deficiency, however, the Almighty has promised to pardon for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ, who equally partook of the divine and human nature; yet even in his latter capacity was perfectly righteous, and, therefore, bore the penalty due to our unrighteousness. For these reasons did we enter into a covenant with God at our baptism, agreeably to the outline I have just given of our Christian faith: the promises which were then made by others, were renewed and taken upon ourselves at the solemn ordinance of Confirmation. I would, therefore, exhort all to reflect on these promises with seriousness and devotion, and pray their Almighty Creator that he will send his Holy Spirit to assist them in these their laudable endeavours, for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ, their Mediator and Redeemer.
“ Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto
you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
It will not be impertinent to the present occasion, to remind
that this day has been appropriated by the church, from her earliest infancy, to the commemoration of two of our Saviour's apostles, St. Simon and St. Jude. In the catalogue of the twelve apostles, it will be remembered that each of these names is applied to two different persons. There were Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot, and likewise the two apostles commemorated on this day, Simon called Zelotes, and Jude, or Judas, the brother of James
On an occasion of this sort it would have been desirable to take a slight historical survey of the
a The festival of St. Simon and St. Jude.