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I hesitate not to place before you in all their strength the inducements you have to abandon sin and perfect holiness in the fear of God. It is for your interest as a being susceptible of pleasure and pain, to accept the overtures of the gospel message. In no other way can you insure mental tranquillity, or escape the anguish of an irritated and upbraiding conscience. "The way of transgressors is hard." "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." So long as you cherish sin in your bosom, it will bite like a serpent and sting like an adder. But put it away, and take to your heart the gospel that bringeth salvation, and you shall know what is meant by peace in believing. Its balmy influence shall be to the soul emollient, healthful and invigorating, fitting it for duty on earth and felicity in heaven.
Need I say more to convince you that religion is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life? I add, then, that it is essential
2. To your support under the trials of life.
You are called, in the providence of God, to suffer some painful bereavement. Your parents are smitten down, and you are left an orphan, homeless and friendless, in a cold and selfish world. Or the child which God has given you, and which your affections have embraced with idolatrous strength, droops and withers in your arms, and you are obliged to lay it away with the sleeping dead. Or the companion of your life is suddenly torn from your side, and in all the desolateness of widowhood, like the vine, whose supporting oak has been riven by heaven's lightning, you lie prostrate and helpless, with your thousand divided tendrils quivering and bleeding. What, in such circumstances, what can you do without the consolations of the Christian religion? If the mines of both hemispheres were to empty their glittering treasures at your feet, would you feel indemnified for your loss? What can the whole world do for your relief? Can you mention any thing connected with earth that has power to sooth your anguish, or allay the surges of a mind that is now emphatically like the troubled sea which cannot rest? Go, ye worldlings, to the recently bereaved;to her whose poignant affliction has drawn around her the sympathy of thousands;-go and offer all ye have to give, and you only inflame the griefs which need to be assuaged. She asks not that you would restore her dead to life; she asks not that you recover from ocean's depths the cold, blanched form of the loved one who left her and never returned; but she asks that you will point her to a Friend in whose ear she can tell all her sorrows, and not be mocked with the plea of inability to relieve ;-she asks for the outstretching of an arm on which she can lean, assured that it will sustain her confiding spirit ;-she asks for the interposition of one who can say to the billowy deep of her soul, peace, be still, and there shall be a great calm. Ye children of sense and earthliness! Ye votaries of a Christless philosophy! Ye repudiators of the Bible! What can ye do to alleviate the woes of the stricken one? Stand off with your folly, and give place to the religion of Him who came to bind up the broken hearted, to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the
spirit of heaviness;-of Him who says, Leave thy fatherless children and let thy widows trust in me;-of Him who can so rectify the views and feelings that the sufferer shall cheerfully and serenely say, The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. The Christian religion, cordially embraced, administers precisely the needed solace. And this it does, not by restoring the lost-not by destroying the sensibility of natural affection-but by producing such a spirit of pious resignation to the divine will as stanches the streaming grief, and binds up and heals the wound. The sovereignty of God is acknowledged, his wisdom is seen and adored, and submission is felt to his ways as distinguished by equity and benevolence. The great principle, God is love, is distinctly recognized, and upon that principle, as upon eternal rock, the soul rests its whole weight with all its cares and burdens.
Yes, in the trials of life, however mysterious or overwhelming, the religion of Christ comes with relief that nothing else supplies, and it is always the relief which is needed. Easily could I conduct you to scenes where you would witness conclusive exhibitions of this truth-where you would see the infinite difference between the power of religion and the power of the world to sustain and cheer under similar calamities. Oh, yes, there is in Gilead a balm for the wounded spirit; there is a Physician acquainted with your miseries, and able and willing to relieve. If any man thirst, says the sympathizing Savior, let him come unto me and drink. Come unto me all ye that labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Casting yourself, perishing sinner, upon his mercy, you have a Savior who will not mock your confidence,-a friend who will not forsake you in adversity. If your way shall lie through much tribulation, his promise is, As thy day shall thy strength be.
O how true that religion is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life. Let me add that it is essential
3. To your fitness for the eternal world.
It is appointed unto men once to die. That body, on which you dote so fondly, and for the feeding and clothing of which, your time and faculties are so largely engrossed, shall return to the earth as it was. That ⚫ soul, now so criminally and cruelly neglected, shall return to God who gave it. In the hour of dissolution, when time shall close, and eternity open, if you feel anything, you will feel the need of something more than human to bear you up and cheer you in the gloomy vale. In that trying hour the believer can say, my heart and my flesh faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Yea through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Yes, and he can triumphantly challenge the king of terrors; O death where is thy sting? But if you are not then a Christian, you you will find the passage dreary and comfortless beyond description, And e're the friends that weep around you shall have decided whether the soul has actually taken its departure, that soul will have made its appearance before a holy God, and received its sentence to depart until the final trump shall call it up for judgment.
The word of God is very explicit touching the preparation necessary to your admission into heaven. Depraved in nature, ye must be born again, or ye cannot see the kingdom of God. Guilty of actual transgression, ye must repent or perish. Condemned already, with the wrath of God abiding upon you, ye must be pardoned and restored to divine favor, or be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. Great changes must take place in both the character and condition of your soul, or heaven's gates will be closed against you.
"None shall obtain admittance there
In this respect, then, religion is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life-pre-eminently and emphatically YOUR LIFE. Only by embracing the religion of Christ can these needful changes be effectuated. Dead in trespasses and sins, you are quickened by the Spirit of God and made a new creature; your heart throbs with new principles, new affections, new desires, and you walk forth in newness of life. Penitent for your sins, condemning yourself and justifying God, you are freely forgiven for Jesus' sake. Sensible of your unworthiness to appear before God, you are accepted upon the ground of the Savior's merits and made welcome to all the blessings of the kingdom of heaven. He who bled on the cross, and now intercedes above, is made unto you Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption, so that you are complete in him.
Thus personally and graciously interested in the Lord Jesus, you meet death with holy intrepidity, and rise with triumph to join the assembly around the throne, and help to swell the hallelujah that fills the eternal regions-Worthy is the Lamb that was slain-Hosanna in the highest!
I speak as to wise men. Is a religion that can do all this for you, a vain thing? Is that a vain thing which alone can give you peace of conscience; which alone can support you under the trials of life; which alone can light up the valley over which death stretches his gloomy shadow; which alone can fit you for a place in the paradise above, and raise you to happy and eternal companionship with saints, and seraphs, and God? It is your life. Without it, you are undone, now and forever.
A SHORT SERMON.
"Lord what wilt thou have me to do ?"-Acts ix: 6.
"A great many persons think they wish to enter God's service, when they really do not. Ascertain first then, whether you desire to serve God, by considering what that service is.
1. It will in the first place, require you to give up at once, every thing which he has forbidden. There are certain known and open sins condemned by his moral law, which must be entirely and for ever abandoned or you cannot be his. One man allows himself certain practices in his dealings with others which his conscience secretly tells him are wrong, and he is unwilling to give them up. His heart clings to them, and they stand like an impassable wall, between his soul and salvation. Another is engaged in a calling, which is ruinous to the souls and bodies of his fellow men. A third violates the Sabbath, by bringing into it secretly, his business or his pleasure, and a fourth indulges in habits which his own conscience and the word of God distinctly condemn. They all perhaps think they wish to become Christians, and often say that they do not know how to begin! They read the Bible, and perhaps offer cold and formal prayers, and even take their place among religious inquirers, but the way is dark before them. They find no peace or happiness in piety, but it is just because they are not willing to renounce the pleasures of sin. He therefore, who thinks he wishes to give himself up to God, should look carefully within, examine faithfully his conduct and character, and see whether there is nothing which he knows is wrong, and which he is nevertheless unwilling to abandon ;-if there is, it is vain to think that he wishes to become a Christian. He prefers sin.
2. It is not only necessary to renounce what God has forbidden, but to devote yourself to the work of doing what he requires. A large
portion of the human race seem to have no idea of the design with which they were created. Hence they seem fully satisfied with themselves if they are not doing any thing which can be shown to be positively in itself, wrong. They seem never to think of the guilt of neglecting the work which God has placed them here to do. A man, for example, will give himself up entirely to the pursuit of pleasure. His whole time is employed in finding or making enjoyments for himself. He is careful perhaps not to fall into any immorality, and then he says, what harm can there be in a little innocent amusement. He thinks those are fanatical who object to such a life as he leads. Mistaken man! God has placed you in this world, not to amuse yourself, but to do a great work for him, and the charge against you is not so much the intrinsic wickedness of what you do, as the guilt of neglecting what God has commanded you to do.
A husbandman employs laborers to work in his vineyard, but instead of entering faithfully upon their work, they sit down upon a green bank and spend their hours in idleness, or else engage together in some athletic game. One, more faithful than the rest, attends to his duty, and perhaps points the rest, occasionally, to the employer's neglected work, and warns them of his displeasure.
"What a narrow-minded, fanatical fellow is this!" says one in reply. "What harm can there be in a little innocent enjoyment?"
"None at all," answers another. "Our employer is a benevolent man. His object is our happiness, and he wishes us to use the opportunities for enjoyment which he puts into our hands. He cannot wish to interrupt our pleasures."
So saying they turned away from their faithful companion, and give themselves up again to their pleasures. Other laborers see the example of idleness and unfaithfulness which they set, and follow it; and they all quiet apprehension as to the future, by persuading themselves that their employer is too merciful a man even to dismiss them from his service, and thus bring them and their innocent families to wart and suffering.
'Tis just so with men. God stations them in this world to accomplish certain purposes which he plainly marks out. We are commanded to devote our time and all our powers to the work of promoting holiness and happiness all around us, and of preparing ourselves and others for our final home. One man, neglecting these objects altogether, devotes himself entirely to the work of acquiring property, simply for the pleasure of feeling and saying that he possesses it. In this work he is entirely absorbed. He rises early and lies down late; he is industrious, and frugal, and watchful; but the object of all is simply the increasing of his stores. He spends his life in this work, never thinking of what God has given him to do in this world, or if he thinks of it, he has no intention of doing it. The unhappy man must find at last, that though there may be, in itself, no sin in acquiring property, there is great sin in spending a whole life in the entire neglect of the real business which God had assigned him.