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God, and His Son Jesus Christ. When holiness called you to her service in former times, how deaf an ear did you turn! Are you equally deaf at present to the allurements of your old tyrant, sin? Are your feet as active in the path, which leads to church, as they once were in those ways, which led to shame and guilty pleasure? Are you as free from evil thoughts, as you used to be from pious meditation? this be not the case, never dream that you are really a servant of God; since your common sense will tell you, that God must, at least, require as hearty obedience from His subjects, as the devil, from his infatuated slaves; and since your conscience will tell you, that your labour, in the cause of evil, was far more active and zealous, than that, of which you now boast yourself, in the cause of holiness and Heaven. It is thus, that the children of this world are said to be, in their generation, wiser than the children of light. It is not, that they are wiser in the objects, which they pursue; for they are, in comparison, mean and wretched. It is not, that they are wiser in the master, whom they have chosen to serve; for they serve the common enemy of God, and of their own souls; they serve that wretched evil spirit, who neither has it in his power to do them any good in return; nor, if he had the power, has the inclination to cause them anything but misery. But,
in this respect, they are wiser than the children of light; because, having made their choice between good and evil, they abide by the choice which they have made; because, having entered into the service of hell, they do the work required of them, with readiness, with activity, with patience; and because, preferring as they do, however foolishly, the praise of men to the praise of God, and the interests and amusements of a few years to the glory and happiness of eternity, they take, at least, the wisest and the surest means of obtaining those objects, which they chiefly value. And, miserably blind and foolish as they are in making such an option, they are, at least, in their generation, more consistent, than those who, while they call themselves the children of light, and profess an impatient desire of Heaven, take no means at all, no proper means, at least, of forwarding the object, to which they worthily affix so great a value.
Two men, we may suppose, are setting out on very different journeys; but both one and the other, in pursuit of that, which they respectively esteem most highly. Now, if one of them goes forward steadily to his purpose; omitting no opportunity of quickening his pace; resisting all entreaty to turn from that broad and beaten path, which he travels; occupied altogether with that, which he most wishes for; and careful to
let nothing pass unnoticed, which may eventually favour his designs: - and if we saw the other, continually halting at the least difficulty, which presented itself; continually looking round him at every trifling object, which might serve to divert his attention; continually leaving the direct road, to pick up flowers and straws; and but too often doing things, which he well knew were likely for ever to disappoint the purposes of his journey; and if, of these two men, we were told, that the first was going to drown himself; and the other to receive an estate, to which he had become entitled; should we not say, in our hearts, the first man is indeed a madman for desiring destruction; but he shows, at least, his wisdom, in the means, which he employs in the prosecution of that his purpose? But what folly, or idiotcy, can equal that of the other; who is throwing away so fair a hope, as lies before him, in utter idleness and folly; who loses, at once, both the pleasures of indulgence, and the reward of self-denial; and, while he knows and dreads the consequences of his inconsistency, cannot, for pure weakness, resolve to be consistent. Is it not plain, that, in this case, the very worthiness of the object thus negligently followed, is the strongest rebuke of that negligence, which we display? Is it not plain, that the goodness of the Master, whom we serve, is the very circumstance, which sets,
in the worst and strongest light, our folly, our base ingratitude, in serving Him thus carelessly? And will not this disobedience, and thanklessness, be strangely contrasted with that zeal, which we once showed, in the cause of the world, and of the wicked one? When did we complain, that a day employed in sin was wearisome? When did we, in the days of our wickedness, lose an opportunity of acquiring ungodly gain? And can we, now that we are the servants, yea, the sons, of God Most High, find His sabbaths a burthen; and His services, tedious; and regret, as we do, any little sacrifice of comfort, or of interest, which He calls on us to make, in His cause, and as evidence of our love to Him? Alas, my friends, if we would but yield the same obedience to our Maker and Redeemer, in our regenerate state, as we have often given to the enemies of both, while we were slaves to sin; little more would be wanting to rank us among the most forward and most fortunate soldiers of Christ; and among those, for whom the crowns of glory are already woven in Paradise; and whom the harps of angels shall receive in triumph along the golden streets of Heaven! All that is required of us, all that God expects, or commands, so far as our active duties are concerned, is comprised in the words, which have been read to you, that "as ye have yielded your members (servants to iniquity)
unto iniquity, so now yield your members (servants to righteousness) unto holiness."
Nor is there any way more likely so to affect our minds, as to produce these corresponding fruits in our conduct, than the due consideration and comparison, in the manner recommended by the apostle, of the rewards, which our rival masters, God, and Mammon, are severally able to offer. What fruit, we may ask ourselves, with reason, what fruit had we in those things, whereof we are now ashamed? And the answer will follow, [unless we wilfully blind our eyes to it,] that the end of those things is death; eternal death of body and of soul. from the Scriptures, that it was brought death into the world at all. from experience, that it is sin, by which, in every state of life, the progress of death is hastened, his ravages multiplied, his dominion extended over the world, in its most horrible and disgusting form. By Adam's sin, indeed, a necessity is entailed on us of, sooner or later, dying. But how long might we live, and in how much comparative happiness, if sin did not shorten our days; if the excesses of youth did not weaken our constitutions; if the offences of parents were not visited, and set forth, in the weak and sickly frames of their unfortunate children! How many perish by slow disease, which a resistance of temptation might have