Изображения страниц

and he who should attempt to separate them, would be guilty of the fearful crime, of preaching another gospel than that which Christ and his apostles taught. We must not only, therefore, devote ourselves to the frequent contemplation of the mercies of our redemption in Christ Jesus, but we must also seek to please him in all things, we must conform ourselves, with the assistance of his grace, to those precepts and principles which he has enjoined upon us. When we bear this in mind, and look upon

the world around us, what a frightful picture do we behold of its indifference to the calls of religion. How little anxiety do we see displayed amongst men, to do the will of the Saviour who redeemed them; how negligent do they in general appear of the high and holy service to which they are called. We may be made the children of God, and yet we are contented too often to remain far from his family and the courts of his tabernacle. Children of God! Alas! the complexion of human society is too often stained with blemishes, which proclaim but too truly, that few are they who shall be saved. If we could separate from their brethren, the adulterer, the drunkard, the defrauder, the swearer, the liar, the vain, the proud, the careless, the lukewarm, and the unbeliever, I fear that the number who could pronounce themselves free from

the wilful commission of these, and similar offences, would be small indeed. If the cry were made, who is on the Lord's side, who? it might scarcely, perhaps be more abundantly answered, than it was when Jehu raised it within the gates of the harlot Jezebel. It is hard to conceive, how the thoughts of what must come hereafter should be so banished from the sinner's heart, as to render him insensible to the inevitable consequences of his present depravity. It is hard to imagine, that the knell of death should be so continually sounding in his ears, and yet inflict no terrors upon his soul. It is strange that he should so labour for the meat that perisheth, that he should heap up treasures in a world which must early pass away from before him, and from which he cannot carry one grain of comfort to support him through the long eternity of God's vengeance. Where is that reason of which he boasts so much? Where are his faculties of thought, of memory, of prudence, in which he is so prone to pride himself? Oh! fearful must be the power of sin, which can tbus cloud every brighter endowment of our nature, and lead us submissive in its train, although we know that such submission can guide us only to misery. Alas! what a scene of bloodshed, of strife, of intemperance, of unballowed and lawless indnlgence, has this earth been made by its accursed agency?

See how it tempts men to defraud, to deceive, to hate each other. Look at the gambler's board, where the demon of avarice rules and reigos supreme. It matters not whether the stake you play for, be pounds or pence; whether the rich man casts down his superfluous gold, or the poor man ventures the earnings of his labour. There is the same feverish anxiety, the same unholy excitement, in both cases. Men are striving for that which endureth not, and striving for it too not in an honest and upright course, but in fear and passion and malevolence. Here sin riots, here spreads her snares and entraps her victims. Look again where that band of men are assembled together to drink until reason is lost, and the brain is maddened. Sin is busy there too, leading them on to destruction, and tempting them to barter their soul's safety for the gratification of a moment. In truth, if we look around us, we shall find ourselves beset with temptations and allurements; we shall see our path strewed with stumbling-blocks; and dangers lurking in almost every indulgence and gratification.

Now the holiness which the gospel requires, commands us to keep ourselves unspotted from all these defilements, to present our bodies, “ a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” It enjoins us to be perfect, as our Father wbich is in heaven is perfect; and whatever we do, to “ do all to the glory of God.” It is a fearful consideration to reflect upon these injunctions to holiness, and then to call to mind how

far our lives are from that standard which the gospel has set up. My brethren, for every idle word we must give an account at the day of judgment. And who is there amongst us, that can hold himself guiltless of this fearful charge? It is clear then, that the rule of purity which the Scripture proposes, is very different from that by which the world ordinarily measures the actions and conversation. We generally consider as sins, those deeds alone by which some injury is done to our fellow-creatures. We are too prone to be guided in our ideas of holiness, either by the laws of the country in which we live, or the opinion of the society in which we dwell: that is, we esteem an act as sinful or not, according as we are liable to be punished for it at the bar of public justice or public opinion. And herein we do most fatally deceive ourselves ; for we shall find, on a very slight examination, that there are many actions which God has declared he will visit with his heaviest vengeance, to which no penalty is attached by human laws or human customs. We are much too easily satisfied about the nature of sin ; we draw too great a distinction between crimes. We fall into this error, and a dangerous error it is. We seem to con


sider that God looks upon guilt with the same eyes with which we ourselves bebold it. Now in our estimation of things, there appears to be a mighty difference between the guilt of a man who murders his neighbour to gratify his vengeance,

and that of him who is contented to satiate his enmity in a less violent manner. The culprit who steals an apple from a stall, is deemed a far less atrocious offender, than he who forcibly enters the dwelling of another, and rifles it of its wealth. So the man, who should through malice break down his neighbour's fence, would meet but with a trifling punishment when compared with that fearful doom, which would have been awarded him, had he, in the gratification of the same evil passion, spread the flames of desolation in his garners and his thresbing-floors. It is this distinction of crimes, which leads us into such perilous mistakes. We appear as if we imagined ourselves to stand in the same relation to God as we do to each other. Now nothing can be more erroneous than this. Human laws take cognizance only of those offences by which life or property is threatened or injured; and according to the extent of the mischief done or intended, so is the punishment proportioned. Hence, since the man who pilfers to the value of a penny, does much less injury than he who purJoins to a greater amount, his offence is less se

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »