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ning and getting. When he prays, a number of worldly thoughts rush in; and, by dividing his attention, damp his ardour. He cannot "attend upon the Lord without distraction.”
I speak of certain vanities and amusements; in which, after all the wise and warm have urged, some professors, even of evangelical religion, occasionally indulge themselves. Such characters prove the embarrassment of their teachers, and erase the boundary line which should obviously separate the church from the world, by their passing from one into the other. And, if they will not admit that these diversions are unlawful in themselves, will they, can they deny, that they have a tendency to destroy spirituality of frame, to impair a taste for devotion, to alienate from a life of communion with God, and of preparation for eternity?
I speak of worldly and political conversation; which, so far from tending to the use of edifying, frets the mind, and genders strife: draws off the attention from the divine agency to second causes: attaches us to a party, and leads us to approve of all their proceedings, and cools religious ardour. If we talk most of that which we love best; if from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh—where, habitually, are the thoughts and affections of many professed Christianst Surely, it becomes us to live, so as to “declare plainly that we are strangers and pilgrims upon earth:” surely we should show to all around us, that we only deern one thing needful, and this is the care of the soul. With regard to many things which properly enough belong to others, but would impertinently engage us, we should resemble the devoted Nehemiah: “I sent messengers unto
them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to you?”
Thirdly. Fire may be quenched by the separation of its parts. And this you will apply to our divisions.
With what earnestness does our apostle enforce connexion and co-operation among Christians: “Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. If there be, therefore, any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies; fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the saine love, being of one accord, of one mind.” The enemy knows the importance of union and harmony: he therefore labours to separate; and, unhappily, he finds too much to favour his wishes, in our ignorance, prejudices, bigotry, and infirmities. How comfortable and edifying is it, when believers meet together, not only in one place, but with one accord; when of one heart, and of one soul, they look upon each other with cheerfulness, and embrace each other in holy friendship! “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" It is fragrant as the richest perfume, and refreshing and fertilizing as the dew of heaven. It peculiarly attracts the divine blessing. Hence, says the Saviour,
" If two of you shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father who is in heaven. For, where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." But, how changed is the scene, when there are whisperings, swellings, antipathies, disorders in a Christian church! Its beauty is defaced, its worship is perverted, its strength is impaired, and
* The Spirit, like a peaceful dove,
Flies from the realms of noise and strife.” There are some families who are quarrelling all day, and then go to prayer in the evening; but this is not lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” ČIt were to be wished, that all persons would adopt the important duty of family worship; but it can never be observed in an acceptable or profitable manner, by those who are under the influence of evil passions; and, there is reason to fear, that such will soon lay it aside. Such mixtures and inconsistencies are too shocking to be long continued.] If prayer do not induce people to avoid passion, and brawling, and contentions, these evil tempers will make them leave off prayer, or perform it in a manner worse than the neglect of it. The apostle Peter exhorts husbands and wives to discharge their respective duties," as being heirs together of the grace of life, that their prayers be not hindered."
We may take another view of this part of our subject. One truth aids another truth; and one duty another duty. Detach private devotion from public, or public worship from private, and both sustain an injury. Separate practice from principle, or principle from practice: faith from works, or works from faith; promises from commands, or commands from promises: and in the same proportion, you diminish and destroy the effect of the whole. The flame burns, by keeping these things together.
Fourthly. Fire may be quenched by withholding fuel. A real Christian will soon feel the disadvantage of disregarding the means of grace. Were he, indeed, a mere professor of religion, he would be sensible of no such injury; he has no divine principle to watch over, and to cherish. You may keep in a painted fire without fuel, but a real one cannot be maintained without it, unless by a miracle. But have we reason to expect such a miracle? Is the divine assistance expected to sooth our sloth, or to encourage our exertion? Is it to be expected, in a state of remissness and indif. ference, or in the use of means? 66 The hand of the diligent maketh rich.--For all these things will I be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.-Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my door. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Thus directed and encouraged, believers repair to his word, to his throne, to his house, and to his table, and are not disappointed. They find him in his ordinances; and they know by blessed experience, that he attends to their complaints, enlivens their devotion, helps their infirmities, and supplies all their need from his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. And the case speaks for itself. They who desire soul-prosperity; who would not only have life, but have it more abundantly, will be found most regular, and serious, and diligent in the use of those means which God has appointed for this very purpose, and by which he increases their faith, confirms their hope, and makes all grace to abound toward them.
We cannot quench what we have not. The exhortation, therefore, supposes the possession of the Spirit; and, therefore, I have thus far considered it in reference to Christians. Yet the words may be taken in a more general way. There is a common work of the Spirit that accompanies the preaching of the word, the effect of which may be entirely lost. Thus, we read that " when Herod heard John, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” But he cherished a criminal passion, which destroyed all these fair beginnings. Felix heard Paul. It was his own desire. He wished to be gratified by a relation of the peculiarities of a sect every where spoken against. But Paul, instead of indulging his curiosity, addressed his conscience. " He reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come. And Felix trembled. The judge on the bench trembled before the prisoner at the bar. It was not the apostle's eloquence, alone, that produced this effect. But, instead of aiding this impression, he dismisses the preacher: "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee." But this season never arrived. He afterwards saw the apostle, and conversed with him often, but he never experienced again the feelings he had subdued.
Let the hearers of the gospel remember this. Beware how you stifle your convictions, and “do despite unto the Spirit of grace. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near.” He has said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."