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prayer, as pious worshippers who seek the Lord; " and they sit before Thee, as my people;"—they range themselves round the pulpit of instruction, as the congregation of the Lord; “and they hear thy words ;"—they listen, or affect to listen, to the expounder of the oracles of God; “ but they will not do them.” Nay, they exhibit some external signs of zeal and devotion ; “ for with their mouth they show much love;" but it is only the homage of the lip; for “ their heart goeth after their covetousness." Avarice, sensuality, and the world's vanities and delights, have engrossed their minds and captivated their affections.
Would to heaven this inconsistency and folly could only be charged on that age and nation ! But it is the picture of all times. Christian churches, as well as Jewish synagogues, are too often frequented by lukewarm disciples, who have obedient ears, but obdurate hearts. They come, through custom and education, to worship in the same mode in which their fathers wor, shipped—or with the hope of amusement—as the world's children haunt the public show, to get rid of time, or be gratified with sound.
“ For lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well upon an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not.”
Things present, things that come into immediate contact with their senses, occupy ninetenths of mankind. Indeed, secular attractions are so incessantly operating, and their influence is so powerful, that we have, all of us, perpetual occasion to counteract their overbearing tendency. Nevertheless, the future cannot be entirely forgotten; for even present objects will sometimes lead us on to those that are remote. The common occurrences and casualties of life, -sickness, accident, the loss of parents, brethren, neighbours ; the occasional sight of the parochial cemetery crowded with tombs and monuments of the dead; the heavy toll of the passing bell; all, or any of these mementos, awaken the most thoughtless to some casual recollection of mortality. Nay, even those free and liberal thinkers, as they are sometimes called, who affect to laugh at the fictions imbibed in childhood, and treat the awful doctrines of Christianity as the tales of the nursery, and the legends of the priesthood ;—even these gay despisers have their moments of reflection, when they cannot
forbear to ask themselves this question,“ What becomes of the man, when the actuating energy, which now moves his limbs and suggests his ideas, forsakes the cold and torpid frame ?" At any rate, those who retain any thing like the shadow of belief, cannot but be anxious at times, however they may be busied in the concerns of the world, to hear and learn something respecting the world to come.
Thus, in spite of the allurements of profit and pleasure, there is still, among all descriptions of men, a half-smothered spark of faith, a faint glow of religion, which, if it be insufficient to kindle much hope, is enough to raise some degree of fear. They therefore enrol themselves with some sect of believers. They are members, either of the Romish, or Lutheran, or Calvinistic Church, or some less distinguished sect; they join in the mode of worship of one or other of these different denominations, and hear their respective teachers;
They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words:" they hear—but that is all ; for what does this hearing produce? The doctrine, perhaps, is allowed to be true, the arguments conclusive, the inferences just, the obliga
tions, resulting from the whole, evident and important. If the speaker be endowed with any powers of rhetoric, they have been amused and gratified, as with some theatric exhibition or engaging drama; but the scene closes, and the congregation retain much less of the sermon than the audience of the play; for the morrow comes and brings with it the pleasures, and the cares, and the riches of the world; and the doctrine, the argument, the obligation, of the preceding day, are, indeed, as the voice of the song, or the tune of the, instrument, as transient, as evanescent, and as unprofitable ; for “ they hear thy words, but they will not do them.”
I fear this is too just a delineation, not of our Church or our people, but of all sects and parties. Real, heartfelt, apostolic faith, which must end in apostolic practice, is confined to a number comparatively small. They may be described in the language of Isaiah," as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough.” The simplicity which is in Christ is despised, and we are involving ourselves in cloud and obscurity. There has been, and is, much stir and talk about religion : churches are consecrated, chapels built, preachers sent forth from every quarter, missionaries embarked for the east and the west, societies established, tracts dispersed; even female visitors are strolling from house to house, and congregations gathered round us; but I would see the effects of all this in the transactions of public and private life; in the intercourse of society; in the traffic of the world. The interested, the credulous, and the ignorant, are ready enough to cry, “Lo, here is Christ, and lo, he is there ;" but He himself hath warned us, “ Believe it not-Go not after them.” The interested and artful, who are ever on the watch to take advantage of every humour and fashion of the day, will not spare religion ; they will endeavour to make a gain, even of godliness ; and the credulous and superstitious are always inclined to “heap to themselves teachers," who
bring strange things to their ears,” deal largely in dreams and impulses, and make abundance of faith compensate for lack of virtue ; while the common herd, who think little and reason not at all, are ever eager to run after the popular rhapsodist, who confidently tells them,
“ Behold, Christ is in the desert,-behold, Christ is in the secret chambers;" whereas, in truth, he is neither in the desert nor in the chamber. His name