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more he display, herald, het
more shall that be found in the day which is especially set apart for the display of God's righteous judgments. The Prophet Isaiah, as God's herald, received this awful commission: “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. But woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his deeds shall be given him?.” And this do we also proclaim. For the righteous is reserved a state of unutterable joy; but for the wicked, a state of utter exclusion from the realms of bliss,“ in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone," " where is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” If the present inequalities of his dispensations lead us to expect this, much more does that previous distribution of good and evil which is even now accorded to men in correspondence with their moral habits. What is at this moment felt in the minds of the different characters, may well teach us what to expect in the day of judgment; even a separation of the righteous and the wicked; the one to everlasting fire; and the other to everlasting life, and blessedness, and glory.] Let me now, from this subject, RECOMMEND, 1. Religion in general
[It is this which makes the chief difference between different men. The prince on his throne, and the beggar on the dunghill, are but little apart in comparison of “the good” and “the sinner.” Piety sets men asunder, as far as light from darkness, heaven from hell. Let those then amongst you, who would be happy either here or hereafter, give yourselves up to God, and approve yourselves to him. Only be “ good in his sight," and happiness will be yours, both in time and in eternity.] 2. A due improvement of all that you possess
[To squander it away in self-indulgence, or to hoard it for some future possessor, will be alike foolish and vain. Neither of these modes of employing wealth can ever make you happy. The serving of God, and the benefiting of your fellow-creatures, will, on the contrary, bring peace and joy into the soul: for “ the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever." Not that any liberality of yours can ever form a ground of hope before God in a way of merit: all that you have is the Lord's: and it is only of his own that you give him: but if you are seeking righteousness and salvation by Christ alone, then will your works be accepted for Christ's sake: and whatever you dispose of for the advancement of his glory, he will acknowledge it as “lent to him, and he will pay you again.” The talents that are improved for him, shall receive, in due proportion, a recompence at his hands.]
i Isai. ii. 10, 11.
DUTY OF PAYING OUR vows. Eccl. v. 4, 5, When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to
pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools : pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
THE offering of vows was extremely common under the Mosaic dispensation; and many laws were instituted in relation to them. By them persons bound themselves to the performance of certain things which were not specifically appointed of God. Some were conditional, and depended on some mercy which should be previously bestowed by Goda : and others were absolute, and to be performed by the persons at all events. Respecting vows made by persons who were under the government of others, especial provision was made, under what circumstances, and to what extent, they should be binding . In cases where the vows themselves were not lawful, the person sinned, whether he performed them or noto; and in some cases at least, the violation of them was less criminal than the observanced: but where they were not in themselves contrary to any command of God, there they were to be punctually fulfilled, and without delay.
We propose, on the present occasion, to consider, I. The vows which you have made — These are doubtless very comprehensive
[The things promised for us in our baptism, are contained under the following heads: first, that we should "renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh: next, that we should believe all the articles of the Christian faith: and lastly, that we should keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of our life.” 'In our confirmation we take these vows upon ourselves. Let us consider them distinctly --- Let us often revolve them in our minds, and cry
a Gen. xxviii. 20—22. 1 Sam. i. 11. b Numb. xxx. 3—15. c ver. 6.
d Matt. xiv. 6—10. Acts xxiii. 12. e This is intended for an Address after Confirmation ; but may be easily changed to a Preparatory Address.
mightily to God for grace to assist us in the performance of them: for“who is sufficient for these things'?” —--]
But the duties to which they bind us are highly reasonable
[We universally consider children as bound to obey their parents, and servants their masters: but what parent has such a claim upon us as God, since from him we derive our whole existence and support? “in him we live and move and have our being :” or what master is entitled to such an unreserved compliance with his will, as God, whom all the angels in heaven obey ? God himself founds his claim to our allegiance upon these very principles; “ A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if I then be a Father, where is mine honour ? and if I be a Master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of Hosts 8." And indeed the most unrestricted devotion of all our faculties to his service is expressly called by him, not only an acceptable, but a reasonable services.]
These duties are binding upon us independently of any vows which we may make respecting them
[They arise from our very relation to God as his creatures, and more especially as his redeemed people. The potter is undoubtedly entitled to the use of the vessels which his own hands have formed. Even if our services were ever so painful, we should have no right to complain: “ the thing formed could not, under any circumstances, presume to say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thusi?” But, as we have before observed, the whole of what we have taken upon ourselves is a truly reasonable service : and therefore it would be the height of impiety to hesitate for a moment in giving up ourselves unreservedly to God.
But God has redeemed us also, and that too by the blood of his only dear Son; “ We are not our own; we are bought with a price; and therefore we are bound from this consideration also to glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are his." It is not optional with us, whether we will surrender to him what he has so dearly purchased: we cannot alienate it, we cannot withhold it; whether we make any vow respecting it, or not, we are equally bound to employ all our faculties for God: and the only reason we wish you to take these vows upon you is, not to increase your obligations to serve him, much less
f It would be easy to divide this subject into three or four; closing the first at this place; making the remaining part of this head into a second ; forming the second head into a third sermon; and the concluding address into a fourth. 8 Mal. i. 6.
h Rom. xii. 1. i Rom. ix. 20.
to create obligations which did not exist before, but to impress your own minds with a sense of those duties which are indissolubly connected with every child of man.]
But to bind ourselves to these things by solemn vows is a duty truly and properly evangelical
[Some would imagine this to be a legal act: and if we were to engage in it with a view to establish a righteousness of our own, or with an idea of performing our duties in our own strength, it would then indeed be legal: but if, in humble dependence on divine aid, we devote ourselves to God, it is no other act than that which God himself has specified as characterizing his people under the Gospel dispensation. The very manner in which this act shall be performed is also specified; and it is particularly foretold, that all who are duly influenced by Gospel principles shall animate one another to the performance of it?.]
Such then are the vows which we have made : they are comprehensive indeed, but highly reasonable, and relating only to things which are in themselves necessary; and the making of which is as much a duty under the Gospel dispensation, as ever it was under the Law.
We now proceed to notice,
But how shall this be painted in any adequate terms? In it is bound up,
1. Our comfort in life
[Many foolishly imagine, that a life devoted unto God must be one continued scene of melancholy. But is not the very reverse declared in Scripture? “The work of righteousness is peace,” says the prophet: and “the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever.” Yes, “Godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come: and we will venture to appeal to the consciences of all, whether even the greatest despisers of religion do not think that truly pious people are happier than they? In the very nature of things it must be, that they who are delivered from the tyranny of their lusts are happier than those who are yet bondslaves of sin and Satan : their minds must be more tranquil, and their consciences more serene. But if we take into the account, that God “will manifest himself to his faithful servants as he does not unto the world,” and “shed abroad his love in * Isai. xix. 21.
i Jer. 1. 4, 5.
their hearts,” and “ fill them with a peace that passeth understanding, and joy that is unspeakable,” we can have no doubt but that religion's ways are ways of pleasantness," and that “ in keeping God's commandments there is great reward.” In proof of this, we need only see with what delight David contemplated the paying of his vows to Godm: and the more we resemble him in the ardour of his piety, the more shall we resemble him also in the sublimity of his joys.] 2. Our hope in death
[What must be the prospects of an ungodly man in his dying hour? When he looks back upon all his duties neglected, all his vows broken, and his eternal interests sacrificed to the things of time and sense, what must he think of the state to which he is hastening? He may try to comfort himself with his own vain delusions; but he will feel a secret consciousness that he is building on the sand. Hence it is, that those who will not give themselves up to God, are so averse to hear of death and judgment: they know that, if the Scriptures be true, and God be such a God as he is there represented, they have nothing to expect but wrath and fiery indignation. It is the godly only who can feel composed and happy in the near approach of death : they, when the time of their departure is at hand, can look forward with joy to " that crown of glory which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give them.” “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace."] 3. Our welfare in eternity
[“ God will surely put a difference between those who served him here, and those who served him not." Hear what Solomon says to us in the text: “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it: for God hath no pleasure in fools." No indeed ; God can have no pleasure in those who never delighted themselves in him. How is it possible that he should receive to his bosom those who spent their whole lives in rebellion against him? He shews his abhorrence of them by the very name whereby he designates them in the words before us : he calls them “ fools," and will leave them to reap the bitter fruits of their folly. We may see how indignant God was against Zedekiah for violating a covenant whereby he had engaged to hold the kingdom of Judah as tributary to the king of Babylon". What indignation then must he feel against those who have violated all their engagements with him! If the neglect of vows made by compulsion to an oppressive enemy be so criminal, what must be the neglect of vows voluntarily
m Ps. xxii. 25. and lxvi. 13, 14. n Ezek. xvii. 11-21. Cite the whole of this.