Page images
PDF
EPUB

yet, --surely,—the discharge of such and such duties will make amends for all.

At this day false professors of religion act in the same manner. If they do but hear the preaching of some favourite Clergyman, if they do but receive the sacrament at stated times, these attentions and performances, it is supposed, will set all right between God and themselves. Thus, by forms, do miserable men hide from their own eyes their abominations, and add to their guilt the enormous evil of self-righteousness. I beseech persons of this character to weigh well their dangerous condition and to repent. The true Christian's views are directly opposite to all this. No forms can wash out his stains, or give ease to his conscience. “Nothing but Christ, nothing but Christ;" as one of the Martyrs said, when going to the flames. He uses the means of grace carefully ; but it is to find Christ in them. This is the HYSSOP with which he wishes to be purged. He glorifies the Lord Jesus ;-hé willingly complies with God's method of treating sinners; and the Lord comforts and raises him up, in his own way.

4. I have another plain mark to mention. A hypocritical professor of religion, being far moré solicitous about the praise of men, than the praise of God, is soon brought to a false peace. his mind concerning his sins and evils, if he can only contrive to appear well before men. Let Saul only persuade Samuel to honour him, before the great and before Israel, and attend him while worshipping the Lord, and he gains his end. It is so at this day with false-hearted men. Have they sinned and evidently acted an unchristian part? They presently

He quiets study how to recover their reputation. If some rich or very reputable professors of godliness will but countenance them ; if they can be received into the assemblies of persons of this sort, join with them in the Lord's Supper, and decently go through some offices of religion, their inward trouble of soul is cured. Guilt has in thcm fixed no deep stings: The fear of God, and the apprehension of his just displeasure, and of the loss of communion with him, in their souls,--these are objects of small concern. If they can contrive to be well received by men, especially men of eminent reputation, they are as easy as if no guilt whatever had been contracted. Thus do they show how worldly their minds are; how atheistically indifferent about the favour and love of God.

It is strikingly different with real Christians. Let their consciences be charged with guilt, and they are covered with shame and confusion. A settled, serious sadness fills their minds. You cannot give them ease by the kindest and the most friendly attentions. They have no anxiety to be thought well of by others in this point; that is, they are not in the smallest degree disposed to extenuate the fault or faults they have committed, or to make any defence of themselves before men. The conscience itself is afflicted; the arrows of the Almighty stick fast in them, and his hand presseth them sore. of God's countenance, the restoration of his favour, and the intimations of his pardoning love,-these things they want. And, as nothing but a fresh application of the blood of Christ, by faith, can heal the wounds of conscience,----thoroughly afflicted, as theirs is,—they seek for this. And they smile with

The light

a

joy, and find a refreshment akin to that of heaven itself, when they are enabled thus to believe, thus to rest satisfied with Christ's atonement, as God himself is satisfied; and thus to find

peace. In this manner the man after God's own heart was affected. He has opened the inmost recesses of his soul in the 51st Psalm. Though he had heard, by a prophet's mouth, that the Lord had pardoned his sin, yet even that does not content him. He prays for the joy of God's Salvation : He prays to be upheld by his free Spirit; to have his lips opened to show forth God's praise; to be delivered from guiltiness; to be purged with hyssop; to hear of joy and gladness; to have a clean heart and a right spirit. I speak things well known to minds exercised in godliness. You can conceive what deep inroads, into his peace and comfort, the well-known foul transgressions, in the matter of Uriah must have made. Had he been a Saul, he would have been content with OUTWARD prosperity and formal religion. He wants INWARD peace and holiness. For both he prays, through Jesus's blood; and he longs for the refreshing sense of God's lovingkindness, and to walk with him again in that sweet fellowship which he once had known. Whoever joins with him in his prayers heartily, and cannot rest in outward things, shall doubtless join with him in his praises. A mere professor of godliness will be content with forms and shows of religion; either scorning real Communion with God as Enthusiasm; or, at least, very indifferent about it, provided he has a decent reputation in religion, and has worldly things agreeable to his mind.

Thus, by partial obedience; by backwardness to

1

[ocr errors]

confess sin; by cloaking sin with forms; and by being more solicitous for the good opinion of men, than for the favour of God, may these false pretenders to religion be detected. And, I hope, matter has also been suggested for the consolation of sincere spirits, under the consciousness of their evils, since they are willing to part with all sin; to confess wholly; and neither to deceive others nor themselves with forms.

Brethren, keep up this sincerity ; watch against the admission of self-righteousness and vain-glory. As when God first, by his Spirit, wrought an effectual and saving change in your minds, he made you to feel what a guilty conscience is, in a manner very different from a careless sinner, or a presumptuous Pharisee, so he showed you also the true remedy ;-Christ Jesus, and his most precious blood shed for your sins. This purged your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Doubtless you have felt the need of being warned over and over to keep from sin. Yet, if you sin, you have this Advocate, and you need him daily. You cannot rest in your conscience but by daily coming to God through him. The honour of the world, and the opinion others have of you, weigh not with you in satisfying your conscience. This is right. Walk thus to the end, humbly, cautiously; doing every thing, in religion, between God and your conscience, as if there were not a person in the world beside yourself. Much secret prayer will be both a comfortable evidence, and also an actual improvement of this sincere dealing: Pray, therefore, much in secret, and “ your heavenly Father, , who seeth in secret, will reward you openly.” You

a

know who said this. It is part of his Sermon on the mount. And

And you shall see him, ere long, with great joy and gladness.

But can you abide his face, when he shall come to judgment; you, who, in practice, are children of Saul? What a poor thing, to wear a mask for a little time, and be exposed in your true colours for ever. Deceive not yourselves. It is very difficult to make you see that this is your character. I have done what I could: I have laid open the marks of insincerity, and endeavoured to show you to yourselves. Do you apply this information, do you apply these rules of judging, not to this or that person,-Men who have the greatest reason to look at home, are very ready to do this,-But do you apply them to yourselves.

Tremble at the thoughts of self-deception, and watch over your own conduct and principles, thạt no root of hypocrisy ruin your religious performances, Cry unto God in the language of an honest and true penitent, “ Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts : And see if there be any

in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

wicked way

1

« PreviousContinue »