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almost wholly devoted to the latter! Let us remember, then, that it is not merely the outward casting off of our profession, but the inward decay of its spirit, which endangers us; and that many who would shrink from openly denying the faith, and saying in words, “I renounce my religion " and my God : I cast behind me the hopes of im“ mortality: I choose the world for my portion;" yet do, in effect, the same thing, by habitually neglecting to obey God in his commandments, to acknowledge their Saviour in his ordinances, and to seek the grace of the Holy Spirit, in fervent prayer; and in that devotion to him of all the heart, and soul, and mind, which he requires ; and pursuing, to their neglect, the pleasures, the honours, the riches, of this passing world, with a love which is at enmity with God. Let us beware, my brethren, lest we deceive ourselves in this great concern. Let us not manifest, in our conduct, a wisdom inferior to that of Demas. He had the enjoyments of this world, though he relinquished the hopes of the next. We, by irresolution and indecision, may forfeit the happiness of both.
Religion, if we would possess its present satisfactions, or enjoy its future rewards, must be supreme in our affections. God's will must be our law. His service our highest pleasure. His approbation our constant endeavour. It is a false devotion which allows opposing objects of wor
ship to reign in our hearts. It is an impracticable service to devote ourselves to two masters. The world must be subservient, or God must be dethroned. The eye must be single, or the whole body will be full of darkness. “ Either Christ or
none,” should, therefore, be our motto. Every other thing should give place to our religion. Business, power, pleasure, fame, every action, and every desire, that interferes with our pursuit of heaven, must be regarded as of inferior consequence if we would not forfeit its high rewards; for “ if any man will come after me," says the Saviour, “ let him deny himself, and take up his “ cross daily, and follow me.” If we refuse to do so, my brethren, and that because of the selfdenial which is required, and so lose the joys which it would have procured, let us confess that we were not unwarned of our destiny. Neither let us call theirs a severe lot, who shall hereafter experience that sad privation. For even grant that their lives are harmless, which is the best character that irreligious and worldly persons can aspire to; yet among men that is never considered a ground of commendation, or a motive of reward; and how then shall it suffice to merit that high and glorious recompense, which is only bestowed as the prize of a resolute entrance in at the strait gate, and of an untiring pursuit of the narrow way of life.
Why, my brethren, should immortal happiness
be given to those who have never taken the pains to deserve it; or who have virtually refused, by neglect and want of diligence, to secure it—those who have fulfilled no conditions of obedience or of faith, of self-denial, of devotion, or of Christian love? Shall the indolent, the unprofitable, and the negligent, reap in heaven eternal rewards, while on earth the annual bounties of the waving harvest are given only to the labour of the careful, and to the hand of the diligent? Shall they who have sought their enjoyment only in the delights of this life have the happiness of the next also added to their portion, even without the trouble which the first have cost? The answer to these honest questions must be in the negative. To receive the commendation of our Judge, and to enter into the joy of our Lord, we must be a good and faithful servants.” To reap the wages of piety, we must sustain and exemplify the character of the pious. For while we have the promise that they who ask shall receive, and they who seek shall certainly find; yet we may be well assured it is only they. Let then those who habitually reject the claims of religion, and whose devotion to the world has been unintermitted and exclusive, ask themselves whether they are in any better state than Demas was, who forsook his profession; and though they may plead that they never absolutely rejected a religion which they never embraced, yet let them seriously inquire upon what grounds they can look for the happiness of an eternal world, if they continue to neglect so great salvation. And let those who have actually commenced the Christian course, be warned by the fate of Demas, not like him to permit the love of the present world, bright, attractive, alluring though it be, and especially to youthful and ardent minds, to gain an ascendency in their hearts, lest, though they may not, like Demas, renounce their Christian profession, they may forfeit their Christian hopes. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence, steadfast unto the end; but if any man draw back (it is the declaration of God,) my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
My brethren, if any of us are preferring the world to God, whether we be professing Christians or not, let us tremble to think of the consequences which our choice must involve. What was true in our Saviour's day is true now, “ Ye 6 cannot serve God and mammon.' And if the choice which Demas made of the world for his portion, sealed his destiny for ever, a similar choice on our part must give us over to a similar doom. Nay, there is reason to believe that ours will be one of greater severity than his; for he shrunk from the Christian profession, when it was the almost certain passport to persecution, to prison, and to death; but if we refuse to devote ourselves to our Saviour, we do it under
circumstances which admit of no excuse; for now it is not only wise and safe to be a Christian, but it is also as honourable and as advantageous as it is wise and safe.
God grant that acknowledging his service to be at once our true interest, and our bounden duty, “ we may both perceive and know what
things we ought to do, and also may have grace 66
and power faithfully to fulfil the same, through « Jesus Christ our Lord!"