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and upon no other conditions, hath God promised that happiness to us.
And lest we should indulge the hope of attaining it, without that persevering self-denial and endeavour, he has been careful to furnish this explicit caution in his sacred word, “Be not deceived: God is not
“ “ mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that “shall 'he also reap: for he that soweth to his “ flesh”—to his present desires and inclinations“ shall of the flesh reap corruption"—the fulness of that misery which, here, in indifference and disappointment, he begins to realize; “ but he " that soweth to his spirit”—to the high and noble
”. purposes of his spiritual nature, the great concernments of heaven, of immortality, and of the soul—“shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting”— a felicity of which the righteous have even here a foretaste and an earnest, in the peace and tranquillity which they are permitted to enjoy. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord; and they who are diverted from attaining that character by an ardent devotion to this passing world, to its amusements, its follies, its dissipations, its deceits -they who seek all their happiness here, could scarcely hope at the last for any other answer to their vain expectations, than that which is already on record against them—" Son, remember that " thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things.” Nor is this to be wondered at, if we reflect that religion is not only a condition of our happiness,
but a necessary qualification for it; that we must be like God in the temper of our minds, before we can find any happiness in the enjoyment of him; we must have begun on earth to prepare for heaven, by cherishing those dispositions which belong to celestial natures, if ever we expect to be admitted there.
Nor let any of us think that this is an easy business, and requires but little time to do it in; and that a small degree of diligence will serve for this purpose ; for, in the language of Archbishop Tillotson, “ To master and root out the “ inveterate habits of sin, to bring our passions “ under the government of our reason, and to “ attain to a good degree of every Christian grace 6 and virtue ; that faith, hope, and charity, humi“ lity, meekness, and patience, may all have their
perfect work; and that, as St. James says, we “ may be perfect and entire, wanting nothnig, “ nothing that belongs to the perfection of a good
man, and of a good Christian ; this, whenever
we come to make the trial, we shall find to be “ a great and a long work."*
This work, my brethren, is the one thing that is needful for all to perform, who, seeking for glory, and honour, and immortality, would inherit eternal life. That it is a work full of difficulties is acknowledged; but it is necessary that it be
* Archbishop Tillotson's Sermon on one Thing needful.
so, to test your character, and to furnish an opportunity for you to prove, by your active endeavour to overcome them, the strength of your faith. That it is a work of self-denial is also true, but it is precisely in exercising it that your probation consists. Your own choice fixes your destiny; and every day in which you neglect to choose aright, does but increase your danger, accumulate obstacles, and prepare the way, by the formation of habits averse from religion, either for total despair of your salvation on the one hand, or for total indifference in respect to it on the other.
But, my brethren, though, in the busy or the captivating scenes of life, the interests of the soul, and the concerns which a tremendous eternity involves, are unthought of, or little heeded; though a careful preparation for that future life, important, momentous, and indispensable as that work is, be continually forgotten by the great majority of men; yet does this furnish no reason or justification for their neglect, but rather does it demand that with reiterated voice the admonition should sound forth, “ One thing is needful.”
Soon, my brethren, will it appear that to have been solicitous about securing that one thing was the greatest wisdom; and however lightly we may now regard the dictates of religion, and look to the world for happiness, yet there is an hour coming, when from before our eyes the world and all its concerns shall pass away; when the darkening film of death shall obscure its glories, and cause all the grace and the fashion of it to perish. The present will then no longer deceive. We shall think no more like children, but with the capacities of men; and understand, with faculties awakened to the full consideration of our character, our prospects, and our destiny.
Every intervening object being removed, the broad future will lie open before us, spreading out to our view its vast and untried scenes of interminable existence. Next to the wonders which this view of the future will suggest, will be the wonder how the past could have been so mistaken and so mispent; how the world could have been so pursued; how a life extending at best to only fourscore years could have so imposed upon us by its delusions as to blind us to the concerns of eternity. We shall then discover that our true life is just about to commence, and the question, what is to be its complexion and its character, will rise up before us—the greatest we have ever been called on to ponder, the only thing we were ever concerned to know.
Whatever concealed it from our view before, whether it were the cares of this life, or the deceitfulness of riches; whether it were ease, reputation, pleasure, sorrow, self-indulgence, or whatever earthly pursuit; we shall then regard as the merest shadows; all the knowledge that we have labouriously sought, while we have neglected VOL. II.
that which maketh wise unto salvation, will then appear to have been but folly; all our voluntary ignorance of our state, presumption; all our indifference, madness in the extreme.
Before the consideration of eternal life or eternal death, all other things shall dwindle and depart, and the one thing needful will rise
in all its vast importance to demand of us how we are prepared. My brethren, would you know the truth of this representation ? Would you know the proper estimate you should make of life, of its purposes, of its pleasures, of its pursuits ? Go with me to the death-bed of the irreligious and the careless. Where, says the dying man, who has neglected the great salvation that was so long and so often proffered, where was the reason which God gave me, that I permitted myself to come to this hour thus unprepared! that I lived only for the world, when, rushing through it a stranger, I was hastening to the grave ? that I placed in competition with eternity a few brief years of imperfect, unsatisfying enjoyment? Where was the reason which God gave me, when I neglected so fatally the admonitions of his word, holding lightly its threatenings, disregarding its promises ? Where were thought, consideration, and wisdom, when I obeyed the desires of the flesh, instead of being guided by the dictates of the spirit, grieving, resisting, quenching, that light of grace, which would have conducted me,