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or in greater danger of perdition, than apostates, or notorious profligates: though considering their advantages, obligations, and ingratitude, they may be often in fact more heinously criminal. I apprehend, however, that our Lord especially referred to the dishonour done by the lukewarm to his name, and the mischievous consequences of their infectious and disgraceful example.-Every one knows, that a bad servant may do ten times more mischief, while he remains in the family, than he could do were he dismissed from it; and in like manner lukewarm professors do far more harm to the cause of Christ, by pretending to religion, than they could do by openly renouncing Christianity. One Achan in the camp caused more trouble and loss to Israel, than all the hosts of the Canaanites : “ Neither,” says the Lord, “ will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed thing from among you.” Josh. vii.
Corrupt professors of Christianity have in all ages been the grand obstruction to its progress. Mr Brainerd, in the narrative of his mission among
the Indians, observes, that he had great difficulty, for a long time, to erase · from their minds a suspicion, that he had formed some design of injuring
them, under a pretence of preaching the gospel : so frequently had they been defrauded by nominal Christians! This is the case, in one way or other, all over the globe: and the principal impediment to the success of the gospel in this land arises from the same cause. Lukewarm professors give irreligious people an unfavourable idea of evangelical doctrines. The prejudice against them is indeed naturally very strong, and men imagine they tend to licentiousness: but were there no loose characters among those that contend for these principles; were they all “ a peculiar people, zealous of good works;" this objection would soon be silenced, and men would be ashamed of thus calumniating their conscientious neighbours. It is likewise well known, that we profess to experience joy and peace in believing ;; to find the ways of religion pleasant and delightful; and to choose rather to be “door-keepers in the house of the Lord, than to dwell in the tents of ungodliness." • All, this,' say worldly people, sounds very well: yet these devout believers frequently come to borrow a little of our pleasure, and seem as intent as we are, in securing a portion of our good things.' How can such men be convinced, that there is superior excellency or satisfaction in religion, while they see us cleaving to the world, and reluctant to renounce what we affect to despise ?
The lukewarm are also the bane of those, who have been newly impressed with a sense of divine things. Under the preaching of the gospel, thoughtless sinners are awakened to a concern about their eternal interests; their consciences become uneasy, and their minds attentive to instruction: they are convinced that many doctrines which once they disregarded are true and important, and perceive the necessity of renouncing sinful pursuits, and of separating from their old associates ; and they become diligent in attending on the means of grace. But, if in this hopeful frame of mind they come in the way of lukewarm professors, whose strong attachment to certain truths, and plausible address, beguile their unexperienced hearts; they are easily
. seduced into false notions of liberty, not “in keeping God's commandments," but in disregarding them; and they gradually lose their tenderness of conscience, and diligence in “ labouring for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life.” They are now taught, that strictness in duty and self-denial deduct from the freeness of divine grace: and various insinuations of this kind poison their minds with prejudices against the ministers and Christians, among whom they were first excited to inquire after salvation. Thus num who apparently set out well, by means of an unsuspecting attention to persons of this description, obtain a false peace, and finally settle among formal, disputatious, or antinomian professors. These are “the little foxes that spoil the vines” just when the tender grapes begin to be formed ; and thus give most poignant grief to faithful pastors, while they witness, but cannot prevent, the perversion of those, who they hoped would be their rejoicing in the day of Christ.
But indeed the preachers of the gospel are themselves more exposed to temptation from the lukewarm, than from all other men whatever. We have like passions with our neighbours: and when we have forfeited the friendship of the world by adhering to the truths of the gospel ; we are reluctant to meet also the frowns of religious people. Yet unless we stand firm against the insinuations of Laodicean professors, and venture their keen reproaches and calumnies, we shall not deliver much above half our message ; we shall separate the practice from the doctrines of Christianity; and pass over, in general and inoffensive terms, those very subjects, which the state of our congregations require to be most fully and plainly enforced.–And as lukewarmness commonly prevails more among the wealthy than the poor, our danger is very great ; for their favour is both agreeable and advantageous, and their disapprobation exposes 'us to serious inconveniences, and often threatens great distress. Thus ministers lie under strong temptations to shun “ declaring the whole counsel of God," to " keep back some things profitable to the people,” to speak softly and timidly, to call this prudence and candour; and perhaps to join in censuring such as are more faithful to God and the souls of men. Either such cases are not unfrequent in this metropolis, or I greatly mistake the meaning of the Scriptures, and that of the words and actions of mankind. We should, however, seriously consider the apostle's words, “ If I were a man-pleaser, I should no longer be the servant of Jesus Christ."
In these and many other ways the lukewarm disgrace the gospel, and retard its progress: they weaken the hands, disconcert the measures, and even ruin the simplicity of the ministers of Christ; while they damp the ardour, or mislead the earnestness of real Christians. Can we therefore, any longer wonder at our Lord's decided language against such pernicious characters? Let us then,
III. Apply the subject, in solemn warnings and particular exhortations.
Our blessed Saviour seems to address himself to the Laodicean church to the following effect. • Thy lukewarm spirit and conduct are so contrary to the design of my religion, and the obligations conferred on my disciples ; so dishonourable to my name, and so injurious to mankind; that I am determined to give an awful lesson to all other churches, by casting thee off with contempt and abhorrence: I will therefore deprive thee of all thy abused privileges, and no longer leave thee the name or form of my holy religion.' In like manner, my friends, whenever any kingdom, city, church, or congregation becomes like the Laodiceans; it will surely and speedily be de. prived of its religious advantages ; the candlestick will be removed out of its place; and this will be accompanied with other tokens of divine indignation. Thus interpreted, the words are indeed awfully prophetical: and when lukewarmness becomes general in any church, however distinguished or denominated, it is a certain prognostic of approaching judgments, either spiritual or temporal.
But the application to individuals is more immediately the province of the preacher. We do not indeed say, that every person, infected with this disease, is an hypocrite, and will prove an apostate; but we affirm most constantly, that the case is awfully dangerous. 6. Let'no man deceive you with vain words:” let none persuade you to consider this as a legal or a trifling matter. “ If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." He has not only adopted a new creed; but he has received a new heart, and leads a new life: “ he is created in Christ Jesus unto good works." How then can it be possible for a man to know that he is in Christ, unless he be conscious of this change, and manifest it in his whole disposition and conduct ? Will any one say, he knows himself to be in a state of acceptance; because he has a strong impression that this is his privilege ; because texts of Scripture were brought to his mind to assure him of it; and because he has had many comfortable
seasons under religious ordinances? If his spirit and practice do not at all accord to that of the Christian, as described in the oracles of God, ought he not to conclude, that “Satan, transformed into an angel of light," has deceived him: and that he builds upon the sand, by hearing the words of Christ, and not doing them? And how can he know, but that the storms and floods of death and judgment will sweep away his baseless edifice, with most tremendous destruction? They who call Christ Lord, and do not the things that he says; even if they perform many wonderful works in his name, and receive extraordinary gifts from him, will at the last day be bid
depart as workers of iniquity :” and what will then become of their anti-scriptural confidence ?
The tares and the wheat must grow together till the harvest; the wise and foolish virgins will form one company till the coming of the Bridegroom; and guests who have not the wedding garment may remain unnoticed, till the King come to see them ; but the final discrimination, with its eternal consequences, will be dreadful to those, who had a name to live, and yet were dead.
Supposing, however, a man's lukewarmness not fatal; yet the uncertainty and the apparent danger of his condition are sufficient to excite great alarm and distress. If he be saved, it will be “as by fire:” and what a gloomy prospect, what terrors and remorse upon a death-bed, are before him? These are the only tokens for good, of which his case can admit: for unshaken confidence at the hour of death, succeeding an evidently lukewarm profession, proves that a man is given over to a strong delusion. Remember then, and may the Lord impress it deeply on every heart ! that consternation and anguish, when death approaches, form the brightest prospect of the lukewarm Christian! And is this the provision you are making for that awful crisis ? Is this your intention when you yield to indolence, temptation, and the seduction of bad examples ?
You may probably, my brethren, censure my address as harsh and severe ; but I hope you will observe, that it is far below the energy of reproof and warning, employed by the loving Saviour himself: yet he spake to those, among whom some persons seem to have had a few feeble sparks of grace, as fire covered and almost extinguished by the ashes.
But some perhaps continue to quiet their minds, by thinking that they make no pretensions to religion, and are not therefore concerned in the rebuke. Let me, however, demand of you, whether you have not been baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost ? Have you then openly renounced your baptism, and abjured Christianity? Or do you expect to be called Christians ? --If you do, this implies a profession of religion, however unmeaning and hypocritical : and your indifference about these subjects proves you the most lukewarm of all that bear the name of Christ. And is this your confidence? or do you intend to plead this before the tribunal of your Judge? Would not such an excuse then prove before men and angels, that you had crucified Christ afresh, and put him to open shame; and that you had done despite to the Spirit of Grace, by a course of conduct diametrically opposite to the religion which you professed ?
Should these solemn reflections excite any of you seriously to inquire, what you ought to do? The answer is obvious. Consider the salvation of your souls as your grand concern: forego or postpone all other pursuits, rather than suffer them to retard your course in seeking an interest in the Saviour of sinners. Be diligent, earnest, and persevering in attendance on all the means of grace. Repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance : separate from the world with all its sensual pleasures, and stupifying dissipations: and seek your present happiness, as well as future safety, in the favour and service of our gracious God and Father.
If you doubt whether all this be necessary, I appeal to the Law and to the Testimony. Search the Scriptures: see whether they do not require us to give the Lord our hearts and devoto ourselves entirely to him, and whether
the language of Christ, concerning self-denial, renouncing the world, enduring the cross, labouring and striving to enter in at the strait gate, be not much stronger than any thing here stated. If any of you should not be able to reconcile these passages to your views of salvation by grace; be assured that your views are unscriptural; and beg of God to open your understanding, that you may more clearly discern the truth as it is in Jesus. But beware of indolence and partiality in reading the Scriptures; do not select a few passages : and pass over the rest, as unsuitable to your system, or uninteresting to you; for this springs from lukewarmness, and tends to its rapid increase.
But are any of you convinced, that yon have hitherto been infected with this Laodicean spirit, and almost ready to tremble for the consequences ? Let me call your attention to the subsequent part of our Lord's address to such lukewarm professors. He condescends to say even to them, “ I counsel thee to buy of me, gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich ; and white
; raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent."
Think then frequently and intensely on eternity and its infinite importance : meditate seriously on the death of Christ; the design, manner, causes, and effects of it; the instructions conveyed, and the obligations conferred by that great event. Pray earnestly for the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, which alone can prevent or cure lukewarmness, and maintain the life and power of godliness in the soul. Examine particularly *every part of your disposition and conduct : be willing to know the whole of your case as it really is. Withdraw from the company of the lukewarm, and associate with zealous Christians : and never admit a doubt, but that the more fervent, diligent, and fruitful you become, the greater will be your peace and comfort in life and death, and the more abundant your gracious recompence in the realms of blessedness.
We have all of us, my brethren, considerable cause for humiliation in this matter : and have need to redouble our diligence in using all these means, that we may make progress, and grow in grace. But while the Lord says to all,
“ Behold I stand at the door and knock : if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me :" he adds for the encouragement of those who are fighting the good fight of faith, perhaps with conscious feebleness and many fears, « To him that overcometh will I give to sit down with me upon my throne ; even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne. He then that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
CHRISTIANITY RECOMMENDED BY AN EXEMPLARY
MATTHEW, v. 16.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify
your Father which is in heaven.
Our blessed Lord, just before his ascension into heaven, thus addressed his apostles; “ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth : go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost : teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matt. xxvüi. 18—20. Hence we learn that there is a kind and measure of instruction which precedes an intelligent profession of the gospel, comprising the first principles of the doctrine of Christ: and that there is also a more particular and exact instruction, by which ministers should endeavour to form the judgment, and direct the conduct of believers, in all the several parts of Christianity. This distinction ought to be carefully remembered; that we may not suppose, the practical exhortations given to believers supersede the necessity of regeneration, repentance, and faith in the Son of God, as numbers seem to think ; nor yet deem it inconsistent with the purest evangelical views, to explain particularly and inculcate most earnestly, the several parts of our duty to God and to our neighbour.
In the sermon on the mount, our Lord first shewed in the several beatitudes, that happiness results from the state of the heart, and not from external circumstances: and then addressing the disciples, in the presence of the multitude, he said, “ Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” Christians scattered over the earth, ought to communicate a purifying savour of piety and righteousness, and thus to prevent the increasing depravity of the human race: but graceless preachers and professors of the gospel are the vilest and most hopeless of men. “ Ye are," says Christ, “ the light of the world; a city set upon an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house." True Christians, placed in different families, villages, streets, cities, and nations, diffuse the light of divine truth, received from the Sun of righteousness, throughout the world. This also renders them conspicuous : their dispositions, words, and actions, will surely be observed and exactly scrutinized. Nor were they enlightened from above, in order to be immured in cloisters, or to retire into deserts, like lamps put under a bushel ; but it is the Lord's will, that they should resemble candles placed on candlesticks in the midst of a room, to give light to every part of it. Therefore “ let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” It may be proper for us,
I. To consider the persons, to whom this exhortation is especially addressed.
II. To examine more fully its import. And,
Some expositors seem to confine the exhortation to the apostles; or to the ministers of the gospel exclusively.. But though the words are peculiarly proper and energetic in this application; yet it is evident that all Christians are, in their own circle and measure, “ lights in the world;" and all who profess Christianity, may be exhorted to act consistently with their avowed character. In other parts of Scripture similar exhortations are addressed to believers in general. The evangelical prophet viewing the church as a disconsolate female sitting in darkness upon the ground, thus encourages her, “ Arise, shine , for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold the darkness shall cover the earth; and gross darkness the people : but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be upon thee: and Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” Isaiah lx. 14—3. When the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ, illuminates the church ; then she arises from the dust, reflects the bright beams of the Sun of righteousness, and shines as a light to the Gentiles. The preached gospel is sent “ to give light to them that sit in darkness, and the shadow of death, to guide their feet into the way of