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or a tinkling cymbal;" which may arrest the ear of others by its noise, but can never profit their own souls. Seriously inquire, Reader, Do you thus worship the Lord, at church, and in your house and retirements? This scrutiny is necessary, whether you reflect on the advantages which accrue from the service of God, or the misery that will hereafter follow the neglect of it.
The benefits which flow from a life spent in the fear and worship of Almighty God are immensely great. He gives to his dutiful children and obedient servants a reward infinitely above the desert of their labours. Whilst they walk conformably to his word, he vouchsafes to them many gracious tokens of his approbation. In his courts, and in their closets, they enjoy a sweet intercourse with him, which at once delights and refines their souls: yea, he even grants them a blessed anticipation of a glorious immortality.
But who can adequately represent the blissful nature of those enjoyments which are prepared in heaven for the righteous? If " eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him," oh what ineffable joy and delight must arise in their souls, who are permitted to behold God, to worship in his presence, and receive his fatherly caresses!
To possess this happiness, it is incumbent on every man who longs for that felicity which alone can satisfy the desires of his immortal soul, to strive to acquire that rich revenue of glory and honour, of which we have briefly spoken. On the contrary, the consequences that finally ensue a neglect of 1 Cor. xiii. 1.
the service of God are sufficiently tremendous to deter us from dishonouring him. God must ever consider those who disobey his authority, as avowed rebels; of whom he thus speaks: "Whoso despiseth me, shall be lightly esteemed "." Thus, his displeasure abideth on them that hate him. But what fearful indignation will overtake them hereafter, when God shall set them at nought in the sight of his holy angels! How wretched will they be, whom he shall thus accost, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!"
Be persuaded, you who stand convicted of this heinous neglect, immediately to engage in His service. He demands it, as a right which he will not relinquish. Pray, therefore, that you may "have grace, whereby you may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear."
Acts v. 29. We ought to obey God, rather than men.
IT cannot be denied, that God, our Creator, has a right to exercise an absolute dominion over us, and that our subjection to his rightful authority is as necessary as it is beneficial. If we were to be held under no restraints, and to be allowed to act independently of his will, without fear of consequences, it is easy to see the mischief and disorder that would result from such a licence. Even amidst all the penal sanctions of the Divine law, men sin with a degree of boldness and hardihood which it is painful to witness: but, with what little remorse
would they perpetrate the most atrocious deeds, if conscience, and the terrors of a judgment to come, had no effect in restraining their vicious inclinations?
God, for the good government of the world, asserts his Sovereignty over man, by giving him laws for the direction of his conduct; and he demands an unfeigned obedience thereto, on pain of his hottest displeasure. To such as stubbornly resist his power, he will at last say, "Bring hither those mine enemies which would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me"."
If, then, we are at all desirous to gain His friendship, we shall be ready, when convinced of our past neglect of duty to God, to inquire, "Lord, what wilt thou have us to do?" and we shall feel a great delight in complying with his sacred pleasure, to the full extent of our ability.
1. Obedience supposes the existence of some law. or rule to which our behaviour should be conformed. God has prescribed the most holy and reasonable duties for our performance. In his word, he particularly specifies what we should do, and how we should demean ourselves, to obtain his approbation of our conduct. Let us, then, make his will, as revealed in the Scripture, our perpetual study"
Generally speaking, the commands and precepts which we are bound to obey are recorded in the two tables of the Divine Law, and more fully stated in the requirements of the Gospel. Whatever God there enjoins us to do, we should most willingly perform; since his authority is quite sufficient to render the practice of it perfectly right, and absolutely expedient.
And what doth the Lord our God require of us,
• Luke xix. 27.
aa Psalm i. 2. xix. 7-14.
but to believe his word, and act agreeably thereto; to reverence his high commands, which enforce upon us the duty of loving, fearing, and serving him ; of being holy, just, temperate, and merciful; and of behaving towards our neighbour with the same equity and kindness which we expect from him, under similar circumstances? This is the sum of our duty to God-and to man, for His sake; the subject-matter of all religious obedience. "And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us."
But, as the manner and temper in which a religious act is performed greatly contribute to its being approved or rejected, it is of no small consequence for us to take care that we proceed to the discharge of our duty towards God in a proper frame of soul.
2. Let our obedience be performed from Scriptural motives.
As we may feel certain that God cannot require any thing from us that is derogatory to his character, or which is harsh and unreasonable in itself, or which militates against our real welfare, it becomes our bounden duty, the moment we can ascertain his will, to yield an implicit obedience to it, without questioning its propriety or expediency. This deference is due to the command of God, who is too wise to err, and too just and good to enjoin compliance with what is improper or unnecessary.
And His commands should be cheerfully obeyed.. No reluctance to bow to his will, no backwardness to execute it, when understood, must be visible in our temper; but, on the contrary, we should fly with
seraphic zeal, with holy alacrity, to do whatsoever he enjoins us. And it is only such a prompt and ready obedience that God approves, and will hereafter acknowledge.
We discern a marked difference betwixt the service of a slave which is forced by the lash, and the dutiful obedience of a child to a beloved parent: the former is the offspring of fear; the latter, of affection. The same dissimilarity is seen in the religious service of a nominal and real Christian: the one is a constrained homage paid to God, not with a view to honour him, but to retain a quiet conscience, to drive away the fear of hell, and maintain an hypocritical expectation of heaven bb: the other is a ready compliance with the Divine injunctions, the deliberate act of a willing mind, submitting itself to the authority of God, from a desire to give Him the glory due to his name.
Let us see to it, that our obedience to God is the result of right motives; which are essential to its acceptance by him. Gratitude and love to God should be the main-spring to actuate us to the practice of our duty to him: "We love Him, because He first loved us." Now, when a Christian calls to mind the incalculable blessings which the Almighty is continually bestowing on him-food, raiment, health, friends, strength, sleep, safety, and the continued use of his faculties-this view of the Divine goodness makes a lively impression on his heart.' But, when he reckons up the whole sum of his debts and obligations to God, his gratitude is proportionably increased. When he remembers his impiety, and considers that God might have justly cut him off in his sins or left him under the delusion of 1 John iv. 19.
bb Mark vi. 20.