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opposite characters is justly due, on the whole, to the lives we are leading
And farther, in case we conclude, or even suspect, (which it is to be feared we shall) that we do not obey the truth, but rather obey unrighteousness, we are then to consider what is to be done. There is no resting surely for a moment in a state, dangerous at the best, and infallibly fatal, if persevered in beyond the term of grace.
After this, the violence of our affections and passions, and the inveteracy of our sinful habits, must be severely brought to the test. With these, the temptations that beset us, and bear in perpetually on our corrupt dispositions and habits, are next to be compared, and as severely examined, both in regard to what they promise, and what they perform.
Here, if the meditations already pursued, have roused us, and we are now thoroughly awake, a very alarming prospect (it is to be feared) will present itself to our eyes. All our former sins; all our present dispositions to sin; all the snares of our spiritual enemies ; the wrath of God; the forfeiture of heaven for ever, and the eternal horrors of hell ; will all crowd at once into view. Yet, as it is better to fear than to feel, alarming as this prospect is, it will be our highest wisdom attentively to fix our eyes upon it, till it hath wrought its blessed effects in us, a settled abhorrence of sin, a vehement indignation at our enemy, a thorough distate to the bitterness found, instead of the sweetness promised, by temptation ; and in consequence of all, a resolution, never to be shaken on any trial, instantly entirely to forsake our sins. I say, instantly, because know neither the day, nor the hour of our master's coming,' and, therefore, there is no dallying with the work of repentance. If we trifle in this matter, we trifle with death, with our own souls, with eternity, with God. And I say, entirely,
I because there is no compounding between God and the devil, no serving both God and mammon, no offending in one point of the law without being guilty of all.' Dreadful, therefore, as the review of our sins, and the prospect of death and eternity, may be, the happy effects expected from both, ought to fix our attention on them, for, humanly speaking, there is no hope, but in this fear, no safety, but in the alarms
of this danger. Were the salvation of a soul a matter of little consequence to itself, or were heaven a prize of small value, to think but seldom or slightly of them, might well enough consist with reason; but whereas there is nothing else of high consequence to us but those, and as we all know there is not, what else but these, and the means of arriving at these, should we think of with a close or long continued attention? What does any man read the Scriptures, what does he fast, what does he pray for, but in order to these infinitely important ends ? And does he not know, that to read without meditation is only to fix his eyes on blank paper, or a dead letter; that to fast without meditation is only to lose his meals; and that to pray without previous meditation, is only to address the Majesty of heaven with words and sounds instead of sense! All this he knows by experience, but he cannot think in this track without pain, and, therefore, he will think as little in it as he can.
What then becomes of his hopes as a Christian? Or rather, what is already become of his reason, who can give up God and heaven to avoid the trouble of travelling to the one, in the service of the other? What sort of a reasoner he is who either cannot judge what concerns him most to think of, or judging, will rather think of any thing else ?
But that one so faint-hearted, and so irresolute, may have some courage, let him listen to the words of God, who saith,' turn thee, for why wilt thou die ? Work out thy salvation with fear and trembling, for it is I that work in thee both to will and to do of my own good pleasure. If you continue in my word, then are you my disciple, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,' free from these most slavish fears. Then ' shall my strength be perfected in your weakness.' Then shall you perceive that my grace is sufficient for you ;' and, what is still more, miserably as you are scared at the severity of my service, you shall soon find that my yoke is easy and my burden light,' infinitely easier than the yoke of the enemy, and lighter than the burden of sin.
Trust to these comfortable encouragements from himi who loveth you, and hath given his life for you, and consider, on the other hand, how temptation hath performed the promises she made you. Have you not hitherto, on every
trial, found her vanity in the pursuit, and vexation in the end? And are you any longer to be caught with chaff? to be the fool and dupe of arts, already tried and seen through? Surely,' it is better for you that compunction,' like a true friend, should smite and reprove yu,' than that you should listen to temptation, though her words are softer than oil,' since you know,' the poison of asps is under her lips.'
Against her allurements, therefore, steel your heart with the fortitude of a Christian, and with the understanding of a rational creature. Look attentively into yourself, although you should see nothing there but monsters of deformity. And look steadily forward on the way before you, although the tears of a thorough repentance, or even the horrors of death and damnation, should overspread it from your very feet to the farther end.
Then meditate with all the force of an awakened mind, as well on the necessity, as the difficulty of the work you have to do, on the shortness and uncertainty of the time it is to be done in; on the eye of God that is never off
you; on the awful vow you made when you was baptized; on the contemptible emptiness of a world that passeth away like a morning cloud ; on the inconceivable importance and grandeur of a world, where happiness or misery know neither bounds nor end ; on the word of God, where all you are to do is commanded; where all you are to avoid is forbidden; where every motive to the love and fear of God, to the detestation of sin, and to watchfulness over yourself and your ways, are plainly set before you, and urged upon your reason, your heart, your conscience, with a divine force, not to be resisted by a thinking mind.
Think, therefore, and you shall be saved. But think with all the strength of your understanding, and all the ardour of your heart. Think with that strength of understanding you exerted, when you schemed for the profits, pleasures, or honours of this despicable world. Think with that ardour of heart which animated your pursuit of vanity and vexation; and God, though you are now thinking for him and heaven, will ask no more.
He, who in worldly affairs of small moment generally acts a giddy part, is called a thoughtless man. He, who in greater matters (worldly matters I still mean) shews neither
forecast nor care, is called a stupid man, or a fool. But by what name shall we call him, who, knowing his temporal interests, pleasures, or promotions, to be less than nothing, in comparison of his spiritual, gives nevertheless all his thoughts to this world, and thinks almost as little of God and heaven, as he does, who believes there is neither? Yet if this man shews some skill, and happens to succeed in the management of his worldly affairs, he is pronounced wise by the rest of mankind, even by those who scruple not in the least to call him a mad man, whom they see collecting pins, and scattering guineas. This gross abuse of words does inconceivable mischief in the world; for by this means it happens that one man's folly is countenanced by that of another; that while the life of the good man is accounted madness, only because it is singular, the stupidity of the worldling and the wicked is complimented with the title of wisdom, purely because it hath numbers on its side ; and that every trifle is thought more of than the soul; the smallest degree of pleasure than heaven; a moment than eternity. Could the most unthinking wretch among us be once brought attentively 'to balance the infinite with the finite, the eternal with the temporary, and God with this world; it would be almost impossible for him afterward to lose sight of a difference so greatly striking, or to give up his life to a preference so inconceivably absurd, as that which hath hitherto governed almost all his actions.
To such a balance I call every soul that hears me, every soul, in which the power of thinking is yet alive. I call on the rational soul, formed in the image of God, and entitled to endless glory, to consider with due contempt the vanity, and with a just aversion the vexation, of every thing that is under the sun. I call on the rational and thinking soul, to think and meditate on God, on his works, on his word, and on its own infinite interest. And shall I call in vain ? Is it possible the rational soul should be deaf to a call, made as loud as the trumpet of the archangel by the force of infinite reasons, and as sweet as the music of heaven by the promises, by the invitations of God himself, and by the sure and certain hopes of life, immortality, and glory?
And now, for myself, and for all who have heard, and will consider what I have said, I call upon God, and say,
• let the words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy
Ghost, be all might, majesty, dignity and doininion, now and for evermore. Amen.
GOD WILL MEASURE TO YOU IN YOUR OWN BUSHEL.
Luke yi, 37.
Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.
WHETHER it is, that most men are ignorant of themselves, or of the word forgive,' in this place, I know not, but there is nothing more common than to hear them saying, I forgive my enemies, I forgive all the world ; and yet to hear those very persons, almost in the same breath, speaking ill of their neighbours, and even to see them doing unfriendly offices to others, some of whom they never had any reason to consider as their enemies. A general act of
A general act of grace, like this, that costs a man nothing but words, and is contradicted in particular by his other expressions, and by many of his actions, shews only, that he either knows not what forgiveness is, or else hath learned a knack of equivocating with himself, if he means any thing, but a wilful lie, by his declaration.
To ‘forgive,' in our Saviour's sense of the original word, is to discharge a debt, or to dismiss at full liberty a debtor, who has been bound or arrested. By this he means, that every Christian who hath been injured, should think, speak, and act, in regard to the offending party, as affectionately and kindly as if no sort of injury had been done him. Christ, as our Redeemer, would save all men; and even as our judge, having satisfied divine justice for our sins, would justify all men; but there is one case wherein his justice as