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Knowledge of God's will.

this apostolic rite their baptismal engagement, have come to the calm, fixed, and deliberate determination, “ obediently to keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of their life.” Thrice happy are they, who have come to this noble determination : and still more happy will they be if they adhere to it in all their subsequent life. And, my dear friends, that you may never swerve from this straight, onward path of Christian rectitude, allow me to direct your attention to a few brief considerations, intimately connected with this part of your covenant engagement.

1. In the first place, as you bind yourself" obediently to keep God's holy will and commandments,” it is every way important that you should seek to know and understand his will and commandments. The Bible was written for the very purpose of revealing God's will and commandments. You must then faithfully and diligently study that sacred volume. You cannot have knowledge to guide you in the way of your duty, unless you draw it from those pages. There will be a thousand occasions when you will be at a loss to know how to act, and be in danger of going directly contrary to the divine will, unless your memory be stored, and your understanding enlightened with the sacred truths of the Bible. The Scriptures must be your daily study. Had you bound yourself

, or did filial affection prompt you, to act in perfect accordance with the wishes of a kind parent, would you not every day consult that parent, and seek to ascertain his wishes ? And having bound yourself to keep God's holy will and commandments, how can you ascertain his will unless you daily study his word ?

It is also necessary to read the Scriptures with prayer. Every time you open the sacred volume, you should look up to God for his Spirit to illuminate and instruct you. And whenever you come to any precept or command respecting your conduct, or the temper of your mind, or the state of your affections, pause, and look up to God in prayer, that he will enable

you obediently to keep,” in those several particulars, his will and commandments.

And inasmuch as the great Jehovah, to whom we give ourselves up in covenant engagement, is the God of Providence as well as of the Bible, we should attentively con

Universal obedience.

sider the dealings of his hand in reference to us, and seek to know his will in those events which are transpiring around us. And here again, by prayer and supplication, we must seek for guidance and divine illumination. Every day, upon our bended knees, we must lift our eyes to heaven, and inquire, “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?” And in the midst of the most afflictive dispensations, we must bow submissively to the divine decision, and say,

Thy will be done."

2. I remark, that having learned what the will of the Lord is, you must seek to act in conformity with it to the utmost-your obedience must be universal. Should a man "obediently keep God's holy will and commandments," in every respect and particular, with one exception, and in that one case knowingly and intentionally go contrary to the divine will, he would most obviously be guilty of a breach of his baptismal engagement. That single indul. gence would show that he had an idol, which he loved more than God; and therefore that he was not his servant. 66 No man can serve two masters." The divine Saviour will have no reserves. You must make an unconditional surrender of yourself to him; you must give him your whole heart; you must submit entirely to his will ; you must be prepared to make every sacrifice, to give up father, and mother, and wife, and children, brothers and sisters, yea, and your own life also, if these stand in the way of your obedience, in order to be the disciple of Christ—in order to fulfil this part of your covenant engagement. You must be ready to deny yourself—to submit to that which is as painful as the amputation of a limb, if you would not depart from the commandments of the Lord.

One thing must be unalterably settled in your determination—that whatever sacrifice it may cost, whatever worldly losses you may thereby encounter-though it be property, reputation, or life itself--you will never, never knowingly or intentionally commit sin; you will never knowingly or intentionally offend God, or act contrary to his blessed will. This will enable you to possess a tender and an enlightened conscience, and to avoid the very appearance of evil. Having pledged your vows at the foot of the cross, you must regard yourself as no longer your own, but as be

Partial obedience--Illustration.

longing to Jesus Christ, and therefore bound to glorify him in your body and in your spirit which are his.

Many, it is to be feared, who make a profession of religion, unhappily mistake the extent of their obligations, and think that a partial obedience will meet the divine requisitions under the mild and more lenient dispensation of the gospel I have seen many instances of persons striving to yield obedience to all the divine commands but one, and pleading the infirmity of human nature, for the habitual neglect and violation of that one command.

I once met with an instance of an old man, his head covered with silver locks, and he tottering on

the
verge

of eternity, in whose character I found a striking and melancholy illustration of the truth of the preceding remark. This venerable looking man, who had many excellencies of character, was constant in his attendance

upon

divine worship; delighted with plain and practical preaching; ready at all times, and gratified with an opportunity, to converse upon experimental religion, upon the necessity of holiness of heart and of life ; punctual and regular, morning and evening, in calling his family together for prayer : and yet, strange inconsistency ! he indulged himself habitually, day after day, in the intemperate use of ardent spirits -- that mingled poison which has cut off thousands of lives, and landed countless multitudes in hell. He could not be convinced but what it was right and proper that he should be allowed this indulgence. He trusted, that if he erred in this respect, the divine Being would look with compassion upon the infirmity of his nature. The truth was, this was his darling sin : this was the offending limb which, the Saviour says, we must amputate, or else the whole body must sink down to hell. This single indulgence, notwithstanding all his other virtues, was in the eye of heaven the

very mark of the beast,” showing that he was a child of perdition. While he was flattering himself that he was safe, that the Most High would look with clemency upon his infirmity, and not be greatly strict to mark what was done amiss, he had forgotten that it was the unalterable decision of the Almighty, that "no drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God.

I have seen men full of zeal for the glory of God, who were ready to make great sacrifices to extend the Redeem

Inconsistent professors.

er's kingdom ; forward in all efforts having for their object the alleviation of human misery, and the salvation of immortal souls ; uniform and regular in the discharge of the duties of the family and the closet; and yet these very men allowed themselves to take the advantage of the ignorance or necessity of those with whom they trafficked, so as to be actually guilty of deception and fraud, and at the same time flattered themselves with the delusive impression that this was a trifling error, for which they would never be called to an account.

Again, I have known others, who in the leading features of their character were apparently devoted to God, and lovely examples of piety, yet in their intercourse with their fellow men evincing most lamentable duplicity, and the •malignant disposition to defame and calumniate their neighbours.

I recollect a striking instance of a young, beautiful, and interesting female, who made a solemn profession of religion by ratifying her baptismal engagement, and receiving the imposition of hands. I had an opportunity of observing her subsequent course. She seemed to live agreeably to her vow in most things. Yet to the close observer it was obvious that, in this act of dedicating herself to God, the surrender had not been without some reserves. She wished to be saved. She was willing to make many sacrifices. But she thought she might still mingle in scenes of worldly pleasure, and visit those places of fashionable amusement, which never fail to dissipate serious reflection, create a disrelish for the enjoyment of religion, and render one's devotions cold and heartless. In addition to all these evils, such worldly conformity never fails to expose the cause of Christ to reproach. Thus while she was acting in direct contravention of the most solemn engagements, and especially of the divine injunction, “Be not conformed to this world," and was thus bringing down the bleeding Saviour, to trample him under her feet; she was persuading herself that her conduct was proper and consistent, and a necessary compliance with the usages of refined society. The result was, she became imbued with the spirit of the world, and lost all her religious enjoyments.

Now I have stated these several cases, to show that those who have any reserves in their obedience, who do

Perpetual obedience.

not give themselves up unconditionally, do not "obediently keep God's holy will and commandments.Your obedience must be universal. This you bind yourself to, by covenant engagement. If you pursue any other course, but this narrow path, you cannot walk so as to please God. By no other way can you reach heaven and save your soul. While you trust entirely to the merits of Christ, you must give this evidence of your love and devotion to him,--that you indulge in no known sin, and neglect no known duty.

3. I remark, that these efforts to obey God and keep his holy commandments, must be unremitted, and continue through life. This is a part of your covenant engagement. You promise not only “ obediently to keep God's holy will and commandments, but to walk in the same all the days of your life.” The covenant you enter into is an everlasting covenant, never to be forgotten. It is expected that your course will be progressive and onward. As soldiers of Jesus Christ, it is expected that you will be faithful in the service of the great Captain of

your salvation ;

that

you will never desert the standard under which you march, or prove recreant in the day of battle, but that you will fight manfully the good fight of faith, and finally die with your

The promise is only to them that endure to the end. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

The Scriptures everywhere warn us against backsliding and apostasy. The situation of one in this relapsed and fallen condition is truly alarming.

In the first place, this backslidden is a most dangerous state, from the fact that the subject of it is offering daily insult to heaven. In professing to come out from the world, and choose the service of Christ, the man acted voluntarily and without constraint. Having tried that service, and then again returned to the world, his conduct is a practical declaration that he prefers the service of Satan to the service of God; and is not this an insult to the Most High ? If God

angry every day with the transgressor, who is still walking in darkness, in what light will he regard that man who has once been illuminated from on high, and tasted of the heavenly gift, and been made a partaker of the Holy Ghost, and has afterwards gone back to his former course,

“ like the dog to his vomit, and the sow that

armour on.

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