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Necessity of perseverance.
[Addressed to the recently confirmed.]
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. From the
14th of Exodus.
St. Paul, speaking in one of his epistles of the conduct of the Israelites in the wilderness, and of certain events that befell them, remarks, “ These things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition.' Viewed in this light, the five books of Moses form one of the most interesting and instructive portions of the Holy Scriptures. Of all the useful lessons conveyed to us by those historic books, none is more worthy of our attention than this idea, which we find every where prominent,--the necessity of perseverance, of advancing in the path of duty, whatever difficulties or discouragements may stand in our way.
The children of Israel had scarcely passed the confines of that land, which had been to them a land of bondage, when they were pursued and overtaken by their enemies just as they had entered a narrow defile. On either side were high and impassable mountains ; before them, the deep waves of the Red Sea; and behind, pressing on with exasperated fury, the thousand war-chariots of Egypt. No wonder that the hearts of many now failed and waxed faint. For the Israelites as yet had but little faith. They did not, like their legislator and leader, “ endure as seeing Him who is invisible." This occurrence, however, was designed to confirm and establish their faith ; to convince them of their entire dependence upon his almighty arm; to convince them that when he undertook to point out their path and be their guide, it was their duty to go forward,
First attributes of Christian character.
leaving all consequences with him. Hence the command to Moses was,
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.”
And this is precisely the command which the ambassadors for Christ have received in relation to all those who have set out in the way everlasting, Speak unto them, that they go forward.” I feel myself called upon at this time to deliver this, as a special message, to those who last Lord's-day stood before this chancel to ratify, in the apostolic rite of confirmation, their covenant engagement to God, and who declared that it was their fixed and settled determination to walk in the way of God's commandments. Advancement and continual progress are expected of every one that names the name of Christ.
In the course of instruction that I delivered preparatory to confirmation, it was my object to hold up prominently to view the solemn truth, that no one could be in a fit state to receive this ordinance who had not exercised “ repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ;" no one whose heart had not been changed by the transforming power of divine grace; no one who had not been converted to God, and made a new creature in Christ Jesus.
1. In reference to the attainment of these first attributes of Christian character, the command of God is, “ Speak unto them, that they go forward." We trust, and humbly hope, that all those who have received this sacred ordinance, do stand on the rock Christ Jesus, and are born from above. But it must not be forgotten, that the human “ heart is deceitful above all things,” and that the most advanced Christians find it necessary to seek constantly to deepen their repentance, and render more vigorous and operative their faith. Allow me then to ask you, to examine yourselves anew; to survey your whole past history; your repentance; your submission to God; your surrender of yourselves to the Saviour, and to see what is your present prevailing disposition of mind. If you find the determination of Joshua to be truly the response of your heart, “ As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” then let the animating watchword to arouse and impel you onward be,
Advancement in all religious duties.
“ Awake my soul, stretch every nerve,
And press with vigour on:
And an immortal crown.'
And to this end, dear hearer, daily examine your own heart. Do not be afraid to see yourself in the broad light of divine truth. Seek to acquire still deeper and more humbling views of your own sinfulness, and to feel from the very bottom of your heart that “godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of.” Endeavour to realize more and more that your salvation is entirely in Christ. Look to him as the source and fountain of all spiritual life. Strive daily to make a new, entire, and unconditional surrender of yourself into his hands, and not only to confide and trust in him as your Advocate and Saviour, but to follow and obey him as your Lord and Master. In short, seek “the life you henceforth live in the flesh, to live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved
himself for you." 2. In reference to the uniform and conscientious discharge of all the various duties of life, the divine command is, " Speak unto them, that they go forward.” Having solemnly dedicated yourselves to the service of God, the sincerity of this act will be evinced by the general tenor of your conduct. What has passed within your own breast the world knows not, only as it is exhibited by outward acts. In the ordinary and every-day transactions of life, there are a thousand indications which testify, whether we are labouring “ to bring under the body and keep it in subjection;" whether we are striving to bring the tempers and dispositions of our minds into conformity with the pure and holy precepts of the gospel; and whether we are constantly seeking, in all the various relations of life, to perform the numerous duties that grow out of those several relations.
They that are truly the workmanship of God, “ created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that they should walk in them.” They will be just and upright in their dealings, obedient to parents, affectionate to brothers and sisters, kind to the poor, patient of evil, forgiving injuries, active in the cause of Christ, and will make the will of God in all things their
Family prayer indispensable.
rule of conduct. If you, then, are what you profess to be, these things will be in you and abound yet more and
3. In reference to all your religious duties, the voice that comes from the ivine throne, is, “ Speak unto them, that they go forward."
If you have hitherto found pleasure in reading the word of God, how much delight may you promise yourself from the future perusal of that sacred volume! As you bend over those pages, ever and anon lifting an eye to heaven for the illumination of the Spirit, how will one and another discovery of redeeming grace break upon your ravished view ! You must continue to study the word and works of God, that you may learn more of his character, and better understand how to render unto him the honour that is due to his name.
In prayer you must become more and more engaged. In the retirement and secrecy of your closet, you must seek to draw nearer and still nearer to God. You must seek for that daily and hourly communion with him, by which your soul will be continually cheered, and animated with a sense of his glorious presence.
innocently forget to eat your food ; but you cannot for a single day, without the greatest loss and injury to your soul, forget to seek the face of God in secret prayer. The warm love to Jesus, that now glows in your bosom, will soon wax cold unless daily fanned by the breath of secret prayer.
Family prayer is also another duty incumbent upon every one of you who are placed at the head of a household. Let no one imagine that he can live a consistent Christian life without family worship. That professor of religion, sustaining the relation of a father or mother, that has no family worship, is every day giving the lie to his profession. I know that the Christian wife, whose husband “ cares for none of these things,” may have many difficulties to encounter in establishing family worship. But yet she must establish it, if she would save her own soul, and the souls of her children. Let her announce her purpose ; invite all the senior members of the family to be present, and at all events, have her little ones around her, morning and evening, as she bows down to adore the great Jehovah, and supplicate his blessing. The effect of this Public worship a Christian duty. faithful performance of duty will be most salutary upon all the members of the household. I have known many instances, where, when the Christian mother and wife has not shrunk from her duty, she has been made the honoured instrument of conversion to her best and dearest friends. In this matter the command of Jehovah is, “ Speak unto her, that she go forward."
I need not here say, that public worship is a duty, which the Christian cannot neglect without endangering his spiritual and eternal interests. It is a most sacredly enjoined duty. "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is.” It is one of the most powerful means of grace. It is a testimony which Christians are expected to bear of the pleasure and delight which they take in divine things. And there can be no higher evidence that one is “ still in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity,” than that he has no love or relish for the worship of God's holy temple.
When the house of God is open, and people are invited to come into his presence, the vacant and unoccupied seat of any professor of religion is a startling object to my eye. I am led at once to fear that some temporal calamity has befallen him or his family, or that he has begun to depart from the living God. And when I see the seats of many professors of our holy religion vacant around me, I confess I preach with an agony of feeling, and with the terrible apprehension upon my mind, that some whom I hoped would be my crown of rejoicing, I shall at last behold driven away into "outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” But of you, who have recently come up to the help of the Lord, we hope “ better things, and things which accompany salvation."
For your comfort and encouragement, and to refresh and invigorate you in your heavenly journey, the great Captain of your salvation has mercifully established the sacrament of the holy supper. And in reference to this holy feast, my message to you is, “ Speak unto them, that they go forward.
I am well aware that every one of you who stood before this chancel last Lord's-day, to ratify your baptismal engagement, did it with the full expectation of commemorating this day the dying love of Jesus around the sacra