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'' The world will soon again display all its attractions before you, and endeavor to extinguish every good principle you have imbibed. But if the divine truths you have heard explained and ensorced in these Lectures have taken any sirm root in your minds; if you are seriously convinced that Christ and his religion came from heaven, and that he is able to make good whatever he has promisee? and whatever he has threatened, there is nothing surely in this world that can induce you to risque you the loss of eter-' nal happiness, or the inssiction of never-ceasing punishment.
Least of all, will you think that this is the precise motnent for setting your affections on this world and its enjoyments; that these are the times for engaging in eager pursuits after the advantages, the honors, the pleasures of the present lise; for plunging into vice, for dissolving in gaiety and pleasures, for suffering every trivial, every insignisicant object, to banish the remembrance of your Maker and Redeemer from your hearts, where they ought to reign unrivalled and supreme. Surely amidst the dark clouds that now hang over us,* these are not the things that will brighten up our profpects, that will lessen our danger, that will calm our apprehensions, and speak peace and comfort to our souls. No, it must be something of a very different nature; a deep sense of our own unworthiness, a sincere contrition for our past offences, a prostration of ourselves in all humility before the throne of grace, an earnest application for pardon and acceptance through the merits of him who died for us (whofe death and sufserings for our sakes the approaching week will bring fresu before our view,) an ai-dent desire to manisest our love and gratitude, our devotion and attachment to our Maker and our Redeemer, by giving them a decided priority and predominance in our affections and our hearts; by making their will the ruling principle of our conduct; the attainment of their savor, the advancement of their glory, the chief object of our wishes and desires. These are the sentiments we ought to cultivate and cherish if we wish for p.ny solid comfort under calamity or affliction, any consi
* In March 1798.
der.ce in the saror and protection of Heaven; these alone can support and sustain our souls in the midst of danger and distress, at the hour of death, and in the day of judgment.
And how then, are these holy sentiments, these heavenly affections to be excited in our hearts? Most certainly not by giving up all our time and all our thoughts to the endless occupations, the never-ceasing gaities and amusements of this dissipated metropolis; but by withdrawing ourselves frequently from this tumultuous scene, by retiring into our chamber, by communing with our own hearts, by servent prayer, by holding high converse with our Maker, and cultivating some acquaintance with that unseen world to which we are all hastening, and which, in one way or other, must be our portion for ever.
Many of thofe whom I now see before me have, from their high rank and situation in lise, sull leisure and ample opportunities for all these important purposes; and let them be assured, that a strict account will one day be demanded of them in what manner and with what effect they have employed the talents, the time, and the many other advantages with which their gracious Maker has indulged them.
And even those who are most engaged in the busy and laborious scenes of lise, have at least one day in the week which they may, and which they ought to dedicate to the great concerns of religion. Let then that day be kept sacred to its original destination by all ranks of men, from the highest to the lowest. Let it not be profaned by needless journeys, by splendid entertainments, by crowded assemblies, by any thing in short which precludes either ourselves, our samilies, or our domestics, from the exercise of religious duties, or the improvement of those pious sentiments and affections which it was meant to inspire. Let me not, however, be misunderstood. I mean not that it should be either to the rich or the poor, or to any human being whatever, a day of gloom and melancholy, a day of superstitious rigor, and of absolute exclusion from all society and all innocent recreation. I know of nothing in Scripture that requires this; I know of no> good effect that could result from it. On the contrary, it is a sestival, a joyful sestival; a day to which we ought always to look forward with delight, and enjoy with a thanksul and a gratesul heart. But let it be remembered at the same time, that it is a day which God claims as bit own; that he has stamped upon it a peculiar mark of sanctity ; and that it ought to be distinguished from every other day, in the sirst place, by resting from our usual occupations, and giving rest to our servants and our cattle ;. in the next, by attendance on the public worship of God; and in the remaining intervals^ by relaxations and enjoyments peculiarly its o<wn; not by quotidian tumult, noise, and dissipation ; .but by the calm and sdent pleasures of retirement, of recollection, of devout meditation, of secret prayer, yet mingled discreetly with select society, with friendly converse, with sober recreation, and with decent cheersulness throughout the whole.
It was to draw off our attention from the common follies and vanities of the week, and to give the foul a little pause, a little respite, a little breathing from the incessant importunities of business and of pleasure, that this holy sestival was instituted. And if we cannot give up these things for a fingle day, if we cannot make this small sacrisice to Him from whom we derive our very existence, it is high time for us to look to our hearts, and to consider very seriousiy whether such a dispofition and temper of mind as this will ever qualisy us for the kingdom of heaven.
"Could ye not watch with me one hour?" Said our divine Master to his flumbering companions*. Can ye not give me one day out of seven? May he now say to his thoughtless disciples. Let none of us then ever subject ourselves to this bitter reproach. Let us resolve from this moment to make the Christian sabbath a day of holy joy and consolation; a day of heavenly rest and refreshment; and above all, a day for the attentive perusal of thofe sacred pages which have been the subject of these Lectures, and of your most serious attention. It is to be hoped, in
* Mark *iv. 37.
deed, that we shall cot consine coir religion and our-devotion to that day only; but even that day properly employed, will in some degree sanctisy all the rest. It will disengage us (as it was meant to do) gradually and gently from that world, which we must soon (perhaps iboner than we imagine) quit for ever; it will raise our thoughts above the low and trivial pursuits of the present scene, and six them on nobler and worthier objects; it will resine and puiisy, exalt and spiritualize our affections-; will bring*us nearer and nearer to God, and to the world of spirits; and thus lead us on to that Celestial Sabbath, that EverLasting Rest, forwhich the Christian sabbath was meant. to prepare and harmonize our fouls.
MATTH. Chap. vi. And vii..
J.N tliese two chapters our Lord continues and coneludes his admirable discourse from the Mount.
The sirst thing to be noticed here is a strong and repeated caution to avoid all show and. ostentation in the performance of our religious duties.
The three instances specisied are the acts of giving alms, of praying, and of sasting.
The direction with regard to the sirst is, "Take heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them, otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thy alms, do not found a trumpet before thee as the hypocrites do m the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth, that thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly."*
In the same manner with regard to prayer; the rule is, "When thou prayeft thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men; verily I say unto you they have their reward.— But thou, when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."f