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ward-there is nothing to arraign its wisdom nor to demonstrate the prudence of a very different course. But if, on the contrary, we are immortal beings, than which nothing can be more certain, then to have all our principles of action shaped only to the requisitions of a mortal life, is the extreme of folly and madness; and the farther we can be from so great a delusion, the better for us. Now for example:
It is one of the maxims of the world, that if we are virtuous, i. e. if we render to every man his due, cultivate the mild and beneficent affections, do good actions, and are free from gross iniquities, it is enough. No more will be required of us by God himself, and we may sit down at our ease in the calm and undisturbed hope of unquestioned bliss.
Brethren, let me deal very plainly with you on this point, for it is in reality the rock on which a great portion of men make shipwreck of their souls; and I would observe that it confines all your accountability to the second table of the law, leaving the first, all your duties and your relations to God, unprovided for. Who knows not that amiable and beneficent tempers are an essential part of the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ! But who knows not that, separated from the connection under which his word has placed them, torn asunder from supreme love to God from which he has made them to spring, they are at best but a milder form of rebellion against him? How often must you be reminded that mutual acts of kindness, the various good offices of life, are simply necessary to the existence of society among rebels, and that the man who may be most distinguished for them may himself be the most obnoxious rebel among the whole, and may be condemned for abetting and encouraging others in their rebellion? Was such a plea ever of any value before the tribunals of men! Has it not appeared that the most humane, beneficent, and even righteous among a band of transgressors, was himself a principal culprit ? And did the abuse of these good qualities in the service of rebellion for one moment, arrest the most condign punishment ? And shall we impute to the perfect governinent of God a blunder which cannot find a place among the imperfect governments of men! Besides, what becomes of the rights of God your Maker? Where · is the obedience to the first and greatest commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind? Is this to be trodden under foot with impunity? Are
lives long forgetful of the infinite good, and when called to account escape under the pretext that you were kind to rebels like yourself? Never to bestow a thought upon the eternal world, and to step as a matter of course into all its blessedness! Never to
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have any concern about glorifying God here, and to be taken up from the mire of your pollutions unpardoned, unwashed, unsanctified, into the full possession of his glory hereafter ? O more than sottish! Who hath bewitched you, children of men! And do I not speak to many, who, with the gospel of salvation freely and fully proclaimed in their hearing, have yet no other hope of divine acceptance than this absurd and stupid lie? Believe not the world. Her theology is not for sinful
To behave decently on earth is no passport for heaven. It may do well enough among the blind and clumsy judges here, but will infallibly be detected by the keen-eyed righteousness beyond the grave. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; but except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Hope for no change, for no mitigation. If the Lord Christ speaks true, you shall find, when there is no rectifying mistakes, that every man of you who has all that the world pronounces enough, and has no more, will be forever shut out from the kingdom of God.
2. Where the world cannot succeed in expelling religious sensibility altogether, there is another maxim calculated to neutralize its power and render it ineffectual: “ You need not be so strict; this great precision only does harm; it makes religion unamiable, and yourselves odious. Why cannot you enjoy in moderation and with dignity the innocent freedoms which form the zest of society, and not put on that sombre air, and keep at so chilling a distance from all the relish of life ?”
In this way do men contrive to make void the law of God by their manner of representation. To fear God and do his will, is “strictness" and “ hurtful precision.” To preserve tenderness of conscience, is to be “unamiable and odious.” To follow the multitude, is to “ enjoy with moderation and dignity only innocent freedoms ;” and to avoid all appearance of evil, is to have “a sombre air and to keep at a chilling distance from the relish of life.” So they wrap it up. To make short work of all these fair words and false pretences, do those who use them really love the law of God? and is it only against extravagant and fanatical excesses that they set their faces? Or is their opposition in very deed pointed at all that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord? Is it not precisely the image of God which they cannot endure, and his authority which they would gladly set aside ? Would they not rob you of all the comforts of a good conscience ? of all the sweets of a peaceful walk with God? and persuade you to exchange them for the giddy whirl, for the idiot laugh, for the midnight debauch, and whatever belongs to that mental and bodily dissipation which is like the crackling of thorns under a pot, noisy for a moment and gone forever? Among the other things which form the “ zest of society,” you must pollute your conscience, corrupt your morals, and dishonor the glorious and fearful name of the Lord your God by a little “innocent” gambling. You must also participate in that rational and elegant amusement which the abandoned and thieves select for their special entertainment, the play-house — all, lest your religion should appear unamiable. Were the Lord Jesus now on earth, should he not pass with our fashionable judges as morose, petulant, impertinent, a perfect stranger to polished manners, an enemy to all the cheerfulness and the graces of life? His apostle Paul would be derided as a fanatic; and John, the beloved disciple, would be pitied as a well-meaning enthusiast, endurable only because he was weak. In short, my friends, if you mean to be Christians, you must walk as Christ also walked. Your ears must be deaf alike to the open enmity and the hollow friendship of the world. You must have nothing to do with their plausible maxims—parleying is half a surrender. You must put down your foot decisively in the King's highway, the way of holiness, in which the elders obtained a good report, and which is your short and only way to the kingdom.