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cessary consequence, we are quite unable, without Divine afliststance, to perform a good action. We must therefore look up to God for the promised aids of his grace, that, through Christ strengthening us, we may be able to do all things.
4. It must be univerfal: " Ye are my friends," fays our Lord, " if ye do whatfoever I command ". you." There are fome who appear very zealous in observing those precepts that mote immediately respect God 5 but, if we examine -their conduct in those which concern their neighbour, we will sind them very defective. I need not here spend time in proving what is fo evident from daily experience. For, what evil speaking, what reproaching of our neighbour's character, and what unjust dealing between man and man, are not every day forced upon our observation; and yet, who make greater pretensions to religion than fome who are guilty of those faults? Would you then distinguish yourselves from such, and warrantably expect the Divine approbation^ you must endeavour to keep a conscience void of of» fence towards God and towards men, carefully ob* serving the precepts both of the sirst and second table of the law. I do not fay, indeed, that our obedience will be persect; for, alas! persection is not the property of any thing in this state and world : " If we "fay we have no sin," faid the apostle John, " we "deceive ourselves, and the truth is.not in us." But yet, a Christian will not, deliberately, and with the' consent of-his mind, allow of any desect in his obedience, nor of the least transgression of any command of Christ. Nay, it will be his sincere desire to guard against every sin without exception, and to give an unreserved obedience to the law of God, as far as it is known to him; and whenever he fails and comes short of his duty; he will be heartily forry, and endeavour, in a humble dependence on divine graces to be more circumspect and watchsul for the suture. Hence are those pious breathings of David's foul J "0 that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes, P £ thca "then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect to "all thy commandments. Incline my heart to thy ** testimonies. I have sworn, and will perform it, u that I will keep thy righteous judgments."
5. It must be constant and persevering: "I have ** inclined my heart," says the Psalmist, " to perform "thy statutes alway, even unto the end." No man can be said to keep God's commandments, who only seems to attend to his duty at certain times and seasons, and at other times neglects it. Some, for instance, put on the appearance or show of being religious about the time of a sacrament, on the Sabbath day, and on other public and solemn occasions; but, at other times, they throw osf the mask, and indulge themselves in forbidden liberties. In a word, there are many prosessing Christians, who serve God at intervals only. Terrisied, perhaps, by some alarming Providence, or roused by an awakening sermon, they set about reading and praying, and other duties which they had formerly neglected: but, in a little time, their devotion cools again; their goodness becomes like the morning cloud, and like the early dew, which soon pass away. Nay, too often they return with the dog to his vomit, and with the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire. But, be not deceived ; this is not to keep the comandments of God; nor are those the marks of his children. Evangelical obedience is a much more settled and constant thing. It may possibly admit of some breaks and interruptions; but it is what the Christian habitually aims at, and what will never be quite laid aside. For, as the Spirit of God informs us, ** the
righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath
clean hands shall be stronger and stronger (a)." And this brings me to observe,
Lajlly, That it must be still growing and increasing. ** The path of the just/' says Solomon, " is as the "mining light, that shineth more and more unto ** the persect day." It is very true, indeed, that
(a) Job xvfif 9.
our obedience, while we are in this world, never canbe persect: for the best of saints, while here, knowbut in part, and are but sanctisied in part. Their obedience, however, is progressive, and still advancing nearer and nearer to persection. Hence we sind the obedience of the Christian compared in scripture to the growth of a human body> which, you know, advances from infancy to childhood, from childhood to youth, aud from youth to complete maturity. And, in the same manner, the apostle says, we all come, in the unity of the saith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a persect man, unto the measure of the stature of the sulness of Christ. And; such we sind was the same apostle's obedience ; which he describes with great strength and beauty in allusion to the Olympic games: " Forgetting," says he, . "those things that are behind, and reaching forward "to those things that are before, I press towards the "mark, for the prize of the high calling that is"with God in Christ Jesus (a).'" In a word, the regular course of a Christian's obedience produces that effect on the people of God which the Psalmist particularly mentions: " They go on from strength to. "strength, until at last they appear before the Lord "in Zion (6).'r
Thus I have endeavoured to show you what that obedience is, or that keeping of the commandments of God which the gospel requires, and which, ac many of you as were yesterday worthy communicants, have, in humble dependence on the righteousness and grace of our Redeemer, sincerely resolved to perform*. I now proceed,
II. To show you how necessary it is, that you avoid the society of the wicked, and have no sellowship with evil-doers, if you would keep the commandments of God.
And, that you may know who those evil-doers are, whose company you are to avoid, you may consider two P 2 'paflages
(*} Phil.iii. ia, r*, W 7
passages of scripture, where their characters are distinctly described by the Spirif of God, whose judgment is according to truth. The sirst passage to which I reser, you will 'sind in Cor. vi. o,.io. "Be ** not deceived: neither sornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of them"selves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, "nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall "inherit the kingcrom of God." And the other in 1 Tim. i. 9, io. "Knowing this, that the law is not "made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and ft disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for "unnoly and prosane, for murderers .of sathers, ** and murderers of mothers, for manflayers, for "whoremongers, for them that desile themselves "with mankind, for men-stealers, for liars, for per"jured persons, and if there be any other thing that "is contrary to sound doctrine." But, besides these open and notorious sinners, whose lives are a scandal to human nature, I must tell you, that, by the wicked and evil-doers, we are likewise to understand, even such who, though in their outward behaviour they may be sober and apparently harmless, yet have neconcern about religion and the sear of God, who never attend public worship, nor give any evidence of their belief in a Deity, or in the truth of our most holy religion: For, whatever sigure and appearance persons of this description may make in the world, yet they, as well as the openly abandoned, are dangerous enemies to the fouls of men. These, then, are the wicked and evil-doers, whose company you must avoid, if you would keep the commandments of God.
I acknowledge, indeed, it is impossible for the best Christian, wholly to avoid the company and conversation of the wicked. He may, as the apostle tells us, as well abandon society, and go out of the world. Nor must we neglect the duties of civility, and good manners, even to the worst of men; for this would reflect difhpnour upon our religion, and be inconsistent sistent with the conduct of its blessed Author, in whose lips was the law of kindness in every situation* Nay, when we have reason to think we may be usesul to the ungodly and prosane, by our instruction and example, we ought not to deny them out company or conversation j though here, indeed, great caution must be used, lest, while we intend theis spiritual good, we hurt ourselves by any sinsul compliance. Our great Lord and Master, we sind, sometimes conversed with publicans and sinners, though lie himself was holy, harmless, and undesiled; and this apostle tells us, that, in things indisserent, he became all things to all men, that he might by all means save some.
But you must take care not to make the impious and wicked your intimate companions, nor spend too much of your leisure hours in their company, whatever entertainment or worldly advantage you may expect to sind from it. If you 'would be saithsul toGod, and maintain upon your minds a serious sense of religion, you must avoid, as. much as possible, all samiliar conversation with them, and say with the Psalmist in the text, " Depart from me, ye evil-doers y "for I will keep the commandments of my God." For, consider, that frequenting the company of thewicked and prosane, will have a satal tendency toindispose you for your duty, and even to efface any good impreflion that may have been made upon your minds. We live in a land blessed with the privileges of the gospel, where we enjoy the means of grac« in purity and abundance. And by these,. some sense. of religion is commonly wrought on the minds of men,% especially in their younger years. When these good impressions are duly cultivated, they grow, under the influence of grace, more lively and vigorous, until, at length, the Christian is made persect in holiness; but if they are resisted, and the Spirit of God provoked to withdraw, men turn obstinate in sin, and persist in it without remorse. Ncvr, w hat cai* have a more direct tendency to resist, and,