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Secondly, I would surround you with all the ima AGEs employed by the sacred writers, when they would describe the nature of a religious life. For which of them does not imply progress, and remind us of the importance of undiminished ardour and unceasing exertion? Is it “the shining light ?” This “ shines “ more and more unto the perfect day.” Is it the growing grain ? Behold“ first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” Is it the multard-feed? What though its beginning be small, “when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and s becometh a tree ; so that the birds of the air “ come and lodge in the branches thereof." Is it leaven ? It prevades “the meal, till the whole be leava sened.” Is the christian a scholar; and is he only to retain what he has already acquired ? Is he running a race; and in the middle of his course does he fit down to rest, or step aside to gather flowers ? Is he a warrior; and does he fleep not only in the field, but even in the action ?
Thirdly, I would call forth EXAMPLES in your presence. They teach you the same truth--Who said, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory?" A inan, who had “ feen God face to face.” Who prayed, “teach me thy statutes :") “open thou mine eyes, that I
may behold wondrous things out of thy law ?” A man, who had “ more understanding than” all“ his “ teachers ;' a man, who “ understood more than the “ ancients.” It is needless to multiply instances. Perhaps no man ever carried religion to higher degrees; perhaps no individual had ever so much reason to be fatisfied with his proficiency as the apostle Paul; but hear his language to the Philippians ; “ Brethren, I “count not myself to have apprehended: but this one “thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind.” And what things, to use the words of an admired preacher, had he to forget? The churches he had eftablished, the sermons he had preached ; his prayers and epistles ; journeys and perils; unexampled labours; the abundance of his revelations, his entering the third heaven, all this, says he,“ is behind ;” all this I deem unworthy of recollection, compared with the future. I am reaching forth unto “ those things which are be“ fore ; I press toward the mark, -for the prize of my
high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” And have we“ attained;" are we“ already perfect ?" And shall we leave off to make advances ? Shall we be satisfied with our trifling acquisitions ?
Fourthly, I would hold up to view the ADVANTAGes of progressive religion.
A christian should be concerned for the honour of God; he is under infinite obligations to “shew forth “ the praises of Him, who hath called us out of dark“ness into his marvellous light ;" but“ herein is” our “ Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit."
A christian should be concerned for the welfare of his fellow-creatures. He should be a blessing to his family, to his country. He should be as “a dew from “ the Lord,” fertilizing the place in which he lives.. He should have a stock, not only sufficient to sustain himself, but to relieve others. He should be a stream, at which the thirsty may drink; a shadow, under which the weary may refresh themselves; he should be the image of his Lord and Saviour, going about doing good, casting out unclean spirits, opening the eyes of the
blind, binding up the broken-hearted. But the more grace he possesses, the more qualified will he be for usefulness; the more will he be disposed and enabled to do good.
A christian should be concerned for his own prosperity; and has he to learn wherein it confists? Need he be told, that adding grace to grace, is adding “ strength " to strength,” dignity to dignity, beauty to beauty, joy to joy ? It is with the christian, as it is with the man in trade ; the more he acquires, the more he is enabled to gain ; every increase is not only a poffeffion, but a capacity. “ To him that hath, shall be given, and he s shall have more abundantly; but from him that hath “not, shall be taken away, even that which he seemeth “to have.” The more sin is mortified in us, the less will the prince of this world find” to encourage his approach ; the less susceptible shall we be of temptation in the scenes of danger through which we pafs. There is something very attractive and pleasing in progress. It is agreeable to observe a stately edifice rising up from the deep basis, and becoming a beautiful mansion. It is entertaining to see the rough outline of a picture, filled and finished. It is striking in the garden, to behold the tree renewing signs of life; to mark the expanding foliage, the opening bud, the lovely blossom, the swelling, colouring, ripening fruit. And where is the father, where is the mother, who has not sparkled with delight, while contemplating the child growing in ftature ; acquiring by degrees the use of its tender limbs ; beginning to totter, and then to walk more firmly; the pointing finger succeeded by the prattling tongue'; curiosity awakened ; reason dawning ; new
powers opening ; the character forming. But nothing is to be compared with the progress of “ this building “ of God;" these “ trees of righteousness;" this “ changing into his image from glory to glory;" this process of “the new creature" from the hour of regeneration“ unto a perfect man, unto the measure of " the stature of the fullness of Christ.” And, O what is it when we are the subjects too! The nearer we live to heaven, the more of its pure, and peaceful influence we shall enjoy. The way of life, narrow at the entrance, widens as we proceed. It is the nature of habits to render their acts easy and delightful. There is little pleasure in religion, if there be no fervency ; if there be no vigour in faith, no zeal in devotion, no life in duty, religion is without a soul; it is the mere carcass of inanimate virtue. What sensations of ecstacy, what prospects of assurance, can such christians expect? In conversion, as in the alteration of an old edifice, we first demolish, and this only furnishes us with rubbish and ruins ; but afterwards, we raise up an orderly beautiful building, in which we are refrehed and charmed. What an happiness arises from dif.. ficulties overcome, and from labour crowned with success! What emotions can equal the joy of one, who after the painful battle “ divides the fpoil ?” But what can resemble the satisfaction of the christian, who on each successful exertion gathers fresh “ glory, “honour, and immortality!” The life of the active christian is the labour of the bee; who all day long is flying from the hive to the flower, or from the flower to the hive; but all his business is confined to fragran-cy, and productive of sweets. There are many prom
ises made to perseverance in the divine life, and this is one ;
" then shall we know if we follow on to know “ the Lord : his going forth is prepared as the morning ;
and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the 5 latter and the former rain unto the earth.” This is the way to obtain divine refreshments and manifestations ; thus the Saviour we pursue, upon every pleafing furprise we express will say," thou shalt see great“er things than these.” Some of you are much perplexed as to your spiritual condition ; the reason is obvious; little things are scarcely perceptible; let your religion be enlarged, and it will become more obvious. And to close this part of our discourse, remember that it is an awful proof, that you have no real religion, if you are satisfied with what you have ; a degree of experience however small, would stimulate ; the relish would provoke the appetite ; and having “ tasted that “ the Lord is gracious,” your language would be, evermore give us this bread.”
The nearer a perfon in any profession or fcience approaches to perfection, the more clearly will he perceive, and the more painfully will he feel his remaining imperfe&tions. In nothing is this more undeniable, than in religious proficiency. This being the case, I am persuaded, christians, you are prepared,
PART III. To receive fome ADMONITIONS WITH REGARD TO YOUR FUTURE EFFORTS.
First, Shake off INDOLENCE. Nothing is more injurious to our progress, and alas ! nothing is more common. It has indeed been said, that floth is a vicę