« AnteriorContinuar »
is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat."* Daily observation teaches us that this is as true as it is awful. Men are content to live without hope, and without God in the world. They never enquire how they shall serve and please him who is the kind author of their existence, and to whom they are indebted for all they enjoy. So far from it, that religion which consists in love and obedience to him is generally treated with ridicule and contempt. .
While we lament, however, the sad and uni. versal revolt of man from his Creator, let us not despond; as though he had abandoned the whole human race to perpetual misery, given them up to the hardness of their hearts, and the curse of his most righteous law. 'Light and Truth are permitted to visit this dark abode. The Father of mercies condescends to look down with pity from his throne. The vilest of sinners are sometimes arrested in their career. Convictions seizes their guilty minds. Grace leads them in triumph to the cross: they confess their sins, they behold a Saviour, they weep, they rejoice, they renounce the world, they sit down at the feet of Jesus, and with earnest looks and sincere desires they ex. claim,-Lord, what wilt thou have us to do?
Dear reader, if this be your picture, attend and follow me for a short season through a few pages; and may the God of mercy and peace grant his benediction, and render it effectual to your edification and comfort !
As true religion is founded in sentiment, we
* Matt. vii. 13.
shall begin with calling your attention to this great and essential point. Here then let it be observed, that it is of the greatest importance that you have right and just principles. Nothing can be more dangerous than the opinion which some hold, that it is of little or no consequence what a man believes, if the life be right. But it would be very difficult to prove how the life can be right, if there be no fixed principles in the mind; or if those principles be erroneous; for whatsoever a man soweth that also shall he reap. Where á man is uninfluenced by principle, or acts without thought, according to the motives which for the moment are presented to his mind, his conduct must be varied and undecided. As all sciences have their axioms or first principles from which all their various branches and parts are deduced, so it can hardly be supposed that religion is such a vague, loose, uncertain thing, as to be any thing or nothing, just as the prejudices and humours, customs and habits of men would make it. One of the first things, however, which you will meet with, now you begin to be concerned about religion, will be an attack from those who pretend to superior discernment, extensive candour, and free enquiry. But you will do well to remember that there is a false liberality, as well as an unsanctified orthodoxy. You have been lately brought to experience a deep compunction of heart for your past sins; nothing can describe, perhaps, the sorrow you feel for your conduct: you have been called to repentance, and directed to look to a crucified Saviour for deliverance from the guilt of sin, and to the Holy Spirit for his sanctifying influence to deliver you from its power. But you must not think it strange if you should be sura rounded with those who wish to quiet your fears. Some will tell you, that if you have but a sincere heart, opinions are nothing Others will insinu. ate, that it is unreasonable that you should make yourself uneasy about your sins, since the Father of the universe is alike merciful to all, and never made man to damn him. Some ignorant people will pretend to be sorry that you should be so much concerned about your soul; while they will tell you, that others who have had a better educa. tion than you, and are wise and intelligent, do not distress themselves as you do. Self-righteous pharisees will be ready to suggest to you a plan of religion which will be sufficient to raise your reputation as very regular and strict man. Others, again, will be eager, perhaps, to propose to you some particular doctrine for which they have a predilection, or in which they have been taught; while others will be ready to neglect or deride you, thereby thinking that in a little time they shall easily bring you back to your former habits and course of life.
Now, in the midst of all these various insinua. tions, how are you to act ? Are you to suspend your judgment, and have no opinion of your own? Are you to sit still in indolence, or give way to the fancies and opinions of others? Are you to be bewildered and confused by the clashing sentiments or the various propositions made to you by either the falsely liberal, the pretended religionist, or the ignorant and lukewarm? No, my dear reader : Determine in the strength and grace of God to be decided. As you have been awakened to a sense of your state, and a concern for your best interests, determine to seek the truth and
embrace it. Discard the thought of being sometimes one thing and sometimes another. Various difficulties may arise in your mind, and no doubt you should avoid taking up sentiments rashly, and without consideration. But, in this great and important work, the salvation of your immortal soul calls upon you to be earnest and resolute. * You see how prompt and decided men are for the world ; they want no exhortations to influence them to acquire wealth, to seek fame, to obtain power. They are not ashamed to own that they are decided; and they prove it by their earnest solicitude, their unwearied labours, their wonderful patience, their determined resolution to conquer all difficulties.
But no man can well be decided without a rule. Now it is your happiness that you have one every way adequate and satisfactory. And what is this? Not the religion of your forefathers; of the state; of your friends; of a sect; but the Bible. From thence you must derive all your principles. This you must study with the greatest attention; for here you will find a grand body of doctrine, in which it is desirable you should be established. Here learn the character and perfections of God; his wise, just, and universal providence over all his creatures. Man's awful and wilful apostacy from him; the sentence pronounced on him, and the state of misery and danger to which he is reduced by sin. God's wise, eternal, and gracious purpose towards him, in determining the way of his deliverance. The execution of this wonderful purpose by our Lord Jesus Christ, who came into this world to satisfy divine justice, obey the law which man had bro. ken, and by his own life and death to work out and bring in an everlasting righteousness by which alone man can be justified and saved. The work of the Divine Spirit in applying the blessings of redemption, by effectually changing our hearts, bestowing on us a living faith by which we are united to Christ, - adopted into his family, sanctified in all the powers and faculties of our nature, comforted and supported under all' the troubles of life, and enabled to persevere in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, until we arrive at the mansions of eternal glory. These are excellent and important doctrines, which are not to be considered or treated as mere matter of speculation, but received and esteemed as principles essentially connected with the interests and happiness of our immortal souls. They are the foundation of all hope, the source of all comfort, and the main spring of true and genuine obedi. ence. Observe, therefore, their essential nature; their distinguishing features; their exact harmony and happy effect. * Study them constantly, that
* We are informed that the late Rev. John Ryland came to this extraordinary resolution : June 25, Evening 10, 1744, Æt. 20 Years, 8 Months, and 2
Days. If there is ever a God in heaven or earth, I vow and protest in his strength, or that, God permitting me, I'll find him out; and I'll know whether he loves or hates me ; or I'll die and perish, soul and body in the pursuit and search.
Witness, Jonx COLLET RYLAND.