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in reliance on the grace of God; without delay; and at all risks, to seek the salvation of the soul through faith in Christ, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present evil world." It includes an inflexible severity of conviction, that this is the one great thing we have in this world to do, and such a concentration of all the energies of our soul in this mighty business, as to idle spectators shall put on the appearance of enthusiasm. It is such a purpose as subordinates every thing to itself. In opposition to transient devotion, it is permanent; in opposition to fluctuating opinions, it is a fixed abiding resolution; in opposition to mere occasional acts, it is an indelible character, an indestructible habit. In short, it is faith in opposition to mere opinion and speculation: it is actually receiving Christ instead of talking about him. It is not like the vapour which, after attracting every eye by its meteoric splendour, vanisheth away while yet the surprised and delighted spectator beholds its luminous course; but it is like the shining light which holds on its way in the heavens, and shineth more and more unto the perfect day. It is attended with a relinquishment of former associations, former pursuits and pleasures, and the embracing all such as are on the side of religion. We have a fine instance of this in the heroic leader of the hosts of the Lord, when looking round upon the wavering tribes of Israel he exclaimed, “Let others do what they will, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”. Another example equally splendid, was presented by the great apostle of the Gentiles, when with the perspective of his suffering career before his eyes, he gave utterance to
that burst of sublime heroism, “ None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so that I might fulfil the ministry I have received of the Lord, and finish my course with joy." Similar to this is the language of a decided Christian, “ Self-denial, ridicule, rage, mortification, loss, all are nothing to me, so that I may believe the Gospel, live in the fear of God, die in his favour, and, through the merits of Christ, be received to everlasting
glory." It will be proper to state here the reasons why so many that have strong impressions occasionally made upon their minds, are not thoroughly and decidedly engaged in the practice of religion. Some of these will be found in the chapter" On the Obstacles of Piety," but there are others which are still more specific in reference to the case before us.
There is in many a want of deep serious consideration. They do not follow up the subject of religion, even when it has been impressed with some degree of force upon their hearts. When emotions have been excited they do not cherish them; but go to their usual conversation, company, or business, instead of entering into their closets to examine their hearts, and to apply the subjects they have heard. I have read of a person, who being an officer in the army, then about to embark for the continent, came to a Christian friend, and told him that he had a great many serious thoughts about the state of his soul, and was resolved to lead a now life; but, said he, there is such a company I must be with to-night; I wish I could disengage myself from them. His friend of course attempted to dissuade him from joining the party. Ho, notwithstanding, went to them, forgot all his serious thoughts when there; was drawn into the revelry of the night; the following day went abroad; and the next news his friend heard of him was, that he was killed in action. Thus his vain companicns extinguished his serious thoughts, diverted his good resolutions, and, by his own consent, robbed him of his eternal salvation.
Another cause of irresolution is, the feeble and uncertain perceptions which many persons have of divine and spiritual things. They have a dim view of the truths of revelation, but they appear like objects in a mist, too indistinct to be made the matter of pursuit. Hence it is of tremendous consequence, that when a young person becomes in any degree serious about religion, he should instantly betake himself to all proper means for informing his judgement on the nature of true religion. He should read the Scriptures with intense application of mind, listen to the preaching of the word with great fixedness of attention, and peruse good books with much seriousness of mind.*
The dominion of some one prevailing sin, if cherished and indulged, has a most fatal influence in preventing decision. Herod would do many things, but not part from Herodias. Felix was moved by Paul's preaching, but he would not give up covetousness. Thus it is with many; they admit the claims of religion; admire its beauty; are moved by its force; resolve to submit to its influence; but then there is some besetting sin, which, when they come to the
* Doddridge's “Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul,” is a standard treatise.
point, they cannot be induced to sacrifice. Every plant has some leading root which connects it with the soil in which it grows, on which more than any of the rest it is dependent for support and nourishment. So it is in the human heart; there is in most persons some prevailing corruption of nature, which more than any of the rest holds the heart to an unregenerate state, and to which very particular attention must be paid in the business of religion. This sin may be different in different persons : but whatever it be, it must be destroyed, or it will destroy us.
Fear of persecution operates in many to prevent decision. You are deterred probably, my children, from giving up yourselves to the influence of piety, by the apprehensions that you shall be called to 'endure the ridicule of those with whom you have been accustomed to associate, and who, being unfriendly to religion, will vent their scorn and contempt on those who submit to its claims. It is impossible that I can be so ignorant of the irreconcileable enmity existing, and destined ever to exist, between religion and the depravity of human nature; or the usual practice of those who hate religion, as to promise you an exemption from the sneers of
you walk in the paths of wisdom. The only weapons which many are able to wield against Christianity are sneers; for there is no mind so imbecile, no fool so foolish, as 'not to be able to laugh; the individual, who could no more argue than an infant could use the sword or brandish the spear of Goliath, can shoot out the lip, and cry methodist, puritan, and fanatic. The power to argue is comparatively rare, but almost every village in the kingdom
will furnish a mob of little minds, to follow after religion as it passes by, and which, like the children of Bethel, persecuting the prophet of the Lord, will ridicule its venerable form.* A morbid sensibility to shame, I am perfectly convinced has kept not a few young people from piety. They cannot bear the broad loud laugh, the contemptuous sneer, the witty jest. They cannot endure the attack of the profane, nor the raillery of the impious. They blush, and conceal their secret attachment to piety directly it is assailed. But, my children, where is the dignity, or the courage of your mind? Are you indeed convinced of the truth of Christianity, and the justice of its claims, and suffer yourselves to be vanquished by the laugh of folly ? What! filee from the enemy of your souls, and surrender your salvation, when he only hisses at you in the skin of a fool! What though the world were to unite its scorn ; shall this deter you from acting, when God, truth, heaven, the bible, conscience, salvation, saints, angels, are all on your side? What! when your spirit has plumed her wings of faith and hope for flight to heaven, shall she give up the dazzling object of her high ambition, and cower down on earth, because she is watched and ridiculed by the witling? Or shall her eagle pinions be blown from their lofty course by the scoff of the scorner? Be decided, and all this mean and feeble kind of persecution will soon ccase.
* Never did Satan invent a more successful weapon against religion than ridicule. This apparently mean and contemptible engine, like the pike-bead of modern warfare, may be circulated widely, and put into ten thousand hands, which could make nothing of a more dignified kind of instrument. By this means be can arm ihe levy en masse ot his dominions, who could do nothing in the ranks of the regular troops, or with the artillery of infidelity.