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I THESS. V., 21, 22
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Abstain from all appearance of evil.”'
One of the prominent features of the present times is a lamentable inconsistency between the acknowledged principles and the habitual practice of persons professing and calling themselves Christians. Their creed and their conduct are contrary the one to the other. The doctrines of the Bible may be known and acknowledged by them, but “they hold the truth in unrighteousness ;" that is—the truth which such persons know and profess is restrained from exerting its proper influence, by their practical ungodliness. If I may be allowed to expand the image suggested in these words, the truth is a prisoner in bonds. It is not permitted to walk at liberty amongst the affections of the soul, and along the course of the life, fulfilling its appointed office, controlling and regulating the whole man; but it is shut up in the understanding, as if it were a mere matter of opinion, never intended to be put to any practical use. These professed principles are allowed to have a place and a name, as articles of belief, but are not suffered to pass the bounds which worldly interests or carnal affections prescribe, and are debarred from all exercise of authority and power.
This knowledge and profession of the truth with a worldly mind, and an unholy life, is peculiarly dangerous, because the conscience is lulled, while the soul is ruined. There is a lie in the right hand, and it is not perceived.
Now this inconsistency arises not so much from deliberate hypocrisy, as from the utter want of serious thought and reflection. “None considereth in his heart;"_“They have not known nor understood.” Such persons are blinded by the great deceiver, and are contented to remain under the delusion. They make this sad mistake. Religion is regarded by them as something which it is well to have in their possession, but they are ignorant or unmindful of its ļeal use and right application. It is with them a kind of heir-loom, something which has descended to them from their forefathers by inheritance, and which they therefore preserve with scrupulous and superstitious care; they are unwilling to part with their property in it, but they turn it to no account. It is occasionally remembered; sometimes brought out for ceremony or show, and then put back
again; but there is little or no sense of its intrinsic worth,-it answers no practical purpose, -it contributes to no useful or worthy end.
Oh! it was not for this that the principles of our holy religion have been revealed to us from heaven. They should be to us what the compass is to the mariner; we should direct our course by them through the waves of this troublesome world, that we may come to the haven of endless rest. They should be to us what the rule, and the line, and the square are to the architect; we should apply them with close and constant observation to every part of the house which we are building for eternity.
Permit me then, my dear Brethren, to urge upon your serious regard the exhortation of the Apostle, “Prove all things;”—bring every thing to the test; try all that you do, or design to do, by the true touchstone;-compare it with the principles of truth;—and if it will bear the application of this sure and infallible criterion ;-if it be found good and profitable; then “hold fast that which is good.” But, if it will not stand this test, -if, on examination, it shall be found an evil and hurtful thing; then, not only reprobate and reject it, but “abstain from all appearance of evil."
This exhortation must, I think, commend itself to every man's conscience. You will readily acknowledge its reasonableness and propriety. It