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We are not, indeed, in any danger of falling into the gross absurdities of heathenism. But we may, nevertheless, defile the land, make our heritage an abomination, and walk after things that do not profit. We may set up our idols in our heart. We may live without God in the world. We may, in various ways, commit the two evils reprobated by the prophet; we may first forsake the greatest and best of all Beings, the fountain of living waters; and then, attempt to allay our never-ceasing thirst after happiness from the vanities of this world. And, is it not a melancholy truth, that the desire of banishing the fear of God, and a sense of religion from all human concerns, is a sentiment too prevalent among the visionary reformers of the present day? Permit me, then, to introduce the observations which I shall now proceed to lay before you, with the words of an inspired apostle: "Beloved, "when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation; it was needful for me to exhort you, that ye should earnestly contend for the faith "which was once delivered unto the saints. I will, "therefore, put you in remembrance, though ye once "knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed "them that believed not."
We have been saved with a great salvation from more than Egyptian servitude. The great Captain of this salvation hath vanquished the tyrannical power of the enemy: he hath risen triumphant over sin, and death, and hell: he goes before us towards the land of everlasting rest: he sends forth his blessed Gospel, as a pillar of fire to enlighten our path, and conduct us on our way. Let us take heed, not to forsake him, lest
we perish in the wilderness. Let us remember, that although he hath saved us by his meritorious life and sufferings, from the condemnation of the law; he will, nevertheless, finally destroy those who believe not, and who are disobedient to his word.
Let, then, these important considerations be ever impressed on our minds. We forsake God, when we perceive not, nor acknowledge in all the stupendous works of his creation, the power, and wisdom, and goodness, of a present Deity; when we suffer the business or the pleasures of this world to usurp that place in our affections which ought to be reserved for him alone; when we pay more respect to the creature, as the source of our felicity, than to the Almighty Creator.
We forsake God, when we live not under an habitual sense of his superintending providence; praising him in the hour of our prosperity, as the author and giver of all good things; and, in seasons of affliction, adoring his mysterious dispensations, who, like a tender parent, correcteth those whom he loveth, that he may thoroughly purify their corrupted nature, and prepare them for higher degress of honour, for more copious communications of bliss from the fountain of living waters.
We forsake God, when we refuse to submit to his institutions, as contained in the word of everlasting truth, the blessed Gospel of the Redeemer: when we reject the terms of salvation which are there proposed; denying the Lord who bought us; despising the atonement which he offered for our sins, and trampling under foot the blood of the everlasting covenant; disputing the propriety of the declaration, "There is no other
"name under heaven given among men, whereby we "must be saved;" and, consequently, neglecting the sacraments which he has instituted as means of grace, and pledges of his never-ceasing love to his Church..
We depart from the pure fountain of living waters, when, insensible to the joys of devotion, we seek our only bliss from the sensual gratifications of a corrupted world; forgetting to assemble ourselves together for the purposes of public worship; not keeping the Sabbath, nor reverencing the sanctuary; turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, by wasting in riot and debauchery those precious moments which ought to be devoted to religious exercises, preparatory to the enjoyment of the undisturbed rest and pure bliss of heaven.
In a word; we forsake God, when we acknowledge him not in all our ways, during this earthly pilgrimage; in every difficulty, looking up to him, to guide us by his wisdom, and then receive us into his glory; endeavouring, like the patriarchs, "to walk with him" in the path of holiness; under the seducing approaches of vicious pleasure, exclaiming with the Psalmist, "God is my portion for ever; there is none upon "earth that I desire in comparison of thee;" and striving with the apostles, even while we sojourn here below, to have our conversation in heaven.
Let it not be said, that we can never be reduced to the lamentable state of ingratitude and impiety which the prophet so severely condemns. Even in a Christian land, cast your view over the busy scene of human affairs. How many of those who are so eagerly engaged in the pursuit of power, or the accumulation of riches, have forsaken God in their thoughts and affec
tions! How many are heard openly and impiously to avow, that in the management of the concerns of this life, there is no necessity to invoke the interposition of the Deity! But, surely, to every dispassionate mind, such sentiments will appear as absurd as they are impious. The universe bespeaks the power, and wisdom, and goodness, of its great Creator: the heavens declare his glory, and the firmament showeth his handy-work. How consentaneous to reason is it, to conclude, that the government of God is extended over all his works, and that rational creatures must be accountable for their conduct! These momentous truths have the express sanction of a revelation from heaven. The Gospel which inculcates them, was at first established upon sufficient evidence of its divine origin. From the commencement of this heavenly system, its institutions have been respected in various parts of the earth; its Sabbaths have been observed; its sacraments have been celebrated; its doctrines have been publicly taught; and its priesthood has been continued by uninterrupted succession down to the present day. So that, with respect to those to whom the ordinances of the Christian religion are regularly administered, it may be affirmed in the words of Solomon; "Wisdom "crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: "she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the "openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her "words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye "love simplicity? And the scorners delight in their "scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at ་ my reproof." Let us, my brethren, impressed with a due sense of the advantages which we enjoy, listen to the admonitions of this heavenly wisdom. Animated
by lively gratitude for the blessings which the Divine bounty has poured down upon us, let us exclaim under the steadfast purpose of holding fast our integrity to the end, "What shall separate us from the love of "God?" When troubles come to discourage us, or pleasures to seduce us from the right way; let us look up to heaven, and with the eye of faith, behold our dear Redeemer enthroned in glory. Let us hear him asking with affectionate solicitude for our steadfast continuance in well-doing, "Will ye also go away?" Let the humble reply, prompted by heartfelt gratitude, ever be, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast "the words of eternal life. We will not renounce "our dependance on him, in whom is everlasting
strength, and rely upon things which cannot help, "nor profit. We will not forsake the fountain of liv"ing waters, and seek our only refreshment from "broken cisterns, that can hold no water."
And may not the vanity of all earthly gratifications be justly represented under this image, if you set aside the love and fear of God, and the blessed hope of immortal bliss and glory? In the absurd mythology of the ancient heathen, some of the wicked in the infernal regions were said to be tormented with the unprofitable labour of pouring water for ever into a vessel that was perforated on every side, and of course could be never filled by their most painful exertions. And do not sensual and wicked men, even in this world, voluntarily condemn themselves to a punishment in some respects. similar? Are they not continually hewing out to themselves broken cisterns, that can hold no water? Are they not for ever attempting to collect the chief sources of their enjoyment in places where, the very