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A CONSCIENCE VOID OF OFFENCE.
sincerity, and “walking in all the command
" ments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless."
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit, soul,
, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
THE FORM OF GODLINESS WITHOUT THE POWER.
2 TIMOTHY iii, 5.
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.
It is my purpose, in my present discourse, to fulfil the promise which I made to you on a former occasion, and to remind you of the seriousness of character and profession required of you as declared christians, and to exhort you to accompany the form of godliness, which
all in different proportions wear, with the life and spirit and power of sincere religion.
My brethren, I trust that I should never willingly indulge in unnecessary harshness of expression, or wantonly wound the feelings of any one, by unwarranted representations of the sin and danger of that sort of life, which has nothing in it of christianity, but the name.
say, does not proceed from an uncharitable spirit of private judgment, nor is meant as a reflection upon the conduct of particular individuals ; but being, as a minister of the gospel, under an obligation to declare faithfully what the character of christian professors ought to be, and knowing as an observer of the world, how many there are to whom that character does not belong, I cannot but call your attention to the striking contrast between profession and practice, which the lives of men so commonly exhibit:-and although in so doing, no particular individual is ever present to my mind, and therefore no personal allusion can be intended, yet of course, I always indulge the hope that some at least of those to whom my observations may be in truth applicable, will make the application for themselves, and so (instead of being offended where no offence is meant) will derive a particular benefit from that which is spoken generally.
But for this hope, I would not consume my time in preaching to you, for vain indeed would be my words (not more vain " the sounding brass and tinkling symbal,") if no one derived instruction or advantage from them. “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall
himself to the battle?" And for the same reason, if you attend not to the meaning of the words, nor
apply them, where they are applicable, to your own case, however clear and intelligible they may be, preaching is an unprofitable ceremony, and might as well be discontinued.
I have introduced my present discourse with these cautions, because my subject will naturally lead me to represent in a strong light the seriousness and importance of true christianity, and the emptiness of that formal religion with which men are so commonly and so easily satisfied; and I wish
you to examine strictly your own hearts and lives, for the sake of discovering whether you really are the christians that you profess to be.
Be not angry with me, if I tell you what I think to be the truth, even although the truth should seem to convey a severe reproof to yourselves. I have no intention of saying any thing unauthorized by the scriptures which you believe, and I think you could have no respect for a preacher who should endeavour to soften down the word of God, so as to make it more palatable to the sinful dispositions of men. Let me recall to you those words of St. Paul, with which the epistle for the day commences; “ Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have re
Eleventh Sunday after Trinity.
ceived, and wherein ye stand, by which ,
also are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached
have believed in vain.” My brethren, religion appears to me to be either the most solemn affair possible, or the most ridiculous absurdity in the world ; and the gospel to be either full of the most important truths, or abounding in the most extravagant falsehoods. If we may indeed justly hope to go to heaven through the efficacy of those formal professions, which we can all make with the greatest ease, I say there never was any thing more palpably ridiculous than such a religion, nor ever any thing more grossly false than that pretended revelation, which gives such a directly opposite account of the matter. And I confess (that when I was preaching to you this morning, about the usefulness of our christian institutions, the wisdom by which provision is made for the religious education of children, the sacred obligations of sponsors to instruct those whom they have taken under their charge, and the impressive nature of the ceremony, in which
young christians devote themselves to the service of God), I thought to myself, to what end are all these contrivances resorted to, and all this solemnity played off, if religion is after all nothing more than the majority of men seem to esteem it?