Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

at their own sinfulness, not be troubled about their deficiency in all the material points of the christian temper, character, and conduct? How can they live a vicious, worldly, careless life, and entertain the faintest hope of salvation? How can they be so void of all the distinguishing features of Christ's disciples, and not either renounce their faith, or look upon themselves as lost and reprobate? How can they be content with no more of religion than the form, and show, and profession of it, and yet complacently and tranquilly await the approach of death, not merely as if it could by no possibility bring any danger along with it, but as if it would certainly transfer them to a state of happiness?

My brethren, be not deceived ; do not attempt to deceive yourselves. Whatever may be your name, your faith, your hope, your opinions, your professions, all will avail nothing. You must be classed with heathens, with infidels, with atheists. Your principles are not better than theirs; your prospects are not brighter than theirs ; your portion hereafter will not be happier than theirs, if you are not holy. And what is it to be holy! If you constantly and seriously read the scriptures, which you profess to believe, you would understand better what this means. You would there find not only sin in general condemned,

and holiness in general enjoined, but every particular sin to which man is inclined, and of which he is capable, distinctly specified and denounced ; and every particular virtue and good quality, that can adorn and exalt the human character, as minutely described and peremptorily required. With so plain and express a law before his eyes, one cannot imagine a sincere christian wilfully living in any sin whatever, or habitually submitting to the influence of any evil passion or disposition ; it is a contradiction to suppose it. There are indeed too many who “name the name of Christ,” who do not “ depart from iniquity;' but a true christian does not, cannot willingly live in the practice of any sin, or in the indulgence of it in his heart.

It may give you, by the contrast, some better notion of what a true christian is, if I describe to you one who is not a sincere one. You will have many opportunities of comparing the picture with the original, and you will be able to judge whether it is correctly drawn. But let me advise you,

if
any

of you are conscious to yourselves, that

you bear a personal resemblance to some of the features, not to turn away from it, but look at it till you are ashamed, disgusted, alarmed at your deformity, and convinced that you must be offensive in the eyes of a holy God; and may you

consequently become anxious to be renewed, and transformed to a better shape, and washed, cleansed, and sanctified, from the foul stains which you have contracted through sin.

He who is not a sincere christian then, may be thus described. He is worldly; his whole aim is his temporal interest and pleasure; he studies only how he may be rich, learned, powerful; how he may thrive in business ; how he may attain those advantages and distinctions, which the world has to bestow. He looks not beyond the grave; he lays up no store for a future life; all his views are confined to the earth ; no object beyond it gives him a moment's anxiety, awakens in him the feeblest desire, induces him to make the smallest sacrifice of labour, time, or inclination.

He is sensual; he indulges his bodily appetites as far as he can do so consistently with health, reputation, prudence, and his own pleasure ; his heart is often overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness; “his God is his belly," as the apostle speaks; he is studious of the most sumptuous fare, and the most delicate clothing ; he knows not the meaning of mortification and self-denial; he would not upon religious principle, (although he might sometimes act from a feeling of natural sensibility), spare one of his luxuries to

provide a fellow creature with the comforts or even necessaries of life; he is unchaste, impure in thought, word, and deed; he is not scrupulous about the misery he may cause to another, if he can gratify his own passions ; he is a slave to the lusts of the flesh, and degrades a rational soul by an indulgence befitting only the inferior animals.

He is selfish; he does not make the good and happiness of others his study, it is an object that does not occur to him; his own emolument, his own pleasures, are the great ends that he proposes to himself; he may lend a feeble aid when it does not cost him any exertion, or when he hopes to obtain admiration and applause for his kindness and disinterestedness; but be must not be interrupted in his own pursuits, or deprived of any

of his own gratifications by the so doing ; all are enemies, who interfere with his prospects, and thwart his designs; he knows no such duty as that of yielding up his own inclination for the benefit or enjoyment of others; in all cases he “ seeketh his own.'

He is uncharitable ; easily believes evil of another, takes delight in hearing and reporting his neighbour's failings, suspicious of a man's motives when his actions are good, and sure to ascribe them to the worst when they are doubtful; he envies the reputation of another, and endeavours to detract from it, easily takes offence, and is provoked to anger and retaliation, by the slightest affront in word or deed, offered ever so accidentally and unintentionally.

But why should I go on with this minute description of the character of an irreligious man? It is sufficient to say in general, that there is not an evil feeling, or corrupt desire, natural to man, and fostered by himself in particular, which he will not display and indulge, when the opportunity is presented, and the consequences not likely to be injurious to himself, in some worldly respect. You may have seen irre. ligious persons, perhaps, who do not seem to be so bad as I have represented. Why? Because they can dissemble well, because goodness, after all, is generally approved of and admired, and they wish to be in esteem with the most respectable part of mankind. But what principle can reach their hearts except religion ? and what shall prevent them, when in secret, and free from all fear of detection, from giving way to the worst passions and appetites of human nature, in which the seeds of vice are so plentifully sown? However, let us see now what sort of

person a true christian is. It is indeed, with good reason, that he is described by the scriptures in such strong language, as “a new creature,” who has

« PoprzedniaDalej »