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and happiness of his heavenly kingdom; and they are effectual to this end, through his promised blessing on their use. For what better safe-guard against those evil thoughts which assault and hurt the soul, than to keep the heart occupied with meditations of God? W'bat safer preventive against the entertainment of sin, than the recollection and sobriety of mind which the exercise of private prayer calls for ? And what so effectual to promote growth in grace, as thus to cherish the Divine Spirit with habitual devotion. For thus runs the promise, to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.
They which have believed in God, will likewise be careful to maintain the good work of the public worship of God by their personal presence in the house of the LORD ; that they may join with their brethren in those holy exercises by which God is glorified, the Church edified, and faith increased.
I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the house of the LORD, is the language in which David expressed his delight in the public duties of religion ; and a portion of the same spirit fills the heart of the devout Christian. When the holy day comes round and invites him to the high privilege of its sacred appointments, he is not of the number of those who, for some slight obstruction or trifling inconvenience to himself, forsake the assembling of themselves together with their brethren. Particularly when the great sacrifice for sin is commemorated is his soul alive to the mighty benefits procured for us by the same, and bis spirit drawn out to be made one with Him who loved us and gave himself for us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.
Thus, in the exercise of public and private devotion, and in the use of the sacrament of Christ's body and blood as a means of grace to the soul, they which have believed in God are cạreful to maintain all such good works as he hath prepared for them to walk in, that they may thereby maintain that good work which God hath begun in their hearts by his Holy Spirit, and reap that bright reward which he hath promised to their faith and obedience in his holy word.
They which have believed in God will also be careful to maintain such good works as are profitable to men, not only by avoiding all actions directly injurious to others, but by the performance of all such within their ability as are either useful, beneficial, or consulatory, to their brethren, their friends, and neighbours, and all others in reach of their good offices.
The Christian, then, will be a man of integrity. And,
First, he will be just to himself; he will follow no calling or occupation which puts in danger the care of his soul. He will be just to his family, with industry and care providing for their needful support and advancement in life. As he hath covenanted for them with God and before men, he will honestly perform the promise and vow he hath publicly undertaken. He will, therefore, train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, carefully instilling the principles of religion and virtue, and diligently watching against and correcting the buddings of sin, both in temper and conduct. As his children have renounced the world through him as their surety, he will neither lead them into its vanities by his example, nor expose them to its dissipations by his indulgence. From his instructions they will early learn that the world which surrounds them lieth in wickedness, alienated from God; that its pleasures and its profits are the snares in which souls are taken captive by the ruler of its darkness, and that their safety consists in keeping away from the blandishment of its temptations; by his prudence, active employment will leave no vacancy for its follies to fill up, and with the promised blessing of God on these faithful endeavours, their ears will be open to receive instruction, and their hearts to retain wisdom.
Secondly, the Christian will be just to all men. What. ever bis calling may be, diligence, truth, and uprightness will preside over all his conduct. His treasure not being on earth, the frauds and extortions by which they that will be rich fall into a snare; and the maxims of gain, which the convenient morality of the world sanctions, present no temptation to him to violate the higher law by which his life is governed. The Christian, the believer in God, looks habitually to the end, he realizes the continual inspection of an all seeing eye ; and bearing ever in mind the impressive question, What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul ?he finds it a shield
and a buckler against every inducement to unrighteous gain, and over engagement with the things which perish.
Thirdly, the Christian will be merciful to all men.
As the object and the subject of the highest mercy in his own person, the constant sense of this, under which he lives, prompts his heart to feel and to manifest benevolence, compassion, and kindness to every creature of God. Being himself forgiven his ten thousand talents, he retains not the hundredpence offences of his fellow servants; but, in the exercise of forgiveness, walks at liberty from the slavery of false honour, and the galling chains of pride, hatred, and revenge. Particu. larly with the unfortunate and the afflicted does he feel himself drawn out to sympathize, and moved to contribute to their relief. But if he can do nothing more, he weeps with those who weep, and tries to soften and assuage the distress he cannot remove, by sharing in their grief. Because charity seeketh not her own, the Christian pushes not his rights to extremity, the bitter tear of the widow and the fatherless is not made to flow more grievously through his exactions. Having learnt what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, no ruin is accomplished under his hand; and, where the hardness of the world brings it to pass, he commits the case to Him who judgeth righteously, and whose tender mercies are over all his works.
Fourthly, the Christian will be liberal to all men.
His compassion will not be allowed to evaporate in the mere expression of pity, but will show itself by such fruits of active benevolence as the blessing of God has put at his disposal, And, if he is a Christian indeed, the luxury of this duty will not be denied him for want of means. Something will be reserved, even from his own accommodation, if no otherwise to be had, wherewith to relieve the indigent, to assist the destitute, above all--because comprehending all charities in one-above all, to set forward the grand remedy for the miseries of this life, in the advancement of the pure and undefiled religion of the gospel, This is near the heart of the true Christian, both as promoting the glory of God and insuring the good of men not only now
And did professing Christians but feel and under, stand as they should do their duty in this respect; did they sacri.
but for ever.
fice less to custom and more to principle; did they but estimate the souls that are perishing all around them for lack of knowledge ; did they reflect on the rich interest which would be retributed to their own souls in thus caring for the souls of others, they would surely turn what is wasted on the vanities of the world into this channel, and make glad the city of God with their liberality, whilst they also laid up for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, in the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. But these very things the true Christian provides for, by repressing inordinate desires, by interdicting extravagant expenditure, and by putting forth diligence and industry in his occupation. These are means which God has put in the reach of all Christians, and has warned them to make to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; for on this will depend their being counted worthy of the true riches.
Such, my brethren, are the good works which Titus was commanded to affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God should be careful to maintain. And surely the religion whose true purpose and genuine fruit it is to promote the glory of God by doing good to our fellow creatures, from a principle of love and obedience to him, must commend itself not only to Christians, but to all who can feel for human misery or desire human happiness.
III. Thirdly, I am to point out the obligations which are necessarily undertaken by all who make a profession of religion.
A profession of religion, properly understood, means the declared intention to devote the life to the service of God, according to the directions given in the gospel of our Lord JESUS CHRIST. And whether this be done from the conviction of the understanding that it is the primary duty of every accountable being, to whom the offer of the gospel is made, forthwith to embrace it, or from any series of impressions and effects previously produced, makes no difference as to the obligations undertaken.
The first obligation undertaken by those who make a profession of religion is, to forsake and abandon all known sin, that is, all acts, habits, and pursuits forbidden by the law of God.
The great object of religion being the defeat and destruction of sin, and the high purpose wherefore Christ came in the flesh being to put away sin by the sacrifices of himself, those who profess to believe in God are bound by the highest considerations to watch against every temptation to sin, and to resist its commission, whatever may be the consequence. As sin is in positive opposition to every perfection of the divine nature, and is absolutely inconsistent with the present and future happiness of moral beings, and the whole purpose of the present life being the extinguishment of its love in our hearts, and of its practice in our lives, the religion through which all this is to be effected cannot permit the entertainment of sin in those who profess to be governed by its holy laws. They which have believed in God, therefore, do by their profession undertake to renounce all the sinful acts, habits, and pursuits of their former lives, with whatever directly, or by discoverable consequence, involves the commission of sin.
In the next place, those who make a profession of religion do undertake to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.
The purpose of religion being to prepare sinners for heavenly happiness and eternal glory, it is indispensably necessary to this end, not only that the love of sin should be rooted out, but that they should acquire those opposite tempers and dispositions of soul which form the character of holiness. God being essentially holy, all who aspire to the enjoyment of his everlasting presence must also become holy. And this holiness being to be obtained in the use of means by bim prescribed, it is to the use of those means that professors of religion bind themselves, and it is in the use of those means that they do actually become holy and heavenly minded persons. God, indeed,can confer boliness by an instantaneous transformation of the soul; but it is not thus that he deals with moral beings. He gives them the means of becoming holy, and assists them by his Spirit in the faithful use of them; but he requires them, and for this very reason, to work out their own salvation, by leading sober, righteous, and godly lives, as becometh their profession of faith in his holy word.