« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
cordially enlarge their views to the extent of their duty, to the unequivocal import of the vows which are upon them, cease not to labour from house to house; and pris vately to impress on each individual, as prudence and opportunity may allow, the injunction, the warning, or the encouragement, of which he more especially stands in need. Thus, to all throughout the Christian world is the Gospel of salvation Tent. How is it received? As it was among the Jews at Rome: Some believe the things which are spoken; and some believe them not. If there be any difference between the two cases, it is this, Among the Jewish nation, collectively considered, there was, on the one hand, more open unbelief; and, on the other, more fincerity in Christian profeffion, than exists at present. They who did not believe that Jesus Christ came from God, feeling no worldly motive to induce them to difsemble their unbelief, avowed it, and acted upon it. They who were convinced of the truth of the Gospel, and embraced the Christian faith, having no worldly motive to lead them to profess a religion which was every where spoken against and persecuted, usually became Christians under the
influence of decided piety. But in there days, when to be a declared unbeliever, is commonly regarded as disgraceful; there are to be found within the pale of the Christian church many persons who have no Itedfast belief in the Gospel. And as in thefe more mild and enlightened countries, no danger hangs over the head of any man in consequence of his being outwardly a disciple of Christ; there is seen, among professed Christians a far greater proportion of the careless and the lukewarm than was to be discerned by the Apostles among their converts. Now let it be always and stedfastly remembered, that the Scriptures universally represent as unbelievers not only those whose blindness and impiety treat the Christian revelation as a falsehood, as a cunningly devised fable, as an invention of men: but those also who hold the truth in unrighteousness; those who believe abftraétedly, but not practically; those who believe, and do not obey; those who beļieve with the understanding, but believe not with the heart unto justification*. A dead faith is no faith. It has no claim through Christ to the rewards of faith. It may become even more sinful and dan• Rom. i. 18.-8. 10.
gerous than open unbelief. To sin against knowledge may be, 'under possible circum. stances, more flagitious than to offend through wilful ignorance. Not to believe in Christ may sometimes be owing chiefly to guilty unconcern. To believe that he came. from God, and despise his commandments, must be, in the language of the Pfalmift, the great offence, must be presumptuous fin, Why are the Gentiles pronounced to have been Atheists, without God in the world? Because though they knew God, they glorified him not as God. He may be the worit of Atheists, who acknowledges that there is a God, and will not obey him, He who outwardly confesses Christ, and practically denies Him, may be the worst of unbelievers.
Consider the characteristic features of the two classes, into which the multitudes to whom the Gospel is now preached are divided. Some believe the things which are spoken, and some believe them not.
1. Advert primarily to those who believe,
When you cast your eyes upon the mass of profeffed Christians, you observe among them a set of men manifestly separated and
* Eph. ii. 12. A0.01 ES TW XOC PW.
distinguished from the crowd. You see them separated from the pollutions by which they are surrounded; and distinguished by views and principles different from those which govern the world that lieth in wickedness. These are they which believe. Approach them more nearly, and examine them closely. Inspect their conduct; contemplate their objects; investigate their motives. What is the result of your observation and inquiry? You perceive these persons more affiduous than others in frequenting public worship; not like others, glad to catch at excuses, and to fabricate pretences for being absent; but contriving leisure, and submitting to worldly inconvenience, and even loss, that their attendance on the House of God may not be interrupted. You perceive them fcrupulously regular in presenting themselves at the facramental table. You perceive them dedicating those parts of the fabbath, which are unoccupied by public devotion, not to idleness, not to trifles, not to the adjustment of domeltic concerns, but to pious meditation, to religious reading, to edifying discourse, to works of mercy; not paring off corners and pilfering away fragments for secular employments; not fluctuating with an internal struggle between conscience and Mammon; not weary and impatient like the Jews, who turned again and again their eyes to the dial, and exclaimed, “ When will the Sabbath be gone, “ that we may set forth wheat * ?” not shortening the morning by studied laziness; not purloining the afternoon for festivities of the table; nor, under the scanty semblance of devotion, prostituting the evening to musical recreation; but faithfully conceding the whole period of sacred rest to such occu pations as best the day which God has hallowed unto himself; fuch occupations as comport with a special preparation for eternity; such occupations as are consistent with the tranquillity, leisure, and edification of their households; such occupations as are adapted to 'cause the day to be a blessing to their souls. In the midst of this their Christian strictness, you behold no oftentation, no fuperftition, no fournefs, 10 gloom. You see something in their manner and deportment which shews that this fervice is not a matter of form, but that if comes from the heart: that the man does not render it by constraint, but that he would be unhappy if he did not * A.ros, viii. 5.