Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

tles preached and overwhelmed the churches which were planted and watered by them. These houses of God are now in ruins. And has there not been a great falling away in some, if not all of the protestant churches ? Yea, have we not reason for serious ap. prehensions, that the house of God, with us, is going to decay, and that the noble vine which God planted in this land is degenerating into the plant of a strange vine ? That we may form a right judgment of the state of religion, and the signs of the times as respecting ourselves, let us attend a little to this inqui.

a

ry, viz.

a

When a people professing christianity, have reason to think that the house of God is decaying, or that true religion is in a low declining state with them?

Here it must be remembered that Christ's kingdom is not of this world. The true interest of his church does not consist in the outward prosperity of its members. Though we have reason to be thankful when the churches enjoy outward peace and liberty, and when the enemies are restrained from oppress. ing and making havock of them; yet the building up

of this house of God has often prospered remar. kably, when it has been violently battered by persecution. And on the contrary, it has often gone to decay as remarkably, when christians have enjoyed outward peace and prosperity. The favor of the world has often been more prejudicial to the true in. terests of religion, than open oppression. We are not to doubt in deed, but that those partial evils which are permitted to arise, will in the end be made subservient to the true interests of Christ's kingdom. Yet it is a sad omen to a people, and an awful token that their glory is departing from them, if true reli. gion appears to be greatly declining among them. And this we must judge to be the case,

First. When churches are very sensibly dwindling, and there is but a small number who make a credible

[ocr errors]

profession of religion. Though no wise christian :will desire to have churches filled up with such as give no sufficient evidence to a judgment of charity of their sincerity ; yet it is a matter of great joy to all who have the interest of religion at heart, when many are added to the Lord, and his church, agreeably to the rule of the gospel. But when few appear

. disposed to profess their faith in Christ, and give themselves up to God by an open consent to the gospel covenant, it is a sad sign, that religion is in a low state among a people, and the house of God is wasting. So also,

Secondly. When corrupt and dangerous errors are taught and embraced, or at least favored by pro. fessors of religion. It is true, christians may not well understand, or be mistaken in some points, and those of considerable importance; and yet hold the bead, and receive spiritual life and nourishment there. from. But when the faith delivered to the saints is not maintained in its purity, when capital doctrines of the gospel are not regarded as of much importance, but perhaps are called in question, or even denied, when the minds of many appear to be leavened with dangerous errors, especially if such errors are not properly noticed and reproved, we shall have great reason to be alarmed at the peril of the times, lest the kingdom of God should be taken away from such a people.

Thirdly. This is also the case, when the ordinances which Christ has instituted for the edification of the church, are not duly observed. Some who would be accounted christians have a low opinion of the ordinances of Gospel worship, and are very slack, ne. gligent, and carless in their observance of them ; particularly of the christian Sabbath, the public worship of God; and more especially the Lord's Supper. If christians are not found walking orderly and dili

[ocr errors]

gently in these ordinances of the Lord, it is a sig# that both the power and the form of Godliness are sinking very low.

Fourthly When the awakening, converting, sanctifying, quickening and comforting influence of the gospel and spirit of Christ is not visible in its proper

effects on the hearts and lives of those who attend on the means of grace, this is a great evidence that the house of God, or his church is decaying. Unless a special divine blessing attend gospel ordinances, the church will not be edified by them. Unless the Lord build the house, the builders will labor in vain. After Paul had planted, and Apollos watered, it was God who gave the increase. If the work of conversion be at a stand, and sinners appear to be rather blinded, and hardened under those means which should awaken, and lead them to repentance; and if christians do not find their graces exercised, quickened, and strengthened, and so their edification promoted in and by their outward attendance on ordinances, have we not reason to conclude that God is withdrawing his gracious presence from such a people?

And however the forms of religion may be decently observed, yet the power of vital Godliness is at best, weak and cold, and ready to fail. I shall only add,

Fifthly. When professed christians walk disorderly, unsuitably to their heavenly calling, disho. noring their profession, by a barren, loose and unhoTy conversation, and gospel means are not used for their reformation, we may be sure that true religion is at a low ebb. If scandalous disorders are not seasonably and prudently corrected, they will be likely to increase to more ungodliness in a rapid progress. If the fruits of holiness and righteousness are not found in the lives of professors, but they walk according to the course, spirit and example of a world lying in. wickedness, their making a profession of faith, and

1

attending punctually the externals of worship, will be no sufficient evidence that the spiritual house of God is not in a wasting ruinous, condition.

If these symptoms of danger should be found upon us, we have reason to be alarmed, and not delay to seek and apply proper remedies : In order to this,

let us,

[ocr errors]

SECONDLY. Enquire a little into the causes or occasions of these evils. Whenever a professing people sink into such an unhappy dangerous state as has been described, the craft and the malice of the enemies of the church have doubtless a great influence in the matter. But these could not prevail, as they often do, were it not for the fault and neglect of christians; which gives their adversaries an advantage against them, and provokes God to forsake them, and withhold the gracious influences of his spirit, to reclaim them from their apostacy, and heal their backslidings.

First. The enemies of the church are many, power ful, crafty, malicious, and restless in their endeavors for its destruction. Christ rules in the midst of his enemies. And were it not for his protecting presence in his church, these enemies would make a prey of his little flock. But though they shall not prevail so as to demolish the house of God, which is built upon the rock of ages, yet the enemy is sometimes permitted to make havock. As a roaring lion, he sometimes threatens to devour the church by those persecutions which have wasted it; and sometimes the crafty old serpent winds himself into its bosom im. perceptibly, and as he beguiled Eve thro' his subtility, so the minds of christians are corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ, and infected with the poison of dangerous errors,

That he may carry on his mischievous devices, he knows how to transform himself into an angel of light; and his ministers al. fo, though inwardly ravening wolves, or crafty foxes,

steal into Chrit's fold in sheep's cloathing, making mischief wherever they come. The world also, by its evil maxims and examples ensnares many,

who are easily enticed to walk in the broad, beaten way, following a multitude to do evil. To all this, we must add the perils which the church often suffers from those in its own bosom, who, instead of promoting good designs and essays for reformation, are a continual clog upon them. From these causes the doctrines, worship, disciplineand morals of christi. an societies are too often much corrupted. And unless the vices and exertions of our spiritual enemies be șeasonably and earnestly opposed, the evils will make a swift progress to a total apostacy. But,

Secondly. These enemies could not prevail as they often have done, if christians by their own fault did not give them an advantage. The true interests of the church have received many, a deep wound in the house of professed friends. By their imprudent neglects, their want of vigilance and zeal in counterworking the devices of their enemies, they have in effect co-operated with them, in defacing and shattering the house of God.

Among the chief causes of the decay of vital god. liness, we may mention a want of due zeal, for the great doctrines of the gospel. Many christians ap. pear to be but weakly established in their religious principles. Soundness in the faith seems to be regarded by too many, as a matter of no great importance. Gospel hòliness is founded on gospel principles. These are the food with which the souls are nourished to eternal life. By these the divine life in the soul is maintained and cherished, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of the Truth. If men are not well grounded in the fundamentals of our holy religion, it cannot be expected that their temper and practice wil be much influenced by them. Growing christians desire and relish the

a

[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »