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sweet sounds of music soothe the pangs of remorse; or the soft strains of flattery silence the clamours of a troubled conscience? Will purple and fine linen mitigate the pains of sickness? Will riches form an impenetrable shield against the dart of death; or will all the gold of Ophir bribe him to suspend the blow? Will all the glittering pomps of this world which we now so ardently venerate-will they illuminate the darkness of the grave, or give us confidence before the awful tribunal of God? Alas! on these solemn occasions, the penitential language of inconsiderate mortals will ever be-" Vain helpers are ye all. What "have I to do any more with idols? It is only trust "in God that affords effectual support: in him alone is "everlasting strength!"
We abhor the absurdities of idolatry, which offers divine honours to irrational animals, and requires its votaries to fall down and worship a stock or a stone. So far it is well. But there is another important consideration. We must not only renounce error, but openly maintain the truth. We must not only cease to do evil, but also learn to do well. Do we then give unto the true God the honour which is due to his sacred name? Do we love him with all our heart, and with all our strength; and him only do we serve?
I shall not suppose that there is a person present, who is so foolish as to say in his heart-" There is "no God; there is no almighty Creator and wise "Governor of the universe." I shall even suppose, that you believe the revelation contained in the Holy Scriptures, respecting the existence, the attributes, and the works of this glorious Being, the great object of
our adoration and praise. But, if we stand in those relations to him which are pointed out in the volume of inspired truth: if we were created by his power, redeemed by his mercy, and must hereafter abide the decisions of his justice; how shall we reconcile a true faith with vicious practices? How shall we be able to acquit many professing Christians of the most glaring absurdity, who seem to live without God in the world; who neglect the ordinances of the Church; whose hearts glow not with devotion, and whose lips are seldom opened either by praise or prayer; who, instead of setting their affections on things above, appear to love the world alone, and the things of it.
What is the meaning of that busy scene which, whithersoever we turn our eyes, presents itself to our view? Are all those immortal creatures so eagerly engaged, for the purpose of obtaining the favour of their Creator, and securing their everlasting welfare? Do they take into consideration the whole term of their existence; and endeavour so to pass through things temporal, that they may finally obtain the joys which are eternal? No; their views are far more limited: their desires are unhappily not so enlarged. Their exertions are almost entirely confined to those objects which concern the comfortable accommodation of this perishing body; they are employed in guarding against external accidents; in securing or recovering health; in protecting and augmenting property: in a word; in making provision merely for the flesh, to fulfil, sometimes the innocent desires, and sometimes the pernicious lusts thereof. Now, if there be a God who rules above; if there is to be a resurrection of the dead, and a life everlasting; is it not an absurdity VOL. II.
equal to that which we reprobate in the idolatrous Israelites, not to be most solicitous, by love, and veneration, and obedience, to obtain the favour of that glorious Being, who is the absolute Arbiter of our condition through eternal ages? What can be a stronger proof of shameful stupidity, of gross aberration from the dictates of reason, than to fear the inconveniences which assail us in this world, and yet to have no dread of him who can destroy both body and soul in hell; to be careful and troubled about many things which relate to our well being for the term of three score years and ten, and yet to make no provision for the support of our felicity through a boundless eternity?
The revolting Israelites most ungratefully renounced the religion of their fathers-a religion which had been imparted to them with signs and wonders-with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm-with every demonstration of divine authority. Christianity is supported by the same incontrovertible evidence, the most stupendous miracles. Infidels would persuade us to abandon this heavenly system; to abjure our Redeemer, and to worship we know not what; the creatures of a corrupted heart, and a bewildered imagination. When one of the primitive martyrs who had spent near a century in the service of his Lord, while the flames were kindling round him, was commanded by a heathen ruler to renounce his religion, he made this ever memorable reply-" Eighty and "six years have I now served Christ, and he has never "done me the least wrong: How then can I blaspheme
my King and my Saviour?" Has he, my brethren,
ever done us any harm? Did he do us any wrong,
by assuming our nature, and exhibiting a most perfect example of all virtue; by imparting the purest precepts and the most encouraging promises; by dying to atone for our sins, and rising again that he might even now be our merciful Intercessor in heaven? O compassionate Redeemer! should we ever be so ungrateful as to forsake thee, to whom can we go for the words of eternal life? If we reject thy heavenly doctrines, we shall lose the light of truth itself. If we forsake thy friendly guidance, we cannot but wander from the right way in this dreary wilderness!
Christianity, bringing sufficient proof of its divine [ origin, was founded on the ruins of heathenism: it has now had an establishment in the earth, for near two thousand years: through every revolving age, and in all countries, some of the wisest and best men have been its zealous advocates: wherever it has prevailed, the condition of mankind has been perceptibly meliorated. And shall we now listen to the insidious harangues, and promote the pernicious schemes of those who, merely to answer the purposes of a wicked policy, endeavour to exterminate it from the face of the earth? Were it possible to effect this nefarious design, and to establish another system in its place, (for men will never live without a religion under some form or other,) be assured, the perpetrators of this mischief would soon have too much reason to exclaim with penitential hearts-"What have we to do any 66 more with idols? Let us return unto the Lord our "God; and cherish with pure affection that religion "which he sent down from heaven for the everlasting "good of man!"
We, my brethren, abhor the penicious design of
banishing Christianity from the world: but, are we not justly culpable, for not affording it that cordial reception to which it is clearly entitled, and permitting it to produce its full effect upon the comfort of our hearts, and the conduct of our life? Have we not too often, in the course of our earthly pilgrimage, disregarded the superintending providence of God, and confided in our own wisdom, wealth, or power? On too many occasions, has not the love of the world been in us, more than the love of our heavenly Father?
With deep abasement of soul, let us acknowledge our faults; and God, for Christ's sake, will listen to the first sighs of penitence, and aid the faintest endeavours to reform. To repenting Ephraim he immediately says "I have heard him, and observed him"-I have heard his expressions of regret for past offences; his full purposes of future amendment; and, sufficient aid shall be afforded on my part, so that holy desires may be perfected by good works.
In this situation, the Christian may well be represented by the beautiful image of a green and flourishing tree planted by the water side, and bringing forth its fruit in due season: he is grateful to the eye of every beholder; he yields comfort to all who approach. In this fair tree, the birds take refuge from the stormy wind and tempest; the weary traveller is refreshed by its shade; and the hungry and thirsty are regaled by its pleasant fruits. And, watered as it continually is by the dews of heaven, these fruits will never fail: they will flourish in every season, till it transplanted into the heavenly paradise. saith God, "is thy fruit found."
By the agency of his Holy Spirit, he works in the
comes to be "From me,"