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should be more ready to blame your indiscretion, than to admire your zeal. No publick ordinances can make amends for the neglect of those duties, which, by the appointment and command of God, we owe to society." "Be ye,” therefore, “ doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
To apply the subject, let us, 1. reflect on the privilege we enjoy in the means of religious edification.
Upon this point, hear the words of the great Addison. * « If to inform the understanding and regulate the will, is the most lasting and diffusive benefit, there will not be found.so useful and excellent an institution, as that of the christian priesthood. That a numerous order of men should be consecrated to the study of the most sublime and beneficial truths, with a design to propagate them by their discourses and writings ;- to inform their fellow creatures of the being and attributes of the Deity ; to possess their minds with the sense of a future state'; and not only to explain the nature of every virtue and moral duty, but likewise to persuade mankind to the practice of them by the most powerful and
* In his “ Evidences of the christian religion,” p. 181-... London edition, 1790.
engaging motives, is a thing so excellent and necessary to the well-being of the world, that nobody but a modern free thinker could have the forehead or folly to turn it into ridicule.
“ How would the heart of Socrates or Tully have rejoiced, had they lived in a nation, where the law had made provision for philosophers to read lectures of morality and theology every seventh day, in several thousands of schools erected at the publick charge, throughout the whole country ; at which lectures all ranks and sexes, without distinction, were obliged to be present for their general improvement ? And what wretches would they think those, who should endeavour to defeat the purpose of sa divine an institution ?»
2. We infer the still more aggravated guilt and danger of those, “who turn away from him that speaketh from heaven. We are am. bassadors from Christ,” says the great apostle to the gentiles; and, “as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled unto God.” Whether we consider the interesting nature, or the di. vine origin of the message, with which christian ministers are charged, it demands the profoundest attention. Shall the dread sovea reign of the universe deign to concert mea.
sures, the sole object of which is to aid our progress in piety and virtue, and prepare us for admission to his blissful presence ; and shall we dare to " set at nought his counsel ?” Guard, I intreat you, against a disposition so ungrateful to your heavenly Father, and so injurious to your immortal souls. “ Hear now, and attend unto wisdom, lest you mourn at the last, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof. I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor in. clined mine ear to them that instructed me."
3. We are taught the true reason why so many are inattentive and averse to “ the ingrafted word.” They are “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.'' Becoming “ vain in their imaginations, their foolish hearts are darkened.” The gross veil of impurity and licentiousness overspreads their minds, and excludes that celestial light, which beams forth from “ the sun of righteousness,” to illumine a benighted world. " Willingly ignorant” of the deformity of their character and the perils of their condition, they “ speak peace to themselves, when there is no peace. Woe to them who are thus at ease in Zion !" Many are the obstacles which their own folly **** N 2 :: : :
has opposed to their conviction and amenda ment : Yet, difficult as the task is rendered, unless the fatal charm be broken ; unless they rouse from their security, “ cease to do evil, and learn to do well,” their case is deplorable and hopeless beyond description. · Hence, 4. we are admonished to avoid the least approaches to habitual impiety and vice.
When once you neglect to shape your course by the pole star of holy writ, you know not to what inhospitable regions your feeble bark may be driven. One devious step insensibly paves the way for another, till the habit of transgression is formed, and an unreasonable hoştility produced to the terms and means, which infinite wisdom has prescribed for the conversion and happiness of men ; till the mild injunctions of heaven are viewed as a grievous burden, and the deluded votary of sin, regardless of the reproofs and expostulations both of God and man,"? walks in the way of his heart, and in the sight of his eyes.?? Accustomed insensibility to the impressions of religion and restraints of conscience destroys the prospect, if not the possibility of salva. tion. Cherish, therefore, a cordial respect and veneration for christian, duties and -rites. Contemplate and attend the services of the
sanctuary with meekness and awe. Remember in whose name you are addressed ; and let the importance of the subject solemnize your minds, and give an air of undissembled gravity and devotion to your whole deportment. Convinced of your spiritual wants, and intent on the benevolent end of hearing, " as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”
5. Let me remit you, in the last place, to “ that great salvation,” which is both the object and motive of the practice now recommended. Surrounded by temptations and snares, we need every assistance which reason and revelation furnish, to “ keep us from falling,” and excite us to “ run with patience the race set before us. Here we have no continuing city. When a few days are come, we shall go the way, whence we shall not return." Death, however, is not the extinction of our being. We are candidates for eternity, and “ must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.” When that “ day of the Lord shall come, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, the elements melt with fervent heat, and the earth with the works that are therein be burnt up, who shall be able to stand ?».