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amples of the saints, that he finds himself growing in knowledge and prepared to serve the Lord with a more perfect heart and ready mind. The bible is a history of the ways of God to man, and contains the great mystery of godliness, which it behoves every one to receive and examine, and which is calculated to refine and exalt human nature. In it the attentive obsery. er beholds a wonderful scheme of providence, and plan of grace, gradually unfolding from the fall of man to the advent of the Messiah, and the establishment of the christian dispensation. He finds that salvation can be obtained only through the mediation of Christ, and that faith, repentance, love to God, and obedience to his will, are the terms on which eternal life is offered. The wisdom and goodness manifested in this part of the divine economy excite his admiration, and impress on the mind a sense of obligation'to notice and apply it for his own moral improvement.
The purpose to be answered by observing the ways of God, in this or any other respect, is, that we may understand his character and will, and become conformed to him in purity and holiness. Unless this be the effect, though we may be filled with wonder, we shall derive 175
but little advantage from our contemplations. But, with a view to this, our own reason enforces the duty enjoined by divine authority, and teaches us tlic perfect fitness of devoting both heart and life to the honour and service of God.
Having called your attention to the manner, subject, and reasonableness, of the requisition in the text, of giving your hearts to God, and of observing his ways, and keeping his statutes; as an improvement, let me remind you, my young friends, that the subject calls you to re. flect,
1. On your relation to the great Parent of the universe. You are his children; and, as your Father, he requires your love and obedience. The tenderness he expresses toward you should excite a filial temper toward him, and induce you to prove yourselves worthy of your relation to him, by a conformity to his moral perfections and will.
Though sensible, that the human race have become rebellious children, that they have de. faced that image of God, which was originally stamped upon them; yet you find, that he condescends to address you in the tender language of a father, and, in the most gracious terms, to
'invite your return to him, and to encourage a hope in his goodness and mercy. He is pleased, like the father of the returning prodigal, to manifest a readiness to pardon and receive you, to treat you as children, and even to make you heirs of his kingdom. Think on your relation to God, and on his wonderful goodness to you ; and then inquire what you owe him. You are not only subjects of his creating power, sus. taining care, and providential blessings; but you are objects of redeeming love, and as such have the offers of salvation, through Jesus Christ, and the light of revelation to guide you, in the way of duty, to glory, honour, and immortality. Will you, then, disown, or act unworthy of your relation to God, when he, with such wonderful compassion and tenderness, is inviting you to acknowledge and obey him, as your father; and offering to make you partakers of a heavenly inheritance? If not, hearken to his voice, give him your hearts, and diligently observe his ways. Let him have your first and best affections, and his law your cordial approbation and cheerful obedience.
Our subject teaches, 2. That principle and practice, faith and obedience, affections and actions, constitute that religious homage and ser
177 vice, which God requires of men. They are not to be separated, but united to form the character of a sincere christian, and true worshipper of God.
Be cautioned against mistake in this point. Youth are susceptible of sudden and strong impressions; and they often conclude from the violent emotions they have experienced, which arose from an uncommon agitation of their natural passions, that they have felt the power of religion, and actually given their hearts to God. Thousands have fallen into this errour; who have found, after the mechanical effect upon their passions had abated, that they are as destitute of the power and spirit of religion as they were before such emotions and agitations. From these it is not safe to conclude that the heart is renewed, and devoted to God. Supreme love to him grows out of just conceptions of his character, and rational conviction of his real excellence. It is not the result of a few feeblo efforts'; nor does it consist in transient exercises of the affections; but it is a fixed inclination of the heart and soul toward God, as the chief good, and the habitual exercise of the purest affections to him. These are a steady principle, or spring, of active obedience; without which you may be certain you have not given
your hearts to God in any truly religious sense. If you love him, you will keep his command. ments. You will feel yourselves bound to observe and reverence all the ordinances and institutions of religion, and conscientiously perform all moral and social duties. . My friends, be persuaded to try and prove your own hearts by this rule, and not to trust to sudden impulses, to transient feelings, which are not accompanied and followed with rational piety, and practical goodness. You may be assured that, unless you bring forth the fruits of righteousness, you have no internal principle of holiness. Supposed change of temper and views, or fancied religious experiences, if not followed by a pious and virtuous conduct, can afford no well grounded hope and comfort. On the contrary, if made the foundation of confi. dence and assurance, may render your case more hazardous, by concealing from you the real state and condition of your souls. Beware of taking that for true religion, which is only the sudden and transient effect of animal passions.
But, 3. As it is perfectly reasonable that you should give your hearts to God, and observe his ways, or study and obey his will be entreated not to neglect these high and important duties. The longer you suffer the world and its