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These, O! Lord, do unto thee the greatest dishonour. They hear of thee without emotion. They talk of thee without affection. They know thy Gospel, speculatively; but experience nothing of its power. They call thee, Lord, but do not obey thee. They have the light shining around them, yet love darkness rather than light. They hear the sweet sound of grace, yet find no chord of unison within. They see the waters of life flowing on every side, yet never taste of its refreshing stream. They have a name that they live, and yet are dead. They profess that they know God, yet in works deny him. They have the form of godliness, yet deny the power thereof. They express a self-complaisant pity for the poor Jew and Gentile, whilst they themselves are in a far more wretched state than these objects of their commiseration.
O! that the Spirit may be poured out from on high, that the wilderness may become a fruitful field; that every heart may experience the trans forming power of thy sovereign grace, and the whole earth be filled with thy glory. Thou hast said, “Surely I come quickly-Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus."
Eternal God, thy power display ;
Thy dying love, O! Lord, reveal,
Arise, thou Sun of righteousness,
our hearts and shine, Till every heart bę wholly thine.
Inflame our cold affections, Lord,
XVIII. ON NEGLECTING THE GOSPEL.
This declaration of the apostle, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?"-is both a solemn question, and an awful conclusion. Those who hold infidel principles, who live in a total disregard of religious ordinances, and who persecute the followers of Jesus, despise the salvation of God.
But there are other marks equally legible to the discerning eye, though often unseen by the persons who bear them, on account of the blinding nature of sin, which point out the neglecters of salvation.
The three following should excite alarm, and call forth the important exercise of strict self-examination.
1. If we are living in the allowed indulgence of one known sin, whether that sin be internal or external; whether it be cherished in the secret recesses of the heart; or whether it ripen into overt acts; we are neglecting the salvation of the Gospel. We may have knowledge, and zeal, and gifts of various kinds; we may do much in active exertion to promote the general cause of religion ; we may associate with pious characters, and be ourselves esteemed pious; we may be regular at church; maintain family worship; and, like Herod, do “ many things :"" yet if, after all, we are living in the allowed indul. gence of one known sin, we are neglecting this great salvation ; and, dying in this state, must inevitably perish. Should we knock and say, “ Lord, open unto us,” Jesus would profess unto us, “1 never
knew you ; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.” How awful is this consideration, and yet how just! We may destroy all the refuse of the Amalekites ; yet if we preserve Agag and the rest of the flock alive; if we retain some beloved lust in the heart, we manifest a spirit in direct opposition to the will and command of God.
2. If we are building upon any other foundation in whole or in part, than Jesus Christ and him crucified, we are neglecting his great salvation. To be saved from the dreadful consequences of sin, we must build simply and entirely on that foundation which God hath laid in Zion, without daring to bring any of the materials of corrupt nature to mix with it. On this foundation we must pray for
grace to build gold, silver, and precious stones. This must be done by adding to faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly-kindness, and to brotherly-kindness charity. If these things be in us and abound, they make us, that we shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; whilst an entrance shall be ministered to us abundantly into his heavenly kingdom.
3. If we are preferring any earthly object of whatever kind to Jesus Christ ; if our affections are placed on any other being in opposition to him ; or if we are seeking our delight in any created thing, as distinct from him and independent of him, we are neglecting his great salvation ; yea, setting up idols in our hearts. We must love the adorable Saviour with a supreme
affection ; and we must love other objects only for his sake. Our temporal blessings must be enjoyed as flowing from him; our friends and domestic comforts must be received as gifts coming to us through his redeeming grace. All we possess must be held at his disposal ; and with a view to that account which we must one day give.
Thus Christ must be the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and ending of all our desires and affections.
0! how strait is the gate and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it.
May I never forget this unchangeable truth ; that Jesus is the only way of escape from hell—and the only way of access to heaven.
Lord, let thy good Spirit guide me into this consecrated way. Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.
It is truly awakening to reflect how far a person may go in the circumstantials of religion, and yet be entirely destitute of the life of God in the soul.
The holy Scriptures abound with declarations to this effect, which prove the deceitfulness of the human heart, and the danger of resting in mere outward forms and orthodox opinions. Thus Job describes the character of the hypocrite: “ What is the hope of the hypocrite though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul ? Will he delight himself in the Almighty, will he always call upon God?" evidently implying that not having the root of the matter in him, though he had gained the applause of men for his seeming piety, he would soon grow weary of the service of God.
David also shews in awful colours the wickedness of false teachers: “Unto the wicked, God saith, what hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee."
Thus wicked men may enter into the priestly office, preach the Gospel, and talk about that covenant, in the blessings of which, they have no personal interest whatever.
The prophet Isaiah, by the Spirit of God, sets forth the extreme hypocrisy of the Jews : “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of David their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and 'forsook not the ordinances of their God. They ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.”
Thus their conduct was a strange mixture of apparent devotion and positive rebellion.
The prophet Ezekiel was shewn the true character of those who waited upon him. They come unto thee as the people cometh: and they sit before thee as my people ; and they hear thy words, but they will not do them ; for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.”
Our divine Redeemer has painted the hypocrite in his true colours: “Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites ; for ye pay tithe of mint, annice, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites ; for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but within they are full of extortion and excess. “Woe unto you, ye scribes and pharisees, hypocrites ; for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and all uncleanness.” “ Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell !"
When we consider, that these men were held in the highest esteem and veneration amongst the Jews, for their outward sanctity and devotion; we see how far
persons may go in the externals of religion, and yet be in the very gall of bitterness and in the bond