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O blest Redeemer, Lord divine!
What is the world but grief and care ;
Thy love, with beams of heavenly grace,
Terrestrial roses fade and die,
O! blessed Spirit, to my heart,
V. ON UNBELIEF.
Unbelief is a sin of much greater extent, than is generally imagined.
Some persons confine the sin of unbelief to Jews, Mahomedans, and Pagans; to atheists, deists, and sceptics.
They deem it a breach of charity to charge this moral evil -upon those who profess to believe the Gospel to be a revelation from God; and who exhibit in their outward character, the amiable virtues of benevolence, kindness, and compassion.
But if we bring what the world denominates faith, to the test of Scripture, and try its genuineness by the touchstone of the word of God, we shall soon discover it to be “reprobate silver.” This counterfeit coin bears some rude outlines of the King's image ; but it is so badly executed, that it may be easily detected by a spiritual discerner.
True faith is lively, operative and fruitful.
True faith works by love, that sacred spring, which sets all the wheels of obedience in motion.
True faith purifies the heart, by uniting the soul to Jesus, and drawing from him, through the Spirit, continual supplies of grace and strength, to mortify sin, and walk in the ways of holy obedience.
True faith overcomes the world, by raising the believer above its vanities and follies ; by enabling him to renounce its pomps and honours; and live as a pilgrim and stranger upon earth.
True faith realizes the invisible glories of heaven, and thus becomes the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
But how does the world's faith operate ? It leads men to the house of God on the sabbath ; and then suffers them to attend theatres, and gaieties of every description through the week.
It induces them to attend the Lord's table on some great festival of the church, and then lulls their consciences to sleep by the assurance that they have done “some great thing towards liquidating the contracted debt of daily transgression.
It prompts them, it may be, to read their Bibles on the sabbath, and then to close the sacred volume till the sabbath returns again.
The faith of the nominally Christian world, bad as it is, is nevertheless valuable to civil society; inasmuch as it restrains men in some degree from the licentious and savage practices of heathen nations, and preserves some portion of external decency and respect for religion amongst us. But it has nothing saving in it, because it has no respect to the will and favour of God. This profession of faith is consistent with worldly ambition, pride, lust, avarice, hatred of God, and enmity to the Gospel. These evils abound in the lives of multitudes, with whose praises the world resounds.
Look at the great mass of our population, all of whom profess to be Christians. And what is the character of their life and conduct ? who fill the theatres? who resort to houses of debauchery? who tread the giddy circles of maddening pleasure ? who compose the midnight revel, and lose their reason amid the fumes of intoxication? who defraud and circumvent their neighbours ? who defile their con versation by obscenity and oaths? who spend their time, when worldly business releases them from labour, in idle indulgences, or active wickedness ? The nominal professors of Christianity; men who would be highly offended if you ranked them amongst the degraded idolaters of the heathen world - men, who pride themselves upon their elevated scale in society, and who glory in the name of Christian. Yet these pretended admirers of Christianity abhor the spirit of the religion which they profess. They scruple not to charge the humble followers of Jesus, who run not with them to the same excess of riot," with hypocrisy, enthusiasm, and fanaticism. They regard them with a sneer of contemptuous scorn; and delight to make them the sportive subject of their bacchanalian carousals.
Many of these enemies of the cross of Christ are loaded with the common bounties of an indulgent providence.
“ They lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch them. selves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; they cbaunt to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music like David ; they drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointment : but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph ;" the poor of Christ's flock are suffered to perish around them, unheeded, and despised!
But oh! what an awful change ensues, when death strikes the fatal blow ! Instead of beds of ivory and couches of luxurious ease, they lie down on the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. Instead of bacchanalian songs, and the melody of sweet music, they hear, and join in the dreadful concert composed of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth! Instead of the delicious wine poured with profusion into their golden bowls, they crave in vain for a drop of water to cool their flaming tongues. Instead of continuing their laugh of ridicule at the once despised follower of Jesus ; "they, repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit, are amazed at the strangeness of his salvation, so far beyond all that they looked for ;” and exclaim, “ this was he, whom we had sometime in derision and a proverb of reproach. We fools accounted his life madness, and his end to be without honour: how is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints! Therefore have we erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness hath not shined unto us, and the sun of righteousness rose not upon us.
We wearied ourselves in the way of wickedness and destruction ; yea, we have gone through desart places where there lay no way, but as for the way of the Lord we have not known it. What hath pride profited us? or what good hath riches with our vaunting brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow, and as a post that hasteth by.” “O! that men were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end !"
Unbelief manifests itself in characters of another class.
Many nominal professors of Christianity are of a sweet, amiable disposition ; temperate in their enjoyments, and benevolent to their poor neighbours. They are ready to promote objects of general usefulness, and pride themselves upon their integrity of principle and strict propriety of action.
But how does their faith operate ? Does it wean their affections from the world ? Does it make Jesus daily more precious to their souls? Does it break them off from all self-righteous dependence? Does it produce real contrition for sin ; and continual application to the Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness?
Alas! they know little, and they feel less, of all this. They have never seen their absolute guilt and wretchedness as the offspring of fallen Adam ; and therefore they feel not their need of a crucified Jesus, to save them from the curse and dominion of
They profess indeed to believe in the gospel ; but they come to it as “they who are whole.” Their language is that of the young ruler ; “What lack I yet?” Hence they deem all experimental religion, all warm affections to the Saviour, all renunciation of worldly pleasures which are incompatible with the pure spirit of the gospel, as carrying matters too far; as being righteous over much. They wish to possess both worlds; to taste the joys of earth—and the bliss of heaven. But eternal truth hath said : “ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Such profession of faith must therefore lead to the chambers of death ; for “if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his." And Christ hath declared of all his