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the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; they chaunt 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 sin.
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
true disciples: "ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
It is also a melancholy truth, that unbelief is not wholly eradicated from the hearts of believers. If it were, there would have been no need for this caution: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." And again; speaking of the Israelites in the wilderness, St. Paul says, "So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." And then he adds this solemn warning: "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it."
Those who are in the habit of observing the secret movements of their own spirit, will soon perceive how this subtle evil lies at the bottom of all their langour in devotion; their inertness in duty; their dulness in spiritual perception, and their declensions from the ways of God.
This acquaintance with our own heart, will lead us to the continued exercise of watchfulness and prayer, through the gracious influence of the Holy
A consciousness of inbred sin will cause us to distrust ourselves, to look continually unto Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. This salutary fear, implanted in the heart through the covenant love of God alone can keep us from falling. shall walk over the slippery paths of this sinful world with safety, when we tread with cautious step, "leaning upon our beloved."
This knowledge of our corruption, when taught by the Spirit of truth, in connection with the remedy provided to remove it, even the atoning blood of Jesus; causes the soul who receives it, to sink deep in self-abasement; to rise high in heavenly affec
tions; to renounce the vanities of the world; and to grow in a daily meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light.
How extensive then is the evil of unbelief. It blights the whole moral creation of God, producing sterility in every heart unrenewed by sovereign grace; whilst it sheds its baneful influence even over the trees of righteousness which stand in the garden of the Lord.
Just in proportion as its influence is felt in the people of God, it operates like the chilling blast in the vineyard. The blossom is injured-the fruit is checked-yea too often withered.
To this root of bitterness may be traced all the wickedness of the world; all the evils which have abounded, and do abound in the visible church of Christ; all the declensions and falls, which have unhappily stained the lives of many, who by their deep repentance have proved themselves to be amongst the redeemed of the Lord.
Blessed Saviour! thou who camest down from the throne of glory to die for poor perishing sinners, save me from the deadly sin of unbelief. O! give me faith in thy precious blood. Enable me to rely upon thee with the simplicity of a little child.
On thee may I repose my soul, for thou didst bear my sins in thine own body on the tree. Lord, save me from self-righteousness; from the love of the world; from pride of heart; from fleshly indulgence. Keep me near to thyself. Wash me daily in thy cleansing blood from every contracted defilement. Clothe me with the robe of righteousness, with the garment of salvation. Cause me to rejoice in thee; to live in the light of thy countenance; to taste that thou art gracious; and to glorify thee by a growing conformity to thy mind and will.
In the hour of death and danger,
In the days of ease and pleasure,
He who gave thee every blessing,
Whilst his bounteous gifts possessing,
Jesus Christ was disregarded,
But behold! he now arises,
Clad with frowns, and arm'd with woe, He thy guilty soul surprises;
Where, ah! whither wilt thou go?
Earth with all its gilded treasures,
Swelling streams of guilt surround thee,
Ah! poor sinner, haste and turn thee
See his agonizing features;
Still perhaps he may be gracious,
Like the heav'n so vast and spacious,
Is the love which bids thee live.