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ROMANS XIV. 8.
Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
THIS passage most forcibly represents the interesting relation of the Christian to his God and Saviour. He is the property of that Lord by whom he was created and redeemed; to this Lord his life is devoted in the faithful discharge of the duties of his Christian calling; and then dying, he is the Lord's; that Lord to whom he is devoted, will be in this conflict the support of his soul, and its portion through eternal ages.
In reference to the ordinance of confirmation which is this day to be administered, it was my object to exhibit, in some of the preparatory lectures delivered during the preceding week, that Christian life which baptism denotes, and to which confirmation renewedly pledges us. The view proposed of the Christian life, was in its commencement, its progress, and its termination.
The Christian life commences in baptism, when its obligations were imposed and its privileges conferred; and it renewedly commences in confirmation, when its engagements are publicly assumed by those who were baptized in infancy, when they come to the years of discretion. And at this commencement of the Christian life, the exercises
proper for those who publicly devote themselves to God, in the laying on of hands, are, an humble acknowledgment and confession of the weakness and corruption of their nature, and of their actual transgressions; trust in that mercy of God, through Jesus Christ, which is then to be assured to them; a serious conviction of the necessity of that spiritual change implied by "dying unto sin and rising unto righteousness," denoted by the sacrament of baptism, the obligations of which we then assume; and earnest supplications for the influences of that Divine Spirit by which, in union with our own endeavours, this change is to be effected.
The Christian life, in its progress, may be considered with respect to its character, the principle by which it is animated, the agency and means by which it is maintained, and the consolations and hopes with which it is supported and rewarded.
The character of the Christian life (to which baptism and the ordinance of confirmation devote us) is holy-holy, in the renunciation of all sin, in the exercise of all holy affections, and in the discharge of the duties of a holy life. The principle by which the Christian life is animated, is faith, that faith which so fully and so strongly realizes all the great truths of the Gospel, as to make them operative upon the heart and the life, in renewing and reforming them, and leading to the cultivation of all Christian virtues, and the faithful discharge of every moral duty. By the agency of the Holy Spirit,-acting according to the constitution of the human mind, and not to be distinguished from its operations, blessing, to our conquest over sin and our advancement in holiness, the use of moral means, of prayer, of pious reading and meditation,
wanderings (O how many!) in his most devout supplications, and imperfections in his most holy works.
But perhaps the retrospect of his life affords a picture more strongly marked with the dark colours of imperfection and sin. The early desires and affections of his heart, instead of being offered to his God and Saviour, were occupied with the pleasures of the world; manhood found him still careless of the things that bolong to his eternal peace, and in the indulgence of the sinful passions of his nature, habitually violating, if not the laws of honesty, and of justice, and of truth, the dictates of piety, of purity, and of sobriety; and perhaps not until he approached the last stage of life did he awake to a sense of his Christian obligations, and, turning from the ways of sin and folly, devote himself to the service of God.
At that solemn hour when the world is receding from his view, and the scenes of judgment and eternity opening upon him, conscience brings before the Christian the imperfections and sins of his past life; but they do not shake his serenity nor destroy his peace. He has humbled himself on account of them, repeatedly and deeply, at the footstool of his God; he has confessed and deplored them with lively contrition; he has renounced them with shame and abhorrence; faith in the blood of his Saviour has restored peace to his soul; rejoicing in the view of the fulness of divine mercy, he has silenced the accusations of conscience, and evincing, in his humble and faithful devotion to God, the sincerity of his penitential emotions and resolutions, he has confided in the gracious acceptance of his sincere but imperfect
services. Though then, in the weak and agonizing moments of death, the deficiences and sins that marked his course rise to the view of the Christian, he knows that he has secured his interest in the intercession of the all-powerful Advocate with the Father, and that he will be accepted, not on account of his own righteousness, but on account of the merits of that Redeemer to whom he hath committed, in humble penitence and faith, the salvation of his soul.
In that retrospect of his past life which death brings before the Christian, does he dwell on the numerous temptations that have assailed him? He lifts his soul in thanks to that God who hath given him victory over them.. Sometimes, indeed, he may have been seduced (who has not been thus seduced?) by their treacherous blandishments, sometimes cast down by their violent assaults; but for a moment only he left the path of duty, for a moment only was he held captive to sin; he returned with redoubled vigilance and activity to that service of his God which constituted his duty and his delight; he rose from his temporary fall with renewed ardour, to repair, by increased zeal and holiness, the injury which he inflicted on his Christian profession, and to restore, by more signal acts of piety and virtue, the brightness of his Christian character, which temptation had tarnished. Through the grace of his divine Master, he has overcome-he has resisted the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and with a pure heart followed his God and Saviour; and now he rejoices that death will terminate. his conflicts, and give him rest.
Is the meditation of the Christian, at the hour of VOL. II. 14
death, directed to the conquest which he has made over his sinful passions? They have, indeed, been but imperfectly subdued; perhaps conscience, if faithful to her trust, will admonish him that some favourite passion he has not sedulously watched and controlled, and that still, in a degree, it holds dominion over his soul. He will be humbled in penitential sorrow, but not in despair; for his Christian course witnessing his faithful struggles, through divine grace, with all the evil passions that contended for mastery over him, and his success in bringing them into subjection to those holy principles and spirit by which he is supremely regulated, he confides, that the Master who knows whereof he is made, and remembers that he is but dust, will not condemn him because he has not fully obtained that victory, which cannot be complete until, the body of sin being destroyed, his corruptible has put on incorruption, and his mortal immortality.
In those serious reflections which approaching death suggests to the Christian, does he review the progress which he has made in the cultivation of the Christian graces? This progress is indeed imperfect; in no respect has he fully attained perfection. Alloy diminishes the lustre of his brightest virtues; yet, kindled by the Spirit of God, and cherished by his sincere, and continued, and faithful exertions, they have shone forth with increasing splendour, and conforming him to the image and example of his divine Lord, now furnish him with the joyful confidence that this Lord will not cast him off.
And a further confidence of his acceptance is inspired by the review which, at the solemn mo