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deceitfulness of sin. Forming wrong connexions without regard to consequences, &c.
Secondly: What is the special import of this charge ? or, what is the nature of this sober-mindedness?
Doubtless, to be sober-minded, includes minding sobriety and temperance. See that the mind is master of the body, and not the body the ruler of the mind.
The irregular indulgence of sensual appetites, tends to the ruin of health, the waste of property, the loss of character, and the gradual introduction to still greater crimes, punishable by human laws. But the mind itself needs to be governed, its impetuosity to be checked, its desires and passions closely bridled, or it will hurry you into many disagreeable and injurious pursuits and contests. A deep sense of our responsibility to God, a realizing conviction of his constant presence and omniscience, and an extensive acquaintance with the rule of duty laid down in his word, is needful to make and keep us sober-minded. We shall not be likely to govern ourselves well, unless we realize our being the subjects of God's moral government, and are willing and desirous that our whole souls and all our conduct should be regulated by his will. A humbling conviction, not only of the limited nature of our faculties, but also of the great injury they have sustained by our apostasy from God; and a sense of our depravity, guilt, and moral impotence, will have a very salutary influence on young men. A modest deference to the judgment of others, who have gone far through life before you; especially those who are most evidently concerned to glorify God, and affectionately desirous of your good, will greatly assist in this duty, and recommend you to their esteem. Much care in the choice of your most intimate companions, will greatly subserve the same design ; for he that walketh with the wise shall be wise, but the companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Prov. xiii. 20. Constant attention to the Holy Scriptures, submissively bowing to their authority, and taking heed to your ways according to the decision of God's word, will promote this blessed object. My dear young friends, never presume to treat God's word with irreverence,
or use the language of scripture jocosely. It is impious to turn the Bible into a jest-book, or to prophane God's holy ordinances. Shun those who do so, as you would shun persons infected with a pestilence. Show a constant reverence for God's name, at which even devils tremble. Remember his day, to keep it holy; and show that you respect all that belongs to him. Privately own your dependance, implore his blessing, and acknowledge him in all your ways.
He that lives without prayer, lives without God in the world. Above all, be concerned to realize your need of a Saviour and a Sanctifier ; dread the thought of not being found in Christ, and led by the Holy Spirit. If you have professed faith in Christ already, be concerned so to walk in him, as to show that your reception of him was cordial and entire; and consider yourselves as bound to live, not to yourselves, but to him that died and rose again. If you have been renewed by the Holy Spirit, show that you are led by him, that you look to him as your guide, monitor, sanctifier, and comforter; and never grieve him. Beware of the beginnings of declension or temptation. Venture not to the utmost bounds of things lawful, lest you be drawn into what is unlawful. Watch and pray always. In all changes of situation or condition, especially those which are most important and permanent, regard God's glory, and your spiritual good, above all other considerations. Never think you can live to God by your own power or strength; but always seek to him for assistance, and rely on his all-sufficient grace. Never expect any happiness or satisfaction from the world. If you hope for happiness in the world, hope for it from God, and not from the world. As David Brainerd said to his brother, "Do not think you shall be more happy if you live to set up for yourself, to be settled in the world, or to gain an estate in it; but look upon it, you shall then be happy, when you can be constantly employed for God, and not for yourself; and desire to live in this world, only to do and suffer what God allots you.
In short, treat the glorifying of God, and the eternal enjoyment of him, as the chief end of man; and to whatever else you attend,
let it be in connexion with this end, or in subserviency to it.
THIRDLY: Why should young men attend to this charge ?
From regard to God's authority and revealed will. From gratitude for his chief mercy, the gift of his Son. From a wise regard to self interest, even in this life. No detriment, even to your temporal welfare and happiness, can follow from compliance with it, unless through the perverseness of God's enemies, and that will be fully counterbalanced. That they may be really a blessing to others, especially to those with whom they are most closely connected. From a sense of the uncertainty of earthly things, and of life itself. It cannot be too soon to prepare for death. From an assurance of your being amenable to the great Governor of the universe. Eccles. xi. 9. From a desire to shun eternal ruin, and escape the wrath to come ; the upbraidings of conscience, and the insults of your associates in sin and damnation. That you may have your affections set on things above, enjoy evidence that you are heirs of eternal life, and have an abundant entrance administered into the joy of the Lord.
What a sin and a shame will it be, if some, who are not young men, are not sober-minded, but live in sinful indulgence, and are unprepared for death!
THE NATURE AND IMPORTANCE OF GOOD WORKS.
Titus iii. 8.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works : these things are good and profitable unto men.
The nature and importance of good works, is the subject appointed for our present consideration; and though many passages of scripture would illustrate and enforce this subject, yet none could well be adduced more apposite than that which
I have read to you, and which stands in immediate connexion with one of the fullest and most beautiful summaries of evangelical truth in the New Testament; and therefore strongly evinces the consistency between the doctrine of salvation by grace, exclusive of human merit, and our indispensable obligations to the practice of good works. In discussing this subject, it seems absolutely necessary to inquire, First, What are good works? Secondly, What are they good for? The first inquiry will show their nature, and the second lead to consider their importance, and the strongest motives to excite to the performance of them.
First: What are good works? Two things are requisite to constitute any work we can perform good in the sight of God.
First: The work itself must be conformable to the will of God, as revealed in his word. Else we may take it for granted that we are doing God service when we are doing what he has expressly forbidden, or at least what he never commanded. Saul of Tarsus verily thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus, and supposed he was doing a good work in compelling others to blaspheme the Saviour. Many, since, have accounted it a good work to burn supposed heretics, or to compel them to an hypocritical confession of doctrines they secretly disbelieved. Others, to found monasteries, take vows of celibacy, go on pilgrimages, say prayers for the dead, live as hermits in deserts, lodging in caves of the earth, or standing perched upon pillars, &c. But, however laborious, painful, expensive, or showy,-such works will not meet with divine approbation.
Secondly ; They must also spring from right principles, or they are good for nothing in God's estimation, though apparently agreeable to his will, and pleasing or beneficial to
This is taught in the strongest terms, in 1 Cor. xiii. 3. Though no outward act would seem a stronger proof of benevolence, than for a man to give all he has to feed the poor, nor could
ny outward act seem a stronger proof of love to God than to yield the body to be burned, yet it is possible either might proceed from other motives, and if so, all would be nothing : if one sprang from pride and ostentation, and
the other from obstinacy and party zeal, neither would be good, in the estimation of God. When the Pharisees gave alms to be seen of men, or made long prayers to devour widows' houses, these were not good works. If one should subscribe largely to institutions formed for moral or religious purposes, from the same principle which induces another to be foremost in subscribing to a horse race, or in building a theatre, though the effect be better, yet the action is not truly good. Some actions may be very plausible, and truly useful to man, and yet not be good works. Others, may make no show, or even be censured by men, and yet be acceptable to God.
The essence of moral goodness, lies in the disposition of the heart, a reverential affectionate regard to God; love, trust, submission, resignation, and designed conformity to his will. But there are two sorts of external expressions of this inward religion. viz. 1. Outward acts of worship, performed in public, or before the family; attending on positive institutions; honoring God by bowing or kneeling before him, or by verbally avowing our regard to him, in prayer, praise, or religious conversation. 2. Showing our regard to God, by obeying his moral precepts, denying ourselves of all unlawful indulgences, and regarding the claims of equity, truth, and benevolence, in our intercourse with our fellow-men. Now, when these two kinds of duty are spoken of in scripture, the latter is greatly preferred to the former. And when we are exhorted to show our faith by our works, it is chiefly with reference to the latter kind. These also are mentioned as the great evidence of vital, operative faith, at the last day. We cannot express our love to God in doing any thing profitable to him : he would therefore have us show it in those things that are profitable to our neighbours. External rites, bodily gestures, and verbal professions, are the cheapest part of religion, and the least contrary to our lusts : the difficulty of thorough external religion does not lie in them. Let wicked men enjoy their covetousness, pride, malice, envy, revenge, voluptuousness, and sensuality, in their behaviour towards men; and they will be willing to compound matters with God, by submitting to any forms of worship, or ceremo