« PreviousContinue »
you live, for every comfort you have ever enjoyed, for every valuable acquirement you have made, for every hope you are permitted to che rish. To Him are you indebted, above all, for the gift of a Saviour; for the gracious offer of peace, and pardon, and sanctification, and eternal life and glory by his atoning sacrifice; for the gift of the Holy Spirit to strive with you; and for all your precious privileges, temporal and spiritual. And will you besitate-can you doubt, whether to be on the side of this Benefactor or not? Can you consent to remain another hour in hostility against your Maker, your Protector, the bountiful Author of all your mercies? Forbid it gratitude! Forbid it every rational generous principle of our nature!
4. A fourth reason, why we ought all to be on the Lord's side, is, that IT IS THE SIDE OF HAPPINESS; the only side which can effectually secure our real enjoyment. I am aware that multitudes make a very different estimate of this matter. They think piety one of the greatest foes to personal enjoyment; and, therefore, they deliberately postpone all serious attention to the subject, to some future period-perhaps to old age, that they may, in the mean time, enjoy life. Just as reasonably might a man, labouring under a loathsome and painful disease, decline or postpone being healed, lest recovering his health might interfere with his comfort. O the amazing, the almost incredible infatuation of men! Never did creatures calling themselves rational, yield to a more degrading and miserable delusion! The fact is directly the reverse of what an impenitent and unbelieving world suppose. There is no peace, sailh my God, to the wicked. The way of transgressors is hard. But the path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more to the perfect day. Reconciliation and friendship with God, really form the basis of all rational and true enjoyment. The graces and duties of the christian life, are not only consistent with hap piness, but will be found, when examined, to form THE VERY ESSENCE OF IT. What are faith, and hope, and love, and joy, and trust in God, and resignation, and contentment, and all the fruits of the Spirit-but another name for the truest felicity of which man is capable here below? Yes, brethren, just in proportion as we walk with God, we bring down heaven into our souls. Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. The way of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and as. surance for ever. Happy the people that are in such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord!
5. Further; let me entreat those who are not yet on the Lord's side, to consider that THEY HAVE NOT ONE REASONABLE PLEA FOR BEING ON THE SIDE OF SATAN. I know, indeed, that the children of this world frequently offer excuses for the course they take, which may appear to them plausible, and in which they entrench themselves with great appa rent confidence. But they are all delusive; most of them impious insults to the God of heaven; and such as they would be ashamed of offering in reference to their temporal affairs. Do you say, my impenitent hearer, that you are unable to quit the side of sin and Satan, and to join that of the Lord? There never was a more deceitful or hol
low-hearted plea. You labour under no other inability in this case, than that which arises from your depravity, your criminal disaffection to your rightful sovereign. It is just as if a thief, or a murderer, arrayed before a human tribunal, should plead as an apology for his crime, that his love of the wicked act was so deeply inwrought and fixed in his nature, that he could not but indulge it, and must, therefore, be excused! How would a righteous judge treat such a shameless plea? Again; do you say, that the service of God is oppressive, or injurious to your interest? Never was there a more groundless cavil. He never was a hard Master. He requires nothing of us but what is as much adapted to promote our welfare as his own glory. All Scripture and all experience demonstrate, that his commandments are not grievous: and that his service, instead of slavery, is perfect freedom,-the noblest freedom. Do you plead, that the provisions of the Gospel are not extensive and rich enough to reach your case? This objection is ne less false than the foregoing. The blessed Redeemer is both able and willing to save to the uttermost, all that come to God through Him. To whatever embarrassments our philosophical speculations concerning the extent of the atonement may give rise, the plain language of Him who shed his blood for sinners, is, Look unto me, and be ye saved, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, for I am God, and beside me there is none else, And again, Come unto me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and i will give you rest: for whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out. And again, wнOSOEVER WILL, let him come, and take of the water of life freely. Do you allege that you have not time to attend to this great subject? Just as well might you allege a want of time to take the aliment necessary for sustaining your nature. Without the latter, indeed, your natural lives cannot be supported; but without the former, better had you never been born; for your spirits must die eter. nally. O, for what was time given you? Can it be devoted to any object comparable to that of preparing for endless blessedness? Seeing, then, that you are altogether without excuse; seeing you have no reasonable plea for declining, or delaying to join the Lord's side, let me beseech you now to accept of his gracious invitation. To-day, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts. Why should you attempt apologies now, when you know that in the great day of trial, you will be speechless?
6. The last reason which I shall urge, why we ought all to be on the Lord's side, is, that IT IS THE ONLY SAFE SIDE; THE ONLY SIDE THAT WILL FINALLY AND ASSUREDLY TRIUMPH. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion shall endure throughout all generations. He must reign until He shall have put all enemies under his feet. Yes, my friends, the cause of God is the only one that shall live, and grow, and flourish, when all others have sunk under the arm of his omnipotence. Every thing that is on the side of God, will last, will triumph, will eternally prosper: the perfections of his character, and the stability of his covenant, are pledged for this result. But inevitable downfall and destruction await every person, and every interest belonging to the side of his enemies. Behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea and all that do wickedly shall be stubble; and
the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. For the Lord shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them who know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
Our subject suggests a variety of practical reflections, to some of which we now request your serious attention. And,
1. We are led by the foregoing remarks to reflect, How obvious and how strong the obligations on all to make a profession of religion! By making a profession of religion, we mean, appearing and acting publicly on the Lord's side. It is, more particularly, attending with solemnity on those Sacramental Seals which Christ has instituted to mark the line between those who are within, and those who are without the visible Church. The duty of making this profession is obvious. If we are bound to BE on the Lord's side, we are surely bound to APPEAR on that side-to be SEEN to be there. Thus the same authority which requires us to believe in Christ, and to love Christ, has commanded us to confess him before men; and to let our light, as his followers, shine before men. Nay, he distinctly gives us to understand, that declining, or neglecting to confess him before men, is equivalent to denying him; and such he declares, He will deny before his Father, and before the holy angels. Nor let any imagine that this obligation to confess Christ, is not binding on them. Thousands appear to fall into this mistake. They say, and say truly, that to confess the Saviour, by making a public profession, while they have no faith in him, no love to him, would be to commit sin: but they appear to have no serious impression whatever, of the dreadful sin of NOT confessing Christ; in other words, of DENYING HIM before men. You are afraid, you say, of the sin of a hypocritical profession; but you are not afraid, it seems, of turning your backs upon the Lord of life and glory! O ye who are at ease in the commission of this sin, how great is your guilt! Be not deceived, God is not mocked.
2. How solemn a transaction is making a profession of religion! We are under the most solemn obligations, as you have heard, to make a profession-obligations which we can neither renounce nor disregard with impunity. To refuse to do it is to deny the Saviour. And yet, we are not at liberty to do it with rashness, with levity, or with an impenitent and unbelieving spirit. O how much does such a profession import! It implies coming forth from the camp of the enemy, and declaring ourselves on the Lord's side. It implies joining ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, never to be forgotten. It is a deliberate, public enlisting under the banner of the Captain of salvation; taking, as it were, a solemn oath to be His, in soul and body, for time and eternity. Surely a transaction so serious, so momentous, so irrevocable; a transaction connected with so many important consequences to ourselves and others, is not a mere ceremonial, and ought not to be regarded or treated as such. It ought to be entered upon with intelli
gence, with solemn deliberation, with the sacred decision of one who remembers that he is acting for eternity, and that, after putting his hand to the plough, he can never look back.
3. How deplorable the situation of those who are not on the Lord's side! O that I could give to such persons if it were but one glance of their guilt and danger, as they really are! You are engaged, my friends, in a warfare with Omnipotence. Can you hope to prevail against Him? This is a hope which insanity itself cannot cherish. No; this hostility can end only in one of two ways. Either by your repenting, and abandoning the contest; or by your utter defeat and destruction. Which alternative will you prefer? Will you stand out, defy Jehovah, and brave the heaviest inflictions of his wrath? Surely you cannot deliberately resolve to take so infatuated a course. Why will you die, when life is so freely and mercifully offered you? The great Sovereign, against whom you have so unreasonably risen up in arms, is willing to be reconciled. He invites, he beseeches you to come in, and accept of a free pardon. Will you submit and live? You must be at peace with Him, or perish. If you ever intend to make peace with Him, for what are you waiting? Are you expecting more easy terms of reconciliation hereafter? Alas! my friends, Jehovah must change before you can be taken to heaven while you continue in love with sin, and ene mies of his glorious character. Besides, what can be more condescending and gracious than the terms now offered you? You are not called upon to bring a price in your hands. Only lay down your arms, be sorry for what you have done, and become reconciled to the character, the government, and the Gospel of God; and all that is past will be pardoned, and remembered against you no more. Are you waiting for a more convenient season to be reconciled? I ask, will continuing longer in your rebellion render it easier for you hereafter to repent and reform? As reasonably might a sick man say to one who offered at once to heal him "Let me become a little worse; let my disease take a little firmer hold, and my weakness become a little greater, before you apply the remedy." But, ah, you act not thus in reference to the health of your bodies: it is only in regard to the interests of your immortal souls that you yield to such unspeakable infatuation. Do you ask, what you shall do? I answer, Repent and believe the Gospel. Take not another step in your present unhallowed course. THIS HOUR lay down the weapons of your rebellion, and be reconciled to Flim who alone can avail you as a Friend. I say, THIS HOUR, for you know not that you have another to live. Now, then, in the day of your merciful visitation, while the door is open, and the voice of mercy is heard in kindest accents,―enter without delay the sanctuary of salvation, which the Saviour has purchased and prepared by his most precious blood; and you will find peaceeternal peace but turn away from it, and all will be dark, and miserable, and accursed for ever!
4. Finally; How important is it that those who profess to be on the Lord's side, exhibit a life and conversation corresponding with their profession. What would you think, my brethren, if an army raised by the government of your country, and an army formed by a band of traitors,
were encamped in the neighbourhood of each other, and you should see many individuals of the former, while they held their heads high in professions of loyalty, frequently visiting the tented field of the rebels, skulking among their ranks, and in short, by bowing, smiling, and every indication of cordial familiarity, making it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to ascertain to which army they belonged? would you not consider their fidelity extremely suspicious? Need I say, brethren, that there is an awful amount of this equivocal friendship in the visible church? O how many who profess to be on the Lord's side, render it most distressingly doubtful, by their daily conformity to the world, whether they really belong to Christ or Belial! Hence it is, that so many who claim to be disciples, go halting and comfortless in their christian profession; oppressed with doubts concerning their own state; strangers to the joyful assurance of hope; and operating as clogs and a burden, rather than helpers to the church. Surely it is time for such to arouse themselves, and to examine with more solicitude than ever ON WHAT SIDE THEY REALLY STAND. O ye who have "subscribed with your hands unto the Lord, and have surnamed yourselves by the name of Israel," remember that the real children of God are a peculiar people: peculiar in their experience, their taste, their joys, their habits, and their pursuits. If you wish to have satisfying evidence that you are of their number, enter, with holy decision, into their scriptural peculiarities. If you wish to enjoy peace yourselves, to edify others, or to honour your leader, be decided: Follow the Lord fully. Let your every word and action speak on what side you are not by noisy profession; not by sanctimonious austerity; not by saying in every company, Stand by, for I am holier than thou; but by humility, by benevolence, by purity, by selfdenial, by a holy elevation of sentiment and affection, by an unaffected taste and zeal for spiritual things, by shunning the very appearance of evil; by abounding in those works of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. And for your encouragement remember that precious word of promise, from the Captain of salvation, which belongs to every faithful believer-HE THAT CONFESSETH ME BEFORE MEN, HIM WILL I ALSO CONFESS BEFORE MY FATHER AND THE HOLY ANGELS. TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH, WILL I GRANT TO SIT WITH ME ON MY THRONE, EVEN AS I ALSO OVERCAME, AND AM' SET DOWN WITH MY FATHER ON HIS THRONE.-Amen.