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self was their refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. He suffered not an hair of their head to perish, nor a single honour to fade from their brow as rulers of the king's provinces.
But man is not simply a creature of time. And his policy will always be narrow, unless it embrace considerations drawn from eternity. Let all his plans, then, be formed and prosecuted in prospect of an approaching day of reckoning with his Maker, when judgment will be laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. Then shall the individual, who has been faithful in a few things, be made ruler over many things. While he who has studiously consulted his convenience and temporal interest-who has been controlled at one time by the law of God, and at another by the will of man-will learn, too late, that he has acted upon a policy not to be admitted in transactions with the Eternal. He has attempted a hard task indeed; that of uniting the service of God and mammon. And the result of his toil can be only shame and everlasting contempt.
4. Christian decision is important as a means of securing the respect and confidence of mankind.
The Christian, to be respected, must manifestly be governed in all circumstances, by the religion he professes-by the religion of the New Testament. His habitual deportment must illustrate the commanding power of God's word. And who does not reverence the man, that can check his strong inclinations when they run counter to the will of Heaven? that can submit to public odium rather than yield to practices at variance with gospel claims? that can promptly sacrifice his ease, honours, possessions, and even life, sooner than step an inch on forbidden ground, and thus dishonour his Heavenly King? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, exchanged a dominion in Babylon next to that of the king himself for bonds and flames, because they could not violate their conscience and offend their God. And in doing it, they exhibited a loftiness of character which even bad men, as well as good men, must admire to the end of time. They came forth from the furnace unhurt, to bring on themselves the augmented respect of their cotemporaries, even of the infuriate king himself; while those who sought their ruin, by accusing them to the king, were overwhelmed with confusion and disgrace.
Due decision is likewise needful to secure confidence. The obligations of the Christian are imperious and peculiarly solemn. And if, with all their dread solemnity, they have not power to bind him to the service of his God-if he can be governed still by considerations of convenience, reputation, interest, fear, it is manifest to all, that he is unworthy of confidence; and he must utterly fail to gain it. His
very profession will be in the way of his gaining it. But let him be found in all cases true to his God in heaven, and no man on earth, can withhold from him esteem and confidence. Who in Babylon was more worthy to be trusted, or actually commanded a more unhesitating and extensive confidence, than those whose integrity had been tried so severely, and proved by the king? Are conscience and the word of God invariably your rule of life; and are you properly using the powers which God has given ;-the world will not be blind to such moral excellence, nor backward to commit important interests to your management. Which leads me to observe,
5. Christian decision is important as a qualification for eminent usefulness.
It secures the confidence, not only of men, but of the high and holy God; and he will deign to intrust you with power, and peculiarly smile on your endeavours to do good. Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed, is the language alike of his word and of his providence. He does not select, for the execution of his grandest plans, the timid, the hesitating, and the wavering. Oh no! His servants must be able to say, God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. The whole history of his church strikingly confirms this truth. When one was wanted to be the deliverer of his people from Egyptian bondage; to receive and publish from his mouth the eternal law of Sinai; and to write the only authentic history of the creation and first ages of the world; whom did God select? It was MOSES:-a man, meek indeed, but of unbending religious principle ;-a man, who could show his allegiance to God, by declining a proffered heirship to the proudest, richest, mightiest throne of earth;-who could cheerfully forsake Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king.
And when God would spread the gospel of his Son far and wide among the Gentiles; whom did he adopt as the chosen vessel? It was PAUL :—a man, who, from the moment that light broke in upon his soul, had no other question to ask, than, Lord what wilt thou have me to do? Being satisfied of God's will, he conferred not with flesh and blood. He relinquished at once his bright prospects of earthly distinction. He proclaimed forthwith to a prejudiced world, and before kings and judges, Christ and him crucified-fearless of consequences.
And when again the night of ages had settled down upon the world; when the church had become nearly extinct amid the darkness of Papal delusion; whom did God select as his chief instrument for bringing about the Reformation? It was MARTIN LUTHER :—a man humble before God, yet bold before men ;-a man, who, when summoned by imperial
mandate, to meet his enemies at the diet of Worms, did not hesitate; and who, when met on his way, and urged to turn aside by a throng of anxious friends, could say in view of danger, "That when called by so high authority as that of the Emperor, he must conclude it to be the Divine will that he should go; and that though he should be obliged to encounter at Worms as many devils as there were tiles upon the houses of that city, this would not deter him from his fixed purpose." He went he opened his mouth boldly, and triumphantly: and the whole moral world was made to bend at his will.
And when, in our own land, the churches were in danger of awful debasement, from the admission of the ungodly, and from the prevalence of doctrinal errors; whom did God select to withstand and turn back the desolating flood? It was the immortal EDWARDS :-a man religiously inflexible, alike through evil report and through good report. The Almighty loved him, and honoured him as the angel of His strength. The Spirit from heaven again and again sanctioned his ministrations with power and great glory. And some of the efforts of his pen, made under peculiarly trying circumstances, have contributed more perhaps, than all other human writings, to preserve and perpetuate the purity of our churches. Venerable man! his sun went down in fullorbed splendour, only to rise in brighter heavens, and his name will live among the choicest records of truth and piety, till time shall be no longer.
I might here also speak of WHITEFIELD, and WESLEY, and their associates, whom God seemed to have set apart for the special purpose of reviving the spirit of vital godliness in a degenerate age. These men, amid ridicule and obloquy, first within College walls, and afterwards in crowded temples, in market-places, and under the open canopy of heaven, fearlessly worshipped God in spirit and in truth, and proclaimed to sober hypocrites as well as profligate sinners, that without true holiness there was no escape from the damnation of hell. God signally honoured their faithfulness while they lived; and their influence is still felt, and it will continue to be felt, in the conversion and joy of multitudes which no man can number.
It would not be difficult to name some, of our own day-kindred spirits of those illustrious dead-of whom even infidels and idolaters have been constrained to say, These men are the servants of the most high God, who show unto us the way of salvation. But I need not, surely, multiply instances to prove, that God will bless, and render eminently useful, such as are distinguished for Christian decision. His promise is plain and everlasting; Them that honour me I will honour. Indeed there is something in the very nature of this principle of acNo. 12.-2
tion, which gives a happy direction to all the faculties of the soul; .which keeps them in steady unison with those of the Eternal Mind. So that where God moves, there the decided Christian is found. And in union of effort with such a Being, how can he be otherwise than eminently useful, as well as safe and happy?
And now, in view of such commanding motives, who would not cultivate a spirit of Evangelical Decision? It must be cultivated, and it will be cultivated, not by a solitary few here and there, but by thousands-nay, by thousands of thousands-ere the Gospel shall have power over the nations. And O, what scenes of grandeur will appear, when the millions who profess the pure religion shall exhibit the spirit now contemplated! Then the Church will be indeed the light of the world: the glory of the Lord will be seen upon her; and the Gentiles will come to her light, and kings to the brightness of her rising.
And why should this blessed consummation be delayed? If one obscure monk could come forth with the sword of truth, and, in defiance of Papal and Imperial domination, could move the moral world; what might not be speedily accomplished, would one half the professing Christians, now enlightened and free, rise up in the spirit of Luther, and, with corresponding effort, say to the whole world, Your light is come, and Satan must reign no longer ?
Brethren, let me, in conclusion, affectionately yet earnestly inquire, Is this spirit of Christian decision actually cherished and exhibited by yourselves? Is there nothing in your deportment like a compromise with sin and error? Are the claims of your Master and Judge all met with cheerfulness, and discharged with promptness? O does conscience never thunder nor whisper a rebuke! Is there no blending of the service of God and the service of the world? Are you daily pursuing that course of comparative disregard to the petty affairs of time, or the opinions of men--that course of uniform self-denial and burning zeal in the service of God-that course of invincible adherence to the will and honour of Jehovah, on a review of which the Judge enthroned can say, Well done, good and faithful servant? O, JUDGE YOURSELVES
NOW THAT YE MAY NOT BE CONDEMNED WITH THE WORLD.