« PreviousContinue »
Further, there are still other persons, who regard and use the positive institutions of religion with a superstitious regard. They think that the very attendance on them communicates a portion of sanctity to the soul, and secures an interest in the blessings and privileges of the Gospel. Because they partake of the outward things, they conclude that they must necessarily partake of the inward things also. The mere observance of the institution must, as they suppose, be of itself highly efficacious and beneficial: and to hold a contrary opinion is, in their view, to question and set aside the authority of Him who has appointed it.
Such are some of the errors which exist on this subject. These are some of the ways in which persons unduly appreciate and exalt the external and ceremonial part of Religion, to the prejudice of real spiritual Christianity. And may not such persons then be
justly addressed in the words of the text ? May it not be said to them, “ To obey is better than sacrifice ?"' • You are mistaking the nature of ' religion, and the design of these institu* tions. You are elevating them to a station s which they were never intended to fill.
You are applying them to purposes which they were never designed to answer. Religion does not consist in performing these things. It consists in the state and dispositions of the heart. Is God pleased with · while the state and dispositions of the heart • are displeasing to him ? Has He as great
ceremonial observances a
delight in our observing the Sabbath, partaking the Sacraments, and attending His
worship, as in fearing, loving, and obey. • ing Him, in the inner man ??
Nor, in making this application of the text, let it be supposed that I would undervalue the external offices of Religion. Far other. wise. I appreciate them highly, and I would wish you to appreciate them highly also, as means of grace appointed by God. I count them so necessary to religion, that I cannot believe that there can be
any true religion at all in those persons who wilfully and habitually neglect them. But at the same time I would wish you to remember that they are but means.
As such I would put them in their proper place. I would fix them on their legitimate foundation. I would lead you to consider them aright, that you may use them aright; and so may profit by them aright. I repeat the assertion that they are means of grace, and will prove such to those who receive and use them in the manner and for the purpose designed. But they are not the end. The end is true spiritual religion in the heart. And so far as the means promote this end, they are useful and valuable: but
so far only. If they do not promote this end, they are only to us, as the legal ordinances were to the Jews, “ Beggarly elements," which can profit us nothing. My Brethren, I would urge you to be strictly observant of the holy duties of the Sabbath, and regular
your attendance on the Lord's Supper, and constant in your public devotions. But why would I urge you to the practice of these things? Not that you may make a formal, or a superstitious, or a presumptuous use of them; but that in the use of them your soul may be strengthened and refreshed, purified from sin, and made fitter for Heaven. I would wish
go from the performance of these outward duties, with hearts more deeply humbled for sin, more inwardly set against it, and more strenuously resolved to forsake it'; with minds more disposed to fear and obey, to love and value the Lord Jesus Christ; with souls more resigned to his will, and more devoted to his glory. I would wish you to go from the performance of these outward duties with your affections more weaned from the world, and more set on things above; with your faith strengthened, your hope increased, your love inflamed, your desires after spiritual things enlarged, and more ardent. In short, I would wish you to be built up, through the scaffolding of the outward ordinances, a spiritual temple
in your hearts to the Lord; a temple in which He may delight to dwell, an habitation for Himself through the Spirit. May He thus dwell in all our hearts, renewing us to His own image and likeness, in righteousness and true holiness, and sealing us by His Holy Spirit of promise until the Day of Redemption! In that day may we be found of Him in peace, and admitted to His presence and glory, through Jesus Christ our Saviour !
THE BLESSEDNESS OF THOSE WHO ARE WASHED
IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB.
REVELATION, vii. 14, 15, 16, 17. And he said to me, these are they which came
out of great tribulation, and have washed the ir robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple ; and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more ; neither shall the Sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
It appears, from comparing this passage
with the context, that Saint John was here favoured with a vision of the redeemed church of sinners in a state of glory and victory, giving praise with one voice to God for the blessings