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own happiness, but also to accomplish the objects we contemplate in endeavouring to extend the empire of truth and righteousness. “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Splendid are the triumphs of faith recorded in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. In reviewing these moral exploits, the hearts of the warriors of the cross take fire, and, with renewed zest, they push their contests to a triumphant issue.
The faithfulness of Jehovah is a subject worthy of contemplation, and is profitable to the intelligent christian student, and inspiring to the contrite penitent. Fidelity and love mark his proceedings. But the point we must keep in view in this lecture is our faithfulness to God and to each ther. Commentators and other writers tell us that the “faith” here spoken of as a fruit of the Spirit may more properly be rendered fidelity. Paul, in his directions to Titus, exhorts servants to show all good fidelity to their own masters, and adorn the doctrine of God in all things, and it is a disposition the cultivation of which is equally incumbent upon all men, in every station of life, but especially upon those professing godliness. Notice,
I. IN WHAT
Man, as a moral agent, is accountable to his Creator for his conduct, for the manner in which he has employed his talents and improved his privileges. A conviction of such responsibility ought to awaken in his bosom an intense desire, and prompt determination to act consistently towards God and men. Christian fidelity consists,
1. In the improvement of our talents. (1.) In the improvement of our time. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven," Eccl. ü. 1. Man is neither a cipher nor an insect; but a thinking, acting, rational, and immortal being ; capa
ble of performing deeds which may not only attract the notice and admiration of the wise, but also secure the favour and approbation of God; or on the other hand, his conduct may be such as to draw down the displeasure of the Almighty, and eventually exclude himself from heaven. In this life there are duties to perform, and sacrifices to make, dangers to escape, and blessings to secure.
Of the many blessings God hath bestowed upon man, time is undoubtedly one of the most precious and invaluable; and to be regardless of such a treasure, and unmindful of so rich a boon, is the extreme of folly and the climax of infatuation. The apostle Paul, being apprehensive of its importance, exhorts the Ephesians to “Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil,” chap. v. 15– 16.
Whatever imperfections and sins have characterised our conduct, we cannot redeem the past; the past cannot be recalled ; time once gone is gone for ever.
But through the
and forbearance of God, we may receive forgiveness for those offences, and be treated as though we had never sinned. “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins," Isa. xliii. 25.
It is the present and future we are to redeem. On the improvement or neglect of time hangs an eternity of inconceivable happiness or unutterable misery. “For whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of his flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting,” Gal. vi. 7, 8.
Christians are servants to God; therefore he requires obedience, cheerfulness, and fidelity at their hands. We all have a work to perform of vast magnitude and importance. If we view it in relation to our present and
future happiness, we shall find that it comprehends all that is momentous in time and in eternity. No difficulties, however great, must discourage, and no trifles must divert our attention from the work God has given us to do.
Men of the world aspire after earthly riches and honours with excessive zeal and unwearied diligence; but when they have obtained their object, it is only a short and unsatisfying remuneration. The duties of the christian are paramount, and require great attention and constant application of body and mind; and he who neglects them is unfaithful to himself as well as to his Lord and Master. The work of religion demands every energy of the soul, and claims our undivided regard. Our life is a given period, a short day, in which we have to accomplish this great work, or be lost for ever.
There is no time for slumbering, loitering, or trifling. We must arise and shine, not like lamps in a sepulchre, but as mountain lights. “Ye are the lights of the world.” There are many considerations which should induce us to improve our time, but more especially its brevity and uncertainty. Who can compute the rate of man's progress through life? Remember how short my time is,” Ps. lxxxix. 47. “Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep : in the morning they are like grass
which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth,” Ps. xc. 5, 6. The Corinthians were reminded of the brevity of time: “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away," 1 Cor. vii. 29–31. To these impressive declarations we may add the prayer of Moses : “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.'
Christian fidelity consists,
(2.) In a proper appropriation of our abilities. In the days of the apostles, there were “diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord,” 1 Cor. xii. 4, 5. So there are now diversities of gifts, or talent; but whether the talents entrusted to our care be few or many, they must be used properly, or a fearful doom will be inevitable. The man that hid his talent in the earth, was termed a wicked, slothful, and unprofitable servant, and was ordered to be cast into outer darkness, where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth,” Matt. xxv. 30. Talents are not to be buried in the earth, and lost to society, nor are they to be exercised improperly. They are designed for use; and those who improve them in the cause of God will be amply rewarded.
It is to be regretted that much time has been devoted, and great talents have been employed, in the advocacy of those doctrines and principles which are opposed to the religion of the Bible. Others there are comparatively neutral, who urge, as a plea for their conduct, the lack of ability to accomplish anything remarkable in a moral point of view. All such “will be judged, not merely for doing wrong, but for neglecting to do right." We are stewards; and “it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful,” 1 Cor. iv. 2. In the vineyard of Christ, there is ample scope for the mightiest intellect, as well as those of more ordinary powers of mind. In the erection of a stately building, the wisdom of the architect, the genius of the artisan, and the toil of the labourer, are all necessary to complete the edifice. So is wise council, scriptural discipline, and zealous effort, requisite to promote the prosperity of the church of
Christ, and accelerate its glorious consummation. If all the talents and influence possessed by the church were brought to bear upon the world's conversion, what mighty effects and visible results would be produced. The sphere for personal effort is wide and inviting, and all may
be useful in the cause of Christ. Jet none say with Cain, “Am I my brother's keeper?" The church must be active, faithful, and sensible of the importance of her duty and responsibility.
It is generally acknowledged that exercise is necessary to health and comfort; and equally essential is activity in the church to promote a healthy circulation to the extremities of the spiritual system. When Christ ascended on high, “ He gave some, apostles, and some prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers ;, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
(3.) Influence is a talent worthy of remark. Influence is powerful. Man is formed for society, to hold mutual intercourse with his fellow-men.
He is not only capable of reflection, but is endowed with the power of speech, whereby he exerts an influence, either good or evil, in the circle of his acquaintance. A wicked, sceptical man carries the contagion of death wherever he goes; he not only ruins himself, but tries to ruin others. The influence he attempts to diffuse is pernicious and destructive to the best feelings of the human heart. It may not have the same effect upon all with whom he associates; but frequently it proves effectual in polluting other minds than his own.
How often are children heard uttering oaths and imprecations,-conduct and language which, in many instances, they have acquired at home. The street, the field, the shop, the factory, the gambling-house, the tavern, and the deck or hold of the ship, are places