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engage in the service of Christ, and shew such diligence and forwardness in it, that your zeal may provoke very many.
3. This forwardness in religion is commendable, as it is honourable to Christ. To him belong the first fruits of your lives. You are redeemed by his death; you are bought with the price of his blood. Glorify him therefore in your body and spirit, which are his. Present yourselves holy to him. This is your reasonable service. How can you honour him, but by the dedication of yourselves to him? The. more forward you are in his cause, the more honour you bring to his name. The earlier you begin to serve him, the greater service will you do him. The more active and diligent you are, the more influence your example will have on others.
Christ is honoured by the increase of his subjects. By your forwardness, you will contribute to this increase.
4. Forwardness in religion is commendable as an imitation of Christ.
He was, in early life, about his father's business. He said, “I must work the works of him that sent me." It was his meat and drink to do God's will. He was forward on all occasions to promote the honour of God and the happiness of men. Fervent was his love to men's souls, and strong was his abhorrence of sin. He went about doing good. No dangers, not even death in its most dreadful form, could damp the ardour of his resolution. To, him was applied the expression of the Psalmist. “The zeal of thine house hath consumed me." We are to learn zeal, as well as humility, of Jesus Christ. It is the Christians greatest honor a d happiness to be like him.
5. This forwardness in religion is amiable and commendable, because it is in the highest degree rational. It is regarding things according to their
nature and importance. It is directing our zeal to the right object ; and employing our activity in a matter of the highest moment, and most lasting consequence. How trilling are all the interests of this world, compared with the future? What is the body to the soul, and this momentary life to eternal duration ? Religion is the means of our future and everlasting happiness. It is that on which our all depends. In what then should we be forward and zealous, if not in this? What shall we be diligent about, if we may neglect our salvation ?
l'inally; We have no promise of success on any other condition, but diligence in our work.
This is the command of Christ. Seek first the kingdom of God. Strive to enter in at the strait gate.
This is the direction of the Apostle. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you. Be not slothful in busi. ness, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before you. Such is the constant language of scripture. Think not then, that you are to be saved in a way of neg. ligence. The promise is only to those who give diligence to make their calling and election sure.
It is by forwardness in religion, that you become entitled to the constant aids of God's grace. God gives his holy spirit to them who ask, and seek and knock. He works in those who work out their own salvation. He bestows his blessing on those who pray with all prayer, and watch thereunto with all perseverance.
Let the united influence of these motives prompt us to zeal and activity in religion, excite the young to offer the first fruits, and all to offer the remaining fruits of their lives to God, that having our fruit unto holiness, our end may be eternal life.
The Obscurity and Uncertainty of the way of the
PROVERBS, iv. 19.
The way of the wicked is as darkness : They know not at what
The way of the wicked is here contrasted to the path of the just. This, the wise man says, is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
The virtuous and upright man walks in the light, and clearly discerns his way. He looks well to his goings, and shuns the evils which he foresees. If he is in doubt, he makes inquiry, and attends to the
His path grows plainer, the farther he advances; and smoother, the more it is trodden. An increasing pleasure invites him along, and a cheerful hope quickens his steps.
The reverse of this is the way of the ungodly. Their path is involved in darkness, and beset with snares. They see not what dangers await them,
nor into what mischiefs the next step may plunge them. They have no security where they are, and find none where they go. All around them is obscu. rity, and all before them is uncertainty.
Such is the way of the wicked; and in this respect, as well as many others, the way of transgres.
sors is hard.
There can be no real self enjoyment without inward peace and conscious safety. A state of doubt. ful apprehension, in cases of importance, is a state of disquietude and uneasiness. To be suspended between hope and fear, is to hang in torture. And there are cases in which the anticipation of evil is as distressing as the evil itself, and suspense is as pain. ful as to realize the worst.
We will consider the unhappy state of the wicked, in this respect, that it is a state of insecurity and uncertainty.
We will view the sinner in several different lights as believing the great principles of religion, but contradicting them in practice, as assuming an external form of religion without integrity of heart, as acknowledging the obligations of natural religion, but discarding revelation, and finally, as renounce ing all religion, whether natural or revealed, both in theory and in pactice.
These several descriptions will comprehend all sorts of wicked men; and, in each of these views, we shall find them to be in a state of great uncertainty and insecurity ; and therefore, in a state far remote from happiness.
1. We will consider the man, who admits the principles of religion in speculation, but contradicts them in practice. His way is darkness. Light, indeed, has come to him; but he loves darkness rather than light. He is not guided by the dictates of reason, or the precepts of revelation; but pursues a course in direct opposition to both. He professes
to believe the divine authority of the gospel but will not be subject to it. He acknowledges an eternal state of retribution; but conducts as if there were none. He complains of the vanity of the world ; but in the world he seeks his happiness. He allows the important difference between moral good and evil; but in practice confounds the distinction. He does not walk by any steady rule, ur follow any certain line of conduct; but is driven in various directions by the impulse of lust, passion and interest. He never knows what course he shall next pursue ; for he cannot tell what the next impulse will be; what gust of passion will take him, or what wind of temptation will drive him away.
While the love of the world reigns in him supreme, he is exposed to every vice. No iniquity will he decline, which promises him success in his favorite pursuit. Determined on his object, he falls into temptation and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in perdition.
He knows, indeed that his course is dangerous: He intends to stop in season, and turn to the path of virtue. But vain is his purpose. The way before him is covered with darkness. He cannot see whither he is going, nor where he shall make a stand. He has wandered from the right way, and still he will love to wander.
The path of vice is full of windings. One devious tract leads on to another. The farther one proceeds, the more he is bewildered, and the more difficult and doubtful will be his recovery. Like the traveller, who has lost his way in the night, he is deceived by every distant light which appears, and misled by every new path which opens : The deep and dangerous morass he mistakes for a smooth and spacious plain : He deviates so far, and changes his course so often, that his head is turned,