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once your promise, your vow, if you were snatched from the jaws of death yourselves?
"Then will I tell to sinners round
Pray that this way may be known on earth; this saving health among all nations. Send, where you cannot go yourselves-aid the Bible Society, in diffusing the Scriptures; and Missionary Societies, in sending forth missionaries. Employ your personal influence. Make use of your talents; make use of your tongue. Let your temper, your conduct, your life, your character, speak.
Indeed, it will be in vain for you to applaud a remedy that has done you no good. When you recommend it, with all the symptoms and effects of your disorder upon you, they will naturally say, "You have an end to answer, regardless of our welfare. You do not believe in the virtue of the medicine, or you would have used it yourself." If, therefore, you are vain, and proud, and revengeful, and selfish, and covetous; if your family is the scene of discord and strife; if your shop is famed for cunning, overreaching, and injustice; if, under the profession of Christianity, you have not the honesty of a heathen-you had much better say nothing: for people will immediately judge of your religion by you-And will your conduct impress it? Will this endear it?
But, blessed be God, allowing for human infirmities, and imperfections, inseparable from the present life; blessed be God, there are some who are emphatically the better for the Gospel: they are spiritually convalescent; they are other creatures than they once were they are renewed in the spirit of their minds; they live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world; and they walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called; they are followers of him who went about doing good. They are also increasing; and though, as yet, they are few, compared with the world that lieth in wickedness, there are enough to show the reality and power of the Saviour's grace, and to leave those without excuse who will not come to him, that they might have life.
But oh! what, what will it be when all, "out of every kindred, and nation, and people, and tongue"-all that he has ever saved, shall be assembled together, as the trophies of his cross-while he, engaging every eye, and enrapturing every heart, shall hear from the countless throng; "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father; be glory and dominion for ever and ever!!"
RELIGIOUS INDECISION. Ephraim is a cake not turned.-Hosea vii. 8. BAKED on one side only-neither soft nor hard-neither bread nor dough-disagreeable unserviceable. "A very homely comparison, a very vulgar image," you say. But the sacred penmen are above our fastidiousness. They write for the common people; and what are little delicate allusions, discerned and relished only by a refinement of taste, while they are lost upon the majority of readers! They want something plain, and yet forcible; something to rouse the conscience, and to lodge in the mind. And "the words of the wise," says Solomon, "are as goads, and as nails;" goads to wound, and nails to fasten. If the image be vulgar, it is striking; and if the comparison be homely, it is much too flattering for the persons it is intended to express.
Let us divide our subject into three parts. WE SHALL INQUIRE AFTER THE CENSURED CHARACTERS. II. WE SHALL EXPOSE THEIR CONDUCT AND THEIR CONDITION. III. WE SHALL ENDEAVOUR TO BRING THEM TO A DECISION; or, as our text would authorize us to say-see if we cannot turn these cakes.
I. WHO ARE EPHRAIMITES? In answering this question, as the preacher ought to proceed with great caution, so you ought to hear with peculiar seriousness; and may the God of the spirits of all flesh empower an inward monitor to say, as we proceed, "Thou art the man.'
There are three classes of persons, as far as our subject requires us to distinguish them. There are real Christians, who are entirely for God. There are the profligate, who make no pretensions to religion. And there are some who stand between both, and seem to partake of each; and these are the characters we are in search of.
Few are totally regardless of Divine things. Some, indeed, wear no disguise, and encumber themselves with no forms. They never call upon God's name-unless to profane it; never observe the sabbath, or hear the word preached; they explicitly avow their ungodliness, always in actions, and often in words: and, "I am for hell," is written in capitals on their forehead. But these are not the mass: there are not many who can shake off all religious concern. Their education, their relations, reason, conscience, reputation, even their worldly interest-all these induce them to pay some attention to religion. But the lamentation is, that they are only formal, external, partial-at best, but half-hearted, in their regards. "Ephraim is a cake not turned."
Who then are the characters intended? If
of the profane? free from gross vices, and yet indulging in graceless tempers? wearing "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof? having a name to live, and yet dead?"
we look into the Scripture, we shall find some of them represented by the successors of Israel. When the king of Assyria had carried away the ten tribes from Judea, he "brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the Lord: therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which slew some of them. Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land. Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom he brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land." And so they did; and, with a mongrel devotion, they served both Jehovah and their idols; the one from affection, and the other for fear of the lions: "They feared the Lord, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence." We shall find some of them in a Balaam-unable to go beyond the word of the Lord; and yet loving the wages of unrighteousness; delighting in what he declined; sacrificing his conscience to his fame; blessing Israel, and showing how to curse them; praying, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his," and perishing in battle against them. We shall find some of them in a young man, so promising, so wise, so humble, as to inquire after eternal life, kneeling; and so amiable, as to engage the affection of the Saviour; but who went away sorrowful, because he could not resign an earthly possession at the command of Him, who would more than have repaid the sacrifice. We shall find some of them in a Herod, who "heard John gladly, and feared him, and did many things," but retained his Herodias, and murdered his admired preacher, for the sake of an unlawful passion. We shall find some of them in an Agrippa, who, pressed by the eloquence and truth of the Apostle's reasoning, exclaimed, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."
Some of these characters are to be met with in connexion with the more evangelical modes of religion. Such persons will attend only on the preaching of the Gospel. They are orthodox in their views. With their mouth, they show much love. Their feelings are sometimes powerfully excited. They receive the word with joy. They have another heart; but not a new one.
We have read of a bishop, formerly in Spain, whose clergy had long been carrying on a controversy, concerning the condition of Solomon: some pleading for his salvation, and others for his perdition. To accommodate both parties, the good bishop ordered a representation of him to be drawn on the walls of his chapel, half in hell, and half in heaven. And what better could a moral painter do with numbers in our day? We know not whether to set them down as children of wrath, or heirs of glory. Their inconsistencies are such, that each side seems to disown them; and they continue to agitate both the hopes and fears of those who have any regard for their eternal welfare. But our fears must prevail: and we proceed,
II. TO EXPOSE THEIR CONDUCT, AND THEIR CONDITION. And this may be done, by observing Four things.
First. This indecision is unreasonable. What is there that will not convince you of the truth of this remark?-Think of God. Is he such a friend, such a father, such a master, such a sovereign, as to deserve only a languid devotion, a divided heart? "Cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen."-Look at the Saviour of sinners. How did he engage in the work of your deliverance? Did indifference bring him from heaven to earth; and induce him, who, was rich, for your sake to become poor; and die, that you might live? He loved us, and gave himself for us: and one feeling only can correspond with his infinite kindness, a feeling of universal consecration:
"Were the whole realm of nature mine,
And cannot we find, nearer home, individuals, alternately in the temple and the tavern? now in the house of prayer, and now in the place of dissipation? repairing to the one from conviction, and to the other from inclination? refusing to the passions what may trouble the conscience, and to conscience what may trouble the passions? equally remote
Look at the hell you have to escape; the glory you have to obtain; the brevity and uncertainty of the time allowed you for success. Does a state of slumber become the awfulness of your situation and prospects? "Escape for thy life: look not behind thee; neither stay thou in all the plain; escape
from the ardours of the pious, and the excesses to the mountain, lest thou be consumed."
Fourthly. Such indecision is dangerous. I wish to be understood to mean-peculiarly dangerous. Observe, in the first place: such characters are not easily converted. For though they have not religion enough to ensure their safety, they have sufficient to make them insensible of their danger. Though they have not enough to keep them awake, they have sufficient to lull them to sleep. Conscience has nothing very criminal, in their view, to reproach them with. Their exemption from immorality gives them con
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it | opposite? What but distraction, confusion, with thy might; for there is no work, nor and drudgery, and strife must ensue? These device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the half Christians, owing to the light they have grave, whither thou goest." Look at religion. in the understanding, and the checks of conIs there any medium between the truth, and science, cannot enjoy the vanities of the importance of the subject? If you do not world and the pleasures of sin: while relibelieve this Book to be true, you are an in- gion, as regarded by them, is no source of fidel; if you do, and disregard its contents, joy; they do not enter into the spirit of it, you are worse. Can lukewarmness ever and, therefore, cannot relish its satisfactions. perform the duties of religion? Is prayer The real believer enjoys the light of God's only the bending of the knee? Is praise countenance, the comforts of the Holy Ghost, only “a solemn sound upon a thoughtless and has meat to eat which others know not tongue?" Can lukewarmness ever conquer of; and the professed votary of sin and the the difficulties of religion? Will this enable world enjoys the delights which arise from you to run the race that is set before you, or time and sense: but the character before to fight the good fight of faith?-Look at us enjoys neither. He gives up the creature your fellow-creatures. They rise up early, for God, and God for the creature. He loses and sit up late, and compass sea and land, to heaven for the sake of earth, and earth for gain a little shining dust, or the smile of the the sake of heaven; and is of all men the great; and yet, what a disparity is there be- most miserable. tween your zeal and their zeal, their sacrifices and your sacrifices?-Look at the uselessness of all your half measures. Have you suffered so much in vain, if it be yet in vain? Are ye so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh? If the course in which you have been engaged is not worthy of your regard, why did you go so far? If it be, why not go further? If resolved to perish, could you not have perished without resisting any sin; without performing any duty? Secondly. This indecision is dishonoura-fidence and peace. Their attention to the ble. Such a man is never regarded. In exterior of piety, and the decency of their vain you say, Why, he is the very man general demeanour, attract from men the the people of the world approve"-and sup- praise which is due to real godliness; and this pose he was-Are they to be our judges? flatters and confirms the good opinion they He that judges us is the Lord. But you are entertain of themselves. Their satisfaction mistaken. The people of the world may like with themselves is also strengthened by consuch a temporizer so far as by resemblance trasts with the character and conduct of he justifies them; but as to real veneration others, who are outwardly and openly wicked. and respect for him, they have none-nor Their very convictions, too, in time are can they have any. No; such a man is altered; their practice has bribed their judgnever regarded. He is no character. He ment; and what formerly appeared wrong is has neither the value, nor solidity of gold: now deemed a vain scruple, the effect of lead is his image-worthless, and easily re-education, or a contracted mind. Secondly: ceptive of any impression. "Unstable as they are not very likely to continue always water, thou shalt not excel." Uprightness in this state. Duties never relished, in time and consistency are always admired. The disgust. Prayer never performed in earnest, possessor after a while lives down reproach, may be wholly given up. Doctrines never and enthrones himself in the judgment and known in their vital influence, may be disesteem of his fellow-creatures. "Well," carded as speculations. Errors more consay they," he is sincere and honest; he is genial with their present feelings, and necesall of a piece." But base is the man who sary to justify the course they take, may be changes with the times; varies with his situa- adopted. God may withdraw his restraining tions; conforms to the company he is in; is and assisting grace, and leave them to their always worldly with the worldly, and sancti- own lusts. The principles of sin, being unfied with the saints-Who likes "a cake mortified, may gather strength by having been not turned !" so long repressed, and may break forth with greater violence. And when such persons as these fall, they generally become despisers, revilers, persecutors. "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my
Thirdly. Such indecision is wretched. Can any thing be more miserable than to have two businesses to carry on at the same time; two parties to consult in every action and in every look; two masters to serve who hate each other, and whose designs are perfectly
Which then of these states will you take? What is your answer?
Shall it be the language of the convinced, penitent, returning Israelites, spoken of by the prophet; "Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel." O that this were indeed your reply! To whom can you go but unto him: he has the words of eternal life. He is able, he is willing-to pardon, to renew, to satisfy, to delight-to bless you "with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."
Or will you say, with the rebels among "Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst," said, "There is no hope: no: for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go." Ah! think again. Listen not to the dictates of despair-"There is hope in Israel concerning this thing"- -"Come and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins were as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they were red like crimson, they shall be as wool." The bridge is not yet drawn. The door is not yet shut. Think again. Will you turn your back upon such an opening of deliverance? Can you mean what you say? Are you resolved to follow your idols, and to forsake the God of love? How shocking, how dreadful-to bid farewell to God!
house from whence 1 came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." Thirdly however this may be-though they the Jews, who, when admonished, : hover between truth and error, holiness and sin, the world and the church, heaven and hell, through life-this will not be the case in death. They will then be developed, and have their portion with the vile and the profligate; with swearers, drunkards, thieves, and murderers; with the devil and his angels. Ah! says the Saviour to the Laodiceans, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou were cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." And yet, oh! how he waits to be gracious, and is exalted to have mercy! Yet, even these characters, hateful as their state is, and sure, if continued in, to bring upon them the utmost destruction, he does not treat with neglect-but counsels them "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.' ." I cannot, therefore, conclude without endeavouring,
III. TO BRING YOU TO A DECISION. I therefore address you in the language of Joshua, "Choose you this day whom you will serve:" or in the words of Elijah, "How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him but if Baal, then follow him." The reason of the address, if you believe the Scripture, is obvious: for "no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
Or will you take a middle course, and, neither actually complying or refusing, say to the man who importunes you, with Felix; "Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season I will call for thee." But we cannot admit of this reply; it is evasion. Our commission requires an immediate determination: "To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." And does not your safety require the same? Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation." How long have some of you hesitated already! How wonderful is it that God has borne with you to this day, when he might justly have considered your excuses and delays, ten, twenty, forty years ago, as a rejection; and have sworn "in his wrath, that you should not enter into his rest." Surely, after this fresh proposal, God may resolve, consistently with all the riches of his goodness, to address you no more; to order away all the means and influences that can benefit your souls, and to say, "He is joined to idols, let him alone." It is certain that the longer you waver, the more difficult you will find it to decide; for the world tyrannizes the more it is obeyed; and the heart is hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. And what is it to determine that you cannot decide at once?
Is there any comparison between the respective claimants? Between hell and heaven? Between the bondage of corruption and the service of God? Between the way of transgressors, which is hard, and Wisdom's ways, which are all pleasantness and peace?" What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed for the end of those things is death. But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."
But the grand prevention is the worldTo give up the world!-But you must give it up soon-and who is most likely to resign it with ease and pleasure; the man who idolizes it, or he that is weaned from it?-To give up the world! But how are you required to give it up? Not as to your station in it, your business, or your duty; but only as to what is evil and injurious to yourselves. Giving up the world is not giving up happiness. Did it ever make you happy? Has it not left your heart cold and void; and, even in its best estate, led you to ask, "Who will show us any good?" And who enjoys the world most in its lawful pursuits and innocent indulgences? The man who is reconciled unto God by the death of his Son, and renewed in the spirit of his mind. To him the sun shines fairer, and the rose is more fragrant than before. "OLD THINGS ARE PASSED AWAY; BEHOLD, ALL THINGS ARE BECOME NEW."
And he said unto me, Arise, go forth in the plain, and I will there talk with thee.-Ezek. iii. 22.
I have to consider solitude in reference to the Christian: it has a very interesting connexion with religion.
sent: and says he, "The hand of the Lord was there upon me." This expression always marks an impulse of inspiration. What kind of impression it was that moved them in these cases we cannot determine; but they knew it to be divine. And we observe here-that no place can exclude God from approaching his servants, or holding intercourse with them.
Ezekiel was now by the river Chebar, with the captives of Israel, to whom he had been
But he is a sovereign; and may manifest himself when, and how, and where he pleases. Yet his sovereignty is never to be confounded with arbitrariness-He has reasons for his conduct; and though all places are alike to him, they are not the same with regard to us. To receive, therefore, the intended communication, he is ordered to withdraw. “And he said unto me, Arise, and go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee."
If we consider Ezekiel as a prophet, the order applies peculiarly to ministers: and says to them-" Appear, but live not in public. Be not too companionable. Retire much for study and devotion. It is there you will obtain an unction from the Holy One, and know all things." Look ye out, said the Apostles to the churches, deacons to manage your temporal affairs: but “we will give ourselves unto prayer, and the ministry of the word." And to Timothy, Paul said, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to
But the address will apply to Christians at large and we may derive from it this observation-RETIREMENT IS FRIENDLY TO COMMUNION WITH GOD. Let us consider, I. THE DUTY-And II. THE PRIVILEGE.
THE pleasures and advantages of solitude have been often admired and recommended. All love the world; yet all complain of it: and whatever schemes of happiness are devised, the scene is always laid in a withdrawment from it. "It is there," says the victim of perfidy and malice, "it is there the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest." It is there the warrior feeds his courage, and arranges the materials of victory. It is there the statesman forms and weighs his plans of policy. There the philosopher pursues his theories and experiments. There the man of genius feels the power of thought and the glow of fancy, and roves in
a world of his own creation. "Through de-charged but by intermixture with them: and sire a man, having separated himself, seeketh what our Saviour thought of resigning busiand intermeddleth with all wisdom." ness, abandoning our connexions, and hiding ourselves in woods and cells, appears obviously, from the language which he addressed to his own disciples; "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle,
"Call me away from flesh and sense;
One sovereign word can draw me thence:
Be earth, with all her scenes, withdrawn ;
In secret silence of the mind,
I. THE DUTY enjoined-" And he said unto me, Arise, and go forth into the plain." It may be necessary to premise two things. First: The place is indifferent. It matters not whether it be a private room, or the open field. The thing required is to be alone. And, Secondly, It is not a state of absolute retirement that God enjoins. Man was made for society, as well as solitude: and so is the Christian. A great part of our religion regards our fellow-creatures, and cannot be dis