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in God to be the only firm ground we can set our foot upon. No wonder, therefore, if we be drawn almost involuntarily to cry out, Lord, Lord,"that we are constrained by his love-that we feel our dependance upon him-that we are brought to understand, that to be saved in the day of judgement is that concern which wraps up all others that there is none other name under heaven, whereby we can be saved, only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. No wonder, I say, that in moments like these our affection towards Christianity is increased, our thoughts serious, and our devotion sincere.
Sometimes also, without any external causes, or any cause that we are acquainted with, strong impressions of futurity, awful apprehensions of our great change, come over the mind. The things of this world are diminished to nothing, when we place them by the side of that great event which will arrive, and in a short time, to all of us. Life appears what it is—a span; inconsiderable at the longest; liable every day to be put an end to: what shadows we pursue, what shadows we are! The unsatisfactoriness of all our worldly enjoyments, the uncertainty of all our worldly hopes, seizes the imagination with irresistible force. Here then again the soul turns to God. Beaten and repulsed from every other source of confidence and contentment, it seeks them in the future mercies of a faithful Creator.
Or again, it may and does happen, that a sudden glow, a certain warmth and elevation of heart, as
to the concerns of religion, spring up at particular times in our breast; we cry "Lord, Lord!" with rapture-the promises, the views, the consolations of Christianity, fill our hearts; we rejoice (as Saint Paul, who felt much of this animation, expresses it) in the hope of our calling, and in the joy of the Holy Ghost.
Now concerning all these various states of mind and affection, the first thing to be said is, that they are all good. Whatever draws the soul to God, whether it be reflection upon the astonishing history of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ardour of his love, the patience of his sufferings, undertaken and undergone for our sakes; whether it be some outward visitation and discomfiture, some stroke of Providence, which brings us to ourselves, which makes us serious in the business of religion; whether it be some inward sinking and misgiving of the mind, some cloud which overcasts the spirits; or whether, on the contrary, we be raised and lifted, as it were, towards heaven by the life and flow of our devotion, still all is good. We ought to regard and accept these stirrings and motions of the mind towards religion, from whatever cause they proceed, as favourable and hopeful intimations of a righteous principle forming within us. We are to invite, cherish, and cultivate them; wait and desire the return of them; above all, be thankful for them, and account even calamities as blessings, when they tend to make us religious. It is a sorrow not to be repented of, when it leads to salvation.
Nothing that our Lord says in the text ought by any means to be construed to the undervaluing or discouraging of devout feelings of any kind, or from any cause: but the great misfortune is, these thoughts are apt to be short-lived; they are wont to be soon forgotten, and forgotten entirely. In the night we cry, "Lord, Lord!" in the morning we return to our sins; that world, with its pleasures, and honours, and cares, and contentions which we lately thought so little worth our strife and our anxiety, courts us again with new temptations, and is pursued with fresh eagerness. That enduring, That enduring, imperishable soul, the saving of which we judged the only concern we need to care about or to be afraid about, obtains not our consideration amongst the multitude of thoughts which crowd upon us; those prospects of everlasting happiness in heaven, which awhile ago opened so bright upon our view, are again shut out; some loose, sinful pursuit, some mean advantage, gets hold again of our hearts, and closes up that passage where religion was entering in. This is precisely the weakness which our Lord was aware of, and which the words of the text were intended to warn us against. To make good thoughts effectual to salvation, we must so work them into the frame of the mind, so knit and weave them into the very substance of the heart and disposition, that they be no longer merely thoughts, or merely occasional; but they have a steady influence upon our behaviour, that they take hold of our conduct, that they be at hand to check
and pluck us back when we would go about any wicked design, and that they be at hand also to remind us, and to put us forward when any good thing falls in our power to do.
This it is to become a Christian; and this indeed is the difficulty of the work. The The passage from thought to action, from religious sentiments to religious conduct, seems a difficult attainment. I said before, the very beginnings are blessings. Holy thoughts, though occasional, though sudden, though brought on, it may be, by calamity and affliction, though roused in us we do not know how, are still the beginnings of grace. Let no man, therefore, despise serious thoughts; let no man scorn or ridicule them in others: least of all the man who has none himself; for there is still a wide difference between him who thinks, though but occasionally, of his duty and of his salvation, and him who never permits himself to entertain such thoughts at all. One, it is true, may be far from having completed his work the other has not begun his. Those very meditations which he despises in other men, because he sees that they have not the influence which they ought to have upon their lives and conversation, are, nevertheless, what he himself must begin with, what he himself must come to, if ever he enter truly upon a Christian course. It is from good thoughts and good resolutions that the Christian character must set out; it is with these it must begin; it is by these it must be formed. We cannot, however, always be thinking
about religion. That is true: but the thing wanted of us, the thing necessary for us, the thing required in the text, is, not that religion be constantly in our thoughts, but that it have a constant influence upon our behaviour; and that is a very intelligible distinction, and takes place in common life. Avarice and pecuniary gain shall have a constant influence upon a man's behaviour, that is, his actions shall constantly draw and tend to that point, and yet it may not be that his thoughts are always employed in calculating his profits or reckoning on his fortune. And that influence which a worldly principle often possesses, a religious principle may acquire. The making sure of heaven may be to one man as strong and steady a motive of action as the making a fortune is to another. Pleasing God by doing good to man, may be as fixed a point in the mind of a disciple of Jesus Christ, as the compassing some scheme of wealth or greatness is frequently to the children of this generation. The fear of offending our Maker may be as great and powerful a check upon a religious man's actions, as any consideration whatever can be in the pursuits of worldly prosperity. The matter, and what in a great measure forms the business, and the greatest difficulty of religion, is to bring our minds to this-that devout thoughts draw from us not only words, but actions; not only make us call upon him, but do his will; not only lift up our hearts to heaven in particular seasons of meditation, but that at all seasons they keep us back from sin.