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less will that plea excuse a Christian; but least of all can those Christians hope for mercy, who hear the word of God preached to them weekly; have it in their hands and may read it daily; and yet transgress it; "Verily, I say unto you, it shall be 66 more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the "day of judgment," than for such persons.
Let no one argue from hence, that knowledge then is no blessing. For the more we know of our Maker and our duty, the better we are qualified to be good in this world, and happy in the next.' And we can never be worse for it, unless we will, by making either no use, or a bad use of it. Nor let any one imagine, that, though we need not be the worse for our knowledge, yet since we may, ignorance is the safer choice; as what will excuse our sins, if not entirely, yet in a great measure. But let us all remember, it is not pretended, but real, ignorance; nor even that, unless we could not help it, that will be any plea in our favour. Wilful, or even careless ignorance, is a great sin itself; and therefore can never procure us pardon for the other sins which it may occasion. What should any of us think of a servant, who kept out of the way of receiving his master's orders, purposely because he had no mind to do them? Nay, supposing him only through negligence, not to understand the business that he was required to learn and follow, would this justify him? Would it not be said, that what he might and ought to have known, it was his own fault if he did not know? And what do we think of God, if we hope to impose on him with pleas that will not pass amongst ourselves?
Fix it in your hearts then the first indispensable duty of man is, to learn the will of his Maker: the next, to do it; and nothing can excuse you
(1) Mark vi. 11.
from either. Attend, therefore, diligently on all such means of instruction, as God's providence gives you; especially the public instruction of the church, which, having expressly appointed for you, he will assuredly bless to you; provided you observe our Saviour's most important direction, "Take heed how you hear."2 For on that depends whether the preaching of the Gospel shall be “life or death to you.' 993 One it must be ; and these very Lectures, amongst other things, which have been truly intended for your eternal good, will prove, if you apply them not to that end, what God forbid they should, a means of increasing your future condemnation. Be entreated therefore, to consider very seriously what you are taught; for be there ever so much of the weakness of man in it, there is the power of God unto salvation, unless you hinder it yourselves. Never despise, then, the meanest of your instructors; and never think of admiring the ablest; but remember that your business is, neither to applaud nor censure other persons' performances; but to improve your own hearts, and mend your own lives. Barely coming and hearing is nothing. Barely being pleased, and moved, and affected, is nothing. It is only minding and doing the whole of our duty, not some part of it alone, that is any thing,
Knowing the words of your Catechism is of no other use, than to preserve in your memories the things which those words express. Knowing the meaning of your Catechism ever so well, in every part, is of no other use than to put you on the performance of what it teaches. And performing some things ever so constantly or zealously, will not avail, without a faithful endeavour to perform every thing. Have it always in your thoughts therefore, that practice, uniform practice, is the (3) 2 Cor. ii. 16.
(2) Luke viii. 18.
one thing needful. Your knowledge may be very low and imperfect, your faith not very clear and distinct; but however poorly you are capable of furnishing your heads; if your hearts and lives be good, all is well.
But here, I pray you, observe further, that as it is not in understanding and believing, so it is not in devotion merely, that religion consists. The common duties of common life make far the greatest part of what our Maker expects of us. be honest and sober, and modest and humble, and good tempered and mild, and industrious and useful, in our several stations, are things to which all persons are as much bound, as they can be to any thing: and when they proceed from a principle of conscience towards God, and are offered up to him, as our bounden duty, through Jesus Christ, are as true and acceptable a service to him, as either our attendance at church, or our prayers in retirement at home. And they, who abound in these latter duties, and neglect any of the former, only disgrace religion, and deceive themselves.
Yet understand me not, I beg you, to speak slightly of devotion, eitheir private or public. On the contrary, I recommend both to you most earnestly; for our immediate duty to God is the highest of all duties, "the first and great com"mandment" of natural religion; and the payment of due and distinct regards to the Father Almighty, to his blessed Son, and holy Spirit, of course obtains an equal rank in revelation. In particular I recommend it to you, not to omit coming to evening prayers, because now these Lectures will be discontinued. Joining in God's worship, and hearing his holy word read to you, is always a sufficient, and should always be the principal
(4) Matt. xxii. 38.
motive to bring you. For "neither is he that "planteth any thing; neither he that watereth "but God that giveth the increase.” 5 And we may be sure he will give it to those, who attend on his ordinances with pious minds: and we may justly expect, that he will withhold it from those, who, instead of coming, because it is their duty, come to hear this or that man discourse.
But then I must beseech you to observe at the same time, that as neither piety without morals, nor morals without piety, nor heathen piety without Christian, will suffice; so neither will the outward acts of any thing, without the inward principle of it; and the true principle is a reverent esteem and love of God. Other inducements may allowably be joined with this; but if this be not also joined with them, what we do may be prudence, may be virtue, but it is not religion; and therefore, however right, so far as it goes, doth not go far enough to entitle us to reward, or even to secure us from punishment; which nothing can more justly deserve, than to have little or no sense of filial affection to our heavenly Father, and of thankful love to our crucified Redeemer, and gracious Sanctifier, who have the highest right to the utmost regard that our souls are capable of feeling.
You must resolve, therefore, not only to be Christians externally in your lives, but internally in your hearts. And, let me remind you further, you will resolve on neither to good purpose, if you trust to yourselves alone for the performance. You will contrive, perhaps, great schemes of amendment and goodness, but you will execute very little of them; or you will do a good deal, it may be, in some particulars, and leave others, equally necessary, undone; or you will go on a while, and then fall, and when you thought you
(5) 1 Cor. iii. 7.
were surest of standing; or, what seeming progress soever you may make, you will ruin it all, by thinking too highly of yourselves for it: or some way or another you will certainly fail, unless the grace of God enable you, first to be deeply sensible of your own guilt and weakness; then to lay hold, by faith in Christ, on his promised mercy and help; in the strength of that help to obey his commands; and, after all, to know, that you are still "unprofitable servants."6 Now this grace you may certainly have, in whatever measure you want it, by earnest prayer for it, humble dependance upon it, and such honest and diligent use of the lower degrees of it, as he hath promised to reward with higher degrees; and you can have it no other way. if ever, therefore, when we exhort you to duties, moral or religious, we omit to mention the great duty of applying for strength from above to be given you, not for your own sakes, but that of your blessed Redeemer, in order to practise them, it is by no means because we think such application unnecessary; but because we hope you know it so well to be absolutely necessary, that we need not always remind you of it. But if we are, at any time, wanting to you in this respect, or any other, be not you therefore wanting to yourselves, but "work out your own salvation" from this motive, which alone will procure your success, that "God "worketh in you both to will and to do. And I "pray God to sanctify you wholly, and preserve "your whole spirit, soul, and body, blameless, "unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."3
Having said thus much to you in general, I desire you, children, to take notice of what I am going to say, in the last place, to you in particular. Your condition is of the lower kind, but your instruction hath been better than many of your su
(6) Luke xvii. 10.
(8) Thess. v. 23.
(7) Phil. ii. 12, 13.