« PreviousContinue »
world but he is not on that account without
companions and pleasures.
6. Religion, I once more observe, involves a change of ends. "I must gain that person's favour-I must realize so much property-I must execute this design"-thus speaks the man of the world. But what does the true Christian say? "I must obtain God's favour through Christ, and do His will, and be happy with Him for ever." seeks for glory, honour, and immortality in the way of well-doing. God, his own soul, and eternity to these he subordinates all things. He has high and noble ends-the salvation of his soul; blessedness through eternal ages.
You see, without my advancing any thing more, that religion is not, as many seem to think, a privation, or a mere renunciation; but it is, as I said, a change, a substitution ;-a substitution too of such a nature, that it replaces evil by good, shadow by substance, what is transitory by what is permanent.
It is true that religion calls us to renunciation. Unless we abandon all that is vain, sinful, and 'contrary to the will of God; what is an obstacle to our spiritual welfare; the right hand, the right eye, the dearest object when inconsistent with Christian integrity; we cannot be true disciples of Christ. Here is the task, the sacrifice-to some persons a very hard one-yet the task must be
performed; the sacrifice must be made. But we cannot rest satisfied with a partial statement: we, therefore, maintain, that while religion calls us to the renunciation of one world, to speak so, it introduces us into a new world; it furnishes us with new objects; it inspires us with a new taste; and it directs our faculties in the legitimate use of their energies. He who was blind, now sees. He who was dead, is now alive. He who thought that there was nothing worthy of regard within the vast range of the universe but a visible and palpable materialism, finds that he is a spiritual being in a spiritual world, and that there are such things as spiritual objects, pursuits, and pleasures. He sees and feels the grandeur and solemnity that belong to existence. He no longer creeps and grovels on the surface of a miry and a misty world, but consciously experiences the moral workings of the soul, looks forth into immensity, and rises into a purer atmosphere. A soul that is to live for ever, that is to be glorious and happy, or degraded and miserable, beyond our powers of conception at present-of this he thinks, and for this he strives to live, according to the gospel of Christ.
The world into which religion introduces its disciples is always contemplated with increasing satisfaction. This cannot be said of the world in which the inconsiderate live. They themselves, in moments of calm reflection, admit that all is
vanity and vexation of spirit. The real Christian may complain of the imperfection of his piety; but so far as he is pious, he is satisfied and happy. The more largely and deeply he is enabled to enter into the doctrines of the gospel, imbibes its spirit, obeys its laws, becomes refined in his spiritual taste, and has his affections set on unseen things, the more satisfied, serene, and happy does he feel in himself, as he meditates on life, on death, and on the disclosures of eternity.
Your judgments may be convinced, while your hearts remain unaffected. Here is the deceitfulness of sin. A thousand vain thoughts may rush into your minds; and the great and good cause which you are compelled to approve, may still be neglected and opposed. You may exclaim"What! relinquish that which is familiar-choose a new world-fix upon new objects—seek a new taste-walk in a new path-propose to ourselves new ends! How violent an effort! How great a transition! Impracticable-impossible!" Stop, my young friends-this relinquishment, choice, effort, transition must be made, or you will ruin your immortal souls: and remember also, that "with God all things are possible."
"O God, who declarest Thy almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of Thy grace, that
we, running the way of Thy commandments, may obtain Thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of Thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord." Amen.
O Blessed and Gracious God, when I make religion and the world the subjects of consideration, how can I hesitate in choosing that good part which shall never be taken from me! The more I think of the world, the more clearly do I discover its emptiness but the more I think of religion, the more convincingly do I see the excellence and blessedness which belong to it. Let me no longer attend to my foolish heart, or to careless men, but humbly and thankfully listen to the instructions of truth and wisdom. Thou, O Lord, knowest my sinfulness and weakness, and how I lean to the world in opposition to my knowledge and judgment. Be merciful to me, I beseech Thee, and so enrich me with Thy heavenly grace, that I may not only form just conclusions and cherish right feelings, but also may act in agreement with them. Help me to renounce what Thy holy word calls me to renounce, and heartily to engage in Thy service. Since my thoughts and desires are not naturally fixed on spiritual things, but upon objects and pleasures which keep me far from them, O manifest to my inmost soul the folly of that choice which I have hitherto made, by
showing me the infinite superiority of the objects, pursuits, and pleasures which religion proposes to man. May I, through Thy grace, make the right choice, and henceforth live in agreement with it, so confessing Christ before men, by the soundness of my faith, and the purity of my life, that He may confess me in the last day. Grant this, O Lord, for the alone sake of the same Jesus Christ our blessed Redeemer and Advocate. Amen.