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bound to answer to himself, as he will hereafter answer to God, for the due improvement of it.
Thus personally and individually addressing you, my brethren, under a deep sense of my own obligation, I would now advocate the sacred claims of God to your affection and homage, and would
the religion of the Gospel as entitled to your most ready acceptance, and its commands to your unhesitating, unreserved, and universal obedience. If there was any doubt as to the truth, the necessity, or the advantage of religion, this might form your excuse for neglect of its duties. But with all enlightened and thinking minds, there is no question on this subject. Christianity boasts such an array of argument, as no science, not absolutely demonstrative, can possibly present to the mind. That its evidences could not be perfectly intuitive, without totally changing its character, and making its reception, which is intended to be moral, as depending upon the will, necessary and involuntary, as forced upon the understanding, we can all readily perceive. But if there is an inquiring and a candid disposition, conviction is sure to follow examination, and investigation to result in the acknowledgment of its truth. In proof of the necessity of religion, we need look no farther than into our own hearts. To be a partaker of this human nature, to know the feelings and the wants, the aspiripgs and the
hopes, the apprehensions and the fears, which elevate or depress the human bosom, is to be persuaded of the necessity of religion. And as to its advantage, that is readily to be seen in that equanimity which it gives to the mind in all the varying circumstances of outward good or ill, in the proper estimate which it enables us to make of human life, in the superiority which it imparts to the terrors of death, and in the broad, boundless, and animating prospect of felicity, which it spreads before the departing spirit, in the scenes of that long hereafter to which it is destined.
But, as I said before, these are points respecting which there is now no longer a question; for there is no one but admits the truth, fcels the necessity, and must perceive the advantage, of religion. At least if there be any such, it is not with them that I now propose to argue. And if these points be admitted and believed by you, my brethren; so admitted and believed, that in a sense of their indispensible importance, you have resolved, at some future day, to make the pursuit of religion your business, and its rewards the object of your care; and if yet you are perpetually neglecting obedience to its requirements; how fit and proper
you is the inquiry, “ How long halt ye between two opinions ?" And how justly may we urge upon you the alternative, “If the Lord “ be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow “ him!" I might tell you, my brethren, how much
you owe this adoption of a prompt and decided course to yourselves, and to your own consistency of character; and how much it is due to God, and to the advancement of his cause in the world. But omitting to enlarge on these, I would
it upon you, by every consideration of advantage and of gratitude, of prudence and of safety. God is ever, by his ministry, his word, his Spirit, and his providence, calling you to his service; and there is scarcely a reason which it is possible for you to plead for your neglect, which is not a proof of your insensibility to his call, and a direct insult to his authority. And surely, if there be in your hearts any affection to this good and gracious Being, who is continually pouring out his benefits upon you; if there be any respect for his character, or any grateful sense of his mercy and lovingkindness in achieving your salvation, you must shrink from the guilt and hardihood of deliberately and continually resisting his will. Our religion is one of the heart, in which grateful feelings for the benefits which we have received, should be the spring of action for the duties which we are required to perform. Our very faith, the more deeply it is seated in the understanding, the more powerfully does it control the affections, and so far from being a speculative, is a practical principle, for it is then only genuine when it works by love. And whatever it may be that is stronger than this love, or more powerful
than this sense of the benefits we have received, whether it be disbelief of the truth and promises of the Most High, a false shame of his name, the delusions and enticements of the world, or the indulgence of any opposing passion or desire, this becomes, in effect, the idol which we worship, the Baal which dishonours and displaces God. Whenever this is the case, the question is fairly at issue, which you will serve; and it is the conduct alone which determines to which you give the preference. Nothing can be more vain than to suppose that you can, at the same time, serve God and mammon, or that you can truly and sincerely love him while you disregard his will. He will not accept of a partial and divided service. He is a jealous God, and will not give his glory to another. To indicate most clearly what he requires, our Saviour has said, “If ye love me
keep my commandments;" and again, “ he that 6 hath my commandments and keepeth them, he “ it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall ,“ be loved of my Father;" where every advantage which can flow from having God for our friend, is made to depend upon our love to Christ; and the only evidence which he is willing to acknowledge of the existence of that love is a voluntary and unreserved obedience to all which he commands. If then you regard his favour as desirable, and his loving kindness as important to your temporal and eternal welfare, no longer halt VOL. II.
between two opinions. Choose you this day whom you will serve; and if the Lord be God, then follow him; but if Baal, then follow him. But besides these motives of advantage and of affection, you are also urged by those of prudence and of safety. God is indeed long-suffering, and forbearing, and not willing that
should perish; but his Spirit will not always strive with man; and therefore, from those who perpetually resist its influence, or neglect or postpone obedience to its dictates, that Spirit is gradually withdrawn. And the individual who now refuses to profit by its suggestions, and who declines to follow the warm impulse of those feelings which would now lead him to God, will soon perceive that their influence is gradually lessened; that their power becomes weaker and weaker; that he will have less and less regard for spiritual things, fewer and fewer asperations after heavenly joys, and greater and greater aversion to religious duties, until, instead of realizing the prayer which was offered for him in baptism, “ that all sinful affec“tions might die in him, and all things belonging “ to the Spirit live and grow in him," the very reverse will happen. Sinful affections will live and predominate, until finally they control and enslave him; and the Holy Spirit, the Author of all godliness, resisted, grieved, and quenched, will cease to influence either his conduct or his will ; and the absence of all religious feeling, and of