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SERMON XXXVI.

THE PATH OF THE JUST.

PROVERBS iv. 18.

The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and

more unto the perfect day.

Though feeble and faint the first dawn of light which glimmers through the midst of darkness and announces the approach of the glorious luminary of the heavens, it shineth more and more until it bursts forth in the full splendour of perfect day.

Behold, brethren, the comparison by which the text denotes the life of the just man. Faint and feeble the beginnings of his spiritual life; but it increases in strength and splendour, it shines more and more with the Christian graces, until, in the final state of bliss, every cloud which in this imperfect life shaded it being dispelled, it steadily sends forth the eternal lustre of celestial glory.

The life of the righteous should be progressive in goodness. Daily advancing in all holy virtues and graces, his love to his God, his trust in his Saviour, his pious and devout affections should constantly become more sincere and strong, and his active sympathy and benevolence should burn with a brighter and brighter flame. The great work of crucifying the flesh with its corrupt affections, and of overcoming the world, its sinful temptations and pleasures, should be unceasingly pursued. Thus all the divine, social, and personal virtues would be displayed in his life and conversation, with increasing brightness.' “ The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day"

The service, then, to which Christians are called, is not an inactive service; it demands more than feeble, occasional, relaxed exertions; it is not satisfied with present attainments, nor does it permit us to be stationary in our course ; enjoining persevering, increasing efforts, it calls continually for brighter displays of those pious, humble, holy, and benevolent virtues which shed around their possessor a resplendent and attractive lustre, and prepare him for shining with immortal glory in the courts of the celestial Zion.

The duty of advancing in the holy graces and virtues of the Christian service is demanded by the nature of the service itself; it is enforced by the command of God; it is urged by the dictates of gratitude and interest.

The duty of advancing in all the graces and virtues of the Christian life is demanded by the nature of the seryice.

This service consists in a constant warfare with all the sinful passions and temptations of our fallen nature; requiring the old man, which is corrupt after the flesh, to be put off, and the new man to be put on, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. The flesh, with its affections and lusts, is to be crucified, and we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and to be fruitful in every good work.

The Christian service setting before us this high standard, admits of no relaxation of effort. The

holiness at which we are to aim is so pure and exalted, that our advances to it must necessarily be gradual and progressive; and no man will be entirely freed from the dominion of sin, and completely established in purity and virtue, until the period when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and mortality be swallowed up of life.

Consider then, Christians, bow numerous and exalted the graces which should adorn your character-bow sincere and ardent should be your love and gratitude towards your God and Saviour -how profound your humility, your submission, and your penitence-how active your benevolence, how lively your sympathy and your compassionhow unaffected your meekness, your forbearance, your gentleness, and kindness-how inflexible your integrity, fidelity, and justice-how uniform and rigid your sobriety, your temperance, your government of your passions-how complete your superiority to the sinful and transitory pleasures of the world-how fervent your desires after the perfection and bliss of heaven !--consider these numerous virtues and graces, which you are not merely to possess, but in which you are to excel, and surely you will not pretend that you have already attained, and that you have no further advances to make in the Christian course. The view of the exalted nature of the Christian service, humbling all our aspiring pretensions, will impress on us the truth, that, however great our pious attainments, however bright our graces and virtues, they are still far below the standard at which we are required to aim, are still faint and feeble in their lustre, and that they must shine more and more unto the perfect day.

The duty of progressive religion, of advancing in all the attainments of the Christian service, thus demanded by the nature of the service itself, is enforced by the command of God.

He has fixed no human, no finite standard of virtue, at which we may rest, and boast, with confident presumption, that we have already attained. He commands us to “ be perfect, as he himself is perfect;" to " be holy, as the Lord our God who hath called us is holy.”. The perfection, then, at which he has enjoined us to aim, forbids all intermission of our efforts, and that confidence in our own attainments which cherishes indolence and inactivity. God, in calling us to aspire after his own infinite perfection, 'has plainly and forcibly impressed on us the necessity of increasing diligence and zeal, and of constant progress in holiness and virtue. The standard at which we are to aim being infinite, there can be no point, in our advances to it, at which we can stop. If we relax our efforts in the spiritual life--if we are contented with any present acquisitions, however exalted-if we do not forget the things which are behind, and counting nothing done while any thing remains to be done, press forward with holy zeal to higher attainments, to brighter and more exalted virtueswe shall violate the express injunctions of that Almighty Sovereign who has required of us continual advancement in holiness, not only to assimilate us to his own divine image, and to fit us for the enjoyment of his holy presence, but as the test of our fidelity, our sincerity and ardour in his service.

But the duty of advancing in the attainments and graces of the Christian life, thus enforced by Vol. III.

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the command of God, is urged by the dictates of gratitude.

It is only by a holy life that we can glorify our Almighty Maker, the beneficent Benefactor who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; it is only by excelling in all the graces and virtues of the Christian life, that we can testify our gratitude to that Almighty Deliverer who paid, with his own blood, the price of our ransom from sin and death; and it is only by denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living righteously, soberly, and godly in the world, that we can answer the end for which the eternal Son of the Father came into the world, which was to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify us unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Your advancement in holiness and virtue is therefore, O Christians, the test of your gratitude to your God and Saviour. In proportion as you excel in all holy dispositions and virtues, will you

evidence the sincerity and the ardour of that most noble and exalted of all virtues, gratitude to your Maker and Redeemer; and if you consider the many mercies that thus call for gratitude, you will feel the force of this consideration in animating your progress in the service of your God. For the gift of a rational and immortal nature, which, raising you far above the brute creation, assimilates you to the intelligenees of heaven, and even to God himself, you are bound to praise him who made you after his own image. For the innumerable enjoyments of the present life, and for the brighter hopes of future bliss, you are called to praise him who delighteth in doing good to his creatures. : Infinitely exalted are the spiritual mercies which he hath copferred

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