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They possess a treasure, which the world can neither give nor take away. They have the faculty of contemplating the thing that shall be, and the privilege of drawing upon resources there, which fill up the vast extent of their desires, and like the widow's cruise of oil, that never fail.
“Some joys the future overcast, and some
" Throw all their beams that way, and gild the tomb." In drawing to a conclusion, suffer me then, Brethren, to hope, that the few thoughts thus hastily collected together may be found to present a fair account of that pleasure, which consists in the “ gratification of the mind and senses.” Regarded in its true as. pect, it may be justly said to constitute “man's chief good on earth," and is so far from being denied his possession, that “light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart;" is so far from being sinful, that the moment our attention is directed heavenward, one wide immeasurable ocean of felicity is forth with announced as the inestimable reward of well-doing. Does this look, as if God would willingly grieve and afflict the children of men? If he holds out as an incentive to holy obedience, that in his presence is fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore, Does this indicate to the Christian, that he is to go sorrowing all his days; that those, who are the ransomed of the Lord, are to go to Zion, with tears and sighs, and not with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads? I have not so interpreted his precious promises. I have not so understood Paul, where he saith, “ Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice;" nor Peter, where he describes the saints of the Most High anticipating the coming of the Son of man,“Whom, having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
At the same time, Brethren, I would have you distinctly understand, that these remarks are not designed to hold out the least ray of encouragement to the “lovers of pleasures MORE than the lovers of God.” As they choose to live without him in this world, so they must be content to live without him in the world to come.
He affords them no hope of future happiness. They can extract none from the admonitions of his faithful ministers. Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, do rather threaten them, and if they repent not, if they will not bring forth fruits meet for repentance, are as certain of overtaking them in the end, as God is true, his
word divine, his judgments righteous, and his power omnipotent. Have ye therefore but too much reason to include yourselves in the number of those, who have the temerity, and I may add the folly, to advance the pleasures, which consume as they sparkle, higher in the graduated scale of their love, than the First and the Last; He, who was, and is, and is to come; without whom there can be no real happiness here, and must be inconceivable pain hereafter? Oh! that ye might be persuaded to abandon these false delights, these meretricious pleasures. They are unworthy the name. They are no better than lying vanities. They will otherwise separate between you and God. They will beguile you of your immortal souls, and consign you in death to the communion and fellowship of beings, the smoke of whose torment ascendeth forever and ever. But only change the object and the current of your affections; become ye the lovers of God more than the lovers of pleasures, and then,
Though tempest frowns,
“ To lean on Him, on whom archangels lean!” Ye will experience more true pleasure in one such hour, than in ten thousand spent amid the sated joys of sin. Ye will commence that course of fruition, which shall never end. Ye will be happy in life, happy in death, happy in eternity. Your last look on earth will be followed by the vision of eternal joy: AMEN.
JAMES ii. 19, 20.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also
believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
IT will be remembered, by those of your number, who were present upon the last sabbath, that I had occasion to advert to the fact of its being far easier to believe than to obey. The subject under discussion did not permit me to exemplify at large the truth of the proposition. This deficiency I shall now endeavour to remedy,
fully persuaded that there is no greater errour committed by the present ministering servants of Christ, than a predominant anxiety to dwell upon the doctrinal to the almost total exclusion of the practical concerns of our holy religion. I know the cause, and weak and timid minds, ignorant and half learnt theologians, are extremely apt to yield to its insidious influence. I allude to popular opinion. For a long time its current has set very strongly in favour of purely doctrinal disquisitions. What is termed an improvement is indeed tolerated at the conclusion of a discourse; but then so brief and meager, that the well-instructed in opinions are scarcely taught the most common duties and charities of life. The impression has even gone abroad, that moral discourses are a disgrace to the pulpit, and clearly indicate the absence of a spiritual mind, on the part of the preacher. Under such circumstances, I need not tell you, that it requires no inconsiderable share of resolution and firmness to stem the torrent of prejudice; to declare the truth as it is in Jesus, and loudly call upon the sinner to “awake to righteousness, and sin not.” Preachers are but men. They have the hopes and expectations, the passions and infirmities of men, and wishing to stand well in the general esteem, especially with those of their own party, they insensibly, if not designedly, adopt a course of instruction, which their own better judgment should condemn; which the example of Christ himself, the greatest and plainest of all moral preachers, ought to convince them is decidedly at variance with the interests and the wants of the hearer.
Not however to anticipate the closing remarks, it is my intention to submit, I shall proceed at once to the proof of the assertion, that it is far easier to believe than to obey. Let us look at the actual condition of things, wherever the Christian religion is embraced. In common with some, if not most other systems, it has its foundation in the great and glorious truth, that there is a God. If you abstract him from its records, the grand and majestick edifice, we have been so long accustomed to regard with wonder and admiration, is deprived of its base; you demolish it at a blow, and so thoroughly, that, like Jerusalem of old, not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down. But who is there to disbelieve in the existence of God? I know of none. I never knew the man, who openly denied it. If, in scriptural language, “ The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God;" if a few wretch
ed philosophers have occasionally appeared and attempted to palm this gross falsehood upon the credulity of the world, it has certainly possessed the good sense to reject the absurdity; it has never fallen a prey to those baleful meteors, that would fain have extinguished with their lurid fires the Light of Lights. They have rather sunk into merited obscurity, attracting a momentary gaze, owing perhaps to the thick darkness in which their feeble lamp was set, and then disappearing to deepen yet deeper the gloom of an eternal night. If it had not settled down into a truism, that there is no general rule without its exceptions, we might safely say, that such a being as an atheist does not exist in Christendom to outvie the iniquity of the very devils, who believe and tremble.
As it is, the belief in God must be admitted to be nearly universal. But when you come to the duties consequent upon that belief; when you cast your eyes over the busy throng of men, and justly appreciate the principles by which they are governed, oh! how slightly are their hearts inflamed with the love of their heavenly Father! How feebly does the glow of gratitude pervade the bosom of the best of them! How greatly do the numbers preponderate, who in ten thousand times ten thousand modes hesitate not to violate his laws, and virtually defy his power! Speak to them of the perfection of his character, of the holiness of his name, of the riches of his goodness, of the reasonableness of his worship, and they will immediately assent to the justice of every position; they will for the most part acknowledge every thing, that a pious map would wish them to acknowledge; but the moment his back is turned, they forget his counsel; they fly from their own serious thoughts, and consign to oblivion the obligations of reverence and affection, of honour and allegiance, of praise and thanksgiving. They can even take the holy name of God in vain, and, with now and then a fearful pang of remorse, unconcernedly do those things which they know in their hearts contravene his will, and provoke his just indignation against them. You will not pretend, Brethren, that I am here giving a coloured statement. You must be sensible, that it is no libel upon our common humanity. And what does it prove? What is the fair inference to be drawn from the simple fact, to which I have called your attention? It establishes beyond all controversy the facility, with which belief is entertained, compared with the difficulty, with which obedience is practised,
An observation that applies not more certainly to its great Author, than to the system of divine truth he has deigned to disclose. What man is there amongst you, who does not call himself a Christian? Who is there to disclaim the appellation, and to prefer one of a less distinguished rank? In our biblical world, with the exception of a few Jews, serving to fulfil the sure word of prophecy; with the exception of a few infidels seldom caring to encounter the odium of publick opinion, and rarely dying in that unhappy persuasion, we all consent in some shape or other to the truth of the bible, including the gospel of Christ. Look at its circulation, there is no other volume to compare with it in extent; at its perusal, sooner or later it attracts the eyes of all; at the institutions by which it is accompanied, the spires of innumerable Churches by their heavenward ascent would seem to rival the prayers of the faithful, they adorn our proudest cities, and in the bosom of the wilderness are, in themselves respectively, as a city set upon a hill, which cannot be hid. Christianity is therefore fastened upon us by a tie, which nothing earthly can rend asunder. It is to the righteous, as an anchor to the soul both sure and steadfast, and to the unrighteous, as a fee simple lying in abeyance, which at some future time they fondly calculate will fall into their possession.
And still, notwithstanding this general belief, this mental acquiescence in the truth of scripture, the multitude do not cease to do evil; they are not afraid to any good degree of amazement, when they are engrossed by the affairs of this world, and the lusts of other things; when they pursue with avidity the mere pleasures of sin, and even perpetrate the higher acts of enormity. And I desire, no one can reasonably desire, any better evidence to convince the judgment, how much easier it is to credit the theory, than to excel in the practice of our religion. If we could only contrive to do what we know and believe we ought to do, society would soon wear a new face, and put on a more beautiful appearance, “ Thy walls," O Zion, would be called Salvation, and thy gates Praise.”
To the evidence already adduced, the evidence of facts seen by the eye and heard by the ear, reason also unites her testimony, and assures us, that it is easier to believe than to obey. The great clementary truth of the bible is scarcely pronounced before the mind approves it. The idea of God is almost intuitive. As a first proposition, his existence is certainly sooner credited, than that of