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and you only gave it to keep up appearances, whereas you should have done it, not as from necessity, “not grudgingly, for God loveth a cheerful giver.” It is true, he will reply, you did attend my worship, and took part in it, as far as the letter goes; but not worship me in spirit and in truth ; you did it because you knew not what better to do with yourselves on my sabbaths, for they were wearisome to you. You did force yourselves to the practice of family prayer, but not from motives of genuine love to me, or because you were anxious for my blessing, but it was only to keep up appearances, or from the consideration that the forin was necessary to keep your servants honest, or thinking to obtain the blessing, as Jacob of old did, in a hypocritical way.
“ Though lifted eyes salute the skies,
And bended knees the ground,
Where not the heart is found.” Then will he profess unto you—“I never knew you; for though ye have forced yourselves to do these things, yet have ye never forced yourselves to put away secret sins, which did not affect your reputation with my church; yet have ye in your retirements practised deeds that may not be mentioned without offending decency, yet have ye in your thoughts wantoned in forbidden pleasures, and revelled in criminal desires. It is true,” he will reply, “ ye have given grudgingly the smallest pittance, but ye have never forced yourselves to lay aside covetousness. Whatever may have been your profession or practice before my people, secretly ye have only been planning how ye might make provision for the flesh, to satisfy the lusts thereof. However ye may have striven to keep up appearances in the churches, ye have never forced from your hearts a spirit of worldly mindedness : “I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
The humble follower of the Lord Jesus may adopt the language of Saul, though in a different sense. In seasons of doubt and perplexity, he is but too prone
66 The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord; I forced myself, therefore," to seek for that grace which I found to be necessary to enable me to live in the constant exercise of faith, notwithstanding doubts and darkness prevailed, notwithstanding the enemy often came in like a flood. Oh, with what trembling cheerfulness does the Christian press forward in the arduous race, when he feels himself encouraged to hope against hope, and to believe in defiance of the assaults of hell! The treachery of the world, the sufferings of sickness, and the pains of dying, he endures as seeing him who is invisible. Notwithstanding appearances are against him, a great fight of afflictions without, his affairs distressing, his prospects obscured, his hopes from the creature frustrated, his efforts vain, the barrel of meal wasted, yet, having his eye directed heavenwards, he can say, “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who hath loved us." The believer puts a constraint upon the unruly law that is in his members, that he may walk conformed to the image of Christ in all things; and this, though a difficulty not easily surmounted, though not attained to by any sudden impulse, yet, through Christ strengthening him, he experiences daily that “ the house of Saul grows weaker and weaker, and the house of David stronger and stronger.” The believer says, “I forced myself, therefore, to keep in subjection the law that is in my members, that I might avoid the least appearance of evil; and to that end I made a covenant with mine eyes, that they might not prove an inlet to sin. I did not suffer them to dwell upon forbidden objects, lest a look should lead to lust. I forced mine eyes to turn away, and that not only to prevent improper consequences from the known wickedness of my own heart and thoughts, but also fearing to elicit vanity of mind, or unchaste thoughts, in the individual to whom my attention would have been directed."
The believer in Jesus will also perforce rule his tongue, that otherwise unruly member. How commonly do bad habits get established from want of thought; how customary is the practice of scolding ; and frequently not from badness of temper, but from a habit which is suffered by little and little to gain footing in the daily walk; and yet I know not a practice more generally unseemly in a Christian, more to be deprecated, or more difficult to exterminate amidst the trifling vexations and every-day annoyances of some situations in life. However, the genuine disciple of Jesus must not scold, but would do well to imitate the example of Him who was meek and lowly; patient and gentle ; kind, courteous, and beneficent. The followers of the Lamb will force their tongues to silence, whether the occasion be bitter reproaches, or smaller vexations, that perhaps in themselves are unworthy of notice.
There is another caution that may here be given to those who endeavour to watch their ways, and keep their lives from sin ; and it is, to force their ears shut whenever they cross the path of such as give way to
filthy conversation or profane language.' It is truly lamentable that the public streets are so much infested with people of impure language ; that the feelings of the children of the kingdom are so continually exposed to annoyance from the oaths and imprecations, the impure and obscene speeches, of the blasphemer and the dissolute. It is a disgrace to this Christian country, and a reproach to magistrates, that the penalties are not more uniformly levied, which have been enacted by the legislature for the suppression of swearing. Let me entreat my readers not only to shut your ears on all such occasions, as they present themselves, but open your hearts in prayer-in some short ejaculatory supplication to Jehovah, that he would cause a reformation of manners in the offending party, by working a change of heart ; that we might not have so frequently to lament with the prophet Isaiah, “ Woe is me, for I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips."
Christians of timid and fearful minds have reason to force themselves, on many occasions, to put a constraint upon those foolish and ungrounded fears that oppose them in the path of duty ; and which, if suffered to prevail, would shut their mouths when they ought to speak in defence of the cause of truth and religion. These, like all other enemies to the believer's progress, must be combated, and overcome.
The unfounded fears of Saul, king of Israel, occasioned him to sin ; he mistrusted, and transgressed the word of God, and this led to the loss of his kingdom : “For now thy kingdom shall not continue; the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee." And this judgment was not more
and weaker, and stronger." The therefore, to kee; members, that I . evil; and to the eyes, that they did not suffer ti lest a look shor turn away, an. consequences t. heart and thoi mind, or unch my attention
The belie: tongue, that monly do 1, thought; hi and frequel a habit wh footing in tice more be depreca the triflin; some situa of Jesus the exam] and gentl followers whether t:. vexations, notice.
There i those wh, their lives whenever