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he who had five; yet both were equally diligent according to their means; and there is no promise of a reward to those who fall short of their opportunities. A man's services are accepted
according to that he hath."
In arguing for the necessity of a continued progress in the Christian graces and virtues, I have all along taken it for granted, that the assistance of God's Holy Spirit is to be sought for in aid of our own exertions. The certainty that it may be obtained, and that without it we can do nothing as we ought, is the greatest encouragement to a persevering endeavour at improvement; and takes away all excuse from the indolent and unprofitable Christian.
are directed to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling-and why? because it is God that worketh in us, both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure.10
There is one mark and token of spiritual improvement, not indeed infallible, but very encouraging; and that is, when a Christian draws near for the first time to the table of the Lord. It indicates an awakened sense of the obedience which he owes to all the commands of the Lord Jesus; and a desire to approach him more
15 2 Cor. viii. 12.
16 Phil. ii. 12.
nearly. As long as that mark of his faith and allegiance is wanting, we do not say that he is absolutely in an unimproving state, but we are sure that he has no reason to regard himself with complacency, nor to believe that he has yet arrived at that degree of Christian holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
Finally, brethren, lay these undoubted truths to heart, and apply them to your own consciences. No man can love Christ too devotedly, nor serve God too laboriously. Not to advance in piety and virtue, is to go back. Every step we take in the path of the just, excites and enables us to make a further progress. Improvement is the testimony of the Spirit, the pledge of sanctification, the earnest of a better state. No man will say on his death-bed, To what purpose was all my care and diligence? I might have been less devout, less self-denying— why did I lead so strict a life? But many, alas too many, will say at that fearful hour; Why did I not improve my time? How much better might I have been, if I had not wasted my opportunities, and neglected the offers and means of grace, and quenched the motions of the Spirit! Brethren, what are the terms of salvation? Striving; watchfulness; soberness;
labour; diligence; fear. These are the words of God, and he will be as good as his word. He is not mocked. Let us not attempt to deceive him, nor act the hypocrite with our own consciences, lest finally we should have our portion with the careless, lukewarm, unprofitable servants, in that dismal place, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!
EPHES. V. 6.
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
THE moral duties of Christianity may be classed under two general divisions, charity, and purity. Upon these, in their most comprehensive meaning, our blessed Lord insisted, in those discourses and parables, by which he enforced, not so much any specific actions, as the principles from which all actions ought to spring: and of these he exhibited the most perfect exemplification in his own life and death. In that part of St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians from which my text is taken, he first briefly sets before them the precept and the pattern of charity. Be ye therefore
followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice unto God, for a sweet-smelling savour. He then pro
ceeds to warn them with great earnestness of dissuasion, and with a more precise enumeration, against every kind and degree of those sins, which violate the other great duty, of Christian purity; well knowing that it is generally an easier task to persuade men to practise many of the duties which are included in the precept of love, than to subdue their fleshly inclinations, and regulate their natural appetites, and control even the thoughts and emotions of their hearts. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children. of disobedience.
The word covetousness, here used by St. Paul, is supposed by some to mean, in this place,