Page images

indignation ? Heb. x. 26, 27. My friend, if you dare do this, it is too late to exhort you not to harden your heart; for it is hardened to the utmost already. I am, however, aware that you will not see, or at least, will not acknowledge this to be the case. I am aware that you will have many excuses in readiness, to prove that you are not guilty of wilful disobedience. But what will these excuses avail at the last day? They may serve to quiet your conscience, to harden your heart and buoy you up with deceitful hopes now; but they will answer no purpose then; nay, you will not then dare to offer them ; for God has declared that every mouth shall be stopped. Besides, you cannot find a single instance in the Bible, in which God has ever paid the smallest regard to the excuses of sinners. We read of some, who, when they were invited, as you now are, to the gospel feast, began, with one consent, to make excuse. And what was the consequence? God declared that not one of them should taste it. We read of another, who attempted to excuse himself by pretending that he was not able to do what his Lord required. And what was his Lord's reply to this excuse ? Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. This is the excuse which many secretly make. You say, I do not become religious to-day, because I am not able, and I must wait till God assists me.

Of all the excuses that sinners can make, this is the most foolish, the most groundless, the most provoking to God. If you can make no better excuse than this, you had much better make none, and say at once, I will not obey God. Groundless and impious, however, as this excuse is, I would


it some attention did you really believe it yourself. But you do not believe it. The resolutions and promises, which you often secretly make, that you will repent to-morrow, or on your dying bed, prove that


do not believe it; for none ever resolves or promises to do what he knows he cannot do. These promises and resolutions, then, show that you suppose yourself able to repent.

Be persuaded then to listen and obey, while God and Christ and the Holy Spirit-while death, and judgment, and eternity, and heaven, and hell, continually cry, To-DAY HEAR God's VOICE, AND HARDEN NOT YOUR HEART!



J. & W.Rider, Printers, Bartholomew Close, London.


The Holy Ghost has borne honourable testimony to Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, that “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Luke i. 6. The character here ascribed to them, so excellent and desirable in itself, is especially deserving the regard and imitation of all who are united by conjugal ties. As this union is the source and basis of all the social relations, the character of those who “ are no more twain, but one flesh,” must necessarily exert a powerful influence, not only over the domestic circle, but through all the ramifications of human society. In the following pages it will be my object, to consider and illustrate the character here described.

The first thing which demands attention in the character of this truly excellent and happy pair, is, that they were righteous before God. This, my readers, is a great thing. It is, indeed, very easy to be righteous in our own estimation ; nor is it very difficult to be righteous in the estimation of our fellow-creatures ; but it is by no means equally easy to be righteous in the estimation of God. He is constantly with us, he sees our whole conduct, nay more, he reads our hearts. To be righteous before him, then, is to be really, inwardly, and uniformly righteous. It is to be the same person in every situation, and on all occasions; the same at home and abroad, in solitude and in society. But much less than this will suffice to make us righteous in the estimation of our fellow-creatures. They are not always with us, they do not see the whole of our conduct; and of our hearts, our motives, they know almost nothing. Of course they know very little of our real characters. Hov!

And yet


little, for instance, do the nearest neighbours really know of each other! How many characters which now stand fair, would be blasted in a moment, were every part of their outward conduct only, laid open to public view! And how many husbands and wives, who are supposed to live happily together, would be found mutual tormentors, were they fully known to the world! How wretchedly then are those persons deceived, who flatter themselves they are righteous before God, merely because their characters stand fair in the estimation of men !


Alatter themselves in this manner ! how many feel and act as if they were to be judged by men only, and not by' the heart-searching God

that part of their conduct only, which is known to the world, was to be brought into judgment, and not every secret action, thought, and feeling!

My dear reader, permit me to warn you against this ruinous delusion. Remember, that in order to be really righteous, you must be righteous before God. Remember that no man, who would not be thought righteous by his fellow-creatures, if his whole conduct and his whole heart were laid open to them, is righteous before God. Do you start at this assertion? A moment's reflection will convince you that it is strictly true. The whole conduct, and the whole heart of every man, is perfectly known to God. Now if God, knowing a man thus perfectly, judges him to be righteous, then his fellow-creatures, did they know him as perfectly, would judge him to be righteous. Hence it follows, that every man is unrighteous, whom his fellowcreatures would judge to be unrighteous, were they perfectly acquainted with his conduct and his heart. Try yourselves by this rule. Would men think you righteous, did they know you as perfectly as God knows you? Then you are righteous. Would men think you unrighteous did they know you thus perfectly? Then you are unrighteous. It may, however, be necessary to remark, that in making these assertions, 1 proceed on the supposition, that men should judge of you by the rule of God's word, the rule by which God himself judges of your character. With this qualification, the truth of these assertions must, I conceive, appear evident to all.

Again : This pair walked in all God's commandments and ordinances blameless. This, however, is not mentioned as something different or distinct from being righteous before God. It is rather mentioned as an effect and a proof of their being righteous. To be righteous, is to be conformed to the rule of right; and the only rule of right is the wili of God, as expressed in his commandments and ordinances. These two words, though nearly synonymous, are not perfectly so. The commands of God are his moral precepts, or those precepts which are designed to regulate our conduct on all occasions. By his ordinances are meant those religious rites and institutions which he has directed us to observe. Repent, believe the gospel, be holy—are commands; religious worship, baptism, and the Lord's supper, are ordinances. He that is righteous before God will observe both. In this respect many fail. Some pretend to obey God's commands, while they neglect his ordinances. Others visibly observe his ordinances, but neglect his commands.

Such is the example here presented for the imitation of all, especially heads of families. But, in order that the example should produce its full effect, it is necessary to show more particularly, what is now, under the Christian dispensation, implied in walking in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blamelessly.

1. It implies the exercise of repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. These are the two first and great commands of the gospel, on obeying which our obedience to all other commands, and our acceptable observance of all Christian ordinances depend. This was the sum of Paul's preaching; these were the first duties which our Saviour directed his disciples to press upon all their hearers, and which he himself inculcated upon all. Mark i. 15; vi. 12. When the Jews asked him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God ? his answer was, “ This

« PreviousContinue »