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doing this, there is evidently more than a tacit reflection cast upon it, as if it were a subject of trifling importance, unworthy of the attention and regard of those to whom it is addressed. We should not fail to conclude that our friend made light of our advice, although he did not turn his head away
from us in contempt or disgust, if he heard what we had to say as if he heard it not, was uninterested and unmoved, and made no account of it whatsoever in the regulation of that particular part of his conduct to which it referred. But let us not be mistaken here. When we say that for the heart to be unaffected under the preaching of the gospel is in effect to despise it, we do not mean that strong bursts of mere feeling, are necessary to attest our attaching a due importance to the subject; so far from that, we can even conceive it possible, for all the sensibilities of our nature to be excited, and yet that we be not rightly affected with respect either to the malignity of sin, or the value of the gospel. There may be no more religion in the tear which is shed under the dispensation of the word, or in the delight which may glisten in the countenance, or sparkle in the eye; nor in the terror which may palpitate in the breast, and tremble through the frame, than there is in the sympathetic sighs and tears of a spectator at a tragedy. What we intend by the heart's being affected by the dispensation of the gospel, is its being interested and permanently influenced by it,-so affected as to receive the truth in the love of it, and take its sanctifying impress. Then, and then alone, does the gospel come to a man, “not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.”
There is a third description of persons, who may be classed along with those we have mentioned, as gospel despisers,those who in their life and practice prefer any thing above the blessings which the gospel offers. We do not here speak of those who live in open violation of its principles and precepts, and whose characters, therefore, are broadly
stamped upon their foreheads, as “ unholy and profane." We have in view those more plausible-looking persons, who really feel some sort of interest in divine things, as those of old did, who
took delight in approaching unto God," but who, like them too, do not turn unto God with their “whole hearts." Such are persons who will walk in the way of religion, and feel a sincere pleasure in doing so, so long as it coincides with the way of their own heart,--so long as they are required to make few or no sacrifices of interest, pleasure, or prejudice; but who, as soon as the requirements of religion come into competition with the demands of appetite or the claims of the world, turn aside into their crooked way. If we were to see these individuals on certain occasions, melting perhaps under the dispensation of divine ordinances, or glowing amid the fervour and animation of religious conversation, we should very unhe sitatingly conclude, that they were persons who habitually breathed in the atmosphere of heaven; whereas, were we to see them at other times, when their love and zeal were brought, it may be, to an expensive test, when they were required to cut off a right hand, or pluck out a right eye, we should feel as if we had got into a temperature altogether different, into the immediate neighbourhood of frosts and snows. The truth is, their judgments approve of the gospel, but their hearts cleave fast to the world and sin ; they wish to get to heaven, but they would like to cut out a royal road thither for themselves, in which they might travel without being subjected to the difficulties and inconveniences which they must feel who travel in the narrow way.
It were very easy to select from the mass of professors, many particular exemplifications of these general remarks. There is one individual perhaps, who is willing to be Christ's disciple, but he must be left in the undisturbed enjoyment of certain pleasures dear to him as right hands or right eyes. Let Christ ask from him any other sacrifice, and it will be cheerfully given. He will liberally distribute his wealth, expend his time, labour, and influence, in the most unsparing manner, in the cause of religion and humanity; but he must be indulged with respect to his favourite gratification. The Lord must pardon him, when he bows in the house of his Rimmon. There is another, perhaps, who is willing to surrender himself to Christ, with the exception only of a reserve in behalf of his wealth. Of this, the young ruler who came to our Lord is an instance. It would seem, that this individual was almost every thing that could have been wished. He was one whom even the Saviour beholding, pronounced to be not far from the kingdom of heaven. He was amiable, moral, and what his acquaintances would call religious; and it is probable, would have made every exertion and sacrifice which the Saviour could have required of him, but one. But he could not make a sacrifice of his wealth : this “ one thing he lacked ;” and this one defect, like “ the dead fly in the apothecary's ointment,” vitiated all his other excellencies. There are others, perhaps, who would be decidedly religious, but they cannot bring themselves to submit to the reproach and persecution incident to a religious profession.
They will be Christ's disciples, but it must be "secretly, for fear of the Jews.” They will come to Christ, but it must be “ night,” when no eye shall see them, and when they will not be put to inconvenience on account of their religion.
Now such conduct, however men may contrive to disguise it, is a high contempt of Christ and everlasting life. It is giving but the second place in our estimation to what is entitled to the first, pronouncing that the pleasures, and profits, and honours of the world, are of superior importance to the blessings of salvation, and setting the crown of which Christ is rightful heir, upon the head of a rival. It was those only who followed the Lord fully, (Caleb and Joshua,) who were permitted to pass Jordan, and enter the promised land; and those only, who follow the Saviour fully, who“ follow him whithersoever he goeth”—will be held to have given him due honour, and be allowed to take their places among the innumerable multitude who “stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.”
There is only one other class of persons to whom we shall at present advert, as despisers of the gospel,—those, who do not accept of its offers of mercy, and immediately give themselves up to the Saviour. These persons, and they form a very numerous class, often promise fair, and even seriously resolve to abandon every thing for Christ, but, like St. Augustine, “not yet.” The present is not a convenient time for making such a sacrifice, but as they ultimately intend to do it, they will not allow the charge of making light of the gospel to rest against them. They take shelter from it behind their good intentions and promises, and endeavour to persuade themselves that it is altogether inapplicable to their case, who acknowledge the supreme importance of the gospel, and are ready, when the proper season arrives, to give it the reception its importance merits. The conduct of this class, however, differs only from that of the former, in being more criminal. They profess to know their Master's will, and they do it not.
That this procrastinating disposition of mind is really a despising of the gospel, will appear manifest from simply considering the principle of it, and its ordinary issue. What is the principle in which procrastination, with respect to religion, usually takes its origin? Is it not a desire to enjoy the pleasures of the world and sin as long as is possible? The truth is, this description of persons would gladly wish to enjoy as much of the earth as they can, without altogether forfeiting a title to the abodes of bliss ; so that religion is
nothing with them but a forlorn hope, a something to which they desire to have recourse when the world and the things of it fade from their grasp. And is not this a pouring contempt on religion? Is it not trifling with God, wearying him with our iniquities, and provoking him to give us over to the hardness of our own hearts? But mark the issue of such procrastination. It usually terminates in utter disregard of religion. It seldom happens that those who have once begun to tamper, in this manner, with such a serious matter as the salvation of their soul, have ever repentance given them to the acknowledging of the truth. We are apt indeed to hope, when we see individuals in the seemingly magnanimous attitude of resolve, that something decisive and important is to follow. But “ let not him that girdeth on his harness, boast as he that putteth it off.” A few swelling words of vanity, and a' few vapouring movements, are ordinarily all the results of his mighty preparations. Vows and promises, in rapid succession, are alternately made and broken, resolution after resolution is taken and departed from; while at every succeeding relapse the desire and endeavour become weaker and weaker, and the ultimate issue is, that
"dies the same.” Thus it
appears that many who are Christians in name, are in reality despisers of the gospel. And how ought such a consideration as this to arouse all our suspicions and jealousies with respect to ourselves, and lead us to say with the disciples of our Saviour,“ Lord, is it I ?” Am I, notwithstanding all my advantages and professions of religion, a despiser of the gospel-a rejecter of that salvation, to obtain which the blood of God's eternal Son was shed, and to apply which the Divine Spirit has deigned to shed down his blessed influences on my sinful soul ? Let us therefore beware, lest that come upon us which is spoken by the prophet, “ Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.”
Consider, therefore, dear reader, the infinite importance of the gospel, and the sin and danger of neglecting it. The gospel had its origin in the love and mercy of God, before time began its course; the remedy it reveals for our lost condition was provided before we existed. It was intimated to Adam immediately after his fall, and ever since has been the chief subject of all the communications of God to man. crifices of the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations directed the faith of the worshipper to the atoning death and interces
sion of the coming Saviour. The promises and prophecies of the Old Testament have all a direct reference to Him.
- The dignity of his person, the sufficiency of his atonement, the number of his subjects, and the glory of his reign, are the chief matters which they contain. And when in the fulness of time, Messiah appeared in our nature, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, His advent was announced by the angelic hosts as the Gospel, or GLAD TIDINGS of great joy unto all people. Hitherto, the intimations of a Saviour had been principally confined to the Jews, the peculiar people of God, and the personal ministrations of Christ were addressed chiefly to the lost sheep of the house of Israel ; but since his resurrection, and ascension to glory, his salvation has been, by “ the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Wherever the light of revelation shines, all are freely invited to partake of its blessings; none are excluded but those who wilfully and obstinately exclude themselves; the guiltiest of the guilty are declared welcome to come to the Saviour, yea, those who had imbrued their hands in his blood had a special commission addressed to them, for Christ came “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Let all, then, who read this tract, seriously consider whether they have obeyed the gospel call-whether they have given themselves up to Christ, and are depending on him wholly and alone for salvation; and should they still be in doubts respecting their state for eternity, let them flee without delay to Him who is still inviting them to come and receive the water of life freely. Aggravated is the guilt of the gospel despiser, and dreadful shall be his doom if he continue in his sin—for if “ he that despised Moses' law died without mercy, of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace !"
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY,
27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON ;
J. F. SHAW, BOOKSELLER, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, LONDON.
J. & W. Rider, Printers, Bartholomew Close, London.