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THE EVIDENCES AND CAUSES OF THE DECAY OF RELIGION, &c. 637

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(1.) Religion among them was brought to a very low ebb; they had some remains of it with them, but it was but remains. Their former stock was much spent, the holy fire was become very weak. There is no necessity of restraining this to the really godly among them : it is spoken to the body of that church. Time was when there was another face upon them; some had life-like stirrings by common operations of the Spirit, some by saying ones : but alas ! both sorts had quenched the Spirit, and were not now what sometimes they had been.

(2.) That which was among them was like to die out; they were every day growing worse and worse ; their light was growing dimmer and dimmer; their lamp like to go out.

2. A seasonable duty pressed on them for their recovering;

Strengthen the things which remain,” &c. Hold hand to what is left, that it do not go too. Under-prop the tottering building, that it fall not down for altogether. Repair the breaches that are made in it. Add new fuel to the dying spark, that it may not be extinguished, but nourished and cherished, till it break out into a flame again.

Doct. When religion with a person or people is brought to dying remains, it is high time for them to bestir themselves, and strengthen these remains, in order to a recovery.

In handling this doctrine, I shall shew,
I. When one's religion is decayed to dying remains.

II. What are the causes that bring one's religion to dying remains.

III. Wherein lies the strengthening of things that remain, and are ready to die.

IV. Lastly, Apply,

1. When one's religion is decayed to dying remains. This is a weighty point; and in speaking to it, I shall shew,

1. Some things from whence one's religion may seem to be brought to dying remains, while really it is not so.

2. Some things that will evince one's religion to be brought to dying remains, whether they think it or not.

First, I shall shew some things, from whence one's religion may seem to be brought to dying remains, while really it is not so.

1. The wearing away of violent affections and commotions of heart in religion, or the settling of flashes of affection. It is true, some never had more of religion; in that case, indeed, when these are goue, all is gone, Matth. xiii. 5, 6. But even the true convert may have more glistering affections than are true ones, when religion is

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new to him: and when these settle, and he gets more solidity of religion, that is not dying remains. James and John could have fired whole towns for Christ, Luke is. 54; but when they had more of the Spirit, they were not so fiery. See that prayer of the apostle's; Philip. i. 9, “ And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment."

Some think, O the love they had to Christ! sometimes they could not have prayed with dry cheeks, &c. But how like ye Christ now; would ye not rather part with all than with him ? are ye tender of grieving his Spirit? do yo pray oppressed with a sense of your sinfulness and unworthiness? These are not dying remains, as you may learn from what the apostle says, Rom. viii. 26, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities : for we know not what we shonld pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” And 1 John v. 3, “ This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous."

2. One's not being able to go through with duties with that ease that sometimes they have done before. Hezekiah says, Isa. xxxviii. 15, “ I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.” Self-confidence mixing itself with grace, may give more ease in the performance of duties than is welcome; the which when it is broken, so much of that ease is removed. One may have more temptations than formerly: the wind blowing harder in bis face, travelling is not so easy; but the horse may retain his metal, though he go not so cleverly, carrying double, as when single. But he who in the course of his way is striving, wrestling, and pressing forward to perfection, whether with less or more ease than formerly, is not come down to dying remains.

3. The marks of the decay of natural vigour left on religious duties. Christ says for his disciples, Matth. xxvi. 41, “The Spirit

. indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Though the being of religion does not depend on the case of the body; yet there is such a close union betwixt the soul and body, that the body may sometimes be a clog to the soul in religious duties, which is yet going forward in the way of God, not backward. It is not dying remains with old professors, who, in the way of believing and holy tenderness, are pressing towards the mark; that sometimes they could have remembered much of sermons, continued long in prayers, and holy exercises, heard or prayed not with dry cheeks; but now it is not so. Why, natural vigour is gone, moisture is dried up, memory is failed, &c. Was David's courage gone, when A bishai, the son of Zeruiah, haying succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him, his

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men sware unto him, saying, “ Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel ?” 2 Sam. xxi. 17. The man may have as great love to God, hatred of sin, desire to remember the word as much as ever : and the impressions abide, though the expressions slip from him, as much as ever. But he cannot make so good music as he did ; not because the skill is failed, but the instrument is cracked.

Lastly, More felt stirring of corruption than before. The apostle Paul says, Rom. vii. 21, “I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me.” And ver. 24, he cries, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” This did not speak him under a decay, because the struggle was kept up. Corruption may stir more than it did, when it has less strength than before ; as when death strikes to the heart of the patient, there are greater fightings than formerly, not because he has more strength, but that then wbat he has is put forth to the utmost.

Secondly, I shall shew some things that will evince one's religion to be brought to dying remains, whether they think it or not.

1. When the conscience boggles not but at gross outbreakings. That speaks very little tenderness left with the man, that conscience has little of God's bonds on it; it has so little feeling, that it is very near to being past feeling, Jude ver. 23. It is not so with thriving Christians; Psalm cxix. 113, the Psalmist says, “I hate vain thoughts : but thy law do I love.” The conscience is the first thing that is awakened, and becomes lively, when the Lord is at work with the soul; and when it becomes untender, it is an evidence little is left.

The untender conscience is an unfaithful watch in the soul, which may quickly involve it in ruin. (1.) It easily lets pieces of one's religion go, one after another. (2.) It easily admits into one's practice, things that have not the King's stamp on them, one after another. And thus churches, and particular professors, hasten to ruin, the spiritual building being taken down piecemeal, by growing untenderness, Prov. xxv. ult., “He that hath no rule over his own spirit, (says Solomon), is like a city that is broken down, and without walls."

2. When one's conscience is strait in the circumstantials of religion, but lax and wide in the substantials of it, as in the case of the scribes and Pharisees, Matth. xxiii. 23, 24, where Christ says, “ Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and commin, and have omitted the weighter matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith,” &c. These are come to dyiug remains; for alas! the main channel wherein tenderness ought

to run is dry, or shamefully shallow. Where lies the main of religion? in holiness of heart and life, that is, in moral duty to God and our neighbour, according to the ten commands. All the ordiDances of church communion and society are but means to that end; and therefore they shall be laid by, when this is fully attained ; and they avail nothing when they do not advance holiness. Wherefore we ought to be tender of both, Matth. xxiii. 23,

“ These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” And whether one make bold with the one or the other, his religion is like the legs of the lame, not equal; and what he has of it, is but dying remains.

3. When there is any one thing lacking to the perfection of one's religion in parts; see the text. That religion is in a ruinous condition, that is not entire, Jam. i. 4; like the house that stands wanting the cope-stone. The parts of religion are so necessarily to be joined together, that if one part be lacking, the rest cannot but moulder away, Mark x. 21. So the whole of what the man has, is but dying remains, in regard of what is wanting. And lience it comes to pass, as one may bleed to death at a neglected wound, while all the rest are taken care of: so one allowed lust will eat out the life of the soul, whatever execution seem to be made on the rest.

4. When folks' strength against sin and temptation is abated : that is a plain indication of a decay, for “ the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day," Prov. iv. 18. This is a sad case, for one the longer he lives, to grow the weaker; to be the easier ensnared by a subtle devil, and deceitful world; that says the communication betwixt Christ and the soul is much stopped, if there be any at all; that corruptions wax stronger, as the nails grow in decaying folk. Maybe ye think ye can pray as well as ere ye did: but indeed ye are not so patient, so humble, denied to the world, self-denied, ye are easier led aside to sin. Then thou art come to dying remains.

5. When the work of mortification is at a stand; the map's not watching his heart, and noticing the lusts rising there, and setting himself to mortify them, Rom. viii. 13. A Christian, if he be not going forward, is going backward; if not adding to his stock, he is losing. The garden will quickly be overgrown with weeds, if one be not daily working at them to pluck them up. The leaking ship is drawing water, if one be not busy at the pump, it may quickly be swallowed up. The thriving Christian never wants work. Hence says the apostle, Phil. iii. 13, 14, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things

which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

6. When though the duties of religion be kept up, yet spiritpally in duties is gone. Then what is left is but dying remains; for says our Lord, John iv. 24, “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in Spirit and in truth :" and says the apostle, Phil. iii. 3, “ We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit.” The sense of God's command does not stir up the man to duty; love to the Lord does not draw him to it; God's honour is not in his eye. He goes out in his duty in the power of his gifts, but no panting for the blowings of the Spirit. The spirit of the man goes not along with his body; his bodily worship, actions, and gestures, are but naked, yea, false signs; he closes his eyes, but his heart is not fixed on God; bows his knees, but his heart is not humbled; he aims not at the enjoyment of God; but all his duties run into the dead sea of self.

Lastly, When one is become a stranger to the life of faith in Christ Jesus, what is left is but dying remains. The soul, if it have any life in that case, is in a swoon ; for “the life which we now live in the flesh, we live by the faith of the Son of God,” Gal. ii. 20. The thriving soul is employing him daily, as a Prophet, a Priest, a King; growing into him, coming out of itself more and more, believing his word, prizing his imputed righteousness as its only hope, and labouring to subject the whole soul unto him in his commands, and the disposals of his providence. Where this is not, and the soul never grows more self-denied, more humble, resigned to the will of the Lord, what is there but dying remains ?

II. I shall shew, What are the causes that brings one's religion to dying remains.

1. Unwatchfulness, Rev. iii. 2. Carelessness about one's body is oft-times fatal to it; about one's substance, breeds a consumption in their estate; and unwatchfulness over the heart breeds a spiritual decay. How many this day have little or nothing left them in religion, who were once in a fair way of thriving, had they but watched their hearts ? Alas! there are too many enemies waiting to ensnare the soul, from without and within, for any to think they will get their attainments kept, if they do not watch.

2. Spiritual sloth, Eccl. x. 18. This is a bewitching sin; and if once Satan get men asleep on this enchanted ground, be sure they shall be robbed and spoiled there. Thus the spouse will rather let Christ go, than set her foot on the cold and wet ground, Cant. v. 3. Every one has a devil's agent within him, buzzing in his ear, Master, spare thyself; and when men sleep, the tares are sown.

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