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ruleth among the armies of heaven, and over the inhabitants of the earth; to whom all judgment is committed; whose last decisive sentence will determine the everlasting condition of the whole human race! Let us inquire into the causes of this ingratitude to our best Friend; of this preposterous shame, where we ought to cherish a spirit of exultation, and even to make our boast in God our Redeemer. Let us consider what is implied in the contrary conduct of confessing him before men-before those who are most inclined to revile and oppose; even before an adulterous and sinful generation. Let us seriously reflect upon the solemn obligations under which we lie, not to deny the Lord who bought us; not to be ashamed of that great Head of the Church, whom to know and acknowledge is our truest bliss, our highest glory.
One cause why even those who believe the Gospel, too often act as if they were ashamed of its divine Author, is the dread of incurring the scoffs of a wicked world. Not that bad men can, in their hearts, despise the virtuous and godly. But, as the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom necessarily tends to the subversion of that of Satan, they are prompted by the great adversary of all goodness, to combine in opposing the progress of our holy religion: if they cannot entirely extinguish the heavenly fire, they will at least attempt to diminish the brightness of the flame. Conscious that they are in the path which leads to destruction, like the malevolent master whom they serve, they take a cruel delight in constantly adding to the number of those who wander from the right way. Hence, they persecute the good with unrelenting malignity; industriously throwing obstructions in their way; exaggerating their infirmities, and distorting their virtues; assaulting them sometimes with the insinuations of ridicule, and sometimes with expressions of direct contempt; and the fatal consequence of these virulent attacks is too often a culpable fear of confesssing our faith in Christ, and love of his holy religion.
The desire of obtaining the commendation of those with whom we converse, is a natural propensity of the human mind. But in yielding to this propensity, is it not to be feared that we permit the dread of unjust reproach to control the emotions of a pious heart? We are afraid to let our light shine before men, lest, instead of glorifying our Father who is in heaven, they should only vilify his servants here upon earth. · When the wicked are în our sight, to escape the voice of the slanderer and the blasphemer, we keep silence, even from good words, although it be pain and grief
We are ashamed of Christ, from an unreasonable deference to the opinions of ungodly men.
Another cause of this timidity among those who in some respects entertain a becoming sense of religious obligation, is the dread of being deemed vain pretenders to an extraordinary degree of piety. Daily experience teaches us, that the best things are liable to be abused to pernicious purposes. The mask of religion is sometimes assumed in order to conceal the base designs of vice. Under the sanctimonious countenance, pathetic ejaculations to heaven, and fervent declarations of inviolable attachment to Christ and his religion, too often lurk vanity and affectation--the very spirit of the ancient Pharisees, all whose pretensions to extraordinary piety were designed merely to be seen VOL. II.
of men. Now, the dread of incurring the imputation of this odious vice, has frequently an undue influence even upon the well disposed mind. To avoid one fault, we too hastily run into the contrary extreme. We
suppress the natural expressions of attachment to our Lord and Master, lest we should be called mere formal professors. Because sepulchres are sometimes whited and appear beautiful outward, we are afraid to boast of the goodly structure even of true religion; to solicit the attention of mankind to its attractive colours and just proportions.
Again; many of those who are not entirely destitute of religious impressions, shrink from a candid profession of their faith in Christ, and love of his religion, from an unreasonable fear of singularity. Mankind in general are devoted to the business of this life, while the great concerns of eternity are neglected or forgotten. Whithersoever we turn our view, to make provision for the flesh, in order to fulfil the lusts thereof, seems to be the chief incentive to all human thought and industry: one is going to his farm, and another to his merchandise, and the world and the things of it engage their whole affection. These are the common subjects of conversation in almost every company. Professing Christians, instead of building each other up in our most holy faith; instead of mutual exhortation to love and to good works, spend too much of the precious time which might be devoted to religious improvement (like the inhabitants of ancient Athens) in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. Religion is an antiquated subject, which has no novelty for the curious, no amusement for the gay and profligate, no offers of honour to the ambitious, no subtile schemes by which the love of money may be i gratified: hence, it is exploded with too evident marks
of disrespect. To oppose the strong current of cus1 tom, requires equal fortitude and discretion. We
decline the offensive appearance of singularity, in openly advocating the cause of religion, amidst a host of lukewarm friends, or avowed adversaries. We seek honour one of another, but disregard the true honour which cometh from God only. We fear those who can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but we fear not him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. We are ashamed of being singularly pious, in opposition to the fashions of a wicked world; but we think not how great will be our abashment and remorse, when the Son of man is
ashamed of us before the assembled universe of intel·ligent beings.
Those whom I have hitherto mentioned as chargeable with the fault condemned in the words of the text, are not entirely uninfluenced by religious sentiments; but, the good inclinations of the heart are not displayed with sufficient alacrity and zeal in their words and actions. There is another class of much more desperate offenders; men who are determined to work all manner of wickedness with greediness, and therefore wish to throw off all the restraints of religion. These seem to be given up to a hardened heart of unbelief. They not only refuse to acknowledge Christ as the Redeemer of sinners, and the Lord of all power and might, but they vilify him as a base impostor: his person they treat with contempt, and his words are represented as idle tales. They refuse to weigh the arguments that are adduced in support of the veracity of the blessed Gospel. They either hear not at all, or, if they listen, it is under the influence of invincible prejudice. They themselves know nothing of the comforts of religion, and they take a cruel delight in depriving others of this heavenly consolation. They even wish to banish the remembrance of the name of Jesus from the face of the earth that sacred name at which the whole intelligent creation is commanded to bow in token of inward reverence-that name of wonder and of love, the very mention of which may well cause the hearts of guilty mortals to exult with songs of thanksgiving and praise. Unhappy men! how vain are their efforts to destroy that goodly fabrick which is founded on the rock of ages! How destitute is even their present condition, of some of the sweetest comforts which man can enjoy on earth! What horrible consternation, whạt inexpressible wretchedness will overwhelm them at that awful moment, “ when the “ Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his
mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on " them that know not God, and that obey not the “ Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be “punished with everlasting destruction from the pre« sence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; “ when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and " to be admired in all them that believe." That we, my brethren, may be numbered among these happy šaints; that we may be prepared to participate in this glory and admiration, let nothing ever induce us to be ashamed of our only Lord and best Friend-neither the fear of the scoffers of these last days, nor the apprehension of being called vain pretenders to goodness which we do not possess, nor the dread of singularity