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ruling principle becomes more pure, and has a predominating influence over his mind. But, where the heart is right with God, there it is bent upon doing one thing only. Other things may indeed, for a time, occupy, and strongly occupy, the mind; but they will be still so far under the controul of the religious principle, that nothing sinful, nothing contrary to the will of God, can ever be admitted: in short, nothing will be done but with a reference to the authority and superintendence of God's holy will and commandments.
Hence the conduct will in general be pure and correct. Where there is a deviation from what is right, it will be an interruption. There will be a principle of correction within, which will gradually tend to discover what is amiss, to remonstrate against it, and to amend it. For the true principle which influences the heart possesses in itself an excellency and a power which tends to bring every thing right. It is an universal principle-A regard to God will operate equally with respect to every part of duty: it will as much require duty to man as duty to God; it will enforce
practice as well as enjoin devotion; it will operate against lesser sins as well as against grosser offences. The same reasons which forbid the act forbid the principle also; the same authority which forbids us to commit evil requires us to do good; the same power which enjoins a moral conduct, equally enjoins a right state of the affections and desires. It is also a steady and uniform principle. The authority of God is, like himself
, permanent and eternal: it allows no cessation of duty, sanctions no negligence of conduct, admits of no indulgence of some beloved sin. It is also a most holy principle: it tolerates not the least degree of iniquity; it points at the highest state of purity, as that to which we ought to aspire: it raises the standard, indeed, to a height to which no human power can attain, but it reconciles us to this perfection of holiness by providing a remedy for our defects. Thus operating with perpetual force, in a direction ever right, it will produce a greater and greater degree of holiness in every part of the conduct of those who are truly influenced by it. Conscience, under its power, becomes gradually more tender: it will not suffer what is wrong: it will become an active guardian, watching over our best interests, regulating itself by the smile or the frown of the Most High, directing us to act continually in a manner more and more becoming the Poliness and Majesty of the God whom we serve.
4. And lastly, the right state of the heart will influence in a very remarkable degree, the future progress in religion.
“The path of the just is like the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Where all is right in the heart, where the fear and love of God prevail over the fear and love of the world, where the principle of action is pure and holy—there the progress cannot but correspond to the excellence of the principle. In this case, there will be seen that most interesting of all earthly appearances, the progress of a corrupt creature towards perfection, the gradual transformation of a sinful mind into the Divine image; the preparation of a depraved creature for the inheritance of the saints in light. Where the heart is not right with God, there will be no such gradual transformation. Life will be spent in a succession of feeble efforts for improvement, and of relapses into sin; increasing years will be marked with no decisive or perceptible growth in holiness; temptation will not have lost its power; the world will still retain its influence; the heart will be still the slave of selfishness and sin. The importance of religion may be acknowledged and felt, but its power will be unknown.
But enough has been said as to the effects of a right state of the heart; enough, I trust, to convince you, my brethren, that unless the heart be thus right with God, it is absolutely impossible that there should be any real religion. But some one will perhaps say, “I am convinced of the truth of your observation; but, alas! I am
also convinced that my own heart is not thus right with God! Tell me what must I do to obtain such a state of heart as I see to be indispensably necessary to my salvation?"
In answer to this inquiry, I would observe, that you must begin in religion with laying down this as your fundamental maxim, that you are to make the will of God the supreme rule of your conduct. Cost what it may, this must be done. Religion consists in your becoming a servant of God. You are now acting as if you were independent, and are living to yourself. In this state, religion is impracticable. You must now begin to be religious, with renouncing your own will and determining, by God's help, that you will obey him fully and implicitly; that you will make every sacrifice which he demands; that you will perform every duty which he requires; that your temporal interest shall not weigh with you when it comes in competition with your obedience; that your pleasures shall be given up, if they interfere with your duty to God and the interest of your soul. Will you make this resolve? Will you give religion so pre-eminent and honourable a place? Will you thus enthrone God in your heart? Do this, and the work is done. But to do this, is indeed the difficulty. It is so: but, remember, if you are disposed to do it, that the help of the Almighty will not be denied. Go, and implore divine aid. Prostrate yourself before your God. Confess your weakness and corruption. Acknowledge his right to reign over you, and to be obeyed absolutely and unreservedly. Set before you the importance of salvation. Your all is at stake. Religion will be only the source of pain to you, if it is not the source of enjoyment. The miseries arising from indecision are great and constant. You must, you must be decided. Set before yourself the character of God as your Creator and Judge, who is infinitely wise, and holy, and just and good. Learn from this the reasonableness of all that he requires. Can He be unreasonable in his demands who has made you what you are, and given you all that you possess? And. above all, set before yourself the wonderful work of your Redemption! See there what Christ the Son of God has done for you; and learn your obligations, not to live unto yourself, but unto him who died for you and rose again! Choose, therefore, whom you will serve; and beg of God to give you a new heart, and to renew a right spirit within you, that walking in the light, and serving God in sincerity and truth, you may at last be guided to light and glory everlasting!
ON THE CHRISTIAN'S HOPE.
Rom. v. 2.
We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. THE next thing to the enjoyment of heaven, is the well-founded and joyful expectation of it.
This expectation, when sufficiently strong, will so gild the scenes of this fading and transitory world, as to give to it a resemblance of the glorious state of felicity above. And this expectation it is the manifest design of the Gospel to communicate to man. “Being justified by faith,” saith the Apostle, “we have peace with God, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Whenever I set down to contemplate any subject connected with the Gospel of Christ, I never fail to be impressed with the very evident design which it every where displays to bless the children of men. I every where behold marks of compassion and bounty; such as could only proceed from Him whose goodness is, like his other attributes, infinite and incomprehensible. I perceive every where such an evident plan to bless, to exalt, and to ennoble fallen man,