Page images
PDF
EPUB

adoption, which deviseth liberal things; thine is that soul which is born from on high, and which doth not commit sin; thine is that love which fulfilleth the law, and which perfecteth the saints.

But show me the man whose servile soul is moved only by the fear of punishment, to yield a grudging and penurious service to his Maker; and to that man I must be sparing of consolation. I must remind him, that it is the heart 'which God requires; that God hath respect to the offering of a liberal giver; but that he hath no regard to the churl, or to his offering.

Thus far I might argue upon general principles, that we ought not only to abstain from what the law of God probibits, but also to fulfil, to the utmost of our power, what the spirit or intention of the law requires. But as I speak to Christians I will now resort to an authority which they must acknowledge to be valid, and sufficient to decide the question.

The proposition wbich I have laid down then, is not deduced by remote inference, neither does it depend upon a single testimony; but is both supported and illustrated by a multitude of clear and express declarations of Scripture.

We are commanded, not only to “ depart from evil,” but “to do good;" not only to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, but also “ to perfect holiness in the fear of God.” Christ is proposed to us as our example; and what was his character? “ He went about doing good, and persisted, till he had finished the work which was given bim to do.” Nay, he saith himself (John ix. 4.) “ I must work the works of him that sent me.” And if he, who voluntarily came under the law, was bound to this active and extensive service, shall we, who are its necessary subjects, plead an exemption from it? Paul, in his epistle to Titus (chap. ij. 11.) informs us, that “ the grace of God, which hath appeared to all men, bringing salvation, teacheth us not only to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, but to live soberly, and righteously, and godly in the world ;" and that Christ gave himself for us, for this end, “ that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."

These passages of Scripture need no commentary, all of them point out the necessity of a positive and an active obedience.

But this is not all: Our blessed Lord, who well knew what was in man, seems to have directly calculated some of his discourses to prevent the possibility of a mistake on this subject. The parables of the rich man and Lazarus, of the talents, and of the barren fig-tree, plainly appear to have been delivered with this view.

We are not told that the rich man was in any respect injurious or oppressive to Lazarus: his guilt lay in his not extending his kindness to supply his wants. The unprofitable servant was cast into outer darkness, not for losing or squandering away his talent, but for hiding it in a napkin, and neglecting to improve it. And the fig.tree was cut down, and cast into the fire, not for pro. ducing bad fruit, but because it produced no fruit at all. But lest the allegorical dress of these instructions should leave men at too great liberty to explain away the force of them, this wise and provident Teacher, in a serious and awful discourse on the process of the last judgment, resumes the same argument, (Matth. xxv. 31.-). There he tells us expressly, that men shall not only be punished for doing evil, but also for neglecting to perform tive service; and in particular, for neglecting to perform the offices of humanity to their brethren. For tbe charge

ac

runs in these words: “I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.”—“For in as much as ye did it not to the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to me.” And tben follows the doom to be pronounced on those against whom this charge is brought: “ These shall go away into everlasting punishment."

From these passages of Scripture, we learn with assurance, that unless life is filled up with good works, death, which introduceth us to judgment, must approach to us with a dark and gloomy aspect. When conscience, awakened with the dawning of an everlasting day, shall prompt us to inquire, What we have done? How we have improved our time, our talents, and the means of grace with which we have been favoured? If in this review of ourselves, we shall be able to discover nothing but the traces of vanity and impertinence, how must we shrink back, and tremble to venture on the awful state before us? If God will judge every man according to his works, alas! what must become of the unhappy sluggard, who hath no works to show; who hath slept, apd trifled, and squandered away all his time? “O that men were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!”—“ How long, 0 ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?" How long, 0 sinner, shall that precious time on which eternity depends, be wasted in the pursuit of lying vanities? O think, how swiftly it passeth away, and how passionately thou wilt one day wish to recal it. Who can assure thee that the decree is not already gone forth against thee, “ Cut lim off, why cumbereth be the ground.”_" Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.”

Pardon me, then, if I speak to you as short-livedl, or as dying creatures; some of whom I may never see again till we meet before the judgment seat of God. Under this impression, let me deal freely with you, and call on you to review your past conduct, as if the Lord bimself were demanding an account of it.

Say, then, hath it been suitable to the rank you hold in life? Hath it even been rational? such as became those highintellectual powers by which you are raised above the beasts that perish? Would you consent to have it published before this congregation? Or rather, are there not tome parts of it which you would wish to hide from your most intimate friends; lest, partial as they are to you, the knowledge of them should quench their affection, and render you contemptible in their eyes? Are you then ready to appear in judgment, and to have all your thoughts, and words, and actions laid open and canvassed before an assembled world?

I shall not suppose you guilty of gross acts of wickedness. Perhaps the influence of education, the power of natural conscience, and the restraints of Providence, have hitherto kept you back from these. I at present charge you with nothing worse than the omission of duty, and the neglect of opportunities for cultivating and improving the talents which God hath given you. You have been thoughtless and inconsiderate, unmindful of the God who made you, and of the Redeemer who bought you with his blood. You have forgotten the end for which you was sent into the world. You have suf. fered the cares and pleasures of the present life, the bsiness or amusements of this flecting scene of vanity, to divide your hearts, and engross your time, as if the soul had been destined to serve the body; or as if this earth had been designed for your only residence and portiork.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Can you then review such a life without blushing and shame? When you think of it, doth it not appear mean and despicable even in your own eyes? And can it then be pleasing; or rather, must it not be bigbly offensive to that Almighty Being, who gave you a uature fitted for the performance of nobler services, and for the relish of higher enjoyments, than any with which you have been hitherto acquainted ?

For the Lord's sake open your eyes, and take a serious and impartial view of your condition. Blessed be God it is not yet too late. The door of mercy is still open; and though, like the prodigal son, you have hitherto been feeding upon husks; yet when, like him, ye shall return to your Father's house, and to the faithful and affectionate duty of children, your past wandering aud unprofitable life shall be forgiven; and ye may yet enjoy the honours and privileges of your Father's sons.

Having thus confirmed and illustrated the first proposition contained in the text, namely, that men sin, not only when they positively transgress the law of God; but also when they do not fulfil the duties which the law requires to the utmost of their power; I now pro. ceed to show you, as was proposed,

Secondly. That our guilt is more highly aggravated, when we neglect the duties which are known to us; or when we decline opportunities of doing good, though we are convinced that it is our duty to embrace them.

He who doth not seek for opportunities of doing good, is a sinner; that is, he counteracts the obvious intention of his Maker in sending him into the world: and therefore shall be dealt with as an unfaithful servant, who bath not applied his talents to the purposes for which they were given him. And if this be the case, then sure. ly the person who hath a knowo opportunity of doing

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »