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worse if they engross them to themselves,) but if they divide our affections, they detach us from Him whose dignity can admit no competitor, whose holiness accepts not the homage of a wavering soul ; who has Himself declared us unworthy of Him, if we suffer the best and purest of earthly affections to interfere with our devotion, who warns us to pluck out and cast from us the very apple of our eye,” if its glances are directed to unlawful objects : and the warning is given under the implied penalty, if we retain the offending member, of being cast into that dreadful region, “where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”
And is not this an appalling consideration? Jeshurun became the votary of fashionable follies and vices; the seduction of voluptuous temples, and luxurious feasts, and delicious music, and festive dances, and jovial conviviality, (for in these consisted the prevailing idolatrous rites of the polished nations around him,) withdrew him from the solemn, and sober, and self-denying duties of the true Church of God. And is there no alarming parallel in the history of our lives? Does conscience sleep so soundly in our bosoms, that we can read, and condemn, and pity the conduct, and the punishment of Jeshurun, without one glance at our own corresponding delinquency, and similar danger? Is it nothing to us that his false heart is doomed to quiver in everlasting burnings?
Little can that man know of himself whose soul can meet this thought without trembling ! But, though we must, in the knowledge of our own infirmity and faithlessness, “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” yet there remains, in the experience of our Lord's patience and endurance of our provocations, a blessed and a sure foundation for hope. He found us, at first, when we were lost in the wilderness of the world ; He reclaimed us when we were wilfully astray;
He helped us when we fell through weakness; He recalled us when we erred from forgetfulness; He supported us in the hour of strong temptation ; He shielded us amid a thousand unseen and unsuspected dangers ; He has spread his wings over us from our youth up even until now : and will He now desert us, and be extreme to resent our deviations, and inexorable to cast us off and leave us to our doom?
Thus fear and hope combine to awaken us from the intoxication of our senses and of the world ; fear, lest if we continue to wander from the path of life, we may get beyond the reach of our great Guide's call, beyond the endurance even of our Saviour's patience; hope, that we have not yet lost sight of Him, not yet exhausted his forbearance ; that, as He has so far rescued us, sometimes almost against our will, from the power of sin and the dominion of our own passions, the same merciful care will be extended over our future progress, and at length to the Spirit; reckoni ing ou ations, carnal venera Churc
“take us out of the quagmire that we sink not, and set our feet upon a rock, and order our goings.”
But, relying with a firm confiding faith upon the will and power of our Lord to save us; beware that we do not suffer that confidence to assume a dangerous shape, and induce us to remit our own exertions, or indulge our waywardness ! Eternal justice will not suffer mercy to screen us from our punishment, if we be thus wilfully perverse, making the longsuffering of God minister to our rebellion!
Look, then, at our situation, without presumption, and without despair : there is enough, in ourselves, of inconsistency and weakness to humble the one ; enough abundantly sufficient, in the goodness of God, to save us from the other! but not if we turn our heads toward the wilderness, and look back from the land of promise to “ the flesh-pots of Egypt ;" not if, being often reproved, we “harden our necks,” and become willingly deaf
of our balang measu sinful Lent,
some purif vices unne dant resui that and byt
to the calls and warnings of the saving Spirit; not, if the appointed seasons of reckoning with our own souls, of examining our ways, and correcting our deviations, be passed over in worldly and carnal neglect ; not, if the sacred and venerable institutions of the Christian Church, the ordinances of our Maker and of our Saviour, are to be weighed in the balance of this world's wisdom, and measured by the standard of blind and sinful men ; if the salutary observance of Lent, the deep and solemn humiliation of our Lord's passion, the severe but wholesome contrition of the crucifixion, the purifying discipline of our penitential services, are to be laid aside, as irksome and unnecessary, by those who are yet abundantly ready to join in the festivity of the resurrection, and to share the triumph of that victory to which they are too selfish and too sensual to have contributed, even by their sympathy in the fearful contest, even by the slightest expression of in