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to tell you, that the religion which God loveth is that of the heart. Men may battle, and strive, and contend from year to year, spending their strength, and their thoughtfulness, and their learning about forms of church government and ecclesiastical discipline; and they may learn to hate those who differ from them with the most orthodox enmity; and yet all the while their own hearts may be as hard as the nether mill-stone, and as cold as the grave into which they are going: there may be all the while the outward forms and appliances of worship-all the dignity of the cathedral, or all the affected simplicity of the meeting-house; and, yet, neither in the one nor the other may there be any thing of a pure and holy worship. There is something altogether independent: and this, we believe, doth contain within itself the very history, the very concentration of our present dangers-that in religious matters, as much as in mere worldly matters, we are forgetting that which containeth the very heart and soul of all profit. It is neither on the one hand nor on the other hand, neither in this nor in that form of government, that we should find spiritual-mindedness: it may be absent from the one or the other, and we are to seek it in higher, and better, and holier things: these are only the frame-work: as far as they go we have no manner of question that the one is right and the other is wrong; but we must not, and we dare not, exalt them above their due measure: we remember that an unspiritual state of the human heart may consist entirely with the one and the other. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth."
And now let us go forward to the second head of our subject, and speak to you concerning that which is THE REmedy.
Now the remedy of this unspiritual condition which doth at this time so pervade the various classes of our community, which doth so infect and so endanger our days, is not to be found in any mere exposition of truth; is not to be found in any softness of persuasion, in any force of demonstration or of conclusive argument. For it would be very possible indeed that the preacher, whom God hath gifted for his work, might open the Bible, and therein expound to the people, on the authority of God himself, how that the only value which belongeth to human existence consists in preparation for another world. He might shew how vain and slippery are all the paths of this world's advancement, and the hearts of the people would bear testimony to the truth of it; they would be utterly unable
to deny it, and they would feel that they had been "toiling in the fire," and that nothing but "vanity" had come forth. And then after all this exposition of the truth, and all this pains-taking argument, and this apparently inevitable conclusion, they do go back again, and be just as little spiritual, and just as entirely worldly, as ever before.
It would be possible for a minister to speak of heaven, so as to seem as if the hearts of the people must be touched, and their spirits must be moved within them. I do not mean those representations of heaven, poor and mawkish as they are, which derive all their attractiveness from earthly imagery; which draw upon the stores of the imagination, and dress out a future paradise very like indeed to something we have been looking for here. But I mean those scriptural representations which set before us heaven as the place of holiness and love, and the intelligent service of the blessed as the place where God is, and where his people are like him; and this might be so explained to the people, that they could not but be arrested; but, perhaps, they would not understand, because what was preached to them was spiritually discerned, and "the carnal mind receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." Or perhaps they might please the intellect, and there might be something singularly satisfactory in the representation, and they would rest upon it, and delight, perhaps, to recur to it: but all the while it remained in the head, and never came down to the region of the heart.
But we will suppose something better than this: we will suppose that they were touched and affected, and that it did not pass away like the morning cloud or the early dew; and that, perhaps, for the first time in their lives, they passed the threshold of the church with no word of light and easy salutation for their acquaintance on the right hand and on the left: and they went home with pensive thoughts, and some newly-awakened and enkindled desires for heaven, and holiness, and happiness. But then, if this were all, the next day there would come the world with its biting and absorbing cares; and it would dress out its attractions in such loveliness, and it would speak its delusions in such a syren voice, that the heart which seemed to have been been impressed would be rendered back again, and all its former objects, and its affections, and its desires, and its hopes, would be again devoted to the world.
Beloved, there wants something beyond all this to drive us from our unspiritual condition: there requireth the manifestation of God
to the spirit; there requireth the opening up to us of this great text
-"God is a Spirit." "No man hath seen God at any time: the onlybegotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Therefore, if you would be weaned from a worldly condition, if you would be brought out of the bondage of an unspiritual state, you must seek to know God as he is revealed in the Gospel of his dear Son; you must seek to know Him whom to know is eternal life. Now it was the great object and purpose of redemption, to bring man out of his carnal into a spiritual state; to lift him out of the desperateness of that condition into which he had fallen, and to restore him to communion with God, and to elevate him, and to bless him, just by bringing hope to dwell again in the habitation of his heart. The only way in which this is ever accomplished is by the work of the Holy Spirit, that Spirit which Jesus poureth out upon his chosen ones, that Spirit which taketh of the things of Jesus and sheweth them unto us, that Spirit which bringeth us away from all carnal, and formal, and pharisaical services, and shows us what God is, and what God requires. And so does the Spirit take us, as it were, by the hand, and lead us to the courts where better worship is rendered to the Lord; delivering us from the darkness and the bondage of our original state; opening up to us clear and spiritual views of God, of his providence, of his grace, of the ultimate tendency of all his designs; unveiling to us the glories of heaven-not as a vague thing, not as a matter of mere abstract contemplation--but telling us that all that is ours, for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
In short, the change which thus taketh place, whereby a man passeth from a carnal to a spiritual state, is nothing else but that regeneration whereof Jesus spake, and concerning which men have fallen into such mistakes. It is neither more nor less than that of which the apostle speaks, when he assures us, that he that is in Christ is a new creature:" and until that hath been commenced, and is carried on in the heart, man remaineth carnal and unspiritual ; and all the means, and all the opportunities of grace are wasted; they fall like the dew upon the face of the carth. God, by the operations of his word and the ministration of his Gospel, attended by the influence of that Spirit whereby his church is edified, doth bring his people into the expectation of higher and better things: and when a man hath once had heaven opened to his view-when he hath once had his conversation there, having felt that his citizenship is in the New Jerusalem, and that earth and hell might combine together, but
they could not deprive him of his inheritance; then there is a character of poorness cast on all the world's attractions, its opinions, its interests, and enjoyments; they have lost all their power over him, because he hath put on him the character of pilgrim, and he is going straight forward to the place which God hath appointed for him, and he does not linger, and he will not turn to the right nor to the left, lest he peril that which is so precious.
And it is also in respect of the present that this change doth evidence itself. Show me the man whose heart is evil-show me the man who hath so disciplined his spirit in a bad schooling, that he is content to take up with the fragments of pleasure which he hath, and to put up with the crumbs of present enjoyment; and I will pronounce of that man, that concerning all that is loftiest and greatest in the human mind, it is that which lieth beyond his present attainment, something which he cannot reach till he hath been detached from the earth, and till his conceptions have grown lofty by becoming heavenly.
And now, brethren, we commend this matter to you, especially on these three points. First, self-examination. There subsist in the whole world but two families-the family of the carnal, and the family of the spiritual: you must belong to the one or the other. You call yourselves by the name of Jesus, and you vindicate a participation in his Gospel, and you, at least, would have on your dying beds, the enjoyment of that which he hath pledged to his people. But the Gospel is spiritual; the object of Gospel-worship is spiritual; the heaven, where the Lord's people shall finally be gathered, is a spiritual place. Therefore examine yourselves upon this head: mark to the which you belong, for be assured of this as an eternal and unchanging truth, that there shall be no passing away from the family of the carnal into the condition, and the enjoyment, and the worship of the spiritual, when this present dispensation hath closed upon it.
Use it for discipline. Even God's people, those who in truth are joined unto him, and are living a life of faith in the Son of God, are in perpetual danger; there is peril to them even in the house of the Lord, that they shall be satisfied with external things; that they shall be content with lip service and a form of worship; and that which doth captivate and attract the understanding may be enough for them. Let them bethink them again and again of this-"God is a Spirit."
Lastly, use it for comfort. We feel sometimes that our sorest trial is, that we cannot be altogether spiritual, that the soarings of the spirit are hindered, and that we are chained down to the things of time. There cometh a day when all this shall be ended, “God is a Spirit:" it will be the joy of his people to dwell with him; they shall worship him in spirit and in truth; and they shall need no more the beggarly elements whereunto now they are so much indebted. They shall need no more a formal observance of external worship. They shall want no more these poor sanctuaries to be built in which they may assemble only at stated times for the service of the Lord; but every day shall be a sabbath unto them, and all eternity shall be their period of worship. In that heavenly Jerusalem whereunto they are tending there shall be no temple, "for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it."