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ture; and to feel how these have been stirred
up and agitated and inflamed in you, by the great enemy, against whose devices you are so frequently and so faithfully warned in scripture. And it is this consideration that has taught you to seek for strength in the Lord, and in the power of his might; to take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, whereby ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.
Let it not, however, for a moment be imagined, that our own endeavours - to keep ourselves thus in the love of God, and to build ourselves up in our most holy faith ; or, in other words, that the obedience which we are required to yield to the preceptive will of God, diminishes in the least degree the glory of his grace. There are some who, in the simplicity of their hearts, have cherished this opi. nion; wishing above all things to honour their Saviour, and fearful of mixing up any thing in the work of their salvation besides his meritorious righteousness. To such I would say, the best way to honour Christ, even as the Lord your righteousness, is practically to obey his will : for to this end
he died and revived and rose again, that he might be the Lord of the living and of the dead; or of those whom he is pleased to quicken from a death in sin to a life of righteousness. This was the joy that was set before him--the joy of imparting spiritual and eternal life to those who were dead in trespasses and sins, and under the sentence of death eternal. It was his obedience unto death that entitled him, on the terms of the covenant of works, to the reward of eternal life. But this reward he could not in any other way receive, than by becoming, as the Head of his body the church, the depositary of life for those whom he undertook to redeem. It is because he lives that they live also. But the life which he is exalted to bestow, is, as we have seen, a spiritual and heavenly life. It is by his Spirit that they, the members of his mystical body, are quickened, and made alive unto God. Life can only be known by its activity. The principle of life itself is invisible; its existence can only be ascertained by its vital operations. But indiscernible as this principle itself is, nothing can be easier than to ascertain its existence. A corpse can never deceive us. We see the image of death visibly enstamped upon it. And so it is with the spiritual life. Its presence is indicated by its vital operations: and if these are not discernible, we have a right to say, here there is no spiritual life, no living faith ; nothing but the region of death, and the sepulchre of the faith which is dead, being alone. And let it be remembered that there is a day of scrutiny appointed, and that the fire of that day will try every man's work, of what sort it is. The question which that day will have to determine, in regard to all who have lived under the gospel, will be whether they have obeyed Christ or not. And it is this which renders the gift of the Spirit, to build us up as an habitation for God, and' to work in us both to will and to do that which is well pleasing in his sight, so necessary and so precious. Unless we thus become fellowworkers with God, unless we work out our own salvation, God working in us, and add to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity, there is no spiritual life in us, and we have neither part nor lot in the salvation of the gospel. It is true, that he in whom a good work is once really begun can never entirely desist from it; but it is equally true, that a person may deceive himself and others, and may build upon a wrong foundation. And in consequence of this, his joy (as we have seen) will be only that of the hypocrite, which is but for a moment, and his triumph that of the wicked, which is but short. The house of the one as well as of the other is built upon the sand, and when it falls, as fall it must, great will be the fall of it.
Let me then call upon you again, to examine, by this criterion, whether or not God has begun this good work in your hearts. Your edifice, if it be founded upon a rock, will not be the less secure that you have again examined the foundation: and your comfort will be proportionably increased, by the conviction thus acquired of its firmness and stability. If it has indeed been begun, it will be the main object of your attention. You will give yourselves to reading, meditation and prayer, and willy watch thereunto with all perseverance. Your hopes and fears, your pleasures and pains, your joys and sorrows, will be chiefly affected by this important question,' Am I renewed after the image of God, or am I still unrenewed, and under the dominion of sin ? Instead of being offended at the imputation of hypocrisy, this is the very thing of which you will be most apt to suspect yourself ; nor can you exercise too great a jealousy over yourself, lest you fall into this snare of the devil. The temptations to it are numerous. Among these I may mention a premature profession of religiona beginning to build, without having previously counted the cost. Those young persons are most in danger of this, who, in consequence of a strictly religious education, have given their parents or teachers reason to believe that they are truly serious, because they are skilled in the language of religion, and are strict observers of its forms and phrases, whilst they have not been at sufficient pains to enquire whether or not their hearts be right with God. I know that I am treading upon delicate ground, nor will I push the enquiry farther. A hint is sufficient. May the Spirit of God render it effectual.
Another, and a very opposite temptation, is, that of being afraid of discovering for religion that reverence which you really feel for it. The most effectual guard against this temptation is, to recollect that you are constantly acting in the presence of your God and Saviour, and of the holy angels, who have been witnesses of the public profession of religion which you have made.
have made. If the
If the eye of faith be steadily and habitually directed to these glorious and exalted spectators of your conduct, the contrast between their dignity and glory, and the meanness and insignificance of those worms of the earth that would deride and insult your religious profession, will, perhaps, determine your choice-yes, it certainly will. It will draw aside the veil which conceals the invisible world from your view, (such is the power of faith!) and you will see a glorious company, all the host of heaven, on your side; all the saints in light and glory, with the Lord of saints and angels at their head; and you will hear them saying to you, Hold fast that which thou hast: let no man take thy crown.
It is by such realizing views as these of the glory and happiness of heaven, that you will be most effectually guarded against a vain and frivolous temper, and a sinful conformity to the world in its customs, maxims and manners. And if are thus alive to God, and to the concerns of eternity, your ears will be open to receive instruction from the voice of his providence, from the voice of his word, from the voice of his Spirit, and of your own conscience, as to your intimate companions, the books which you read, and the amusements in which you participate.' A tenderness of conscience