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nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God*.” “Without holiness,” saith another scripture, shall see the Lord;" t that is, no man shall be saved through Christ, without a sincere disposition to the practice of true religion : and that this is understood of the whole course and tenor of his life, is clear from the epistle of St. James before recited, that “ whoever (wilfully and habitually) shall offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
Two important remarks will naturally follow this doctrine; I will now add them, as briefly as I can, by way of conclusion.
All boasting and confidence in our own merits, are hereby totally overthrown. We are commanded indeed to follow the example of Christ, and to “ be perfect as our Father which is in heaven is perfect ;” but yet our powers are so derived, as well as restrained, that we must be sensible of our imperfection, both in the measure and manner
* I Cor. vi. 9, 10.
+ Heb. xii. 14
of our performance, and therefore we should be thankful to come unto God by Christ. “ Pride was not made for man :” and the reasoning of the apostle, where he asks “ who made thee to differ from another?” and “what hast thou which thou didft not receive?” was not only applicable to the converts to whom he was writing, but to the most pharisaical professor of the law of Moses, or the most selfsufficient philosopher of the Athenian porch, But when we consider ourselves as christians; as trembling sinners before the justice of God, and “ saved only by the riches of his grace;" we must naturally array ourfelves in that lowly garb which befits so humble a condition.
But I shall observe to you, in the last place, that though very defective in our best obedience, and very
unable of ourselves “ to please God,” yet still we are commanded to do our best, and for these best endeavours we shall be mercifully accepted. No man must live in wilful sin, and he must strive to attain the greatest perfection in holiness; and then - his weakness will be perfected in strength,” his failures pardoned, and his services accepted.
I KINGS XVIII. 21.
AND ELIJAH CAME UNTO ALL THE PEOPLE,
AND SAID, HOW LONG HALT YE BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS? IF THE LORD BE GOD, FOLLOW HIM; BUT IF BAAL, THEN FOLLOW
The argument here used having reference to a fact, it will be proper, in the first place, to turn to the circumstances that introduce it, and then proceed to the narrative itself, as it is plainly recited by the historian of this chapter.
The previous circumstances are these.
The kingdom of Israel, after its separation from that of Judah under Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, from situation and policy became exceedingly corrupted in religious principles, and devoted to the worship of idols. And this was more particularly their case under the administration of Ahab, who having married Jezebel, an idolatrous princess of the Zidonians, added her bigotry to his own; and, as we read, “ The had four hundred prophets of the groves, which did eat at her own table,” whilst“ he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, and made a grove, and did more to provoke the Lord God of Ilrael to anger, than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” This pre-eminence in idolatry was the more extraordinary, and marks the vehement corruption of his time, as his predecessors, for the most part, appear to have been as profligate and idolatrous as any princes upon record. . Possibly, there
may arise a thought in some of my hearers, how it should happen, that the children of Israel and Judah, who had so true an insight into the nature of God and religion, from their scriptures, and had received the most visible protection from his providence as a nation, should yet be so apt to fall away from their allegiance to him,
and corrupt themselves so often with idola try; that, as one* hath well observed from their history, " the great commandment which the jews particularly received, the Lord thy God is one Lord, and him only shalt thou serve,' they seemed to have made it their business continually to transgress.”
Their idolatry, however, when they had just come out of Egypt, though so gross as to give occafion to the first coinmandment, is not so much to be wondered at; for their minds, as well as bodies, were bowed down and debased by their long fojourning in the land of flavery and superstition: and it is universally true, that strong impressions are not eafily erased, and weak minds are ever îtruck with sensible representations. Even the idolatry of the heathens, at that time, will admit of some excuse, when it is confidered, that the first notions of God were worn out and forgotten by the vices of their fathers : so true it is, that every man, feeling himself dependent, naturally looks out for some support, be it religious or superstitious, against the evils of life and death;
infornuch, * Mr. John Hales of Eton.