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and grovelling, and “a haughty spirit goes “be“ fore a fall.”
II. We proceed then to explain the reasons, for which our Lord expressed such marked abhorrence of lukewarmness.
When he said, “I would thou wert cold or hot;
so then because thou art lukewarm and neither “cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth,” we cannot suppose he meant that such professed Christians were always more wicked, or in greater danger of perdition, than apostates or notorious profligates : though considering their advantages, obligations, and ingratitude, they may be often in fact more heniously criminal. I apprehend, however, that our Lord especially referred to the dishonour done by the lukewarm to his name, and to the mischievous consequences of their infectious and disgraceful example. Every one knows that a bad servant may do ten times more mischief, while he remains in the family, than he could do were he dismissed from it: and in like manner lukewarm professors do far more harm to the cause of Christ, by pretending to religion, than they could do by openly renouncing Christianity. One Achan in the camp caused more trouble and loss to Israel, than all the hosts of the Canaanites :
Neither" says the Lord,“ will I be with you any
more; except ye destroy the accursed thing “ from among you.
Corrupt professors of Christianity have in all ages been the grand obstruction to its progress.Mr. Brainerd, in the narrative of his mission
among the Indians, observes that he had great difficulty for a long time, to erase from their minds a suspicion that he had formed some design of injuring them under a pretence of preaching the gospel : so frequently had they been defrauded by nominal Christians! This is the case, in one way or other all over the globe: and the principal impediment to the success of the gospel in this land arises from the same cause. Lukewarm professors give irreligious people an unfavourable idea of evangelical doctrines. The prejudice against them is indeed naturally very strong, and men imagine they tend to licentiousness : but, were there no loose characters among those that contend for these principles; were they all“ a peculiar people, “ zealous of good works ;" this objection would soon be silenced, and men would be ashamed of thus calumniating their conscientious neighbours. -It is likewise well known, that we profess to experience “joy and peace in believing;” to find the ways of religion pleasant and delightful: and to choose rather to be “door-keepers in the house “ of the Lord, than to dwell in the tents of ungod“ liness.” “All this,' say worldly people, ‘sounds very well : yet these devout believers frequently come to borrow a little of our pleasure, and secm as intent as we are in securing a portion of our good things.' How can such men be convinced that there is superior excellency or satisfaction in religion ; while they see us cleaving to the world, and reluctant to renounce what we affect to despise :
The lukewarm are also the bane of those who have been newly impressed with a sense of divine
things. Under the preaching of the gospel, thoughtless sinners are awakened to a concern about their eternal interests; their consciences become uneasy, and their minds attentive to instruction : they are convinced that many doctrines which once they disregarded are true and important, and perceive the necessity of renouncing sinful pursuits, and of separating from their old associates ; and they become diligent in attending on the means of grace. But, if in this hopeful frame of mind, they come in the way of lukewarm persons, whose strong attachment to certain truths, and plausible address beguile their unexperienced hearts; they are easily seduced into false notions of liberty, not“ in keeping God's commandments,” but in disregarding them: and they gradually lose their tenderness of conscience, and diligence in “ labouring for the meat that endureth unto ever“ lasting life.” They are now taught, that strictness in duty and self-denial deduct from the freeness of divine grace : and various insinuations of this kind poison their minds with prejudices against the ministers and Christians, among whom they were first excited to inquire after salvation. Thus numbers, who apparently set out well, by means of an unsuspecting attention to persons of this description obtain a false peace, and finally settle among formal, disputations, or antinomian professors. These are “the little foxes that spoil the “ vines" just when the tender grapes begin to be formed; and thus give most poignant grief to faithful pastors, while they witness, but cannot prevent, the perversion of those who they hoped would be “their rejoicing in the day of Christ.”
But indeed the preachers of the gospel are themselves more exposed to temptation from the lukewarm, than from all other men whatever. We have like passions with our neighbours : and, when we have forfeited the friendship of the world by ádhering to the truths of the gospel, we are reluctant to meet also the frowns of religious people. Yet, unless we stand firm against the insinuations of Laodicean professors, and venture their keen reproaches and calumnies, we shall not deliver more than half our message ; we shall separate the practice from the doctrines of Christianity ; and pass over, in general and inoffensive terms, those very subjects which the state of our congregations requires to be most fully and plainly enforced. And, as lukewarmness commonly prevails more among the wealthy than the poor, our danger is very great: for their favour is both agreeable and advantageous, and their disapprobation exposes us to serious inconveniences, and often threatens great distress. Thus ministers lie under strong temptations to “shun declaring the “ whole counsel of God,” to “keep back some
things profitable to the people,” to speak softly and timidly, to call this prudence and candour, and perhaps to join in censuring such as are more faithful to God and the souls of men. Either such cases are not unfrequent in this metropolis, or I greatly mistake the meaning of the scriptures, and that of the words and actions of mankind. We should, however, seriously consider the apostle's words ; “ If I were a man-pleaser, I should “ no longer be the servant of Jesus Christ.”
In these and many other ways the lukewarm disgrace the gospel and retard its progress: they weaken the hands, disconcert the measures, and even ruin the simplicity of the ministers of Christ; while they damp the ardour, or mislead the earnestness, of real Christians. Can we, therefore, any longer wonder at our Lord's decided language against such pernicious characters ? Let us then,
III. Apply the subject in solemn warnings and particular exhortations.
Our blessed Saviour seems to address himself to the Laodicean church, to the following effect.
Thy lukewarm spirit and conduct are so contrary to the design of my religion, and the obligations conferred on my disciples, so dishonourable to my name, and so injurious to mankind l; that I am determined to give an awful lesson to all other churches, by casting thee off with contempt and abhorrence: I will therefore deprive thee of all thy abused privileges, and no longer leave thee the name or form of my holy religion.' In like manner, my friends, whenever any kingdom, city, , church, or congregation becomes like the Laodiceans, it will surely and speedily be deprived of its religious advantages ; “ the candlestick will be “ removed out of its place;” and this will be accompanied with other tokens of divine indignation. Thus interpreted, the words are indeed awfully prophetical: and, when lukewarmness becomes general in any church, however distinguished or denominated, it is a certain prognostic of approaching judgments, either spiritual or temporal.
But the application to individuals is more im