Зображення сторінки

ry great number even of those I have called the better sort of the middle classes of men) let us in time, and in good earnest, cast off all our sins, ne. gligences, and follies by true repentance. Let us draw near, and acquaint ourselves with God, that we may be at peace. You can have no true peace, assurance, or satisfaction of mind in this life without it: for if you be of the class I am now refering to, it is too late for you to have a perfect enjoyment of a life of sin and dissipation. And be- . tween that kind of peace, or rather stupor, which those who are abandoned to wickedness, those who are wholly addicted to this world, and make it their scle end (or those who are grossly ignorant of religion) enjoy, and that inward peace and satisfaction which accompanies the faithful and earnest discharge of every known duty, there is no sufficient medium. You may go about seeking rest in this wide space, while your hearts are divided between God and the world, but you will find none; whereas the fruit of righteousness, of a sincere and impartial, though imperfect obedience to the law of God, is peace and assurance for ever.

Sixthly, and lastly. To facilitate the exercise of devotion, cultivate in your minds just ideas of God with whom you have to do upon those occa

Esions; and divest your minds as far as possible, of all superstitious and dishonourable notions of him. Consider him as the "good" father of the prodigal son, int that excellent parable of our Saviour.' "Let it sink deep into your minds, as one of the most important of all principles, that the God with whom we have to do is essentially, of himself, and with out regard to any foreign consideration whatever, abundant in mercy, not willing that any should pe. rish, but that he had rather that all should come to řepentance; and then, notwitlistanding you consider yourselves as frail, imperfect, and sinful creatures , "and though you cannot help accusing your. selves of much negligence, 'folly, and vice, you mây 'still approach him with perfect confidence in his readiness to receive, love, and cherish you, upon your sincere return to him.

In this light our Lord' Jesus Christ always represented his father and our father, "his God and our God. "This is the most solid ground of consolation to minds burdened with a sense of guilt; and, what is of great advantege, it is the most nå. tural, the most easy, and intelligible of all otkéřs. If once you quit this form hold, you involve yourselves in a system, and a labyrinth, in which you cither absolutely find no rest, and wander in un.


certainty and horrot'; or if you do attain to any thing of assurance, it is of such a kind, and in such a manner, as' can hardly fail to feed that spiritual pride, which wilt lead you to despise others ; nay, unless counteracted by other causes, too often ends in a spirit of censoriousness, hatred, and persecution.

Reiglous melancholy, the most deplorable of all the cases of melancholy, will never be effectúally relieved by any consideration, but that of the mercy and clemency of the Divine Being This unhappy state of mind arises from superstition. It consists in an excessive and unreasonable fear of God, and is peculiarly incident to persons of the greatest tenderness of conscience. And if we consider nothing but the holiness of the divine nature, and our proneriešs to vice and folly, there will be To end of this distressing scrupulosity in the bestdisposed minds. But, in our situation, we must learn to acquiesce in the sense of our manifold imperfections, and the unavoidable consequences of them ; and to take refuge in the goodness and compassion of God; who considers our frame, and remembers that we are but dust. This is the part of humility.


So long as we are seeking to justify ourselves in the sight of God (unless our minds be absolutely blinded) we shall not fail to condemn ourselves ; for there is not a man upon earth, not even the most just and righteous man, who docth good and sinneth not. Yea, in many things we offend all: so that, if we should say we have no sin, we should deceive ourselves, and the truth would not be in us : but it is a never-failing source of consolation, that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighte


Moreover, let it be considered, by persons labouring under this deplorable calamity, that this fear of displeasing God, and anxiety about our fun ture state, is one of the best evidences we can have that our hearts are, upon the whole, right towards God; that we are seeking first, and before all things else, the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and that we are not so much concerned about the bread that perishes, as about that which endures to everlasting life. Our Saviour said, Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted; blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteouness, for they shall be filled; so that this excess of religious fear, producing despondence and melancholy, is a state of greater safety, though it be less pleasing, than that of religious.joy.

state tuous

This fear of God, when it has once exceeded its due bounds, and degenerated into superstition, and when it is not cured by a confidence in the divine mercy and clemency, by that love which casteth out fear, is of a most alarming nature, and has often been productive of the most fatal effects. What is it that superstitious mortals have scrupled either to do, or suffer, in order to recommend themselves to God? Voluntary pains, and penalties, of the most frightful kinds, have not been spared for this purpose ; and men, like ourselves, yea, the excellent of the earth, men of whom the world was not worthy have been persecuted, and massacred, under the idea of doing Gød service.

I shall, also, here give an admonition concerning another inconvenience which we are apt to be betrayed into, by imperfect and unworthy conceptions of God. It is that kind of enthusiasm, which arises from an excess of religious joy, as the superstition I have just described arises from an excess of religious fear. It is well known, that, in the beginning of a religious life, persons of a warm temper of mind are apt to be carried away with extreme fervour. They are swelled with a tumul


« НазадПродовжити »