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greatly to regulate the conduct, and to form the character, of him who is the subject of this Discourse.
It must, however, be allowed, that there is such a thing as enthusiasm, and that it is often productive of fatal delusions, and other serious evils to mankind: and he who expects to discover truth, or the state of his soul, or his duty, by immediate revelations, or suggestions of the Spirit to his mind, without a proper attention to the written word of God, as the standard and rule of doctrine, practice, and experience, is verging to that perilous extreme. But, to depend on the influences of the Holy Spirit, to guide us into the knowledge of those truths, which are revealed in the Scripture; or to form our minds to those holy affections, to enable us to those duties, and to put us in possession of that hope, peace, and consolation, to which the Bible calls us; cannot be chargeable with enthusU asm by those who believe that blessed book.
Lasdy: The view, which the christian hath attained of the final account and retribution, has great influence upon him. He believes indeed that a sinner can only be justified before God by faith in Christ; yet he also believes, that every justified person will be graciously rewarded, probably both in the measure of his present consolations, and certainly, in the degree of his future glory and felicity, according to his present diligence, zeal, and faithfulness: and that the good works of true christians will be produced before the assembled world, as the evidences of their faith and love of Christ; even as the wickedness and negligence of nominal christians will be produced as proofs of their hypocrisy, impenitence, and unbelief. In hope, therefore, of being short
V«l. III. L
ly welcomed by his condescending and gracious Lord and Saviour, saying to him, "Well done, good and "faithful servant; thou hast been faithful in a few "things, I will make thee ruler over many things, "enter thou into the joy of thy Lord," this exemplary disciple of Christ, continued to improve his talents to the end of his life; and no doubt he is -won entered into his blessed "rest, and his works fol"low him," and his Lord doth honour him; according as he hath said, "Them that honour me, I will "honour, but they that despise me shall be lightly "esteemed."
These were some of the principles, which combined their influence, to form the character before us; and if their tendency be properly estimated, they will be found fully adequate to the effects, which have been ascribed to them: nay, they would produce far greater, and more excellent effects upon the conduct of mankind, than we ever witnessed or heard of, if they were complete in their subsistence and operation; and if they were not counteracted by a variety of internal, and external impediments, in this world of imperfection, encumbrance, and temptation. Let us then proceed,
III. To shew that these same principles, wherever they exist, must of course produce the same effects; allowing indeed for difference of situation, natural temper, and other circumstances.
An habitual apprehension of our relation to God and the eternal world, and of those obligations which thence arise; the custom of judging every one of our thoughts, words, and actions, according to the holy and spiritual law of God; that humiliation of heart, which is the never failing effect of this severe and exact self-examination; that firm belief of the doctrines of salvation for sinners, through the merits and sufferings of the incarnate Son of God, and by faith in his name; that peace and hope, which spring from reliance on the mercy of God in him; that love and gratitude, which the rejoicing believer feels towards his adorable Redeemer and Friend; that view of every object in its relation to the cross of Christ; that willing subjection to him, as our beloved Lord and Master; that knowledge of the true value and comfort of life, and that daily preparation for death; that sincere prayer to God for, and constant dependence on, the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit; and that prospect of the day of judgment and the glorious recompence then to be awarded to us by our reconciled God, which have been spoken of, need only to be clearly stated, in order to shew that they cannot fail to have a most powerful effect, when with combined energy they operate from year to year, in regulating our hearts, pursuits, and actions. They will assuredly give a peculiar direction to the exercise of a man's abilities, and the use of his influence, time, and possessions; they will continue to insinuate themselves into every operation of his mind, and every undertaking of his life; they will gradually turn all his purposes and pursuits into one channel, and thus lead him to contract habits, in many respects opposite, to those persons, who are uninfluenced by them. Nor should we have cause to wonder at any degree of exertion, self-denial, or liberality, to which a man thus impelled should at length attain; when the will of his Lord, the honour of his cause, the relief, comfort, and benefit of those, whom he deigns to acknowledge as his brethren and friends, or the salvation of immortal souls, demand them of him. And we might reasonably expect, that he would be ready to abridge himself of every needless pleasure; to renounce opportunities of accumulating wealth, or acquiring distinction; nay, to venture, and even to lay down, his life, to subserve those great ends, for which the Lord of Glory shed his precious blood.
No application of mind, no contrivance to render other employments subservient to those important objects, could in such a case appear wonderful. The precepts and example of Christ; love to him and his people; compassion to perishing sinners; a sense of duty; a wise regard to present comfort, and to that of a dying hour, and to the interests of eternity, must concur in urging the believer to devote his all to the service of his God and Saviour. The utmost that he can do must appear little, when compared with his infinite obligations, and the perfection of his rule. He must still find much to be ashamed of, and be left to the last, entirely dependent on the mercy of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ. And indeed, the only thing to be wondered at, is, that we are so feebly influenced by so,many and powerful principles, and that we are so often induced to forget them, and act contrary to them.
The same principles cannot fail to lead the christian to judge of other men by the same rules: and while his heart melts with compassion towards them, and his Band is stretched out to relieve the miseries of his bitterest enemies, and the vilest of the human species; he cannot but judge, that the most of them are thronging the broad road to destruction; nor can he be induced to flatter those with the hope of heaven, who continue strangers and enemies to this great salvation; or to amuse them with encomiums on their dignity, and on the merit of their supposed virtues, of which the highest object is self-exaltation. This habitual reverence for the example, precepts, authority, and honour of Christ, must prevent him from conforming to the fashions, or courting the friendship, of a world which is in rebellion against him: and the same principles that constrain him to the most enlarged beneficence, induce him also decidedly to refuse compliances which are contrary to his conscience, and with a holy singularity to shun all places and avocations, that interfere with his "walking in all the ordinances "and commandments of the Lord blameless." They evidently tend to produce at once, abstraction from worldly pleasures, and a serenity and cheerfulness of mind without them: they teach at the same time frugality in personal expencc, and an enlarged scale of charity; and they render that course of life delightful, which appears wearisome for its sameness, and melancholy through its seriousness, to those who have not experienced, and are as yet incapable of relishing, its exalted and refined satisfactions. And finally, whilst so many tremble at, or run away from, the thought of death, through apprehensions of meeting something far worse than the most distressing evils of lilt; these principles must conduce to a composure of