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concerns you to remember. For you will have been assured by the Spirit of God, as well as by the minister of God, THAT [Heb. 12. WITHOUT HOLINESS NO MAN MUST SEE THE LORD. That the design of all the laws and ordinances of God is, to make you [2 Pet.1.4.] partaker of a divine nature; that is, to make you holy, that you may be capable of being happy. And that we are heirs of salvation on no other terms but these; that we study to please God in the whole course of our lives; and that we must not satisfy ourselves with the outward duties of religion; which are of no value in the sight of God, if they do not help to free us from the slavery of sin, and restore us to the image of God.
And, to oblige you not to be indifferent in a matter of so great concern, you will remember, that you have been often told, how very different the portion of good and bad men is sure to be in the next world. And that if you make God your enemy by an unholy life, you are for ever undone.
You will then begin to think it worth your while to call to mind, in what, as you have been often told, this holiness consists. That it is not confined to the time you are at church, or at your prayers; but that it must be the work of your whole life. That you must be holy in your conversation, that is, inoffensive and exemplary. Holy in your dealings, that is, just and conscientious. Holy with regard to God, reverencing every thing that belongs to Him, hearing His Word, resolving to be governed by His commands; praying to Him for what you want, and praising Him for His mercies. That you must be holy with respect to your neighbour; that is, you must do him no mischief; you must relieve him in his necessities; you must pray for him; and forgive him, if he has injured you. Lastly, that you must be holy in what relates to yourself; holy in your devotions, that is, sincere and without hypocrisy; holy in repenting when you have done amiss, and returning to your duty without delay; holy in moderating your affections for this world, that you may LOVE THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART. You must be holy in prosperity, that is, not high-minded; holy in adversity, that is, patient and resigned to the will of God. You must be holy in your apparel, modest and free from pride and vanity; holy in your diet, not given to intemperance,
SERM. to gluttony, or drunkenness; holy in your diversions, not making them the great business of your life.
If you are a parent, you must express your holiness in bringing up your children in the fear of God; if a master, you must be holy, that is, just to your servants, remember[Col. 4. 1.] ing that you yourself have a master in heaven.
In short, you will have been told, that nothing ought to discourage you from being as holy as possibly you can be; because God, who requires you to be holy, has obliged Himself to assist you with sufficient grace and power; and because the more holy you are, the more happy you are sure to be when you die.
Now, if you have pondered these things in your heart, you cannot but come to some such resolutions as these following:
'I am now convinced, that the manner of my life is the only proof of my being in the favour or under the displeasure of God. That to lead a careless, thoughtless, or a useless life, will certainly bring upon me the sentence of the [Luke13.7.] fruitless tree: Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground? I will therefore endeavour to please God, by being as careful of my ways, and as obedient to His commands, as His grace shall enable me to be. And since He is so good as to allow me to call Him my father, I will endeavour to lead such a life as becomes the child of so holy a father. To this end, I will endeavour to understand what the will of God is, and will compare my life with those rules He has given me to walk by, that I may be satisfied whether I am, in truth, in the way of holiness or not.
'I will not delude myself with saying, that every man has his faults, and that God is merciful: for I understand He is just as well as merciful; that He hates sin in every body; and that if my faults are such as He hates, and has forbidden, and I continue in them, I shall provoke Him to deny me the benefit of His mercy, and shall feel the severity of His justice. I will not therefore, as I love my own soul, live in any known sin, but will keep a strict watch over my heart and actions, and deny myself, and part with, any pleasure rather than displease God. Nor will I flatter myself with vain hopes, that I may get habits of holiness hereafter, and before
I die; for if I think it too soon to please God now, He may be provoked to deny me His grace, and then I shall never be holy, never happy.
'And because good purposes, without a change of life, will signify nothing but to condemn me, I will therefore beg of God to touch my heart most powerfully from above, that I may not only resolve, but do, what He would have me.'
Such resolutions as these, every christian should make, when he hears the Word of God read or preached. And indeed, it is plainly for want of minding the things they hear, and for want of pondering them in their hearts, that christians are so careless, so ignorant, and so wicked. And those very people, who would not for the world deny their religion, or give up their hopes of heaven, are yet in danger of never going to heaven, because they would not hear with attention their duty nor their danger, nor ponder them in their hearts.
People do not consider, that want of learning will be no excuse, in a christian country, for their being ignorant of their duty. Such as will attend the church, and pray for God's grace, and hear His Word with a serious and devout temper, and practise what they know, are in as sure a way of happiness as the most learned. Take heed, therefore, how ye hear and if you would indeed profit by hearing, and carry a blessing home with you, imprint upon your hearts some such truths as these:
'This is God's minister: what he delivers is God's Word. I mind attentively my betters when they speak to me, and I lay it up in my heart and shall I forget what my Maker has said, as soon as I am got from His presence? God forbid. I will rather go home, and consider with myself what use I ought to make of what I have heard, and will order my life accordingly.'
Do so; and God will increase your knowledge and your graces. And the word which you hear will become indeed the word of salvation (as St. Paul calls it) to every one that believeth, and so receives it.
And may our blessed Lord, who has caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may in
SERM. such wise hear, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that
by patience and comfort of His holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which He has given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
To whom, &c.
THE TRUE WAY OF PROFITING BY SERMONS.
VOUCHSAFE, O Lord, to direct me, and bless this discourse for the good of my flock that they may glorify Thee for the truths they shall hear, and for the blessings they shall receive, by the ministry of the most unworthy of Thy servants, O Sovereign Pastor! Amen.
LUKE Viii. 18.
Take heed how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; See Amos 8. and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken, even that which 18. 14; he seemeth to have.
11; Matt. Heb. 2. 1, 2, &c. :
1 Thess. 2.
James 1. 21.
I HAVE already, in a former discourse, explained to you 13; 4.1; what our Lord means by this earnest caution; namely, to assure us, that according to the measure of our love for God's Word, our attention in hearing it, and our care to profit by it, shall be the measure of grace which God will give us.
I have already shewed you the danger of living under the light of the Gospel, and not being bettered by it: our Saviour says expressly, "that it shall be more tolerable for [Matt. 10. Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for such people:" because the word which you hear is "not the word [1 Thess. 2. of men, but in truth the Word of God."
This is My beloved Son, saith God, hear ye Him. And it is [Mark 9.7.] His Gospel we preach, we explain, we press upon you. It is HIM you despise, when you mind not what is said to you by His ministers.
And, on the other hand, when you come to church with a serious, teachable temper, and hear His Word with reverence and submission, you do most certainly engage Him to enlighten your minds with saving truth.