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that it withdraws their attention from Divine things, which ought to have the chief place in their esteem.
6. There are, however, some happy souls, of a more elevated cast, who, grateful to God for the temporal mercies which they enjoy, aspire after communion with him, and the manifestations of his pardoning love, as the most satisfying portion. Thankful for the bounty of a kind providence, their daily cry is, "Lord, lift thou the light of thy countenance upon us '!" “ Grant us thy blessing, and life for evermore?!" “Remember us, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people. O visit us with thy salvation ! that we may see the good of Thy chosen, that we may rejoice in the gladness of Thy nation, and may glory with Thine inheritance 8!"
7. There can be no reasonable doubt, whatever the world may think to the contrary, but that such a choice of Divine pleasures, in preference to those which are earthly, is the result of the highest wisdom which a finite being can exercise.
Worldlings will, perhaps, be ready to stigmatize those who pay a suitable regard to the interests of their souls, with the opprobrious epithets of fools, fanatics, and inadmen. But what avails all the abuse with which bad men load the conduct of the good? Death will soon put an end to their ungodly strife and opposition; and decide, for ever, who are wise, . and who are foolish-the wicked, or the righteous; those who serve God, or those who disobey him.
But there is no necessity for referring the determination of this point to the “ hour of death and the day of judgment;" since God has already determined it, and left his decision on record for the instruction of all ages. “ The fear of the Lord is
• Psalm iii. 6. ib. cxxxiii. 3. 8 ib. cvi. 4.–6.
the beginning of wisdom ;-a good understanding have all they who do His commandments : His praise endureth for ever h.”
The following lines convey a just reproof to those who reject the Gospel, under an opinion of their own superior wisdom : “ Wrong not the Christian ; think not reason your's ;
'Tis reason our Great Master holds so dear;
And dips in venom his twice mortal sting fl." Who then will venture to question the truth of God's declaration, who pronounces those only happy and wise who honour him by a strict observance of his precepts? The final end of the righteous fully justifies their pious conduct, their self-denial, their tears, and the tribulations which they experience on earth. After their pilgrimage is finished, they die to inherit the kingdom which God has prepared for them that love him. But who can tell how great that bliss is which awaits the favoured servants of the Lord'? The bare prospect of it should excite in us a holy desire to become wise unto salvation, that we may share in the happiness
of his people.
8. This blessedness lies within our reach, and
may be obtained by diligent seeking. “Then shall ye find me, when ye seek me with all your heart ii.
Conscious of having spent too inuch time in the
pursuit of things which will soon vanish away, resolve in future to live more in the practice of piety and righteousness. Your souls must exist for ever in happiness or misery. Be it your care to prosecute their welfare with unremitting assiduity. Seek to be justified by faith in Christ; and then, with those glorified spirits which surround the throne of God, you will be able to rejoice evermore in his love, and say, “ Praised be the God of my salvation !"
LECTURE LXVI. THE FOLLY, CRIMINALITY, AND DANGER, OF NEGLECTING
Mark viii. 36, 37. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall
a man give in exchange for his soul ? Every rational being feels a desire to be happy. The various pursuits of men have happiness, in some shape or other, for their professed object ; though it is obvious that the nature of this good is mistaken by some; and sought for, by others, where it is not to be found.
There are, but comparatively, few who discover that true happiness is no where to be found, but in the knowledge, love, and approbation of God. Hence the generality of men, taken up with the pleasures or
the occupations of this transitory life, agree to treat religion, which is the only source of true joy, with neglect and indifference; as if it were a fable, or a tale, in which they have no interest, or as if it had no benefits to confer which deserve their attention.
•We can easily trace the causes to which such culpable negligence may be ascribed.
1. Men are tempted to neglect their salvation,
through an undue pursuit of, and attachment to, secular things. Some worldly object-such as riches, honour, pleasure, fame-captivates their minds. The gratification of some darling lust, some iniquitous desire,leads them astray from God,and gives them a distaste for the pure enjoyments of the Gospel of Christ.
But it is a thought which merits their serious consideration, Whether any momentary advantages, to be derived from these corrupt sources, will countervail the final loss of their souls, and that bliss which constitutes the blessedness of the saints in heaven? Can it be really believed, that the pleasure arising from any temporal good will compensate a man for the forfeiture of eternal life a ?
In the hurry of business, in the midst of carnal and depraved gratifications, men may indulge these fatal mistakes ; but death will undeceive them, and exhibit most fully the absurdity of setting their hearts upon those vain objects which now allure them.
live fools ; But fools they cannot die.” 2. The fear of reproach deters many from embracing religion, and acting as it directs. They see some of those who have the courage to avow an open regard for Christ, persecuted, and treated with derision by the profane and the irreligious : for this reason, they are afraid to range themselves under the banner of Christ, lest it should expose them to the same illiberal treatment. The laugh of the world is more than they are willing to bear, for any. benefits which they expect from religion; and therefore they are content to forego them, rather than endure reproach from their fellow-creatures. Forgetful of the encouraging promises of support which God has made to his faithful people, they shrink
• Mat, xvi. 26.
back from the cross, as if it were too heavy to be
borne. And what is this, but to cast an unjust E reflection upon the Lord, and to say His service is a grievous yoke, to which they will not submit :
Jehovah reproves this cowardly spirit, by saying, " I, even I, am He that comforteth you. Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass ; and forgettest the Lord thy Maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth as ?” But, if this rebuke has not the effect intended by it, such fearful persons should listen to the threatenings of God against
them, and ask, Which is most easy to endure, the i momentary laugh of their fellow-worms, or the dread
frown of God without intermission! He has told us of the consequences that will hereafter attend a denial of His name and cause from worldly motives : “Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him, also, shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh, in the glory of his Father, with the holy angelsb.”
How necessary, then, is the exhortation of Christ, to all who either hesitate or dread to follow him lest they should be reviled by the world : “ Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul ; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hello.
From the foregoing observations, we see that an inordinate love of the world, or a desire of sensual pleasures, or a disinclination to encounter persecution for the Gospel, leads multitudes to deny Christ, ** Isa. li. 12, 13.
Mark viii. 38. c Matt. x. 28.