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coming to us through his redeeming grace. All we possess must be held at his disposal ; and with a view to that account which we must one day give.
Thus Christ must be the Alpha and the Oméga, the beginning and ending of all our desires and affections.
0! how strait is the gate and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it.
May I never forget this unchangeable truth ; that Jesus is the only way of escape from hell and the only way of access to heaven.
Lord, let thy good Spirit guide me into this consecrated way. Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.
It is truly awakening to reflect how far a person may go in the circumstantials of religion, and yet be entirely destitute of the life of God in the soul.
The holy Scriptures abound with declarations to this effect, which prove the deceitfulness of the human heart, and the danger of resting in mere outward forms and orthodox opinions. Thus Job describes the character of the hypocrite: “What is the hope of the hypocrite though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul ? Will he delight himself in the Almighty, will he always call upon God ?" evidently implying that not having the root of the matter in him, though he had gained the applause of men for his seeming piety, he would soon grow weary of the service of God.
David also shews in awful colours the wickedness of false teachers : “Unto the wicked, God saith, what hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee."
Thus wicked men may enter into the priestly office, preach the Gospel, and talk about that covenant, in the blessings of which, they have no personal interest whatever.
The prophet Isaiah, by the Spirit of God, sets forth the extreme hypocrisy of the Jews : “ Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of David their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of their God. They ask of me the ordinances of jus tice; they take delight in approaching to God."
Thus their conduct was a strange mixture of apparent devotion and positive rebellion.
The prophet Ezekiel was shewn the true character of those who waited
him. They come unto thee as the people cometh : and they sit before thee as my people; and they hear thy words, but they will not do them ; for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness."
Our divine Redeemer has painted the hypocrite in his true colours: “ Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites ; for ye pay tithe of mint, annice, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites ; for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but within they are full of extortion and excess. “ Woe unto you, ye scribes and pharisees, hypocrites; for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and all uncleanness." serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell !"
When we consider, that these men were held in the highest esteem and veneration amongst the Jews, for their outward sanctity and devotion; we see how far persons inay go in the externals of religion, and yet be in the very gall of bitterness and in the bond
of iniquity. It was on this account that the apostle Paul so constantly warned the churches to whom he wrote, against false profession, and receiving the grace of God in vain. He speaks of those who hold the truth, but who hold it in unrighteousness. The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, are full of warnings against false-teachers, antichrists and deceivers. The charges to the seven churches, in the book of Revelation, most awfully shew the danger of declension, of leaving our first love, of becoming lukewarm, and consequently loathsome to an infinitely holy God.
Many, it is to be feared, have the reputation of being spiritually alive, whose souls, in the sight of God, are dead to all the vital influences of the Holy Spirit.
0! my soul, let not these solemn portions of God's sacred word be lost upon thee. Pray without ceasing for that grace, which can alone preserve thee from falling; and through the merits of Jesus, present thee faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.
Almighty Saviour ! awaken my drowsy sense; and make me alive to my real condition. Suffer me not to neglect thy blessed Gospel ; but draw me to thyself continually, for thy grace is sufficient for mé. Wash me in the cleansing fountain of thy blood. Place me upon that foundation which can never be moved. Arm me for the spiritual combat; and at last make me more than conqueror, through the power of thy might and the riches of thy grace.
Why should I linger here below,
I feel the weight of nature's guilt,
XIX. ON INADEQUATE VIEWS OF HUMAN NATURE.
The world is full of mourning, lamentation, and woe. We see many dancing along in thoughtless gaiety, and sporting on the brink of perdition; but this lightness of spirit is transient; sorrow soon darkens the glare of human happiness, and leaves the soul in sad dejection and despair.
This picture may be gloomy, yet it is true. Sin has defaced the moral excellence of man; yea, more, has converted him into whatever is base, polluted and depraved.
All his faculties and powers are now employed as weapons against his Maker; and the very plan of mercy, whereby alone he can be restored to holiness, happiness, and heaven, is opposed, neglected, or despised.
And yet, we talk of moral excellence in a fallen creature ; of goodness in a heart which is desperately wicked; of righteousness in a condemned criminal ; of amiable qualities in a mind at enmity
against God; of strength in a helpless worm ; of wisdom in a soul beclouded in all its powers.
Strange inconsistency! “ What communion hath light with darkness ?" The word of God condemns such a motley character, and pronounces a woe on that, which the world so much admires.
It is no uncommon thing to hear people talk about their good hearts and good intentions; when love to God, and a desire to please him, is an utter stranger to their breast.
These self-admiring persons consider as libellous, every attempt to tear away the mask, and to expose the native vileness of the inner man.
Thus pride, vanity, self-love, and unbelief, the deadly roots from whence all mischief springs, conspire to keep us in a state of bondage, and enveloped in the mist of error.
It is quite compatible with the vanity of our fallen nature, to extol as the highest excellence, those benevolent and patriotic feelings, which often exist in a heart totally alienated from God. The Bible acknowledges no real excellence, but what arises from the regenerating work of grace upon the soul. An attentive reader of that Holy Book must be struck with the faithful delineations which it gives of the human heart. Man is there represented, as he appears in the sight of God, when divested of all his meretricious ornaments.
What we call virtues, will be found, when analyzed, to be mere selfish principles ; and human approbation to be the secret spring of many a splendid action. This disclosure is revolting to our pride. But proud man must be humbled.
The Scripture hath concluded all under sin. at first finds the sinner. There is naturally no movement of the soul towards God; no affection for him; no trust in him; no obedience to him.
The first inclination of the heart to God, is the
In this state grace