« PreviousContinue »
trate this, his design? Ah! be warned in time, and since you cannot contend with Omnipotence, strive by a holy life, by an abandonment of your own sins, and by ceasing to partake of the sins of others, to secure the favour of God.
I might add many other motives, but these are surely sufficient to excite you, if you are not entirely insensible. Let us then pass to our
IIId. Division, in which we were to give you some directions, to enable you to comply with the injunctions of the apostle.
1. Be careful that your own heart and life are holy. Sin is infectious; and as long as you are polluted with it, you must communicate its poison to those with whom you associate. Besides, if yourown life is unholy, your conscience will prevent you from faithfully reproving sin in others, or your ill example will render your reproofs inefficacious. Make sure, then, of a sound conversion unto God. Begin with personal reformation; let the polluted fountain in your own heart be purified, or it will send forth streams to poison your neighbour.
2. Cultivate a high value and love for the souls of men. That which we love, we shall not readily injure; and if we have a proper regard for immortal souls, we shall rather forego many pleasures, than give a wound to them. If you look at those who are most noted for partaking of other men's sins, you will find that they are those who know not the worth of a soul. If you go to them and say, “ Act not thus, it exposes your brother to perdition, you will hear them answer with the spirit of Cain, “ Are we our brothers' keepers ?” or, like the malignant high-priests, “ What is that to us ? See thou to that.” If you would, then, avoid the doom, avoid the sentiments of these men,
and ever remember that a soul will outweigh a world, that its eternal destiny is not to be trifled with.
3. Mourn before God for the sins of your brethren. When God passed through Jerusalem to smite it, he spared none but those who cried and sighed for the abominations that were done within it. (Ezek. ix. 4.) All others were esteemed partakers of the general corruption and were swept away with the overflowing scourge. Be careful, then, if your neighbours, and friends, and relatives, resist all.other means, to lament their obstinacy, and bewail their wickedness before God. This has been the conduct of the pious : lest they should partake the sins of others, they mourned over them. Lot “ vexed his righteous soul from day to day, in seeing and hearing” the lawful deeds" of the inhabitants of Sodom. David cries, “ Rivers of water run down mine eyes,
because men keep not thy law.” “ If ye will not hear the word of the Lord,” says Jeremiah, “ my soul shall weep in secret places for you, and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears.” “ Many walk," says Paul, “ of whom I tell you weeping, that they are enemies to the cross.” And our blessed Lord himself, poured forth the tears of sorrow over rebellious Jerusalem. Thus must we act, if we would free ourselves from the sins of others; thus must we act, if we would have that tender compassion for the souls of men, which would animate us to diligence in admonishing and instructing them.
4. If we would not partake of the sins of others, we must reprove them. I have reserved this direction as the conclusion of my discourse, because there are few duties more important, and few so much neglected as this duty of brotherly reproof.
« Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but reprove them,” says the apostle: clearly intimating that we shall be esteemed to have a fellowship and participation in those sins which we do not reprove. Rebuke, then, profane swearing, intemperance, blasphemy, and Sabbath-breaking, and other vices which you see committed. 6 There is a holy silence under God's correction; Aaron held his peace: and there is a sinful silence under man's corruption; Eli held his peace also.”
But whilst I solemnly urge you to this duty, I must caution you also to perform it in a Christian manner, and with Christian sentiments; or, instead of benefiting, you will injure religion and your neighbour. Be sure, before reproving, that your brother is guilty; conjecture, suspicion, rumour, are not sufficient ground for a reproof: be sure that your aims are holy; if you are animated by pride, by vain-glory, by a desire to contradict and control others, your reproof is a sin. Let God's glory, hatred of sin, and a love of your brother's soul, be the only principles which animate you. Reprove always in proper season, seriously, impartially, and with meekness.
THE ALMOST CHRISTIAN.
Acts xxvi. 28.
Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
Such was the exclamation extorted from Agrippa, by the force of truth. He, with Festus, Bernice, and a large assembly of other persons, had listened with attention, while Paul, with eloquence and boldness, had displayed the firm foundations of the Christian faith; had shown the admirable accordance of the gospel with the Old Testament; and had proved that Jesus was the Messiah, from the predictions ac. complished in him. The ignorant and prejudiced Festus derides the apostle as an insane man; but Agrippa, who was instructed in the scriptures of the Old Testament, cannot but feel the force of his proofs, and almost becomes a Christian; but, alas ! his passions and his temporal interest prevent him from becoming so altogether. He cannot make those renunciations which the gospel requires; he there. fore stifled the convietions of his conscience; closed his eyes to the light of truth, and lived and died, rejecting the Redeemer.
My brethren, there are still many Agrippas in the world; many who are almost Christians; but who yet will for ever perish. The majority perhaps, in gospel lands, resolve to be saved, and make some efforts for their salvation; but they cannot unreseryedly devote themselves to the Lord. ' Like the amiable and moral young ruler, who was “not far from the kingdom of heaven,” they “ go away sorrowful,” when some particular duties are enjoined on them ; and they therefore, notwithstanding the hopes that had been entertained respecting them, perish as certainly as the more openly profane.
My sole design in the present discourse is, to draw the character of an almost Christian; to show you how far a person may apparently advance in the ways of piety, while he is uninterested in the blessings of the covenant, or the blood of Jesus. Favour me with your attention; the subject deserves it: listen with self-application; inquire, as did the disciples, “ Lord, is it I? Is itl?" and supplicate that grace which can render you not only almost, but altogether a follower of the Redeemer, a member of his mystical body, an heir of his everlasting glory.
I. Let us then delineate the character of the almost Christian. Let us show how far a person may apparently advance in the ways of piety, while his heart is yet unrenewed, and he a stranger to God.
1. He that is only almost a Christian, may have much speculative knowledge of religious truths. He may receive the true doctrines of Christianity with a faith that is not true. In times of ignorance he may discern and pity the blindness of those around him. In times of error he may, as a champion for the truth, oppose heresy, convince gainsayers. He
be among the number of those mentioned by the apos