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such idle follies? It is as if the whole world should be in a ferment about the toys and amusements of children.
But surely, my brethren, these trifles do not constitute that religion, which is thought so supremely important, which has created so great anxiety, and produced such memorable effects. What evidence is there that God was the author of them, or that salvation can be attained by them? They are not learned from the gospel, for the religion which it teaches is a widely different thing. It contains a religion worthy to be revealed by God, and worthy to be the guide of more perfect beings than men. It reveals sublime doctrines, and inculcates pure affections, and proclaims holy laws.
Read the descriptions of a truly religious life, read of the spiritual warfare, of the struggles with sinful appetites, of the watchfulness against temptation, of the constancy of faith, of the purity of heart, of the love of God, of the charity towards man, of the personal holiness, of the hatred of sin, of the profound humility, of the contempt of the world, of the affection for things above, which are represented as being of the very essence of Christianity, and you will see that the slender fabric of formal religion, which man has made, is founded upon the sand; you will
see that it is utterly unlike that well compacted and substantial edifice, of which God is the maker and builder, and which, being founded on a rock, will abide eternally.
The law of Christ, my brethren, is a spiritual religion; this is the religion into which you were baptized, this is the gospel which you have received, and in which you profess your faith; this also is the gospel, by which, for Christ's sake, you will be saved, unless you have believed in vain. All forms of religion are only designed to be instrumental to this "power of godliness." I argued in favour of them this morning, upon that principle alone, I argue against them now as entirely worthless, except as helps to promote and regulate the spirit of piety, and surely I have said enough to convince you of the vanity and absurdity of them, when separated from the ends which they were meant to serve. I have shown you that they are not worthy to have been commanded by God, nor to be practised by men; I have shown you that there is no religion in them, no sense in them, taken alone, no salvation to be expected from their mere observance.
And yet I doubt not, many of you will, notwithstanding all this, still continue to trust in them; many of you will still make your religion consist entirely in them; many of you will frequent
the house of God, sabbath after sabbath, and at the end of your lives, be no more " spiritually minded" than at present. You come regularly to this place of public worship, you do well, for the outward ordinances ought to be observed; you sit with patience, and listen with decorous attention; you take your part in the solemnity; you hear the word of God read and preached; the service concluded you retire. Well how have you been engaged? What have you gained? Have you repented? Have you prayed? Have you received instruction into your hearts? Have Have you been excited by piety? you been awakened to piety? Have you given vent to religious feelings, or have you acquired them? Or did you come only with the intention of going through a tedious ceremony of words and postures, and do you withdraw satisfied with having fulfilled that intention? Nay, you came to perform your religious duty, and you have performed it. What duty? The duty of repentance, and prayer, and thanksgiving, and enquiry after religious knowledge?
Perhaps these questions are "parables" to you; perhaps the duty you have performed is only that of "going to church; and you will leave this place with self congratulation, as if you had offered an acceptable service to God,
and you will live in sin and carelessness for the rest of the week, and repair hither again on Sunday next, to go through again the same unmeaning and unprofitable ceremony.
This at least is the history of many a strict observer of the sabbath.
My brethren, "This
man's religion is vain." crifice, and rejects the person of the offender. Indeed, at the day of judgment, he will reject much higher claims than this. "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name done, many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity."
The day of judgment !-think, I beseech you, of that awful time! You profess to believe that it will come; you ought to have nothing so much at heart as your preparation for its arrival.Think then of that dreadful day, when Christ, who is now our Saviour, will be our judge; when there will no longer be a refuge for sinners at the foot of the cross, but he who once hung upon it for their redemption, will "sit upon the throne of his glory," and execute justice upon them! The multitude assembled before him will be divided, some to the right hand, and others to the left; and who will constitute that miserable crowd on
the left hand, the side of the reprobates? Perhaps you answer, Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics; heathens that had never heard his name; atheists, and blasphemers, and idolaters; the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. What! think ye that no nominal Christians will be there? No baptized Christians? None who have been instructed in the doctrines of the gospel? None who have been frequent partakers of Christian ordinances? Alas, many shall seek to enter into heaven upon these pleas, and those very pleas will be the strongest bars to keep them out. It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for them; for that servant that knew his Lord's will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes; and many shall come from the East, and from the West, and from the North, and from the South, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God, but the children of the kingdom (those to whom the gospel was made known, but by whom it was not sincerely embraced,) shall be cast out; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth when they reflect on the calls which they despised, on the privileges which they abused, on the happiness which they might have enjoyed, but now have lost for ever.
My brethren, when you anticipate in thought, your appearance before that great tribunal, and