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THERE are few ages of the world, which have not produced various instances of persons, who have treated the Divine dispensations, either with neglect
Of these, some have persisted in their folly to the latest period of their earthly existence ; while others have discovered their mistake in time, and both sought and found forgiveness with God. In most ages there have been some, who have piously obseryed the manifestations of Heaven ; who have cordially received the Holy Scriptures as a revelation from on high ; and who have built their everlasting expectations upon the salvation which is therein revealed. The hopes of such persons have never been disappointed. If they have lived up, in any good degree, to their religious profession, they have been favoured with peace of mind, and strong consolation in life ; firm confidence in Christ, at the hour of death ; and have frequently gone off the stage of time into eternity, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, with unspeakable and triumphant joy.—But how extremely different, is the last end of those persons, who have denied and scorned the revelations of Heaven ; who have rejected the Sacred Writings; and treated serious godliness with sneer and contempt ?- Nay, it has frequently been known, that the first-rate geniuses, and greatest men of their times, have left the world under much darkness of mind, full of doubts, and fearful apprehensions concerning the Divine favour, owing to their being too deeply immersed in secular, or lite
rary pursuits; to their living beneath their Christian privileges ; and spending too small a portion of their time in devout retirement, and religious exercises. Nothing, indeed, can keep the life of God vigorously alive in the soul, but these exercises. Where they are either wholly neglected, or frequently interrupted, there the power of religion languishes. Faith and hope, peace and love, joy in, and confidence towards God, grow weak; doubts and fears, disquietude of mind, and scruples of conscience prevail. The sun goes down, and sets, to this world at least, under a dark and cheerless cloud. But where the humble believer in Christ Jesus lays aside every spiritual incumbrance, and the sin which hath been accustomed too easily to overcome him; where he resolutely breaks through every snare, and lives to the great purposes for which we all were born; where, with Boerhaave, and Sir John Barnard, the duke of Ormonde, and lord Capel,(1) he spends a due propor
(1) It was the custom of three of these great men, to spend an hour every morning, in private prayer, and reading the holy Scrip. tures; and of the fourth to meditate half an hour every day upon eternity. This gave them comfort and vigour of mind to support the toil and fatigue of the day. We are told in the life of Ormonde, that “he never prepared for bed, or went abroad in the morning till he had withdrawn an hour to his closet.”
Lord Harrington, who died, A.D. 1613, at the age of 22 years, was a young nobleman of eminent piety, and rare literary attain. ments. He was an early riser, and usually spent a considerable part of the morning in private prayer, and reading the Sacred Writings. The same religious exercise was also pursued both in the evening and at mid-day.
Sir Harbottle Grimstone, “was a very pious and devout man, and spent every day at least an hour in the morning, and as much at night, in prayer and meditation. And even in winter, when he was obliged to be very early on the bench, he took care to rise so soon, that he had always the command of that time, which he gave to those exercises."
Colonel Gardener, used constantly to rise at four in the morn. ing and to spend “his time till six, in the secret exercises of devotion, reading, meditation, and prayer. And if at any time he was obliged to go out before six in the morning he rose proportionably sooner; so that when a journey or march required him to be on korseback by four, he would be at his devotion at farthest by two."
tion of every day in private prayer, meditation, and reading the sacred volume ; with these truly valuable men he usually hath large enjoyment of the consolations of religion, and abounds in peace and hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. He goes through life, if not smoothly and usefully, at least · contentedly and happily. While, in the eyes of those persons, who boast of their superiority of understanding, and freedom from vulgar prejudices, the Redeemer of the world becomes daily more and more contemptible ; and in the eyes of the lukewarm Christian less and less desirable ; in the estimation of the devout and lively believer, who, by waiting upon the Lord, renews his strength, the Son of God, in his person, offices, and work, appears, with increasing affection, the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. Being convinced of sin, and justified by faith, he has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him. He is strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, and Christ dwells in his heart by faith. Being rooted and grounded in love, he comprehends with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and he knows the love of Christ, though indeed it passeth knowledge. He is, filled with all the communicable fulness of God, and a peace passing understanding keepeth his heart and mind, through Christ Jesus.
“ A Christian dwells, like Uriel, in the sun :
And ardent hope anticipates the skies." The language of his soul, is, Whom have I in heaven but thee, O God? and there is none upon earth
General Waller, was as devout in the closet, as he was valiant in the field.
These religious persons were men of great consideration in the world, who were engaged in extremely active scenes of life.
that I desire in comparison of thee. To do unto others as he would have them do unto him, is the great law of his life, in all his dealings between man and man; and whereinsoever he falls short of a full compliance with this royal statute, he laments and bewails his folly; makes satisfaction according to the nature of the case ; flees to the blood of sprinkling for pardon; and returns with renewed vigour to the path of duty. Giving all diligence, he adds to his faith, virtue ; and to virtue, knowledge ; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. With zealous affection he cultivates the holy tempers that were in Christ; bowels of mercy, lowliness, meekness, gentleness, contempt of the world, patience, temperance, long suffering, a tender love to every human being, bearing, believing, hoping, enduring all things. He loves with peculiar affection the whole brotherhood of believers in Christ Jesus. He endeavours to acquit himself with propriety in every station, whether as master, servant, parent, child, magistrate, subject, teacher, learner. In short, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, to these he attends with the utmost diligence and assiduity. This is the christianity, which the Son of God taught unto the world.(2) And he
(2) Robertson, the historian, tells us, that “Christianity is ra tional and sublime in its doctrines, humane and beneficent in its precepts, pure and simple in its worship.” And even Paine acknowledges that “ Jesus Christ was a virtuous and amiable man; that the morality which he preached and practised was of the most benevolent kind; that though similar systems of morality had been preached by Confucius, and by some of the Greek phi. losophers many years before, and by many good men in all ages; it has not been exceeded by any." Where is the propriety then of endeavouring to explode the gospels !
Bolingbroke has made similar confessions:~"No religion, ever appeared in the world whose natural tendency was so much directed
that is of this religion is my brother, my sister, and my mother.
But this is not the religion of the great body of persons calling themselves Christians. Many of our brethren are extremely immoral. Others are guilty of some particular vice only. Some are decent in their general conduct, and attentive to religious observances, but total strangers to inward religion. Great advocates for their own party, they harbour a strong aversion to all who dare to think for themselves, and presume to dissent from them in principle or practice. So remote are they from the character and experience of the above evangelical requirements, that they consider them as delusive and enthusiastic. Something of the form of godliness they have gotten, but they deny, and sometimes even ridicule the power. Be this as it may, true religion is still the same; and the above is a scriptural sketch of it, whether we will hear, or whether we will forbear. So far are we Christians from being ashamed of this gospel-method
to promote the peace and happiness of mankind as Christianity. No system can be more simple and plain than that of natural religion, as it stands in the gospel. The system of religion which Christ published, and his evangelists recorded, is a complete system to all the purposes of religion, natural and revealed. Christianity, as it stands in the gospel, contains not only a complete, but a very plain system of religion. The gospel is in all cases one continued lesson of the strictest morality, of justice, of benevolence, and of universal charity." .
These are strange concessions from professed Deists? And yet much the same have been made by Blount, Tindal, Morgan, To. land, Chubb, Rousseau, and most of our other real or pretended unbelievers.
The truth is, all these deistical gentlemen could approve the morality, or some parts of the morality of the New Testament, but they could neither understand nor approve the grand scheme of redemption therein exhibited. Why? Because the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness unto him : neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned: 1 Cor. ii. 14.—They were blind to all the glories of the gospel-scheme. They neither saw nor felt their need of the redemption which is therein exhibited. What wonder then if they spent their lives in opposing its gracious designs ?