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countenance every indecorum, and every levity which would lower a decent tone of manners. Nor in things purely religious are they ranged upon the professedly hostile side. They consider religion as useful to the state, friendly to the laws, fitted peculiarly to improve and regulate the lower orders of the community. They attend with tolerable punctuality on the public ordinances of the church; in their families, and in their closets too, they are not wholly negligent of religious forms. They come up, in short, precisely to that point in religious strictness, which the world allows and sanctions. Nay, they are often held up as patterns, and are appealed to as instances how a person may be good without running into extremes-be truly religious, and neither singular, severe, or gloomy.These are the lukewarm. They do not wallow in vice; they do not sin openly with a high hand. But they want the main spring of good. They have no tenderness of heart, no drawing of the soul, no soft humility, no filial fear, no sensibility, no love towards God: and wanting this master-principle, this heavenly seed, this root of blessedness, all is false and hollow. There is no life or soul in this show of little decencies, this paltry exhibition of empty forms. It is all blighted fruit, with
out sun to ripen it; a withered branch, cut off from the sustaining vine. And thus it is that the lukewarm, with all his negative virtues and fair outside, is an abomination in the sight of God that while the world looks on, perhaps, and almost worships him as an idol, God may look down and rank him lower, and mark him for deeper damnation, than he does the wretch who drinks in impurity like water, or than he does the midnight ruffian, who ends a life of public crimes upon the scaffold.
Make the case your own. Suppose you had conferred on two persons, with an unsparing hand, all the tokens of disinterested, boundless affection :—that you had come forward at the cry of their distress-that you had saved their lives that you had wiped away their tears— that you had struck off the chains of their captivity, and led them forth to light and liberty. Suppose, also, that in this ministration of mercy, you had encountered the most trying difficulties; brought down upon yourself accumulated misfortunes; and waded through seas of trouble and of sorrow, far deeper than all the waters that had gone over their souls. Suppose then these two persons, owing life and all its hopes to you, to go forth into the worldOne of them, betrayed by faithless promises, misled by bad example, overpowered by
strong temptation, and carried headlong by tempestuous passion-Suppose him, I say, in this mad career of vice, to lose all sober calculation, to sacrifice fortune, prospects, health and every thing; and in this state of desperation, to shun the presence of that friend whose goodness he had abused, to grow weary of your expostulations, and at last burdened by obligation, stung and goaded by a sense of his own ingratitude, to assume the posture of stern hostility and defiance.
Suppose the other, whose deliverance you had thus dearly purchased, to take an opposite direction on the wide field of life; and by cautious management, and prudent calculations of his own interest, to gain a fair character, and to reap all the fruits of established reputation. After a long interval, suppose that you, his friend in need, his succourer in distress, call at the door of this respected person. You anticipate that emotion of soul, that luxury of feeling, which such a meeting might indeed well produce. But no you find something at once that checks these forward beatings of the heart. You look around, and can but still all bespeaks that you are received with cool civility, and formal distance. You hardly trust your senses, when you see no gratitude in those eyes, from which
scarce believe it;
you had once wiped off the tears-when you ascertain, beyond the semblance of doubt, that your kindness is just remembered, but without one tender feeling of it; that so much acknowledgment will be given, and no more; that you may save yourself the pains of further explanation, that the heart is steeled and the mind made up.
Now, my brethren, which of these would you rank the lowest? Is it the frenzied wretch who renounces reason, sense, and interest, and flings them all to the winds of heaven? Or is it not rather the prudent manager, who feels his own heart at ease while his benefactor's heart is wounded; who, in a word, can talk of conscience in any other matter, while the heavy charge is still unanswered, of having wronged and injured his friend and his deliverer? No-in spite of all his popularity, you would know a secret of that man, which would blight and blacken every action of his life.He might appear virtuous to others, but you would know that he was incapable of virtue: you would know that he had a bad heart, and from a bad heart no real good can flow.
Such is the illustration I submit to you; and it will, I think, explain why it is, that in the eyes of God, the vilest sinner may often be less hateful than the wise and prudent of this
world. They are both ungrateful to the kindest benefactor, the most generous of all friends. But, surely, the deeper shade of baseness and degeneracy belongs not to the conscious wretch who flies affrighted from his presence, but to the man who, on settled principle, withholds the fulness of his heart from God, who makes a calm and deliberate distribution, gives part to the world, and presents the impious offering of the rest to heaven.
But besides the guilt of such a state, the means of recovery from it are peculiarly difficult. The man who lives in open sin, cannot mistake the nature of his conduct: he cannot commit murder, or adultery, without knowing that he is a transgressor of the law. But these outward and positive commands the lukewarm do not transgress. Against that law, whose seat and sanctions are in the soul, they do indeed sin with a high hand. But the danger is, that they can do this without knowing it. The spirituality of God's law is veiled from their eyes. All beyond the forms of religion, they soberly consider as enthusiasm. Talk to them of faith, as that by which the mind holds converse with the eternal and unseen world-talk to them of the love of God, as a principle of the purest happiness, as heaven already opened in the soul-and they do not heave a sigh,