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iv, 14. It is a cheering token of our interest in him, and in his eternal reward!
Others object, I HATE HYPOCRISY; MANY THAT PROFESS RELIGION ARE HYPOCRITES. You do right to hate hypocrisy; our Lord pronounces a woe upon all hypocrites. But what if, in your present state, you yourself are a hypocrite? you profess to be a Christian, and yet live to the world; that is hypocrisy. You profess to think real religion of value, and yet for fear of
It has ever been the custom of those who are too prejudiced, or too ignorant, or too indolent to enter into the real merits of an opinion, to give the person holding it some odious name, and so condemn it without the difficulty of confutation. In this way the Heathen endeavoured to put down Christianity at first; and the remarks of Justin Martyr, in his Apology written in the second century, are very applicable to names now given to Christians in the nineteenth.
"As for our name, which is tantamount to a crime against a Christian, if we are tried upon that article, we must certainly be acquitted as very good men: but as we should deem it unreasonable when convicted of real crimes to plead a bare name only in arrest; so, on the other side, if both with respect to our name and the nature of our polity, we are found altogether innocent, it is at your door to take care, lest by unjustly punishing a people convicted of no evil, you yourselves deservedly smart for such injustice. Praise and punishment, then, cannot with reason be charged on a mere name, unless there be actions good or bad to justify the charge. But it is very notorious that when any of your own religion are brought to trial, you never punish them before you convict them; but when a Christian is indicted, you snatch at the shadow of his name for a substantial crime; whereas would you give yourselves leave to consider that name, you would find it more becoming to animadvert upon the accusers than the accused; for we are indicted by the name of Christians, but now xensos is a word for kind, or good, and such a word cannot be a just foundation for hatred. Again, if any of the accused retract the name of Christian, you take him presently at his word, and acquit him as having nothing more criminal to charge against him; but he who has the courage to stick to the profession of his name, is certain to suffer for so doing; when the life of the professor and the non-professor both ought to be the subject of your enquiry, that the merits of both might be manifested by their actions."
hypocrisy, disguise and conceal your attachment to it; that is real hypocrisy. And what is the root of this objection--uninortified pride. You are afraid of the charge of hypocrisy being brought against you, and that you should sink in the estimation of your friends and companions. But, O, for a little moment look higher than man: God's eye is upon you. He sees through all your littleness. He detects all your sophistry. O bring no more vain excuses. Seek his favour. The hypocrisy of others only renders it the more needful and important that you who profess the Gospel should be sincere and upright before God and man.
Somewhat like this, is another objection-THE MUL
TITUDE ARE LIKELY TO BE RIGHT: MEN IN GENERAL THINK AND LIVE DIFFERENTLY. Why then did our Lord say, Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat; and, Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it? Why did his Apostles declare, Love not the world; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord. Let these plain declarations speak for themselves. Remember the positive precept, Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil. Dare to be singular for God, and he will carry you through all difficulties, to your comfort and honour here, and to your eternal reward hereafter. It has been well observed, "The world gathers impunity from the number of transgressors; the Bible shews it to be the very reason for quick-approaching and tremendous judgment. If in Sodom there had been ten, if in Jerusalem there had been one righteous, (Jer. v, 1.) they would have been spared. The Lord magnifies his power in the destruction
of mighty and numerous enemies." 1 Sam. ii, 10. O recollect, that if the whole world condemn you, this will not be a reason why you should be condemned of God; if the whole world approve you, it does not make you stand one whit better in his sight who is your final and supreme Judge. It is a very small matter to be judged of man's judgment; he that judgeth us is the Lord.
But while men of the world bring their objections against a religious course, let me bring one against continuing in a worldly course, contrary to the checks of conscience. WHAT IF YOUR HEART SHOULD BECOME HARDENED, and repentance
The Scriptures often solemnly caution us not to harden our hearts against the reception of the truth. Hardness of heart is a figurative expression, signifying an unfitness to receive an impression, just as wax when hard will not receive the impression of the seal. It is a voluntary perverseness of mind in not taking notice of the will of God, nor applying the affections to fulfil it. This perverseness is natural to us all; but it increases and becomes an habitual hardness, through the rejection of the only remedy for changing and softening the heart.* None are so hardened in sin as those that are
There are some things that appear like this sin, which do not really indicate it; and this calls for more express notice, lest humble and contrite Christians should be needlessly distressed. Some are anxious because they have not had grievous terrors and alarms on account of their sins; others because they cannot weep at the recollection of their guilt; and others because they feel dull and heavy in religious exercises. But these are no certain marks of hardness of heart. They may spring from totally different causes, such as natural constitution, a peculiar course of God's providential dealings, &c. Many previous sins make way for the great sin of finally rejecting God's word with a hardened heart. Men willingly admit prejudices against the
wicked under a faithful ministry. Isa. vi, 9, 10. Every fresh sin adds another link to the chain that ties and binds our souls, and increases, day by day, the difficulty of repentance.
Bear then in mind the truth, that no sermon is heard in vain; it either hardens or softens; it is either a savour of death unto death, or a savour of life unto life. Perhaps nothing hardens more than a mere external attendance on ordinances. To hear threatenings against sin, time after time, and yet continue those sins; and to hear, again and again, of the love of Christ, and yet remain unmoved by that love, sears the conscience and deadens the soul.
The course of the sin, and its consequences, are well described by Zechariah; (ch. vii, 11-13.) They refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their heart as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his Spirit by the former prophets; therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts; therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of Hosts. Indeed, how can they who harden their hearts against God ever prosper? Job ix, 4.
God is their
enemy, and who can be their friend? The case of Pharaoh is left on record for our instruction.
truth, they come under the influence of false principles, and in love with their sins, they choose darkness rather than light, yield to their corruptions, and cleave to earthly and sensual objects. Such men are sinfully careless, and indifferent about spiritual things; wilfully and perseveringly cast off convictions of daty, and obstinately cling to carnal things in preference to the things of God.
refused, time after time, to hear the voice of God by Moses; he gradually became more and more hardened, till at last God gave him up to his hardness; the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he miserably perished. There was here a judicial hardness of heart inflicted upon him, in just punishment for his repeated rejection of God's word. It is a fearful thing, Christian reader, to fall into the hands of the living God, and to be given up by him to a hardened heart, and a reprobate mind. If you hear not to-day, your heart will to-morrow be more hard and indisposed to hear. Look at the state of the Jews. For above seventeen hundred years they have been scattered and dispersed, a proverb and a bye-word among all nations, and that for this very sin, refusing to hear the word of God." Look at the dreadful regions of eternal woe, and one mark of its miserable inhabitants is, they hardened their hearts against the voice of God speaking to them, through the works of creation and providence, or in the word of his grace.
Some, after long rejection of the Gospel, have, at the close of life, felt the excellence of religion, and the value of repentance, and have found, too late, that they could not repent. We have a record of one who in the agony of his last days said,-" Were Christ to assist me, I should repent; but he has justly withdrawn his influences from me. I have so often crucified him afresh, and put him to open shame; and so often grieved his Holy Spirit, that God has left me to a spirit of impenitence, and given me the certain earnest. of a fearful inheritance in another life." He left this world with the agonizing expression,-"O the insufferable pangs of hell and damnation!"
If you would avoid such a woe, continue not a