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happiness to walk with him in the narrow path of faithful and suffering obedience here, that in a few short years, when you pass away from this material scene, you may be where he is, and serve him perpetually in his temple?
It is possible, that to all this you may answer most erroneously, Yes; merely because you have formed to yourself some vague indefinite notion of happiness, "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest," which you cannot precisely explain. But in order to ascertain your state accurately, you must apply the other test also. If you wish to come after Christ, do you actually now deny yourself to follow him? Is your religion practically a laying aside your own principles and prejudices, original or acquired; a curbing of your own propensities and affections; a warfare against your unholy lusts; an unsparing, universal reforming of your habits and thoughts; a renunciation of the merits of your virtues; and 'a simple casting of yourself upon the merits of your Saviour, that you may be nothing but as you are found in him? This is not the Christianity of the multitude. They want something vastly more easy and suitable to the tendencies of our fallen nature. But this is the system of true godliness. This is putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. And nothing else can be consistent with the purity and dignity of omnipotent Goodness. Oh that we might all feel this, and apply it as we ought. The risk we have to
run is so fearful, that we ought to be very faithful to ourselves and to each other.
He whose conscience tells him, that hitherto his religious experience has not been of this kind, ought to know that he is not following Christ,—that he is not the Lord's. No, my friend, you are gliding easily through life, without religious difficulties. If you were a Christian, you would find that you were struggling up a rough road,-swimming against a strong stream,-opposing a sinful heart, and an unbelieving multitude. Every day would realize the difficulties of self-denial. Where there is no conflict, there is no change, and no true religion. Where the denial of self and sin is not evident, there is no real following of the Lamb in the regeneration.
And then the careless professor of religion should learn how dangerous that state is, in which the head is stored with knowledge, and the heart with unbridled tempers and unhallowed thoughts. You also may think you have found the pearl of great price, because you comprehend the doctrine of the cross. But what hope can that speculative knowledge give, while self is reigning, and the law of Christ disregarded? Can he be an heir of heaven, who is habitually a rebel against the known law of heaven? Can he be following Christ, who is indulging sin, that abominable thing which he hates? Is not the pretence of seeking a holy heaven hereafter, manifestly a delusion in him who strives all he can to make his own heart a hell
now, by the boiling tumult of evil and corrupt affections unsubdued? Can he expect any other treatment, than that God should stamp with perpetuity the passions he has cherished, and cause him, in another existence, eternally to recede from that Saviour, from whom he shrunk in his day of grace?
And, lastly, the timid and anxious mind may be encouraged. Difficult as it is to deny yourself, and oppose your reigning peculiarities, it is possible. The principle of self-denial is in the spirit of Christ, which he gives to all who seek it sincerely. Without this, you can do nothing: your soul will be as a desolate wilderness. But you can "do all things through Christ which strengtheneth you :" and withered and barren though you be; yet if you look sincerely for God's blessing, your soul shall be as the garden of the Lord. Go, then, without hesitation, to that grace in all its fulness. Ask and it shall be given. Come in faith to the Saviour, as a weak and helpless sinner should come, and he will enable you to "deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this evil world," " redeeming the time," and living a life of faith in his holy name.
THE READY EXCUSE.
LUKE XIV. 18.
I pray thee have me excused.
It would be difficult to find a man who was strictly conscientious in his neglect of the call to serious religion. And by strictly conscientious, we mean, that in the retirement of his closet, in the calm of deliberate, honest, uninterrupted thought, in the moment when the man considers before God his religious responsibilities, he should fully acquit himself of the guilt of neglect. We say there are few men who have heard the Scriptural call to serious devotion to God, and have not obeyed it, who can in this solemn and deliberate manner acquit themselves.
On the contrary, the human heart, and its modes of evading the subject of religion, are so well known, that the insidious operations of such minds may be accurately traced and exposed. This has been done
in the gospel. It was done by the great Searcher of hearts, when he tabernacled with us in the flesh. Many of his parables and precepts lay bare the very secrets of our hearts. And that parable from which the text is taken, is intended to bear directly upon the case of the class of individuals to whom we allude, and to show them the dangerous error in which they indulge. The parable is intended to illustrate the habit of mind, by which men put off the serious acceptance of the gospel offer of mercy. We will enter upon the examination of this part of the subject, which the parable presents to us, in the hope, and with the prayer, that it may please the God of all mercy, to bless the train of thought which it suggests, to the saving impression of some hitherto careless mind. We will notice very briefly,
I. The offer of the gospel.
II. The character of the persons here spoken of as invited; and then,
III. Enter more at large into an inspection of those reasonings which dictate their answer, "I pray thee have me excused.”
And first, The offer of the gospel is unspeakably gracious. It is the offer of a provision for the wants of perishing men, which is entirely gratuitous. It is represented here by the image of a great supper, gratuitously offered to a number of guests. And such is its real character. It is the offer of