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not to lay upon us an iron yoke; his gospel is not a system of restrictions to make us unhappy. He has nothing to gain by depriving us of earthly comforts. It will add nothing to his happiness to see us miserable. His design is to call us, not to misanthropic gloom, but godly sorrow-to deaden none of the energies of the mind, but to recover them from confusionnot to check the flow of joy, but to confine it to its proper channel—to restrain none of its legitimate operations, but to reduce them to order-not to debase the mind by superstitious fears or slavish anxieties, but to ennoble, elevate, and refine it. But observe, he can do all these things only by turning us away from our iniquities: If we would be partakers of Christ's joys, and receive the peace which flows from the religion of Christ, we must submit to his discipline: a patient that will obey in part only the prescription, and that part that happens to be most agreeable, will not reasonably expect to derive much benefit from it. It is necessary then that you should unreservedly resign yourselves into his hands and consent to forego the dearest gratifications at his command. This premised, let us say that he comes with ability to save all, of every name and every character. He comes to the gay and dissipated sons of society, and sees with pity, how from youth to age they pursue the wild career of vanity and folly-how in the crowd of the world they try to lose themselves and shun reflection on their latter end-how in
a round of visits, engaged in from mere idleness, or from a desire of preserving connexions with the great, or from fear of singularity, they waste their time, that precious moment which, when longest, is short enough to prepare for the eternal home; he inspects them more narrowly and sees the envy, hatred, pride and lust, that lurk beneath the polished exterior; he sees them however, panting after happiness, and that he offers them in words like these, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity; and scorners delight in their scorning; and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you; I will make known my words unto you.*
Accept the proposal, brethren, even all of you who are living in conformity to the world, forgetful of God. Be persuaded, at least to try, whether by the powerful conversion which the Son of God can work in you, and the subsequent life of serious piety to which he can lead
you, there is not real pleasure to be found, and not such pleasure as that of religion is generally conceived to be--not a dun gleam of comfort resembling the melancholy satisfaction of an invalid raised from sickness, but a lively joy, the vivid animation of rich delight, sometimes rising into transport. There is no faculty or passion of the mind that may not be as ardently excited, and called out to as high endeavor and generous exertion by what it sees and enjoys of divine things, as by the impres
* Prov, i, 22, 23
sions it receives from what St. Paul calls, with a high contempt, the “beggarly elements of this
. It should be supposed far more so, as the flame is brighter the more pure the air in which it burns. Religion, therefore, cramps none of the mental energies; on the contrary, the ease and celerity with which the renewed soul acts in the ways of God, evidences the machine to be returning to order. Indeed, what reason can possibly be assigned why, even the lively cheer of youth should not find exercise in activity for a Creator, and love towards a dying Savior? why a pure and peaceful mind should not be as pleasurable as a vain defiled heart--a growing meetness for heaven, as productive of satisfaction, as rising into consequence and wealth and the favor of God, as gratifying as the smiles of a deceitful world. Now with respect to the pleasures of the world, some are to be given up and others may be retained: but let us remember we are not to choose for ourselves which we will resign, but leave it entirely to him. We must withhold nothing from him if we wish to be converted. Our first business is to dismiss every notion of our having a right to any pleasure. It is our's to stand in an expecting posture, ready to renounce the world instantly at his command. This belongs to us as creatures and sinners: as creatures we are to have no will but God's; as sinners we are to feel ourselves unworthy of any pleasure, in this life or the next. If it be his word to you to withdraw from the company of those, who prove too plainly that they are the world, you must leave them at once: Come out from among them and be separate. If he require us to deyote more time to prayer and the study of the Scriptures than is consistent with the success of our business, or with our inclinations in other respects, yet let us make the decision on the side of self-denial. Without frequently cutting off the right hand, and plucking out the right eye, no advances are made towards the kingdom of heaven. After all the sacrifices we may be required to make, (and many painful ones there will be) after all, what is it which he requires us to part with but that which is the source of our misery? He wishes only to mortify and eradicate the poisoned part before the whole frame sinks under the power of the venomto awaken us from a lethargy which would end in death-to pluck the viper from our bosom, which we are cherishing to our ruin.
* Gal. iv, %.
Next he is sent to bless the self-righteous part of mankind. It is true that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; but possibly we may not be as righteous in his sight as we are in our own; nay, he scarcely sees a case more dangerous than that of a man wise in his own eyes; who fancies that after all that is said about faith, and regeneration, and other unintelligible mysteries, he has no reason to be afraid. Jesus Christ pities such self-deceiving persons, though they have bo pity on themselves. If they cannot answer this question to their consciences, whether Christ has turned away their hearts from iniquities, (and ignorance of the meaning of this question is itself an alarming answer to it,) they have yet to be converted: they must be turned from the iniquities of their pride, the iniquities of their obstinacy, the iniquities of their impenitence, the iniquity of their impiety in choosing their own way to life, instead of the humiliating path of the gospel. Be turned from these and you will be blessed indeed! your cold duties will begin to glow with life--your obedience will be animated by a new principle-your hopes, resting on a more steady foundation than your own works, will be firm and strong. What though it be late in life with some of you,
it is never too late to transfer one's dependence from sand to rock; and if through indolence, or fear of ridicule it be not done, and you yet suppose that God will save you in your own way because you have long supposed it to be the right one, it is a mistake.
To the immoral, profligate, and abandoned, Christ is sent to bless them, in turning them away from iniquity. The subjects whom he takes in hand can be such as iniquity cleaves to, for all-are supposed in the text to be turned away from it by him, and could not therefore, be previously converted. Let this be an encouragement to you brethren to approach the Savior. Approach him in all the ways of his appointment; in secret prayer, in the ministry