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that for you to escape, would only be to leave you without evidence of being of that number. Put on your armour, therefore, and pray that, whenever difficulties rise, you may receive them as from God; bear them with patience and resignation to lij will, and find them to yield the peaceful fruits of righteousness. Indeed, my dear reader, you need not be alarmed at trials when sanctified; they will prove your best friends. You may sometimes discern them advancing with unfriendly aspect, and you may wish them to pass by, or go to any door but your own: but if Providence command them to take up their abode with you for a season, vou shall find them in the end to be messengers of God, commissioned to bring a treasure of grace to purify, instruct, and comfort your soul.
But these natural evils will be no source of trouble equal to the constant opposition of your spiritual foes. These you must perpetually watch, for they are always watching you. In retirement, in public, in the world, in the church, in adversity, in prosperity, you must keep up your vigilance: your thoughts, your words, your actions, your duties, must all be looked to. Especially keep an eye to the weak side, for there the enemy is most busy. Is it your tongue that is apt to offend, set a guard at the door ; is it your passion that is easily affected, keep out of the way of that which would inflame it; is your pride easily blown up, shun every thing that would excite it : and so whatever is the most dangerous part, there you have need to be most vigilant. Remember, then, this important duty, and consider how much it comes recommended by the authority of scripture : “ Watch and pray, that ye enter not into
temptation. * Watch ye; stand fast in the faith; quit you like men; be strong.t Watch and be sober. I What I say unto you I say unto you all, Watch.”
Lastly, beware of lukewarmness and declen. sions in the good way. Judging from your pre sent feelings, perhaps you are ready to imagine that you have no need of such a caution; but it is a wise exhortation given by the apostle, “ Be not high minded, but fear.”|| " Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”T Alas! how many who set out all earnestness and zeal, out-running almost every one, and ready to reprove all around them, have lost their first love, and sunk into sad indifference. What strange forgetfulness, what neglect of prayer, what sloth. fulness, what preference of worldly company, what neglect of God's word, what shunning of his people, what frivolous excuses, what backwardness to engage in spiritual exercises, have marked their conduct! Now consider what a dangerous and inconsistent state this is. What a reflection is it on the religion of Jesus Christ, as if it were not worthy the pursuit of a rational creature, and yielded not sufficient pleasure to encourage us to walk according to its dictates. How unreasonable that a man should be all life and activity for the world, all animation and concern for the things of time, and should be indifferent and careless as to the important affairs of religion and his immortal soul. How replete with misery is
* Matt. xxvi. 41.
$ Mark xiii. 37.
f 1st Cor. xvi. 31.
Rom. xi. 20.
1st Thes. v. 6. q 1st Cor. x. 11.
such a state! In the world, conscience embitters every enjoyment; in the church, languor becomes a barrier both to improvement and felicity. Neither heaven, nor earth, God nor man, will afford such a character real happiness while in such a state. God himself, who is merciful to the pelle itent, a father to the poor, a refuge to the needy, a support to the afflicted, a friend to the persecu. ted, a consolation to the tempted soul, has no asylum for the lukewarm. How disgraceful also is such a spirit, and what immense injury is it likely to do in the world. It has a tendency to encourage the infidel in his principles, the sceptic in his doubts, and the wicked in their practice. Indeed, every lukewarm christian is a consolatory preacher to the wicked, and what do such say in effect but this? “ There is little or nothing in our system: go on in your practices of licentiousness and carelessness about God and religion. It is of little importance which side you are engaged; it will all be the same in the end." Yes, these are the fatal sermons they preach; and what renders them of greater effect is, that they are not merely verbal, but actually exhibited and preached in the conduct. O miserable characters, thus to wound the Son of God afresh, and put him to open shame! Well might God say to such, “Wretch! I never should have had this dishonour, if thou hadst never been called a christian. Thou art a christian to no purpose, or to a very bad one : it does thee no good, and injures me."*
There is nothing then, my dear reader, that I feel more necessary to caution you against than
this, and that because there is nothing more injurious. Afflictions may depress your spirits, sick. ness may fill your body with pain, persecution and reproach may cut off many of your comforts, friends may change into enemies, bereavements may affect your feelings, poverty may visit your dwellings; but be assured, these are all mercies, when compared to lukewarmness. Yes, you may say, " Lord, let me suffer any thing rather than be under the influence of such a spirit. Take away any comfort ; inflict any cross; disappoint my schemes; throw me into obscurity ; surround me with ten thousand natural evils ; yea, permit me to fall into the grave, rather than I should constantly live in such a frame, 'to dishonour thee, impede thy work, and bring distress upon my own soul." • In order to be preserved from this evil, watch against the first symptoms. If any business, com. pany, books, pleasures of a worldly nature, have this tendency, avoid them all. If your situation in life expose you to this, if you cannot live in it without bringing guilt upon your conscience, you are warranted to look out for another, where at least you may meet with less temptation. And though you must ever remember that you carry the greatest cause of lukewarmness about with you, and that you must not be given to change merely from a wandering disposition, yet you certainly do well to enquire for those situations where you can best serve God, and maintain communion with him. In every place you will have to lament over your little fervour and secret declensions ; but it is of the greatest importance to be kept from that increasing, open, and awful state of indifference, that leads to the omission of duty and the practice of sin. Make use of all the means of grace, and carefully observe the directions and cautions here given you, that you may never be unhappily one of them who dishonour their profession, and cause the enemies of truth to blaspheme; but that, on the contrary, your light may shine, your zeal burn, your activity increase, and you at last found waiting to enter into that rest which remains for the people of God.
And now, dear reader, one thing I must here beg leave to impress upon your mind ; and that is, in all the directions and cautions I have suggested, look up to God for the assistance of his grace to enable you carefully to observe, remem-. ber, and put them into practice. Renounce, entirely renounce, all dependence upon your own strength. Without him, you can do nothing. It is he that worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. He has promised to give his Holy Spirit to them who ask him. Implore, therefore, his blessing; renew your supplications constantly before him. “He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strengih; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."*