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Rather, are we not to serve God, convenient or inconvenient, whether circumstances be favorable or unfavorable, propitious or unpropitious? It is required that we endure unto the end, if we would receive the crown of life; let no circumstance produce weariness. "In due season we shall reap if we faint not."
Is not this serving God because it is convenient the principal cause of so much instability, and of the "ups and downs," as they are called, which so distinguish the lives of many professing Christians? It would be well for some to think of this. Are not such walking by sight? Only let Christians take the stand that all their duties shall be discharged, whatever outward appearances or circumstances may be, as well when there is no revival as when there is, and we soon may behold the day when "all shall know the Lord, from the least to the greatest.”
4. When controlled and governed by certain feelings in the discharge of Christian duties. We would not utter a word against a right state of feeling,—we mean Christian feeling. Rather would we rejoice that this is the Christian's privilege. This is also the exclusive privilege of the Christian. There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God." This feeling is the offspring of faith; of that faith which "works by love, purifies the heart, and overcomes the world." Let this faith be embraced, and a good state of feeling will inevitably follow. But we wish to caution all against making certain feelings, properly the result of certain circumstances, the criterion of action in doing what we consider our duty. This kind of feeling is the creature of circumstances. It is sometimes called animal excitement. It is as fluctuating and precarious as the everyday events and occurrences of life. While it makes duty pleasant to-day, it will make it irksome to-morrow. And yet, how many make this to be true Christian fecling, the "love of God shed abroad in the heart!" How many are governed by this in the performance of duty! How few "trample under foot that enthusiastic doctrine, that we are never to do good unless our hearts be free to it !" They will go to the house of God on the Sabbath, if they feel like it. The class and prayer meeting will be attended, if they feel like it. They will speak, pray, or sing, in the social meetings, if they feel like it. They will give liberally to support the gospel, and the institutions of the church, if they feel like it. How many of this description do we behold in the Christian Church! We like feeling in religion. But we want a feeling which is steady and consistent; that which is controlled by principle. Those who go by temporary feeling, or excitement, are never to be depended on for any duty in the church. They are up and down, as the excitement happens to be. They are like the ship tossed upon the waves, sometimes very high, then quite out of sight. In seasons of revival they are often quite enthusiastic on the subject of religion, but in times of declension they are hardly distinguished from men of the world. If they are now interrogated why they do not attend to duty, their answer is, I dont feel like it. Let such carefully read 1 Cor. ix, 27, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.' "We walk," says the apostle, "not by sight;" not by certain feelings or par ticular excitements. We bring feelings to duty, not duty to feelings,
The Christian should be governed by principle-unchangeable principle. This will give stability and uniformity to all his Christian conduct. What he is to-day, so far as his Christian character is concerned, he will be to-morrow. His life is like an "even-spun thread." Hear the apostle, "But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The Christian thus governed does not wait till he feels like it, or that he may feel like it, but he inquires, what is duty? When this is ascertained he knows but one course to pursue, and that is to do duty, feel like it or not. He is now ready to "trample under foot" every thing that comes in opposition to this. He is a Christian of "one work," always ready to "give a reason of the hope he has within him." Such "walk in the Spirit," and not according to the "flesh," or by sight.
But let us be careful to distinguish between feelings, and firm Christian principle. Feelings are vacillating and precarious. Principle is immutable. The "word of the Lord endureth for ever." Let us examine the spirits, and see which are of God. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." We have with painful emotions often beheld the striking contrast existing between those Christians governed by feelings or excitements, and those governed by unflinching principle. The former often think but little of the stated and ordinary means of grace, except in seasons of revivals or religious excitement, but are much in love with extraordinary means, such as protracted meetings, camp meetings, &c. While they are seldom seen in the class or prayer meeting, unless under some popular excitement, they are seemingly ready to attend the extraordinary meetings at all hazards. Here is a want of principle discovered. The latter, while they rejoice in the extraordinary efforts used by the church to save sinners, place a greater estimate on the ordinary means. The stated gospel ministry, the social meetings, family worship, &c., are held by them of the utmost importance. They receive by them a cordial and competent support. Whenever practicable they rejoice to meet with their brethren for holy worship, whether at the protracted meeting, at the house of God on the Christian Sabbath, or in the social circle. They are every-day Christians. Reader, are you walking by sight? O examine thy heart!
5. When decreasing in spirituality and love to God. The moment we cease walking by faith, that moment our spirituality begins to decline, and our love to God grows cold. The soul can never walk by sight. It falls the moment it begins. How often "has the gold become dim, and the fine gold changed!" How many have commenced walking by faith, but soon changed their course, and began walking by sight! Read Galatians iv, 15, "Where then is the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth ?" The apostle evidently saw that great change had taken place in his brethren. Those who were once willing, if it had been possible, to have "plucked out their eyes" for him, had now become his enemies. The change was not in the apostle, but in them. They "began in the spirit, but ended in the flesh." The
apostle inquires again, "Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?"
Reader, do you love God less now, than you did five years or one year ago? If so, your case is truly alarming. What, have less light, love, and joy now, than formerly! "O remember from whence thou art fallen: repent and do thy first works." Begin to examine thy heart. Pray for light in the investigation. If you have less love to God, you have less love for souls, for God's suffering poor, and for the cause of Christ. You have less love to your brethren, and less disposition to bear the cross. O live no longer where you are! Walking by sight is the way to wretchedness and death. O commence walking by faith! Commence now, continue this course 66 unto death," and then, when bidding adieu to all earth. ly scenes, you will be enabled to exclaim in holy triumph with the apostle, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not unto me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
II. When may it be said of professing Christians that they walk by faith?
1. When they have evangelical or saving faith in lively exercise. To walk by faith supposes that we have it. But it may be inquired, what is saving faith? We answer, while it gives unqualified assent to the truth of God's word, it places unshaken confidence in, or firm reliance on Christ as our present and only Saviour. It embraces Christ as "all in all." It yields assent to the truth that "there is no other name given under heaven, among men, by which we can be saved." It enables its possessor to say, "He is my present, full, and complete Saviour. I rely with implicit confidence on his merits for all I need in time and in eternity." Such was the faith by which "the elders obtained a good report." It is not a dead, inoperative principle. It is energetic and powerful. It" works by love, purifies the heart, and overcomes the world." "And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." This faith is said to remove the greatest difficulties. “Have faith in God; for verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that these things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith." It was this simple confidence in Christ's power, which our Lord discovered in the centurion, which led him to say, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." But, as without faith we cannot obtain salvation, so without faith we cannot retain it. "We walk," or live, "by faith." Not one step is taken toward heaven without it. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." It is faith when we begin, it is faith all the way through, it is faith when we end. While we can only see as "through a glass darkly," we must necessarily live and "walk” by it. Christ cannot be dispensed with for one moment. "Every moment, Lord, we need the merit of thy death.” Let this faith, then, ever be in exercise. "All things are possible to him that believeth." But "is it not strange when man's circumstances and darger are considered, that faith is so little in action, that it is not one of the most popular, so to speak, of all the Christian graces?
And is it not one of the wiles of the devil that persuades him that the exercise of this grace is the most difficult of all, and, in short, almost impossible without a miraculous power? Hence the saying, "We can no more believe, than we can make a world.” It is readily granted that without God we can do nothing; but as he gives us power to discern, to repent, to hope, to love, and to obey; so does he give us power to believe; and to us the use or exercise of the power belongs. He does not discern, repent, hope, love, or obey for us, any more than he believes for us. By using the grace he gives, we discern, repent, hope, believe, love, and obey. Without grace we can do nothing; without the careful use of the grace, it profits us nothing. To every prescribed duty God furnishes the requisite grace. The help is ever at hand, but we are not workers together with him; hence we are, in general, receiving the grace of God in vain; and, to excuse our negligence, indolence, and infidelity, we cry out, "We can do nothing;" "We have no strength;" "We can no more believe than we can make a world!" Our adversary knows well how to take advantage of such sayings, and, indeed, they are issues of his own temptations: therefore it is his business to persuade us that these are all incontrovertible truths! How strange, how disgraceful it is, that the words of the devil, and the wicked words of a lying world, and the Antinomian maxims of fallen churches, or fallen Christians, should be implicitly believed, while the words of the living God are not credited! He commands us to believe; reproaches us for our unbelief; tells us that if we believe not, we shall not be established; asserts that he who believes not, has made God a liar; proclaims salvation by him; and finishes the confutation of our infidel speeches with "He that believeth not shall be damned." Now all this supposes that he gives us the strength, and that we do not use it. Whose word so credible as the word of God? and whose word has less confidence placed in it? Many are volunteers in faith where there is no promise,—for they can believe that we cannot be saved from all sin in this life,-that we shall be saved in the article of death, and that there is a purgatorial middle state, where we may be cleansed by penal fire from vices that the blood of Jesus either could not, or did not purge: and that the Almighty spirit of judgment did not, or could not consume; and where there are exceeding great and precious promises, which in God are yea, and in Christ amen, they can scarcely credit any thing! How abominable is this conduct? how insulting to God! how destructive to the soul! No wonder that many of our old and best writers have declaimed so much against this, calling unbelief, by way of eminence, the "damning sin," and that which binds all other sins upon the soul. Men may treat the word of God as they please, but these truths of God shall endure for ever. "He that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned;" and, "He is a shield to all them that put their trust in him."
Let the truth then be universally embraced, that without faith Jesus does nothing to the souls of men now, any more than he did to their bodies in the days of his flesh. Christian reader, have you this faith? Is it in lively exercise at this moment? Can you say, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith?" and also, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me?" If so, you know
something of the import of that aphorism, "We walk by faith," &c. Faith is a light we constantly need to guide us safely through the dark labyrinths of this unfriendly world.
"Faith lends its realizing light,
The clouds disperse, the shadows fly,
And God is seen by mortal eye."
2. When pressing forward in the discharge of every duty. Says the apostle, "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." How consistent and uniform! Whatever the aspect of the times or surrounding circumstances, the true Christian makes it his business to do his duty. Fire nor sword, menaces nor laws, persecution nor prospect of martyrdom can deter him from his purpose. "Troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed," is his language. He feels too that all duties must be attended to in the proper time and place—those of to-day attended to to-day; those of to-morrow attended to to-morrow. He bears in mind that "the night cometh when no man can work." He sees no "stopping place" this side of heaven. "Be thou faithful unto death," or, "Endure unto the end," is his motto. "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer." His life is one continued scene of labors and sufferings. Are you, reader, thus walking by faith?" O remember that—
"To patient faith the prize is sure:
And all that to the end endure
The cross, shall wear the crown."
Never lay down the cross, "till you the crown obtain!" Walk by faith unto the end, and heaven will be yours.
3. When governed in all things by the will of God. This, under all circumstances, should be the criterion of action. "Then one said unto Jesus, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother, and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." All, of whatever class, country, or nation, who do the will of his Father, he recognizes as his brethren. "And they shall be mine in that day when I make up my jewels." None but such can walk by faith. The moment we seek some other principle by which to be governed, that moment faith loses its hold.
The inquiry of the sincere Christian is not, What is the will of man, -for he does not "serve the flesh,"-but, What is the will of God? He takes his will as the "man of his counsel" under all circumstances. This he considers sufficient both for his "faith and practice." Whatever that enjoins as his duty, he cheerfully performs. God must be obeyed rather than man. "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto man more than unto God, judge ye." Speak, Lord, and thy servant will obey, is his language. Every Christian may know the will of the Lord. "The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein."
O, remember that "the world