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lieve, they believe; to pray, they pray; to receive his sacraments,
and so are his ordinances. In them they live, and in them, hard by the horns of the altar, they die. There is consequently to the sincerely faithful and holy, no room for mistake. So long as they "continue in the faith grounded and settled;" it is morally impossible, that they should be “ moved away from the hope of the gospel;" that they should not enjoy “the full assurance of hope.”
By these rules therefore, Brethren, judge yourselves, and you will soon discern where your heart, with your treasure is. If in a state of bondage to sin, ye will be ashamed to confess Christ before men; ye will think more of their opinions and their sayings, than ye will of his present love or of his future frowns. Though he cease not to whisper to your consciences, “ Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again;" ye will deny the necessity, and produce the multitude, as your example and authority. But if ye can lay your hand upon your heart, and feelingly pronounce it to be the place, “where the Spirit of the Lord is;" then do ye experience the liberty of the text, the liberty of the Sons of God. Ye will be wise as serpents, and yet harmless as doves; intrepid as a lion, and yet gentle as a lamb. Ye will not tamper with flesh and blood, nor be reduced to the melancholy strait of palliating your avoidance of duties. Ye will not be alarmed for yourselves, that the avenue to heaven, with its everlasting doors, is reported to be barred against all, who are not “ born of water and of the Spirit;" against all, who “eat not the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood.” But commisserating the errours, and sighing for the destiny of others, ye will have the testimony of a good conscience, that your liberty has not been abused. “Ye will have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” The happiness of the sinner, miserable and unsatisfying as it is, is restricted to the scene before him; but your happiness will survive, and augment where it survives. The righteous soul but leaves a prison, when it leaves this mortal coil. It is here, as to its loftier flights, incarcerated in
the dungeon of the flesh. It is in heaven alone, that its liberty can be perfect and complete. It is there, that, in the more exalted
. sense, the Spirit of the Lord resides. It is there, that, entirely free from pain and sin, from sorrow and sighing, from disease and death, ye will have Christ for your portion, and the blissful mansions, he hath prepared, for your inheritance forever and forever. ....AMEN.
ROMANS xiv, 22.
Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he
THIS is one of those passages of the holy scriptures, which receives at once the spontaneous assent of the mind. It contains a proposition, that no matter in what region born or in what climate bred, no one can have the hardihood and temerity to deny. Give me the testimony of my conscience, that what I have done, what I am now doing is right, consistent with morality, and conformable to the divine will; give me this, and I need not envy the high and lofty ones of the earth, the splendour of their fortunes, the dignity of their rank, the gorgeousness of their equipments, or the glory of their power. My soul shall still dwell at ease. lt may look up at the innocent face of heaven without a blush, and read, in the azure softness of a summer's sky,a striking resemblance of its own calm and undisturbed repose.
But are there clouds and darkness, lurid fires and more than Cimmerian gloom, to brood over the prostrate world, and impart to it a noisome medley of “horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy? So does a guilty conscience shake with terrors and startle even at the falling of a leaf. “ The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” “ The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” If they are ever happy,
it must be, when they are bereft of thought. Left to their own reflection, “ There is no peace saith my God, to the wicked.” alone is “happy,” whose heart is pure, whose hands are clean, 6 that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth." Let us collect our ideas, and trace out the causes.
Is it not owing in a great degree to the intrinsick loveliness of virtue, to the sentiment of self-approbation it is sure to produce? Who ever performed a good deed only to weep over the folly and infatuation of his conduct? Suppose it were an act of charity, a beggar relieved, a widow succoured, an injured orphan redressed. Did either of these gratuities ever lay the foundation of future sorrow and repentance? You may find unworthy objects, and, discovering this, may regret the imposition played off upon your feelings, and the unprofitable nature of the demand responded from your purse. But never can the really benevolent man be harassed with such reflections as these, I have fed the hungry, and clothed the naked. I have listened to the voice of humanity. I have parted my garments, and denied not my morsel to the poor. My conscience bears witness against me, that in this I have sorely offended thee, O God; have mercy upon me, and let not this my wickedness shut up thy loving kindness in everlasting displeasure. Were we to use such language, we should be regarded as maniacs. Were others to use it, our comity would be severely taxed to refrain from a smile. We should pronounce them fit candidates for Bedlam. Among all the strange anomalies of our nature, I have never known a good action, performed in a good spirit, rise up in judgment against the performer, and condemn him. He never says, Cursed be my prodigality, I have protected the fatherless and caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. Cursed be my integrity, I have kept my word, and discharged my honest debts. Cursed, supremely cursed, be my devotion, I have worshipped God in the spirit and in the understanding; I have loved him for the perfection of his attributes, and adored him for the exuberance of his mercy. O why was I such a fool, so ideotick and insane? “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth." No, Brethren, he never says thus. I have never heard him, nor have you. Give me then, I insist, " the testimony of my conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, I have had my conversation in the world" Give me this, and
I am as certain of being happy, internally happy, as God is happy. Briers and thorns grow every where else; but in a good conscience there is no sting.
I find myself also obliged to refer to the opposite qualities of sin. No man can allow it, without condemning himself. It is the order of nature, as to the body. My bones exclaims the waning sensualist, are full of the iniquities of my youth. These limbs are not paralyzed by old age. So far as years are concerned, I could yet run with the swift, and vie with the strong. And do you ask the cause of present infirmity, of chronick pains and debilitated nerves? I am forced to attribute it to early indulgence. Happiness keeps aloof, it flies from me, because I would not, after the manner of Paul, “keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” Because I had the folly to draw upon its resources faster than the hardiest system would authorize, therefore am I now suffering the consequences of premature decay.
It is the order of nature, as to the mind. We know not its component parts, if indeed it has any parts. But still there is an organ for bitter reflection, and an outlet for sighing and tears. Show me the gayest sinner, put him upon the stand as a witness in his own cause. Let him rehearse his pleasures and testify of his joys. They may sparkle for the time. In the recital, his eye may be lighted up, and his countenance flushed. But let me tell you, he is not the man to endure the severity of a cross-examination. You must not ask him, if his pillow is always soft; if his dreams are always pleasant; if his solitude is never disturbed by a pang. It would soon melt away, the snowy texture of his felicity. It would prove it counterfeit and spurious,or himself a perjured man. By the divine appointment, “evil pursueth sinners." It fastens upon the mind. It there inflicts a series of wounds, which no human ingenuity can heal, none of the specificks of this world completely cure. At best, they ever leave a scar behind, or utterly failing, the very soul itself is constrained to bleed at every pore.
Again, Brethren, in relation to happiness, life is to be regarded in the aggregate, and not in divided portions. I remember, that when the Lydian monarch demanded of Solon, whom he thought the happiest of men, the sage at once referred to the dead, and not to the living. And why? He knew nothing of the scriptures. Those of the new testament were then unwritten. But still his answer
was comprised in the well known proverb, "Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." And Cræsus, though at the time he spurned the cautious wisdom and forecast of the philosopher, from whom he was expecting a personal compliment, was afterwards but too well convinced of his almost inspired sagacity. So it is with the sinner, and his pretended happiness. He may look ever so fresh and fair, so full of hope and of glee, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, in which he shall find no pleasure. But let them arrive, and the frost of spiritual death is upon him. Whether young or old, let weeping friends attest, that his last hour approaches, and I want no surer evidence of the misery that infests his paths. He cannot calmly cope with the monarch of the tombs. He cannot serenely gaze upon his hard features, or gladly comply with his imperative summons. If he yields, it is because he is forced to yield. It is not voluntarily. It is not with a light heart, a free spirit, and a rejoicing hope. It is often with keen remorse, and the most terrible presentiments. I have seen it myself. I have conversed with many, who have been brought to believe in Christianity, from being frequently called to witness the indescribable agony of the wicked at the door of death, contrasted with the invariable composure, resignation, and even joy of the righteous.
And can he be justly termed a happy man, whose life is such as to produce fear and trembling when he comes to die? It would be the grossest perversion of the epithet. Our life must be estimated from the cradle to the tomb, before it can be properly applied. Whatever apparent felicity may precede the last extremity, we have the touchstone then, and as we endure it, so must our epitaph be written. Vice ever shrinks from the trial. Virtue and religion alona triumph there. He alone is purely happy, whose heart condemns him not when time recedes, and eternity is about to dawn.
Even in the days of health and strength, the man is not happy, whom a sense of ingratitude compels to avoid the eye of his benefactor; whom a knowledge of positive injuries inflicted causes to turn away from the hapless victims of his rapacity, his cruelty, his determination to forget right and pursue wrong; whom a consciousness of ill desert, of bad fame, of general execration, haunts in all the intercourse of life, with every man's hand lifted against him, and ne voice to sooth. console, and sympathize. Whereas be, who acts