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from a heartfelt feeling of our need of the mercy of God; from love to our Saviour; and from a sense of our obligations as redeemed by his precious blood; we are but the lifeless skeletons of religion; clothed indeed with the sinews, and flesh, and skin, but with no breath in us.
There is, my brethren, a danger in this almost beyond that of open and wilful sin—a danger so much the greater, inasmuch as it is more subtle, and is aggravated by the very use of those means of grace, which in other spiritual sickness we should look to for a cure. It is a danger too with which we in this place are especially concerned, as it is one which becomes more imminent in proportion as our situation in life removes us from the ordinary temptations of the world, and requires from us habits of propriety, and an outward decency of demeanour, which may hinder both others, and ourselves from suspecting that any thing is wrong within. It is a danger above all especially attaching to the character of ministers of religion, who may easily and unconsciously be led to regard Christian truth as a professional rather than as a personal matter; and amidst the daily routine, in which they must go through the duties, speak the language, and practise the forms of religion, may easily, though they do not suspect it, deaden their consciences to its practical application. Thus even they, whose ministrations are made useful to others,
may minister very unprofitably to themselves. They may point out the road to heaven without walking upon it, as the High Priests and Scribes, when enquired of by Herod, directed the wise men to Bethlehem where the Saviour lay, but did not themselves go there to seek him. They may have reason at last to say, in the language of Solomon,
They made me keeper of the vineyards ; but mine own vineyard have I not kept ?."
And again, if there be this danger on the one hand of a cold and formal profession; may we not on the other fear, that ofttimes what should be the signs of an awakened attention to Christian truthwhat
appears to be an earnestness to hear the word of God, and to profit by the means of grace,
is but a shaking among the dry bones, and the stirring up of an outward and superficial zeal in those whose hearts are little under the influence of divine truth?
And this too especially deserves consideration in the present day and among ourselves, when the greatly increased attention bestowed upon religious subjects should make us careful to guard against the dangers incidental to such a state of things—the danger especially of substituting excitement for principle; and making feelings, and notions, and words the tests of the religious state of others and of ourselves. But remember, that resting in such things is but building in the sand : whereas building in the rock is the painful endeavour to do the will of God. It is very easy to make ourselves of a sect or party in religion : to amuse ourselves with it: to talk much about it: to be forward professors : to make church an amusement as a play-house : to listen to a sermon instead of a speech: and in short to be zealously affected and much occupied about religion, without being conformed to the mind which was in Christ Jesus, or being engaged in doing his will. The dry bones may shake, and come together, and be built up into the form of life, though they have no breath in them.
7 Cant. i. 6.
Let us take heed, that we be neither of those who “ having the form of godliness deny the power thereof 8 :" nor of those “ who have a name that they live, and are dead 9.” Let us not be satisfied with being framed together in the outward show, and shape, and form of religion: but let us earnestly examine whether we have indeed the vital spark of spiritual life within us, and are thereby enabled not only to seem to be religious, but to act as living men in the
power thereof. Let us see whether our evil passions are mortified within us; our lusts, our anger, our covetousness,
8 2 Tim. iii. 5.
9 Rev. iii. 1.
our pride. Let us see whether we not only seek the means of grace, but seek them with thankfulness and profit to our souls: whether we not only are doing the things which our duty requires ; but doing them heartily, “not with eye-service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God 1.” And, lastly, let us ever pray to Him, who is alone able to do this, that He breathe upon us more and more of that breath which giveth life, that we may stand up upon our feet, as his great army, and
, manfully contending against his enemies, with all zeal, and courage, and true and faithful service, fight the good fight under His banner, and rejoice in the victory which He gains.
THE SIN OF CAUSING OFFENCES.
LUKE XVII. 1.
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE BUT THAT OFFENCES WILL COME, BUT WOE UNTO
HIM THROUGH WHOM THEY COME.
It can hardly be necessary in this place to point out the meaning of the term “offences,” and to
offend,” as used in scripture, though it undoubtedly differs in some degree from the ordinary sense of the same expressions. When in common conversation we speak of offending any body, we generally mean making him angry, and
, whatever is the cause of anger we call an offence: but in the New Testament to offend a person means in any way to make him sin, and whatever is the cause of sin is called an offence.
There is certainly some peculiarity in the expression : but it was adopted by the translators of our Bible probably from the want of any other single word to convey the idea. And this want is one which seems to have existed equally in other languages : for the corresponding Greek words