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sustained the character allotted us by the disposer of all events, soon bid adieu to all these transient scenes, and enter on a state of everlasting bliss or woe-Or as men please themselves with some empty show, that passes in procession before their eyes, but it is scarcely come fully into view before it begins to recede, and in a little time totally disappears; so we scarcely behold the glare and glitter of this vain world, before the enchanting prospect vanishes, and the phantom passes onward, to astonish and delude succeeding generations]
Can there be any stronger argument for sitting loose to the things of time and sense?
(Where either our joys or our sorrows permanent, there would be some reason for having our minds deeply affected with them; but when we know that a few months or years must put an end to every present sensation, does it become us to be much elated with what is pleasing, or much depressed with what is painful?-Should not the infinitely greater importance of eternal things so engross our minds, as to render every temporal concern comparatively trivial-Should not the prospect of appearing before the judgment-seat of Christ cause us to estimate our happiness by a far different standard, and to consider ourselves in a blessed or miserable state, not so much by what we enjoy or suffer in this present world, as by our preparation to give up our account to God, and our hope of an approving sentence from the Judge of quick and dead?--Let then the transitoriness of earthly things moderate our affection to them, that whether we attain and enjoy them, or lose and want them, we may still have God as our abiding and all-sufficient portionADDRESS 1. The young and inexperienced
[You are ready to imagine that some change in your circumstances, to which you look forward, or perhaps which you rather wish for than expect, would make your cup to overflow with joy, and perfectly satisfy your most enlarged desires But be assured that, if you could at this moment possess all that your heart can wish, you would be quickly constrained to confirin the testimony of Solomon, that, It is “all vanity and vexation of spirit”—Happy would it be for you if you could be prevailed upon to purchase your experience at the expence of others; and not, like those who have gone before you, grasp at a shadow till you lose the substance -Ask those who are old and grey-headed, whether they have not found the world to be “ a vain show, wherein men dis
is thought by some to convey this idea: others think it refers rather to a passing spectacle. VOL. IV.
mselves in vain?" And ask the godly in particular,
they who fear God have not a truer enjoyment even of this present world, than the votaries of gain or pleasurele -Or rather we would say, attend to God's expostulation, and obey his voice; “ Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfeth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness"-]
2. Those who have grown old in the service of the world
(Lamentable it is, that the very persons who have found the insufficiency of the world to make them happy, are still as regardless of the eternal world, as those who are just entering on the delusive path-If age or experience have blunted the edge of their feelings with respect to present things, they are as insensible as ever either of pain or pleasure from spiritual concerns: nor are they at all more stimulated to improve the time that remains to them, than if their eternal interests were of no value Yea, age has often no other effect than to confirm the errors, and rivet the prejudices, of their former years—Enquire, brethren, whether you have profited by your experience; and whether you be now " setting your affections on things above, and not upon things below: You have hitherto regarded the blessed Saviour, and your own immortal soul, as though you regarded them not; and suffered your whole heart to be occupied about the world-Now reverse your conduct, and all will yet be well: let the greatest concerns of time and sense make but a light impression on your minds; and let an interest in Christ, and the salvation of your soul, be regarded henceforth as the one thing needful “Be no longer fools, but wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil:”d and while the fashion of this world is passing away, endeavour to secure an “incorruptible inheritance in heaven”-]
d Ps. xxxvii. 6, & Col. iii. 2.
i Isaiah ly. 2.
el Tim. vi. 17. Matt. v.5.
CCCCI, MORTIFICATION OF sin.
Rom, viii. 13. If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye
through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
IT is of infinite importance to know our state as it is before God, and to ascertain on scriptural grounds, what
our condition will be in the eternal world. Numberless are the passages of God's word which will afford us the desired information: but there is not in the whole inspired volume one declaration more explicit than that before us. It presents to our view two momentous truths, which, as they admit not of any clearer division or arrangement, we shall consider in their order. I. A carnal life will terminate in everlasting misery
To “ live after the flesh” is, to make the gratifying of our corrupt nature the great scope and end of our lives
[The“ flesh” does not relate merely to the body, but to the whole of our corrupt nature. It is used to signify that innate principle of sin, which governs the unregenerate, and continually fights against the spiritual principle in those that are regenerate. And its fruits comprehend the actings of the mind, no less than those of the body.b To“ live after” this corrupt principle, is to, be governed by it in all our deliberations and pursuits. It signifies nothing what may be the im- . mediate path which we choose for ourselves, provided our. main object be to gratify ourselves. One may seek pleasure, another riches; another honour, another the knowledge of arts and sciences; but if they have no higher end of life than to attain these things, they all equally live after the flesh.c] The consequence of such a life will be eternal death
['The death mentioned in the text cannot relate to the mere death of the body, because that must be experienced by the spiritual, no less than by the carnal man. It must import that death of the soul, which is emphatically called the second death. Nor can there be a doubt but that this will be the fruit and consequence of a carnal life. And shall this be thought an hard saying? Surely not: for such a sentence is only a repetition of what the person has before passed upon himself: he has practically said to God, “ Depart from me: I desire not the knowledge of thy ways;e I will be a god to myself, and make myself happy in my own way.' God replies to him, “ Thou wouldest none of me; and thou shalt have none of me; depart from me for evermore.”The very state in which they lived, was a state of spiritual death;h no wonder therefore that it terminates in everlasting death.]
• John iii. 6. Gal. v. 17.
b Gal. v. 19, 20. ¢ Comparc ver. 5. with Phil. iii. 19
d Rev xx. 14. e Job xxi. 14, 15.
r Ps. xii. 4. 6 Compare Ps. Isxsi. 11, with Matt. xxv. 41. Ver. 6.
As a counterpoise to the apparent severity of this truth; the Apostle adds, that II. A life of mortification and self-denial shall terminate
in everlasting happiness To mortify our corrupt nature ought to be the conti. ñual aim of our lives
[The “ deeds of the body” are of the same import with “ the flesh” in the preceding clause. Our corrupt nature is often represented as a body, because it has many parts or members whereby it acts. This we should endeavour to mortify in its outward actings, and in its inmost motions. As it consists principally in making self our idol, we must watch against it, and labour to bring it into subjection, that God in all things may be glorified by us. If we search our own hearts, we shall see a continual proneness to self-seeking, self-pleasing, and self-dependence. But instead of gratifying this propensity, we should make God's will the rule, and his honour the end, of our actions. We must therefore maintain a warfare against it, and resist it manfully, till it be subdued.k]
This however cannot be done effectually but by the assistance of the Holy Spirit
(We can walk after the flesh without any difficulty: it is natural to us, as it is to a stone to run down a precipice. But to mortify the flesh, is impossible to man: it can be effected only by the mighty working of that power, which raised Christ himself from the dead: yea, the inclination, as well as the ability, to mortify it is the gift of God.m This however is no excuse for our subjection to the flesh, since the Holy Spirit shall be given to all that ask it at God's hands.")
The consequence of successfully combating the flesh shall be unspeakably blessed
[If eternal death be the fruit of self-indulgence, eternal life shall be the fruit of self-denial. There is this difference indeed; that whereas the former is the wages due to sin, the latter is the gift of God through Christ.° We may well wonder at this marvellous grace of God, who has annexed such glorious consequences to our poor and feeble endeavours. But he delighteth in mercy, and will not suffer us to exert ours selves in vain.] By way of IMPROVEMENT we shall add a word
1. Of reproof
i Rorn. vii. 24. Col. ii. ll.
ki Cor ix. 27. ! Eph. i. 19, 20. and 1 Pet. 1. 02. with the test. m Phil. ij. 13. obuke xi. 13.
• Rom. vi. 23.
[Suppose it had been written, “ If ye live after the flesh, ye shall go to heaven;" could the generality take any surer way to obtain the blessing, than that which they now pursue? And whence is it that, in direct opposition to the word of God, they can go on so confidently and so securely? The reason is, that Satan suggests to them, as he did to our first parents, “ Ye shall not surely die." But shall we believe God or Satan? Did not the crediting of Satan ruin the whole world? and will it not eventually ruin us also? Be it known that we have but this alternative, mortification, or damnation. Either sin must be our enemy, or God. If therefore we would not perish for ever, let us immediately begin, in dependence on God's Spirit, to “mortify our earthly members:"p for it is an eternal truth, that, “ if we live after the flesh, we shall die.”] 2. Of caution
(We are in great danger of mistaking the nature and extent of that mortification which is required of us in the text. We may be restrained from sin by the influence of education, as Joash;9 or put away many sins, as Herod;" or set our: selves for a time against our besetting sin, as Judas under the terrors of a guilty conscience;' (as a mariner may cast all his goods out of his ship to save the vessel, without any aversion to the goods themselves) or may exchang'e our sins (prodi-. gality for avarice, sensuality for self-righteousness, or the love of vanity for sloth and indifference.) But all this falls very far short of our duty: we must not be lopping off branches; but must lay our axe to the root. The besetting sin, though dear as a right eye,' or needful as a right hand, must be cut off; at least, its dominion must be destroyed, and its motions be incessantly resisted. In short, to root out sin, and to serve, honour, and enjoy God, must be our daily business, or unintermitted employment. Nor must we ever think that we belong to Christ, till we have the testimony of our conscience, that we are thus crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts."] 3. Of encouragement
[As we have ruined ourselves, God might well leave us to restore ourselves: and then indeed would our condition be most pitiable. But he graciously offers us the assistance of his Spirit; so that none need despair: none need to decline the work of mortification for want of strength to accomplish it;
p Col iii. 5.
92 Chron. xxiv. 2,