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airIam2worship
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« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2006, 09:17:45 PM »

THE DISPOSITIONS NECESSARY FOR AN
INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION


True religion is a subject of a spiritual and moral nature, and, therefore, requires a different frame of mind to that which we carry to a topic purely intellectual.

1. The first disposition essentially necessary is a DEEP SERIOUSNESS.

True religion is the very last thing in the universe with which we should allow ourselves to trifle. Nothing can be more shocking and incongruous than that flippancy and inconsiderateness with which some people treat this dread theme. When Uzzah put forth his hand, in haste, to support the ark--he paid his life for his recklessness; and if the man, who takes up his Bible to inquire into the meaning of its contents, with a frivolous and whimsical temper, does not suffer the same penalty, it is not because the action is less criminal or less dangerous—but because God has now removed the punishment to a greater distance from the sin. I cannot conceive of anything more likely to provoke God to give a person up to the bewildering influence of his own inherent depravity, and, consequently, to a confused and erroneous perception of religious truth, than this temper. To see a person approaching the Book of God with the same levity as a votary of fashion and folly enters a place of amusement, is, indeed, revolting to taste, to say nothing of more sacred feelings. True religion, enthroned behind the veil in the temple of truth, and dwelling amid the brightness which the merely curious eye cannot bear to look upon, refuses to unfold her glories or discover her secrets to the frivolous mind; and delivers to every one who draws near to her abode, the admonition of Jehovah to Moses—"Take off your shoes, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground."

The subjects treated of by true religion are of the most exceedingly important nature. Everything about it is serious. The Eternal God, in every view of His nature and operations; the Lord Jesus Christ, in His sufferings and death; the soul of man, in its ruin and salvation; the solemnities of judgment, the mysteries of eternity, the felicities of heaven, the torments of hell--are all involved in the mighty comprehension of true religion. Should such themes be ever touched with irreverence? My dear children, I warn you against the too common practice of reducing, to the level of mere intellectual theories, and of treating with the same unconcern as the systems of philosophy, that sacred volume, which, to use the words of Locke, "has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its contents!" Do not forget, then, that the very first requisite, not only in true religion itself—but also in that frame of mind which enables us to understand its nature, is SERIOUSNESS.

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« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2006, 09:18:52 PM »

2. A GREAT SOLICITUDE to be guided aright is the next disposition, and nearly allied to the former.

Eternal consequences hang upon this question. According as we mistake it or understand it--we shall travel onward to heaven or to hell. An inquiry of such importance should, of course, be urged with the deepest concern. It might be rationally expected that events so awfully tremendous as death and judgment—a subject so deeply concerning us--as whether we shall spend eternal ages in torments or in bliss, could in no possible case, and in no constitution of mind whatever, fail of exciting the most serious apprehension and concern. And yet there are multitudes who have talked a thousand times about religion—but yet have never had, in all their, lives, one hour's real solicitude, to know whether their views of its nature are correct. Is it to be wondered at, then, that so many remain in ignorance—or plunge into error?

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« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2006, 09:20:30 PM »

3. A TEACHABLE DISPOSITION, is of great consequence.

Our Lord laid great emphasis on this, when he said—"Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Children, when they first go to school, have a sense of their own ignorance; they have neither biases nor prejudices; they present their unfurnished minds to their teachers, to receive, with implicit confidence, all that they are taught. A teachable spirit is essential to improvement in everything; for, if a child goes to school puffed up with high notions of his own attainments, imagining that he knows as much as his master can teach him, and with a disposition to cavil at everything that is communicated—in this case, improvement is out of the question; the avenues of knowledge are closed. In nothing is a teachable spirit more necessary, than in true religion, where the subject is altogether beyond the cognizance of the senses and the discoveries of reason.

Christianity is purely and exclusively matter of revelation. Of course, all our knowledge on this topic must be derived from the Bible; to the right understanding of which, we must carry the same consciousness of our ignorance, the same destitution of prejudice and bias, the same implicit submission of the understanding, as the child, on his first going to school, does to his instructor. We must go to the word of God with these convictions in our mind—"This is the Master, from whom I, who know nothing, am most implicitly to receive all things. My Teacher is infallible, and I am not to cavil at his instructions, however, in some things, they may transcend my ability to comprehend them."

Yes, the Bible, the Bible alone, is the infallible teacher of spiritual truth, from whose authority there is no appeal; before whose solemn truths reason must bow in humble silence, to learn and to obey. This is a teachable spirit, by which I mean, not a supple disposition to believe what others believe, or to adopt the creed which they would impose upon us. No—this is the surrendering our understanding to be enslaved by human authority. But teachableness means going direct to the heavenly Master, with this determination—whatever he teaches I will believe; be it so sublime, so humiliating, so novel, and, to my present limited capacities, so incomprehensible as it may.

Are we, then, to exclude reason from the business of true religion? By no means. It would be as absurd to attempt it, as it would be impossible to accomplish it. The whole affair of piety is a process of reason; but then it is reason submitting itself to the guidance of revelation. Reason bears the same relation to true religion, and performs the same office, as it does in the system of jurisprudence; it examines the evidence by which a law is proved to be an enactment of the legislature; interprets, according to the known use of terms and phrases, its right meaning, and then submits to its authority. Thus, in matters of true religion, its province is to examine the evidences by which the Bible is proved to be a revelation from God; having done this, it is to ascertain, according to the fixed use of language, its true meaning, and then to submit to its authority, by believing whatever it reveals, and obeying whatever it enjoins. This is what we mean by prostrating our reason before the tribunal of revelation.

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« Reply #18 on: October 19, 2006, 09:21:36 PM »

But, suppose that reason should meet with palpable contradictions in the word of God, is she to believe them? This is putting a case which cannot happen, since it is supposing that God will give His sanction to a lie. There can be no contradictions in the word of God; the thing is impossible. But still, it will be replied—Is not one kind of evidence for the divine authority of revelation derived from its contents? and, if so, may not reason make the nature of a doctrine a test of its truth? At best, this is but a secondary species of evidence, and cannot oppose the primary kind of proof. If it cannot be proved that a doctrine is really an interpolation, and if there be, at the same time, all the evidence that the case admits of that it is a part of divine revelation, no difficulty in the way of understanding its meaning, no seeming mystery in its nature, should lead us to reject it—we must receive it, and wait for further light to understand it.

Revelation is the sun, reason the eye which receives its beams, and applies them to all the purposes of life, for which, in ceaseless succession, they flow in upon us; and it can no more be said that revelation destroys or degrades reason, by guiding it, than it can be said the solar orb renders the faculty of vision useless, by directing its efforts.

A teachable spirit, then, my dear children—by which I mean a submission of the human understanding, in matters of true religion, to the word of God—is essential to all true piety. I insist upon this with more earnestness, because it is easy to perceive the tendency of the present age is in an opposite direction. A haughty and flippant spirit has arisen, which, under the pretext of freedom of inquiry, has discovered a restless propensity to throw off the authority of divine truth; a spirit more disposed to teach the Bible than to be taught by it; to speculate upon what it should be, than to receive it as it is; a spirit which would receive the morality of the word of God as it finds it—but which is perpetually employed in mending its theology; which, in fact, would subvert the true order of things, and, instead of subjecting reason to revelation, would make reason the teacher and revelation the pupil. Beware, my children, of this dangerous spirit, which, while it pays flattering compliments to your understanding, is injecting the deadliest poison into your soul!

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« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2006, 09:22:48 PM »

4. A PRAYERFUL SPIRIT is essential to a right disposition for inquiring into the nature of true piety. True religion is an affair so spiritual in its nature, so tremendously important in its consequences, and so frequently misunderstood; and, on the other hand, we ourselves are so liable to be misled in our judgments by the bewildering influence of internal depravity and external temptation--that it betrays the most criminal indifference, or the most absurd self-confidence--to enter on this subject without constant, earnest supplication for direction, to the Father and Fountain of lights.

The 'religious world' is like an immense forest, through which lies the right road to truth and happiness; but besides this, there are innumerable paths running in all directions—every way has its travelers, each traveler thinks he is right, and attempts to prove it by referring to the map which he carries in his hand. In such circumstances, who that values his soul or her eternal salvation, would not seek for guidance to Him who has promised to disclose to us, by His Spirit, the path of life? When young people trust to the efforts of their own unaided reason, and neglect to ask for the guiding influence of the eternal God--it is matter of little surprise that they are found walking in the paths of error. There is a degree of pride and independence in this, which God often punishes by leaving them to the seductions of worldly philosophy and falsehood.

In addition, then, to the greatest seriousness of mind and the most intense desire after truth, and the most unprejudiced approach to the oracle of scripture--pray constantly to God to reveal to you the nature of true piety, and to dispose you to embrace it. This is the way appointed by God to obtain it. "If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him." "If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto those who are your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give His Holy Spirit to those who ask Him." "I will instruct you, and teach you in the way you shall go; I will guide you with my eye."

These, surely, with a thousand other passages of similar import, are sufficient to enjoin and encourage the temper I now recommend. I have no hope of those who neglect habitual prayer for divine illumination. I expect to see them left to embrace error, or to content themselves with the mere forms of godliness, instead of its power.

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« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2006, 07:29:36 AM »

THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION

All other questions, compared with this, are trifles light as air—or but as the dust of the balance. Philosophy, literature, commerce, the arts and the sciences, have, it is true, a relative importance—they soften the manners, alleviate the evils, multiply the comforts of life. Yet it is impossible to forget that they are the mere embellishments of a scene which we must shortly leave—the decorations of a theater, from which the actors and spectators must soon retire together. But true religion is of infinite and eternal importance, and develops its most significant consequence, in that very moment when the importance of all other subjects terminates forever. A mistake in the nature of true religion, persisted in until death, is followed by effects infinitely dreadful—and of eternal duration. You should bring to this inquiry, therefore, my children, a trembling solicitude to be led in the right way.

Some consider saving religion as a mere notional assent to certain theological opinions; others, as a bare attendance on religious ordinances; others, as the performance of moral duties. They are all equally wrong—for, instead of being any one of these separately and apart from the rest, it is the union of them all. True religion admits of many definitions in scripture language. It is "repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ;" or it is "faith working by love;" or it is receiving "that grace which brings salvation, and teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present evil world;" or it is "denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following after Christ;" or it is being born again of the Spirit, and sanctified by the truth; or it is the supreme love of Christ, or the habitual filial fear of God. Each one of these phrases is a definition of true piety. But I shall now adopt another, and represent true religion as "a right disposition of mind towards God—implanted in our nature by the influence of the Holy Spirit—and exercising itself according to the circumstances in which we are placed."

True religion is the same in substance in all rational creatures, whether innocent or fallen. In angels it is still a right disposition towards God, exercising itself in a way of adoration, love, gratitude, and obedience—but not of faith, hope, and repentance, because their circumstances preclude the possibility of these acts. True religion, in reference to fallen man, is a right disposition of mind—but inasmuch as he is a sinful and ruined creature, yet a creature capable of salvation, through the mediation of Christ, it must necessarily include in it, in addition to the feelings of angelic piety, all those mental exercises and habits which are suitable to a state of guilt and a dispensation of mercy. Let us take each part of the definition by itself.

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« Reply #21 on: October 20, 2006, 07:30:46 AM »

I. God is the primary object of true religion.
It is not enough that we perform our duties towards our fellow-creatures—but to be truly pious we must perform our duty towards God. We may be exemplary and even punctilious in discharging every social obligation—we may be moral in the usual acceptance of the term—we may be honorable and amiable; and yet may be without one single spark of true piety; because in all this there may be no reference whatever to God. An atheist may be all this!

Until the mind is rightly affected towards God, there is no true religion because He is the direct and primary object of it. It is something totally independent, as to its essence, of all the social relations. If a man were wrecked on an uninhabited island, where there would be no opportunity for loyalty, honesty, kindness, mercy, justice, truth, or any of the 'relative virtues'—the claims of piety would still follow him to this dreary and desolate abode. And even there, where he would never hear the sweet music of speech, nor see the look on the human face—he would still be under the obligations of piety; even there one voice would be heard breaking the silence around him, with the solemn injunction of scripture, "You shall love the Lord your God."

Bear in recollection, then, my dear children, that God, as he is revealed in his word, is the direct and primary object of all true piety; and that the most exemplary discharge of the social duties can be no substitute for that reverence, and love, and gratitude, and obedience, which we owe to him.

Most strange it is, and yet most lamentably prevalent, for mankind to make the discharge of their duties towards each other—a substitute for those, and an excuse for neglecting the duties which they owe to God. As if the Divine Being, were the only one in the universe, who could, with propriety, be ignored—and as if He, without any criminality on our part, might be utterly neglected. He is our Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor—in Him we live, and move, and have our being. His nature includes everything that can entitle him to our esteem and adoration—His goodness, everything that can claim our gratitude and love. How then can it be thought that the practical remembrance of our duty to man can be any reason for not loving and serving HIM! Our first and most important relation is that of creatures dependent on the Creator; and, therefore, our first and most indispensable duty is a right disposition towards God.

Hence, the scriptures resolve all crime into forgetfulness of God. "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." To be a wicked man, and to forget God, are one and the same thing. To be destitute of right affections towards God, is the very essence of sin; and to possess these affections the essence of true religion.

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« Reply #22 on: October 20, 2006, 07:31:50 AM »

II. True religion is a right disposition of mind towards God.
It is not merely a thing of outward forms and ceremonies—but of the heart. It is more than an external action, it is a disposition; not only a performance—but a taste; not an involuntary or compulsory pursuit—but a voluntary and agreeable one. That true religion must be an internal principle, an affair of the soul, is evident from the nature of its object, of whom it is said, "God is a spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." As the heart lies all open to him, unless there be true religion there—God scorns the uplifted hand and bended knee. It is evident from reason, that piety must have its seat in the heart; for what spiritual excellence can there be in an action, which is either performed from a bad motive, or from none at all?

This is evident from Scripture. Read such injunctions as these. "My son, give me your heart." "Get a new heart." "Your heart is not right in the sight of God." "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind." "You must be born again." Equally in point are all those passages which command us to love God, to fear him, to trust in him, to glorify him; duties which of course imply the exercise, and the vigorous exercise of the affections of the mind. Notions however clear, morality however exemplary—are not enough until the current of feeling is turned towards God. A mere cold correctness of deportment—but which leaves the heart in a state of alienation and estrangement from God—is not the piety of the word of truth.

Now, in consequence of our natural descent from Adam since his fall, we come into the world totally destitute of this right disposition towards God and grow up under the influence of a contrary temper. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." This is what we mean by the total depravity of human nature; not that there is an absence of all amiable and praiseworthy feeling towards our fellow-creatures; not that there is the predominance of criminal and wicked appetite—but that there is a total destitution of all right feeling towards God. Much loose and incorrect representation has been given, by injudicious writers, on the subject of human depravity. It would seem, from their statements, as if mankind were all like, as bad as vice could make them.

Now, by the total depravity of the whole race of man, we simply mean, that since the fall, every man comes into the world totally destitute of holiness and love to God—and in consequence of this destitution lives without God—until renewed by divine grace. Some will go further astray in sin than others, according to the circumstances in which they are placed—but so far as the state of the heart is concerned, all are equally destitute of the principles of holiness, as long as they are unrenewed by the Divine Spirit. Before true religion can be possessed by one human being, there must of consequence be an entire change of mind, a complete alteration in the disposition. The scriptures inform us that all are inherently depraved, for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh;" and, therefore, with equal explicitness they inform us, that all must be changed before they can partake of true piety. This change is so great that our Lord himself calls it a second birth. "Verily, verily, I say unto you—Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven."

Until this change takes place, there cannot be even the commencement of true religion. Whatever sins are avoided, or whatever morality is done that bears the semblance of piety—is carried on without a right disposition of mind; and we cannot suppose that God, who sees the heart, is pleased with such service, any more than we should be with compliments from a person whose bosom we knew to be destitute of all right feeling toward us. The mistake which many make in religion is, they do not begin with the beginning. They attempt to carry up the superstructure without seeking to have the foundation laid in the renewal of the nature. They profess to serve God outwardly before they have surrendered their heart to His renewing grace. Their religion is a new dress—but not a new nature. It is the mechanical performance of an machine—not the voluntary actions of a living man. It lacks that which alone constitutes piety—a "right disposition towards God."

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« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2006, 07:33:09 AM »

III. This disposition is implanted in the soul by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The operations of Deity, in the formation of the material world, are frequently alluded to by the sacred writers, as illustrating the work of Jehovah in renewing the human mind and bringing forth the beauties of holiness in the human character. The soul of man, as to all spiritual excellence, is in its natural state, a chaos. And the same Divine Spirit who brooded on the materials of the formless void, who moved on the face of the deep, and brought order out of confusion, and beauty out of deformity; who said—Let there be light, and there was light—now operates on the dark mind, the crooked affections, the hard heart of the sinner—giving true light to the understanding, a right disposition to the soul, submission to the will; and, in short, creating the whole man anew in Christ Jesus, unto good works.

This is declared in many passages of the scriptures. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes." To the same effect are our Lord's words to Nicodemus—"Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." This same truth is often repeated by the apostles. "You has he quickened." "Who has saved us by washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit." "It is God who works in us to will and to do." That it must be some power, outside of a man, and beyond himself to effect the change, is evident from the circumstance that it is not merely the conduct—but the disposition itself, which requires to be changed; and who can reach the mind, and regulate the springs of action—but God? Not that we are to lie down in indolent neglect, and say—"If, then, it is the Holy Spirit who must change the mind, I may give up all concern about the matter, and wait before I attempt to perform the duties of true religion, until I feel that I am changed."

No—as rational creatures, we must use our faculties, consider our case, examine our hearts, tremble at our situation, call upon God in prayer, and give Him no rest until He pours out His spirit upon us. The very circumstance that we are thus dependent on God, should make us more tremblingly anxious—more importunate in prayer for divine help. If you were entirely dependent upon the assistance of a fellow-creature for help to recover your property, liberty, or life—would not that very conviction impel you to the door and presence of the person, in all the eloquence and urgency of importunate entreaty? Would you not pour out your very soul in the language of wrestling supplication? Would you not press your suit by every argument, so long as a ray of hope fell upon your spirits? In this case—the idea that help must come from another—would not render you indolent. And why should it do so in the business of conversion?

The only circumstance which renders the influence of the Holy Spirit necessary for the conversion of the soul, is the lack of inclination or disposition to love and serve God. That is what we call moral inability, in distinction from natural inability. A man is morally unable when he has no inclination; he is naturally unable when he has no opportunity. When a master commands a servant to go and bring something to him—and the servant hears the command and at the same time has the use of his limbs—but refuses to obey, he is morally unable—that is, he has no inclination, no disposition. But if the master were to command the servant to go to another room, or to another street, and the servant at that time were deprived of the use of his limbs, he is, in that case, naturally unable. In the former case, he could go if he would; in the latter, he would if he could. The former is guilty of rebellion, for all he lacked was disposition; the latter is innocent, for he has no opportunity. One lacks will, the other lacks power.

This illustrates the case of the sinner—he is morally unable to obey and love God; he has enough natural power, he has reason, will, affections, and he has eyes to read God's commands, and ears to hear them. Why, then, does he not obey them? Because he has no disposition. If he were a lunatic or an idiot, from his birth, his inability to serve God would be a natural inability. Now, moral inability, or lack of disposition, so far from being an excuse for neglecting God and true religion, is the very essence of sin. The less disposition a man has to that which is good, and the more disposition he has to that which is evil, the more wicked he is; just as a person addicted to dishonesty, cruelty, or injustice, is the more guilty the stronger his propensities are to his wickedness. The more natural inability we have, the more we are excused from not doing what is right—but the greater our moral inability is, the more guilty we are.

Now, this moral inability is what our Lord speaks of us when he says—"No man can come unto me except the Father who has sent me draw him." He cannot, because he will not; and he will not, because he has no disposition. Hence he says, in another place—"You will not come unto me, that you may have life." The inability which the Spirit of God removes, then, in conversion, is the lack of inclination; the ability which he gives is a right disposition. In conversion, no violence is done to the will, because the will always follows the disposition. If this be correct, we are to take pains with ourselves, to think, to resolve, to act, though in dependence upon the grace of God.

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« Reply #24 on: October 20, 2006, 07:35:42 AM »

IV. I shall now state how a right disposition of mind towards God will exercise itself in our circumstances as sinners; and this will bring us more immediately to a consideration of the nature of real religion.

First—Reverence, veneration, and awe, are due from us to that great and glorious Being who is the author of our existence, the fountain of our comforts, the witness of our actions, and the arbiter of our eternal destiny! How sublimely grand and awesome is the character of God, as it is revealed in His word! Acknowledging, as you do, my children, His existence, you should make Him the object of your habitual fear and dread. You should maintain a constant veneration for Him, a trembling aversion of His wrath. A consciousness of His existence and of His immediate presence should never, for any length of time, be absent from your mind. The idea of an ever-present, omniscient, omnipotent Spirit, should not only be sometimes before your understanding, as an article of faith—but impressed upon your heart as a dreadful and practical reality. Your very spirits should ever be laboring to apprehend and to apply the representation which the scriptures give us of the Deity. A desire to know Him, to feel and act towards Him with propriety, should be interwoven with the entire habit of your reflections and conduct.

Secondly—PENITENCE is indispensably necessary. In order to this, there must be deep CONVICTION OF SIN; for none can mourn over a fault, which he is not convinced that he has committed. A deep CONSCIOUSNESS OF GUILT is one of the first feelings of a renewed mind, and is one of the first operations of the Holy Spirit. "When he has come, he shall convince the world of sin." We come to a knowledge of our sinful state by an acquaintance with the spirituality, purity, and extent of the moral law; "for sin is the transgression of the law." Until we know the law, which is the rule of duty, we cannot know in what way, and to what extent, we have offended against it. The exposition which our Lord has given us of the law, in his sermon on the mount, informs us that it is not only the overt act of iniquity which makes man a sinner—but the inward feeling, the imagination, the desire. An unchaste look is a breach of the seventh commandment; a feeling of immoderate anger is a violation of the sixth. Viewing ourselves in such a mirror, and trying ourselves by such a standard, we must all confess ourselves to be guilty of ten thousand sins.

And then, again, we are not only sinful for what we do that is wrong—but for what we leave undone that is right, and ought to be done. If, therefore, we have a right disposition towards God, we must have a deep feeling of depravity and guilt—an impressive sense of moral deviation—a humbling consciousness of vileness. To the charges of the law, we must cry guilty! guilty! We must not only admit, upon the testimony of others, that we are sinful—but, from a perception of the holiness of God's nature, and the purity of His law—we must discern the number, aggravations, and enormity of our offences. We must do homage to infinite holiness—by acknowledging ourselves altogether sinful.

SORROW is essential to penitence. We cannot have been made partakers of penitence if we do not feel inward grief on the review of our transgressions. We read of "godly sorrow, which works repentance unto salvation." If we have injured a fellow-creature, the first indication of a right sense of the offense, is a sincere regret that we should have acted so. How much more necessary is it that we should be unfeignedly sorry for our innumerable offences against God. Sorrow for sin is not, however, to be estimated only by violent emotions and copious tears. The passions are much stronger in themselves, and much more excitable in some than in others; and, therefore, the same degree of inward emotion, or of outward grief, is not to be expected from all. The degrees of sorrow, as well as the outward modes of expressing it, will vary, as belonging more to the sensitive nature than to the rational; and for avoiding all scruple and doubtfulness on this topic, it may be laid down for certain, that the least degree of sorrow is sufficient—if it produces sincere reformation; the greatest degree of sorrow is insufficient—if it does not produce sincere reformation.

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« Reply #25 on: October 20, 2006, 07:37:33 AM »

The next step in penitence is CONFESSION. Real sorrow for sin is always frank and impartial—while false or partial sorrow is prone to concealment, palliation, and self-justification. There is a wretched proneness in many people when convinced of sin, to offer excuses and to endeavor to think the best of their case. They cannot be brought to admit the charge in all its length and breadth—but they attempt to hide its magnitude from their own eyes. This is a dangerous disposition, and has often come between a man's soul and his salvation. All the great and precious promises of pardon are suspended upon the condition of confession. "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." Confession must be in detail, not in generals only; it must be free and impartial.

ABHORRENCE OF SIN is also included in penitence. There can be no real grief for an action, which is not accompanied by dislike of it. We shall unquestionably hate sin—if we partake of godly sorrow. This, indeed, is the true meaning of the term repentance, which does not signify grief merely—but an entire change of mind towards sin. Abhorrence of sin is as necessary a part of repentance, as grief. Our hatred of transgression must be grounded not merely on viewing it as an injury to ourselves—but as an insult to God. For penitence, on account of sin, is altogether a different feeling to that which we experience over a fire, a shipwreck, or a disease which has diminished our comforts. Our tears, then, are not enough, if not followed by abhorrence. "If we are sincere in our grief, we shall detest and fly the viper which has stung us, and not cherish and caress the beast, while with false tears we bathe the wound we have received."
Thirdly—FAITH in Jesus Christ is no less necessary. Faith is a very important, and most essential part of true religion. Faith in Christ is a firm practical belief of the gospel testimony concerning Christ, a full persuasion of the truth of what is declared, and a confident expectation of what is promised. The testimony is this—"It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." "God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish—but have everlasting life." Hence, then, faith is a belief that Jesus Christ died as a sacrifice of atonement to divine justice for human guilt, accompanied by an exclusive dependence on that atonement for acceptance with God, and a confident expectation of pardon and eternal life according to the promises of the gospel.

Mere assent does not amount to the scriptural idea of faith. There must be dependence and expectation. The subject of the divine testimony is not like a problem in mathematics, which appeals exclusively to the understanding; in this case mere assent, or a perception of the truth of the proposition, is all that belief contains. But the gospel is a report that concerns our hearts, and which is, in fact, proposed to us not only as a promise to be believed—but a rule to be obeyed. Faith, then, certainly includes in it an exercise of the will, or else there can be nothing moral in its nature. We cannot affirm of anything merely intellectual, that it is matter of duty. Exclude an exercise of volition, or disposition from faith, and then, it is no longer obligatory upon the conscience. Besides, if belief be merely an intellectual exercise, so is unbelief; for they are opposites. A scriptural faith, then, includes dependence and expectation.

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« Reply #26 on: October 20, 2006, 07:39:27 AM »

Faith is, most obviously, as much a part of a right disposition towards God, as penitence. God having given Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners, and promised to save those who depend upon the atonement, and commanded all to ask for pardon and eternal life; it is manifest, that not to believe, is to dispute the divine veracity, as well as to rebel against the divine authority. To believe the gospel, and to expect salvation through Christ, is to honor all the attributes of Deity at once, is to praise that mercy which prompted the scheme of redemption, that wisdom which devised it, that power which accomplished it, that justice which is satisfied by it, and that  truth which engages to bestow its benefits on all that seek them. Not to believe is an act of contempt which insults Jehovah in every view of his character at once. Until we are brought, therefore, actually to depend on Christ so as to expect salvation, we have no real religion.

Fourthly—A willingness in all things to OBEY God, completes the view which ought to be given of a right disposition towards him.

There must be a distinct acknowledgment of His right to govern us, and an unreserved surrender of our heart and life to his authority; a habitual desire to do what he has enjoined, to avoid what He has forbidden. Where there is this desire to please, this reluctance to offend God—the individual will read with constancy and attention the sacred volume, which is written for the express purpose of teaching us how to obey and please the Lord. Finding there innumerable injunctions against all kinds of immorality and sin, and as many commands to practice every personal, relative, and social duty—the true Christian will be zealous for all good works. Remembering that Jesus Christ is proposed there as our example, no less than our atonement—he will strive to be like him in purity, spirituality, submission to the will of God, and devotedness to the divine glory. Nor will he forget to imitate the beautiful meekness, humility, and kindness of his deportment; so that the love which a right view of his atonement never fails to produce, transforms the soul of the believer into his image. Finding in the word of God many commands to cultivate the spirit and attend on the exercises of devotion; the true Christian will remember the sabbath-day to keep it holy, will maintain daily prayer in his closet, and unite himself in the fellowship of some Christian church, to live in communion with believers, and with them to celebrate the sacred supper.

During the trials of life, he will console himself with the promises of grace, and the prospects of glory. He will soften his earthly cares by the influence of his heavenly hopes. He will endeavor to keep himself pure from the vices of the world, and shine as a spiritual light amid surrounding darkness. His great business in this world will be to prepare for the better eternal home; and when the time arrives for him to leave the visible for the invisible state, he will bow in meek submission to the will of God, and retire from earth, cheered with the prospect and the expectation of eternal glory.

Such appears to me to be the nature of true religion. Its possessor, daily conscious of his defects, will habitually humble himself before God; and while he seeks forgiveness for past offences, through the blood of Jesus Christ, will as earnestly implore the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit to sanctify him more perfectly for the future.

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« Reply #27 on: October 20, 2006, 06:35:02 PM »

THE ADVANTAGES AND RESPONSIBILITY OF A PIOUS EDUCATION

The value of any system of education, must, of course, be estimated by the importance of the end to be obtained, which, in the present case, is the possession of saving religion in this world—and eternal happiness in that which is to come. The end to be obtained includes not only a profession of piety in our present state of being—but all that infinite and everlasting felicity which piety brings in its train—of what vast consequence, then, must be the most suitable means for attaining to this sublime purpose!

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« Reply #28 on: October 20, 2006, 06:36:19 PM »

I. The ADVANTAGES of a pious education.

The value of a thing, my dear children, is sometimes learned by the lack of it—consider, therefore, the situation of those young people whose parents, careless of their own souls, take no pains for the salvation of their children. In what a helpless situation are such young people placed! They are taught, perhaps, everything but true religion. They are instructed in all the elegant accomplishments of fashionable life—but how to serve God and obtain eternal salvation, is no part of their education. In their abode, wisdom, in the form of parental piety, is never heard saying—"Hearken, O children, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord." They see cards and other amusements often introduced to the domestic circle—but no Bible; they hear singing—but it is not the songs of Zion; there is feasting and partying—but no devotion; there is no domestic altar, no family prayer. The Sabbath is marked with the same levity as other days. They go to church, perhaps—but not to hear the true gospel of Christ. They are taken to every mirthful party in the neighborhood, and are studiously trained that 'pleasure' is their chief end. They scarcely ever see the lovely form of true religion in the circles which they frequent, except when, like its divine Author, it is brought there to be despised and rejected of men. How are such young people to be pitied! Who can wonder that they do not fear the Lord!

How different has been your lot!—the very opposite of this. From your earliest childhood, you have been taught the nature and the necessity of true religion. Instruction on this subject has been concurrent with the dawn of reason. Every topic of piety has been explained to you—as your mind could bear it. The doctrines of Christianity have been stated and proved, its duties unfolded and enforced. The nature and attributes of God, the extent and obligation of His law, the design and grace of the gospel, have been explained; your sinful state has been clearly set before you, the object of Christ's death pointed out, the necessity of regeneration, justification, and sanctification impressed upon your heart. If you perish—will it be for lack of knowledge? If you miss the path of life—will it be from not having it pointed out?

To instruction has been united admonition. With all the tenderness of parental affection, and all the seriousness which the nature of the subject demanded, you have been warned, entreated, and even pleaded with—to fear God and seek the salvation of your souls. You have seen the tear glistening in a father's eye, while his tongue addressed to you the fondest wishes of his heart for your eternal happiness. You have enjoyed the advantage of a system of mild and appropriate discipline. You remember the time when your budding corruptions were nipped by the kind hand of parental care—and the blossoms of youthful excellence were sheltered and nurtured by a mother's watchful solicitude. Have they not often reproved you for what was wrong, and commended you for what was right? Have they not, by praise and by dispraise, judiciously administered, endeavored to train you up to hate that which is evil, and to cleave to that which is good? Have they not kept you from improper company, and warned you against associates that were likely to injure you? Have they not, with weeping eyes and bleeding hearts, administered that correction which your faults deserved?

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« Reply #29 on: October 20, 2006, 06:37:00 PM »

You have also seen all this enforced by the power of a  holy example—imperfect, it is true, yet sufficient, like the sun, even when partially covered by a mist, to be your guide. You have seen them walking with God, and in fellowship with Christ. You have seen them retiring for prayer, and marked what an impression of devout seriousness they have brought from the presence of God. You cannot doubt that true religion was the governing principle of their hearts. The happiness as well as holiness of true piety has appeared in their conduct. You have seen the cloud of sorrow which affliction brought upon their brow, irradiated with the sunbeams of Christian faith and hope. Thus, the whole weight of parental example has been employed to give impression in favor of true religion on your heart.

But the advantage of a pious education rests not here; for you well know that it has procured for you all other religious benefits which conduce, in the order of means, to the salvation of the soul. You have been taken, from childhood, to hear the gospel preached by those who were anxious to save those who hear them. You have been associated with pious people, and joined the circles of the righteous, where the claims of true religion are respected, and her holy image has been welcomed with affection, and treated with respect. Religious books have been put into your hands. Schools have been selected for your education, which would aid the work of your parents—and everything kept out of your way which would be likely to be an impediment to the formation of your religious character, and your pursuits of eternal salvation.

Thus, so far as means go, the very avenues of perdition have been blocked up—the way to destruction has been filled with mounds and barriers; while the path of life has been carefully laid open to your view, and everything done to facilitate your entrance to the road to immortality. You have been born, cradled, and instructed in an element of true religion; you have trod the ground, and breathed the atmosphere of piety. What advantages! Who shall count their number, or calculate their value!

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