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perfect, converting the foul: The testimony of the Lord is fure, making wise the simple : The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart : The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes : The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever : The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold ; yea, thạn much fine gold— Moreover by thent is thy servant warned: And in keeping of them there is
INDECISION IN RELIGION.
1. KINGS xviii. 21.
HOW LONG HALT YE BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS? IF THE LORD BE GOD, FOLLOW HIM; BUT IF BAAL, THEN FOLLOW HIM.
HE people of Israel were distinguished for wavering in their religious opinions. Their apoftacy was so general in the time of Elijah, that he imagined himself the only exception. “ They have forsaken “thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and flain
thy prophets ; and I, even I only, am left ; and “ they seek my life.” This prophet was sent by God to reprove king Ahab, who, with his father's house, led the way in the revolt. The context relates the mode by which Elijah tried the respective claims of Jehovah and of Baal, and the result of the trial. I need not recite it. An idol, that could neither fee, hear, nor speak--an idol supposed to be taken up with other concerns than the prayers of the supplicants—fuppofed to be asleep or absent, was set up, by an whole community, as a rival to the God of their ancestors. A combination of artful impostors deluded the rulers and people. In this case, worthy of a special divine interposition, the true God, by a miracle, removed the delusion. The people could no longer doubt : They could hold but one opinion: They instantly exclaimed with one voice, The Lord, he is the God. We do not enquire how long the impression lasted. If it afforded, at the time, just and abundant matter of conviction, it could never afterwards lose any part of its force, as a principle of evidence. The God, who then answered by fire, could not cease to be the only living and true God, because the miracle might be forgotten, or its impression impaired or loft.
The subject, to which I last called your attention, was, That religion must be our own choice. Decision in religion, in opposition to an unsettled, wavering mind, will come under our present confideration. It must be a fixed, not a fluctuating choice. Indecision is as inconsistent with religion as compulsion. The text is a pointed reproof of the inconstancy of the ancient people. In applying to their idol the severest sarcasm, the prophet fhewed them their enhanced guilt. They preferred a senseless ftatue to the living God, whose dominion and providence, in the overthrow of idolatry, had been marvellously displayed in the view of the nations. To Elijah's address, in the words before us, they could make no answer.
I. We enquire, first, what is meant by halting between two opinions in religion? and what by being determined and fixed ?
II. Secondly, The great absurdity and impiety of a wavering character, and importance of its opposite, will be held up to view.
III. Thirdly, The prophet's expoftulation claims fpecial attention. How long halt ye between two opinions ?
1. First, What is meant by halting between two opinions ? and what by being determined and fixed in religion?
To halt between two or more opinions in religion is the reverse of deliberation and a sound mind. Opinions, hastily embraced, are as hastily given up, as circumstances, books, conversation or company may vary. Such a mind is open to every prevailing error. Or it has in view fome exemption, indulgence, advantage or fraudulent purpose. “He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind, “ and tofled-unstable in all his ways."
Religion is uniform and immutable to be assumed with the deliberation which our Saviour expresseth by fitting down and counting the cost. The nation that goes to war, without previously comparing its own strength with that of the enemy, may expect a disgraceful defeat. The man who begins to build without calculating the probable expence, loses his time and labor, wastes whatever he expends on his structure, and becomes the scorn of spectators. In assuming the profession of religion, we engage in a warfare—a war with inward corruption, the allurements of the world and the hosts of hell. We lay the foundation of a spiritual fabric-a foundation for eternity. We should therefore make an estimate of the conflicts, temptations and dangers in this war—the foes with whom we have to fight, and the armour with which we must be provided. We should carefully attend to the foundation which we lay, and the materials with which we build. A profession, taken up without examination-taken up for convenience, in compliance with fashion, or to answer any worldly purpose, will be renounced in an hour of temptation. · In fecular pursuits, those who are wise in their generation keep in view their respective objects, and perseveringly encounter difficulties and opposition. They do not fluctuate between different opinions, either with regard to the general object of pursuit, or the means of obtaining it. Here they are determined, and have but one opinion.
The votaries of science, the several learned profesfions, the husbandman, merchant, artificer and mechanic have respectively a favorite pursuit, to which they seasonably and sedulously apply, carefully observing the best opportunities. Their decision is manifeft from their accurate discernment and great industrythe fatigues and obstacles which their diligence and patience overcome the facrifices they make to final and complete success——their rifing above misfortunes. In just and honorable worldly pursuits, men steadily purfue their end by honorable means. In unjust and illaudable ones, they are equally fixed, and can be diffuaded by no considerations of honor or virtue, no expoftulations of friends, admonitions of providence, or remonstrances of conscience. When in the concerns of religion, men do not halt between two or more opinions, they have assumed it from deliberate attention to its nature and importance from a full persuasion that the gain of the world is no compensation for the loss of the foul--that any temporal facrifices and sufferings will be abundantly recompensed, when they shall receive the end of their faith. In this persuasion they abide by their choice of religion amidst all difficulties and hazards.
Many have never considered maturely. They have their choice yet to make: Or they are undecided one while almost persuaded; soon halting between variant opinions, at a loss what religion to choose, or whether any-or attempting to serve two masters.-Many who begin well do not persevere. Some providence, or feasonable truth, is impressed upon them. But the hour of temptation returns, the cares of this life croud upon them, and they decline from any warmth of affection which they felt for a time. Such as are determined in religion imitate the twelve ; “ Lord, to whom shall we go?” whom else shall we follow ? " Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Therefore we will not go back from following thee, though we should die with thee.
The spirit of religion may be languid, but never dies. Many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown it. "Religion may be assumed from education, or custom, or a reverence of human authority, or tranfient conviction. Neither of these can fuffice.