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It is a reasonable service, founded in personal persuafion, and must be taken up on such grounds as that we may see the absolute security of it--that in all events it is our highest duty and only safety. It is of the last importance to be fixed in religion--to fix right. The more fixed any one is in the wrong, the worse is his case.
A wavering mind imagines, that, among various objects of worship, the attributes are so similar, as to make it unimportant to which the preference is given; or that the worship may be divided or changed at pleasure, with perfect consistency and safety.
II. We proposed, SECONDLY, to hold up to view the great absurdity and impiety of a wavering character, and importance of its opposite.
To suppose the perfect equality of all forms is to explode every profession of religion. There can be no comparison between the unity of God and a plurality of gods. Finite may not be compared with infinite. To account for all the phenomena of nature, we certainly need not have recourse to two or more infinite Beings : For one such Being could produce and maintain them. And unity of design proves that one Being framed and governeth the universe. Religion then is to love him with all the heart. « Thou shalt
worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou “ serve." Shall it be enquired what religion is cheapest? what religion may best accord with human wishes, or best answer a present purpose? The proper enquiry is, What is the religion, in embracing which we shall a
sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and be “ ready always to give an answer to every man who
may ask a reason of the hope that is in" us? Under what profession may we best improve in the spirit of the gospel ? of reformed Christianity ? For Christians and Protestants are not enquiring into the merits of pagan idolatry, of Mahomet’s Koran, or of Popery.They do not hold different opinions on those superstitions.
The religion of Jesus Christ, if true, is infinitely interesting: It beft inftructs us in the perfections and government of God, the moral nature, accountableness and distination of man : It shews us the origin of the present corruption of human nature : It reveals a Mediator between an offended God and guilty man--a Mediator who is our ransom and advocate: It reveals the resurrection of the dead, a judgment to come, and eternal retributions according to the deeds done in the body: It enlightens a dark world, and supplies man, who is weak through fin, with strength from on high : It is such a religion as fallen man needed: It adds the fanction of a divine promise to any hope of pardon which the penitent might otherwise be presumed to have-It lays a foundation, chosen of God and precious, on which to build our heavenly hopes. Those who cordially embrace it, have strong consolation in two immutable sources, the promise and oath of God who cannot lie. And if his seal hath been set to it-if it was confirmed by miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, what may the rejecters of it look for, but a greater damnation ? Between this religion and any other, what man of reflection would hesitate? who that will do the will of God can hesitate ?
If religion is, beyond comparison, the most momentous of all concerns, it is then of the highest importance to be determined in this thing. Indecision is next to an open denial of it, and naturally conduces to the contempt of all principles of piety. Would you not cast off the fear of God-would you not be found among scoffers, do not waver in your religious opinions. Use the best means of information. Take them ultimately from the oracles of God. Decide as they decide, comparing one part of scripture with another. Be open to conviction, but not to the Neight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive,
A wavering mind may be ever learning ; but never comes to the knowledge of the truth. Such a state of mind is opprobrious in the things of this life; but more so in the concerns of religion in proportion to the greater importance of these concerns. It is base to trifle with man, Is it less fo to treat as of trivial concern the subject of religion, which lies between God and our souls ? Agrippa was half persuaded to be a Christian. He believed the prophets. From them an apostle had shewn, almost to the satisfaction of Agrippa, that Jesus was Christ. But, while the
powerful reasoning of Paul wrought some conviction, there was an halting between two opinions. From this indecision, it is probable, that Agrippa proceeded to give up religion.
Decision in religon is, I am inclined to think, very much the basis of a consistent steady character in other respects. We must come to a wise decision here, or be eternally ruined. Be not deceived; for God is not mocked. Let not him, who halts between two opinions, think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
The best season to determine and fix in religion, doubtlefs is when the mind in any measure feels its weight, the providence and Spirit of God having excited an attention to it. What reasonable prospect is there, that such as resist providential admonitions and the strivings of the Spirit, from time to time, will at length give serious and earnest attention to religion?
Indecision in religion is a source of much uneasiness. The language of God is, Give me thine heart. “ conformity to his whole will is so much our duty “ and interest, that, if our minds were in a right state, “ we could not have the least hesitation about any part “ of Christian practice. The blessed God is so infi“nitely superior to every other object, that we ought “ not to desire any thing in comparison with him.“ Jesus Christ is so good a friend, and hath done so
“ much for us, that we should never think any thing "too much to do for him. We should account his it
yoke easy, and his burden light. But our natural “ fondness for worldly and sensual objects darkens our “ understanding, perverts our judgment, and often “ makes things
appear quite different from what they are, or quiets our minds when we know we do amiss. “ Those imperfect and undetermined impressions of
religion, which the double-minded man feels, serve “ rather to perplex and torment, than guide and se“ cure him. He is ever sinning and repenting, refoly“ ing and breaking his good resolutions. He enjoys “ no comfort here; he can have no rational prospect “ of happiness hereafter.”
A state of suspense, in any matter of consequence, is most undesirable and painful--and especially in a matter of the greatest consequence. Conscious integrity may support and fortify under embarrassments or perplexity from without: But a mind hesitating and wavering in religion can find no rest ; It is divided between light and darkness, righteousness and unrighteousness, Christ and Belial, the temple of God and idols, faith and infidelity, heaven and earth. See then the worth of a found mind, an undivided and fixed heart-an heart wholly devoted to God.
Beside the restlessness of variant opinions, or inde. cision in religion, such a wavering mind precludes all esteem and confidence of our fellow men. Such a mind in the concerns and interests of this would, public or private, and much more in those of the soul and another world, is despised and detefted. Neither talents nor station can protect it from contempt. Yea, this folly, more than any other, in persons of rank and distinction, is as dead flies in the ointment of the apothecary. They forfeit their respectability, whatever it might be, were they of any certain fixed character. They are watched as unsafe and insidious, or neglected as fickle and inconstant. Scarce any character is
thought more ignominious than one given to change. His professions are not regarded; because he does not regard them himself. He would make many friends, and takes the fureft course to have none..
Further; those who are unresolved and inconstant in religion must be odious in his eye to whom the thoughts and intents of the heart are open, who hath pleasure in uprightness. Compared with his approbation, it is a small thing to be judged of man's judgment. He seeth all the windings and labyrinths of a deceitful heart-whatever divides from him—the variant opinions and professions it embraces to conciliate the favor or avoid the displeasure of man-every refuge of lies to which it trufts—every mode of compounding for the indulgence of some darling sin. There is then inanite hazard and astonishing presumption in wavering on the subject of religion.
Let us attend to the prophet's expoftulation, How LONG halt ye between two opinions ?
This expoftulation was, with special propriety, addressed to a people whose inconftancy in religion was without example. “I will plead with you, faith the “ Lord, and with your children's children will I plead. “ For hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet
no gods ? But according to the number of thy cities “ are thy gods, O Israel !”
A wavering character in religion was not, however, appropriate to that people ; nor is it uncommon. The like expoftulation, therefore, can seldom, if ever, be unseasonable. Here young and inexperienced minds certainly need a caution.
Admitting the general obligation and importance of religion, and that such as halt between variant opinions, such as are inconstant, cannot be religious ; ad. mitting that it requires an undivided, fixed heart; then we muft, sooner or later, come to a determination on this subject; or abide the consequence of wavering and duplicity.