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way or the other, by the Oracles of God. It is true, this cannot be done in some instances, without a considerable degree of self-denial, when they advise you to refrain from something that is agreeable to flesh and blood. And it cannot be obeyed in other instances, without taking up your cross; without suffering some pain or inconvenience, that is not agreeable to flesh and blood. For that solemn declaration of our Lord has place here, as well as on a thousand other occasions, "Except a man deny himself, and take up his cross daily, he cannot be my disciple." But this will not affright you, if you resolve to be, not only almost, but altogether a Christian: if you determine to fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life.
9. I would now apply myself in a more particular manner to you, who desire me to watch over your souls. Do you make it a point of conscience, to obey me for my Master's sake? To submit yourselves to me in things indifferent; things not determined in the Word of God? In all things that are not enjoined, nor yet forbidden in Scripture? Are you "easy to be entreated," as by men in general, so by me in particular !■—Easy to be convinced of any truth, however contrary to your former prejudices?— And easy to be persuaded to do or forbear any indifferent thing at my desire? You cannot but see, that all this is contained in the very words of the text. And you cannot but acknowledge, that it is highly reasonable for you so to do, if I do employ all my time, all my substance, all my strength both of body and soul, not in seeking my own honour, or pleasure; but in promoting your present and eternal salvation: if I do indeed " watch over your souls as one that must give account."
10. Do you then take my advice (I ask in the presence of God and all the world) with regard to Dress? I published that advice above thirty years ago; I have repeated it a thousand times since. 1 have advised you not to be conformable to the world herein: to lay aside, all needless ornaments; to avoid all expense; to be patterns of plainness to all that are round about you. Have you taken this advice? Have you all, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, laid aside all those needless ornaments, which I particularly objected to? Are you all exemplarily plain in your apparel? As plain as Quakers (so called) or Moravians? If not, if you are still dressed like the generality of people of your own rank and fortune, you declare hereby, to all the world, that you will not obey them that are over you in the Lord. You declare, in open defiance of God and man, that you will not submit yourselves to them. Many of you carry your sins on your forehead, openly and in the face of the sun. You harden your hearts against instruction and against conviction: you harden one another: especially those of you that were once convinced, and have now stifled your convictions. You encourage one another to stop your ears against the truth, and shut your eyes against the light, lest haply you should see, that you are fighting against God, and against your own souls. If I were now called to give an account of you, it would be with groans, and not with joy. And sure that would be unprofitable for you: the loss would fall upon your own
11. I speak all this on supposition, (though that is a supposition not to be made,) that the Bible was silent on this head: that the Scriptures said nothing concerning Dress, and left it to every one's own discretion. But if all other texts were silent, this is enough, "Submit yourselves to them that are over you in the Lord." I bind this upon your consciences, in the sight of God. Were it only in obedience to this direction, you cannot be clear before God, unless you throw aside all needless ornaments, in utter defiance of that tyrant of fools, fashion; unless you seek only to be adorned with good works, as men and women professing godliness.
12. Perhaps you will say, "This is only a little thing: it is a mere trifle." I answer, If it be, you are the more inexcusable before God and man. What! will you disobey a plain command of God for a mere trifle? God forbid! Is it a trifle to sin against God?—To set his
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authority at nought? Is this a little thing? Nay, remember, There can be no little sin, till we can find a little god! Mean time, be assured of one thing: the more conscientiously you obey your spiritual guides, the more powerfully will God apply the word, which they speak in his Name to your heart! The more plentifully will he water what is spoken, with the dew of his blessing: and the more proofs will you have, it is not only they that speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaketh in them.
ON VISITING THE SIC K.
Marrhew xxv. 36.
1. IT is generally supposed that the Means of Grace, and the ordinances of God, are equivalent terms. We commonly mean by that expression, those that are usually termed, Works of Piety, viz. hearing and reading the Scripture, receiving the Lord's Supper, public and private prayer, and fasting. And it is certain, these are the ordinary channels which convey the grace of God to the souls of men. But are they the only means of grace : Are there no other means than these, whereby God is pleased, frequently, yea ordinarily to convey his grace to them that either love or fear him? Surely there are Works of Mercy, as well as Works of Piety, which are real means of grace. They are more especially such to those that perform them with a single eye. And those that neglect them, do not receive the grace which otherwise they might. Yea, and they lose, by a continual neglect, the grace which they had received. Is it not hence, that many who were once strong in faith, are now weak and feeble-minded ? And yet they are not sensible whence that weakness comes, as they neglect none of the ordinances of God. But they might see whence it comes, were they seriously to consider St. Paul's account of all true believers; "We are his workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before prepared, that we might walk therein," Eph. ii. 10.
2. The walking herein is essentially necessary, as to the continuance of that faith whereby we are already saved by grace, so to the attainment of everlasting salvation. Of this we cannot doubt, if we seriously consider, that these are the very words of the great Judge himself, "Come, ye blessed children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me," Matt. xxv. 34, &c. "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these my Brethren, ye have done it unto me." If this do not convince you that the continuance in works of mercy, is necessary to salvation, consider what the Judge of all says to those on the left hand. "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat: thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick and in prison, and ye visited me not. Inasmuch as ye have not done it unto one of the least of these, neither have ye done it unto me." You see, were it for this alone, they must depart from God into everlasting punishment.
3. Is it not strange, that this important truth should be so little understood, or at least should so little influence the practice of them that fear God? Suppose this representation be true, suppose the Judge of all the earth speak right, those, and those only that feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, relieve the stranger, visit those that are in prison, according to their power and opportunity, shall inherit the everlasting kingdom. And those that do not, shall "depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." 4. I purpose, at present, to confine my discourse to one