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“ whether ye be in the faith.” There are, it is possible, in existence some of those fools who say in their hearts, that there is no God, and are even daring enough to avow their mad unbelief with their lips.
There are others, who while they profess to believe in God, yet refuse to believe in Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. To such men I am not now speaking. You profess and call yourselves Christians; and not only Christians in general, but members of the Church of England. As such, you take part in the Church-service, and join in saying the Apostles' Creed. But allow me to ask ; may there not be some among you, who have never paid attention to the several articles of which that Creed consists? who have never considered what they mean by the words which they use? who, having been born in a Christian country, of Christian parents, take it for granted that they are Christians as a matter of course, without considering seriously whether they are Christians in reality, or only in name and profession ? Permit me then to ask you, do you really believe what you say you believe? Are you really persuaded
of the truth of these leading articles of faith ; and does your belief shew itself to be real, by the effects which it produces on your hearts and lives? These are certainly very important questions ; but important and obvious as they are, I fear that there may be some, whose consciences can not give them an answer of peace. To what are justly considered as the chief articles in the Creed, I mean to call your attention hereafter : but try yourselves by any one of the plainest and most acknowledged doctrines of religion ; take, for instance, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments ; do you really believe in these things?. are you really persuaded that after death you will come to life again, and exist for ever, either in happiness or in misery? Certainly if you really do believe this, it ought to have an influence upon every part of your conduct. It might well be expected, that the thoughts of a future state would never be long out of your head. The alternative, whether we shall be for ever happy in the presence of God, or whether we shall be for thousands and thousands of years—TO
ALL ETERNITY-tormented with the devil and his angels in that sad fire which never shall be quenched, is an alternative so awfully serious, that it should seem impossible to be indifferent about it, impossible not to think of it often, impossible not to live with a constant view to it. But is this the case with us? Are there none who are careless about religion, who appear to be indifferent as to what may become of them in another world? Can we consider such men as really believing?.
Suppose, like the martyr Stephen, you saw heaven opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and that you were allowed actually to behold the glory and happiness of that blessed place, would you not wish and strive to be admitted there? Or suppose, on the other hand , dreadful as the supposition is yet suppose, that you actually saw the miseries of the condemned; that you beheld that horrible place, of which our Lord says, the fire never shall be quenched ; suppose you saw the wretched guilty tormented in that flame, and witnessed their weeping
• Mark ix. 43, &c.
and wailing and gnashing of teeth! would not the sight prevail upon you to leave your sins, and to try to work out your salvation with fear and trembling; to be religious in good earnest? But remember, that “ faith is the evidence of things not “seen,” and ought to have the same effect upon us. A man who really believes in heaven and hell, will naturally wish and try-try in good earnest—to obtain the onė, and avoid the other.
All the concerns of common life are carried on by a sort of faith, Why does the merchant leave the wife of his bosom, and the endearments of his children, and the comforts of his home, and encounter hardships and danger in distant lands? Because he believes that his adventure will be for his advantage, and will increase his wealth and the means of future enjoyment. Why does the farmer rise early, and late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness, and spend large sums of money in tilling and preparing the ground ? Because he believes that a harvest will come, which will repay all that he has laid out with increase. Why does the labourer bear the burden and heat of the day, and spend his strength in the cultivation of another man's field ? Because he believes that at the week's end he shall receive his wages. If we really believe in a future state, ought not our belief to have a like effect upon us? If we really believe in the kingdom of heaven, shall we not regard it as a pearl of great price, which well deserves that we should, if it is necessary, part with every thing in order to obtain itb? If we really believe that he, who in good earnest worketh the work of God, who tries zealously, in reliance on God's grace, to lead a holy life, shall gather fruit unto life eternal ; will not such belief induce us to labour as steadily and earnestly at least as those who work for earthly wages ? If instead of regarding the care of the soul as the one thing needful, we attend to it but little, or not at all; if, instead of " seeking 46 the kingdom of God and his righteous“ ness in the first place,” we seek the good things of this world, or the gratification of our own lusts, or appetites, or