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All our blessed Lord's doctrines are full of prea cepts and motives to action. And in those beau. tiful parables in which his doctrines were often couched, he continually represents the Christian as in a state of action. He represents him as a servant bound to do the will of his Master ; as a labourer in a vineyard; as one intrusted with a talent which it was his duty to improve, And the other inspired writers in perfect correspondence with their master represent the christian life under the same kind of images, as under those of pilgrimage, a race, and a state of warfare. .
The very notion of a state of trial in which we are here placed, implies the necessity of form. ing our lives and guiding our whole conduct according to some rule by which they must be hereafter reviewed. And in our Lord's description of that grand scene by which this probationary system shall be closed, he hath fully assured us, that we shall be called to a strict account for our use of all the talents entrusted to us; and that the chief enquiry on the event of which our eternal lot must be decided, will be, how we have obeyed the dictates of that humanity and bene, volence to others, with which our holy faith is cal, culated to inspire us. Nor need we be surprised that on this occasion no mention is made of faith itself, though faith is certainly prescribed as the leading condition of our salvation ; since an enquiry after the fruits of faith is in effect an ene quiry after faith itself ; And at the same time this proceeding of our Judge clearly shews us, that faith is valuable in his sight only in propore
tion to the fruits it produces and the goood works to which it leads us.
No one can be ignorant that there are in the holy Scriptures numberless precepts of virtue, and rules, examples, and motives to sanctity of life. But to what end are they placed there, if not to influence our practice ? Take away every part of scripture that doth not relate to faith, and you will reduce it to a very small volume, Separate the rules of faith and the rules of prac. rice into two distinct bodies, and you will find the latter far to exceed the former in dimensions : which is easily to be accounted for, if practice is to be our study as well as faith. For then since faith is but a single act, and practice extends thro' every part of life, it is clearly seen why that part of scripture should be the most extensive, which relates to the most extensive part of our duty. But if we suppose, that when faiih is once acqui. red the christian is compleatly finished, and that he is to rest in faith, and hath no concern with works; then it seems impossible to account for the conduct of the Holy Spirit in saying so much about works which do not bolong to us, and contracting into so small a size that part of scripture in which alone we are interested. • The question in short is reduced to this, whether it is of any consequence that we should obey our Master's will, or not : and whether the great. ést part of the scriptures is not entirely superflu. ous and all the divine commands contained in them absolutely without a meaning? • Upon the whole then we may conclude, that the design of christianity doth by no means ter
·minate in faith, but that faith is that good tree, which by our own assiduous cultivation, and the influence of God's holy Spirit, bringęth forth good fruit: And therefore that good works in connexion with faith, and springing from that họ. ly principle, are absolutely necessary to complete the christian character. Our Saviour is the vine, and we are the branches. If we abide in the vine, and maintain our union with it, if we abide in a faithful attachment to our Lord and Saviour, we shall derive from that sacred stock to which we belong, a vital juice, which will give us daily new force and vigour, and enable us to bring forth much fruit.. · Faith shall end with time. Its whole business is aņswered in this life ; and in Heaven faith shall have no existence. But virtue shall be immortal : and that plant, which in this cold region is barely kept alive by the warmth of the heayenly principle within us, shall, when it comes to its native soil, flourish without the support of faith. Surely therefore, amongst candidates for Heaven, that which will for ever Aourish there should be cultiva.ted at least as much as that which will there be annihilated. The virtuous disposition, benevolence and charity, the love of God and the love of man, shall accompany us to Heaven, and become a source of endless bliss springing up and encreasing to all eternity. But when we shall be borne to that pure and blissful region on angels wings, faith shall then be left behind us with this perishing world.
Meditations for the morning and evening of
for Wednesday, - - 52
suitable exercise before and after the approach-
Church for the purpose, and directions for the
END OF PART FIRST.
For a worthy Receiving of the
As appointed and practised by the
. MEDITATIONS, PRAYERS, AND HYMNS, Suitable for Sunday Evening on Sacrament Day, and for the Morning and Evening
of every Day in that Week. . ..
with A .
AND, . in the course of these Meditations, these doubts an i
fcruples, which are apt to disturb and render
TO WHICH IS ADDED,
Our Lord's SERMON on the Mount ;