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Hence it stimulates the soul to an active pursuit of its chief good
But many decline in their apprehension of divine things
They neither see so clearly, nor feel so powerfully the truths of God as they once did
They consequently relax their diligence in the ways of God
Such persons are evidently in the state of those at Sardis-) Our hope
[Faith sees the reality, and hope anticipates the enjoy. ment of heavenly things
When hope is lively it serves as an anchor of the soul-
[Love is as wings to the believing soul-
What can more strongly indicate the dying state of a soul?-]
Moreover the things which remain are ready to die, when our corruptions increase
Graces and corruptions are as the scales of a balance
The growth of corruption argues the decay of the divine life
And such decay is manifest
[It is the effect of grace to mortify and subdue our besetting sin
But that sin is rarely if ever extinguished in this world
When that regains its power, we are sure that it is ill with the soul)
2. When our natural hardness and obduracy of heart return
[Divine grace brings a tenderness of spirit It shews itself by humiliation and contritionBut sin will blind the eyes, and harden the heart
In this state we shall feel less compunction in or after the commission of sin
When conscience thus fails in its office we are in a dying state indeed-] 3. When we are unwilling to be reclaimed
[A heart duly impressed desires the lightBut persons in a backslidden state often feel averse to it
They are backward to be told of their faults-
They willingly expose themselves to the temptations of sin
This is the worst symptom that a living soul can experience
May God now accompany with his blessing
None can more need advice for their bodies, than these for their souls
1. Be watchful Against self-deception
[There are many things which may hide our condition, from us
We may easily mistake gifts for graces
We may attribute to God's Spirit what results from the operation of natural principles
We may be less sensible of decay because it happens to be gradual
The heart will suggest many plausible excuses-
[Many fall by means of their excessive care about worldly business
Others decline through mixing too much with worldly companyToo free an use even of lawful things injures manyBut all decay through a neglect of secret dutiesBe watchful then against these occasions of sinSee the effect which they have produced upon you
Resist them in future on their first appearance-]
[Christ is the only source of spiritual strengthe
[Every thing improves by exercisePut forth therefore your faith, your hope, your love “ Stir up the gift of God that is in you”You will then experience the truth of that promiser-)
Lay home upon your heart the most powerful considerations
[Think how uncomfortable a declining state is ! how dishonourable to God, and dangerous to your own souls!
Consider that if God ever restore you, he may do it in such a way as shall be extremely terrible and distressing
But what if he should come at an unexpected hour?”.
Let instant attention then be paid to the direction following the text-] ADDRESS 1. To those who have no marks of life in them
[They who are in a declining state are in great dangerIf they be not restored “their last state will be worse than their beginning"
What danger then must they be in who exercise no graces, and indulge numberless corruptions!
Oh! repent, ere it be too late-]
[“ Be not high-minded, but fear,” and be watchful-
If it be difficult to proceed, it is still more so to recover lost ground
Remember your strength consists in depending upon Christ
When you are weak in yourselves, then only are you truly strong
Comfort yourselves with that description of your almighty guardian"-]
b Prov. iv. 14, 15.
c Rev. ii. 1. “ He hath the seven spirits of God," i. e. a fulness of all the gifts and graces of the Spirit, with a power to dispense them in all their perfection and variety. d Jer, iii. 22. e Hos. xiv. 7.
f 2 Pet. i. 10, 11. & Rev. iii. 3.
I Jude 24.
LXXVI. A CHRISTIAN'S DYING REFLECTIONS.
2 Tim. iv. 7, 8. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my
course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Fudge, shall give me: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
CHRISTIANITY adapts its comforts to every part of our existence
But its influence is peculiarly visible at the close
St. Paul, when expecting death, was not without the most comfortable reflections, 1. In his review of the past
He had had different views of life from what are generally entertained
[Many think they have little to do but to consult their own pleasure
But St. Paul had judged, that he had many important duties to fulfil-) He had devoted himself to the great ends of life
(He had maintained a warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil
He had run his race with indefatigable zeal and ardour
He had kept the faith with undaunted courage and constancy
He had disregarded life itself when it stood in competition with his duty-] Hence the approach of death was pleasant
(He enjoyed the testimony of a good conscienceHe could adopt the language of his
Lord and MasterHe was a prisoner without repining, or wishing to escape
He was condemned, and could wait with complacency for the tyrant's stroke)
In consequence of this, he was happy also II. In the prospect of what was to come
He had long enjoyed the earnest of eternal blessings —
• 1 Cor. ix. 26. e John xvii. 4.
• Acts xx. 24. and xxi. 16.
He looked forward therefore now. 19 the full possession of them
[A crown of righteousness means a most exalted state of holiness and happiness in heaven
Nor did he doubt but that such a reward was laid up for him-]
He did not however expect it on account of any merit in himself
(He speaks of it indeed as bestowed in a way of “righteous” retribution
But he expected it wholly as the “ gift of God through Christe-]
Nor did he consider it as a gift peculiar to himself as an apostle
[The “longing for Christ's second coming" is a feeling common to all Christians
For them also is this crown of righteousness reserveds--] INFER*
1. How does the apostle's experience condemn the world at large!
[The generality are strangers to spiritual consolations But there is no true religion where they are not experienced
Let all consider what would be their reflections, and prospects, if they were now dying,
Let all live the life of the righteous, if they would die his death-] 2. How amply does God reward his faithful servants!
[Poor and imperfect are the best services that they can render
Yet how different is their state from that of others both in and after death!
Let all then devote themselves entirely to God-]
e Rom. vi. 23.
f 2 Pet. iii. 12. & Heb. ix. 28. * If this were the subject of a funeral sermon, it might be improved in reference to the deceased and the survivors, to shew that the former resembled the apostle, and to stimulate the latter to a due improvement of their time.