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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-
It keeps us from fainting under the trials we meet with
But oftentimes it is suffered to grow dead
Then the future prospects are less valued-
Earthly things also rise in importance
We are more discouraged with any

difficulties
We lose our enjoyment of heavenly things-
In this state the things that remain are ready to die-
Our love

[Love is as wings to the believing soul-
It carries us on with ardour and delight-
It makes us entertain low thoughts of all we do
It excites us to still greater exertions-
But when it decays, we lose our fervour
Duties become a burden and a task-
They are performed with less frequency and spirituality
We endure with less concern the hidings of God's face-
We are more indifferent respecting his return to our souls
We feel less solicitude to please or honour him

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
1. When our besetting sin resumes its ascendency

[It is the effect of grace to mortify and subdue our besetting sin

But that sin is rarely if ever extinguished in this world
It is generally the first that discovers our declensions-

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 are ready to palliate and excuse them

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
II. Our Lord's advice to persons in such a state

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-
It may satisfy itself also with hopes of a speedy revival
But “ be not deceived; God is not mocked"-]
Against the occasions of sin

[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

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Resist them in future on their first appearance-]
2. Strengthen the things that remain
Go to Christ for his Spirit

[Christ is the only source of spiritual strengthe
In vain will be all human endeavours without his aid-
Go then, and plead with him that promised
“They that dwell under his shadow shall return,” &c. -]
Exercise your graces more diligently

[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-]
2. To those who are enjoying the divine life

[“ Be not high-minded, but fear,” and be watchful-
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”-

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.
d Eph. i. 14.

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.

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