Page images

the lower propensities of human nature rebelling against the authority of the highest faculties of the soul; and conscience as the faithful witness of God, does protest solemnly against all such improper actions of the mind and false inclinations of the heart.

This discord in the soul mars its happiness and checks its progress, and weakens its energies ; moral decision puts an end to this discord, and secures the most perfect harmony between the divers operations of the powers of the soul. The harmonious operation of all the powers of the soul is strength, tranquillity, and moral happiness; and this can only be secured by religious decision.

Secondly: Because thus only can every difficulty be successfully overcome.

Indecision, doubt, mental conflict, inward schism, and moral cowardice are weakening, embarrassing, and discouraging The secret of all success is unity of design, earnestness of purpose, and concentration of power. With these qualities of mind, the soul becomes irresistible in its action, defying opposition, mastering difficulties, and surmounting the most formidable obstacles with the greatest alacrity.

There are difficulties connected with all undertakings and enterprises-such as merchandise, politics, education, and mechanism—to master which demands thorough decision. “ Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel."

But while there are difficulties in the way of all worthy attainments, intellectual, secular, and social, religious difficulties are the most numerous, potent, and formidable, and demand, for that reason, most resolute and persistent effort to overcome them. There is the natural enmity of the carnal mind to all that is spiritual ; there are the fascinating allurements of the world, and the self-denial, and the cross, which religion enjoins upon all its subjects; there is the power of habit, the influence of old associations, on the one hand, and the opposition of the world, and the deluding insinuations of the devil, on the other; these are some of

the formidable obstacles which the soul must surmount in deciding for God and in persevering to serve Him, and to surmount these obstacles demands the strongest moral resolution. There can be no moral success, therefore, without the most thorough moral decision.

Thirdly: Because thus only can we obtain the full approtation of God. God's approval is the highest blessing that the soul of man can possibly desire. His approbation is stimulus to the intellect, peace to the conscience, harmony to the affections, and a heaven to the soul. His disapproval, on the other hand, is the most terrible and insufferable curse to the soul; it is hell to the conscience, and dark despair to the mind. With God's approval we can be happy in sickness, in penury, and under persecution. We can exclaim in the midst of them all, “ None of these things move me."

And with God's disapproval, we must be miserable even in the most gorgeous palaces, and amid the most sumptuous luxuries the earth can afford. True religion is the effort of the soul to please God, according to the teaching of his Word. And to please. God we must be decided; there must be a voluntary consecration of all that we are, and have, to the Divine service. The Lord will not accept of a partial consecration. The heart, mind, time, and property-He demands all. We should write upon every faculty of the intellect, affection of the heart, action of life, and upon every object we possess, “ Holiness to the Lord.. With the least degree of indecision this would be impossible. We must be decided, if we would obtain the approbation of God.

II. THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGIOUS DECISION. How is this religious decision proved ? It depends on the action of the will. Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” To serve the Lord demands the action of the will. Firstly. The will is the controlling faculty of the soul. Every intentional act is produced by the action of the will. We will not pause to consider the nature of its volitional operations now, nor to

state the numerous metaphysical, mystical, and conflicting theories of men, in regard to the operation of the will; but simply content ourselves with stating the fact, that the will does exercise a controlling influence over the actions of the mind and body, and also determines the character of all such actions. If the will is inactive, then all the powers of the mind and body are dormant and stationary. If the will is active, every energy, intellectual, physical, and moral, is employed, unless arbitrarily obstructed. Hence, God appeals to the will—Choose you this day whom ye will serve." Religious service is with man a matter of choice. The power to will and to do comes from God; the use of that power belongs to man. He will neither will nor work for us, but He gives us the power to do both. The sin consists not in leaving undone that which we had not the power to do, but in omitting to do that which we had the ability to do. It is not for the want of power, but for the abuse of power, that we are condemned.

Secondly : The will that it might be virtuous in its action or volition must be free. Compulsion deprives an act of its moral character. An act, in order to be virtuous, must be free. It is the voluntariness of an act that makes it moral. Man has the power to will; this cannot be questioned ; this power has been given to him by God. This determines in a great measure the extent and character of his daily activities and transactions. Man, if he is left to act of his own accord, acts according to the promptings of his will. Man has the power to choose between honesty and dishonesty, truth and error, virtue and vice, whenever they can be with certainty distinguished. All men do these things daily. The will does not only determine the amount of activity, but it determines its character. If we commit an injury upon our fellowman willingly, our conduct is criminal, and deserves punishment; but if the injury was done unintentionally, or against our will, we are innocent, and deserving of sympathy. Upon man's freedom of choice rests his responsibility, and the character of his conduct. This liberty of choice is

[ocr errors]

upon it.

recognized in this text, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.”

Thirdly : That the action of the will is determined to a great extent by the influences which are brought to bear

Man cannot act intelligently without a motive. There must always be some motive, good or bad. Why we act thus, and not otherwise. In religion God has brought the weightiest motives conceivable to bear upon our wills, to induce us to decide for God. Yet they are not such as to constrain us irresistibly to yield, for that would destroy the freedom of our will, and, consequently, deprive us of the virtue of obedience; nevertheless they are such, if candidly considered, as will enable us to decide for God. He has brought before our minds the essential distinction between sin and holiness, everlasting life and everlasting death, the work of the Spirit and the preaching of the Word, the events of Providence, the examples of the good, heaven and hell, the cross and the judgment, and all the sublime doctrines of the Gospel. Thus man is left without a cloak for his sins, without a shadow of apology for his disobedience. If the soul is lost, it is because it would not choose to serve God. What terrible responsibility rests upon man refusing to serve God, when his conscience and reason prove it to be right; when the Gospel shows how it should be done ; when the Holy Spirit prompts him to it and tenders his gracious aid.

Choose you

III. THE URGENCY OF RELIGIOUS DECISION. this day, whom ye will serve. We should be prompt in our decision.

First : Because procrastination is dangerous. We know not what a day may bring forth, and sin is very beguiling. You know not that another opportunity will be given you, and even if there should be, that you will be more disposed to accept it than you are now. Hence, "Choose you this day." Secondly : Your advantages will never be greater than they

You have the Gospel preached to you, the Spirit

are now.

for you,

to strive with you, God's people to pray


providences to warn you, and Christ to intercede for you.

Thirdly: It is criminal to hesitate to do that which is 80 manifestly your reasondble duty. If you will not decide while it is a day of grace, you must for ever perish.


Thinkings by a Broad-Bibleman.


(No. I.) SUBJECT : Wounders in the House of One's Friends. HAUCER, in one of his wonderful, graphic passages, alludes to

“The smiler with the knife under the cloke.” This seems to be exactly the attitude of many of the false friends of biblical truth. They smile on it, and stab it, or, if they do not quite go so far, they superciliously ignore the paramount demands of Revelation, or give its glory to another. We claim for it, and justly, all that Cowper claimed for it when he wrote

“A glory gilds the sacred page;

Majestic, like the sun:
It gives a light to every age;,

It gives, but borrows none. Yet how many, instead of contending zealously for the superlative antiquity and originality of the Bible, are content for it to take a second place, forgetting often how much is involved in this concession. The man is eminently disloyal to the truth who does not ask for every literary fragment, or, in fact, for any document bearing on the subject, the same credentials, external, internal, direct, or circumstantial, as can be adduced in favour of the word of God itself. Yet this is never done. China, India, Assyria, Persia, Egypt, are allowed to have their superlatively ancient books; but not so, or only grudgingly, the poor Hebrew. He whom God made to school the world is degraded into a learner and VOL. XX.


« PreviousContinue »