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interest of the body; that on which the dignity of your nature least depends. But religion is a portion for the soul, the nobler part ; that spirit within a man which can dart from pole to pole, and rise from earth to heaven, and hold communion even with the Almighty Spirit. Turn your eye inward, O man, and commune with yourself. Analyze the operations of that principle, that spirit, that invisible something which you call your soul, and which emphatically constitutes yourself. Observe its amazing powers, capable of an indefinite and, for aught that appears, an eternal expansion. Mark its sublime aspirations; its etherial tendency ; its reachings down into the future as well as its excursions through the past. I have said that religion is a portion for the soul. And how? By satisfying all the soul's desires, great and boundless as they are. By furnishing proper exercise for its powers, thus causing them to expand and brighten into angelic powers, and to approximate more and more for ever to the perfections of the Highest. If then the soul be the nobler part of the man, and if religion is a portion for the soul—an adequate portion-a satisfying portion, who will not say that he who chooses religion chooses a good part?
Again—this is the good part, because it is the right part. There is an original immutable distinction between right and wrong. Men in the hardihood of their depravity may strive to annihilate that distinction, but conscience nevertheless recognises it, and asserts it, and maintains it, though in doing so, it often makes war upon the passions. I will not agitate the question, as it is a mere question of metaphysics, whether this distinction be founded primarily in the will of God or in the nature of things: I assert nothing here but the reality of its existence: and I say that religion is a good part, because it is the right part, in reference to the grand distinction of which I have spoken. God, as a perfect Being, must love holiness and hate sin; and in accordance with the perfection of his nature, he must and does require holiness and forbid sin ; and there is a principle in every man's moral nature which entirely justifies this grand feature of the divine administration. Now he who is truly religious acts in accordance with the will of God, with the moral character and government of God; in short, in accordance with what every moral being in the universe feels to be right, and with what is right. I ask again then, in view of this consideration, whether he who chooses religion does not choose a good part ?
But observe still further, that in making this choice, all the interests of the soul become identified with the interests of Jehovah himself.
The views which God entertains of the characters of men are regulated by a regard to this broad and original distinction of which I have already spoken : those who are op the side of righteousness he regards his friends ; those of the opposite character, his enemies; and these views determine his conduct towards them. There are qualifications necessary, you know, to introduce men to particular stations and societies on earth; and there is a qualification necessary to introduce a man into God's gracious kingdom ; and that qualification is religion ; but the moment he is thus introduced, he has all the perfections of Jehovah pledged for his protection, and comfort, and ultimate triumph. His interest becomes Jehovah's interest. All God's gracious promises it becomes his privilege to appropriate ; promises which he can lean upon with joyful confidence in the day of adversity, in the day of temp
tation, in the day of death. Can you 'doubt whether that be a good part which secures to you everywhere an Almighty protector and friend?
And then again, remember that this is a portion for eternity. Do you envy that man whose laurels seem so bright and thick upon his brow, and whose splendid political, or military, or literary achievements have caused his name to ring through the world ? Envy him not; for the grave that receives his body will receive his glory too. That is not a portion for eternity. Do you covet the condition of the man who in the pride of his heart counts up his millions, and moves in splendor, and riots in luxury ? Believe me, there is nothing there which you need greatly to desire; for all that silver and gold is perishable, and it will be melted down, if not sooner, in the fires of the last day. Do you value the pleasures of friendship? These are indeed valuable ; but unless it be a sanctified friendship, the enjoyment which it yields will not reach beyond the grave. But religion—it not only consults the best interests, and the loftiest, noblest desires of the soul, but it does this through eternity. It does much indeed in the present life. It drives away darkness ; it delivers from the shudderings of guilt; it alleviates sorrow; it acts as a safe guide in difficulties ; it secures to the soul communion with God; and stands by it as a helper in the dark valley, and lists the curtain and lets in some light from heaven upon
that death is rendering blind to the objects of the world. I say religion does much for the soul here ; but it is not till the soul lets go its hold upon the world that religion displays its noblest triumph. Oh, it is in heaven, where all is brightness to the eye, and all is melody to the ear, and all is transport to the soul, that religion does her best, her noblest work. And as the soul is immortal, so are the joys of religion immortal. As the soul is capable of an illimitable expansion, so religion is capable of ministering for ever to its increasing joy. Oh, what will not the soul gain from religion in its whole course through everlasting ages. I ask once more, does not he who chooses religion choose the good part ?
III. I proceed to a third and last observation from the text, which is, that he who possesses religion has that which he can never be deprived of. Mary hath chosen that good part which cannot be taken away."
This is rendered certain by the promise of God. He has declared concerning his people, that none shall ever pluck them out of his hand; and that they shall be kept by the power of his grace through faith unto salvation. Hear the triumphant language of Paul. • Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again ; who is even at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercession for us.”—“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Yes, there is the testimony of him who openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, to the truth that God's people will be kept to the day of final redemption; in other words, that he who chooses religion for his portion chooses that which cannot be taken from him.
There is another consideration that evinces this, drawn from the nature of religion. We sometimes speak of religion as if it were something without the man; but then we speak of it figuratively: it is really something within him; or, may I not even say it is the man himself, renewed after the image of
Christ? An enemy might as well think to deprive a man of his understanding, or his conscience, or any of the faculties of his soul, as of his religion ; for religion is nothing else than the impulse, the direction which the soul has received. You may confine a man in a dungeon ; you may throw him into chains ; you may bring him to the scaffold, or even light the fagots upon his body; but you cannot wrest from him his religion: that immortal spirit you cannot harm : that principle of divine grace in the heart you cannot reach; and you need not wonder if it should mock your impotent efforts, and even neutralize torture, and make him serene and joyful while the flames or the rack are liberating the spirit for its ascension to glory. Read the records of Christian martyrdom, and you
will be convinced that I am not supposing an impossibility.
How unlike in this respect is this good part from any thing that is pursued or valued as a portion by the children of the world! Your riches take to themselves wings and they are gone. Your splendid mansions, with all that they contain, burn down at midnight. Your ships laden with the treasures of other lands go down in the dark ocean. The laurels which decorate your brow fall off, and the high ground of honour on which you had stood sinks from beneath your feet, and perhaps a grave is opened in which is buried even your good name. Health too—Oh how it flies before the withering power of disease ; and those roses that bloomed with so much verdure and beauty fade; and the countenance grows pale, and the eye deathlike! And even life -life, on which every other earthly good depends—we hold it by so frail a tenure that it can scarcely stand before the touch of an insect. But not so with this blessed portion of the soul. Come poverty, come sickness, come bereavement, and religion will shine out upon those dark scenes, in all her brightness and all her majesty, just as the setting sun tinges with a hue of glory the evening cloud. Come death, that enemy at which nature shudders, and reason justifies the shuddering ; come dressed in thy darkest attire, and armed with thy sharpest arrow, and moving as if there were vengeance in thy footsteps,—and religion will look thee in the face and smile: she will not resist, nor desire to resist thee in thy work; for what thou art doing is necessary to the accomplishment of her purposes; but she will protect the spirit whilst thou art exerting thy power upon the body; and then she will open the door of the sepulchre with one hand, and the door of the palace of the King of Glory with the other. Oh, the triumphs, the immortal triumphs of religion !
1. On a review of our subject, we remark, first, that if sinners perish, the blame must be upon themselves. Sinners in this world, when they are pressed with the obligations of religion, not unfrequently put their consciences to sleep by cavils respecting their inability, or the decrees of God; but at the judgment, if not before, they will see that all this was a miserable course of trifling, and that the reason why they are on the left-hand is, that they chose a course which they knew would prevent their being on the right; that the reason why they are not admitted to the joys of eternal life is, that life and death being placed before them, they madly chose death. Does the question arise, why all who are before me are not Christians ? With the Bible in my hand, I dare give no other answer than that uncomfortable and condemning one, that it is because you do not choose to be Christians ; in other words, you do not choose to yield yourselves to the influences of the Holy Spirit, or to make all the sacrifices which are involved in giving the heart to God. That you would be willing to live a life of sin, and go to heaven when you die, admits of no question; but to deny all ungodliness and every worldly lust, and engage actively and perseveringly in the service of Christ -- this is more than you choose to undertake. Say then, if you perish, where will the blame of your perdition rest, if it do not rest upon yourself? When God says to you, “ Thou hast destroyed, or art destroying thyself,” what hast thou to answer? What answer will you be prepared to give, when that fearful charge shall ring in your ears, in connexion with the irrevocable sentence that dooms you to everlasting burnings?
2. You may gather some light from this subject, in respect to the process of becoming a Christian. It often happens in respect to persons under the awakening influences of God's Spirit, that they are exceedingly perplexed in respect to the course they shall pursue ; in respect both to the nature of the desired change, and the means by which it is to be effected. But if what
have heard be correct, this difficulty must be in a great measure removed. What you have to do is to choose God as the portion of your soul; his service as the employment of your life; his will as the rule of your duty ; his glory as the end of your actions. Now I admit that you cannot make this choice unless you really see ground for it; but if you do not see it, remember it is your sin, not your apology. Yield yourself then, I pray you, to solemn reflection on your own wretched condition as a sinner; on the character of God; on the law of God; on the reasonableness of the claims which he makes upon you ; on the provision which he offers for your salvation ; and in all this cast yourself on the influences of his Spirit, beseeching him to work within you
both to will and to do. You see then that religion begins in reflection ; and reflection, under a divine influence, leads to that decisive act by which Christ is chosen as the soul's everlasting portion.
3. Finally : Happy they who have secured this good part! Only let me be assured that a fellow-mortal is interested in Christ's salvation, and in the estimate which I form of his happiness, I will not ask whether he is a king or a beggar; whether he is clothed in rags, or in purple and fine linen; whether the dark cloud of affliction is hanging over him, or he is rejoicing in the effulgence of earthly prosperity. Because, whether his home be a cabin or a palace, whether his path through the world be planted with thorns or strewed with roses, I know on the authority of Eternal Truth, that ere long he will be a king and a priest unto God, will breathe the air, and rejoice in the beams, and join in the melody, and walk about the golden streets of the heavenly paradise. I know that there will be a crown upon his head, and that his heart will be full of ecstasy, while he casts that crown at his Redeemer's feet, and bows and sings and shouts with holy reverence and seraphic fire. Art thou afflicted then, Christian? Bear it without a word. Art thou poor? No, thou art heir to all the treasures of heaven. Does thy conflict seem sharp and bitter? God thy Redeemer is coming to terminate it quickly, and cause that spirit now struggling with corruption to rise, and soar, and range upon the plains of immortality. Oh is it any wonder that the dying Christian, with heaven in his eye and heaven in his soul, longs to depart? Is it any wonder that it is so often the last office of the faltering tongue to exclaim, “ Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!”
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