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in the blood of the Lamb of God. By His obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, Christ has opened up a way of entrance to the holy place. What was lost in the first Adam, is more than restored in Him who is called the second ; and as by his meritorious cross and passion, he has purchased the pardon of the believing sinner, so has he purchased the right to bestow, on whomsoever he pleases and prepares, the delicious fruits of that tree of life which grows in the midst of the paradise above. The tree, indeed, to which he alludes, is that which the former only typified. It is the reality, and the everlasting fruition of that eternal felicity, of which the tree in the earthly Eden was but the pledge and emblem. And under the figurative terms employed, it points out, in terms so plain, that he who runs may read, the glorious and everlasting enjoyment of a blissful immortality as the lot of the victorious followers of Christ. “To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
I believe, my brethren, that I have not omitted any material point in this epistle which needed explanation; and having discussed the topics to the extent which I had intended, I ask your continued attention to a closing general appeal. I shall be constrained to leave the special practical application of the subject of decay in religion, as matter for the next discourse.
The whole of the subject, as thus far considered, teaches the paramount importance of personal, practical, heartfelt, increasing religion.
Love to God is the essence of all true religion, and that love must be such a pure and holy principle as confines and concentrates the desires of the man
upon one grand and infinitely worthy object. This is that holy principle, which, shed abroad in the believer's heart by the Holy Ghost, makes personal religion to grow and flourish. And yet this is the very subject upon which we are apt to practice on ourselves the grossest and most ruinous deceptions. For the deep spiritualities of religion are so much more difficult to achieve and retain than those things which are mere appendages, that we frequently bestow upon the least worthy that attention which is due only to the most important. The zeal of the Church of Ephesus exhausted itself on many things commendable in themselves, but it left personal religion in a decaying and dying state, just as the expiring embers on the hearth, when the supply of fuel had been neglected. There is many an individual who has a burning zeal for favourite speculative points of faith, who yet has none of that faith which works by love, which purifies the heart, and which overcomes the world. There is many an individual who is free in the expression of his hatred against those open and notorious breaches of morality which mark the conduct of others, who yet, though he may justify himself in the sight of men, has never performed one duty of morality from a pure and holy principle of love to God; that principle on which alone the safe morality of the Gospel can be founded. There is many an individual who would not violate one rule of outward religion, who yet has never brought the sacrifice of a broken and a contrite heart, nor laid at the foot of the cross a soul brought into subjection to the doctrine of Christ. Now, what avails every thing external, if the animating principle of love be lost entirely, or fast sinking into darkness, like the fading taper in the neglected corner ? We may have the form of godliness, under every modification which it can possibly assume, and yet, on our foreheads, and on the palms of our hands, and on the tablet of our hearts may be written, “Ichabod, the glory has departed."
Think not, my friends, that I would undervalue a zeal for truth, even though it went no farther than mere speculation. Under every circumstance in which an individual can be placed, it is always good to be zealously affected in a good thing. The Christian, as one redeemed by the blood of Christ and sanctified by his grace, is constrained, when he appears
under the banner of the king of Zion, to approve himself a valiant soldier. Summoning up all his fortitude to the highest, he must contend for truth upon the earth; and constituted, as he is by his confession of the Redeemer's name, a witness for Christ, he must bear his name abroad, be the advocate for truth, wherever and by whomsoever it may be assailed. Think not that I would undervalue that which is merely external. No, it requires the external act to testify the obedience of the inner man. But what I desire to guard you against, is insidious in its nature and approaches, and fatal in its tendency. We see it in the members of the Church at Ephesus; and we see it every day in those of the present generation. They contended for the faith; they performed their work and labour; they patiently endured, and they hated principles and practices which were evil in their nature; but their personal religion failed, and they sunk into the apathy of a spiritual death. I warn you—I exhort you-look within. All without may be well, but let the eye be turned upon the condition of the inner man. Be not satisfied with any thing but the influence of that religion which is an inward principle of grace, converting and sanctifying the soul, producing a holy conformity to God, and carried out into the liveliest and loveliest exhibitions of the graces and virtues of the Christian character. While that which is external must by no means be neglected; while there must be contention for the faith, the patient endurance of affliction, and a hatred of every thing like a violation of the law of God, even in its letter, oh be strenuous to have the fountain purified, that the streams may be pure and sweet. Seek to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Remember that He who walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks, that is, presides over the affairs of his Church in all its branches, will take solemn account of those things which he beholds. And that same Judge has left on the pages of his inspired volume, the most abundant declarations of the utter impossibility of pleasing him, where religion is not a matter of the deepest personal and practical concern. “Hear, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib,—but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. To what purpose is the multitude of
your sacrifices unto me, saith the Lord ? your new moons, and your appointed feasts, and your calling of assemblies, I cannot away with ; they are abominations unto me. Wash
Wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the fruit of the land, but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be destroyed, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
ILLUSTRATED IN THE
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS.
REVELATION ii. 6,7.
Decay in religion, my brethren, is the crime charged upon the members of the Church at Ephesus, and so awfully visited upon them. They had lost their first love; coldness in the matters of personal religion had taken the place of zeal and devotedness. Their energies were wasted upon externals, while they suffered the religion of the inner man to decline and waste away. Alas, that in this respect, the members of the Church of Ephesus are not singular. In every congregation of professed Christians there are those, the history of whose religion bears most melancholy resemblance to that of the Ephesians; and I dare not to suppose, but that among you, whom I have now the privilege of addressing, there is many an individual, in reference to whose religious history God writes, “thou hast lost thy first love."