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3. We wish you to know and enjoy the present pleasures of true religion. Let strangers to godliness say what they please, we maintain that the ways of wisdom are pleasantness, and her paths are peace. Some of us have tried both the pleasures of sin and the pleasures of religion; and we are bold to say, there is more satisfaction in one hour's communion with God, than in days and months of sinful indulgence. We can say with David, "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand; I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness." A good hope through grace, a knowledge of the pardon of our sins, a persuasion of the favour of God towards us, a belief that all things are working together for our good, and that we shall go to heaven when we die; together with the actual delight we find in prayer, praise, hearing, reading, and conversation with the people of God—these are joys that satisfy and sanctify the mind, and compared to which, all the frothy mirth and carnal pleasures of the wicked are mean as the toys of children, and hurtful as the sports of madmen. We wish you, therefore, brethren, to be partakers of the grace of God, and we say to you, as Moses to Hobab, "Come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel." Numb. x. 29.
4. We wish the salvation of others on account of the glory of God, for which we feel ourselves concerned, and which will be promoted thereby. We are taught to pray, "Hallowed be thy name." Let God be glorified! And surely, when a poor sinner ceases to be a rebel to his Maker, throws himself at the feet of mercy, and swears allegiance to the God of his salvation, the Lord is glorified. Satan loses another subject, and one is added to the kingdom of Jesus. The love of Christ constraineth us, and our loyalty to the king of heaven makes us long to see
his kingdom flourish. We cannot tell of how great importance may be the value of one converted soul; a wife, a husband, the children of the family, the servants, the connexions, may all be the better for it; the gospel may be spread; more souls may be converted, and generations yet unborn may derive benefit from it. We would therefore compass sea and land to make one proselyte, not to our party, or any particular sect, but that Jesus may be exalted: "for blessed be his glorious name for ever, and let the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen." Psalm lxxii. 19.
5. To say the truth, we are not without a little selfishness in this matter: for beside all the reasons before mentioned, we have some view to our own peace and happiness. We do find that "the meanest service of Christ has refreshment in it." Our good Master sends not his servants on a warfare at their own charge. He that watereth the souls of others, shall himself be watered. We think the conversion of a soul to God is the greatest honour and happiness, next to our own salvation, that we can enjoy; and though we know that no man has any claim -upon God for what he does, all being unprofitable servants—that the best action of man has no merit in it—yet we believe that there is a reward of grace for the faithful servants of Christ, who has promised that so small a gift as a cup of cold water given to any one, because he belongs to Christ, shall not be forgotten; and as to those whom he employs in his work, "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever." Dan. xii. 3.
Let us now show in what manner a desire for the salvation of sinners ought to be expressed; for this desire, when true, will not be idle, but active; and, will put persons on earnest endeavours to accomplish it; and,
1. By prayer. The conversion of a soul, like the creation of the world, is the work of God alone. A real Christian is a new creature, "born, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John i. 13. St. Paul, therefore, in our text, mentions not only his "heart's desire," but "his prayer to God" also. Those who truly pray for themselves will pray for others too. If a husband or a wife has a partner who knows not the Lord, prayer will be immediately offered. If a parent has an ungodly child, like Abraham he will cry, "Oh that Ishmael might live before thee!" or like the poor man, Matt. xvii. 15. "Lord, have mercy upon my son!" Thus Job rose early in the morning, and offered up ten offerings for his ten children; because he feared they had sinned against God in their feasting with each other.
2. We should urge our friends to come and hear the gospel. Do not be ashamed to invite them to hear that word which God has made his power to your salvation. When Christ called Andrew to be his disciple, Andrew soon invited his brother Peter; and the day after, when Christ called Philip, Philip presently findeth Nathaniel, and invites him to come and hear Jesus. So when the Lord sent Peter to preach to Cornelius, a Roman officer, he found Cornelius had called together his kinsmen and friends; and they were all gathered together in a private house, as you may be here, to hear all things which God had commanded Peter to preach. Oh how many have had reason to bless God for ever, that some kind friend first invited them to go and hear a gospel sermon! Practise this, my friends; all you who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, say to others, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!" Sinners, as you all know, are very active to bring others into sin, and to invite them to plays and merry-meetings; why should not we be more active to save souls than sinners are to destroy them?
3. There is another way in which we should show our desire for the salvation of our fellow-creatures, and that is, by the Christian education of children, our own and our neighbours'. Abraham was commended of God for this—" I know him, said the Lord, that he will command his children and his household after him;" and parents were ordered, by' the law, Deut. vi. 7, "to teach their children the words of God diligently; to talk of them when they sat down in the house, when they walked by the way, when they lay down, and when they rose up." If parents wish well to the souls of their children, they will try to inform their minds, bring them under the word, and restrain them as much as possible from Sabbath-breaking and other sins. And as there are some parents who will not, or cannot, instruct their own children, let us do what we can for them. Why should one of these little ones perish, while Sunday Schools may be kept up? The Lord prosper this good work more and more! And to this we may add, constant regard to family worship, by those who are at the head of families. Surely they have little regard to the souls of children and servants, who do not daily read the Scriptures, and pray with their families.
4. Personal exhortation is a great means of good to the souls of men. "Exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." How often has God blessed one sentence, spoken in his fear and love! A "word spoken in season, how good is it!" Oh let us try, whenever we can, mildly to reprove sin; and give a hint, on all proper occasions, in companies, on journeys, at work, whereby we may prove, if the Lord bless it, the instruments of our neighbours' conversion.
5. To all this, one thing more must necessarily be added, and that is, a holy life. Actions speak louder than words. "Let our light shine before men, that they, seeing our good works," as well as hearing our good words, "may glorify God." There is a testimony for God in the life of a holy man, that the . wicked may despise, but cannot resist. Thus let all Christians "hold forth the word of life," that so, even the prejudiced, "who will not hear the word, may, without the word, be won by our conversation."
Men and brethren: Is it the duty and practice of all real Christians to be thus affectionately concerned for the salvation of others ?—Should you not be much more concerned for your own salvation; you, who have hitherto totally neglected it? O consider the value of your souls! Are you not sinners? And must you not soon receive the wages of your sins, unless they are pardoned for Christ's sake? And can you expect pardon without seeking it? Oh, then be wise. Rouse yourselves from your dreadful stupidity. Cry to God for his mercy and grace, lest you perish. This is the day of salvation. To you is the word of salvation sent. Oh that it may not be sent in vain; Jesus Christ is a great and gracious Saviour; he was never known to reject one perishing sinner who came to him for life. Let this be an encouragement to you to apply to him, and you will find him able and willing to save to the uttermost.
From what has been said, we may learn the nature of true grace, how it opens the heart, and shows itself in love to God and man. This may afford some