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sleep of death. The love of ease and selfish enjoyment produces such an insensibility to spiritual things, that it seems impossible to quicken the soul to holy action. When some vigorous efforts are made to break up these leaden slumbers, objections and excuses are perhaps started. The complaint of turning the world upside down, is again renewed, and the call for order is echoed from every dozing professor. O, how they hold fast deceit, and refuse to return! The language of their hearts is, a little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep. God often grants such the desires of their hearts, and lets them sleep until the pangs of death take hold upon them.

3. Professors of religion hold fast deceit and refuse to return, when they are not aroused and reformed by the afflictive and trying events of divine providence. God has various ways of trying and proving his people. He tried his people of old that it might be seen whether they would be obedient unto him, and cleave to him in all circum- · stances. And they turned back, and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. So it is now.

Sometimes he sends sickness and causes them to take a serious look into eternity. Sometimes he sends misfortunes, and removes the idols of wealth and pleasure to which they have given their hearts. Sometimes he suffers their reputation to be assailed by the tongue of slander to show them their sin in seeking the praise of men more than the praise of God. Sometimes the church is brought into peculiar difficulties,-its numbers are greatly diminished, and the frowns of Heaven are evidently upon it. Contentions arise, and opposers employ their weapons to weaken its friends and destroy its interests.

Now, then, if professors are not aroused and reformed by these trials; if they are not humbled under a sense of their sins;—if they are not made more faithful in duty, more prayerful and believing, it is a sad indication of great alienation from God. It is certain they are holding fast deceit. Just so it was in the days of Jeremiah, the prophet. Said he concerning the Jews, "O Lord, thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction ; they have made their faces harder than a rock ; they have refused to return."

4. Professors are guilty of the sin specified in the text, when their conduct is manifestly in opposition to their prayers.

Do not people often pray for holiness, and yet neglect the means which are necessary to obtain holiness? Do they not refuse to deny themselves in things which are unsuitable and wrong,—such as the indulgence of pride, or appetite, or jealousy, or ambition? Do they not avoid sell-examination, and thus neglect the state of their hearts? While they pray to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, do they not neglect the study of the Bible and contemplation on divine truth? Yea, while they pray for holiness, do they not indulge in foolish talking and jesting, and suffer their minds to be filled with vanities, and their hearts to be occupied with impure associations? Is it not evident in such cases,-cases in which they pray for one thing and pursue after a directly opposite thing—that they hold fast deceit and refuse to return ?

Do not some people pray to be kept from temptation and the snares of the devil, and then put themselves directly in the way of temptation, and step into the net which they know is spread for their feet? Do they not spend their time in the mere pursuit of pleasure, or at places of public resort where the profane and intemperate hold their revels ? Do they not sometimes ask to be kept from the way of the wicked, and then go right into their way,--adopt their principles and yield to their practices? And is not this holding fast deceit? Of what benefit was it for Judas to pray to be kept from evil, and then go away and take counsel with the enemies of Christ, and sell himself into their hands to accomplish their wicked designs ? As little will it profit us to pray, unless we strive to live in a manner corresponding with our prayers.

Persons under serious impressions, will pray that they may submit to God and do their duty, and yet stand out against God and resist all the motives which he has presented to induce them to perform their duty. They will seem to sigh for deliverance from sin, and at the same time be unwilling to part with sin and commence a life of holiness. How awfully do such provoke God by holding fast deceit and refusing to return !

Again, professors often pray for a revival of religion and the con. version of the impenitent; when yet nothing can prevail on them to remove obstacles which prevent a revival. Nothing can move them to perform the duties which are necessary in order to such a desirable state of things. One has a difficulty with his fellow-christian, and will not do what he can and ought for the settlement of it. Another has not walked orderly with the church according to his covenant vows, and will not make the proper acknowledgment and reform. Another is grieving his brethren by pursuing an improper business, and will not abandon it. Another is wilfully, or carelessly, or evasively withholding honest dues. And another is contending about principles and modes of operation of comparatively little importance; and will not unite heart and hand for the promotion of a revival. Thus while they pray for the prosperity of religion, they are standing in the way of its prosperity, and exert their whole influence to prevent it.

So the Jews prayed for the coming of the Messiah and for the prosperity of his kingdom, and yet rejected him when he had come. They hated his doctrines and his movements, and did all they could to prevent the progress of his kingdom. Our Savior, therefore, in his plaiuness, styled them hypocrites, who strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel; —who tithed mint, annise, and cummin,—were precise about certain things, but omitted the weightier matters of the law ;--who in fact would neither enter into the kingdom themselves, nor suffer others to enter.

Men hold fast deceit when they refuse to pray as God requires them to pray. Every one knows that formal, heartless, unbelieving prayers are offensive to God, and yet, how many continue to offer such prayers from week to week. The Lord has expressly forbidden such unmeaning performances. He says, “bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you ; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear.” And yet, how many persist in offering vain oblations unto the Lord, and weary him with their heartless, unbelieving prayers. They will not renounce their wicked unbelief. They will not shake off their stupidity. They will not come down into the dust and plead with importunity and faith. They know they ought to do this ;-that they ought to approach God with the confidence, and affection, and earnestness of needy children, and yet they will not do it. O how do such hold fast deceit and refuse to return !

5. Those are chargeable with this sin, who will not cease to be conformed to the world ;-who will persist in their supreme attachment and devotedness to it. No man can serve two masters, especially when they require directly opposite things. The love which God requires, as due to himself, is supreme, and is to be manifested by serving him in preference to every thing else. But how can such love and such service be rendered by those who are devoted to worldly things; who prefer the enjoyment of sensual pleasures to the performance of duty; or who would rather be rich and honorable than to have the favor of God?

What would you think of a servant who should come to you in the morning, very seriously, and ask you what you would have him do through the day, and profess to be very ready to serve you exactly according to your pleasure; who should go directly away and disregard all your orders, and spend his time in seeking his own pleasure, or in attending to his own interests in opposition to yours? Suppose he should come to you, morning after morning, in the same manner, and having obtained your instructions, should go and spend the day in slothfulness and self-indulgence! Would you not dismiss him as an unfaithful and treacherous servant?

But, how many there are, who, when they have ascertained the will of God, go and live in direct opposition to it. How often do people pray to be holy, and to be directed in duty, who will by no means renounce their sinful conformity to the world, and who are entirely unwilling to walk in the path of duty. How many professed disciples of the Redeemer there are, who are so absorbed in worldly pursuits and worldly enjoyments, that they can scarcely find time to pray at all. O how many ask to be weaned from the world, and yet cling to it with a grasp like the grasp of death! Weaned, indeed! Just as the Israelites were weaned from the Jecks and flesh pots of Egypt, when they were longing after them continually. Let it be remembered, that an inspired apostle declares, “if any man will be the friend of the world, he is the enemy of God." The first transgression consisted primarily in withdrawing the confidence and affections of the heart from God, and choosing sensible objects in preference to him. This has been substantially the ground of the controversy between God and men, down to this day. He teaches us, saying, love not the world, nor the things of the world ;-seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ;-lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven ; be ye holy, for I am holy. But, how many there are, even among professors of religion, who make the attainment of holiness, the favor of God, and eternal life, matters of secondary importance ! Yea, rather, these things, which involve their interests for eternity, engage but a small portion of their attention, and seldom rouse them to any vigorous and self-denying efforts. Thus do they hold fast deceit and refuse to return.

This subject teaches us, that an obedient temper is the great thing necessary. When Saul spared the best of the spoil taken from the Amalekites, contrary to the command of God, under the pretence of offering it in sacrifice, Samuel said unto him,“ hath the Lord as great delight in burnt sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord ? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” The offering of sacrifice is solemn mockery, if the heart be not obedient. It is a mere task, performed to quiet conscience or to purchase the favor of the Most High.

Religious services, however numerous and imposing they may be, will not be acceptable, unless the heart be right with God; unless there be a willingness to renounce every sin, and to obey in all things the divine will. The holding fast of any favorite sin shows a disobedient temper,-an heart not yet weaned from its idols;-an heart not fully set upon serving and honoring God. As an holy Being, therefore, he cannot be complacent to such, nor accept their offering. Says David, “if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” The Savior has taught us most impressively that “not every one who saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven."

Here, then, we may perceive what is necessary to acceptable and prevalent prayer. It is a love of holiness and a willingness to obey all God's commands. Thus saith the Lord, to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at my word. Delight thyself in the Lord, and he will give thee the desires of thy heart. The holy Sovereign of the universe regards with infinite complacency those who so believe his truth as to regulate their conduct by it;-who so believe his threatenings as to hasten their escape from the coming wrath; and who so believe his promises as to make them the basis of their hopes, and incentives to the faithful performance of duty. Yea, if we delight in the perfections of Jehovah, and in his perfect government, and the way of salvation by which those perfections are manifested; the desires of our hearts will be for things agreeable to his will, and therefore, they will be granted. With a benevolence which infinitely surpasses that of earthly parents, he bestows good gifts on those who obey and honor him. Accordingly, John says, "whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing to him.” This he declares as a matter of actual experience. His brethren, also, knew it to be a fact that they did receive the things they asked for; and the apostle tells them, that the reason of it was their obedience to divine commands,--their habitual doing of the things which were pleasing to God. Let the same conscientious obedience to divine instructions prevail in the church now, and the world would soon cease to doubt the efficacy of prayer.

The subject shows us one reason why religion is not more prosperous. Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened that he cannot save; neither is his ear heavy that he cannot hear; but our iniquities have separated between him and us, and our sins have hid his face from us. God is ever willing to bless his people when he can do it consistently with his glory. But he will not bless them in a way that will encourage them in their slothfulness and sins. They must put away their sins ;—they must cease to hold fast deceit; and they must return unto

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