The Danger of Lukewarmness in Religion

XII.

THE DANGER OF LUKEWARMNESS IN RELIGION.

" I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth."—Rev. iii. 15,16.

The soul of man is endowed with such active powers, that it cannot be idle; and if we look round the world, we see it all alive and busy in some pursuit or other. What vigorous action, what labor and toil, what hurry, noise, and commotion about the necessaries of life, about riches and honors! Here men are in earnest: here there is no dissimulation, no indifference about the event. They sincerely desire and eagerly strive for these transient delights, or vain embellishments of a mortal life.

And may we infer further, that creatures thus formed for action, and thus laborious and unwearied in these inferior pursuits, are proportionately vigorous and in earnest in matters of infinitely greater importance? May we conclude, that they proportion their labor and activity to the nature of things, and that they are most in earnest where they are most concerned ? A stranger to our world, that could conclude nothing concerning the conduct of mankind but from the generous presumptions of his own charitable heart, might persuade himself that this is the case. But oue that has been but a little while conversant with them, and taken the least notice of their temper and practice with regard to that most interesting thing, religion, must know it is quite otherwise. For look round you, and what do you see ? Here and there indeed you may see a few unfashionable creatures, who act as if they looked upon religion to be the most interesting concern; and who seemed determined, let others do as they will, to make sure of salvation, whatever becomes of them in other respects; but, as to the generality, they are very indifferent about it. They will not indeed renounce all religion entirely; they will make some little profession of the religion that happens to be most modish or reputable in their country, and they will conform to some of its institutions ; but it is a matter of indifference with them, and they are but little concerned about it; or, in the language of my text, they are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot.

This threatening, / will spew thee out of my mouth, has been long ago executed with dreadful severity upon the Laodicean church; and it is now succeeded by a mongrel race of Pagans and Mahometans; and the name of Christ is not heard amongst them. But though this church has been demolished for so many hundred years, that lukewarmness of spirit in religion which brought this judgment upon them still lives, and possesses the Christians of our age: it may therefore be expedient for us to consider Christ's friendly warning to them, that we may escape their doom.

The epistles to the seven churches in Asia are introduced with this solemn and striking preface, " I know thy works:" that is to say, your character is drawn by one that thoroughly knows you; one who inspects all your conduct, and takes notice of you when you take no notice of yourselves ; one that cannot be imposed upon by an empty profession and artifice, but searches the heart and the reins. O! that this truth were deeply impressed upon our hearts: for surely we could not trifle and offend while sensible that we are under the eye of our Judge!

I know thy works, says he to the Laodicean church, that thou art neither cold nor hot. This church was in a very bad condition, and Christ reproves her with the greatest severity; and yet we do not find her charged with the practice or toleration of any gross immoralities, as some of the other churches were. She is not censured for indulging fornication among her members, or communicating with idolaters in eating things sacrificed to idols, like some of the rest. She was free from the infection of the Nicolaitans, which had spread among them. What, then, is her charge? It is a subtle, latent wickedness, that has no shocking appearance, that makes no gross blemish in the outward character of a possessor in the view of others, and may escape his own notice; it is, Thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot: as if our Lord had said, Thou dost not entirely renounce and openly disregard the Christian religion, and thou dost not make it a serious business, and mind it as thy grand concern. Thou hast the form of godliness, but deniest the power. All thy religion is a dull languid thing, a mere indifferency; thine heart is not in it; it is not animated with the fervor of thy spirit. Thou hast neither the coldness of the profligate sinner, nor the sacred fire and life of the true Christian. Now such a lukewarmness is an eternal solecism in religion; it is the most absurd and inconsistent thing imaginable; more so than avowed impiety, or a profound rejection of all religion : therefore, says Christ, I would thou wert cold or hot— i. e. " You might be any thing more consistently than what you are. If you looked upon religion as a cheat, and openly rejected it, it would not be strange that you should be careless about it, and disregard it in practice. But to own it true, and make a profession of it, and yet be lukewarm and indifferent about it, this is the most absurd conduct that can be conceived; for, if it be true, it is certainly the most important and interesting truth in all the world, and requires the utmost exertion of all your powers."

When Christ expresses his abhorrence of lukewarmness in the form of a wish, / would thou wert cold or hot, we are not to suppose his meaning to be, that coldness or fervor in religion is equally acceptable, or that coldness is at all acceptable to him; for reason and revelation concur to assure us, that the open rejection and avowed contempt of religion is an aggravated wickedness, as well as an hypocritical profession. But our Lord's design is to express in the strongest manner possible, how odious and abominable their lukewarmness was to him; as if he should say, " Your state is so bad, that you cannot change for the worse; I would rather you were any thing than what you are." You are ready to observe, that the lukewarm professor is in reality wicked and corrupt at heart, a slave to sin, and an enemy to God, as well as the avowed sinner; and therefore they are both hateful in the sight of God, and both in a state of condemnation. But there are some aggravations peculiar to the lukewarm professor that render him peculiarly odious: as, 1. He adds the sin of a hypocritical profession to his other sins. The wickedness of irreligion, and the wickedness of falsely pretending to be religious, meet and centre in him at once. 2. To all this he adds the guilt of presumption, pride, and self-flattery, imagining he is in a safe state and in favor with God; whereas, he that makes no pretensions to religion, has no such umbrage for this conceit and delusion. Thus, the miserable Laodiceans " thought themselves rich and increased in goods, and in need of nothing." 3. Hence it follows, that the lukewarm professor is in the most dangerous condition, as he is not liable to conviction, nor so likely to be brought to repentance. Thus publicans and harlots received the gospel more readily than the self-righteous Pharisees. 4. The honor of God and religion is more injured by the negligent, unconscientious behavior of these Laodiceans, than by the vices of those who make no pretensions to religion, with whom, therefore, its honor has no connection. On these accounts you see that lukewarmness is more aggravatedly sinful and dangerous than entire coldness about religion.

So then, says Christ, Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. This is their doom; as if he should say, " As lukewarm water is more disagreeable to the stomach than either cold or hot, so you, of all others, are the most abominable to me. I am quite sick of such professors, and I will cast them out of my church, and reject them for ever."

My present design is to expose the peculiar absurdity and wickedness of lukewarmness or indifference, a disease that has spread its deadly contagion far and wide among us, and calls for a speedy cure. And let me previously observe to you, that, if I do not offer you sufficient arguments to convince your own reason of the absurdity and wickedness of such a temper, then you may indulge it; but that if my arguments are sufficient, then shake off your sloth, and be fervent in spirit; and if you neglect your duty, be it at your peril.

In illustrating this point, I shall proceed upon this plain principle, That religion is, of all things, the most important in itself, and the most intei-esting to us. This we cannot deny, without openly pronouncing it an imposture. If there be a God, as religion teaches us, he is the most glorious, the most venerable, and the most lovely being; and nothing can be so important to us as his favor, and nothing so terrible as his displeasure. If Jesus Christ be such a Saviour as our religion represents, and we profess to believe, he demands our warmest love and most lively services. If eternity, if heaven and hell, and the final judgment, are realities, they are certainly the most august, the most awful, important, and interesting realities; and, in compari

XiSteft most wei!ht7 5°meins of the Present ]ife

are but trifles, dreams, and shadows. If prayer and other

religious exercises are our duty, certainly they require all

he vigor of our souls ; and nothing can be more absurd or

27ZTSthV°rT{OTm themin a ^ritless maSer' as if we knew not what we were about . If there be any lne withm us, these are proper objects to call it forth : if our souls are endowed with active powers, here are objects that demand their utmost exertion. Here we can never be so much in earnest as the case requires. Trifle about 3i&ktf°. d0 ^ trifle here! V careless and inafdTtS ,T,JTMfttt kingdoms, about health, life, XLl, tle.V0Tld' but ° be not c^eless and indifferent about such immense concerns as these!

But to be more particular: let us take a view of a lukewarm temper m various attitudes, or with respect to several objects particularly towards God—towards Jesus Christ of relit State hapPiness or misery—and in the duties

1. Consider who and what God is. He is the original uncreated beauty, the sum total of all natural and moral

FPrPH /i°nS' tt6 W °f dl the silences that are scattered through this glorious universe; he is the supreme good, and the only portion of our immortal spirits He also sustains the most majestic and endearing relations to us: our Father, our Preserver, and Benefactor, our Law

£Ti!\ +1°Ur ^U,dge- And is such a BeinS to be P«t off with heartless, lukewarm services ? And are there not

some lukewarm Laodiceans in this assembly? Jesus knows your works, that you are neither cold nor hot; and it is fit you should also know them.

2 Is lukewarmness a proper temper towards Jesus Christ' is this a suitable return for that love which brought him down from his native paradise into our wretched world! ihat love which kept his mind for thirty-three painful and tedious years intent upon this one object, the salvation of sinners ? That love which rendered him cheerfully patient of the shame, the curse, the tortures of crucifixion, and all the agonies of the most painful death? Blessed Jesus! is lukewarmness a proper return to thee for all this kindness? No; methinks devils cannot treat thee worse. My fellow-mortals, my fellow-sinners, who are the subjects of all this love, can you put him off with languid

r devotions and faint services ? May not Christ justly wish you were either cold or hot, wish you were any thing, rather than thus lukewarm towards him under a profession of friendship ? Alas ! my brethren, if this be your habitual temper, instead of being saved by him you may expect he will reject you with the most nauseating disgust and abhorrence. But,

8. Is lukewarmness and indifference a suitable temper with respect to a future state of happiness or misery ? Is it a suitable temper with respect to a happiness far exceeding the utmost bounds of our present thoughts and wishes; a happiness beyond the grave, when all the enjoyments of this transitory life have taken an eternal flight from us; a happiness that will last as long as our immortal spirits, and never, never fade or fly from us ? Or are lukewarmness and indifference a suitable temper with respect to a misery beyond expression, beyond conception dreadful; a misery inflicted by a God of almighty power and inexorable justice upon a number of obstinate, incorrigible rebels for numberless, willful, and daring provocations, inflicted on purpose to show his wrath and make his power known; a misery proceeding from the united fury of malicious, tormenting devils; a misery (who can bear up under the horror of the thought!) that shall last as long as the eternal God shall live to inflict it; as long as sin shall continue to deserve it; as long as an immortal spirit shall endure to bear it; a misery that shall never be mitigated, never intermitted, never, never, never see an end ? And remember, that a state of happiness or misery is not far remote from us, but near us, just before us; the next year, the next hour, or the next moment, we may enter into it; it is a state for which we are now candidates, now upon trial; now our eternal all lies at stake: and, O sirs, does an inactive careless posture become us in such a situation ? Is a state of such happiness, or such misery; is such a state just before us, a matter of indifference to us ? O can you be lukewarm about such matters ? was ever such prodigious stupidity seen under the canopy of heaven, or even in the regions of hell, which abound with monstrous and horrid dispositions. No; the hardest ghost below cannot make light of these things. Mortals! can you trifle about them ? Well, trifle a little longer and your trifling will be over for ever. You may be indifferent about the improving of your time; but time is not indifferent whether to pass by or not; it is determined to continue its rapid course, and hurry you into the ocean of eternity, though you should continue sleeping and dreaming through all the passage. Therefore awake, arise; exert yourselves before your doom be unchangeably fixed.

4. Let us see how this lukewarm temper agrees with the duties of religion. And as I cannot particularize them all, I shall only mention an instance or two. View a lukewarm professor in prayer; he pays to an omniscient God the compliment of a bended knee, as though he could impose upon him with such an empty pretence. When he is addressing the Supreme Majesty of heaven and earth, he hardly even recollects in whose presence he is, or whom he is speaking to, but seems as if he were worshiping without an object, or pouring out empty words into the air: perhaps through the whole prayer he had not so much as one solemn affecting thought of that God whose name he so often invoked. And can there be a more shocking, impious, and daring conduct than this ? What are such prayers but solemn mockeries and disguised insults ? And yet, is not this the usual method in which many of you address the great God ? Such sacrifices must be an abomination to the Lord;—and it is astonishing that he has not mingled your blood with your sacrifices, and sent you from your knees to hell—from thoughtless unmeaning prayer, to real blasphemy and torture.

The next instance I shall mention is with regard to the word of God. You own it divine, you profess it the standard of your religion, and the most excellent book in the world. Now if this be the case, it is God that speaks to you; it is God that sends you an epistle when you are reading or hearing his word. How impious and provoking then must it be to neglect it, to let it lie by you as an antiquated, useless book, or to read it in a careless, superficial manner, and hear it with an inattentive wandering mind ? one would think you would tremble at his word. It reveals the only method of your salvation: it contains the only charter of all your blessings. In short, you have the nearest personal interest in it, and can you be unconcerned hearers of it ? I am sure your reason and conscience must condemn such stupidity and indifference as incongruous, and outrageously wicked.

And now let me remind you of the observation I made when entering upon this subject, that if I should not offer sufficient matter for conviction, you might go on in your lukewarmness; but if your own reason should be fully convinced that such a temper is not wicked and unreasonable, then you might indulge it at your peril. What do you say now in the issue? Ye modern Laodiceans, are you not yet struck with horror at the thought of that insipid, formal, spiritless religion you have hitherto been contented with? And do you not see the necessity of following the advice of Christ to the Laodicean church, be zealous, be fervent for the future, and repent, bitterly repent of what is past ? To urge this the more, I have two considerations in reserve, of no small weight. 1. Consider the difficulties and dangers in your way. O sirs, if you knew the difficulty of the work of your salvation, and the great danger of miscarrying in it, you could not be so indifferent about it, nor could you flatter yourselves such languid endeavors will ever succeed. Consider, you have strong lusts to be subdued, a hard heart to be broken, a variety of graces which you are entirely destitute of, to be implanted and cherished, and that in an unnatural soil, where they will not grow without careful cultivation. In short, you must be made new men, quite other creatures than you now are. And, O! can this work be successfully performed while you make such faint and feeble efforts? Again, your dangers are also great and numerous; you are in danger from presumption and from despondency; from false fires and enthusiastic hearts; in danger from selfrighteousness, and from open wickedness, from your own corrupt hearts, from this ensnaring world, and from the temptations of the devil: you are in great danger of sleeping on in security, without ever being thoroughly awakened ; or if you should be awakened, you are in danger of resting short of vital religion; and in either of these cases you are undone for ever. In a word, dangers crowd thick around you on every hand, from every quarter; dangers, into which thousands, millions of your fellow-men have fallen and never recovered. 2. Consider how earnest and active men are in other pursuits. What labor and toil! what schemes and contrivances! what solicitude about success! what fears of disappointment! hands, heads, hearts, all busy. And all this to procure those enjoyments which at best they cannot long retain, and which the next hour may tear from them. To acquire a name or a diadem, to obtain riches or honors, what hardships are undergone! what dangers dared! what rivers of Blood shed! /how many millions of lives have been lost! and how many more endangered! in short, the world is all alive, all in motion with business. On sea and land, at home and abroad, you will find men eagerly pursuing some temporal good. They grow gray-headed", and die in the attempt without reaching their end ; but this disappointment does not discourage the survivors and successors; still they will continue, or renew the endeavor. Now here men act like themselves; and they show they are alive, and endowed with powers of great activity. And shall they be thus zealous and laborious in the pursuit of earthly vanities, and be quite indifferent and sluggish in the infinitely more important concerns of eternity ? What, solicitous about a mortal body, but careless about an immortal soul! Eager in pursuit of joys of a few years, but careless and remiss in seeking an immortality of perfect happiness! Anxious to avoid poverty, shame, sickness, pain, and all the evils, real or imaginary, of the present life; but indifferent about a whole eternity of the most intolerable misery! O the destructive folly, the daring wickedness of such conduct! My brethren, is religion the only thing which demands the utmost exertion of all your powers, and, alas! is that the only thing in which you will be dull and inactive? Is everlasting happiness the only thing about which you will be remiss? Is eternal punishment the only misery which you are indifferent whether you escape or not ? You can love the world, you can love a father, a child, or a friend; nay, you can love that abominable, hateful thing, sin; these you can love with ardor, serve with pleasure, pursue with eagerness, and with all your might; but the ever-blessed God, and the Lord Jesus your best friend, you put off with a lukewarm heart and spiritless services. O inexpressibly monstrous! Lord, what is this that has befallen thine own offspring, that they are so disaffected towards thee ? Blessed Jesus, what hast thou done that thou shouldst be treated thus ? O sinners! what will be the consequence of such a conduct? Will that God take you into the bosom of his love ? will that Jesus save you by his blood, whom you make so light of? No, you may go and seek a heaven where you can find it; for God will give you none. Go, shift for yourselves, or look out for a Saviour where you will; Jesus will have nothing to do with you, except to take care to inflict proper punishment upon you if you retain this lukewarm temper towards him. Hence, by way of improvement, learn,

1. The vanity and wickedness of a lukewarm religion. Though you should profess the best religion that ever came from heaven, it will not save you; nay, it condemns you with peculiar aggravations if you are lukewarm in it. This spirit of indifference diffused through it, turns it all into deadly poison. Your religious duties are all abominable to God while the vigor of your spirits is not exerted in them. Your prayers are insults, and he will answer them as such by terrible things in righteousness. And do any of you hope to be saved by such a religion ? I tell you from the God of truth, it will be so far from saving you, that it will certainly ruin you for ever: continue as you are to the last, and you will be as certainly damned to all eternity, as Judas, or Beelzebub, or any ghost in hell. But, alas!

2. How common, how fashionable is this lukewarm religion ? This is the prevailing epidemical sin of our age and country; and it is well if it has not the same fatal effect upon us as it had upon Laodicea. But it is our first concern to know how it is with ourselves; therefore, let this inquiry go round this congregation—Are you not such lukewarm Christians ? Is there any fire and life in your devotions? Or are not all your active powers engrossed by other pursuits ? Impartially make the inquiry, for infinitely more depends upon it than upon your temporal life.

3. If you have hitherto been possessed with this Laodicean spirit, I beseech you indulge it no longer. You have seen that it mars all your religion, and will end in your eternal ruin: and I hope you are not so hardened as to be proof against the energy of this consideration. "Why halt you so long between two opinions? I would you were cold or hot Either make thorough work of religion, or do not pretend to it. Why should you profess a religion which is but an insipid indifference with you ? Such a religion is good for nothing. Therefore awake, arise, exert yourselves. Strive to enter in at the strait gate

earnestly, or you are shut out for ever. Infuse heart and spirit into your religion. " Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with your might." Now, this moment, while my voice sounds in your ears, now begin the vigorous enterprise. Now collect all the vigor of your souls, and breathe it out in such a prayer as this, " Lord, fire this heart with thy love." Prayer is the proper introduction: for let me remind you of what I shall never forget, that God is the only author of this sacred fire; it is only he that can quicken you; therefore, ye poor careless creatures, fly to him in an agony of importunity, and never desist, never grow weary till you prevail.

4. And lastly, let the best of us lament our lukewarmness, and earnestly seek more fervor of spirit. Some of us have a little life; you enjoy some warm and vigorous moments; and O! they are divinely sweet. But reflect how soon your spirits flag, your devotion cools, and your zeal languishes. Think of this and be humble ; think of this and apply for more life. You know where to apply. Christ is your life: therefore, cry to him for the communications of it. " Lord Jesus! a little more life, a little more vital heat to a languishing soul." Take this method, and you shall run, and not be weary: you shall walk, and not be faint.—Isaiah, xl. 31.