« PreviousContinue »
restrain its impetuosity that it may the more, the physician, who generally finds It more effectually promote its object. - It will be difficult to raise a sluggish habit than to temperate, softening what is strong in the lower an occasional heat. The imprudentact by gentleness in the manner. It will be ly zealous man, if he be sincere, may, by a tolerating, willing to grant what it would it- discreet regimen, be brought to a state of self desire. - It will be torbearing, in the complete sanity ; but to rouse from a state hope that the offence it censures may be oc- of morbid indifference, to brace from a tocasional failing, and not a habit of the mind. tal relaxation of the system, must be the im
It will be candid, making a tender allow-mediate work of the great Physician of souls; ance for those imperfections which beings, of him who can effect even this, by his Spirit fallible themselves ought toexpect from hu- accompanying this powerful word, 'Awake man infirmity.-It will be reasonable-em- thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, ploying fair argument and affectionate re- and Christ shall give thee lighti monstrance, instead of irritating by the adoption of violence, instead of mortifying by the assumption of superiority.
He, who in private society allows himself in violent anger or unhallowed bitterness,
CHAP, XVIII. or acrimonious railing, in reprehending the faults of another, might, did his power keep Insensibility to Eternal Things. pace with his inclination, have recourse to other weapons. He would probably banish! INSENSIBILITY to eternal things, in beand burn, confiscate and imprison, and think ings who are standing on the brink of eterthen as he thinks now, that he is doing God nity, is a madman which would be reckonservice.
ed among prodigies, if it were not so comIf there be any quality which demands a mon. It would be altogether incredible, if clearer sight, a tighter rein, a stricter watch- the numberless instances we have of it were fulness than another, zeal is that quality. only related, and not witnessed, were only The heart where it is wanting has no eleva-Theard of, and not experienced. tion ; where it is not guarded, no security. If we had a certain prospect of a great esThe prudence with which it is exercised is tate, and a splendid mansion which we knew the surest evidence of its integrity; for if in- must be ours in a few days; and not only temperate it not only raises enemies to our- ours as a bequest, but an inheritance ; not selves but to God. It augments the natural only as a possession, but a perpetuity; if, in enmity to religion instead of increasing her the mean time, we rented, on a precarious friends.
lease, a paltry cottage in bad repair, ready · But if tempered by charity, if blended to fall, and from which we knew we must at with benevolence, if sweetened by kindness, all events soon be turned out, depending on if evinced to be honest by its influence on the proprietor's will, whether the ejectment your own conduct, and gentle by its effect might not be the next minute; would it aron your manners, it may lead your irreligi-gue wisdom or even common sense, totally ous acquaintance to inquire more closely in to overlook our near and noble reversion, what consists the distinction between them and to be so fondly attached to our falling and you. You will already by this mild-, tenement, as to spend great part of our time ness have won their affection. Your next and thoughtsin supporting its ruins by props, step may be to gain over their judgment. and concealing its decays by decorations ? They may be led to examine what solid To be so absorbed in the little sordid pleagrounds of difference subsists between you sures of this frail abode, as not even to culand them. What substantial reason you tivate a taste for the delights of the mansion, have for not going their lengths. What where such treasures are laid up for us, and sound argument they can offer for not going on the possession of which we fully reckon yours.
in spite of our neglect,--this is an excess of But it may possibly be asked, after all, inconsideration, which must be seen to be where do we perceive any symptoms of this credited. inflammatory distemper? Should not the It is a striking fact, that the acknowledge prevalence, or at least the existence of aed uncertainty of life drives worldly men to disease be ascertianed previous to the ap- make sure of every thing depending on it, plication of the remedy ? That it exists is except their eternal concerns. It leads sufficiently obvious, though it must be con- them to be regular in their accounts, and fessed that among the higher ranks it has exact in their bargains. They are afraid of not hitherto spread very widely ; nor is its risking ever so little property, on so precaprogress likely to be very alarming, or its rious a tenure as life, without ensuring a reeffects very malignant. It is to be lament- version. There are even some who specued that in every rank, indeed, coldness and late on the uncertainty of life as a trade, indifference, carelessness and neglect, are Strange, that this accurate calculation of the reigning epidemics. These are diseases the duration of life should not involve a sefar more difficult of cure ; diseases not more rious attention to its end ! Strange, that the dangerous to the patient than distressing to critical annuitant should totally overlook his VOL. I.
perpetuity! Strange, that in the prudent one respect, the danger is greater to him care not to risk a fraction of property, equal who is the best employed. The man of care should not be taken to risk eternal sal-pleasure, however thoughtless, can never vation !
make himself believe that he is doing right. We are not supposing flagitious charac- The man plunged in the serious bustle of ters, remarkable for any thing which the business, cannot easily persuade himself world calls wicked : we are not supposing that he may be doing wrong. their wealth obtained by injustice, or in- Computation, compensation and substitucreased by oppression. We are only sup-tion, are the grand engines which WORLDposing a soul drawu aside from God, by the LY RELIGION incessantly keeps in play. alluring baits of a world, which, like the Her's is a life of barter, a state of spiritual treacherous love of Atalanta, causes him to traffic, so much indulgence for so many good lose the victory by throwing golden apples works. The implication is, we have a riin his way. The shining baits are obtained, gorous master,' and it is but fair to indeoinbut the race is lost!
Ify ourselves for the severity of his requisiTo worldly men of a graver cast, business tions; just as an overworked servant steals may be as formidable an enemy as pleasure a holyday, — These persons,' says an emiis to those of a lighter turn : business has sonent writer, * .maintain a meum and tuum sober an air that it looks like virtue, and vir- with heaven itself.' The set bounds to tuous it certainly is, when carried on in a God's prerogative, lest it should too much proper spirit, with due moderation, and in encroach on man's privilege. the fear of God. To have a lawful employ-! We have elsewhere observed, that if we ment, and to pursue it with diligence, is not invite people to embrace religion on the only right and honourable in itself, but is mere mercenary ground of present pleaone of the best preservatives from tempta- sure, they will desert it as soon as they find tion. *
themselves disappointed. Men are too reaWhen a man pleads in his favour, the di-dy to clamour for the pleasures of piety beligence business demands, the self-denying fore they have, I dare not say entitled thempractices it imposes, the patience, the re- selves to them, but put themselves into the gularity, the industry indispensable to its way of receiving them. We should be ansuccess; when he argues that these are gry at that servant, who made the receiving habits of virtue, that they are a daily dis- of his wages a preliminary to the performcipline to the moral man; and that the ance of his work. This is not meant to estaworld could not subsist without business, he blish the merit of the works, but the necesargues justly ;-—but when he forgets his in-sity of our seeking that transforming and poterest in the eternal world, when he ne- rifying change which characterizes the real glects to lay up a treasure in heaven, in or- Christian ; instead of complaining that we der that he may augment a store which he do not possess those consolations, which can does not want, and, perhaps, he does not in- be consequent only on such a mutation of the tend to use, or uses to purposes merely secu- mind. lar, he is a bad calculator, of the relative va- ! But if men consider this world on the true lue of things.
scripture ground as a state of probation; if Business has an honourable aspect as be-/ they consider religion as a school for happi ing opposed to idleness, the most hopelessness, indeed, but of which the consunumaoffspring of the whole progeny of sin, "The tion is only to be enjoyed in heaven, the man of business comparing himself with the Christian hope will support them; the man of dissipation, feels a fair and natural Christian faith will strengthen them. They consciousness of his own value, and of the will serve diligently, 'wait patiently, love superiority of his own pursuits. But it is cordially, obey faithfully, and be steadfas by comparison that we deceive ourselves to under all trials, sustained by the cheering our ruin. Business, whether professsional, I promise held out to him, who endures to commercial, or political, endangers minds the end.' of a better cast, minds which look down on There are certain characters who seem pleasure as beneath a thinking being. But to have a graduated scale of vices. Of if business absorb the affections, if it swallow this scale they keep clear of the lowest deup time, to the neglect of eternity; if it grees, and to rise above the highest they generate a worldly spirit; if it cherish co-l are not ambitious, forgetful that the same vetousness; if it engage the mind in long principle which operates in the greater, opeviews, and ambitious pursuits, it may be as rates also in the less. A life of incessant dangerous, as its more inconsiderate frivo- gratification does not alarm the conscience, lous rival. The grand evil of both lies in the yet it is equally unfavourable to religion, alienation of the heart from God. Nay, in equally destructive of its principle, equally
opposite to its spirit, with more obvious . That accurate judge of human life, Dr. Jobnson, has vices, often bcen beard by the writer of these pages to observe, These are the habits which, by relaxing that it was the greatest misfortune which could be fal a the mind and dissolving the heart, particuman to have been bred to no profession, and patheticalIs to regret that this misfortune was his own.
• The learned and pious John Smith
larly foster indifference to our spiritual state, Let us not inquire whether these unfeeling and insensibility to the things of eternity. tempers and selfish habits offend society, and A life of voluptuousness, it it be not a lite o discredit us with the world; but whether actual sin, is a disqualification for holiness, they feed cur corruptions and put us in a posfor happiness, for heaven. It not only alien- ture unfavourable to all interior improveates the heart from God, but lays it open to ment; whether they offend God and endanevery temptation to which natural temperger the soul ; whether the gratification of may invite, or incidental circumstances al- self is the life which the Redeemer taught or lure. The worst passions lie dormant in lived; whether sensuality is a suitable prehearts given up to selfish indulgences, al-paration for that state where God himself, ways ready to start into action as occasion who is a Spirit, will constitute ail the happicalls,
ness of spiritual beings. Voluptuousness and irreligion play into! But these are not the only, perhaps not the each other's hands: they are reciprocally greatest dangers. The intellectual vices, cause and effect. The looseness of the prin- the spiritual offences may destroy the soul ciple confirms the carelessness of the con- without much injuring the credit. These duct, while the negligent conduct in its own have not, like voluptuousness, their seasons vindication shelters itself under the supposed of alteration and repose. Here the princisecurity of unbelief. The instance of the ple is in continual operation. Envy has no rich man in the parable of Lazarus, striking- interval. Ambition never cools. Pride ly illustrates this truth.
never sleeps. The principle at least is al'Whoever doubts that a life of sensuality is ways a wake. An iniemperate man is someconsistent with the most unfeeling barbarity times sober, but a proud man is never humto the wants and sufferings of others; who- ble. Wliere vanity reigns, she reigns alever doubts that boundless expense and ways. These interior sins are more difficult magnificence, the means of procuring which of extirpation, they are less easy of detecwere wrung from the robbery and murder of tion; more hard to come at ; and, as the cia lacerated world, may not be associated tadel holds out after the outworks are tawith that robbery and murder, let him ken these sins of the heart are the latest turn to the gorgeous festivities and unparal- conquered in the moral warfare. leled pageantries of Versailles and Saint Here lies the distinction between the Cloud. —There the Imperial Harlequin, worldly and the religious man. It is alarm from acting the deepest and the longest tra- enough for the Cliristian that he feels any gedy that ever drew tears of blood from an propensities to vice. Against these propenaudience composed of the whole civilized sities he watches, strives and prays : and globe, by a sudden stroke of his magic wand, though he is thankful for the victory when shifts the scene of this most preposterous he has resisted the temptation, he can feel no pantomime :
elation of heart while conscious of inward Where moody madness laughing wild
dispositions, which nothing but divine grace Amidst severest wo,
enables him to keep from breaking out in a
fame. He feels that there is no way to obgloomily contemplates the incongruous
tain the pardon of sin but to leave off sinspectacle, sees the records of the Tyburn
ning : he feels that though repentance is not Chronicle embellished with the wanton
la Saviour, yet that there can be no salvation splendours of the Arabian tables; beholds
where there is no repentance. Above all, Perverse all monstrous, all prodigious things ; he knows that the promise of remission of beholds tyranny with his painted vizor of sin by the death of Christ is the only solid patriotism, and polygamy with her Janus sro
ground of comfort. However correct his face of political conscience and counterfeit present life may be, the weight of past ofaffection fill the fore ground ; while scep
| fences would hang so heavy on his contred parasites, and pinchbeck potentates,
science, that without the atoning blood of tricked on with the shining spoils of plun
his Redeemer, despair of pardon for the dered empires, and decked with the pilfer
past would leave him hopeless. He would ed crowns of deposed and exiled monarchs,
continue to sin, as an extravagant bankrupt fill and empty the changing scene, with
who can get no acquittal, would continue to • exits and with entrances,' as fleeting and
be extravagant, because no present frugaliunsubstantial as the progeny of Banquo,
ty could redeem his former debts.
Y beholds inventive but fruitless art, solicit-l.
1 It is sometimes pleaded that the labouratously decorate the ample stage to concealla
sceltached to persons in high public stations and the stains of blood-stains as indelible as important employments, by leaving them no those which the ambitious wife of the irreso-time, furnishes a reasonable excuse for the lute thane vainly strove to wash from her on
omission of their religious duties. These polluted hands; while in her sleeping deli-ap
li apologies are never offered for any such neiium she continued to cry,
Igiect in the poor man, though to him every
day brings the inevitable return of his still here's the smell of blood;
twelve hour's labour, without intermission The perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten it.
and without mitigation. But to return to the general question. But surely the more important the sta
tion, the higher and wider the sphere of ac- No one is more alive to her political, nor tion, the more imperious is the call for reli- more dead to her spiritual importance. He gion, not only in the way of example, but is anxious for her existence, but indifferent even in the way of success; if it be indeed to her doctrines. These he considers as a granted that there is such a thing as divine general matter in which he has no individual influences, if it be allowed that God has a concern, He considers religious observanblessing to bestow. If the ordinary man ces as something decorous but unreal; as a who has only himself to govern, requires grave custom made respectable by public that aid, how urgent is his necessity who usage, and long prescription. He admits has to govern millions! What an awful that the poor, who have little to enjoy, and idea, could we even suppose it realized, the idle who have little to do, cannot do betthat the weight of a nation might rest on the ter than make over to God that time which head of him whose heart looks not up for a cannot be turned to a more profitable achigher support!
count. Religion, he thinks, may properly Were we alluding to sovereigns, and not enough employ leisure, and occupy old age. to statesmen, we need not look beyond the But though both advance towards himself throne of Great Britain, for the instance of with noimperceptible step, he is still at a loss a monarch who has never made the cares to determine the precise period when the attendant on a king, an excuse for ne- leisure is sufficient, or the age enough adglecting his duty to the King of kings. vanced. It recedes as the destined season
The politician, the warrior, and the ora- approaches. He continues to intend moving, tor, find it peculiarly hard to renounce in but he continues to stand still. themselves that wisdom and strength, to Compare his drowsy Sabbaths with the which they believe that the rest of the animation of the days of business, you world are looking up. The man of station would not think it was the same man. The or of genius, when invited to the self-deny- one are to be got over, the others are ening duties of Christianity, as well as he who joyed. He goes from the dull decencies, has 'great possessions,' goes away "sor- the shadowy forms—for such they are to rowing.'
him, of public worship, to the solid realities But to know that they must end, stamps of his worldly concerns, to the cheerful acvanity on all the glories of life ; to know that tivities of secular life. These he considers they must end soon, stamps infatuation, not as bounden, almost as exclusive duties. only on him who sacrifices his conscience. The others indeed may not be wrong, but for their acquisition, but on him who, though these he is sure are right. The world is upright in the discharge of his duties, dis- his element. Here he breathes freely his charges them without any reference to God. native air. Here he is substantially ent
Would the conqueror or the orator reflect gaged. Here his whole mind is alive, his when the laurel crown is placed on his understanding broad awake, all his energies brow, how soon will it be followed by the are in full play ; his mind is all alacrity; cypress wreath, it would lower the delirium his faculties are employed, his capacities of ambition; it would cool the intoxication are filled; here they have an object worthy of prosperity.
of their widest expansion, Here his desires There is a general kind of belief in Chris- and affections are absorbed. The faint tianity, prevalent among men of the world, impression of the Sunday's sermon fades which, by soothing the conscience, prevents away, to be as faintly revived on the Sunself-inquiry. That the holy Scriptures con- day following, again to fade in the succeedtain the will of God, they do not question ; ing week. To the sermon he brings a forthat they contain the best system of morals, mal ceremonious attendance; to the world, they frequently assert : but that they do not he brings all the heart, and soul, and mind, feel the necessity of acquiring a correct no-J and strength. To the one he resorts in contion of the doctrmes those Scripturesinvolve. formity to law and custom ; to induce him to The depravity of man, the atonement made resort to the other, he wants no law, no by Christ, the assistance of the Holy Spirit sanction, no invitation, no argument. His
these they consider as the metaphysical will is of the party. His passions are volun part of religion, into which it is not of much teers. The invisible things of heaven are importance to enter, and by a species of self-clouded in shadow, are lost in distance. Tbe flattery, they satisfy themselves with an idea world is lord of the ascendant. Riches, hoof acceptableness with their Maker, as a nours, power fill his mind with brilliant ims. state to be attained without the humility, ges. They are present, they are certain faith, and newness of life which they re-they are tangible. They assume form and quire, and which are indeed their proper bulk. In these therefore he cannot be me concomitants.
taken ; in the others he may. The eagerA man absorbed in a multitude of secular ness of competition, the struggle for super concerns, decent but unawakened, listens ority, the perturbations of ambition, fill his with a kind of respectful insensibility, to the mind with an emotion, his soul with an agiovertures of religion. He considers the tation, his affections with an interest, which, church as venerable from her antiquity, and though very unlike happiness, he yet flatters important from her connexion with the state. I himself is the road to it. This fictitious pleasure, this tumultuous feeling, produces / Say not that the requisitions of religion are at least that negative satisfaction of which he severe, ask rather if they are necessary. If is constantly in search-it keeps him from a thing must absolutely be done, if eternal himself,
misery will be incurred by not doing it, it is Even in circumstances where there is no fruitless to inquire whether it be hard or success to prevent a very tempting bait, the easy. Inquire only whether it be indispenniere occupation, the crowd of objects, the sable, whether it be commanded, whether succession of engagements, the mingling it be practicable. It is a well known axiom pursuits, the very tumult and hurry have in science, that difficulties are of no weight their gratifications. The bustle gives false against demonstrations. The duty on which peace by leaving no leisure for reflection. our eternal state depends, is not a thing to He lays his conscience asleep with the flat- be debated, but done. The duty which is too tering unction, of good intentions. He com- imperative to be evaded, too important to forts himself with the credible pretence of be neglected, is not to be argued about, want of time, and the vague resolution of but performed. To sin on quietly, because giving up to God the dregs of that life, of the you do not intend to sin always, is to live vigorous season of which he thinks the world on a reversion which will probably never be more worthy. Thus commuting with his yours. Maker, life wears away, its close draws near It is folly to say that religion drives men -and even the poorcommutation which was to despair ; when it only teaches them by a promised is not made. The assigned hour ot salutary fear to avoid destruction. The fear retreat either never arrives, or if it does ar- of God differs from all other fear, for it is acrive, sloth and sensuality are resorted to, as companied with trust, and confidence, and the fair reward of a life of labour and anxi-love. Blessed is the man that feareth alety ; and whether he dies in the protracted way,' is no paradox to him who entertains pursuit of wealth, or in the enjoyment of the this holy fear. It sets him above the fear of luxuries it has earned, he dies in the tram- ordinary troubles. It fills his heart. He is mels of the world.
not discomposed with those inferior appreIf we do not cordially desire to be deli- hensions which unsettle the soul and unhinge vered from the dominion of these worldly the peace of worldly men. His mind is octempers, it is because we do not believe in cupied with one grand concern, and is therethe condemnation annexed to their indul-fore less liable to be shaken than little minds gence. We may indeed believe it as we be- which are filled with little things. Can that lieve any other general proposition, or any principle lead to despair, which proclaims indifferent fact; but not as a truth in which the mercy of God in Christ Jesus to be we have a personal concern; not as a dan- greater than all the sins of all the men in the ger which has any reference to us. We world? evince this practical unbelief in the most if despair then prevent your return, add unequivocal way, by thinking so much more not to your list of offences that of doubting of about the most frivolous concern in which the forgiveness which is sincerely implored. we are assured we have an interest, than You have already wronged God in his holiabout this most important of all concerns. ness, wrong him not in his mercy. You
Indifference to eternal things, instead of may offend him more by despairing of his tranquilizing the mind, as it professes to do, pardon than by all the sins which have made is, when a thoughtful moment occurs, a fresh that pardon necessary. Repentance, if one subject of uneasiness; because it adds to our may venture the bold remark, almost disperil the horror of not knowing it. If shut- arms God of the power to punish. Hear his ting our eyes to a danger would prevent it, style and title as proclaimed by himself; to shut them would not only be a happiness The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and but a duty; but to barter eternal safety for gracious, long suffering, and abundant in momentary ease, is a wretched compro- goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thoumise. To produce this delusion, mere in- sands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and consideration is as efficient a cause as the sin, and that will by no means clear the most prominent sin. The reason why we guilty'- that is, those who by unrepented do not value eternal things is, because we do guilt exclude themselves from the offered not think of them. The mind is so full of mercy. what is present, that it has no room to ad- If infidelity or indifference, which is pracmit a thought of what is to come. Not on- tical infidelity, keep you back, yet, as realy we do not give that attention to a never- sonable beings, ask yourselves a few short dying soul which prudent men give to a com- questions; For what end was I sent into mon transaction, but we do not even think the world ? Is my soul immortal ? Am I it worth the care which inconsiderate men really placed here in a state of trial, or is give to an inconsiderable one. We com- this span my all? Is there an eternal state? plain that life is short, and yet throw away If there be, will the use I make of this life the best part of it, only making over to re- decide on my condition in that? I know ligion that portion which is good for nothing that there is death, but is there a judgelse ; life would be long enough if we as- ment ? signed its best period to its best purpose. Rest not till you have cleared up, I do not