« PreviousContinue »
the most universally natural to all mankind. They discover it as to bodily exercise ; still more with regard to mental application ; but it appears most of all in religious pursuits. Upon this principle many are influenced in their choice of preachers, and in their adoption of sentiments. This makes them fonder of speculations, which bear very softly upon the heart and life, than of those truths which inculcate a holy practice. They find it easier to hear weekly a number of fermons, than to teach their children the duties of the gospel, and to maintain serious devotion in their families, and and in their closets. Man loves indulgence; he needs a stimulus to make him arise from the bed of sloth, to exert his faculties, and to employ the means of which he is pofseffed. And one would naturally conclude that in religion he would find it. As he sits at ease, revelation draws back the vail, and shews him the most astonishing realities; an eternal world; whatever can sting with motive, whatever can alarm with fear, whatever can animate with hope ; what a Being to please, on whom it depends to save or to destroy! what a state of misery is there to escape ! what an infinite happiness to secure ! Survey the prize. In seeking honour, men sacrifice their peace, submit to mortifications, climb ascents the most slippery and hazardous. To gain wealth, they rise up early, sit up late, eat the bread of carefulness; and what beggarly, unsatisfying advantages are all earthly things! The rich man, “in the midst of his sufficiency may be in straits." The conqueror may be wrung with sorrow even on the day of his triumph. Now “ they run for a cor“ruptible crown, but we for an incorruptible." Shall
they be zealous in trifles, and we remain cold and motionless in matters of endless importance ? Or do you imagine diligence is unnecessary ? But does not every thing valuable require labour ? Do we ever highly efteem that which costs us nothing ? Indolence never ploughs or sows, and therefore never reaps. It never plants or pr...es, and therefore never gathers the clufters of the grapes; nothing great was ever performed by it ; nothing great was ever possessed by it. “The soul 6 of the diligent” only “ shall be made fat.” “ Win “and wear it,” says Bishop Latimer, “ is inscribed on " the crown of glory which fadeth not away.” Be afsured, “ your strength is not to sit still :” 56 be not 6 slothful, but followers of them who through faith " and patience inherit the promises."
Secondly, Beware of DIVERSION. Discharge yourself as much as possible from superfluous cares. Diftinguish between diligence in lawful business, and 6 entangling yourselves in the affairs of this life.” This sometimes arises from a multiplicity of concerns, and more frequently from the want of order and skill in the management of them. Thus you are robbed of the temper, and the attention, and the opportunities which devotion requires. The good old men who are gone before us, lived as long again as you do in the same number of years, they redeemed their time; they rose early; they moved by rule; they planned every thing; they would have leisure for religion ; and if time fell short, the body and the world suffered the loss; they never robbed the soul, and trifled with eternity. To avoid diversion, you would do well to remember that religion is the grand business of life ;
that to this you must render every thing else su BORDINATE and SUBSERVIENT ; that you are not to confine your pious regards and attentions to the fabbath, or the temple ; you are to “ walk in the fear of " the Lord all the day long ;” and “ whether ye eat w or drink, or whatever ye do,” you are to do “all to " the glory of God.” In his journey the traveller may pause for a moment to behold the beauty of the scenery around him ; or in the evening he may “turn « aside to tarry for a night,” but in the morning he goes on his way ; nothing diverts him ; he thinks only of the object for which he set out. If however a man goes forth without an end in view, or does not feel the necessity of pursuing it; if he travels extempore, and leaves the determination of his course to accident, he is liable to be caught with any pleasing profpeet ; he will be ready to comply with any flattering invitation ; he will be driven back, or turned aside by every appearance of difficulty. Fix your aim, my brethren, and establish in your minds a conviction of the importance of it; then you will no longer live at random ; then you will have a principle which will simplify all your concerns, by giving them one common tendency; then you will have a director to guide you in every perplexing uncertainty ; then you will have a standard, by which to decide what you are to shun, and what you are to pursue; it will induce you to examine all with a reference to this, and to make all contribute to this ; every occurrence will furnish leffons and helps; in relation to this we shall judge of what is good or evil ; this will keep us from murmur. ing when we feel things which, though painful, urge
us forward, and from fighing for things which, though pleasing, will prove an incumbrance.
I would remark further, that there are not only diversions FROM religion, but diversions in it; and of these also you are to beware. Here, finding you are unsuspicious of danger, the enemy often succeeds; for his end is frequently answered by things good in themselves; he is satisfied if he can draw off your attention from great things, and engross it with little ones; if he can make you prefer opinions to practice, and controversy to devotion ; if by consuming your zeal on the circumstantials of religion, he can render your minds cold to the effence; if he can bring you to lay more stress upon those peculiarities in which you differ, than upon those all important points in which you agree. ,
Thirdly, Guard against DESPONDENCY. There are indeed many things which, when viewed alone, have a tendency to discourage the mind. We know your weakness, and we know the difficulties and dangers to which you are exposed. Your progress will prove warlike; your possession, like the inheritance of the Jews, is to be conquered—but “be courageous;" nothing will so much animate you as holy confidence. To strengthen this principle, you have the promise of a faithful God. It encouragss you with an assurance of eventual success, and of immediate assistance. The advantages are as certain as they are great. The labour and the hope of the husbandman may be destroyed-but here are no casualties; “ he that goeth forth “and weepeth, bearing precious feed, shall doubtless 56 come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with 65 him.” The soldier' fights uncertainly—but there
is no peradventure in this warfare ; " yea, in all these “ things we are more than conquerors through Him “ that loved us.” How enlivening is the persuasion that we cannot be defeated in our enterprise, or disappointed in our hope! But you want immediate help; and God has engaged that you shall not advance alone; his presence shall be with you, and his grace shall be sufficient for you. “So that you may boldly fay, the “ Lord is my Helper. I will not fear.” “I will go “forth in the strength of the Lord.” See however that your confidence be fcriptural, and your reliance properly placed. And,
Fourthly, Be afraid of PRESUMPTION. “Even " the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young “men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the “Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up “ with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be wea. “ry, and they shall walk and not faint.” Our dependence upon God is abfolute and univerfal. “In him “ we live, and move, and have our being." His agency is more indispensable in spiritual things than in natural; sin has rendered us peculiarly weak, helpless, and disaffected. Without Him we can do nothing ; our progress in religion will be in proportion to his influ.' ences. We are “ led by the Spirit of God;" “ we “ live in the Spirit ; we walk in the Spirit.”. Be senfible of this, and as the proof of it, be much in prayer. Prayer is the language of dependence; by this we call for succour, and by this we obtain it. Thus " when “we are weak, then are we strong," because this sense of our insufficiency leads us to implore the power of God; and “ if we seek we shall find.” Hence it fol.