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requires the production of an apology, or such as, when prieked by conscience, they secretly offer to their own bosoms. ligion,” it is declared or whispered by these apologists for practical religion, “is undoubtedly a very excellent thing; and in its proper measure justly to be expected from all. Nay, we acknowledge, that, in all men, as much religion as is attainable, is highly to be desired. We lament, that few persons attend to religion so much as they might attend. And we are particularly scandalized at the deficiencies of those who have professionally taken upon themselves to be our instructors. But on ourselves no demand beyond our present practice can reasonably be made. Our time and our thoughts are already absorbed by necessary or inevitable avocations. We are engaged in the active business of life; and cannot find leisure for books and speculative retirement. Our estates or our mercantile concerns call for continual care; and we know that he who makes not provision for his family, neglects the duty of a parent, and is worse than an infidel. Or we are occupied in serving our country as members of her legislature, or as magistrates, or as officers in her fleets or armies, or as belonging to some of the numerous professions by which society is held together; and we are not ignorant, that'mercy is better than sacrifice. Or, if we are not encumbered with any of the engagements which have been mentioned, we are continually pressed by others, no less difficult to be avoided or postponed. Family connexions, numerous acquaintance and friends, the ordinary reciprocation of civilities and visits, the stated recurrence at home and abroad of innocent diversions, bring the day to a close almost as soon as we perceive it to have begun. Man was born for society. It is not good for man to' be alone.' The social intercourse of life must be maintained by the requisite observance of that courtesy, which an apostle has enjoined on all men. Harmless amusements, essential to mental refreshment and alacrity of spirits, cannot but be approved by a religion, which exhorts to cheerfulness and joy. And however absurd '
may have been the disputations of ignorant men, we are, for our parts, satisfied that friendship is inculcated by Christianity. At any rate,” it is finally observed, “ be it business, or some lighter occupation, which has swallowed up our time; and even if it be acknowledged, that with livelier vigilance we might have snatched
somewhat more frequent and somewhat longer intervals for religious meditation; we trust that our inattention has not been such as to expose us to any extravagant censure. We have always professed our belief in religion. We have occasionally been present at its ordinances. We have been indulgent husbands, careful parents, kind neighbours, useful members of society. And we are universally regarded as having regulated our conduct by the nicest principle of honour.”
Vain and empty sophistry, to disguise the unsubduedenmity of the carnal mind against God! [Rom. viii. 7.]
III. Further: with respect to the excuses described in the parable, there are two remarks which I would recommend to your serious consideration. First, all the employments and engagements, which the persons who were invited, pleaded in apology for their absence, were in themselves perfectly lawful: yet observe, secondly, that the persons who made these excuses, were, every one of them, condemned: - I
say that none of those men which were bidden, shall taste of my supper. If these men were thus condemned, how much more dreadful would have been their punishment, if they had excused themselves for the purpose of prosecuting some sinful enterprise: if, instead of lawful industry, they had meditated some dishonest undertaking; if, instead of honourable marriage, some plan of criminal indulgence had been in view! But, though their pursuits were all lawful, every one of the persons was condemned. Why was it thus ? Because every one of the persons was worldly-minded. His heart was not fixed upon promoting the glory of God, and proving, by faith and holy obedience, his love and gratitude to his Maker and Redeemer. His first object was not to be religious, but to be wealthy, or to prosecute his own pleasure. The man that purchased the land, and the other that bought the oxen, were immersed in solicitude concerning their property and possessions. The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choked the word; and it became unfruitful.” (Matt. xiii. 22.] Land and oxen, and the profit which land and oxen were to produce, were their idols. God and his laws, Christ and the wonderful mercies which had been offered at his band, had little, if any, share of their thoughts. The man who had married a wife, had contracted an irreligious marriage, or was ensnared by the consequences of his marriage into impiety. He had shown, we may conclude, in that transaction the unconcern which, respecting religion, pervaded his character. He had selected his consort merely for her personal appearance; or because she had an ample fortune; or because her relations were able to push him into lucrative business; or for some other worldly reason. He had not made it his first and great study to learn before-hand, whether she was a truly pious woman, a faithful servant of the Almighty; whether she would be a partner likely to help him forward in the way of salvation, and by instruction and example to train up a family in holiness. Or, subsequently to his marriage, he had permitted attention to his wife to supersede that which was due to his God. Each, therefore, of the persons invited, having preferred things temporal to things eternal, was justly condemned. “They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh: but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. To be spirituallyminded is life and peace: to be carnally-minded is death.' [Rom. viii. 6, 7.]
The parable which has been explained, while it affords an exact picture of the present state of multitudes, who profess themselves to be Christians,—holds forth a solemn warning to all persons, who are, at this day, endeavouring to make excuses for denying to religion the empire of their hearts. If, in tempers or in conduct, you are an open transgressor of the Gospel, as surely as the word of God is true, you are in a state of condemnation. The gulf of destruction stares you in the face; and, unless you repent and become a new man, will close upon you for ever. But this parable, in conformity to many other passages in the New Testament, teaches you the no less awful lesson, that you will be condemned at the day of judgement, if you suffer any one of the lawful occupations or lawful pleasures of this life, to be the principal object of your pursuit. Yet how frequently do we see people resigning themselves to such idols; and find every argument ineffectual to convince them, that they are in the direct road to eternal ruin. With some, wealth is the idol. They rise up early and go late to rest, and eat the bread of carefulness, day after day, and year after year. At the end of every year they have increased in possessions; but they have not grown in grace. They have accumulated substance on earth; but have not laid up treasure in the sight of God. During all this time they imagine that they are religious; and are even ready to profess a conviction, that this scraping, laborious life is one proof of religion. How hardening is the deceitfulness of sin! How darkening the influence of a worldly spirit! What evidence have they to produce of their religion? Let their cause be exhibited in the most favourable light. They have not been spendthrifts. They have observed common honesty in their dealings. They have seldom omitted their forms of devotion at the returns of night and of morning. They have attended public worship, and even the sacrament, with decent frequency. But let every person of this description answer to himself a short question: “ Where has your heart been fixed ? on the next world, or on this ?” Your answer will tell you that, if you die in your present state, your condemnation is certain and just.-Others make pleasures and amusements their idols. They conceive that, because they are under no pecuniary necessity of addicting themselves to business, they need not disappoint their inclinations. They do not mean (they profess) to live wickedly; but they think that they have a right to entertain themselves. Amusements accordingly constitute their leading pursuits. Hounds and horses, or other sports of the field; or public places and unprofitable visiting, and the indolent perusal of trifling and uninstructive books, take possession of their time and their thoughts. The amusements which each person selects for himself, depend on his situation, and other accidental circumstances. But of all such persons, amusement, whatever shape it may assume, is the object. And because they follow such amusements, as are not, in their own nature, necessarily sinful; and because they are not regardless of the forms of devotion, and some other outward duties of religion,—they flatter themselves, that they are sufficiently good Christians. But let such persons also be asked, Where has your heart been fixed? Can you think that the life which you have led, has been to live unto God and unto Christ? Has
your life been that of a man, who seeks first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? The persons who were previously described, perish by the cares and the riches of the world. You perish by its idleness and its pleasures.-Industry, grounded on Christian motives, and governed by
Christian rules, is not only not a sin, but an absolute duty: recreations, imocent in their nature, and moderate in degree, are, at proper times, beneficial and necessary: but if either the acquisition of money, or the pursuit of amusement, be the leading object of your thoughts and wishes, the ruling principle of your heart, cease to imagine that you are religious ; anticipate the condemnation which awaits you. I dwell not on other idols. What though power, and learning, and reputation, have also their worshippers ? Is the idolatry of another man a vindication of yours? God acknowledges none as his servants, except those, whose predominant desire and delight is to promote his glory and obey his commandments. To no others does he promise pardon, and grace, and salvation, through Jesus Christ. Deceive yourselves no longer. Lean no longer on a broken reed. Away with every excuse for delaying to resign your whole heart to your Redeemer. Some excuses may be more absurd, some may be more presumptuous, than others; but if you trust to any excuse whatever, you will fall into everlasting condemnation.
[T. GISBORNE, Prebendary of Durham.]
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
A GOOD LIFE THE SUREST TITLE TO A GOOD CON
SCIENCE. 1 John, iii, 21, 22.-Beloved, if our hearts condemn us not, then have
we confidence towards God; and whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
(Text taken from the Epistle for the Day.] THESE words will lead me to treat of the nature and quality of a good conscience, and the comforts of it. The Apostle had before been speaking of assuring our hearts before God by the strongest evidences possible, by a true and unfeigned love of the brethren. “Hereby,' says he, we know that we are of the truth ; and shall assure our hearts,' that is, pacify our consciences, before him.' Then he adds, For if our own hearts condemn us, God will much more condemn us: