« 上一頁繼續 »
their holy profession, and, like the young man described in the Gospel, “ go away from it sor" rowful.”
The reason of this defection our Saviour de clares to be, because they had no root in them. selves; their religion was never firmly settled in them; they had never considered it thoroughly and in every point of view; they beheld only its bright side, its privileges, its rewards, its promises and comforts; they never thought of those troubles, discouragements and afflictions, which will sometimes fall to the lot of the best men, and, therefore, were unable to bear their rude shocks; they forgot that the Captain of their salvation was made perfeçt through sufferings, and that the servant had no right to expect better treatment than his master : having not, therefore, sufficient depth of earth to support and nourish them, when assaulted by the rough blasts of trial, and the chilling rigours of adversity, they soon withered away, because they lacked moisture,
To the same unhappy cause we may justly ascribe that fluctuation and variety of opinions, both in sacred and prophane matters, which are at once so much the characteristics and disgrace of the present age. Men of warın tempers and
shallow judgments, who, like the stony soil, have heat without depth of earth, are easily carried about with every wind of doctrine, and the cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. Hence our religious creed, which should be as fixed and immutable as the God who is the object of it, is as various and mutable as our political one, whilst one is of Paul, another of Cephas, and another of Apollos. For so long as men are not firmly rooted and grounded in the truth, they will naturally be ready to catch at every phantom of novelty, and to follow every theological teacher, who has impudence enough to boast, like other empirics, that he alone possesses the arcanum of salvation.
The last sort of unprofitable hearers described by our Saviour are those, in whom the truths of religion are stifled and suppressed by the cares, and riches, and pleasures of life; by the unlawful desires of our hearts after things forbidden and sinful, or, by our immoderate pursuit even of what is in itself lawful and innocent. It is one great proof of the depravation of our nature, and of its being fallen from its first excellency, that it is ever ready to prefer the gross and baser pleasures of the senses, to those more noble and sublime contemplations, which may be drawn from a right cultivation of the mental powers,
Man seems to have partaken of that curse, which was inflicted on the earth for his sake, that it should bring forth thorns and thistles, what is noxious and disgraceful, instead of what is profitable and honourable. Hence his mind is ever pre-occupied by a train of groveling passions, which either prevent the admittance of religious truth, or stifle it in its growth : for a love of God and a love of the world can never flourish in the same soil. And the more men immeise themselves in the cares of the world, the deeper they drink of the circean cup of pleasure, the more insensible 'they will become to all the motives of religion, and the powers of the world to come; till, at length, time and habit have brought them into a deadly stupefaction, from which nothing can wake them but the terrors of death, or the trumpet of the arch-angel, and the prospect of the throne of judgment.
Since then the cares and pleasures of the world will infallibly choke the word and make it unfruitful, and since that unfruitfulness will as infallibly bring on eternal death, it is certainly our interest to pay less regard to the world and more to our souls; remembering that the whole world itself would be but an ill exchange for our souls. We need not, however, as some have done, carry our contempt of the business or pleasures of life
so far, as either gloomily to retire from them to deserts and solitudes, or to think that they can have no relish with virtuous and pious men: Such sour and rigid notions carry with them an appearance of superior holiness, and a more exalted strain of christian perfection; and, therefore, sometimes serve to cover the designs of artful inen, and at all times to captivate the ininds of the credulous and ignorant: but I will be bold to say, that as on the one hand they disa courage men from the service of God, which is the most perfect freedom, so on the other, they have no foundation either in the letter or in the spirit of Christianity, when rightly understood; which, even in its severest precepts, addressed to Christians under persecution and torments, no where forbids the use, though it wisely regulates and restrains the abuse of innocent pleasures. And as little foundation have such splenetic notions in the great law of sense and reason. For surely the God that made the world, never spent so much time and care in forming and adorning it, and in furnishing it with every thing necessary for use and pleasure, that they who were made by him to inhabit it, should either contumaciously despise or sullenly reject his proffered bounties. Nor, again, did God ever intend, that ambition, emulation, and appetite, should ever be wanting in the best of men, so
long as the world lasts; which, under due regulations, are not only laudable but absolutely necessary for the movement of the great machine of the universe. It will be enough for us so to love the world as not to prefer, it to Him who is the maker of it, and so to regulate our affections and passions, in the persuit whether of business or pleasure, as ever to keep them in a due subordination to reason, and in subserviency to the great end of our coming into the world, that is, of obeying the will of God in all things, and thereby promoting our own eternal
Let us then so endeavour to live in the world, that whilst we are discharging our duties in it with a becominy chearfulness, neither its cares nor pleasures may take off our thoughts from the contemplation of Him, in whom we live and move, or stifte those devout and pious resolutions of obedience to his will, which such an employment of our thoughts will naturally suggest to us. And whenever we hear the word of God, let it be with such attention and reverence, with such a freedom from incogitancy or distracting cares, that its doctrines may sink deep into our hearts, and that we may be found in the number of those, who in an honest and good heart having