« 上一頁繼續 »
eternal; and yet, chained down, as it were, to the earth he treads upon, he never raises his eyes to the regions of immortality, but with never-ceasing care and trouble, laboureth for the meat that perisheth, and those earthly treasures which moth and rust corrupt. He calls himself a Christian, he sees and admires the pure precepts of his religion, he confesses the excellence of its doctrines, he adores the benevolent character and deportment of its divine author and its first professors and martyrs; but he seldom attempts to reach the perfection of those doc, trines in his life, or to copy their bright examples in his conversation. He acknowledges the use and necessity of repentance, yet seldomn thinks of breaking off his sins by repentance, till age or sickness, or calamity, alarm his conscience, and place the terrors of hell before his eyes.
· Such and so foolish is the conduct of much the greater part of mankind ! Nor need we seek far for the cause of this conduct, strange and unaccountable as it may, perhaps, at first sight, seem. For it is but too clear, that men entertain strong and almost invincible prejudices against the practice of religion. They look upon it as a gloomy and melancholy task imposed upon them by a hard master, utterly inconsistent with present pleasure, and an enemy to those joys of
: : X 3
life, in which they have placed their happiness. Convinced, therefore, as they are of the truth of its doctrines, they are very unwilling to enter upon the practice of them. They wish to enjoy their favourite sins and pleasureş a little and a little longer, and thus to secure the happiness of the present life, as well as of that which is to come. This foolish prejudice of mankind against religion, the Apostle very clearly foresaw, and therefore, in the words of my text, guards his christian converts against the danger of being misled by it, He tells them that godliness is $0 far from being hurtful to the present interests and enjoyments of life, “ that it is profitable “ for all things :” that whilst earthly treasures cannot even secure, the happiness of the present moment, this heavenly one is able both to shower down blessings upon them here, and also to ensure to them eternal glory hereafter; “haying,” as he finely expresses it, “ a promise “ of the life that now is, and also of that which !! is to come.”
And indeed, if we impartially weigh the matter, we shall find there is very just ground for giving our assent to this assertion of the Apostle ; we shall find that there can be no real happiness, no true gladness of heart, which does not flow from a fear of God and the practice of his com
mandments. mandments. - For what, alas ! are all the plea-' sures of sin, when weighed in the scale of just and impartial reason! How empty, how trifling and unsatisfactory do they appear to a sober and considerate mind! How unsuitable to the great purposes for which we were all of us sent into the world! How unworthy of a creature born to an immortal inheritance, a candidate for a crown of never-fading glory!--Look around the busy world, and behold those' unhappy mortals who are ever spending their lives in the restless persuit of earthly pleasures, and see what are the enjoyments which they reap from them. After all their toil and labour, we no sooner see them in possession of what they so earnestly desired, but a little time makes that disrelished, and some new shadow of pleasure attracts their notice, and engrosses their whole attention. And thus, after they have run through the whole circle of human delights, they are left to bemoan their folly, and remain more dissatisfied with their condition, than when they first set out. Hence it is, that few of those, who are engaged in the persuit of the pleasures of the world, would chuse to live over again their past lives, or even to repeat the actions of the former day, were it in their power; so little do those pleasures bear a repetition, and so trifling is all the satisfaction that attends them! Hence also arises that want of thought
and agreeable reflection so often seen amongst those who have spent their days in pleasure, regardless of God and his service. Hence it is, tħat we find such men always complaining, how much the times are altered for the worse, when the gaiety of youth, which painted every thing in an agreeable light, is over, and old age or infirmity has cut them off from their wonted pleasures, or the grave has robbed them of the com: panions of their folly and intemperance. What words can paint the situation of a sinner thus left a prey to gloomy reflections and disease, without one thought to comfort or alleviate his anguish of soul. And yet such is the situation to which every man will one day come, who places his happiness in the good things of this life only.
And now let us turn our eyes from this melancholy scene, to the good and virtuous man, who has endeavoured to keep a conscience void of offence both towards God and also towards man. How different a prospect here presents itself to our view! He has been laying out that time in worthy actions, which others waste in a circle of sin and folly, and therefore is conscious of having truly acted up to the dignity of nature, and the wise designs of the God of nature: and from that consciousness arises a pleasing satis.
faction, which fills his mind with joy unspeakable and much superior to all the gratifications of earthly enjoyments. Such a man can with a chearful satisfaction from the past, and a joyful expectation from the future, travel on through every stage of life with solid comfort, and in every trial rise superior to all the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. If he looks back upon his life, he will find every period of it distinguished by some kind, worthy and benevolent action. He will find his youthful days to have been spent in the chearful joys of innocence, and his riper years to have been employed in that work of righteousness which is peace, and the effect of which is quietness and assurance for ever. And if he looks forward to that awful time, when age and infirmities shall seize him, even in this last stage of affliction, common alike to the greatest and the least of mankind, he finds nothing to discompose or oppress him; but, on the contrary, a full assurance of peace and inward comfort. That charity, which before induced him to relieve the sorrows of others, will now, by the providence of God, return into his own bosom, and in reflection case and alleviate his own. That benevolence which formerly caused the widow's heart to sing for joy, will now soften the cares of age, and alleviate the þurden of infirmity. And that piety, which has