« 上一页继续 »
the third, sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours of the day, does not relate to the ages of man's life: but rather represents the dispensations of Divine Providence in the several ages of the world. They who were hired at the eleventh hour are the Gentiles, who had been long without the benefit of revelation. Therefore when asked, “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” they say, “ because no man hath hired us,” Matt. xx. 1–16, which shows, that the doctrine of this parable cannot countenance delays in things of religion; or encourage those to expect particular calls and invitations in old age, who have been favoured with such advantages, and neglected them, in the time of their youth. 3. Once more: some may say, we are backward now, in the time of our youth, and the early days of life, to enter upon the ways of religion and virtue, because we fear we shall not persevere. And if we should finally fall away, our guilt would be increased. To which I answer: you are in the right to be sensible of your own weakness, and the difficulties of a religious course of life. For there are difficulties therein. It is a great undertaking and should be entered upon with mature consideration. Nevertheless, you have no good reason to defer, or hesitate in your choice. If you are serious and sincere in the undertaking, your J". and perseverance may be reckoned very likely and hopeful. hey who set out in the way of religion with a mixture of worldly views and expectations, may well fill away, if “ tribulation, or persecution, ariseth because of the word,” Matt. xiii. 21. But they who have a true principle of virtue will hold out to the end. “They went out from us,” says St. John, “but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us. But they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us,” I John ii. 19. Observe the history of the Old and New Testament. And I presume, you will scarce find any instances of total apostacy in men who were once sincerely good, but many examples of early and persevering piety. Abraham immediately obeyed the call of God, and went out, not knowing whither he went. And he continued to give frequent proofs of a strong and lively faith. Isaac and Jacob walked with God all their days. Joseph was an example of early and constant virtue, both in prosperity and adversity. , Moses, as soon “as he came to years” of discretion, “ refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter: choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the go of sin, which are but for a season,” Heb. xi. 3–26. Nor did he ever repent of that choice. Samuel was early dedicated to God, and was eminent for wisdom and piety all his days to old age. Of Obadiah, chief minister to king Ahab, we are informed that he “feared the Lord greatly,” I Kings xviii. 3. And we know also, that he “feared the Lord from his youth,” ver. 12. I might mention Daniel, the three young men his companions, who persevered, notwithstanding great trials: and others, enrolled in the catalogue of worthies, in the epistle to the Hebrews, and elsewhere; famous not for one'act of faith only, however eminent and distinguished, but for a course of steady virtue and obedience. If in the New Testament we meet with some who believed and followed Jesus for a time, and afterwards “went back, and walked no more with him,” John vi. 66, it appears evidently, that they went not upon a good foundation at the beginning; but came to Christ with worldly views and expectations. And if it be said of Simon Magus, that he “believed,” Acts viii. 13, we know that he was never sincere: his heart was not right in the sight of God,” ver 21. At the same time, there were churches, or societies of men, the greater part of which were faithful, and persevered under many difficulties and discouragements. The apostles of Christ were for the most part, from the beginning, plain, honest, upright men. A. when he called them, they obeyed without delay. And though they had their failings, one only was lost. The rest would not go away: and were, upon the whole, and to the end, an honour to him, and their profession: being persuaded that he “ had the words of eternal life,” John vi. 68. You have no reason, therefore, to be disheartened. “B taking heed to God's word, the young may cleanse their way,” Ps. cxix. and always keep themselves pure from the pollutions of an evil world. With the use of the appointed means, the spiritual life, once begun, will be maintained. And if you watch and pray, as Christ has directed, you shall be preserved from great temptations, or shall be victorious therein. III. Let me now propose to you some motives and arguments, inducing to early piety, and immediate compliance with the gracious calls of God. 1. The whole of our time ought to be employed in the service of God. Nor can we in any part of life knowingly and willingly transgress any of God's commandments without contracting guilt. We ought therefore, as soon as we are arrived at any maturity of reason and understanding, to give up ourselves to God, determining to obey all his laws, and to decline every evil thing. 'i if we are sensible of any acts of disobedience, already done, they should be repented of, and every sin forsaken. The reason of things teaches this. 2. The word of God teaches the same. Addresses are there made to the young, as well as to others. The Jewish people were commanded to “teach their children diligently” the divine laws that had been delivered to them. The . sign of Solomon in his collection of wise maxims was to “give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and understanding,” Prov. i. 4. And children are to be “trained up in the way they should go,” ch. xxii. 6. How just is that admonition “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them,” Ecc. xii. 1. And, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might. For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest,” ch. ix. 10. All which shows, that we do not satisfy the law of God, nor answer the end of our being, by some acts of religion near the end of life: but we ought to be truly religious, and serve God all the days of our life on earth. We should not, then, content ourselves with a design to be religious hereafter, but resolve to be so now. 3. Consider, how gracious, how affectionate and compassionate are the calls and invitations of God to sinful men. Says Wisdom: “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity ? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge! Turn ye at my reproof. j. I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known m words unto you,” Prov. i. 22, 23. And says God himself by his prophets: “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways. or why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Ezek. xxxiii. 11. And our Lord in his preaching: “Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Matt. xi. 28–30. And in his state of exaltation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock : if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me,” Rev. iii. 20. How moving, how affecting is this concern for us! And
shall any of us resist, and grieve the good Spirit of God, and sin against our own souls? 4. Consider, therefore, farther, that by an early dedication of yourselves to God, and serious piety from the beginning, you will prevent a great deal of sin, o you might otherwise be guilty of, and a great deal of sorrow and vexation, which that would occasion either here, or hereafter, in this world, or another. 5. If you begin to be religious in the early part of life, you will probably be useful in the world, and be the cause of much good, both temporal and spiritual, to many persons. You will promote the happiness of men by kind offices. You may strengthen, encourage, and edify some good men: and may reclaim some sinners by your counsel and example. 6. Early, and constant, and persevering piety is very honourable. It is to the advantage of Mnason, that he is called “an old disciple,” Acts xxii. 16. St. Paul speaks honourably of some who were in Christ before him,” Rom. xvi. 7. He humbles and abases himself when he says: “And last of all he was seen of me, as of one born out of due time,” I Cor. xv. 8. And the “first fruits” of any place unto Christ, Rom. xvi. 5; I Cor. xvi. 15, 16, they and theirs, are sometimes particularly mentioned by him in his epistles, and affectionately recommended to the special regard of others. 7. The coming to a full determination in this point, and turning our feet without delay to God's commandments, will contribute to the comfort and peace of our minds. For we are then fitted for life, and for death; and prepared for all the events of this variable and inconstant state of things. It must be a great advantage to know, and consider this: to be able to view death, and all the evils of life, without terror, or much discomposure of mind. 8. Lastly, they who give themselves up to God in their youth, and serve him faithfully all their days, may hope for some distinguishing honour in the great day of recompense. Indeed some, who set out late, may outgo others that began more early. They excel, it may be, in personal abilities and attainments: by which they are peculiarly qualified for important services in the cause of God and religion. But usually they who begin early, and persevere to the end, will have the advantage. And may these things be seriously attended to, and considered by all of us! Are we not grieved that some things have been so long deferred? Let us not defer any longer. Let not this present exhortation be slighted, lest we should not have another. Felix and Drusilla once desired to hear Paul of Christ's doctrine, and Felix trembled. But he deferred for that season. And we do not know that he trembled again: or ever gave Paul another opportunity of entering again upon the like argument, Acts xxiv. 24–26.
Let us then beg of God, “to incline our hearts to his testimonies:” and to “teach us his statutes, that we may keep them unto the end.”
THE SEVERAL BRANCHES OF MORAL RIGHTEOUSNESS.
He has shewed thee, O man, what is good. And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Mich. vi. 8.
IN the preceding verses a very important question is proposed: “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the most high God?” It is answered in the words of the text. What God chiefly requires of men is, that they “do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with him.” This is the immediate occasion of the words. But I H. it may be useful to take a more extensive and istinct view of the preceding context. The chapter begins with i. words: “Hear ye now, what the Lord saith. Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the Lord ho a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel,” Micah vi. 1, 2. It is not unusual for God to bespeak the attention of inanimate creatures, and appeal to them for the justice of his proceedings, more emphatically to represent the stupidit and thoughtlessness of men. So by Moses of old: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day. Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak: hear, O earth, the words of my mouth,” Deut. iv. 26; xxxii. 1. So also by later prophets: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth.