« 上一页继续 »
humbly owns, that even in early life he had done things which he ought to repent of, and blame himself for. But he is here speaking of himself, or his own particular constitution, not of all men in general. The scripture does not ascribe the difficulty of reforming reat sinners to the badness of their nature, i. to the evil abits they have contracted; representing it as very unlikely, that they should “do good, who had been accustomed to do evil, Jer. xiii. 23. St. Paul reminds the Ephesians, that once in their Gentile state, “they were dead in trespasses and sins,” Eph. ii. 1. Which expression, however, can never be applied to infants. And with the apostle, a life in sin is not life, but death. As he says elsewhere: “ She that liveth in pleasure, is dead, while she liveth,” l Tim. v. 6. And what follows, shows, that he means practice of sinning, or actual and wilful sins. “Wherein,” says he to those Ephesians, “ in time past ye walked, according to the course of this world,” o ii. 2. —He proceeds: “Among whom also we all,” we Jews also, for the most part, and generally, “had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and of the mind; and were by nature,” in our former state, before we were enlightened by the gospel, “children of wrath,” deservedly exposed to punishment, “ as well as others,” ver. 3. “But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love, wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ. And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together, in heavenly places in Christ,” ver, 4–6. The whole context shows, that the apostle is not speaking of o due to natural corruption, but to actual sin. or does he say, And indeed we all are, but “were by nature, children of wrath.” So we were when we “ had our conversation in the lusts of our flesh.” But God in his great mercy had through Jesus Christ delivered the Ephesians, and others, from that state of sin and misery. We are weak and frail, and liable to temptations. But we can easily conceive how God may treat such creatures wisely and equitably. He will show his displeasure against the presumptuous, and even the careless. , And he will reward the obedient, the careful and watchful. But we are not able to conceive how God should reject and condemn any for what is not owing to choice, but nature. Some men will confess the corruption of their nature. But, I apprehend, it must be truer humility, for a man seriously, and sincerely, without reserve, to confess all his sins in thought, word, and deed, against God and his neighbour. The former is only an acknowledgment of supposed corruption, common to all; and may be attended with spiritual pride, and scornful disdain of others. But to confess sincerely all our own sins and faults is true humility. This humility is a virtue in such creatures as we are, and the ground of other virtues. . It is also acceptable to God. And “whosoever confesseth and forsaketh his sins, shall have mercy,” Prov. xxviii. 13. 3. This history teaches us the right of young persons to be present at the worship of God: and seems to |. forth the duty of those under whose care they are, to bring them early to it. Some brought little children to Christ, that he might lay his hands on them, and bless them. And he received them, and did as he was desired. Though children do not understand every thing that is said, yet they have ears to hear, and eyes to see, and will observe. And #. a reverence for the Divine Being, and an appreension and persuasion of invisible things, will be formed in their minds, and such principles implanted in them, as will bring forth good fruit. 4. We may .. from this history, that it is not below persons of the greatest eminence for wisdom and piety to show affection and tenderness for little children. Jesus Christ is a good pattern for imitation in all his condescensions. And his lo, should do as he has done. Let us receive kindly, and, as we are able, recommend to the divine favour and protection such little children as Jesus himself, when on earth, received and blessed. 5. We hence learn, that all of us arrived to years of knowledge and understanding should see to it, that we bear a oil. to little children: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Let us be always like them in freedom from prejudices, being open to conviction, disposed to learn, and make further improvement by all discoveries proposed to us. Let us resemble them also in humility, or freedom from pride, and high conceit of ourselves; which obstructs improvement, excites to a haughty and imperious behaviour, and disposes to strife and contention, anger and resentment. Let us resemble them in indifference about worldly things, or a freedom from an inordinate affection for riches, honour and preferment, pre-eminence and authority. Lastly, let us resemble them in innocence, being as free from all evil practices as possible. In a word, according to this observation of our Lord, we should always endeavour to be, in many respects, what we once were, and what we still see little children to be. So shall we do no evil. So shall we be Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile. 6. This history affords encouragement to young persons arrived to the use of reason and understanding to come to Christ, and offer up themselves to God in and through him. Jesus received the little children who were brought to him; and he proposed them to others as patterns of resemblance, they being free from customs of sinning. But after all, they were rather emblems of virtue, than virtuous themselves. Much more then will they be received by him, who being still without guile, have an actual propensity and disposition to virtue and goodness. If you should neglect yourselves, when you have attained to the use of your rational powers, and are entering into the world, bad principles and habits will grow up, like weeds in a rich soil, of which no care is taken; and you will soon lose all that innocence and simplicity which endears little children to the Lord Jesus. Let me therefore propound to you the few following counsels and directions. 1.) Be induced to give up yourselves to God with deliberation, and with all the seriousness and solemnity you are able, engaging, and resolving, that you will not sin against him, or do any thing contrary to his holy commandments, so far as you are acquainted with them. . Such a fixed and deliberate purpose and resolution of mind, once formed, may be of great and lasting advantage to you. 2.) Be diligent, and improve your time for gaining knowledge. You are not to be like little children in every thing. You should resemble them in innocence: but in “understanding you are to be men,” I Cor. xiv. 20. Beside attending to the instructions you receive, in order to qualify you for some honest and reputable employment, whereby you may gain a subsistence, without being burthensome to any, and may be useful to others: as you have opportunity, employ yourselves in reading the scriptures, especially the history of the Patriarchs, in Genesis, and the }. the Proverbs, the Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles; and indeed all the .. of the New Testament, and also other useful and instructive books. You may likewise endeavour to improve by conversation with persons of sobriety and discretion, and, if it may be, of o as are somewhat advanced above you in years and knowledge. Hereby the mind will be enlarged. You will gain generous sentiments. Your usefulness, when you are settled in the world, will be more extensive. You may have the greater influence and reputation. And you will certainly lay a foundation for a great deal of entertainment and satisfaction within yourselves, which some others want. 3.) Pay a regard to every branch of duty: not doing one thing, and neglecting others, as many do, but aiming at every part of holiness. You know that'st. Paul says: “The grace of God which bringeth salvation teaches us to deny all ungodliness, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world,” Tit. ii. 11, 12. Live godly: fear and reverence the Divine Majesty in your thoughts. Frequent the assemblies of divine worship, and forsake them not; as some do, who fancy themselves wiser than others, without really being so. Live soberly: govern your affections, and take care not to be led by evil examples to any excess or indulgence, contrary to strict sobriety. Live righteously: do to others as you would others should do unto vou. Attend much to relative duties. Behave as you ought to superiors, equals, inferiors, agreeably to your rank and station. It is easy to perceive from the epistles of Christ's apostles in the N. estament, that much of religion lies herein; and that they are very imperfect Christians who are defective in relative duties. 4.) Be persuaded to accustom yourselves to private prayer. T. may be understood to be included in a preceding direction. Nevertheless, I have chosen to mention it here particularly and expressly. Pray, as you are able. Use the compendious prayer, Wich our Lord taught his disciples; or some other prayer, suited to your age and condition. What you want, ask God for. Look up to him, and humbly entreat his gracious and watchful care and protection. Say: “O Lord, I am thine. Thou hast made ‘me, and I have promised to serve thee. Thou knowest my ‘weakness, and all the snares and dangers that surround ‘me. Do thou keep me from evil, and vouchsafe unto me “all those good things which are needful and convenient for ‘me. I would acknowledge thee in all my ways: do thou ‘direct my steps. Grant that I may seriously attend to, ‘and carefully improve all the means and helps which thou “affordest me for obtaining true holiness, and for perse“vering therein, notwithstanding the temptations I may ‘meet with. May I cheerfully perform all the duties and ‘services owing from me to those to whom I stand related, ‘and with whom I converse, or have any dealings. And
“may I so serve and honour thee on earth, as that I may ‘ be received in thy due time to the joys of thy heavenly and ‘eternal kingdom.’
5.) Once more, ever remember the importance of right conduct. This is not a matter of indifference, or of but little moment. But all depends upon it. Good and evil, life and death, are set before you; therefore choose the one and refuse the other. Sin is a root of bitterness. It yields bitter fruit, torment, and vexation of mind. But “the fruit of righteousness,” or virtue, “is quietness and assurance for ever,” Is. xxxii. 17.
Moreover, it should be considered, that “you have been brought to Christ,” and instructed in the principles of religion. If after you have had some knowledge of the way of righteousness, you should turn from it, your case would be extremely sad and deplorable. But, I trust, you shall not fall away, but persevere to the end, and at last be placed at the right hand of the Judge of the whole earth, and, together with others, hear that gracious sentence and invitation; “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” Matt. xxv. 34.
THE HAPPINESS OF HAVING RELIGIOUS PARENTS, AND OTHER PIOUS RELATIVES.
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee; which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded, that in thee also. 2 Tim. i. 5.
THE ensuing discourse is chiefly intended for the benefit of my younger hearers. And upon occasion of this text I would propound these several observations.
I. It is an advantage to be descended of pious parents, and other religious ancestors.
II. It is commendable in children to attend to the instructions, and imitate the virtues, of their parents, and other religious ancestors.
III. They are to be blamed who degenerate from the virtues of their family.