Imágenes de páginas

guileless simplicity, which constitute the character of 2 child, and render him so lovely and captivating, we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven; we cannot either assent to the evidence, believe the doctrines, or obey the precepts of the Christian religion. Hence we see the true reason why so many men of distinguished talents have rejected the religion of Christ. It is not because its evidences are desective, or its doctrines repugnant to reason; it is because their dispositions were the very reverse of what the Gofpel requires; because (as their writings evidently show) they were high-spirited, violent, proud, conceited, vain, disdainsul, and sometimes profligate too ; because, in short, they wanted that honest and good heart, which not only receives the good seed, but keeps it, and nourishes it with unceasing patience, till it bring forth fruit to persection. They could not enter into the marriage seast because they had not on the wedding garment, because they were not clothed with humility*. For " God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Them that are meek shall he guide in judgment, and such as are gentle, them stall he learn his way-j-."

But here arises a dissiculty on which the enemies of our saith lay great stress, and frequently alledge as an excuse for their insidelity and impiety. If, say they, the success of the good seed depends on the foil in which it is sown, the success of the Gofpel must, in the same manner, depend (as this very parable is meant to prove) on the temper and disposition of the recipient, of the person to whom it is ofsered. Now this temper and disposition are not of cur own making: they are the work of nature; they are what our Creator has given us. If then, in any particular instance, they are unsortunately such as disqualisy us for the reception of the Gofpel, the sault is not ours; it is in the foil, it is in our natural constitution, for which surely we cannot be held responsible.

This plea is specious and plausible; but it is nothing more. The sact is, that the imbecility and corruption introduced into our moral frame by the sall of our sirst pa

[ocr errors]

rents, is in some measure selt by all; but undoubtedly in different individuals shews itself in different degrees, and that from their very earliest years. Look at any large samily of children living together under the eye of their parents, and you will frequently discover in them a surprizing variety of tempers, humors, and dispositions; and although the same instructions are given to all, the same care and attention, the same discipline, the same vigilance exercised over each, yet some shall be, in their general conduct, meek, gentle, and submissive; others impetuous, passionate, and - froward; some active, enterprizing, and bold; others quiet, contented and calm; some cunning, artsul, and clofe; others open, frank, and ingenuous; some, in short, malevolent, mischievous, and unteeling; others kind, compassionate, good-natured, and though sometimes betraying the insirmity of human nature by casual omissions of duty and errors of conduct, yet soon made sensible of their saults, and easily led back to regularity, order, piety, and virtue.

Here then is unquestionably the difference of natural constitution contended for. But what is- the true inserence? Is it that thofe whofe dispositions are the worst are to give themselves up for lost, are to abandon all hopes of salvation, and to alledge their depraved nature as a sussicient apology for insidelity or vice, as constituting a complete inability either to believe or to obey the Gospel? No such thing. On the contrary, it is a strong and powersul call, sirst upon their parents and the guides gf their youth, and afterwards upon themselves, to watch over, to restrain, to correct, to amend, to meliorate their evil dispositions, and to supply, by attention, by discipline and by prayer, what has been denied by nature. It may be thought hard, perhaps, that all this care, and labor, and painsul conssict, should be necessary to some, and not (in the same degree at least) to others; and that so marked a distinction in so important a point should be made between creatures of the same species. But is not the same distinction made in other points of importance? Are not men placed from their very birth by the hand of Providence in different situations of rank, power, wealth? Are not some indulged with every advantage, every blessings that their hearts can wish, and others funk in obscurity, penury, and wretchedness? Are not some savored withthe most splendid talents and capacities for acquiringknowledge; others flow in conception, weak in understanding, and almost impenetrable to instruction? Are not some blessed from their birth' with strong, healriy, robust constitutions, subject to no insirmities, no diseases; others weak, sickly, tender, liable to perpetual disorders, and with the utmost dissiculty dragging on a precarious existence? Yet does this preclude all these different individuals from improving their condition; does it prevent the lowest member of society from endeavoring to raise himself' into a superior class; does it prevent the most indigent from laboring to acquire a fortune by industry, frugality, and activity; does it prevent the most ignorant from cultivating their minds, and surnishing them with some degree of knowledge; does it prevent those of the tenderest and most delicate frames from strengthening, consirming, and1 invigorating their health, by management, by medicine, and by temperance? We see the contrary every day; we see all these different characters succeeding in their efforts beyond their most sanguine expectations, and rising to a degree of opulence, of rank, of power, of learning, and of health, of which at their outset they could not have formed the most distant idea. And why then are we not to act in the same manner with regard to our natural tempers, dispositions, propensities, and inclinations? Why are we not to suppose them as capable of improvement and melioration as our condition, our fortune, our intellectual powers, and our bodily health? Why are we to alledge impossibility in one case more than in the others? The truth is, that a bad constitution of mind as well as of body may, by proper care and attention, and the powersul influences of the Holy Spirit, be greatly, if not wholly, amended. And as it sometimes happens that they who have the weakest and most distempered frames by means of an exact regimen and an unshaken perseverance in rule and method, outlive thofe of a robuster make and more luxuriant health; so there are abundant instances where men of the most perverse dispositions and most depraved

turn of mind, by keeping a steady guard upon their weals' parts, and gradually, but continually, correcting their desects, applying earnestly for assistance from above, going on from strength to strength, and from one degree of persection to another, have at length arrived at a higher pitch of virtue than thofe for whom nature had done much more, and who would therefore do but little for themselves.

Let us then never despair. If we have not from constitution that honest and good heart which is necessary for receiving the good seed, and bringeth forth fruit with patience, we may by degrees, and by the blessing of God, gradually acquire it. If the foil is not originally good, it may be made so by labor and cultivation; but above all, by imploring our heavenly Father to shower down upon it the plentisul esfusions of his grace, which he has promised to all that devoutly and servently and constantly pray for it. This dew from heaven, "shed abroad on our hearts*," will refresh and' invigorate and purisy our souls; will correct the very worst disposition; will soften and subdue the. hardest: and most ungratesul soil, will make clean and pure and moist, sit for the reception of the good seed; and notwithsta nding its original poverty and barrenness, will enrich it .writh strength and vigor sussicient to bring forth fruit to perfection.

I have now sinished these Lectures for the present year, and must, on this occasion, again entreat you to let thofe truths, to which you have listened with so much patience and perseverance, take entire possession of your hearts. They are not vain, they are not trivial tliirigs, they are the words of eternal lise; they relate to the most important of all human concerns, to the most essential interests and comforts of the present lise, and to the destiny, the eternal destiny of happiness or misery that awaits you in the next.

You have just heard the parable of the sower explained, and it behoves you to consider in which of the four classes of men there described you can sairly rank yourselves.

[ocr errors]

Are you in the number of thofe that receive the seed by the way-side, on hearts as impenetrable and inaccessible to conviction as the hard beaten high road? or of thofe that receive the seed on a little loofe earth scattered on a rock, where it quickly springs up, and as quickly withers away .' or of thofe in whom the seed is choked with thorn:-, with the occupations and pleasures of this lise? or, lastly, of thofe who receive the seed on good ground, on an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit, some a hundred sold, some sixty, some thirty? It becomes every one os you to ask yourselves this question very seriously, and to .answer it very honestly; for on that depends the whole color of your suture condition here and hereafter.

There are none I trust here present, there are sew 1 believe in this country, who sall under the sirst description of prosessed and hardened unbelievers; and amidst many painsul circumstances of these awsul and anxious times it is some consolation to us to reflect, that the incredible pains .which have been taken in a multitude of vile publications to induce the people of this country to apostatize from their religion, have not made that general and permanent impression on their minds which might naturally have been expected from such malignant and reiterated efforts to shake their principles and subvert their saith. But there are other instruments of perversion and corruption, much more formidable and mere powersul than these. There are rank and noxious weeds and thorns, which grow up with the good seed and choke it, and prevent it from coming to maturity. These are, as the parable tells us, the cares, the riches, and the pleasures of this world, which Sn our passage through lise lay hold upon our hearts, and are more dangerous obstructions to the Gofpel than all the speculative arguments and specious sophistry of all its adversaries put together. It is but seldom, I believe, comparatively speaking, that men are sairly reasoned out os their religion. But they are very frequently seduced, both from the practice and the belief of it, by treacherous passions within, and violent temptations from without, by "the lust of the stem, the lust of the eye, and the pride of lifW" These are in sact the most common, the most

« AnteriorContinuar »