« AnteriorContinuar »
the former. The ground however not being made good, the heart still continuing unrenewed, thorns and briars, that is, the eares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word. So, deprived of the nourishment he should otherwise receive from it, although his profession is not absolutely renounced, yet no fruit is brought to perfection. · The last character, that of the sincere Christian, with whose heart the word incorporates itself, and so produces fruit; answers directly to that in the text. In him the word of Christ abides. It bath entered his understanding, and taken such fast hold on his will and affections, that he can on no account consent to part with it. And yet, well affected as the man of this description is to his Bible, it behoves him to be on his guard, for he may depend upon it every possible attempt will be used to rob him of this inestimable treasure. Now the most natural mean to secure him against such attempts is, the well considering the three characters just mentioned, and the true causes of their failure. The evils then to be avoided, if you wish, Christians, to have the word of God abide in you, are Inattention, Enthusiasm, and Worldly-mindedness.
When indifference to religion prevails, the Bible, if read at all, will be little regarded. Running it over in a careless manner we shall not understand it. Not understanding it we shall be at little pains to lay it up in our memory. And not having it in our memory or our hearts, it is much if the enemy does not soon wrest it from our hands. It is of the last consequence therefore to our securing this invaluable treasure, that a sense of the infinite importance of religion is preserved on our minds. So shall we not only read the word at stated seasons, and in an orderly manner, but also make a point of understanding it. And understanding it we shall be likely to retain it in our memory.
Here let me digress a moment on the nature and use of the memory. This faculty is so mechanically framed as to be capable of great improvement by attention and labour. Wonders have been done in this way by mere dint of resolution, especially in early life. The cultivation therefore of this faculty
ought to be an object in the education of children. For by accustoming them to commit to memory useful portions of instruction, the mind is not only stocked with knowledge, but the memory, if not over-burthened, is strengthened and improved.
Now if this idea be just, there can I think be no doubt that the getting certain paragraphs or verses of the Bible by heart, ought to be made an essential part of the business of children. If this matter were duly attended to, I am persuaded the consequence would be salutary. . And it is in effect, if not in so many words, urged upon parents in Scripture. How natural a mean this to engage their attention and conciliate their affections to the truths and duties of religion ! And though it does not in every instance succeed immediately to our wish, it should be remembered that there are young people who, upon their recovery by the grace of God from sinful courses, have been greatly benefited by the recolleetion of passages of Scripture thus committed to their memory in childhood. Would to God this advice were duly regarded ! Let parents well consider the account they have to give another day upon this great question of the religious education of their children. And to animate them to their duty, let me remind them that an inspired pen hath made the names of a Lois and Eunice immortal, who gave such distinguishing proofs of their piety, by bringing up young Timothy in the nurture and admonition of the Lord a.–To return,
The word of God thus laid up in the memory of him who has a real affection to it, will scarce fail of being frequently recollected and meditated upon. So it will come to be better understood, and will be ever at hand to guard him against the assaults of Satan and the false reasoning of seducers. If our Lord. himself gained so glorious a victory over this subtle adversary by the skilful use of the Scriptures, we may hope by the use of the same weapon, with his assistance, to triumph over the same enemy.—And thus you see what are the means to preserve this good seed from being trodden under foot, or picked up by the fowls of the air and devoured. SECONDLY, Enthusiasm.
a 2 Tim. i. 5. in. 15.
This is the second evil to be guarded against, as having a tendency to deprive us of God's word. Some may perhaps reason quite the contrary way, and think that it is owing to the want of enthusiasm that too many so easily part with their religion. And indeed they are right, if by enthusiasm is meant no more than a cordial and affectionate attachment to the truth. But this is not a just definition of the term. By enthusiasm I mean mere natural passion, excited either by external objects, or by accidental impressions made on the fancy, of which the man can himself give no rational account. The religion of the enthusiast has nothing to do with the understanding, nor has it any real hold on the heart, so as to be a regular vital principle of action. This unhappy temper, under the vivid glowing appearance of religious zeal, will not fail to play the word of God into the hands of its enemies, and after a while to precipitate its possessor into a conduct directly opposite to his sacred profession.
The Christian therefore, who wishes to have the word of Christ dwell in him, must guard against every approach to this dangerous evil. The passions are not indeed to be laid asleep: if however on the contrary they have the reins given them, ruin must follow. How is the Bible to be secured from the assaults of infidelity, or its truths guarded against the misinterpretations of its pretended friends, if it hath no place in our understanding and judgment? How are we to hold fast the book of God in a time of sharp persecution, if all the account we can give of our regard for it is, that it came recommended to us by a kind of tone and gesture that set our passions on fire, and interested us we know not how in its favour? And what reason have we to expect that the word of God should dwell in us, and secure us from apostacy in a time of prosperity, if it has never yet incorporated itself with our hearts, so as to become the governing rule of our lives? Let us therefore always give the lead to the understanding, and not suffer our passions to hurry us into a profession of religion, without the subjection of our judgment and conscience to the divine authority.
Thirdly. The third evil to be studiously avoided is Worldly-mindedness.
Covetousness is idolatry, and the word of God can have no place in a heart consecrated to the worship of false gods.. What agreement hath the temple of God with idols a ? But it is possible that affections which bear some affinity to covetousness, may find their way into the temple of the living God. And when this happens the devotion of this sacred place will, at least for a time, be interdicted. The lamp that enlightens it will burn dim, and the incense that perfumes it lose its fragrance. Undue anxiety about the world, and especially fond desires after its perishing enjoyments, will deprive us both of opportunity and inclination to carry on our usual intercourse with the word of God. The sword of the Spirit will be in no small danger of falling from the trembling hand of the Christian, borne down with worldly disappointments, and upon the point of yielding to unbelief. And he who suffers his heart and hours to be engrossed with schemes of ambition, wealth, and pleasure, will quickly lose his relish for the solid entertainment this divine book affords: and what gives him little comfort he will be at little pains to use and defend. O how has the world forced its way into the retirement of many a Christian ! How has it wrested the Bible from his hands, or at least silenced its voice, and for a while nearly extinguished its light !
Let us therefore be continually on our guard against so dangerous an enemy. Watch, Christian, every avenue of your heart. When anxious cares, in a gloomy habit and with a frowning countenance, approach you, instead of being driven from the word of God by their cruel threats, be you thereby driven to it. This is the refuge, the only refuge, where you will find security against the assaults of this formidable enemy. On the other hand, let me earnestly beseech you to be particularly jealous of the fascinating smiles of prosperity. This is perhaps a more dangerous adversary than the former. Its mode of attack is insinuating, not by storm but slow and easy advances. Be awake, have your eyes about you, or the world will enter before you are aware. And once entered, the first fruit of its success will be seen in a shy indifference to your Bible; which will be quickly followed, if divine grace prevent not, with its
a 2 Cor. vi. 16.
surrender to the enemy. And the means of defence thus gone, where is your security against a total and final defeat? Keep your heart therefore with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life a.
If then our principal danger of being deprived of God's word, lies in Inattention, Enthusiasm, and Worldliness, which are therefore to be diligently watched against; it follows that the opposite tempers will operate powerfully to the preservation of this invaluable treasure. If we read it with attention, seriousness, and regularity; if we keep a check upon our passions, not suffering them to offer violence to our judgment; and if we studiously endeavour to preserve equanimity amidst the vicissitudes of life, not elated with the smiles nor sunk by the frowns of the world, it will be impossible for the adversary to wrest this sacred book from our hands. The word of Christ, under his gracious protection, will dwell securely in our hearts. But, it is not enough that it dwells in us, it must,
III. Be applied to its proper use.—Let it dwell in you richly or opulently b, and in all wisdom c. In like manner the apostle expresses his earnest wish in this context d, that they might be filled with the knowledge of the divine will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. And elsewhere the grace of God is said to abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence e.
Wealth, as it sets men beyond the reach of that anxiety and contempt which usually attends poverty, as it possesses them of the conveniencies and comforts of life, and as it commands influence and respect in society, is held in universal estimation. But riches, however eagerly coveted on these accounts, if not accompanied with the nobler gifts of Liberality and Prudence, are a curse instead of a blessing to their possessor. The like may be said of the Bible. It is a mine of inexhaustible treasure. But if we have no heart to use it, or no discretion to manage it aright, it will not only be unprofitable, but prove an occasion of great evil. Let me then a Prov. iv. 23.
cεν πάση σοφία. Chap. i. 9,
e Eph. i. 8.