Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

are apt to imagine great difficulties in the attaining of it, and to magnify them in their fancies beyond reason. As the people of Israel, when they were to enter into Canaan ("which was the type of the kingdom of heaven j represented the inhabitants of the land, whom they were to conquer, more terrible than in truth they were ; reporting to one another, that the land was full of giants, and sons of Anak, men of prodigious stature, and cities walled up to heaven. And this the wife man observes to be the perpetual excuse of the slothful ; when they have no mind to a thing,-they fay, there is a lion in the way; that is, they fancy to themselves dangers and terrors whichare not. Thus men who are averse from religion, and have no mind to be at the trouble and pains to• get to heaven, are apt to complain of the monstrous and insuperable difficulties of religion, and how hard it is for a man to mortify his lusts, and subdue his appetites, and govern his passions, and todo all those things, which are necessary to bring him to heaven. .Wefl ! it is acknowledged to be difficult: and is it not so to get an estate, and to rise to any thing iiv this world ? The true pains which men take about these things, shew that they are difficult ; only when men have a mind to a thing, and their heart is set upon it, they do not stand to complain of the difficulty, but buckle to it, and grapple with it.

Is religion difficult? And what is not so, that is good for any thing ? Is not the law a difficult and crabbed study \ Does it not require great labour, and perpetual drudging to excel in any kind of knowledge, to be master of any art or profession ? In a word, is there any thing in the world worthy the having, that is to hi gotten without pains > And is eternal life and glory the only slight and inconfider* able thing, that is not worth our care and industry? Is it fit that so great a good mould be exposed to the faint and idle wisties, to the cheap and lazy endeavours of slothful men ? For what reason ? Nay, \vith what conscience can we bid less for heaven and eternal life, than men are contented to give for the things ot this workl ; things of ae value in- compa

rison, not worthy the toiling for, not sure to be attained by all our endeavours ; things which perish in the using, and which, when we have them, we are liable to be deprived of by a thouiand accidents 2 One fit of a fever may shatter our understandings, and confound all our knowledge- and turn us into fools and idiots ; an inundation or a fire may sweep away and devour our estates ; a succession of calamities may in a few hours make the richest and greatest man as poor as Job, and set him upon a dunghill.

But be the difficulty what it will of attaining the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, they are to be sought at any rate; because they are absolutely necessary, and we miserable and undone if we have them not. And therefore, not to dissemble in the matter, the difficulties of religion are considerable i but then they are much greater at first, and will every day abate and grow less, and the work - by degrees will become easy, and turn into pleasure and delight; a pleasure so great, as none knows but he that hath it ; and he that hath it, would not exchange it for all the sensual pleasures and enjoyments of this world.

Secondly, Others pretend want of time for the minding of so great a work. And it is very true> that all persons have not equal leisure for this purpose ; some are much more straitened than others, and more taken up with the necessary cares of this life : But God hath put no man upon this hard necessity, that for want of time he shall be forced tot neglect: his body and his health, his family and estate, to save his soul. And yet if any man were brought to this distress, it were well worth his while to secure his eternal salvation, though it were with she neglect and loss of all other things. But those who arc most straitened for time, have so much as is absolutely necessary : for there is a considerable part of religion which does not require time, but resolution and care : Not to commit sin, not to break the laws of God, not to be intemperate, tomake no ptovir son. for the flesh ,to fulfill the lusts thereof, does not

spends spend time, but saves it for better purposes ; so that every man hath time not to do that which he ought not to do : And for the positive part of religion, whether it consists in the exercise of our minds, ot in the external acts of religion: no man is so distressed but he hath time to think of heaven, and eternity ; time to love God, to esteem him, and delight in him above all things. And this a man may do very frequently, and very acceptably, while he is labouring and travelling about his worldly affairs, while his hand is upon the plough, his heart may be with God; and while he converscth here upon earth, his thoughts and affections may beinheaven. Every man hath time to pray to God every day, for his mercy and forgiveness, for his grace and assistance, for his preservation and support, and to thank him heartily for all his blessings and benefits. And a little time seriously employed in this kind, would have the fame acceptance with God, as the more solemn and longer devotions of those who have more leisure and opportunities for them. To be sure, we have all os us time to serve God upon his own day, and to emplov it wholly in the exercises of piety, and in the care and consideiation of our fouls. .i But this, when all is said, is the case but of very few ; most of us have no colour for this complaint non mopes temporis, sed prodigi fumxs, (as Seneca fays) *' we are not poor, but prodigal pf our time, and *' lavish it away profusely upon folly and vanity." Our vices and lusts, our pleasures and diversions, consume and divert those precious hours, which should be employed to these better purposes; nay, manytimes time oppresseth us, and is a burden to us, and lies upon our-hands, and we know not how ta get rid of it ; and yet we chuse rather to let it run waste, than to- bestow it upon religion, and the care of our fouls; insomuch that I fear this will be the condition of many, that when they were at a loss what to do with their time, and knew not how to spend it, they would nor lay it out upon that which; was best and most necessary; for this surely is the?

yerj very best use that can be made of time, to prepare and provide for eternity.

Thirdly, Others pretend it will be time enough to mind these things hereaster. But this (as bad excuses seldom hang together, and agree with one another) directly contradicts the former pretence, which supposeth so much time necessary, and more than many have to spare; and yet now they would make us believe that a very little time will suffice for this work, and that it may be done at any time, even just when we are going out of this world. But this, of all other is the strangest interpretation of seeking the kingdom os God, and his righteousness first, to put it off to the very last. This surely is a greater error on the other hand, to think that the business of religion is so quickly to be dispatched, and that the great work of our lives can be crowded into so narrow a corner os it, that the time of sickness and old age, nay, the hour of death, well employed to this purpose, will be sufficient. Alas! what can we then do that is good for any thing? that can in reason be thought either acceptable to God, or available for ourselves ? When we have not fense and understanding enough to dispose of our temporal concernments, and to make our wills, do we think we shall be fit to repent of the fins and miscarriages of our whole lives, and to make our peace with God ? Every man must not expect to have Saul's fortune, who when he was wearied with seeking his father's asses, met with a kingdom. We must not think when we are tired with pursuing the follies and vanities of this world, to retire into heaven, and to fit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom os God.

Our Saviour hath taken care to caution us against this desperate folly, by a parable to this very purpose, of the foolish virgins, who having trifled away their time till the bridegroom was coming, and neglected to get oil into their lamps, (by which we are to understand all those good preparations and dispositions which are necessary to qualify us for the kingdom of God) I fay, having neglected their opportu

nity os gettina this oil, while they were looking after it too late, the door was shut against them; they thought to have repaired all at last, by borrowing of others, and supplying themselves that way.

And thus many deceive themselves, hoping to be supplied out of another store, when they have no grace and goodness of their own; out of the treasure of the church, from the redundant merit of the saints, and the works of supererogation; of which some believe (I know not for what reason) that there is a great stock which the Pope may dispose os, to supply those who have taken no care to get oil into their lamps. But I know not for what reason works of supererogation are supposed ; the wise virgins knew not of any merit they had to spare, it was the foolish virgins only that entertained this senseless conceit. I am sure the parable insinuates the quite contrary, that the best and holiest persons (which are represented by the wise virgins) have nothing to spare for the supply of others, who have been careless of their fouls; the fooiish said unto the wise, give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out; but the wise answered* Jaying, not so, lest there be not enough for us and you, but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. .It seems they had no works of supererogation that they knew of, but they do ironically send them to a market that was set up somewhere, and where these things were pretended to be sold -y but how they sped, the conclusion of the parable tellsus, that whilst they were running about in great haste to make this purchase of the merits and good works of others, the bridegroom came, and the wife virgins that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the rest were shut out.

And there are those likewise among ourselves, who having been careless to qualify themselves for thekingdom of God, hope to be supplied out of the infinite treasure of Christ's merits : But this also is a vain hope. For though there be merit enough in the death and sufferings of Christ to save all mankind, yet1 no man can lay claim thereto, who does not perform the conditions of the gospel.

Others

« AnteriorContinuar »