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“ broken cisterns that can hold no waterp.” All that they possess is mere “ vanity and vexation of spirit."
- Even in laughter their heart is sorrowful; and the end of their mirth is heaviness q.” But is it thus with the true Christian? Has not he peace in his soul, and "joys, with which the stranger intermeddleth not" ?" Yes, he “ has already entered into rests:" he has a tranquillity arising from the subjugation of his passions: he has a holy composure of mind springing from the testimony of a good consciencet: he has many sweet manifestations of God's love to his soul: he has that within him which mitigates every sorrow, enhances every enjoyment, and supplies his every want. In a word, from committing his soul, and all his concerns, to God, he has “ a peace that passeth all understanding.” This peace, we say, flows from the
very exercises of religion, and is, more or less, an inseparable attendant on them. To this effect the inspired writers uniformly speak. The Psalmist observes, “Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.'
u.” To the same purpose Isaiah also says, « The work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for everx:" and St. Paul confirms their testimony, saying, “ To be carnally-minded is death; but to be spiritually-minded is life and peacey."] 2. In death
[Even in the time of health the ungodly cannot bear to think of death: conversation upon that awful subject is irksome and disgusting to them: they avoid it, because it makes them melancholy. If they be attacked with any fatal disease, their friends do all that they can to abate their fears, and to hide from them the real state of their disorder. When at last they come to feel their danger, then they are full of alarm and terror; and, however much they despised the duties of religion before, will then begin to pay attention to them. There are some indeed so blinded by their own delusions, that they believe themselves safe ; while others are so callous as to be altogether insensible of their awful condition. But if men are not wholly blinded by conceit, or hardened by wickedness, they cannot but tremble at the approach of death: and then the hopes which they once fondly entertained, give way to painful forebodings, even to "a fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation.” On the contrary, he who hath walked in wisdom's ways, is enabled in the midst of life to look forward to death, (like a bridegroom to his approaching nuptials,) as to the period, when all his desires shall be fulfilled, and his joys consummated. As
p Jer. ii. 13. q Eccl. ii. 2. Prov. xiv. 13. r Prov. xiv. 10. & Heb. iv. 3. t 2 Cor. i. 12.
u Ps, cxix. 165. * Isai. xxxii. 17. y Rom. viii. 6.
he beholds death approaching, he rather chides its tardiness, than deprecates its advent. He "knows in whom he has believed ; " and, in the hour of his departure, commits his soul with confidence into the hands of his ever-living and adorable Redeemer. Thus Stephen”, thus Paula, and innumerable others, have died; and David tells us, that it is the privilege of all true believers to expect and enjoy such a death as this : “ Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace b."] 3. In eternity
[As soon as the ungodly enter into the eternal world, whether they were conceited or callous, whether confident or trembling, they know the truth of all that God's word has declared. The Rich Man that fared sumptuously no sooner breathed out his soul, than he understood and felt the evil of neglecting his eternal interests; he then found his misery irremediable, and incapable of the smallest alleviation. He knew his five surviving brethren were living in the same thoughtless way, and hastening to the same fatal end; and wished that they might be apprised of their danger, ere it were too late : he knew by bitter experience that to those who lived and died in sin, nothing remained but unintermitted everlasting misery; “ they drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation ; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth
for and they have no rest day nor night." How different is the state of true Christians! They enjoy " the rest which here remained for them ;” they rest in the bosom of their Saviour, free from all sin and temptation, from pain and weariness. The peace which they enjoyed in this world, was buť a taste of that banquet on which they feast continually, a drop of “ those rivers of pleasure which are at God's right hand for evermore."] ADDRESS1. The votaries of pleasure
[There are two fatal mistakes under which you labour: the one is, that you think religion (according to the Scriptural representation of it), will afford nothing but pain; the other is, that it will consist with an enjoyment of all the pleasures of the world. With respect to the former of these, we hope that nothing need be added to what has been already spoken: we hope that religion, if it have a dark and gloomy side, has also, like the pillar and cloud, a bright and cheering aspect: it is only on God's enemies that it casts a gloom: to his friends it affords a reviving light, a refreshing shade, a sure and safe z Acts vii. 59, 60.
2 2 Tim. iv. 6-8. b Ps. xxxvii. 37.
c Rev. xiv. 10, 11.
directory to heaven. With respect to the latter idea, namely, that of its countenancing worldly pleasures, surely no one can deliberately put such a construction on our text. If Religion's ways be pleasant, must therefore Pleasure's ways be religion? If so, what can be meant by St. Paul, when he says, “ She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth?" What could St. John mean, when he said, “ If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in hime?" And what could our Lord mean, when he said, “ They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world' ?” Be not deceived, as though carnal and worldly pleasures were the only sources of enjoyment; but be assured, that the renunciation of them will contribute ore to your happiness than the indulgence; and that real pleasure is to be found in God alone.] 2. The disciples of Christ,
[The wicked know that you profess to find more pleasure in religion than they can obtain in the world: give them not then any reason to think that you are disappointed in your expectations. If they see you lukewarm in religion, will they not conclude that it has not charms sufficient to allure you, or benefits sufficient to reward your labour? And if they see you joining in their company and vain pursuits, will they not, however they may encourage you in such a conduct, suppose that religion is not able to make you happy, and that you are forced, after all your professions, to come and borrow of their carnal pleasures, in order to eke out the scanty pittance that religion has bestowed? O bring not such disgrace upon your holy profession. Shew that you despise the vanities of this world, and that you have no appetite for husks after living upon “the bread that is in your Father's house." Our Lord has said, “My yoke is easy, and my burthen is light;" shew therefore that
you feel it so; and let it be seen by your zeal in religious duties, that they are not a weariness to you, but a delight. Thus will you recommend to others the paths you tread, and prove to them that “ your feet are guided into the way of peace."]
d 1 Tim. v. 6. e 1 John iii. 15, 16. f John xvii. 16.
TRUE RELIGION DELINEATED. Prov. iii. 21–24. My son, let not them depart from thine
eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion : so shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid ; yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
IN the book of Proverbs, “wisdom” is generally put for religion : in some places, perhaps, it may be interpreted as representing Christ himself, who is “ the wisdom of God and the power of God :" but in our text there can be no doubt of its importing piety, or the influence of true religion in the soul. And though in the Book of Proverbs the doctrines of religion are not very distinctly specified, the general character of it is developed with peculiar richness and beauty: and this gives to the Proverbs of Solomon an importance far beyond what would belong to a mere collection of moral lessons. We have, in the passage before us, what I might almost call a fulllength picture of religion, both in its character and effects: and in these two points of view, we shall, in conformity with our text, proceed to consider it, I. In its true and proper character
Doubtless religion admits of an infinite diversity of description. But in no place can we find a juster representation of it than in that before us. It is, 1. “Wisdom" in the heart
[Were we to define “wisdom,” we should say, It is the seeking of the best ends by the fittest means. And were we to declare what true religion is, we should say, It is the seeking of the salvation of the soul through the mediation and intercession of Jesus Christ.
Now, then, I would ask, What end is there for us to propose to ourselves, that can be compared with the everlasting salvation of our souls? The pursuit of crowns and kingdoms would be unworthy of an effort in comparison of this —-- Truly it is "the one thing needful.”
Again I would ask, What means are there fitted for the attainment of this end in comparison of those which are proposed to us in the gospel of Christ? There we find a Saviour precisely suited to our necessities; One who has made an atonement for all our sins; One who “ever liveth to make intercession for us in heaven; and One who, as the Head of all vital influence, is “able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him." By the simple exercise of faith in him, we become partakers of all his blessings : and, therefore, it is our one aim from day to day to “ live by faith upon him," and to "receive out of his fulness" all the blessings which we stand in need of.
Now, compare with this any other mode of salvation that can be devised; and its wisdom will shine forth as the sun, which eclipses, and, as it were, blots from the firmament, all the lights of heaven - -] 2. Discretion in the life
[When once religion occupies the soul, it implants a principle there which thenceforth regulates the whole man. No longer does an anxiety about earthly things distract the mind. Pleasure, riches, and honour, are all subordinated to the welfare of the soul; and the will of God is the one only rule of conduct to him. A regard for God's honour, too, will then operate, so as to give to all circumstances, whether of time or place, their legitimate influence, and to secure to him who is under its influence the approbation of the wise and good. He illustrates in his life that saying of Solomon, "I, Wisdom, dwell with Prudence.” In a word, to approve himself to God is the one object of his life : and that one object being ever before his eyes, he is kept from every corrupt bias, and from the inconsistencies which an unhallowed principle would produce.
Of course, it must not be supposed that a person, naturally weak and foolish, will pass in a moment to a comprehensiveness of mind and soundness of judgment: that is not to be expected: on the contrary, inasmuch as a principle of piety infinitely outweighs every earthly object, it may be expected, that, on its first entrance into the soul, it will operate rather in a way of extravagance, and cause a person to overlook the minor considerations of prudence and discretion. But this must be imputed not to religion itself, but to the weakness of him in whom it dwells: and the effect of religion will be to correct his errors, and to induce habits of wisdom, which no other principle would ever have been able to form within him.]
Let us now proceed to consider it, II. In its just and necessary effects
Religion is not a mere principle; nor does it consist in any peculiar practice without a principle: it is an operative principle, producing, 1. Life in the soul
[I cannot give any juster view of religion, than by saying, It is that in the soul which the soul is in the body. Without the soul, the body is dead; and without religion, the soul is dead. By the soul the body is animated, and performs all the functions of the animal life'; by religion the soul is quickened, and performs all the functions of the spiritual life. By the union of the soul with the body, all the powers, both of body and mind, are called into activity; and by the operation of