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wild inconsiderate regard for religion. We ought to exercise a sound judgment in all things. “I, Wisdom," says Solomon, “ dwell with Prudencet.” There is certainly much room for discretion in the performance of our duty even towards God himself. We may so reprove a fault as to harden those whom we endeavour to reclaim, and, by casting pearls before swine, may cause them to turn again and rend usu. We may exercise our Christian liberty so as to cast a stumbling-block before others, and destroy the souls whose salvation we ought to seek to the uttermost*. Many things may be “ lawful which are not expedient.” We should therefore consult times, persons, places, things'; and “walk in wisdom toward them that are without.” Our determination should be, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way?” And our prayer should be, “O give me understanding in the way of godliness. In every part of our conduct we should be circumspect, that being “ blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, we may shine among them as lights in the world.” Thus should we unite “the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dovea." And in so doing we shall both adorn our holy profession, and “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men."] 3. Be righteous enough
[There is more danger of defect than of excess in this pursuit. Indeed whereinsoever you are truly righteous it is not possible to be righteous overmuch. We are to “walk as Christ himself walked," and to “be perfect even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect. Have you attained much? be thankful for it; but go forward. If you were as holy as St. Paul himself, you must "not think you have already attained, or are already perfect, but, like him, you must forget the things that are behind, and reach forward unto that which is before, and press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The higher you are in grace, the richer will you be in glory. Begin then, all of you, to “run the race that is set before you." The prize is worth all your care.
Lose it not for want of due exertion. But " laying aside every weight, and the sin that doth most easily beset you, run with patience your appointed course, looking unto Jesus the autħor and finisher of your faith:” and let your constant motto be, “This one thing I do b." Endeavour, every step you take, to walk in the fear of God. This is the advice of Solomon himselfc: nor can there be any better preservative against extremes than this.
* 1 Cor. viii. 11.
t Prov. viii, 12. y Eccl. viii. 5. b Phil. iii. 13. VOL. VII.
u Matt. vii. 6.
By this you will be kept from the undue bias of fleshly wisdom, and from consulting with flesh and blood : by this you will be enabled to maintain your conversation in the world with “simplicity and godly sincerity.” Cultivate this, and the path of duty will be clear: cultivate this, and you will never lose the promised reward.]
DCCCXXXVII. MAN'S ORIGINAL AND PRESENT STATE. Eccl. vii. 29. Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made
man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
THE whole scope of this book is, to shew the vanity of the world, and all things in it. As in the earth itself there is a visible proof that some great convulsion has taken place; so, in every thing that is passing upon the earth, there is the clearest evidence imaginable that some great moral change has been effected: for it cannot possibly be, that the world, which still bears such innumerable traces of wisdom and goodness in its first creation, should have proceeded from its Maker's hands in such a state as it now appears. In fact, the whole world is out of course. The very elements are, on many occasions, hostile to man; and man, in ten thousand instances, is an enemy to himself, to his species, and to his God. And “ what is thus crooked, who can make straighta ?” Who can ward off the effects of all this disorder from his own person or estate? A monarch is the victim of it, no less than the meanest of his subjects; and the saint, no less than the contemner of all true religion. To what, then, or to whom, shall we ascribe this state of things? The wisest philosophers of Greece and Rome were unable to account for it. But the Holy Scriptures inform us, that the whole creation, as originally formed, was perfect; but sin, entering into the world, effected both a natural and a moral change upon it: so that the man who looks into the Holy Scriptures can solve every difficulty at once, by saying, “Lo, this have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions," and
thereby reduced the world, and every thing in it, to the state of disorganization in which it now appears.
In illustration of my text, I shall be led to notice both the primitive and the present state of man, and . to shew, I. His uprightness, as formed by God
We are expressly told, that “God created man after his own imageb. When, therefore, man came from his Creator's hands, he was perfect, 1. In his intellectual faculties
[His mind was light: and in him was no darkness at all, in reference to any thing which he was concerned to know. He had a clear knowledge of God, and of his perfections, so far as those perfections were stamped upon the visible creation. The wisdom, the goodness, the power of God, were all apprehended by him, and duly appreciated. He was acquainted also with his own nature, and his obligations to God; seeing the full extent of his duty towards him, as well as all the motives and inducements which he had for the performance of it. Moreover, he saw all these things intuitively, and not by long consideration or rational deduction. They were all stamped upon his very soul, and constantly before his eyes: and he had the same consciousness of them as he had of his own existence.] 2. In his moral dispositions
[The Law of God was written upon his heart, that he might know it: and, at the same time, the love of it also was engraven there, so that he had not the slightest inclination to violate it in any one particular. It was no difficulty to him to love God with all his heart and mind and soul and strength: it was the very element in which he breathed: the bent of his soul was wholly towards it. Flame did not more naturally ascend in the atmosphere than did his soul, with all its powers, ascend to God. Dear as Eve was to him, she did not rival God in his affections. Every thing was subordinated to his Maker; nor was even a thought entertained in his mind, which had not a direct and immediate tendency to honour him. In a word, he was to God as the impression to the seal: nor was there found one lineament upon his heart which had not been stamped there by God himself.]
Had man continued thus, the whole creation would have retained its original constitution. But man fell; and brought a curse upon the whole world“; every thing more or less participating in, b Gen, i. 26, 27.
c Gen. ii. 17.
II. His obliquity, as deformed by sin
Man, through the instigation of Satan, desired to be wise as God himself. Not contented with knowing “good,” he would know “evil” alsod; little thinking how impossible it was for light and darkness to exist together. Since that first device, whereby he fell, he has “ sought out many inventions ;” whereby to remedy, if possible, the first evil which he brought upon himself. Thus his descendants seek, 1. How to rid themselves of all restraint from God
[They conceive of God, as resident in heaven; and as so remote from this vain world, as scarcely to take any
notice of it, or concern himself about it. Besides, from a pretended regard for his glorious Majesty, they conceive it far beneath him to notice the affairs of men : so that the language of their hearts is, “ The Lord shall not see, neither will the Almighty regard ite." But, as they cannot be certain but that he does inspect their ways, they endeavour to get at as great a distance from him as possible. If at any time, by means of the preached word, or by any remarkable providence, he is brought nigh to them, they endeavour to shut their eyes, and to flee to any thing which may assist them in banishing him from their thoughts. To himself they say in effect, “ Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." and to his servants they say, “ Make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before use." It was thus that our first parents acted, when they strove to “ hide themselves from God in the midst of the garden:” and thus do sinners of the present day act, fleeing to business and pleasure and company, and any thing that may serve to drive the remembrance of him from their minds. And he who could contrive any fresh amusement or employ that should have this effect upon their minds, would be accounted one of the greatest benefactors of the human race. That which is, in fact, their heaviest curse, is sought by them as the richest, blessing; namely, “ to be without God in the world"," and "not to have him in all their thoughts'."]
2. How to make to themselves gods more suited to their taste
[Men feel that they must, of necessity, depend on something without them for their happiness, since they have no perennial source of it within themselves. But Jehovah is not one in whom they can find delight: hence, as the Israelites
d Gen. iii. 5, 6.
e Ps. xciv. 7.
r Job xxi. 14, 15.
made a golden calf, and worshipped it, so these make to themselves objects of supreme regard, to which in heart and mind they cleave, as sources of satisfaction to their souls. Some, like the ignorant heathen, bow down to stocks and stones," and say, Ye are our godsk:” others, with equal, though less palpable, absurdity, set their affections on the pleasures, riches, and honours of this life, making "a god of their belly!," or putting their confidence in goldm, or seeking the honour of man, rather than that which cometh of God onlyn.” These all, in fact, “ forsake the fountain of living waters, and hew out to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." All, indeed, have not the same pursuit: but all have some "idol in their hearts," which is to them a god: and all “ will walk in the name of that godę,” looking to it for happiness, and confiding in it for support. This is an “invention,” not peculiar to any age or place: it is “ sought out," and carried into effect,
child of man; there not being a natural man upon the face of the whole earth who does not, in one shape or other,
worship and serve the creature more than the Creator; who is blessed for evermore"."]
3. How to hide from themselves their own deformity
[One would suppose that the impiety of this conduct should appear at once to every man who is capable of the least reflection. But men contrive, by various arts, to hide it from themselves. They, in the first place, determinately “ call evil good, and good evil: they put darkness for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter s." Then, not being able to conceal from themselves that they have committed some iniquity, they compare themselves, not with the word of God or with the saints of old, but with persons all around them: of these, however, they will select for the purpose those only whom they think not better than themselves : and thus will they satisfy themselves that they are as good as others. If there be some particular evils, of which their consciences accuse them, they will endeavour to find out some good deeds to put into the opposite scale, and to neutralize the effect of them upon their minds: or, if they cannot easily do this, they will satisfy themselves, that, though their actions have been evil, their intentions have been good; they have injured nobody but themselves; they have good hearts; and what they have done amiss, was not so much their own fault, as the fault of humannature in general, and of the temptations to which they were
k Hos. xiv. 3.
1 Phil. iii. 19.
m Col. iii. 5. Job xxxi. 24, 25.