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2. By the formal and self-righteous
[Wisdom's sublimest dictates are by these regarded as the reveries of a heated imagination. The whole life of faith is foolishness in the eyes of a self-righteous Pharisee. He sees no suitableness in it to the end proposed. He thinks that an attendance on ordinances, and a performance of some moral duties, are quite sufficient: Why should he mourn and weep? What is there in faith that can benefit his soul ? Why may not his works find acceptance with God? In vain is he told that the Gospel is "the wisdom of God in a mystery;" and that the
very angels in heaven are made wiser by the revelation of it to the Church h. In vain is he told what the Lord Jesus Christ, that “Wonderful Counsellor," has done for the redemption of a ruined world, and will do in all who believe in him. No sense of obligation abides upon his mind: no expressions of gratitude flow from his lips: the Benefactor is forgotten, and the benefit despised: and he chooses rather to seek his resources within himself, than to depend for them on the bounty of another.] 3. The backsliding professor
[The man who has once “ professed godliness," has given his testimony to the excellence of wisdom. But when he declines from the way of godliness, he revokes his testimony, and becomes an open advocate for folly : he proclaims to all, that the ways of wisdom are incapable of affording him any solid comfort; or, at all events, that there is more happiness to be found in the vanities of time and sense, than in the service of the living God. Yes, thou backslider, thou “exaltest folly, and praisest the wickedi:" and, if thou condemnest, as thou must, the inhabitants of the city that left their benefactor to pine away in poverty and contempt, much more must thou condemn thyself, who hast, by thy declensions, “crucified the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."] Let me now IMPROVE the subject, by recommending
to your adoption, 1. A life of consideration and thoughtfulness
[The man who has begun to think and to consider, has already got more than half way to heaven. It is inconsideration that ruins the whole world. Would men but inquire from day to day, What have I done? Has it been consonant with the dictates of sound wisdom? Have I proposed to myself the best ends, and have I pursued them by the fittest means? how much evil would they avoid, and how much misery would they escape! O that I might prevail upon you to enter on such a course as h Eph. iii. 10.
i Prov. xxvii. 4.
this! Admirable is that advice of Solomon, "Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine housek.” This is what any prudent builder will do, though he is only constructing a temporary habitation for the body: and how much more should we do it, who are building for the immortal soul! Adopt this plan then: think what you have to do for God: think by what means you may best advance the interest of your souls; and redeem, as it were, every hour in preparation for eternity. “Walk, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil."] 2. A life of real piety
[Nothing but this will inspire true wisdom: nothing but this will enable us to counteract with effect the assaults of our great adversary. Let us seek from above “ a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and of might:" then, whether we be poor or rich, we shall assuredly be victorious. Indeed the poor
are for the most part more highly favoured than the rich. The rich are too apt to be self-confident and self-sufficient; whilst the poor accept thankfully the proferred aids of the Gospel. Hence “ the things which are hid from the wise and prudent, are frequently revealed to babes;" and hence, whilst the rich are vanquished, the poor are crowned with victory. Let it not be forgotten, that in the Lord alone we have either righteousness or strength.” “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts:" yes, by the Spirit of the living God revealing the Saviour to us, and communicating strength out of his fulness, we shall be " enabled to withstand in the evil day,” and shall have that joyful song put into our mouths, “Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"]
k Prov. xxiv, 27.
THE DESTRUCTIVE INFLUENCE OF SINNERS.
Eccl. ix. 18. One sinner destroyeth much good. THE influence of every man in his sphere is considerable. Solomon had seen a remarkable instance of a poor man delivering by his wisdom a small and ill-garrisoned city from the besieging army of a very powerful monarch. From hence he was led to consider the superiority of wisdom above wealth or power. On the other hand, he saw that, as a wise and good man might be extremely useful, so a foolish and wicked man might do a great deal of injury, to those around him. Hence, contrasting the two, he observed, “ Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.”
In illustrating the latter member of the sentence, we shall point out the truth of it, I. In nations
[Men of all classes in the community may greatly affect the state to which they belong.
A weak and ambitious monarch, how soon may he involve his people in war, and reduce them to the very brink of ruin! Such was Solomon's only son, who, in the space of a few weeks, goaded ten tribes out of the twelve that he ruled over, to revolt from him, and to establish a separate and independent kingdoma.
An aspiring subject also may, by exaggerating the people's grievances, and promising them effectual redress, stir up multitudes to insurrection, and involve a nation in all the horrors of civil war. Thus did Absalom: and thus have demagogues in every age,
in What immense evil too may not a cruel persecutor effect! How
may such an one waste the Church of God and destroy it! One Jezebel could murder a whole host of prophetso; and one Saul depopulate the Christian Churchd. And, in this nation as well as others, time was, when one cruel bigot kindled fires in every part of the country, to extirpate, if possible, those, who would not return to the justly reprobated errors of her religion.
If a great man be conspicuous for impiety and profaneness, his conduct will be attended with a most baneful influence. Soon will sycophants imitate his example, till irreligion becomes the fashion of the day, and every thing sacred is trampled under foot. What an awful instance of such success have we in Jeroboam; who, the more effectually to detach from Judah the ten revolted tribes, erected idols in Dan and Bethel, which from that hour became, and ever afterwards remained, the objects of worship through the whole kingdome! Hence he is continually stigmatized with the name of “him who made Israel to sin?!"
But indeed any enormous sinner, of whatever class, does much to destroy the peace and prosperity of his country. What is it that arms God against a nation, and provokes him
a 1 Kings xii. 16.
6 2 Sam. xv. 2–6, 10—14. c 1 Kings xviii. 13.
d Acts ix. 1, 2. e Hos. v. 11. In this verse is mentioned not his success only, but the evil it brought upon them.
f 1 Kings xxii. 52.
to visit it with war, pestilence, and famine? Is it not sin ? Every sinner therefore, in proportion as he increases the nation's guilt, contributes also to its punishment. In many instances we know, that the whole kingdom of Israel suffered for the offence of one; not for that of David only, who was the monarch; but for that also of Achan, an obscure individual h : nor till the last day will it appear what injury this nation has sustained by means of every one here present.] II. In families
[What confusion is brought into any house by an imperious husband, a contentious wife, or an undutiful, stubborn child! Instead of love and harmony, there is little else than brawling and quarrelling; so that the very sight of each other, which ought to call forth all the tender emotions of their hearts excites nothing but enmity and disgust.
A man addicted to lewdness, gaming, intemperance, evil company, or idleness, to what wretchedness
soon reduce his family! “ God has put a price into the hand of such an one to make his dependents happy, but he knows not how to use iti.” He might support them in ease and comfort, but brings them to want and desperation. How many instances of this are found in every town and village!
Nor can we easily estimate the good which a whisperer and a tale-bearer may destroy. Behold, he comes into a house where friends or relatives are cemented in the strictest bonds of union and amity : but he creates suspicion, and alienates their minds, and kindles feuds, and fills with animosity the bosoms that once glowed with mutual affectionk.
But what shall we say of the vile seducer, who under the mask of friendship enters the house of his unsuspecting neighbour, and avails himself of the opportunity to decoy his of the sacred oracles. To him he has given souls to be nurtured and disciplined for heaven. But the traitor is intent only on his own gains or pleasures: he performs his weekly task, not caring whether any be edified or not: he wastes the precious opportunities, that can never be recalled; and, in the course of his ministry, leads thousands to destruction. Yes; as far as his influence extends, he makes null and void all the purposes of God's grace, and all the wonders of redeeming love. When, humanly speaking, he might have been a blessing to the world, and an ornament to his profession, he brings his sacred function into reproach, scattering the flock whom he should have gathered, and destroying whom he should have saved. Such an one is Satan's best friend, and the greatest enemy of God and man.
aughter, or to defile his wife? Alas! what incalculable misery does such a man create! For the sake of a momentary gratification, how many hearts does he pierce with the deepest and most lasting sorrow! What disgrace does he bring upon the whole family, involving the innocent with the guilty in irremediable shame, and bowing them down with grief that hurries them to the grave! Would to God that, if such a character exist in this assembly, he might be smitten with remorse, and wounded to his inmost soul !] III. In the church of God[On whom shall we fix our eyes, as hostile
to the Church's welfare, so soon as on the careless minister ? To him God has committed the improvement of sabbaths, and ordinances, and & 2 Sam. xxiv. 10, 15.
h Josh. xxii. 20. i Prov. xvii. 16.
k Prov. xvi. 28.
Much good also may be destroyed, especially where men are awake to the concerns of religion, by a proud disputatious sectary. I speak not here of those who dissent from the Established Church, but of those who create divisions within the Church by unduly insisting on matters of minor importance, and of doubtful disputation. Though the sentiments of such an one be not fundamentally erroneous, yet if he be laying an undue stress on matters that are comparatively indifferent, and forming parties in the church, he distracts the minds of the simple; he puffs up many with pride; he loosens the bonds of brotherly affection; he weakens the hands of a pious minister, and he causes many to relapse into formality and indifference! Of such a character were Hymeneus m, and Alexandern: and “one such root of bitterness will trouble and defile many":" on which account we should be as studious as possible to stop their growth P.
There is scarcely any one in the universe who does greater injury to the Church than the professor who walks dishonourably. One act of his brings disgrace upon the whole Church of God, and makes religion to stink in the very nostrils of those around himo. Instantly do the ungodly begin to triumph', to arraign all the people of God as hypocrites, and to represent religion itself as a mask for every thing that is viles. Thus the wicked are hardened, the weak are offended, the saints are dishonoured, and the very name of God is blasphemed in the world'. How does God himself complain of this in the case of David u! and how incalculable must the evil be, when multitudes are thus offended, and set against the very means of salvation !
1 Rom. xvi, 17, 18. m 2 Tim. ii. 16—18, 23. and iii. 6, 13. n 2 Tim. iv. 14, 15. • Heb. xii. 15. See also 1 Cor. v. 2, 6. and Gal. v. 7, 9. p Tit. i. 13, 14. and iii. 9—11. 9 Gen. xxxiv. 30. r Ps. xxxv. 19, 25. s 2 Pet. ii, 2. t 1 Tim. vi. 1. u 2 Sam. xi. 14.