Imágenes de páginas

and thus qualisy ourselves for entering into thy kingdom of glory hereafter.

Feed us, we beseech thee, with food convenient for uS. We ask not for riches and honours; give us only what is necessary for our comfortable subsistence in the several stations which thy providence has allotted to us; and above all give us contented minds.

We are all, O Lord, the best of us miserable sinners

Be not extreme,,we beseech thee, to mark what we have done amiss, but pity our insirmities, and pardon our offences. Yet let us not dare to implore forgiveness from thee, unless we also from our hearts forgive our offending brethren.

We are surrounded, on every side, with temptations to sin; and such is the corruption and frailty of our nature, that without thy powersul succour we cannot always stand upright. Take us then, O gracious God, under thy almighty protection; and amidst all the dangers and dissiculties of our Christian warsare, be thou our resuge and support. Suffer us not to be tempted above what we. are able to bear, but send thy holy spirit to. strengthen our own weak endeavours, and enable us to escape or to subdue all the enemies of our salvation.

Preserve us also, if it be thy blessed will, not only from spiritual, but from temporal evil. Keep us ever by thy watchsul providence, both outward in our bodies, and inwardly in our fouls; that thou, being in all cases our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal as sinally to lofe not the things eternal.

Hear us, O Lord our governor, from heaven thy dwelling place; and when thou nearest, have regard to our petitions. They are offered up to thee in the sullest considence that thy goodness will dispose, and thy power enable thee to grant whatever thy wisdom secst to be convenient for us, and conducive to our sinal happiness.

The next thing which peculiarly demands our attention in this chapter is the declaration contained in the 24th "rerse, which presents to us another sundamental princrtAe of the Christian religion; namely, the necessity of giving the first place in our hearts and our affections to God and religion, and pursuing other things only in subordination to thofe great objects. "No man," says our Lord, ** caa serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and lore the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon*."

The word mammon is generally interpreted to mean fichej only; but the original rather directs us to take h m a more general sense, "as comprehending every thin^ that is capable of being an object of trust or a ground of confidence to men of worldly minds; such as wealth, power, honor, same, business, sensual pleasures, gay amusements, and all the other various pursuits of the present scene. Itis these that constitute what we usually express • by the word -world, when oppofed to religion. Here then are the two masters who claim dominion over us, God and the world; and one of these we must serve; both we cannot, because their dispositions and their commands are in general diametrically opposite to each other. The world invites us to indulge all our appetites without control; to entangle ourselves in the cares and distractions of business; to engage with eagerness in endless contests for superiority in power, wealth, and honor; or to give up ourselves, body and foul, to gaiety, amusement, pleasure, and every kind of luxurious indulgence. These are the services which one master requires. But there is another master, whofe injunctions are of a very different nature. That master is God; and his commands are, to give him our hearts; to love him with all our heart, and foul, -and mind, and strength; to be temperate in all things; to make our moderation known unto all men; to six our affections on things above; to have our conversation in heaven; to cast all our care upon him; and to take up our cross and follow Christ.

Judge now whether it be possible to serve these two masters at one ar.d the same time, and to obey the commr.ncts

* Mztth. vi' J4.

tif each; commands so perfectly contradictory to each other.

Yet this is what a great part of mankind most absurdly attempt; endeavor to divide themselves between God and mammon, to compromise the matter as well as they can between the commands of one and the seductions of the other; to vibrate perpetually between vice and virtue, between piety and pleasure, between inclination and duty; to render a worldly lise and a religious lise consistent with each other; and to take as much as they can of the enjoyments and advantages of the present world, without lofing their hold on the rewards of the next.

Yet, in direct contradiction to so extravagant and preposterous a system as this, Christ himself assures us here that we cannot serve two masters; that we cannot serve God and mammon. Our Maker expects to reign absolute in our hearts; he will not be served by halves; he will not accept of a divided empire; he will not suffer us to halt between two opinions. We must take our choice, and adhere to one side or the other. "If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him*."

But what then are we to do? Are we to live in a state of perpetual warfare and hostility with that very world in which the hand of Providence has placed us, and which is prepared in various ways for our reception and accommodation? Are we never to taste of thofe various delights which our Maker has poured so bountisully around us? Are we never to indulge those appetites which he himself has planted in our breasts? Are we so entirely to consine ourselves to the paths of righteousness, as never to enter thofe that lead to power, to honor, to wealth, or to same? Are we to engage in no secular occupations, to make no provision for ourselves and our samilies? Are we altogether to withdraw ourselves from the cares and business and distractions of the world, and give ourselves wholly up to solitude, meditation, and prayer? Are we never to mingle in the chearsul amusements of society? Are we not to

[ocr errors]

indulge ourselves in the resined pleasures of literary pursuits, nor wander even for a moment into the delightsul regions of science or imagination?

Were this a tree picture of our duties, and of the sacrisices which Christianity requires from us; were these the commands of our divine lawgiver, well might we say with the astonished disciples, "who then can be saved f"

But the God whom we serve is not so hard a master, nor does his religion contain any such severe restrictions as these. Christianity forbids no necessary occupations, no reasonable indulgencies, no innocent relaxations. It allows us to use the world, provided we do not abuse h. It does not spread before us a delicious banquet, and then come with a "touch not, taste not, handle not."* All it requires is, that our liberty degenerate not into licentiousness, our amusements into dissipation, our industry into incessant toil, our caresulness into extreme anxiety and endless solicitude. So sar from forbidding us to engage in. business, it expressly commands us not to be slothsul in it,+ and to labor with our hands for the things that be needsul; it enjoins every one to abide in the calling wherein he was called,:): ajid perform all the duties of it. It even stigmatizes thofe that provide not for their own, with telling them that they arc worse than insidels. § When it requires us "to be temperate || in all things," it plainly tells us that we may use all things temperately; when it directs us "to make our moderation known unto . all men,"f thls evidently implies that within the bounds ofmoderation we may enjoy all the reasonable conveniences and comforts of the present lise.

But how then are we to reconcile this participation in the concerns of the present lise, with thofe very strong declarations of scripture, "that we are not to be consormed to this world; that the friendship of the world is enmity with God ;• that we are to take no thought for the morrow; that we are to lay up treasures no where but in hea

* Coloss. ii. Ji. § 1 Tim. r. 8.

f Rom. xii. n. x Cor, iv. 1%. | 1 Cor. ix. 25.
i l Cor. vii. 28. % Philip, iv. $•

veri; that we are to pray without ceasing; that we are to do all things to the glory of God ; that we are not only to leave sather, mother, brethren, sisters, and for the sake of Christ and his gofpel, but that if we do not hett all these near and dear connections, and even our own lives, "we cannot be his disciples*."

These, it must be acknowledged, are very strong expressions, and taken in their strict literal sense, do certainly imply that we are to abandon every thing that is moft dear and valuable and delightful to us in this lise, and to devote ourselves so entirely to the contemplation and love and worship of God, as not to bestow a single thought on any thing else, or to give ourselves the smallest concern about the affairs of this sublunary state.

But can any one imagine this to be the real doctrine of icripture? You may rest assured that nothing so unreasonable and extravagant is to be sairly deduced from these sacred writings.

In order then to clear up this most important point, three things are to be considered.

First, that were these injunctions to be understood in their literal signisication, it would be utterly impossible for us to continue a week longer in the world. If, for instance, we were bound to pray without ceasing, and to take no thought whatever for the morrow, we must all of us quickly peristt for want of the common necessaries of lise.

2dly. It must be observed that all oriental writers, both sacred and prosane, are accustomed to express themselves in bold ardent sigures and metaphors, which, before their true meaning can be ascertained, require very considerable abatements, restrictions, and limitations.

3dly. What is most of all to the purpose, these abatements are almost constantly pointed out by scripture itself and whenever a very strong and forcible idiom is mads

* Rom. xii. %. Jam. iv- 4 Matth. vi. »o. 34. x Theff. V. 17. Ephcs. vi. 18. x Cor. x. 31. Luke, xiv. 5t6,


« AnteriorContinuar »