« PreviousContinue »
heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
But, if, with the infidel, we reject the word spoke; or if, with the nominal Christian, we hear it with listless indifference; or if, with the speculative Christian, we receive it with joy, but come not under the vital energy and influence of it; or lastly, if with the worldly Christian, we suffer it to be choked with cares, and riches, and pleasures; we have much to fear from the just judgments of God, who has vouchsafed to us peculiar advantages over all the nations of the world, with respect to the knowledge of his will: a church, I will not say, infallible, or free from all corruptions; but I will say, in the words of a wise and noble writer *, inore free from dangerous corruptions, than any other that professes a faith in Christ: a ministry, in the confession of its enemies, not unlearned, or unable to feed the flock of Christ with wholesome doctrine; and, what is above all, a free and unfettered access to the sacred volumes of truth, with an unrestrained liberty of exercising that reason and judgment, which are the birth-right and honour of every reasonable creature. Should these seem to any inconsiderable advantages,
*See Lord Clarendon's Letter to his Children:
let them for a moment compare their own situation with that bondage of corruption, under which the greatest part of the known world still groans, either from papal superstition or pagan ignorance; nay, let them only look back to the dismal state of their forefathers in this king dom, not many centuries ago, and they will soon see just cause to bless the kind providence of God, that their lot is fallen on so fair a ground.
Whether our improvements in virtue keep pace with these advantages, and whether the purity of our lives corresponds with the purity of our faith, you all know, and it is no pleasure to me to repeat. But surely it is a shocking disgrace to us to say, and yet truth requires me to say, that, wherever our fleets or armies have carried their conquests or their discoveries, they have carried corruption and oppression at the same time, have committed criines unknown to untutored savages, and have left the innocent natives of every clime on the globe to curse the pollution, which we falsely call the polish, of European manners. May the great God of heaven touch our hearts with a better sense of his blessings; may we all so clearly see the error of our ways and amend
them; that the uplifted bolts of divine vengeance may be suspended, and that we may never experience those heavy calamities, which still continue to overwhelm a people, once favoured like ourselves, for their infidelity and unfruitfulness in the word of God spoken to them!
1 TIM. iv. 8.
Godliness is profitable unto all things; having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
HE more we survey the actions of man, considered as a moral being, the more shall we have occasion to be surprized at a creature so strange and inconsistent in all his ways. Fickle and inconstant; wise, yet foolish; proud, yet mean and groveling; in understanding an angel, in practice a brute; his whole life is one continued riddle to himself and all around him. And in nothing is this inconsistency more evident and remarkable, than in what relates to his religious conduct and behaviour. Convinced as he must be, that there is a God who ruleth over all; he yet every day lives as without God in the world. He feels within him a pure and exalted soul, x 2 created
created for honour and immortality; and yet he scruples not every moment to defile that soul by the indulgence of his lusts, to debase it by drunkenness and intemperance, to destroy it by repeated acts of sin and sensuality. He sees the goodness of the Almighty in the hourly preservation of his life, and in every blessing he enjoys; he owns the dreadful hand of the same Almighty in every misery that he fears, and in every calamity that he suffers; and yet, regardless of both, he dares to provoke and affront him, by profaning his sabbaths, by taking his sacred name in vain, and in short, by deliberately breaking every single commandment he hath given. He acknowledges the stupendous love of that God, who came down from the throne of heaven to save him; yet will not bestow one moment's labour to save himself. He hears, he pities, he bewails the sufferings of that Saviour, who died for him on the cross at Jerusalem; yet hesitates not by his daily transgressions to crucify him afresh, and to put him to a perpetual shame. He is sensible that eternal misery is the wages of sin; and yet he daily and deliberately committeth sin. He knows, that eternal happiness, is the reward of virtue; and yet he constantly breaks through every law and rule of virtue. He is assured, that the present life is short and uncertain, but that the next is certain and