Page images
PDF
EPUB

we pray more fervently and steadily than we did; whether we like coming to God's house better, whether we attend to the prayers and the lessons more completely, whether we grow less weary of such thoughts and occupations. So our constant sacraments, wherein the body and blood of Christ are taken and received by the faithful to the real strengthening and refreshing of their souls; so our daily solitary prayers, so our daily family prayers, so our reading of the holy Scriptures: all these duties, as habits never omitted, encourage and keep up that steady and habitual religion which is so important to us. True indeed that going to Church, and family prayers, and reading the Bible, are not religion. No; no more than food is health ; but there is little trustworthy religion without them. What we want is a steady lasting religion ; not one of fits and starts, but one which shall abide by us during all our life, the comfort of our sorrow, the regulator of our joy; the strength against the little petty daily temptations which we neither foresee, nor much regard when they arise; the security against indifference, the guarantee against change of feeling, against enthusiastic fervours, carelessness or despair.

If, then, there be among you, my Christian brethren, any who have received of God any great and signal mercy, (as who is there of us who has not ?)—I do not speak of mercy in the mere sense of worldly blessing, but as comprising every dis

pensation whereby our hearts are awakened to think of God and religion ; if sorrow, sickness, or affliction have befallen you; be sure that He who permitted the

Gadarene to be the possession of a legion of evil spirits, who then restored him to the comfort and relief of sitting at His feet, clothed and in his right mind,-be sure that He would desire you to do no otherwise than to return to your own home, and by steady habitual zeal, by good patient example, by lasting regular gratitude, to shew how great things God hath done for you. Cling to your habits of religion. Let no indolence nor self-indulgence prevail with you to forego them. Never omit the public service of the Church. Privately, and in your families, pray without ceasing. Let every mercy received be acknowledged in your daily praises ; every sin be confessed, every mercy needed be desired in your daily prayers. These things shed a sort of religious atmosphere around you. They make you in some degree ashamed to sin. Though they be not religion itself, they are the helps of religion ; they diffuse the excitements of religious feeling over a larger space; they relieve and support the seasons when religious excitement is wanting. They will assist your self-examination, by affording set times for it, and by offering an easy line and order of enquiry. Do your own duty. Be it high or low; be it, in men's eyes, honourable or humble; it is the part which God hath appointed you to play upon the earth. There serve Him, where He hath desired to be served by you. And shedding thus a light around you, shining among men for your simple diligence, your unpretending Christian obedience, holding fast your religious habits, you will do good while you remain upon earth. Returned thus to your own home, your daily acts, your daily words, your well-known habits, your demeanour, your Christian temper, all will shew, (and men are not slow to read such signs) how great things God hath done for you—and when your course of trial is over, when you are received once more to sit at the feet of that Lord, clothed,—in His righteousness,—and in the holy happy mind of those who are saved, you may have the inexpressible satisfaction of seeing among the company of the just made perfect, some --children, parents, kindred, friends, neighbours, whom your example and your influence, under the blessed Spirit of God, have first turned towards the thought of God and salvation.

poor

SERMON X.

THINGS INDIFFERENT.

1 CORINTHIANS X. 23.

“ All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient :

all things are lawful, but all things edify not.”

The eighth, ninth, and tenth chapters of the first Epistle to the Corinthians seem to contain a single argument. The reasoning, as is usual with St. Paul, is not consecutive, nor the connexion perfectly apparent throughout; and the division into chapters unfortunately disconnects the parts of the argument still further. But when the passage is read altogether, and interpreted with reference to the very peculiar style of the ardent Apostle, there can be little doubt that all bears upon the same point; and that the question of eating the meat offered to idols, with which the eighth chapter begins, and the tenth concludes, is the subject of all that intervenes.

The question of the lawfulness of eating the meat which had been consecrated in heathen tem

ples was, for two reasons, a very difficult and very important one to the Corinthians. First, because in so large and luxurious a city as the capital of proconsular Achaia, there probably was little other meat to be procured than that which had been first slain in sacrifice in some of the numerous and costly temples : and, secondly, because in a place so full of knowledge and philosophy as Corinth, practical scruples of this kind, especially when attended with consequences so inconvenient, would naturally be despised and derided by many, who, partly from real strength of thought, and partly from that most dangerous independence of mind which always accompanies weak talent, undutiful feeling, and small knowledge, would feel themselves above the weakness of entertaining any such doubts.

St. Paul meets the question directly, and settles it on broad and most intelligible principles. He begins by acknowledging, that as in itself the idol is nothing, so the meat consecrated to such an imaginary being is really not thereby rendered unlawful food for Christians. They who are free from the scruple, therefore, are so far in the right; yet let them, he adds, be cautious how they presume upon their knowledge ; knowledge puffeth up, charity edifieth; if any man think he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. If any man love God, the same is known of Him.

But then, he urges, all have not this knowledge ;

« PreviousContinue »