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SER M ON I.
ON THE FOLLY OF SLIGHTING ADVICE.
GALATIANS iv. 16.
Am I therefore become your enemy, because
I tell you the truth?
It is acknowledged, that there is nothing SERM. more difficult than to procure a good reception for wholesome advice. It generally fares with it as with a nauseous medicine for the diseases of the body ; those who need it most, set themselves most against it; nor are they in general content only to reject the proffered remedy, but frequently those who would administer it get mocked and insulted, their right to prescribe is questioned, their knowledge of the case disputed, and all their good endeavours misconstrued into an officiousness about other people's concerns, and a propensity to find fault. True it is, that
SERM. advice cannot be offered but at the risk of 1.
alarming some of the fondest prejudices to which the human nature is liable. Men are so sensible of their own free will, that they can never help looking upon the
generality of their actions, whether bad or good, as eminently their own ways; and yet those who would try to change their manners, must do it in the shape of an objection ; nor can they any how manage so, if they are at all honest and sincere, as to conceal their disapprobation of those ways they wish to have amended or changed. Our pride, therefore, and selflove, are very soon alarmed; perhaps, instead of listening to or adopting the advice, to the amendment of our lives, as it was intended, the first measure we take (as if we were sore affronted) is to find some occasion of retorting the accusation : we narrowly inspect the conduct of the adviser, and as all men are human, and weak, and infirm by nature, it would be strange if something or other objectionable was not to be discovered; in consequence of which, the adviser is eagerly
pronounced to be peccable also, and his sERM. precepts are all set at naught, with that common proverbial taunt of “ Physician “ heal thyself *.” . It is not upon all occasions that men are so proud and self-sufficient. If they would become instructed in some of the common arts and sciences, in the rules of trade and traffic, they are content to acknowledge others to be wiser than themselves, and they submit themselves to the directions of their instructors freely and willingly. But surely there is an art of life to be learnt, which the wise and experienced are likely to know more of than the young or thoughtless. It is a proof, how much men must be aware of their freedom of will, how sensible they are that a choice is left to them in regard to their actions, that they are so very jealous of having their moral course of life meddled with. The ignorance of common arts is no disgrace to them, so long as they have been unable to be instructed in them ; but no man likes to be told, he
SERM. does not know how to live honestly and
decently, soberly and piously, or to follow after such things as are really and intrinsically of “ good report.” It was no doubt through a foresight of these difficulties, that the Almighty God condescended, from the very first, to become a teacher himself. Against such an adviser no objections could arise ; for, how insignificant is human pride lifted up against the Lord of all! How imperfect the best, how base the highest, of the sons of men, opposed to the perfections and the power of God! His laws, therefore, however contrary they may be to our wills and desires, it is folly and madness to slight or despise. We cannot pretend to say, that he who made us has no right to prescribe to us a particular course of actions; we cannot muster up pride and arrogance enough to think, that we are perfect enough in the sight of an unerring Being, and need no restraint or correction. Let men then suspect as they please the interference and remonstrances of their fellow creatures, they cannot surely object to be
reminded of any deviations from the ex- SERM. press law of God. For, what is it we do when we infringe the laws of God ? Let our actions upon such occasions be ever so detrimental to the good of our neighbour, the injury we do to ourselves must needs be abundantly greater; we may be brought to make reparation to our neighbour by the common course of justice ; but, perhaps, before we have made any reparation to God, for the breach of his holy laws, the stroke of death may come upon us, and we may be summoned to judgment in another world ! It cannot be doubted, therefore, but that he who reminds another of his transgressions of the laws of God, however his advice and interference may be received, is so far the true and real friend of the transgressor: nor can he, in such a case, be his enemy any how; for, if we suppose that, even in the heat of anger, and the fury of revenge, he shall, with the utmost asperity of language, reproach him for his faults, still it is fortunate, at all events, to be in any manner cautioned against such self-destruction, as the