Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

and exercises, he is prepared for the felicity of that heaven towards which he constantly presses, and where he will at last be eternally blessed.

But the man who is subject to the dominion of worldly principles and passions, is estranged from God; he extends not a thought or a desire beyond. the worldly scenes with which he is engrossed; Occupied with sensual gratifications, he has no wish and no relish for the pure and spiritual joys of religion. His Maker he dreads as the capricious Sovereign who delights in his misery by restraining his enjoyments, instead of loving and serving him as that gracious Parent who designs, by the discipline of self-denial, to make us meet for the unspeakable and eternal joys of his presence. The corrupt passions of the votary of the world, gaining strength by indulgence, assume at last complete dominion; and, thus disqualified for the holy presence of God, he is fitted only for the habitation of condemned spirits, with whom he must take up his portion in torment for ever and

ever.

For what opposite states of being do the love of God and the love of the world prepare the soul! They cannot therefore exist together-the soul cannot be prepared at the same time for heaven and for hell. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."

This subject, my brethren, leads to some practical reflections.

1. The conduct of those who attempt to connect the supreme love of God with an inordinate attachment to the world is unreasonable.

VOL. II.

54

For surely we cannot expect to gain his favour while we are destitute of those holy affections, or negligent in that spiritual and universal obedience which he requires. How hopeless to expect to deceive our Almighty Judge! "He searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men;" and it is his immutable declaration-" Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." No longer, then, let us vainly expect the favour of our Maker, while we are supremely devoted to worldly pursuits and pleasures. Let us "choose now whom we will serve, God or the world." Severe will be our disappointment, if the latter be our choice; for the highest happiness which the world, inordinately pursued, can bestow, arising from the gratification of our sensual appetites, in which only we resemble the brutes, is unworthy of a rational being. The innocent enjoyments of social and domestic intercourse, religion exalts, instead of diminishing. But the happiness which the world bestows, of pleasure, of honour, and of wealth, is uncertain as it is vain. If there is any truth which daily experience verifies, it is the uncertainty of worldly prosperity, the precarious tenure by which men hold those gifts of honour and fortune in which they often place the happiness of life. What is the world, with all its pleasures, to the suffering victim of disease? What is it to the sinner, when he is placed on the verge of eternity, and when he realizes, in fearful anticipation, the dread tribunal of bis Almighty Judge? O that it could be sounded in the ears of the worldly man, till it sound him from his sinful security-" What will it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

2. But, secondly, the conduct of those who attempt to connect the love of God and the friendship of the world will occasion their present misery.

Their hearts are supremely fixed on the world and its pursuits and pleasures; but, urged by the apprehension of the indignation of their omniscient and holy Judge, they deem it necessary to renounce many of their favourite enjoyments, but they receive in return none of the comforts of religion. The soul is thus the sport of slavish fear, impelled by the apprehension of the wrath of God to renounce the world, and yet clinging to it with such fond affection that the renunciation cannot be completed. Thus vibrating between the world and God, between a love of its sensual enjoyments and a fear of his displeasure, between the pleasures of sense and the terrors of eternity, the soul loses her resolution, her firmhess, and her dignity. Let us contemn, then, a conduct thus irresolute and weak, which keeps us in painful doubt and apprehension, which leads us to the unworthy attempt of appearing to be what in reality we are not, which imposes on us the irksome observance of all the external duties of piety, without any of its spirit, its comforts, its enlivening joys. Let us burst asunder the fetters of the world, and assert the dignity of our calling as the sons of God, and the heirs of a heavenly inheritance. Let us not be discouraged by the strength of our sinful passions, and by the power of the temptations that assail us; for "greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world:" and he hath promised-" My grace shall be sufficient for you; my strength shall be made perfect in your weakness." Let us not be discouraged by the pure and spiritual service which God requires. When

we have escaped from the thraldom of the world, the service of God will appear our reasonable service, and will constitute our supreme joy: and remember, religion forbids only an inordinate attachment to the world, an attachment that renders us independent of God, of his authority and laws; and which thus degrades the soul, destroys her purity and peace, and unfits her for future blessedness. Even the zealous pursuit of wealth and honour, the cheerful indulgence of the pleasures of sense, when in subjection to the laws of God and to the higher concerns of our heavenly calling, religion allows and approves. But still every desire and passion must be subdued, and every amusement and pleasure must be renounced, that would corrupt the purity of our souls, abate our love to God, and destroy our relish for the holy exercises of devotion. And does God require these sacrifices merely because thus it pleaseth him, and he giveth not to us an account of his doings! No; but because these sacrifices are necessary to our perfection and happiness, which consist in the entire subjection of our wills, our desires, and affections, to his holy laws.

And, my brethren, how exalted those consolations and joys of the devoted servants of God, which more than repay them for their self-denial, and their renunciation of the sinful pursuits and pleasures of the world, for their holy, strict, and regular life! No restless desires, no turbulent pas. sions agitate their bosoms: the love of God sheds abroad in their hearts a peace that passeth all understanding. They enjoy the assurance that Jesus Christ is their Redeemer, mighty to save; that his unchangeable word is pledged for their salvation;

that he is ever present with them, redeeming them by his power, renewing them by his grace, consoling them by his promises, and enlivening them by his love. They enjoy the assurance that God is in Christ their reconciled God and Father; that his eye is ever upon them for good, his ear ever open to the words of their complaint; that in the time of trouble he will hide them in his pavilion, in the secret of his tabernacle will he hide them; and that he will finally translate them to his presence, where there is fulness of joy, and where there is pleasure for evermore. In the fruition of these promises and hopes, they break forth in the ejaculations of praise-" O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee; my soul thirsteth for thee: my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."

To those who attempt to connect the love of God and the friendship of the world, let mc urge,

Lastly, The criminal insensibility and ingratitude which this conduct evinces.

God, my brethren, is deserving of our supreme and ardent love. We behold his goodness, in his creating us with powers capable of high attainments, and destined for immortal enjoyments. We trace his kind providence in every event of lifewhen we have been rescued from danger, when we have been raised from the bed of sickness, when the consolations of his favour have cheered the night of adversity. We discern his gracious hand in every enjoyment of social and domestic lifein every comfort and every blessing which enlivens our lot. Above all, we acknowledge his inestimable love, in the gift of his beloved Son for our salvation, in those means of grace by which our corrupt

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »