« AnteriorContinua »
zeal as this in the bottomless pit. Thence all zeal of this kind comes. And thither it will go, and you with it, unless you are saved from it, before you go hence!
4. Fourthly: If patience, contentedness, and resignation, are the properties of zeal, then murmuring, fretfulness, discontent, impatience, are wholly inconsistent with it. And yet how ignorant are mankind of this! How often do we see men fretting at the ungodly, or telling you, they are out of patience with such or such things, and terming all this their zeal! Oh spare no pains to undeceive them! If it be possible, show them what zeal is: and convince them that all murmuring, or fretting at sin, is a species of sin, and has no resemblance of, or connection with, the true zeal of the gospel.
5. Fifthly: If the object of zeal be that which is good, then fervour for any evil thing is not Christian zeal. I instance in idolatry, worshipping of angels, saints, images, the cross. Although, therefore, a man were so earnestly attached to any kind of idolatrous worship, that he would even "give his body to be burned," rather than refrain from it, call this bigotry or superstition, if you please, but call it not zeal; that is quite another thing.
From the same premises it follows, that fervour for indifferent things, is not Christian zeal. But how exceedingly common is this mistake too! Indeed one would think, that men of understanding could not be capable of such weakness. But alas! the history of all ages proves the contrary. Who were men of stronger understandings than bishop Ridley and bishop Hooper? And how warmly did these, and other great men of that age, dispute about the sacerdotal vestments! How eager was the contention for almost a hundred years, for and against wearing a surplice! Oh shame to man! I would as soon have disputed about a straw, or a barley corn! And this, indeed, shall be called zeal! And why was it not rather called wisdom, or holiness?
6. It follows also, from the sanie premises, that fervour for opinions is not Christian zeal. But how few are sensible of this! And how innumerable are the mischiefs, which even this species of false zeal has occasioned in the Christian world! How many thousand lives have been cast away by those who were zealous for the Romish opinions! How many of the excellent ones of the earth have been cut off by zealots, for the senseless opinion of transubstantiation! But does not every unprejudiced person see, that this zeal is "earthly, sensual, devilish?" And that it stands at the utmost contrariety to that zeal, which is here recommended by the apostle?
What an excess of charity is it then which our great poet expresses, in his poem on the Last Day; where he talks of meeting in heaven, "Those who by mutual wounds expired, By zeal for their distinct persuasions fired."
Zeal indeed! What manner of zeal was this, which led them to cut one another's throats? Those who were fired with this spirit, and died therein, will undoubtedly, have their portion not in heaven, (only love is there,) but in the "fire that never shall be quenched."
7. Lastly: If true zeal be always proportioned to the degree of goodness which is in its object, then should it rise higher and higher according to the scale mentioned above; according to the comparative value of the several parts of religion. For instance, all that truly fear
God should be zealous for the church; both for the catholic or universal church, and for that part of it whereof they are members. This is not the appointment of men but of God. He 66 it saw, was not good for man to be alone," even in this sense, but that the whole body of his children should be "knit together, and strengthened, by that which every joint supplieth." At the same time they should be more zealous for the ordinances of God; for public and private prayer, for hearing and reading the word of God, and for fasting, and the Lord's supper. But they should be more zealous for works of mercy, than even for works of piety. Yet ought they to be more zealous still, for all holy tempers, lowliness, meekhess, resignation: but most zealous of all, for that which is the sum and the perfection of religion, the love of God and man.
8. It remains only to make a close and honest application of these things to our own souls. We all know the general truth, that "it is good to be always zealously affected in a good thing." Let us now, every one of us, apply it to his own soul in particular.
9. Those indeed who are still dead in trespasses and sins, have neither part nor lot in this matter: nor those that live in any open sin, such as drunkenness, sabbath breaking, or profane swearing. These have nothing to do with zeal: they have no business at all even to take the word in their mouth. It is utter folly and impertinence for any to talk of zeal for God, while he is doing the works of the devil. But if you have renounced the devil and all his works, and have settled it in your heart, I will "worship the Lord my God, and him only will I serve," then beware of being neither cold nor hot: then be zealous for God. You may begin at the lowest step. Be zealous for the church; more especially, for that particular branch thereof, wherein your lot is cast. Study the welfare of this, and carefully observe all the rules of it, for conscience' sake. But, in the mean time, take heed that you do not neglect any of the ordinances of God; for the sake of which, in a great measure, the church itself was constituted: so that it would be highly absurd, to talk of zeal for the church, if you were not more zealous for them. But are you more zealous for works of mercy, than even for works of piety? Do you follow the example of your Lord, and prefer mercy even before sacrifice? Do you use all diligence in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting them that are sick and in prison? And, above all, do you use every means in your power to save souls from death? If, as you have time, "you do good into all men,' though "especially to them that are of the household of faith," your zeal for the church is pleasing to God: but if not, if you are not "careful to maintain good works," what have you to do with the church? If you have not "compassion on your fellow servants," neither will your Lord have pity on you. "Bring no more vain oblations." service is "an abomination to the Lord."
10. Are you better instructed than to put asunder what God has joined? Than to separate works of piety from works of mercy? Are you uniformly zealous of both? So far you walk acceptably to God. that is, if you continually bear in mind, that God "searcheth the heart and reins;" that "he is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth;" that consequently no outward works are acceptable to him, unless they spring from holy tempers, without which no man can have a place in the kingdom or Christ and God.
11. But of all holy tempers, and above all others, see that you be most zealous for love. Count all things loss in comparison of this, the love of God and all mankind. It is most sure, that if you give all your goods to feed the poor, yea, and your body to be burned, and have not humble, gentle, patient love, it profiteth you nothing. Oh let this be deep engraven upon your heart: all is nothing without love!
12. Take then, the whole of religion together, just as God has revealcd it in his word, and be uniformly zealous for every part of it, according to its degree of excellence, grounding all your zeal on the one foundation, "Jesus Christ and him crucified:" holding fast this one principle, "The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved ME, and gave himself for ME." Proportion your zeal to the value of its object. Be calmly zealous, therefore, first, for the church; "the whole state of Christ's church militant here on earth;" and in particular for that branch thereof, with which you are more immediately connected. Be more zealous for all those ordinances which our blessed Lord hath appointed, to continue therein to the end of the world. Be more zealous for those works of mercy, those "sacrifices wherewith God is well pleased," those marks whereby the Shepherd of Israel will know his sheep at the last day. Be more zealous still for holy tempers, for long suffering, gentleness, meekness, lowliness, and resignation: but be most zealous of all for love, the queen of all graces, the highest perfection in earth or heaven, the very image of the invisible God, as in men below, so in angels above. For "God is love: and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."
SERMON XCVIII.-On Redeeming the Time.
"Redeeming the time," Ephes. v, 16
1. "SEE that ye walk circumspectly," says the apostle in the preceding verse, "not as fools, but as wise men, redeeming the time;" saving all the time you can for the best purposes: buying up every fleeting moment out of the hands of sin and Satan, out of the hands of sloth, ease, pleasure, worldly business;. the more diligently, because the present" are evil days," days of the grossest ignorance, immorality, and profaneness.
2. This seems to be the general meaning of the words. But I purpose, at present, to consider only one particular way of "redeeming the time," namely, from sleep.
3. This appears to have been exceeding little considered even by pious men. Many that have been eminently conscientious in other respects, have not been so in this. They seemed to think it an indifferent thing, whether they slept more or less, and never saw it in the true point of view, as an important branch of Christian temperance.
That we may have a more just conception hereof, I will endeavour to show,
I. What it is to redeem the time from sleep.
I. 1. And, first, What is it to redeem the time from sleep? It is, in general, to take that measure of sleep every night which nature requires, and no more: that measure which is most conducive to the health and vigour both of the body and mind.
2. But it is objected, one measure will not suit all men: some require considerably more than others. Neither will the same measure suffice even the same persons, at one time as at another. When a person is sick, or if not actually so, yet weakened by preceding sickness, he certainly wants more of this natural restorative, than he did when in perfect health. And so he will, when his strength and spirits are exhausted by hard or long continued labour."
3. All this is unquestionably true, and confirmed by a thousand experiments. Whoever, therefore, they are that have attempted to fix one measure of sleep for all persons, did not understand the nature of the human body, so widely different in different persons: as neither did they, who imagined that the same measure would suit even the same person at all times. One would wonder, therefore, that so great a man as bishop Taylor, should have formed this strange imagination: much more that the measure which he has assigned for the general standard, should be only three hours in four and twenty. That good and sensible man, Mr. Baxter, was not much nearer the truth: who supposes four hours in four and twenty will suffice for any man. I know an extremely sensible man, who was absolutely persuaded, that no one living needed to sleep above five hours in twenty-four. But when he made the experiment himself, he quickly relinquished the opinion. And I am fully convinced, by an observation continued for more than fifty years, that whatever may be done by extraordinary persons, or in some extraordinary cases, (wher in persons have subsisted with very little sleep for some weeks, or even months,) a human body can scarce continue in health and vigour, without, at least, six hours sleep in four and twenty. Sure I anı, I never met with such an instance: I never found either man or woman that retained vigorous health for one year, with a less quantity of sleep than this.
4. And I have long observed, that women, in general, want a little more sleep than men: perhaps, because they are in common, of a weaker, as well as a moister habit of body. If, therefore, one might venture to name one standard, (though liable to many exceptions and occasional alterations,) I am inclined to think, this would come near to the mark healthy men, in general, need a little above six hours' sleep: healthy women, a little above seven in four and twenty. I myself want six hours and a half, and I cannot well subsist with less.
5. If any one desire to know exactly what quantity of sleep his own constitution requires, he may very easily make the experiment which I made about sixty years ago: I then waked every night about twelve or one, and lay awake for some time. I readily concluded, that this arose from my lying longer in bed than nature required. To be satisfied, I procured an alarum, which waked me the next morning at seven : (near an hour earlier than I rose the day before :) yet I lay awake again at night. The second morning I rose at six: but notwithstanding this, I lay awake the second night. The third morning, I rose at five: but nevertheless I lay awake the third night. The fourth morning I rose at four (as, by the grace of God, I have done ever since :) and I lay
awake no more. And I do not now lie awake (taking the year round) a quarter of an hour together in a month. By the same experiment, rising earlier and earlier every morning, may any one find, how much sleep he really wants.
II. 1. "But why should any one be at so much pains? What need is there of being so scrupulous? Why should we make ourselves so particular? What harm is there in doing as our neighbours do? Suppose in lying from ten till six or seven in summer, and till eight or nine in winter?"
2. If you would consider this question fairly, you will need a good deal of candour and impartiality; as what I am about to say will probably be quite new; different from any thing you ever heard in your life; different from the judgment, at least, from the example of your parents and your nearest relations: nay, and perhaps of the most reli gious persons you ever were acquainted with. Lift up, therefore, your heart to the Spirit of Truth, and beg of him to shine upon it, that without respecting any man's person, you may see and follow the truth as it is in Jesus.
3. Do you really desire to know, what harm there is, in not redeeming all the time you can from sleep? Suppose in spending therein an hour a day more than nature requires? Why, first, it hurts your substance; it is throwing away six hours a week, which might turn to some temporal account. If you can do any work, you might earn something in that time, were it ever so small. And you have no need to throw even this away. If you do not want it yourself, give it to them that do: you know some of them that are not far off. If you are of no trade, still you may so employ the time, that it will bring money, or money's worth, to yourself, or others.
4. The not redeeming all the time you can from sleep, the spending more time therein than your constitution necessarily requires, in the second place, hurts your health. Nothing can be more certain than this, though it is not commonly observed, because the evil steals on you by slow and insensible degrees. In this gradual and almost imperceptible manner, it lays the foundation of many diseases. It is the chief, real (though unsuspected) cause of all nervous diseases in particular. Many inquiries have been made, why nervous disorders are so much more common among us, than among our ancestors? Other causes may frequently concur; but the chief is, we lie longer in bed. Instead of rising at four, most of us, who are not obliged to work for our bread, lie till seven, eight, or nine. We need inquire no farther. This sufficiently accounts for the large increase of these painful disorders.
5. It may be observed that most of these arise, not barely from sleeping too long, but even from what we imagine to be quite harmless, the lying too long in bed. By soaking (as it is emphatically called) so long between warm sheets, the flesh is, as it were, parboiled, and be comes soft and flabby. The nerves, in the mean time, are quite unstrung, and all the train of melancholy symptoms, faintness, tremours, lowness of spirits, (so called,) come on, till life itself is a burden.
6. One common effect of either sleeping too long, or lying too long in bed, is weakness of sight, particularly that weakness which is of the nervous kind. When I was young, my sight was remarkably weak. Why is it stronger now than it was forty years ago? I impute this prin.