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cipally to the blessing of God, who fits us for whatever he calls us to. But undoubtedly the outward means which he has been pleased to bless, was the rising early in the morning.
7. A still greater objection to the not rising early, the not redeeming all the time we can from sleep, is, it hurts the soul, as well as the body it is a sin against God. And this indeed it must necessarily be, on both the preceding accounts. For we cannot waste, or (which comes to the same thing) not improve, any part of our worldly substance, neither can we impair our own health, without sinning against him.
8. But this fashionable intemperance does also hurt the soul in a more direct manner. It sows the seeds of foolish and hurtful desires; it dangerously inflames our natural appetites; which a person stretching and yawning in bed, is just prepared to gratify. It breeds and continually increases sloth, so often objected to the English nation. It opens the way, and prepares the soul for every other kind of intemperance. It breeds a universal softness and faintness of spirit, making us afraid of every little inconvenience, unwilling to deny ourselves any pleasure, or to take up or bear any cross. And how then shall we be able (without which we must drop into hell) to "take the kingdom of heaven by violence?" It totally unfits us for "enduring hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ;" and consequently for " fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life."
9. In how beautiful a manner does that great man, Mr. Law, treat this important subject!* Part of his words I cannot but here subjoin, for the use of every sensible reader.
"I take it for granted, that every Christian who is in health is up early in the morning. For it is much more reasonable to suppose a person is up early, because he is a Christian, than because he is a labourer, or a tradesman, or a servant.
"We conceive an abhorrence of a man that is in bed, when he should be at his labour. We cannot think good of him, who is such a slave to drowsiness to neglect his business for it.
"Let this, therefore, teach us to conceive, how odious we must appear to God, if we are in bed, shut up in sleep, when we should be praising God; and are such slaves to drowsiness, as to neglect our devotions for it. Sleep is such a dull, stupid state of existence, that even among mere animals, we despice them most which are most drowsy. He, therefore, that chooses to enlarge the slothful indolence of sleep, rather than be early at his devotions; chooses the dullest refreshments of the body, before the noblest enjoyments of the soul. He chooses that state which is a reproach to mere animals, before that exercise which is the glory of angels."
10. Besides, he that cannot deny himself this drowsy indulgence, is no more prepared for prayer when he is up, than he is prepared for fasting or any other act of self denial. He may indeed more easily read over a form of prayer, than he can perform these duties: but he is no more disposed for the spirit of prayer, than he is disposed for fasting. For sleep thus indulged gives a softness to all our tempers, and makes us unable to relish any thing but what suits an idle state of mind, as sleep does. So that a person, who is a slave to this idleness, is in the same temper when he is up. Every thing that is idle or sensual ̧ * Viz. redeeming time from sleep.
pleases him. And every thing that requires trouble or self denial, is hateful to him, for the same reason that he hates to rise.
11. It is not possible for an epicure to be truly devout. He must renounce his sensuality, before he can relish the happiness of devotion. Now he that turns sleep into an idle indulgence, does as much to corrupt his soul, to make it a slave to bodily appetites, as an epicure does. It does not disorder his health, as notorious acts of intemperance do; but like any more moderate course of indulgence, it silently, and by smaller degrees, wears away the spirit of religion, and sinks the soul into dulness and sensuality.
Self denial of all kinds is the very life and soul of piety. But he that has not so much of it as to be able to be early at his prayers, cannot think that he has taken up his cross, and is following Christ.
What conquest has he got over himself? What right hand has he cut off? What trials is he prepared for? What sacrifice is he ready to offer to God, who cannot be so cruel to himself as to rise to prayer at such a time, as the drudging part of the world are content to rise to their labour?
12. Some people will not scruple to tell you, that they indulge themselves in sleep, because they have nothing to do: and that if they had any business to rise to, they would not lose so much of their time in sleep. But they must be told that they mistake the matter: that they have a great deal of business to do: they have a hardened heart to change; they have the whole spirit of religion to get. For surely he that thinks he has nothing to do, because nothing but his prayers want him, may justly be said to have the whole spirit of religion to seek.
You must not, therefore, consider how small a fault it is to rise late; but how great a misery it is to want the spirit of religion: and to live in such softness and idleness a make you incapable of the fundamental duties of Christianity.
If I was to desire you not to study the gratification of your palate, I would not insist upon the sin of wasting your money, though it is a great one; but I would desire you to renounce such a way of life, because it supports you in such a state of sensuality, as renders you incapable of relishing the most essential doctrines of religion.
For the same reason, I do not insist much upon the sin of wasting your time in sleep, though it be a great one; but I desire you to renounce this indulgence, because it gives a softness and idleness to your soul, and is so contrary to that lively, zealous, watchful, self denying spirit, which was not only the spirit of Christ and his apostles, and the spirit of all the saints and martyrs that have ever been among men, but must be the spirit of all those who would not sink in the common corruption of the world.
13. Here, therefore, we must fix our charge against this practice. We must blame it, not as having this or that particular evil, but as a general habit that extends itself through our whole spirit, and supports a state of mind that is wholly wrong.
It is contrary to piety; not as accidental slips or mistakes in life are contrary to it; but in such a manner as an ill state of body is contrary to health.
"On the other hand, if you was to rise early every morning, as an instance of self denial, as a method of renouncing indulgence, as a means of redeeming your time and fitting your spirit for prayer, you would soon
find the advantage. This method, though it seems but a small circumstance, might be a means of great piety. It would constantly keep it in your mind, that softness and idleness are the bane of religion. It would teach you to exercise power over yourself, and to renounce other pleasures and tempers that war against the soul. And what is so planted and watered, will certainly have an increase from God."
III. 1. It now only remains to inquire, in the third place, How we may redeem the time? How we may proceed in this important affair? In what manner shall we most effectually practise this important branch of temperance?
I advise all of you who are thoroughly convinced of the unspeakable importance of it, suffer not that conviction to die away, but instantly begin to act suitably to it. Only do not depend on your own strength: if you do, you will be utterly baffled. Be deeply sensible, that as you are not able to do any thing good of yourselves, so here in particular, all your strength, all your resolution, will avail nothing. Whoever trusts in himself will be confounded. I never found an exception. I never knew one who trusted in his own strength that could keep this resolution for a twelve month.
2. I advise you, secondly, cry to the strong for strength. Call upon him that hath all power in heaven and earth: and believe that he will answer the prayer that goeth not out of feigned lips. As you cannot have too little confidence in yourself, so you cannot have too much in him. Then set out in faith: and surely his strength shall be made perfect in your weakness.
3. I advise you, thirdly, Add to your faith, prudence: use the most rational means to attain your purpose. Particularly begin at the right end, otherwise you will lose your labour. If you desire to rise early, sleep early secure this point at all events. In spite of the most dear and agreeable companions, in spite of their most earnest solicitations, in spite of entreaties, railleries, or reproaches, rigorously keep your hour. Rise up precisely at your time, and retire without ceremony. Keep your hour, notwithstanding the most pressing business: lay all things by till the morning. Be it ever so great a cross, ever so great self denial, keep your hour, or all is over.
4. I advise you, fourthly, Be steady. Keep your hour of rising, without intermission. Do not rise two mornings, and lie in bed the third; but what you do once, do always. "But my head aches." Do not regard that. It will soon be over. "But I am uncommonly drowsy; my eyes are quite heavy." Then you must not parley; otherwise it is a lost case; but start up at once. And if your drowsiness does not go off, lie down for awhile, an hour or two after. But let nothing make a breach upon this rule, rise and dress yourself at your hour.
5. Perhaps you will say, "The advice is good; but it comes too late: I have made a breach already. I did rise constantly for a season, nothing hindered me. But I gave way by little and little, and I have now left it off for a considerable time!" Then, in the name of God begin again! Begin to morrow; or rather to night, by going to bed early, in spite of either company or business. Begin with more self diffidence than before, but with more confidence in God. Only follow these few rules, and my soul for yours, God will give you the victory. In a little time the difficulty will be over: but the benefit will last for ever.
6. If you say," but I cannot do now as I did then; for I am not what I was. I have many disorders, my spirits are low, my hands shake: I am all relaxed." I answer: All these are nervous symptoms; and they all partly arise from your taking too much sleep: nor is it probable they will ever be removed, unless you remove the cause. Therefore, on this very account, (not only punish yourself for your folly and unfaithfulness, but,) in order to recover your health and strength, resume your early rising. You have no other way: you have nothing else to do. You have no other possible means of recovering, in any tolerable degree, your health both of body and mind. Do not murder yourself outright. Do not run on in the path that leads to the gates of death! As I said before, so I say again, in the name of God, this very day, set out anew. True, it will be more difficult than it was at the beginning. But bear the difficulty which you have brought upon yourself, and it will not last long. The Sun of righteousness will soon arise again, and will heal both your soul and your body.
7. But do not imagine that this single point, rising early, will suffice to make you a Christian. No: although that single point, the not rising, may keep you a heathen, void of the whole Christian spirit; although this alone, (especially if you had once conquered it,) will keep you cold, formal, heartless, dead; and make it impossible for you to get one step forward in vital holiness; yet this alone will go but a little way to make you a real Christian. It is but one step out of many; but it is one. And having taken this, go forward. Go on to universal self denial, to temperance in all things; to a firm resolution of taking up daily every cross whereto you are called. Go on, in a full pursuit of all the mind that was in Christ, of inward and then outward holiness: so shall you be not almost, but altogether a Christian: so shall you finish your course with joy you shall awake up after his likeness, and be satisfied.
SERMON XCIX.-On Family Religion.
"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," Josn. xxiv, 15.
1. In the foregoing verses we read, that Joshua, now grown old, 166 gathered the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, for their heads, for their judges and officers, and they presented themselves before the Lord," verse 1. And Joshua rehearsed to them the great things which God had done for their fathers, verses 2-13; concluding with that strong exhortation; "Now, therefore, fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side the flood, (Jordan,) and in Egypt," verse 14. Can any thing be more astonishing than this! That even in Egypt, yea, and in the wilderness, where they were daily fed, and both day and night guided by miracle, the Israelites, in general, should worship idols, in flat defiance of the Lord their God! He proceeds: "If it seemeth evil to you to serve the Lord, choose ye this day whom ye will serve: whether the gods your fathers served on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord"
2. A resolution this worthy of a hoary headed saint, who had had large experience, from his youth up, of the goodness of the Master to whom he had devoted himself, and the advantages of his service. How much is it to be wished that all who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, all whom he has brought out of the land of Egypt, out of the bondage of sin,-those especially who are united together in Christian fellowship, would adopt this wise resolution! Then would the work of the Lord prosper in our land; then would his word run and be glorified. Then would multitudes of sinners in every place stretch out their hands unto Ged, until "the glory of the Lord covered the land, as the waters cover the sea."
3. On the contrary, what will the consequence be, if they do not adopt this resolution?-If family religion be neglected ?—If care be not taken of the rising generation? Will not the present revival of religion in a short time die away? Will it not be as the historian speaks of the Roman state in its infancy, Res unius ætatis? An event that has its beginning and end, within the space of one generation? Will it not be a confirmation of that melancholy remark of Luther's, That "a revival of religion never lasts longer than one generation?" By a generation, (as he explains himself,) he means thirty years. But blessed be God this remark does not hold, with regard to the present instance seeing this revival from its rise in the year 1729, has already lasted above fifty years.
4. Have we not already seen some of the unhappy consequences of good men's not adopting this resolution? Is there not a generation arisen, even within this period, yea, and from pious parents, that know not the Lord? That have neither his love in their hearts, nor his fear before their eyes? How many of them already "despise their fathers, and mock at the counsel of their mothers!" How many are utter strangers to real religion, to the life and power of it! And not a few have shaken off all religion, and abandoned themselves to all manner of wickedness! Now, although this may sometimes be the case, even of children educated in a pious manner, yet this case is very rare: I
ave met with some, but not many instances of it. The wickedness of the children is generally owing to the fault or neglect of their parents. For it is a general, though not universal rule, though it admits of some exceptions, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
5. But what is the purport of this resolution, "I and my house will serve the Lord ?" In order to understand and practise this, let us, first, inquire, What it is to " serve the Lord ?" Secondly, Who are included in that expression, "My house?" And thirdly, What can we do, that we and our house may serve the Lord?
I. 1. We may inanire, first, What it is to "serve the Lord," not as a Jew, but as a Christian? Not only with an outward service, (though some of the Jews undoubtedly went farther than this,) but with inward; with the service of the heart," worshipping him in spirit and in truth.’ The first thing implied in this service is faith; believing in the name of the Son of God. We cannot perform an acceptable service to God, till we believe on Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. Here the spiritual worship of God begins. As soon as any one has the witness in himself, as soon as he can say, "The life that I now live, I live by faith in