Imatges de pÓgina
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By no means. On the contrary it has been the observation of all ages, that the men who possessed the greatest learning, were the most dissatisfied of all men. This occasioned a person of eminent learning to declare, "A fool may find a kind of paradise upon earth, [although this is a grand mistake,] but a wise man can find none.' These are the most discontented, the most impatient of men. Indeed, learning naturally effects this: "knowledge," as the apostle observes, "puffeth up." But where pride is, happiness is not: they are utterly inconsistent with each other. So much ground there is for that melancholy reflection, wherever true religion is not:

"Avails it then, oh reason, to be wise?

To see this mournful sight with quicker eyes?
To know with more distinction to complain,

And have superior sense in feeling pain?"

III. 1. It remains to consider, in the third place, our Lord's important question: "If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" The plain meaning is, if that principle which ought to give light to thy whole soul, as the eye does to the body; to direct thy understanding, passions, affections, tempers, all thy thoughts, words, and actions; if this principle itself be darkened,-be set wrong, and put darkness for light;-how great must that darkness be! how terrible its effects!

2. In order to see this in a stronger point of view, let us consider it in a few particular instances. Begin with one of no small importance. Here is a father choosing an employment for his son. If his eye be not single; if he do not singly aim at the glory of God in the salvation of his soul; if it be not his one consideration, what calling is likely to secure him the highest place in heaven; not the largest share of earthly treasure, or the highest preferment in the church;-the light which is in him is manifestly darkness. And oh how great is that darkness! The mistake which he is in, is not a little one, but inexpressibly great. What! do not you prefer his being a cobbler on earth, and a glorious saint in heaven, before his being a lord on earth, and a damned spirit in hell? If not, how great, unutterably great, is the darkness that covers your soul! What a fool, what a dolt, what a madman is he, how stupid beyond all expression, who judges a palace upon earth to be preferable to a throne in heaven! How unspeakably is his understanding darkened, who, to gain for his child the honour that cometh of men, will entail upon him everlasting shame in the company of the devil and his angels!

3. I cannot dismiss this subject yet, as it is of the utmost importance. How great is the darkness of that execrable wretch, (I can give him no better title, be he rich or poor,) who will sell his own child to the devil; who will barter her own eternal happiness for any quantity of gold or silver! What a monster would any man be accounted, who devoured the flesh of his own offspring! And is not he as great a monster, who, by his own act and deed, gives her to be devoured by that roaring lion? As he certainly does, (so far as is in his power,) who marries her to an ungodly man. "But he is rich; but he has ten thousand pounds!" What if it were a hundred thousand? The more the worse; the less probability will she have of escaping the damnation of hell. With what face wilt thou look upon her, when she tells thee in VOL. II.


the realms below, "Thou hast plunged me into this place of torment. Hadst thou given me to a good man, however poor, I might have now been in Abraham's bosom. But, oh! what have riches profited me! They have sunk both me and thee into hell!"

4. Are any of you that are called Methodists, thus merciful to your children? Seeking to marry them well; (as the cant phrase is ;) that is, to sell them to some purchaser that has much money, but little or no religion? Is then the light that is in you also darkness? Are ye, too, regarding God less than mammon? Are ye also without understanding? Have ye profited no more by all ye have heard? Man, woman, think what ye are about! Dare you also sell your child to the devil? You undoubtedly do this, (as far as in you lies,) when you marry a son or a daughter, to a child of the devil; though it be one that wallows in gold and silver. Oh take warning in time! Beware of the gilded bait! Death and hell are hid beneath. Prefer grace before gold and precious stones; glory in heaven, to riches on earth! If you do not, you are worse than the very Canaanites. They only made their children pass "through the fire" to Moloch. You make yours pass into the fire that shall never be quenched, and to stay in it for ever! Oh how great is the darkness that causes you, after you have done this, to wipe your mouth and say, you have done no evil!"

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5. Let us consider another case, not far distant from this. Suppose a young man, having finished his studies at the university, is desirous to minister in holy things, and accordingly enters into orders. What is his intention in this? What is the end he proposes to himself? If his eye be single, his one design is to save his own soul, and them that hear him; to bring as many sinners as he possibly can out of darkness into marvellous light. If, on the other hand, his eye be not single, if he aim at ease, honour, money, or preferment; the world may account him a wise man, but God says unto him "Thou fool!" And while the light that is in him is thus darkness, "how great is that darkness!" What folly is comparable to his folly! One peculiarly dedicated to the God of heaven, to "mind earthly things!" A worldly clergyman is a fool, above all fools; a madman, above all madmen! Such vile, infamous wretches as these, are the real "ground of the contempt of the clergy." Indolent clergymen, pleasure taking clergymen, money loving clergymen, praise loving clergymen, preferment seeking clergymen; these are the wretches that cause the order in general to be contemned. These are the pests of the Christian world; the grand nuisance of mankind; a stink in the nostrils of God! Such as these were they, who made St. Chrysostom to say, "Hell is paved with the souls of Christian priests."

6. Take another case. Suppose a young woman of an independent fortune, to be addressed at the same time by a man of wealth, without religion, and a man of religion, without wealth; in other words, by a rich child of the devil, and a poor child of God. What shall we say, if, other circumstances being equal, she prefer the rich man to the good man? It is plain, her eye is not single; therefore her foolish heart is darkened and how great is that darkness, which makes her judge gold and silver a greater recommendation than holiness! Which makes a child of the devil, with money, appear more amiable to her than a child of God without it! What words can sufficiently express the inexcusable

folly of such a choice! What a laughing stock (unless she severely repent) will she be to all the devils in hell, when her wealthy companion has dragged her down to his own place of torment!

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7. Are there any of you, that are present before God, who are 'concerned in any of these matters? Give me leave, with "great plainness of speech," to apply to your consciences "in the sight of God.' You, whom God hath entrusted with sons or daughters, is your eye single in choosing partners for them? What qualifications do you seek in your sons and daughters in law? Religion or riches? Which is your first consideration? Are you not of the old heathen's mind,

Quærenda pecunia primum,

Virtus post nummos?

"Seek money first let virtue then be sought."

Bring the matter to a point. Which will you prefer? A rich heathen, or a pious Christian? A child of the devil, with an estate; or the child of God, without it? A lord or gentleman, with the devil in his heart. the does not hide it: his speech bewrayeth him ;) or a tradesman, who, you have reason to believe, has Christ dwelling in his heart? Oh how great is that darkness which makes you prefer a child of the devil to a child of God! Which causes you to prefer the poor trash of worldly wealth, which flies as a shadow, to the riches of eternal glory!

8. I call upon you more especially who are called Methodists. In the sight of the great God, upwards of fifty years I have administered unto you, I have been your servant for Christ's sake. During this time I have given you many solemn warnings on this head. I now give you one more, perhaps the last. Dare any of you, in choosing your calling or situation, eye the things on earth, rather than the things above? In choosing a profession, or a companion for life, for your child, do you look at earth or heaven? And can you deliberately prefer, either for yourself or your offspring, a child of the devil with money, to a child of God without it? Why the very heathens cry out;

O curvæ in terras animæ, et celestium inanes!

Oh souls bowed down to earth, strangers to heaven. Repent, repent of your vile earthly mindedness! Renounce the title of Christians, or prefer, both in your own case, and the case of your children, grace to money, and heaven to earth! For the time to come, at least, let " your eye be single," that your "whole body may be full of light!" Bristol, Sept. 25, 1789.

SERMON CXXIII.-On Worldly Folly.

"But God said unto him, Thou fool!" Luke xii, 20.


BUT one of these fools is commonly wiser in his own eyes seven men that can render a reason." If it were possible for a Christian, for one that has the mind which was in Christ, to despise any one, he would cordially despise those, who suppose "they are the men, and wisdom shall die with them." You may see one of these, painted to the life, in the verses preceding the text The ground of a certain rich

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man," says our blessed Lord, "brought forth plenteously," verse 16, &c. "And he reasoned within himself, saying, What shall I do? for I have no room where to bestow my fruits. And he said, This will I do, I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thy ease; eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool!" I propose by the assistance of God,

I. To open and explain these few words; and,

II. To apply them to your consciences.

I. 1. To open and explain them. A little before, our Lord had been giving a solemn caution to one who spoke to him about dividing his inheritance. "Beware of covetousness: for the life of a man,” that is, the happiness of it, "does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesseth.' To prove and illustrate this weighty truth, our Lord relates this remarkable story. It is not improbable, it was one that had lately occurred, and that was fresh in the memory of some that were present. "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plenteously." The riches of the ancients consisted chiefly in the fruits of the earth. "And he said within himself, What shall I do?" The very language of want and distress! The voice of one that is afflicted, and groaning under his burden. What shalt thou do? Why, are not those at the door, whom God hath appointed to receive what thou canst spare ? What shalt thou do? Why, disperse abroad, and give to the poor. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Be a father to the fatherless, and a husband to the widow. Freely thou hast received; freely give. no! He is wiser than this comes to: he knows better than so.


2. "And he said, This will I do;"-without asking God's leave, or thinking about him any more than if there were no God in heaven or on earth;-"I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my goods and all my fruits." My fruits! They are as much thine as the clouds that fly over thy head! As much as the winds that blow around thee; which, doubtless, thou canst hold in thy fists! "And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years!" " Soul, thou hast much goods!" Are then corn, and wine, and oil, the goods of an immortal spirit? "Laid up for many years!" Who told thee so? Believe him not; he was a liar from the beginning. He could not prolong thy life if he would. (God alone is the giver of life and death.) And he would not, if he could; but would immediately drag thee to his own sad abode. Soul, take thy ease; eat, drink, and be merry!" How replete with folly and madness is every part of this wonderful soliloquy! "Eat and drink!" Will thy spirit then eat and drink? Yea, but not of earthly food. Thou wilt soon eat livid flame; and drink of the lake of fire burning with brimstone. But wilt thou then drink and be merry? Nay, there will be no mirth in those horrid shades. Those caverns will resound with no music, but "weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth!"

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3. But while he was applauding his own wisdom, "God said unto him, Thou fool! this night shall thy soul be required of thee. And then whose shall those things be, which thou hast prepared?"

4. Let us consider his words a little more attentively. He said within himself, "What shall I do?" And is not the answer ready t

Do good. Do all the good thou canst. Let thy plenty supply thy neighbour's wants; and thou wilt never want something to do. Canst thou find none that need the necessaries of life? That are pinched with cold or hunger? None that have not raiment to put on? or a place where to lay their heads? None that are wasted with pining sickness? None that are languishing in prison? If you duly considered our Lord's words, "The poor have you always with you;" you would no more ask, "What shall I do?"

5. How different was the purpose of this poor madman? "I will pull down ny barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my goods." You may just as well bury them in the earth, or cast them into the sea. This will just as well answer the end, for which God

entrusted thee with them.

6. But let us examine a little farther the remaining part of his resolution. "I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thy ease, eat, drink, and be merry. "What, are these the goods of a never dying spirit? As well may thy body feed on the fleeting breeze, as thy soul on earthly fruits. Excellent counsel then to such a spirit, to eat and drink! to a spirit made equal to angels, made an incorruptible picture of the God of glory, to feed not on corruptible things, but on the fruit of the tree of life, which grows in the midst of the paradise of God.

7. It is no marvel then, that God should say unto him, "Thou fool!" For this terrible reason, were there no other: "This night shall thy soul be required of thee !"

"And art thou born to die,

To lay this body down'

And must thy trembling spirit fly

Into a land unknown?

A land of deepest shade,

Unpierced by human thought;
The dreary regions of the dead,
Where all things are forgot?"

"And whose then shall all the things be which thou hast provided?" II. 1. The second thing which I proposed was, to apply these con siderations; which, it is certain, are some of the most important that can enter into the heart of man. In one sense, indeed, they have been applied already; for, what has been said, has been all application. But I wish every one who reads or hears these words, directly to apply them to his own soul.

2. Does it not concern every one that hears,-"The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully," to inquire, Was this ever the case with me? Have I now, or have I ever heretofore, had more worldly goods given than I wanted? And what were my thoughts upon the occasion? Did I say in my heart, What shall I do? Was I distressed by my abundance? Did I think, "I have much goods laid up for many years?" Many years! Alas! what is thy life, if protracted to its utmost span? Is it not a vapour, that just appeareth, and vanisheth away? Say not then, I will pull down my barns; but say to God, in the secret of thy heart, "Lord, save, or I perish." See, my riches increase; let me not set my heart upon them! Thou seest I stand upon slippery ground; do thou undertake for me!

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