« PoprzedniaDalej »
God. So they argued, that the time spent in divine worship was just so much time lost to themselves and their affairs. But God shewed them the folly of this reasoning: he led them into captivity, where they had no church, but sighed and lamented for the want of one, saying, how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? Their sabbaths and festivals had been neglected on motives of worldly profit: therefore so much time as they had stolen from God, so much and more did he cut off in judgment from the enjoyment of liberty and property in their own land : and I make no doubt but this is the reason why many are not blessed in their property, and find unexpected miscarriages in their affairs; which might have been prevented, had they but lifted up their eyes unto the hills, and considered themselves rather as the servants of God, than the masters of their own time.
I hope you will consider these things, that the house of God is an house of prayer—that you may
you may lose your time by saving it—and that for a little time well spent you may purchase the blessing of God here, and the riches of eiernity hereafter, thro' Jesus Christ our Lord.
THEN SAID JESUS UNTO HIS DISCIPLES; IF ANY
MAN WILL COME AFTER ME, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOW ME. MATTH. xvi. 24.
OUR blessed Saviour, in these words, hath proposed himself to us, as the Captain of our Salvation, made perfect through sufferings. And he, that wishes to come after him, must consider himself as the follower of a self-denying, suffering Saviour; a disciple, whose profession is signified by the sign of the Cross; to which his whole character must be conformed, till the cross shall be exchanged for the crown.
But here you are to observe, that there is no necessity imposed, no compulsion ; a proposal is made, which it is in our power to reject, if we are so dis. posed. It is only said, if any man is willing *, if he chuses to follow Christ, these are the conditions of so doing; he must deny himself ; he must take up his
The profession of a Christian is a service of choice: he must not follow Christ, as malefactors follow the officers of justice, because they cannot avoid it; but as one who seeks the rewards and blessings of the Christian profession; and having set down to con. sider the cost, determines to take it upon him, with all its present disadvantages. With this spirit and
Ει τις θελει,
tenper Christianity was professed by those saints and martyrs, who endured unto the end, and triumphed over all the enemies of their salvation. But now the whole doctrine of self-denial is dismissed with a high hand, as fit only for weak women, solitary monks, or deluded enthusiasts. And, I am sorry to say it, there are too many in the church, who, although they ought to know better, because it is their calling to teach better, are yet so ignorant, or so mistaken, as to congratulate themselves on the established lawfulness of ease, pleasure, and self-indulgence, as a great and very happy improvement of the Protestant Reformation : and they think we are fallen into blessed times, now the calendar of a wise man has no fasting days in it. But this opinion is not only false in itself, injurious to Christianity, and a fatal snare upon Christian people; but contrary also to the common sense of the whole world. I will appeal to all mankind, whether it is not their general practice to suffer pain willingly, for the sake of future profit?- Whether they do not, by their own choice deny themselves, and part with what they value, to obtain what they hope for? How then can he be thought to have the hope of the gospel in him, who will neither abstain froin any present good, nor bear any present evil, for the sake of it? The Christian hath nothing in his power, whereby to testify the sincerity of his hope, but abstinence and patience: and he, who refuses to give this proof, can never be thought to set much value on the prize of the high calling which is set before him. : If we observe mankind in their several pursuits, we shall find, that they never seek a prize, without submitting to some hardships in obtaining it. For what they expect in future, they give up present ease and pleasure; and there are few examples, where future
enjoyment does not depend upon present self-denial. He that striveth
for the mastery, is temperate in all things. The champions, who were candidates for the victory in any trials of skill, prepared themselves by laborious exercise ; abstaining also from every gratification, which might reduce their strength, abate their courages or lessen their activity; and chearfully exposing themselves to all that severity of discipline, which was necessary to insure the victory. Now they did it, as the Apostle notes, to obtain a corruptible crown; while we strive to obtain an incorruptible one, a crown of glory which fadeth not away, as those temporary garlands of herbs and flowers did, which were given to victors in the heathen sports. The merchant leaves his native climate, his relations, his friends, his family, bis domestic comforts, to traverse the wide ocean at the hazard of his life ; and is content to be scorched with heat in the Indies, or frozen with cold in the northern regions. The soldier, for honour and promotion, endures the fatigues of a campaign, the discipline of a camp, and the dangers of a battle. The heir, who expects an inheritance, accommodates himself, perhaps for many years, to the humours of a capricious and imperious testator. The physician, for reputation and for profit, is hurried abroad by day, and deprived of his rest by night, without leisure to follow his favourite studies, or enjoy the comforts of life ; and finds most trouble when the years, which have added to his wisdom and experience, have made him less able to endure the fatigues of his profession. Fair weather is agreeable and delightful : it pleases the eye, and it chears the mind: but the husbandınan knows, that perpetual sun-shine must end in poverty, and drought, and famine, and pestilential diseases ; and that cloudy days, and weeping skies are abso.
lutely necessary to a plentiful harvest. He that now goeth on his way weeping, and beareth forth good seed, shall doubtless come again with joy, and bring his sheaves with him. The labourer, for his bire, submits to daily confinement; and the scholar, for the enjoyment and advantages of learning, loses his rest, impairs his eyesight, and injures his health. In a word, all mankind, who are rationally employed, are denying themselves, with the prospect of some future advantage: All the world is doing what some Christians, who think they see farther than the rest, refuse to do; who professing themselves to be wise, forfeit their title to common sense. The Christian profession would be unlike all others, if its rewards were to be thrown away upon the folly of impatience, the stupidity of idleness, the unprofitableness of pleasure and self-indulgence. As its prize is the richest, it has a right to require a longer probation of us, and to put us upon a severer trial.
And let me here add, that he who does not deny himself on motives of piety and prudence, shall be no gainer, even according to his own sense of things. It is a poor bargain, by which we gain the pleasures of a swine, and lose the pleasures of a man. Self-indulgence not only unfits a man for every great and useful employment, (as the swine is the most useless creature living); but passions unmortified and headstrong will be sure to create many and great troubles; so that a man's vices shall bring him under a discipline far more severe than that which purifies the heart of a Christian and prepares him for eternity. Think how many are now sick, who might have been well; how many are poor, who might have been rich; how many are dead, who might have been alive; how many are are in prison, who might