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world to teach man divine knowledge. He ever delighted to clothe his precepts and doctrines, in a garb drawn from the scenery of nature around him, or from the simple occupations of life ; particularly those of the husbandman were his favourite theme. And what could be more proper? For even in Paradise, when man was innocent, one species of husbandry was his employment; he was to drc88 and till the garden. And after he had been condemned to toil in the field, in order to overcome the barrenness of the earth, it was surely becoming the divine wisdom, to shew him how he might draw instruction from his punishment. Hear then the words of that divine teacher who spake nothing in vain. Behold a sower went forth to 80W ; and as he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side ; and the fowls came and devoured them up : Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth; and forth with they sprang up, because they had no deepne88 of earth; and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns ; and the thorns spirang up and choked them : But others fell on good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred fold, some sixty, and some thirty. How simple, and yet how animated and instructive this narrative! How worthy of him who spake as never man spake! Who taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes! Who needed not the pomp of diction, for his subjects were weighty, and proper to command attention from his hearers.
Listen then to the instruction, which God's word, united with the passing season, is presenting for your contemplation. Are you among those by the way-side, into whose hearts the seed cannot enter by reason of their hardness? Are your affections unsusceptible of good impressions, from a view of God's mercy and loving kindness? Is his word, when you hear it, snatched immediately away from your mind, and devoured by your evil propensities to sin and unholiness, those unclean birds which prey upon every thing good ? Has your heart never been opened and mellowed, neither by misfortunes and sorrows, of which no doubt you have had your share ; nor by the sun. shine of prosperity, which God hath poured upon you from his bounty? If afflictions cannot break up the hardness of your heart; nor blessings descending from the hand of God, as the dew or rain of heaven, soften its obduracy ; you will be unfruitful : In vain will you hear his word ; in vain will you seek instruction from the operations of his hand. The influences of his grace will not enter there. The soil is uncultivated, unprepared, and it is idle to look for a crop. The husbandman does not expect his seed to grow in the common highway, where it must remain uncovered, if not carried away by the fowls of the air; or if it gets root, must be trodden down by every passenger. In things of this sort pertaining to the present life; men do not ordinarily want wisdom ; yet they are apt absurdly to expect a quite contrary result in the husbandry of their hearts, and that they will bring forth fruit unto God, though never cultivated ; though left open to the inroads of every sin, and exposed to every temptation that comes along; though trodden down and hardened by every evil lust incident to corrupt human nature. Rouse up, then, your slumbering attention, and learn wisdom from every cultivated field which
you behold. If your occupation be labouring upon the soil, let your mind as well as your body be employed in such manner, that a plentiful harvest may spring from your labours. If you are enjoying competence and ease, disdain not the wisdom so cheaply bought; the wisdom addressed to the heart from every furrow that the husbandman draws, and dropping into the understanding from every handful of grain he throws upon the earth.
But I will charitably hope you are not one of those by the wayside. What then? Are you not among those characterized by the stony ground, into which the seed cannot enter deep enough to produce any fruit? It becomes you seriously to consider, whether you are not a mere formal Christian, without the spirit and power of the gospel, dwelling in your heart, and bringing forth the fruits of holiness and peace : For many such there are who hear the word of God gladly, and for the time believe what they hear; but who have no deepness in themselves; no realizing sense of their own great demerits as fallen creatures ; no proper faith in the all-atoning sacrifice of a Saviour; and no well grounded resolutions, that they will serve God with their whole heart. Such may now and then feebly resolve, that they will make a serious business of their religion ; but such half formed intentions are blasted and withered, by the first temptation that assaults their hearts. The seed may spring and grow up for a little time; but soon the burning heat of anger, on some trifling provocation, will scorch its growth : The fervour of lust and desire after some trifling vanity of time, the gratification of some bodily sense, will drain away its nourishment, and leave it a withered, fruitless shoot. Are you then one of those who are thus heedlessly floating down the current of life, which will soon waft you into the boundless ocean of eternity, thinking it enough that you, in form, profess to know and believe the truth? Look and see yourself depicted in the disappointed labours of the husbandman. Cast your mind forward to the coming season of harvest; and behold yonder spot, in the midst of the luxuriant field : But half grown, black, and fruitless stand the withered straws.' The stony soil beneath, with the sun's burning heat, has deprived them of moisture, and they have come to naught. Just such are you, in the field of the great husbandman; just so unfruitful will you be found, when the harvest of the great day shall come, except you receive instruction, remove the stony hardness from your heart, and cultivate it deep, that the love of God and man, and a sense of all divine things may take strong root, grow up, and influence the whole tenor of your life and actions.
Mark again the diligent husbandman ; how he clears the ground before he puts in the seed; how he roots up the thorns and briars and every noxious plant; well knowing that otherwise he shall reap no harvest. You yourself perhaps are exercised in this very business, and yet neglect to learn any wisdom from your occupation. You do not consider that the cultivation of your heart needs the same care, or rather much greater, if you intend it shall produce any good fruit. You think not that it is a much ranker soil, than that which you till with your hands; much more apt to bring forth poisonous and destructive weeds. These you clear not away, but suffer them to grow
in full luxuriance; how then can you expect a harvest? You toil from day to day in subduing the wildness of mother earth, but take no thought how much need there is of subduing yourself. In your solitary walks, and when on your pillow, the cares and business of life occupy your whole mind; and the lessons of wisdom, which you should be learning from your employment, are crouded out of view. Or perhaps you are resolved to be rich and great, and so plunge eagerly into a round of business on a larger scale ; you study by night, and act by day; you travel by land, and tempt the main ; you rana sack all the sources of wealth ; you put in practice every art, every stratagem that promises success; you intrigue; you circumvent; you strive to vie with this one, and outstrip the other; you count, your treasures ; you reckon your gains; you triumph at your successes, and sicken at your disappointments ; your ship returns richly laden ; your heart beats high with joy; or you hear she is swala. lowed up in the ocean; down sink your spirits; and despair shivers, through your veins. Again you venture, and seek to repair your losses ; fear and anxiety prey upon your mind, and render you inattentive to every thing but your beloved hoards. Does your heart fail you, when you contemplate these alternate changes from joy to sorrow, and from sorrow to joy, that ever must attend an ardent pursuit of business or ambition? Then perhaps you will enter on what you deem a wiser course of life : So on you drive from pleasure to pleasure; constantly pursuing what as constantly flies your pursuit. Foiled and disappointed in one track, you turn about, and fix your attention on some new object. But still the phantom flies; or if you are able to overtake it, you find you are embracing but a shadow; it eludes your grasp, and instantly vanishes from your sight. This you call a life of pleasure and happiness. O folly! O wondrous stupidity! Amid all this turmoil of business or pleasure, what care have you taken, what care could you take of your heart? What cultivation has it received ? None at all ; it is all overgrown with brambles and thorns. No one virtue can shoot up there, but it is immediately overtopped by ambition, love of gain, or lust of pleasure ; it is choked and rendered altogether'unfruitful by some poisonous plant or another, that is left to shoot in full vigour from the native rank soil of fallen man. Where virtue cannot grow, peace and happiness will not dwell. Those heaven-descended guests will not associate with the heart that is perpetually absorbed in riches, ambition or pleasure : They fly the haunts of these unclean passions, to dwell only with the humble, the meek, and the virtuous.
Go forth then, and learn wisdom, purity, virtue, and peace from the cultivator's hand. Clear away the exorbitant desires of thy heart, and fit it to receive the good seed which God promises to 50W. Let it enter deep into thy affections, and take root in thy soul. With continual cultivation encourage its growth. Weed away, as fast as they shoot up, every hurtful plant. Be a diligent, a wise, and prudent husbandman over thyself. Keep that little field, thy heart, well enclosed and secure from the encroachments and depredations of every disorderly passion; and it will bring forth a plentiful hare Vest of good things, rewarding an hundred fold and more, thy care
and diligence. God, by his grace, will water, as with the dew of
ESSAY ON INFIDELITY....No. III. IN my last essay, the utility of the Christian Sabbath was considered. How much that institution contributes to civilization, and to extend the blessings of social life, was largely shewn. This is a point to which the advocates of revelation do not seem to have sufficiently adverted : and infidels have been rather cautious of bringe ing it into view; knowing as we may well suppose, that they should gain nothing by assailing this part of the Christian fortress. Even Paine, who must be viewed as one of the boldest of this sort of men, so far as I recollect (and I make the observation from memory only, not having the book at hand) has ventured very little further than to hint a doubt of the utility of such an institution. It would therefore perhaps be unfair and uncandid, to say they wish to see it quite abol.. ished. Abstractly considered, it is probable the wisest of them do not. At the same time they may well be asked, whether they think it would long continue to be observed, should they succeed in destroy. ing all faith in its divine appointment? Have we not abundant reason to fear, that the avarice of some, and the indolence of others would soon bring it into utter disuse? The efficacy of human laws, should they be continued, would avail but little. Take away the belief that it is God's institution ; the foundation would be removed, and inevitable destruction would follow. Yet infidels are perpetually labouring by their writings, and in their discourses, to remove this. foundation. With regard to many of them at least, we may chari. tably hope they do it without considering the magnitude of the mischiefs they may do: without once thinking, if they should be gene. rally successful, how certainly they would rend in pieces the best, most useful and stable institutions of civil society. They have sei. zed upon the corruptions which have been engrafted upon genuine Christianity, by the folly or wickedness of its professors : These they have magnified, distorted, and caricatured ; until they have pro. duced in their imaginations, a hideous monster, which deserves to be scouted from the earth. On these evils, which they represent as resulting from a pretended revelation, they have ruminated until their own understandings are actually bewildered, so that they do not see the benefit they are reaping from what they so much labour to decry. On these evils, they have descanted, and expended their wit and their satire, until they have shaken or quite overturned the faith of many, who from their avocations and circumstances, are indifferently quali. fied to investigate subjects of this sort, or duly to appreciate arguments somewhat complicated; and who therefore, are under the new
cessity of following a guide. This being the case with them, have we not abundant reason to think they will rather follow such a one as flatters their passions, gratifies their indolence, and inspires them with hopes of impunity in whatever vices they may choose to indulge. He who will not admit this consequence, must be either little versed in hu. man nature, or himself very perverse and viciously inclined. We wish for nothing but fair and candid treatment: Let the good which Christianity has done and is doing to the world, be put into one scale, and its enemies have full liberty to place in the other, all the evils they can find or surmise, that have risen from its corruptions, and the misdirection of its principles by wicked men. Let them meet us fairly on this ground alone, and we need not fear the result.
I again wish it to be well remembered, that I enter into no discussion of the arguments for, or against the divine authority of the Scriptures, and their consequent obligation on reasonable creatures. I take the Christian system as it has been, and is professed in the world, and found all I have to say on what must be admitted to be matter of fact. Bishop Horne in his Letters to Infidels, informs us that it is his design to carry the war into the enemy's country, and to attack them on their own ground. In the spirit of the same allusion, it is mine to dispossess them of the out-works which they imagine they have secured, from whence successfully to annoy the citadel. If these are maintained, in vain will be Hume's metaphysical dexterity ; Voltaire may discharge to no purpose his sarcasms, or Paine his grosser scoffs. They must attack from a distance: Their weapons must drop short of their mark, or fly harmless over the garrison within.
Decidedly believing this to be the most eligible way of defending revelation against the attacks of its enemies, I proceed to examine the happy influence which Christianity has had in bettering the more als of men, and making them more observant of the duties which they owe to themselves and each other. Much vice and wickedness indeed, still prevail where the gospel is professed, and among those who pretend to believe in, and live by its precepts. But what then? The proper question to be settled is, are vice and impurity so flagrantly practised ? are such vile abominations tolerated and approved, as were before the light of the gospel shown? No one who is acquainted with this subject, will dare pretend he can find room hard. ly for a comparison. Enormities, it is well known, were openly encouraged by the very best of the heathens, which decency hardly permits to be named. In the language of an Apostle however, hear them enumerated ; For this cause God gave them up unto vile affec. tions : for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature : and likewise also the men, leaving the natur. al use of the women, burned in their lust one toward another ; men with men, working that which is unseemly. * *** Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousne88 ; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, with. out natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.* Not that all these vices
* Rom. i. 26, 29, 30, 31.