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constitution of his nature, and afterwards made to shine with fairer and fuller lustre by the revelation of the gospel in Jesus Christ. Its brightness may sometimes be stronger, and sometimes weaker, according to the mediums by which it is conveyed: but still, as far as the instructions delivered from the pulpit are illuminated by the ray from heaven, they are the truths. of God, and ought to be received as such. Refinements of vain philosophy, or intricate subtleties of theological controversy, are undoubtedly not entitled to such regard. But when the great principles of natural or revealed religion are discussed; when the important doctrines of the gospel concerning the life, and sufferings, and death of our blessed Redeemer are displayed; or useful instructions regarding the regulation of life, and the proper discharge of our several duties, are the subjects brought into view; it is not then the human speaker, but the divine authority, that is to be regarded.
In the speaker, many imperfections and infirmities may be discovered. The discoveries of the Gospel are represented in Scripture as a hidden treasure brought to light; but, by the appointment of God, we have this treasure in earthen vessels.* It is not the spirit of curiosity that ought to bring us to church. Too often, it is to be feared, we assemble there merely as critics on the preacher; critics on his sentiments, his language, and his delivery. But, such are not the dispositions which become us on so serious an occasion. It is with humility, with fairness and candour, with an intention to improve ourselves in piety and virtue, with a view to make personal application to
*2 Corinth. iv. 7.
our own character, that we ought to hear the word of God. When we enter the sacred temple, let us ever consider ourselves as creatures surrounded with darkness, seeking illumination from Heaven; as guilty creatures, imploring forgiveness from our Judge; as frail and mortal creatures, preparing for that eternal habitation into which we know not how soon we are
Ir with such sentiments and impressions we join in the worship of God, and the ordinances of religion, we may justly hope that they shall be accompanied to us with the divine blessing. It is the express precept of God, not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.* Gather together the people, men, women, and children, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give unto the Lord the glory due to his name. Thus hath God commanded, and he never commanded his people to seek his name in vain. For, where two or three are gathered together in his name, our Lord hath told us, that he is in the midst of them. ‡ God hath said, that he loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. The prayer of the upright is his delight. Both in their temporal and spiritual concerns, they may be most expected to prosper, who can say with the Psalmist in the text, Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.
Heb. x. 25.
+ Deut. xxxi. 12.
§ Ps. lxxxvii. 2.
On the FASHION of the WORLD passing away.
1 COR. vii. 31.
The fashion of this world passeth away.
ΤΟ use this world so as not to abuse it, is one of
the most important, and at the same time one of the most difficult lessons which religion teaches. By so many desires and passions we are connected with the objects around us, that our attachment to them is always in hazard of becoming excessive and sinful. Hence religion is often employed in moderating this attachment, by rectifying our erroneous opinions, and instructing us in the proper value we ought to set on worldly things. Such was particularly the scope of the Apostle in this context. He is putting the Corinthians in mind that their time is short; that every thing here is transitory; and therefore, that in all the different occupations of human life, in weeping and rejoicing, and buying and possessing, they were ever to keep in view this consideration, that the fashion of this world passeth away. The original expression imports the figure or form under which the world presents itself to us. The meaning is, all that belongs to this visible state is continually changing. Nothing in human affairs is fixed or stable. All is in motion and fluctuation; alterin its appearance every moment, and
passing into some new form. Let us meditate for a little on the serious view which is here given us of the world, in order that we may attend to the improvements which it suggests.
I. THE fashion of the world passeth away, as the opinions, ideas, and manners of men are always changing. We look in vain for a standard to ascertain and fix any of these; in vain expect that what has been approved and established for a while, is always to endure. Principles which were of high authority among our ancestors are now exploded. Systems of philosophy which were once universally received, and taught as infallible truths, are now obliterated and forgotten. Modes of living, behaving, and employing time, the pursuits of the busy, and the entertainments of the gay, have been entirely changed. They were the offspring of fashion, the children of a day. When they had run their course, they expired; and were succeeded by other modes of living, and thinking, and acting, which the gloss of novelty recommended for a while to the public
When we read an account of the manners and occupations, of the studies and opinions, even of our own countrymen, in some remote age, we seem to be reading the history of a different world from what we now inhabit. Coming downwards, through some generations, a new face of things appears. Men begin to think, and act, in a different train; and what we call refinement gradually opens. Arriving at our own times, we consider ourselves as having widely enlarged the sphere of knowledge on every
side: having formed just ideas on every subject; having attained the proper standard of manners and behaviour; and wonder at the ignorance, the uncouthness, and rusticity of our forefathers. But, alas! what appears to us so perfect shall in its turn pass away. The next race, while they shove us off the stage, will introduce their favourite discoveries and innovations; and what we now admire as the height of improvement, may in a few ages hence be considered as altogether rude and imperfect. As one wave effaces the ridge which the former had made on the sand by the sea-shore, so every succeeding age obliterates the opinions and modes of the age which had gone before it. The fashion of the world is ever passing away.
Let us only think of the changes which our own ideas and opinions undergo in the progress of life. One man differs not more from another, than the same man varies from himself in different periods of his age, and in different situations of fortune. In youth and in opulence, every thing appears smiling and gay. We fly as on the wings of fancy; and survey beauties wherever we cast our eye. But let some more years have passed over our heads, or let disappointments in the world have depressed our spirits, and what a change takes place! The pleasing illusions that once shone before us; the splendid fabrics that imagination had reared; the enchanting maze in which we once wandered with delight, all vanish and are forgotten. The world itself remains the same. But its form, its appearance, and aspect, is changed to our view; its fashion, as to us, hath passed away.