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On Obedience to Pastors; Hebrews xiii.
On Visiting the Sick; Matthew xxv. 36.
The Reward of the Righteous, Matthew
XXV. 34. Preached before the Humane
CVII. Of former Times; Ecclesiastes vii. 10.
CVIII. On, What is Man? Psalm viii. 3, 4.
CVIII.* On attending the Church Service; 1 Sam.
CXI. On God's Vineyard; Isaiah v. 4.
CXII. On Riches; Matthew xix. 24.
CXIII. On, What is Man? Psalm viii. 4.
CXIV. On the Discoveries of Faith; Heb. xi. 1.
CXV. The Difference of Walking by Sight, and
Walking by Faith; 2 Cor. v. 7.
On the Unity of the Divine Being;
Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity;
CXVIII. On the Knowing Christ after the Flesh;
1 CORINTHIANS VII. 35.
"This I speak-that ye may attend upon the LORD without Distraction."
1. ALMOST in every part of our nation, more espe cially in the large and populous towns, we hear a general complaint among sensible persons, of the still increasing Dissipation. It is observed to diffuse itself more and more in the court, the city, and the country. From the continual mention which is made of this, and the continual declamations against it, one would naturally imagine that a word so commonly used was perfectly understood. Yet it may be doubted whether it be or not. Nay, we may very safely affirm, that few of those who frequently use the term, understand what it means. One reason of this is, that altho' the thing has been long among us, especially since the time of King Charles the Second, (one of the most dissipated mortals that ever breathed,) yet the word is not of long standing. It was hardly heard of fifty years ago; and not much before the present reign. So lately has it been imported and yet it is so in every one's mouth, that it is already worn threadbare, being one of the cant words of the day.
2. Another reason why it is so little understood may be, that among the numberless writers that swarm about us, VOL. X.
there is not one, (at least, whom I have seen) that has published so much as a six-penny pamphlet concerning it. We have, indeed, one short essay upon the subject: but exceeding few have seen it, as it stands in the midst of a volume of Essays, the author of which is little known in the world. And even this is so far from going to the bottom of the subject, that it only slightly glances over it; and does not so much as give us one definition of Dissipation, (which I looked narrowly for,) from the beginning to the end.
3. We are accustomed to speak of Dissipation, as having respect chiefly, if not wholly, to the outward behaviour; to the manner of life. But it is within, before it appears without it is in the heart, before it is seen in the outward conversation. There must be a dissipated spirit, before there is a dissipated manner of life. But what is Dissipation of Spirit? This is the first and the grand enquiry.
4. God created all things for himself; more especially all intelligent spirits. (And indeed it seems that intelligence, in some kind or degree, is inseparable from spiritual beings: that intelligence is as essential to spirits, as extension is to matter.) He made those more directly for himself, to know, love, and enjoy him. As the sun is the centre of the Solar System, so (as far as we may compare material things with spiritual) we need not scruple to affirm, that God is the centre of spirits. And as long as they are united to him, created spirits are at rest: they are at rest so long, and no longer, as they "attend upon the Lord without distraction."
5. This expression of the Apostle, (not to encumber ourselves at present with the particular occasion of his speaking it,) is exceeding peculiar: πρός το ευπρόσεδρον τω Kupiw. The word which we render attend upon, literally means, sitting in a good posture for hearing. And therein St.. Paul undoubtedly alluded to Mary sitting at the Master's feet, Luke x. 39. Mean time, Martha was cumbered with much serving, was distracted, dissipated: EgiveState®
It is the very expression from whence St. Paul takes the word which we render, without distraction.
6. And even as much serving dissipated the thoughts of Martha, and distracted her from attending to her Lord's words, so a thousand things which daily occur, are apt to dissipate our thoughts, and distract us from attending to his voice, who is continually speaking to our hearts: I mean, to all that listen to his voice. We are encompassed on all sides with persons and things that tend to draw us from our centre. Indeed, every creature, if we are not continually on our guard, will draw us from our Creator. The whole visible world, all we see, hear, or touch, all the objects either of our senses or understanding, have a tendency to dissipate our thoughts from the invisible world, and to distract our minds from attending to him, who is both the Author and End of our Being.
7. This is the more easily done, because we are all, by nature, a, Atheists in the world: and that in so high a degree, that it requires no less than Almighty Power to counteract that tendency to dissipation, which is in every human spirit, and restore the capacity of attending to God, and fixing itself on him. For this cannot be done, till we are new creatures, till we are created anew in Christ Jesus, till the same power which made the world, make us a "clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us."
8. But who is he that is thus renewed? He that believeth in the Name of the Son of God. He alone that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ, is thus "born of God." It is by this faith alone, that he is "created anew in or through Christ Jesus," that he is restored to the image of God, wherein he was created, and again centered in God, or, as the Apostle expresses it, "joined to the Lord in one spirit." Yet even then the believer may find in himself, the remains of that carnal mind, that natural tendency to rest in created good, to acquiesce in visible things, which, without continual care, will press down his soul, and draw him from his Creator. Herein the world, the men that know not God, will never fail to join; at some times, with
design, and at other times, perhaps without design: for their very spirit is infectious, and insensibly changes our's into its own likeness. And we may be well assured, the prince of this world, the devil, will assist them with all his might. He will labour with all his strength, and what is far more dangerous, with all his subtilty, if, by any means, he may draw us away from our simplicity towards Christ; from our simple adherence to him, from our union with him, through whom we are also united in one spirit to the Father.
9. But nothing is more certain than this, that though he may tempt the strongest believer, to give up his simplicity toward Christ, and scatter his thoughts and desires among worldly objects; yet he cannot force even the weakest; for the grace of God is still sufficient for him. The same grace which at first united him to God, is able to continue that happy union, in spite of all the rage, strength, and subtilty of the enemy. God has never left himself without witness, that he has power to deliver them that trust in him, as out of every temptation that can assault them, so out of this, in particular. He has still a little flock, who do, in fact, "attend upon him without distraction:" who, cleaving to him with full purpose, are not dissipated from him, no, not for a moment: but "rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks."
10. But so far as any one yields to this temptation, so far he is dissipated. The original word properly signifies to disperse or scatter. So the sun dissipates, that is, scatters the clouds; the wind dissipates, or scatters the dust. And by an easy metaphor, our thoughts are said to be dissipated, when they are irregularly scattered up and down. In like manner, our desires are dissipated, when they are unhinged from God, their proper centre, and scattered to and fro among the poor, perishing, unsatisfying things of the world. And, indeed, it may be said of every man that is a stranger to the grace of God, that all his passions are dissipated, "Scattered o'er all the earth abroad, Immeasurably far from GOD."