« السابقةمتابعة »
pass through the world with a holy moderation and superiority of soul, to The things which are seen, and are temporal*; thankfully owning every mercy as proceeding from God's paternal love and care, and serenely submitting to every affliction, as The cup which his Father puts into his hand. In a word, he desires, that in all the varieties of life he may still be intent on the views of an everlasting inheritance; humbly looking and longing For that blessed hopet, yet willing patiently to wait his Father's time; having this constant expectation, and reviving assurance, that Whether he liveth, he shall live unto the Lord, or whether he dieth, he shall die unto the Lord; so that whether he live or die, he shall be the Lord's§.
This is the christian?-this is the man in whom Christ is formed; or, rather, these are some faint lineaments of his character. And I will venture to say, that he who cannot discern something in it, even as thus imperfectly described, which is vastly superior to that morality and decency of behaviour, which arises merely from prudential views, or from the sweetness and gentleness of a man's natural temper, is sunk below the boasted religion of nature, and must take refuge in the wretched principles of atheism, if he would pretend to form any thing of a consistent scheme. But now,
III. I must conclude with hinting at some reflections and inferences, which my time will not allow me to handle at large.
1. How important is it, that ministers should lead young per
sons into such views as these!
Our great and important business in life is to promote the eternal happiness of our hearers, and to lay a solid foundation of hope and joy in their souls. We have seen now, what it is and Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Here then let all our labours centre. It is the good old way, in which our fathers in the ministry went, and in which they prospered. Let us follow their steps, and exert our most vigorous efforts here. Modern refinements may amuse us in our closets, but they will never feed the souls of our hearers, nor spread the triumphs of a gospel, which was the power of God to the salvation of thousands, before they were ever dreamt of. I hope, God is my witness that I am
*2 Cor. iv. 18.
+ John xviii. 11.
1 Cor. iii. 11.
Tit. ii. 13.
heartily concerned for the interest of virtue, if by that be meant the advancement of practical religion; but I never expected to see it promoted by the most philosophical speculations concerning its nature, or the finest harangues of its innate beauties, when the name and peculiar doctrines of Christ are thrown off, as unfashionable incumbrances of a discourse. Experienced christians, who have tasted the Bread of life, will not contentedly be put off with such chaff: And if we imagine that the younger part of our auditors may be trained up to a relish for it, we may, perhaps, succeed in the attempt; but I much fear, that success will be the calamity of the church, and the destruction of souls*.
2. We may learn from hence, what are the most valuable proofs of paternal affection.
Certainly there is no reason to esteem as such, that fond indulgence, which suffers ill habits to grow up in the young mind, and fears its present disturbance more than its future ruin: No, nor yet the more prudent care of providing plentiful and agreeable accommodations, for the subsistence and delight of your infant-offspring, as they advance to maturity and settlement in life. These things indeed are not to be neglected; but wretched are the children, and I will add the parents too, where this is the principal labour. Would you express a wise and religious tenderness, for which your children shall have reason to thank you in their dying moments, and to meet you with joy in the interviews of the eternal world, do your utmost that Christ be formed in their souls; and let them plainly see, that you even travail in birth again, till this happy work be accomplished. But this leads me to add,
8. What need is there of the work of the divine Spirit on the heart, in order to the laying this great foundation?
The language of the text, which speaks of Christ formed in us, naturally leads our thoughts to some agent, by whom the work is done; and when you consider what kind of a work it is, I appeal to your own consciences, whether it is to be thought merely a human production. Were it only a name, a ceremony, a speculation, or a passion, it would not be worth
* The author has taken a greater freedom on this head, as the discourse was delivered before several candidates for the ministry, for whom he had some peculiar concern.
a moment's dispute, whether you or we should have the glory of it. But as it is nothing less than the transformation of a corrupt and degenerate creature, into the holy image of the Son of God, it were impiety for either to arrogate it to ourselves.
Let us therefore, on the whole, learn our duty and our wisdom. Let the matter be brought to a serious and immediate review, and let us judge ourselves by the character described, as those that expect very shortly to be judged of the Lord.-If, on the examination, any of you have reason to conclude that you are strangers to it, remember that the invincible battery of the word of God demolishes all the towering hopes you may have raised on any other foundation. Let conscience then say, whether any amusement, or any business in life, be so important, as to be attended to, even for one single day, in neglect of this great concern, on which all the happiness of an immortal soul is suspended. If nothing be indeed found of greater moment, apply yourselves seriously to this, and omit no proper and rational methods of securing it. Consider the ways by which Christ usually enters into a soul, and wait upon him in those ways. Reflect seriously on your present condition; constantly attend the instructions of his word, and the other solemnities of his worship; and chuse to converse intimately with those, in whom you have reason to think he is already formed. But in all remember, that the success depends upon a divine co-operation, and therefore go frequently into the presence of God by prayer, go into it this day, or if possible this hour, and importunately intreat the regenerating and sanctifying influences of his Spirit, which, when you earnestly desire them, the gospel gives you such ample encouragement to expect.-But if you have reason to hope, that you have already received them, learn to what the praise should be ascribed; and let it animate you to pray, that through farther communications from the throne of grace, you may be made continually more and more like to your Redeemer, till you are prepared for that world, where you shall shine forth in his complete resemblance, and shall find it your complete and eternal felicity. Amen.
TO YOUNG PERSONS.
A Dissuasive from keeping bad Company.
Prov. iv. 14, 15.—Enter not into the Path of the Wicked, and go not in the Way of evil Men: Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.
we have any regard to the judgment of the wisest of men, illuminated and directed by the influences of his divine Spirit, we must certainly own, that ill company is a very dangerous snare, and that young persons should be frequently and earnestly cautioned against it. The excellent collection of moral and religious precepts contained in this book of Proverbs, was especially intended To give subtility, or prudence, to the simple, and to the young man knowledge and discretion*. And as the sacred author well knew, that he should plead the cause of wisdom and piety in vain, while the voice of dissolute companions was heard, and their conversation pursued, he begins his addresses to youth with repeated cautions on this head: My Son, says he, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. As he proceeds in his discourse, the address grows more lively and earnest; and I am sure every attentive hearer will soon discover a peculiar energy in the words of the text. This faithful and compassionate counsellor doth not content himself with dissuading his young reader from joining with notorious offenders in their crimes, but even from going in the way with them, or with any other evil men; nay, from entering upon it, or even approaching it, so much as to pass by it, if there were not a necessity of doing it. Enter not into the paths of sinners, and go not in the way of evil men: Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. As if he should have said, "Shun the very place where such wretches assemble, as you would if it were infected with the most malignant and dangerous disease: And if you have unwarily taken any steps towards it, stop short, and direct your course another way.'
Such lessons did Solomon teach; and such had he himself learnt from David his father. That pious prince, in the very entrance on the book of psalms describes the good man as one that Walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful*: And he elsewhere speaks of the citizen of Zion, as one In whose eyes a vile person, far from being chosen as an intimate companion, is contemned while he honours them that fear the Lordt. Thus he delineates the holy and happy man; and he had a pleasing consciousness that this character was his own : He therefore appeals to God as a witness to it, that he had not himself, Sat with vain persons, and was determined that he would not go in with dissemblers; nay, that he was so far from seeking and delighting in their company, that he hated the congregation of evil-doers, and would not sit with the wicked: He resolutely drove them away from him, as one who knew their society would be extremely injurious to the purpose he had formed of devoting himself to a religious course: Depart from me, ye evil-doers, for I will keep the commandments of my Gods.
The sacred writers of the New Testament recommend to us, that we should Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; that we should Not be unequally yoked in any kind of intimate friendship with unbelievers; and that If any do not obey the word, we should note such a one, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed**.
Considering such passages of scripture, as well as the reason of the thing, I think it proper at this time to pursue this subject at large, I well know, that I may succeed in this particular address, and yet leave you strangers to a saving change, and far from the kingdom of God; but if I cannot prevail with you to refrain from, and discard the company of sinners, I fear other admonitions will turn to very little account. In the further prosecution of the subject I will,
I. Briefly tell you, what I intend by that bad company, which I would caution you against, and how far I would urge you to avoid it.
II. Offer some considerations to deter you from it; and then, III. Conclude with a few obvious inferences.
*Psal. i. 1.
+ Psal. xv. 4.
Psal. xxvi. 4, 5.
Psal. cxix. 15.