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This is one part of his state here supposed. We now proceed to consider the other.
2. Having thus put his hand to the plough, He “is looking back.”
From the explanation already given of this part of the description, it clearly sigpifies, with respect to the character ander review, that notwithstanding all this hopeful appearance and all this promising profession ; there is still at the bottom a degree of indecision, and irresolution, a divided and distracted mind, which threatens to destroy these hopeful expectations, and to blast this promised fruit.
The man “having put his hand to the plough, is looking back.”
In consequence of his deep convictions, and serious resolutions, having entered on a new course of life, and begun to serve the Lord with seeming earnestness and zeal, he suddenly experiences an unexpected assault, which brings him into the greatest danger. This attack proceeds from the secret and unsuspected influence of the world on a heart naturally deceitful and corrupt. In the man's original state, before his convictions and religious impressions had taken place, this influence was predominant in his soul. The world in some shape or other entirely ruled him. He was altogether governed by its maxims and principles, by its fashions and examples. He was carried down with the stream, and experienced no opposi
tion or difficulty. But from the time, when he began to lead a new life, the case has been different. He has in several respects dissented from the world, and has no longer implicitly obeyed its influence. In fact froin this time he has been swimming against the stream. At first, perhaps, he may not have greatly felt the conflict. The strength of his convictions, the force of his resolutions, and the zeal peculiar to a new Convert, may have supplied him with a degree of energy,
which has made him superior to all opposition. But in a short time, when this newly acquired vigour may have a little abated, and the violence of the stream has begun to be felt; then his danger, the danger of which we are particularly speaking, begins. Then it is to be feared, that his strength will give way; that his exertions will flag; that he will in. sensibly yield to the force of the stream, and will suffer himself to be carried down again by the current without making any effort to renew the struggle and resume his course, Let me illustrate this subject by specifying some few of those trials which will thus put his sincerity and resolution to the proof.
He is perhaps assaulted by his worldly friends; who, alarmed at the change in his views and conduct, will anxiously try to reclaim him from his error, if they give it no worse a name. Hence he has to encounter,
it may bè, the displeasure of those whom he fears, or which is far more difficult to withstand, the solicitation of those whom he loves: and he finds to his cost the truth of those words, that, “a man's foes shall be those of his own household.”
Or perhaps the assault takes another form. He is threatened with the loss of his worldly reputation and credit. Hitherto he has lived respected and esteemed. But he now finds that he can no longer retain the good opinion in which he has been previously held. His former companions begin to look coldly upon him, and the world to regard him with suspicion. He perceives, that unless he will still consent to associate with the former, on their own terms and in their own spirit, he must entirely forfeit their good opinion, and incur their contempt: and that as to the latlér, unless he will still conform to its fashions and practices, he must encounter its enmity, its reproach, or its ridicule.
Or perhaps the assault proceeds in another way. His worldly interests are endangered by his religious course. He finds, that if he persists in it, his prospects will be greatly clouded. Some profitable branch of business must be relinquished. Some wealthy patron must be offended. Some connection, from which considerable advantage had been expected, must be dissolved. By going straight
forward in the new path, on which he has entered, he will be injuring his family; and if not exposing them to ruin, he will yet be involving them in difficulties from which they would be otherwise exempt.
Such is the nature of the trials which he will encounter: and these may serve as a specimen of the rest. Their obvious tendency is to stop him in his course; to tempt him to relax his exertions, to pause and to consider, whether by some compromise between duty and interest, between the spirit of Christianity and that of the world, between the precepts of Christ, and the wishes of his friends, he cannot strike out some middle path; and so maintain his religious professions and hopes, without incurring the sacrifices which a strict adherence to his first impressions of the demands of the Gospel, would certainly entail. Such is the obvious tendency of these worldly trials; and if at any time he is so far overcome by them as actually to relax his exertions, to pause, to consider of such a compromise, to speculate on the possibility of striking out of such a middle path—then he is brought precisely into the state described in the text: “ Having put his hand to the plough, he is looking back.”
Let me now point out to you,
II. The Danger and Disadvantage of such a state. Our Saviour expressly says, that no
man in this state “is fit for the Kingdom of God."
Whether by the Kingdom of God we here understand his kingdom on earth, or his kingdom in heaven, the meaning will be the
In fact, there is but one kingdom, though there are two states or stages of it. God's kingdom on earth is but the beginning of his kingdom in heaven: and no one will participate in the glories of it hereafter, who does not share in the duties of it now. No one will be admitted into his kingdom in heaven, who does not become a faithful, loyal, and devoted subject of Christ on earth. And this is the reason why the man, of whom we are speaking, cannot in his present state be fit for the kingdom of God. He is not a faithful, loyal, and devoted subject of Christ. He set out indeed with professing to be one. He inight appear for a season to be one. But he has not continued to be one.
It is plain that he has only a divided, not a devoted heart. He is “ looking back :" looking back with a sort of complacency, with a feeling almost bordering on regret, with a wavering and an irresolute mind, on the world from which he had separated, on the country from which he had gone forth, on the Sodom from which he had escaped. And is this fidelity, is this loyalty, is this devotedness of heart to Him, who has said, by His Apostle St. John, that