Изображения страниц

our immortal souls, are exposed every day, every hour to the peril of everlasting destruction; every temptation is threatening to their endless welfane, as a ridge of craggy rocks to a ship that drives before the strongest gale. Yet how unconcerned are mankind. Where is their holy fear 2 where their godly jealousy 2 where their wakeful circumspection ? Rather, what a gay insensibility is observable in their behaviour ! Or else, what a lifeless formality prevails in their supplications; their supplications to that Almighty Being, who alone is able to save and to destroy. Was not the human understanding both darkened and benumbed, we should see our neighbours, we should feel ourselves awakened into much the same earnest solicitude as the disciples expressed, when, perceiving the waves boisterous, and their bark sinking, they cried, ‘Lord, save us! we perish ' r , But alas! in things of an unseen, nature, though of eternal consequence, interest, that habitual darling of every heart, loses its engaging influence. Nay, when eternity, all-important eternity is at stake, even selfpreservation is scarce any longer a governing principle. What can be more deplorable and if we admit not the doctrine of original corruption, what so unaccountable 2 Ther. This, I must confess, is true, with regard to the unthinking rabble; to them may be accommodated the remark of Augustus, who, when he saw some for reign females carrying apes in their arms instead of infants, said to one of his courtiers; ‘Have the wo. men of those countries no children, that they are so fond of such despicable animals?" The vulgar are so immersed in secular cares, that one might indeed be tempted to ask ; ‘Have those people no souls, that buying and selling, eating and drinking, engross their whole concern ?? But persons of rank and education. think in a more exalted manner. Asp. Do you then imagine, that an elevation of circumstances sets the affections on things above 7 or, that it is the peculiar infelicity of the vulgar to grovel in their desires?—Gold, I believe, is more likely to increase, than to dissipate the fog on the mind. Abun


dance of possessions, instead of disengaging the heart, fasten it more inseparably to the earth. Even superior attainments in learning, if not sanctified by grace, serve only to render the owner somewhat more refined in his follies. But comparisons between the various classes of mankind are as useless as they are invidious: none, in either condition, attend to the things which make for their peace, till they are awakened from their lethargy by the quickening spirit of Christ. And even then we cannot but observe evident indications of much remaining blindness. How apt are such persons to mistake the way of salvation; to place their own works for a foundation of hope, instead of Christ the rock of ages? Thinking by their own performance to win, not seeking from unmerited grace to receive, the inheritance of eternal glory ; which is more absurdly vain, than to offer toys as an equivalent for thrones, or to dream of purchasing diadems with a mite. They are also prone to misapprehend the nature of holiness; are zealous to regulate the external conduct, without attending to the renovation of the heart: in outward forms elaborate; with respect to inward sanctity, less if at all exact. A labour just as preposterous, as to skin over the surface of a wound, while it festers at the bottom, and consumes the bone. Give me leave to ask, Theron; When our Lord declares, “Unless a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven;” when he speaks of “eating his flesh, and drinking his blood;’t when you hear or read of union with the blessed Jesus, or communion with the most high God; is their not a cloud, if not total darkness on your mind??—How erroneous was the psalmist himself, in his judgment concerning the divine disposals? ‘So foolish was I and ignorant, even

* John iii. 3. ...t John vi. 54.

# With regard to the mysteries of Christ, the greatest proficients are but obtuse acute, dull even in their acuteness. What says the wise Agur? an invaluable fragment of whose works is preserved in the book of Proverbs. * §: 1 am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man:” even though the following verses bespeak the very singular elevation and extent of his knowledge. Prov, xxx. 2. Conformably to the experience of this excellefit man, I have always observéd, that


as it were a beast,' or as the veriest beast “before thee.* The voice of experience therefore will attest, what the word of revelation has averred, that the natural man, be his intellectual abilities ever so pregnant, or ever so improved, “cannot know the things of the Spirit of God:’t he has no sight to discern their beauty, no taste to relish their sweetness. Nay, though they are the purest light and the most perfect wisdom, to him they appear not only dark and obscure, but even foolishness itself. Would this be the case if the understanding was not greatly depraved Should it be difficult for your ear to distinguish the diversity of sounds, or for your eye, to discern the diversity of colours, would you not conclude, that the organs were very much impaired 2 Ther. I think you have treated the understanding as Zopyrus served his own body, when he went over to the enemy.—Do you intend to mangle the other faculties at the same unmerciful rate? ' ' '. Asp. That nobleman made the wounds which disfigured his flesh. I have only probed the sores which were found in the understanding. If I have touched the quick, and put the patient to pain, it is only to facilitate the operation of medicine, and make way for a cure. But permit me to ask, wherein does the excel. lency of the human will consist? Ther. In following the guidance of reason, and submitting to the influence of proper authority. Asp. The will, I fear, rejects the government of reason; and it is undeniably certain, that it rebels against the authority of God. Cast your eye upon that team of horses, with which yonder countryman is ploughing his fallow ground.

the more enlightened people are, the more they lament their ignorance; the more they pant after a continual progress in heavenly knowledge; and pray for clearer, still clearer manifestations of the incomprehensible God. * I question whether Aspasio's translation comes fully o to the emphasis of the original. The comparative particle isomitted in the Hebrew.” As softens and palliates the matter; therefore the psalmist, to express the deepest sense of his ignorance,

says, “I was a beast, yea, the veriest beast,' mona, Psal, lxxiii. 22. + 1 Cor. ii.14. t See Rollin's Ancient History, vol. iii. p. 46. - * No less than five of those robust animals are linked together, and yield their submissive necks to the draught. They have more strength than twenty men, yet are managed by a single lad. They not only stand in awe of the lash, but listen to the voice of their driver. They turn to the right hand or to the left; they quicken their pace, or stop short in the furrow, at the bare intimation of his pleasure. Are we equally obedient to the calls, to the exhortations, the express injunctions of our heavenly Lord? The blessed Jesus spoke at the beginning, and the world was made. He speaks by his providence, and the universe is upheld. When he shall speak at the last day, the heavens will pass away, and the earth be dissolved. Yet he speaks to us in his divine word, and we turn a deaf ear to his address. He speaks in tender expostulations, and no melting of heart ensues. He speaks in precious promises, and no ardent desires are enkindled. The will, which, in these cases, ought to be turned as wax to the seal, is unimpressed and inflexible as an iron sinew. Ther. The human will is constantly inclined to preserve, accominodate, and make its possessor happy. Is not this the right position in which it should always stand 2 or the most desirable direction that can be given to its motions 2 Asp. I should be glad, if fact bore witness to your assertion. But fact, I apprehend, is on the contrary side. I took notice, as we came along, of some ants busily employed on a little hillock. Have you made any observations, Theron, on this reptile community? Ther. It is a little republic.” They inhabit a kind of oblong city, divided into various streets. They are governed by laws, and regulated by politics, of their own. Their magazines are commodiously formed, and judiciously guarded against the injuries of the weather. Some are defended by an arch made of earth, and cemented with a peculiar sort of glue. Some are covered with rafters of slender wood, and thatched with rushes or grass. The roof is always raised with a double slope, to turn away the current of the waters, and shoot the raid from their store-houses, * See Nat. Displ. vol. i.

They all bestir themselves with incessant assiduity, while the air is serene, while the roads are good, and abundance of loose grain lies scattered over the fields. By these precautions, they live secure when storms embroil the sky; they want no manner of conveniency, even when winter lays waste the plains. Asp. Do we improve so diligently our present opportunities 2 This life is the seed-time of eternity. Do we husband the precious moments like persons sensible of their unspeakable importance 2 Sensible, that if we trifle and are indolent, they will be irrecoverably gone, and we irretrievably ruined. Sickness, we know not how soon, may invade us, pain may torment us, and both may issue in our final dissolution. Are we duly aware of these awful changes, and properly solicitous to put all in order for their approach —We walk (alarming thought!) upon the very brink of death, resurrection, and judgment. Do we walk like wise virgins, having our loins girt, with our lamps trimmed, in a state of continual readiness, for the heavenly bridegroom's advent} Those ants have no guide, overseer, or ruler; “yet they prepare their meat in the summer, and gather their food in the harvest.” We have all these, yet neglect the time of our visitation. We have God's unerring word to guide us; God's ever-watchful eye, to oversee us; God's sovereign command to rule and quicken us. Notwithstanding all these motives, is not the speech of the sluggard the very language of our conduct? ‘A little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep.” The most supine

# Prov. vi. 8.

+ There is, if I mistake not, a nice gradation in this speech of the sluggards; such as very naturally mimics the manner of that lazy creature. He pleads, first, for some considerable degree of indulgence, a little sleep.–If that is too much to be granted, he craves some smaller toleration of his sloth, a little slumber– If the task-master still .."; in his ear, still goads his side, one almost sees him rubbing his heavy eyes, and roof out his last request ‘a little folding of the hands,’ at least to lie down, ->wo E-T- pan Prov. vi. 10.—when such is our conduct with

regard to eternal interests, how justly may we apply that spirited expostulation of the poet;

Tantamne Rem tam negligenter!

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »