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or more prosperous for the next dozen or SERM.
XXIII. score years, and that as to what comes after, I will take my chance? - I do not, myself, think that there are many unbelievers in the world; I am persuaded that the being of a God, a future state of rewards and punishments, are too deeply engraven on the human mind for many to be able to shake them off: but yet it is too evident that numbers live as if they did not believe in them ;-why else do present cares and pleasures so greatly pre. ponderate ?—why are there found men who will prefer almost any other engagement, however slight, to attending to the duties of religion ? -- why are there those who, living in the greatest affluence themselves, can scarce be prevailed on to part even with their superfluities to assist their distressed brethren, when they know that their blessed Redeemer has promised that he will reward all kindness done to the
SÉRM. needy, in the same manner as if it had XXII.
been done to himself ? - why are there those who are men-pleasers, rather than pleasers of God; who prefer the approbation of their fellow-creatures, to the approbation of their Creator; who will venture to incur the divine displeasure, rather than run the hazard of hurting their fortunes or their interest, or relinquishing some trifling amusement ? -- why, lastly, are there those who, still more impious, are continually affronting God, by taking his holy name in vain, in direct defiance of his express commands ? Do not these men act as if they did not believe? Would they not be more consistent, if this were really the case ? 5. If there be not another world, let us make the most of this ; let us eat, drink, and be merry ; let us follow the bent of inclination, wherever it lead us. If we were sure of this, I really do not see that
we should be culpable (however mistaken SERM.
XXIII. we might be in the means) in pursuing what appeared to us to make the most for our present happiness; but if there be another world, nay, if there be but the slightest chance that there may be one, it is worth our while to pause and to hesitate; it is worth our while to consider, whether the paltry, short pleasures which are to be enjoyed here, are deserving that we should run for them, even the most distant possibility of being miserable for ever, But there is ;-there is a world after this: and, as I observed before, even the greatest sinners do not, generally speaking, pretend to deny it; and yet, in the grossest de fiance to common sense and prudence, they will not pay any regard to it, but bestow all their attention on their present state ; the seeds of piety, of carefulness with respect to futurity, were originally sown in their nature, but they have been
SERM. entirely overgrown and choked by the XXIII.
thorns of earthly cares and pleasures.
There is still a fourth description of persons, mentioned in the parable, by whom the word of God is not received in this ungracious, unthankful, unproductive manner. These are likened to the good ground, which bears fruit an hundred fold; they are represented as hearing, with an honest and good heart, the precepts of religion, steadfastly retaining them, and bringing forth the due fruits with patience. These fruits are piety and virtue, reverence to our Creator, and good-will to our fellow-creatures, with an uniform habit on every opportunity of exhibiting both in practice. This must be done with patience; that is, we must persevere in it unweariedly, so long as it pleases heaven that we remain in this world: if we draw back at any time of our lives, and die be.. fore we repent, 'God will have no pleasure
in us."All the righteousness that we have SERM. “ done before, shall not be mentioned; it
no “ shall be counted for nothing; in the ini. “ quity, that we have committed, we shall “ die.” St. Peter is very express on this head:-" If, after they have escaped the “ pollutions of the world through the “ knowledge of the Lord and Saviour “ Jesus Christ, they are again entangled “ therein, and overcome; the latter end is “ worse with them than the beginning.” We must, therefore, continue our exertions to the end of our course, we must fight the good fight to the conclusion of our spiritual warfare, or it will avail us nothing. Those who thus persevere, in spite of all temptations to the contrary (whatever the children of this world may arrogate to themselves) are the only truly wise; by giving a decided preference to the things that are to last for ever and ever, over those which last only for a few short