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their spirit imperceptibly influences our spirit. It steals "like water into our bowels, and like oil into our bones.”
18. But all rich men are under a continual temptation to acquaintance and conversation with worldly men. They are likewise under a continual temptation to pride, to think more highly of themselves than hey ought to think. They are strongly tempted to revenge, when they are ever so little affronted: and, having the means in their own hands, how few are there that resist the temptation! They are continually tempted to sloth, indolence, love of ease, softness, delicacy; to hatred of self denial, and taking up the cross, even that of fasting and rising early, without which it is impossible to grow in grace. If you are increased in goods, do not you know that these things are so ? Do you contract no intimacy with worldly men? Do not you converse with them more than duty requires ? Are you in no danger of pride? Of thinking yourself better than your poor, dirty neighbours? Do you never resent, yea, and revenge an affront? Do you never render evil for evil? Do not you give way to indolence or love of ease? Do you deny yourself, and take up your cross daily? Do you constantly rise as early as you did once? Why not? Is nct your soul as precious now as it was then? How often do you fast? Is not this a duty to you, as much as to a day labourer ? But if you are wanting in this, or any other respect, who will tell you of it? Who dares tell you the plain truth, but those who neither hope nor fear any thing from you ? And if any venture to deal plainly with you, how hard is it for you to bear it! Are not you far less reprovable, far less advisable, than when you were poor? It is well if you can bear reproof even from me : and in a few days you will see me no more.
Once more, therefore, I say, having gained and saved all you can, do you give all you can ? else your money will eat your flesh as fire, and will sink you to the nethermost hell! Oh beware of“ laying up treasures upon earth!”. Is it not treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath?
Lord, I have warned them! but if they will not be warned, what can I do more? I can only "give them up unto their own hearts' lusts, and let them follow their own imaginations !"
19. By not taking this warning, it is certain many of the Methodists are already fallen; many are falling at this very time; and there is great reason to apprehend, that many more will fa most of whom will rise no more!
But what method may it be hoped the all wise God will take to repair the decay of his work? If he does not remove the candlestick from this people, and raise up another people, who will be more faithful to his grace, it is probable he will proceed in the same manner as he has done in time past. And this has hitherto been his method : when any of the old preachers left their first love; lost their simplicity and zeal, and departed from their work; he raised up young men, who are what they were, and sent them into the harvest in their place. The same he has done, when he was pleased to remove any of his faith ful labourers into Abraham's bosom. So when Henry Millard, Edward Dunstone, John Manners, Thomas Walsh, or others, rested from their labours, he raised up other young men, from time to time, willing and able to perform the same service. It is highly probable, he will take the very same method for the time to come. The place of those preachers, who either die in the Lord, or lose the spiritual life which God had given them, he will supply by others that are alive to God, and desire only to spend and be spent for him.
20. Hear ye this, all ye preachers, who have not the same life, the same communion with God, the same zeal for his cause, the same burnmg love to souls, that you had once ! " Take heed unto yourselves, that ye lose not the things ye have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward.” Beware lest God swear in his wrath, that ye shall bear his standard no more! Lest he be provoked to take the word of his grace utterly out of your mouth! Be assured, the Lord hath no need of you; his work doth not depend upon your help. As he is able, “out of stones, to raise up children to Abraham;" so he is able, out of the same, to raise up preachers after his own heart! Oh make haste! Remember from whence you are fallen ; and repent and do the first works!
21. Would it not provoke the Lord of the harvest to lay you altogether aside, if you despised the labourers he had raised up, merely because of their youth? This was commonly done to us, when we were first sent out, between foity and fifty years ago. Old, wise men asked, “What will these young heads do ?” So the then bishop of London in particular. But shall we adopt their language ? God forbid! Shall we teach him, whom he shall send ; whom he shall employ in his own work! Are we then the men, and shall wisdom die with us? Does the work of God hang upon us ? Oh humble yourselves before God, lest he pluck you away and there be none to deliver !
22. Let us next consider what method has the wisdom of God taken, for these five and forty years, when thousands of the people, that once ran well, one after another, “ drew back to perdition ?” Why, as fast as any of the poor were overwhelmed with worldly care, so that the seed they had received became unfruitful; and as fast as any of the rich drew back unto perdition, by giving way to the love of the world, to foolish and hurtful desires, or to any other of those innumerable temptations, which are inseparable from riches; God has constantly, from time to time, raised up men, endued with the spirit which they had lost : yea, and generally this change has been made with considerable advantage: for the last were, not only (for the most part) more numerous than the first, but more watchful, profiting by their example ; more spiritual, more heavenly minded, more zealous, more alive to God, and more dead to all things here below.
23. And, blessed be God, we see he is now doing the same thing in various parts of the kingdom. In the room of those that have fallen from their steadfastness, or are falling at this day, he is continually raising up, out of the stones, other children to Abraham. This he does at one or another place, according to his own will; pouring out his quickening Spirit on this or another people, just as it pleaseth him. He is raising up those of every age and degree, young men and maidens. old men and children, to be “ a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; to show forth his praise, who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light.” And we have no reason to doubt, but he will continue so to do, till the great promise is fulfilled; till “the earth is filled with the knowiedge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea; till all Israel is saved, and the fulness of the Gentiles is come in."
24. But have all that have sunk under manifold temptations, so fallen that they can rise no more? Hath the Lord cast them all off for ever, and will he be no more entreated? Is his promise come utterly to an end for evermore? God forbid that we should affirm this! Surely he is able to heal all their backslidings: for with God no word is impossible. And is he not willing too? He is “God, and not man; therefore his compassions fail not." Let no backslider despair. “Return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon you; unto our God, and he will abundantly pardon."
Meantime, thus saith the Lord to you that now supply their place.
Be not high minded, but fear!" If “the Lord spared not” thy elder brethren, “take heed lest he spare not thee !” Fear, though not with a servile, tormenting fear, lest thou fall by any of the same temptations; by either the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, or the desire of other things. Tempted you will be in ten thousand different ways, perhaps as long as you remain in the body; but as long as you continue to watch and pray, you will not “enter into temptations." His
grace has been hitherto sufficient for you; and so it will be unto the end.
25. You see here, brethren, a short and general sketch of the manner wherein God works upon earth, in repairing this work of grace, wherever it is decayed through the subtlety of Satan, and the unfaithfulness of men, giving way to the fraud and malice of the devil. Thus he is now carrying on his own work, and thus he will do to the end of time. And how wonderfully plain and simple is his way of working, in the spiritual, as well as the natural world! That is, his general plan of working, of repairing whatsoever is decayed. But as to innumerable particulars, we must stili cry out, “Oh the depth! How unfathomable are his counsels, and his paths past tracing out!"
SERMON LXXIV. - The Imperfection of Human Knowledge.
“We know in part,” 1 Cor. xiii, 9. 1. The aesire of knowledge is a universal principle in man, fixed in his inmost nature. It is not variable, but constant in every rational creature, unless while it is suspended by some stronger desire. And it is insatiable: “the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing;” neither the mind with any degree of knowledge which can be conveyed into it. And it is planted in every human soul for excellent purposes. It is intended to hinder our taking up our rest in anything here below; to raise our thoughts to higher and higher objects, more and more worthy our consideration, till we ascend to the source of all knowledge, and all excellence, the all wise, and all gracious Creator.
2. But although our desire of knowledge has no bounds, yet our knowledge itself has. It is, indeed, confined within very narrow bounds ; abundantly narrower than common people imagine, or men of learning are willing to acknowledge : a strong intimation, (since the great Creator doeth nothing in vain,) that there will be some future state of being, wherein that now insatiable desire will be satisfied, and there will be no onger so immense a distance between the appetite and the object of it.
3. The present knowledge of man is exactly adapted to his present wants. It is sufficient to warn us of, and to preserve us from, most of the evils to which we are now exposed; and to procure us whatever is necessary for us in this our infant state of existence. We know enough of the nature and sensible qualities of the things that are round about us, so far as they are subservient to the health and strength of our bodies; we know how to procure and prepare our food; we know what raiment is fit to cover us; we know how to build our houses, and to furnish them with all necessaries and conveniences; we know just as much as is conducive to our living comfortably in this world : but of ianumerable things above, below, and round about us, we know little more than that they exist.' And in this our deep ignorance is seen the goodness, as well as the wisdom of God, in cutting short his knowledge on every side, on purpose to " hide pride from man."
4. Therefore it is, that by the very constitution of their nature, wisest of men“ know (but] in part." And how amazingly small a part Jo they know, either of the Creator, or of his works! This is a very needful, but a very unpleasing theme ; for“ vain man would be wise." Let us reflect upon it for awhile. And may the God of wisdom and love open
our eyes to discern our own ignorance ! I. i. To begin with the great Creator himself. How astonishingly little do we know of God !-How small a part of his nature do we know! Of his essential attributes. What conception can we form of his omnipresence? Who is able to comprehend, how God is in this and every place? How he fills the immensity of space? If philosophers, by denying the existence of a vacuum, only meant that there is no place empty of God; that every point of infinite space is full of God; certainly no man could call it in question. But still, the fact being admitted, what is omnipresence or ubiquity ? Man is no more able to comprehend this, than to grasp the universe.
2. The omnipresence or immensity of God, sir Isaac Newton endea vours to illustrate by a strong expression, by terming infinite space, “the sensorium of the Deity." And the very heathens did not scruple to say, “ All things are full of God:" just equivalent with his own declaration ;-"Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord ?" How beautifully does the Psalmist illustrate this! “Whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I go up into heaven, thou art there: if I go down to hell, thou art there also. If I take the wings of the morning, and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea ; even there thy hand shall find me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” But, in the mean time, what conception can we form, either of his eternity or immensity ? Such knowledge is too wonderful for us : we cannot attain unto it.
3. A second essential attribute of God is eternity. He existed before all time. Perhaps we might more properly say, he does exist from everlasting to everlasting. But what is eternity ? A celebrated author says, that the divine eternity is, " Vitæ interminabilis tota simul et perfecta possessio :" The at once entire and perfect possession of never ending life. But how much wiser are we for this definition? We know just as much of it as we did before. “ The at once entire and perfect possession ?" Who can conceive what this means ?
4. If indeed God had stamped (as some have maintained) an idea oi himself on every human soul, we must certainly lrave understood something of these, as well as his other attributes; for we cannot suppose he would have impressed upon us either a false or an imperfect idea of himself; but the truth is, no man ever did, or does now, find any such idea stamped upon his soul. The little which we do know of God'(except what we receive by the inspiration of the Holy One,) we do not gather from any inward impression ; but gradually acquire from without. “ The invisible things of God,” if they are known at all, “are known from the things that are made ;' not from what God hath written in our hearts, but from what he hath written in all his works.
5. Hence then, from his works, particularly his works of creation, we are to learn the knowledge of God. But it is not easy to conceive how little we know even of these. To begin with those that are at a distance: who knows how far the universe extends ? What are the limits of it? The morning stars can tell, who sang together, when the lines of it were stretched out; when God said, “ This be thy just circumference, oh world !” But all beyond the fixed stars is utterly hid from the children of men. And what do we know of the fixed stars? Whotelleth the number of
Even that small portion of them, that by their mingled light form, what we call, “the milky way?” And who knows the use of them ? Are they so many suns that illuminate their respective planets? Or do they only minister t) this, (as Mr. Hutchinson supposes,) and contribute in some unknown way, to the perpetual circulation of light and spirit? Who knows what comets are ? Are they planets not fully formed? Or planets destroyed by conflagration? Or are they bodies of a wholly different nature, of which we can form no idea ? Who can tell what is the sun ? Its use we know; but who knows of what substance it is composed ? Nay, we are not yet able to determine, whether it be fluid or solid! Who knows what is the precise distance of the sun from the earth? Many astronomers are persuaded it is a hundred millions of miles; others, that it is only eighty six millions, though generally accounted ninety. But equally great men say, it is no more than fifty; some of them, that it is but twelve: last comes Dr. Rogers, and demonstrates that it is just two millions, nine hundred thousand miles! So little do we know even of this glorious lumimary, the eye and soul of the lower world! And just as much of the planets that surround him; yea, of our own planet, the moon. Some indeed have discovered
“ Rivers and mountains on her spotty globe ;" yea, have marked out all her seas and continents! but after all, we know just nothing of the matter. We have nothing but mere uncertain conjecture, concerning the nearest of all the heavenly bodies.
6. But let us come to the things that are still nearer home, and inquire what knowledge we have of them. Flow much do we know of that wonderful body, light ? How is it communicated to us? Does it flow in a continued stream from the sun ? Or does the sun impel the particles next his orb, and so on and on, to the extremity of his system? Again : does light gravitate or not ? Does it attract or repel other bodies ? Is it subject to the general laws, which obtain in all other matter ? Or is it a body sui generis, altogether different from all other matter? Is it the same with electric fluid, or not? Who can explain the phenomena of electricity ? Who knows why some bodies conduct the electric fluid, and others arrest its course? Why is the phial capable of being charged