Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

Thus have we attempted, cursorily, to review four branches of self-government, the control of the thoughts, of the tongue, of the appetites, and of the passions. We have seen, that, when unrestrained, they become the most dangerous of tyrants. We have seen, that their first excesses must be resisted, and even lawful indulgences denied them, if we would escape being brought under their power.

But, we doubt not, it will be said by those, who have never thought of checking a wish, or controlling a passion, which ever arose in their hearts, that the restrictions we impose are too severe; that they can. not be maintained, but with much trouble and selfdenial; and that, if strictly enforced, they would subtract too much from the sum of human enjoyment, during the hasty term of a frail life. To attempt to prove, after so many instructers, philosophers and divines, that no substantial enjoyment is lost, nor the real sum of sublunary happiness diminished by these salutary restraints, would be tedious, if it were not superfluous ; for, to show the misery of unrestrained indulgence, we have only to ask, what can exceed in wretchedness the inquietude of the revengeful, the pains and diseases of the sensualist, the perpetual weariness of the slave of dissipated pleasures, or the gnawing remorse of the man, who has indulged him. self in rash and bitter speeches, which he cannot retract.

But let us grant, that self-denial is as painful, as it has been falsely represented. Let us grant, that the government of ourselves is a work, which requires uninterrupted labour and unpleasant attention. Is this uttered as a complaint by one, who, as a follower of Jesus, has virtually professed to deny himself? Are we to profess the most pure and holy religion, which the goodness of God ever granted to mortals, without a single distinguishing mark of our privilege ? Shall all the religions, which imposture and superstition have

'ght the Dalegree

in every age established, be able to impose penances, on their disciple, to encourage mortifications of the flesh, to require sacrifices of pleasure, and even martyrdom of life ; and cannot the system of the gospel lay a restraint, which will hold, or obtain the sacri. .fice of a passion, a lust, or a pleasure, worth retaining? It has been well observed, that, “ if christianity requires from its voiaries a higher degree of purity, and a stricter command over the passions, than any other religion, it has a right so to do; because it affords proportionably greater helps towards accomplishing that great work, and a proportionably greater prize to recompense the labour. For, however severe this struggle with our appetites may be to us, and severe enough, God knows, it sometimes is, yet it is our comfort, that, if we endure to the end, these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."*

This suggests another consideration to enforce our subject. Is it possible, that he can complain of the restraints, which christianity imposes, who has ever heard of the rewards, which it promises? How elo. quent, upon this subject, is the apostle of the Gentiles! Know ye not, says he to the Corinthians, in whose sight were annually exhibited the celebrated Isthmian games, know ye not, that they, which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize ? Even in these races, every man, that striveth for the mastery, is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we, an incorruptible. I, therefore, so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that, by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. Pursuing, then, the apostle's reasoning, let

* Bp. Porteus, Vol. II. p. 286.

us ask, if the incorruptible crown of heaven is to be attained without an effort, or is unworthy of one ? Are the pure joys of a future state to be grafted, think you, on the sensual indulgences of the present; and, while, with one hand, we cling to the delights of the world, can we stretch out the other, and lay hold of eternal life? It is absurd and impious to suppose, that such rewards are to be attained without a sacrifice; and think you, that you can merit them by those petty self-denials, which may, perhaps, have forced themselves upon you in the course of your vocations ? At the approach of indisposition, you may have submitted to short restraints upon your appetites ; in obedience to the forms of polite intercourse, you may have controlled your boisterous passions ; on the death of a friend, you may have slackened your career of dissipation; in the presence of a superiour, you may have suppressed intemperate language, and checked the oath just escaping from your lips. And for these petty victories do you expect the wreath of honour ? Are these the afflictions, which are to work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory ? Indeed, the disproportion is too serious. God grant, that, when we have offered to bear the cross of his Son, we may not be secretly endeavouring to ease ourselves of its weight.

Finally, my friends, those of you, who are now fighting manfully the good fight of faith, be of good courage. The contest will soon be over. The struggle with passion, though here not completely successful, shall be crowned with victory hiereafter in the regions of everlasting peace, where no insolence affronts, and no revenge pursues. The baser appetites, which, even in the best of men, sometimes retain an unhallowed force, shall lose their office in a world inhabited by pure intelligences, and their power in bodies refined and spiritual.

more exceelisteoportion is too bear the cross

ized at the resurrection of the just. The tongue, that unruly member, shall not wander from the praises of its author; and the imagination shall be employed on those subjects of celestial contemplation, which at once fill and surpass the conceptions of man; such as eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, and it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive.

God grant, that we, who have this hope in us, may. purify ourselves, even as God is pure.

SERMON XVII.

1 COR. XI, 31.

IF WE WOULD JUDGE OURSELVES, WE SHOULD NOT BE JUDGED.

No action, sentiment, or occurrence is presented to the human mind, on which it forms not some kind of judgment. The multitude of objects, over which the mind ranges, is innumerable; and the extent of human comprehension, though not infinite, is at least undefinable. All that earth, air, seas, and skies contain, submit themselves to man's investigation. The heavenly bodies appear to come down, and offer themselves to the inspection of the inhabitant of this little planet; the records of time unrol themselves to the observation of this creature of threescore years; he looks from his narrow chamber on the manners and inhabitants of the remotest regions ; nay more, he seems to explore futurity, to converse with the world of spiritual existences, and ascend in contemplation. to the throne of God. In this mighty range of thought, next to that great Being, who fills, embraces, and sustains the whole, the most interesting object of speculation is the human mind; and to every indi. vidual, his own mind is an object, in comparison with which every other is unimportant. But the knowledge

« FöregåendeFortsätt »